Part 8 out of 8
She understood nothing. Her terror caught her like the wind. She crouched
back against the bannisters, covering her face with her hand.
"Don't hit me, father. Please, please don't hit me."
He stood over her, staring down at her.
"It's a plot, and you must be in it with the others.... Well, go and tell
them they've won. Tell them to come and kick me again. I'm down now. I'm
beaten; go and tell them to come in--to come and take my house and my
clothes. Your mother's gone--follow her to London, then."
He turned. She heard him go into the drawing-room.
Suddenly, although she still did not understand what had happened, she
knew that she must follow him and care for him. He had pulled the curtains
aside and thrown up the windows.
"Let them come in! Let them come in! I--I----"
Suddenly he turned towards her and held out his arms.
"I can't--I can't bear any more." He fell on his knees, burying his face
in the shoulder of the chair. Then he cried:
"Oh, God, spare me now, spare me! I cannot bear any more. Thou hast
chastised me enough. Oh, God, don't take my sanity from me--leave me that.
Oh, God, leave me that! Thou hast taken everything else. I have been
beaten and betrayed and deserted. I confess my wickedness, my arrogance,
my pride, but it was in Thy service. Leave me my mind. Oh, God, spare me,
spare me, and forgive her who has sinned so grievously against Thy laws.
Oh, God, God, save me from madness, save me from madness."
In that moment Joan became a woman. Her love, her own life, she threw
She went over to him, put her arms around his neck, kissed tim, fondled
him, pressing her cheek against his.
"Dear, dear father. I love you so. I love you so. No one shall hurt you.
Father dear, father darling."
Suddenly the room was blazing with light. The Torchlight Procession
tumbled into the Precincts. The Cathedral sprang into light; on all the
hills the bonfires were blazing.
Black figures scattered like dwarfs, pigmies, giants about the grass. The
torches tossed and whirled and danced.
The Cathedral rose from the darkness, triumphant in gold and fire.
The Last Stand
In Ronder's House: Ronder, Wistons
Every one has, at one time or another, known the experience of watching
some friend or acquaintance moved suddenly from the ordinary atmosphere of
every day into some dramatic region of crisis where he becomes, for a
moment, far more than life-size in his struggle against the elements; he
is lifted, like Siegmund in _The Valkyrie_, into the clouds for his
last and most desperate duel.
There was something of this feeling in the attitude taken in our town
after the Jubilee towards Archdeacon Brandon. As Miss Stiles said (not
meaning it at all unkindly), it really was very fortunate for everybody
that the town had the excitement of the Pybus appointment to follow
immediately the Jubilee drama; had it not been so, how flat would every
one have been! And by the Pybus appointment she meant, of course, the
Decline and Fall of Archdeacon Brandon, and the issue of his contest with
delightful, clever Canon Ronder.
The disappearance of Mrs. Brandon and Mr. Morris would have been
excitement enough quite by itself for any one year. As every one said, the
wives of Archdeacons simply did _not_ run away with the clergymen of
their town. It was not done. It had never, within any one's living memory,
been done before, whether in Polchester or anywhere else.
Clergymen were, of course, only human like any one else, and so were their
wives, but at least they did not make a public declaration of their
failings; they remembered their positions, who they were and what they
In one sense there had been no public declaration. Mrs. Brandon had gone
up to London to see about some business, and Mr. Morris also happened to
be away, and his sister-in-law was living on in the Rectory exactly as
though nothing had occurred. However, that disguise could not hold for
long, and every one knew exactly what had happened--well, if not exactly,
every one had a very good individual version of the whole story.
And through it all, above it, behind it and beyond it, towered the figure
of the Archdeacon. _He_ was the question, he the centre of the drama.
There were a hundred different stories running around the town as to what
exactly had happened to him during those Jubilee days. Was it true that he
had taken Miss Milton by the scruff of her long neck and thrown her out of
the house? Was it true that he had taken his coat off in the Cloisters and
given Ronder two black eyes? (The only drawback to this story was that
Ronder showed no sign of bruises.) Had he and Mrs. Brandon fought up and
down the house for the whole of a night, Joan assisting? And, above all,
_what_ occurred at the Jubilee Fair? _Had_ Brandon been set upon
by a lot of ruffians? Was it true that Samuel Hogg had revenged himself
for his daughter's abduction? No one knew. No one knew anything at all.
The only certain thing was that the Archdeacon had a bruise on his temple
and a scratch on his cheek, and that he was "queer," oh, yes, very queer
It was finally about this "queerness" that the gossip of the town most
persistently clung. Many people said that they had watched him "going
queer" for a long while back, entirely forgetting that only a year ago he
had been the most vigorous, healthiest, sanest man in the place. Old
Puddifoot, with all sorts of nods, winks and murmurs, alluded to
mysterious medical secrets, and "how much he could tell an' he would," and
that "he had said years ago about Brandon...." Well, never mind what he
had said, but it was all turning out exactly as, for years, he had
Nothing is stranger (and perhaps more fortunate) than the speed with which
the past is forgotten. Brandon might have been all his days the odd,
muttering, eye-wandering figure that he now appeared. Where was the Viking
now? Where the finest specimen of physical health in all Glebeshire? Where
the King and Crowned Monarch of Polchester?
In the dust and debris of the broken past. "Poor old Archdeacon." "A bit
queer in the upper storey." "Not to be wondered at after all the trouble
he's had." "They break up quickly, those strong-looking men." "Bit too
pleased with himself, he was." "Ah, well, he's served his time; what we
need are more modern men. You can't deny that he was old-fashioned."
People were not altogether to be blamed for this sudden sense that they
were stepping into a new period, out of one room into another, so to
speak. The Jubilee was responsible for that. It _did_ mark a period,
and looking back now after all these years one can see that that
impression was a true one. The Jubilee of '97, the Boer War, the death of
Queen Victoria--the end of the Victorian Era for Church as well as for
And there were other places beside Polchester that could show their
typical figures doomed, as it were, to die for their Period--no mean nor
unworthy death after all.
But no Polcastrian in '97 knew that that service in the Cathedral, that
scratch on the Archdeacon's cheek, that visit of Mrs. Brandon to London--
that these things were for them the Writing on the Wall. June 1897 and
August 1914 were not, happily for them, linked together in immortal
significance--their eyes were set on the personal history of the men and
women who were moving before them. Had Brandon in the pride of his heart
not claimed God as his ally, would men have died at Ypres? Can any bounds
be placed to one act of love and unselfishness, to a single deed of mean
heart and malicious tongue?
It was enough for our town that "Brandon and his ways" were out-of-date,
and it was a lucky thing that as modern a man as Ronder had come amongst
And yet not altogether. Brandon in prosperity was one thing, Brandon in
misfortune quite another. He had been abominably treated. What had he ever
done that was not actuated absolutely by zeal for the town and the
And, after all, had that man Ronder acted straight? He was fair and genial
enough outwardly, but who could tell what went on behind those round
spectacles? There were strange stories of intrigue about. Had he not
determined to push Brandon out of the place from the first moment of his
arrival? And as far as this Pybus living went, it was all very well to be
modern and advanced, but wasn't Ronder advocating for the appointment a
man who laughed at the Gospels and said that there were no such things as
snakes and apples in the Garden of Eden? After all, he was a foreigner,
and Brandon belonged to them. Poor old Brandon!
Ronder was in his study, waiting for Wistons. Wistons had come to
Polchester for a night to see his friend Foster. It was an entirely
private visit, unknown to anybody save two or three of his friends among
the clergy. He had asked whether Ronder could spare him half an hour.
Ronder was delighted to spare it....
Ronder was in the liveliest spirits. He hummed a little chant to himself
as he paced his study, stopping, as was his habit, to touch something on
his table, to push back a book more neatly into its row on the shelf, to
stare for an instant out of the window into the green garden drenched with
the afternoon sun.
Yes, he was in admirable spirits. He had known some weeks of acute
discomfort. That phase was over, his talk with Brandon in the Cloisters
after the Cathedral service had closed it. On that occasion he had put
himself entirely in the right, having been before that, under the eye of
his aunt and certain critics in the town, ever so slightly in the wrong.
Now he was justified. He had humbled himself before Brandon (when really
there was no reason to do so), apologised (when truly there was not the
slightest need for it)--Brandon had utterly rejected his apology, turned
on him as though he were a thief and a robber--he had done all that he
could, more, far more, than his case demanded.
So his comfort, his dear consoling comfort, had returned to him
completely. And with it had returned all his affection, his tenderness for
Brandon. Poor man, deserted by his wife, past his work, showing as he so
obviously did in the Jubilee week that his brain (never very agile) was
now quite inert, poor man, poor, poor man! Ronder, as he walked his study,
simply longed to do something for Brandon--to give him something, make him
a generous present, to go to London and persuade his poor weak wife to
return to him, anything, anything to make him happy again.
Too sad to see the poor man's pale face, restless eyes, to watch his
hurried, uneasy walk, as though he were suspicious of every man.
Everywhere now Ronder sang Brandon's praises--what fine work he had done
in the past, how much the Church owed him; where would Polchester have
been in the past without him?
"I assure you," Ronder said to Mrs. Preston, meeting her in the High
Street, "the Archdeacon's work may be over, but when I think of what the
Church owes him----"
To which Mrs. Preston had said: "Ah, Canon, how you search for the Beauty
in human life! You are a lesson to all of us. After all, to find Beauty in
even the meanest and most disappointing, that is our task!"
There was no doubt but that Ronder had come magnificently through the
Jubilee week. It had in every way strengthened and confirmed his already
strong position. He had been everywhere; had added gaiety and sunshine to
the Flower Show; had preached a most wonderful sermon at the evening
service on the Tuesday; had addressed, from the steps of his house, the
Torchlight Procession in exactly the right words; had patted all the
children on the head at the Mayor's tea for the townspeople; had enchanted
everywhere. That for which he had worked had been accomplished, and
accomplished with wonderful speed.
He was firmly established as the leading Churchman in Polchester; only now
let the Pybus living go in the right direction (as it must do), and he
would have nothing more to wish for.
He loved the place. As he looked down into the garden and thought of the
years of pleasant comfort and happiness now stretching in front of him,
his heart swelled with love of his fellow human beings. He longed, here
and now, to do something for some one, to give some children pennies, some
poor old men a good meal, to lend some one his pounds, to speak a good
word in public for some one maligned, to------
"Mr. Wistons, sir," said the maid. When he turned round only his exceeding
politeness prevented him from a whistle of astonishment. He had never seen
a photograph of Wistons, and the man had never been described to him.
From all that he had heard and read of him, he had pictured him a tall,
lean ascetic, a kind of Dante and Savonarola in one, a magnificent figure
of protest and abjuration. This man who now came towards him was little,
thin, indeed, but almost deformed, seeming to have one shoulder higher
than the other, and to halt ever so slightly on one foot. His face was
positively ugly, redeemed only, as Ronder, who was no mean observer, at
once perceived, by large and penetrating eyes. The eyes, indeed, were
beautiful, of a wonderful softness and intelligence.
His hair was jet black and thick; his hand, as it gripped Ronder's, strong
"I'm very glad to meet you, Canon Ronder," he said. "I've heard so much
about you." His voice, as Mrs. Combermere long afterwards remarked, "has a
twinkle in it." It was a jolly voice, humorous, generous but incisive, and
exceedingly clear. It had a very slight accent, so slight that no one
could ever decide on its origin. The books said that Wistons had been born
in London, and that his father had been Rector of Lambeth for many years;
it was also quickly discovered by penetrating Polcastrians that he had a
not very distant French ancestry. Was it Cockney? "I expect," said Miss
Stiles, "that he played with the little Lambeth children when he was
small"--but no one really knew...
The two men sat down facing one another, and Wistons looked strange indeed
with his shoulders hunched up, his thin little legs like two cross-bones,
one over the other, his black hair and pale face.
"I feel rather like a thief in the night," he said, "stealing down here.
But Foster wanted me to come, and I confess to a certain curiosity
"You would like to come to Pybus if things go that way?" Ronder asked him.
"I shall be quite glad to come. On the other hand, I shall not be at all
sorry to stay where I am. Does it matter very much where one is?"
"Except that the Pybus living is generally considered a very important
step in Church preferment. It leads, as a rule, to great things."
"Great things? Yes..." Wistons seemed to be talking to himself. "One thing
is much like another. The more power one seems to have outwardly, the less
very often one has in reality. However, if I'm called I'll come. But I
wanted to see you, Canon Ronder, for a special purpose."
"Yes?" asked Ronder.
"Of course I haven't enquired in any way into the probabilities of the
Pybus appointment. But I understand that there is very strong opposition
to myself; naturally there would be. I also understand that, with the
exception of my friend Foster, you are my strongest supporter in this
matter. May I ask you why?"
"Why?" repeated Ronder.
"Yes, why? You may say, and quite justly, that I have no right at all to
ask you that question. It should be enough for me, I know, to realise that
there are certain people here who want me to come. It ought to be enough.
But it isn't. It _isn't_. I won't--I can't come here under false
"False pretences!" cried Ronder. "I assure you, dear Mr. Wistons--"
"Oh, yes, I know. I know what you will naturally tell me. But I have
caught enough of the talk here--Foster in his impetuosity has been perhaps
indiscreet--to realise that there has been, that there still is, a battle
here between the older, more conservative body of opinion and the more
modern school. It seems to me that I have been made the figure-head of
this battle. To that I have no objection. It is not for the first time.
But what I want to ask you, Canon Ronder, with the utmost seriousness, is
"Have you supported my appointment because you honestly felt that I was
the best man for this particular job, or because--I know you will forgive
me if this question sounds impertinent--you wished to score a point over
some personal adversary?"
The question _was_ impertinent. There could be no doubt of it. Ronder
ought at once to resent any imputation on his honesty. What right had this
man to dip down into Ronder's motives? The Canon stared from behind his
glasses into those very bright and insistent eyes, and even as he stared
there came once again that cold little wind of discomfort, that
questioning, irritating wind, that had been laid so effectively, he
thought, for ever to rest. What was this man about, attacking him like
this, attacking him before, even, he had been appointed? Was it, after
all, quite wise that Wistons should come here? Would that same comfort, so
rightly valued by Ronder, be quite assured in the future if Wistons were
at Pybus? Wouldn't some nincompoop like Forsyth be perhaps, after all, his
Ronder suddenly ceased to wish to give pennies to little children or a
present to Brandon. He was, very justly, irritated.
"Do forgive me if I am impertinent," said Wistons quietly, "but I have to
"But of course," said Ronder, "I consider you the best man for this
appointment. I should not have stirred a finger in your support
otherwise." (Why, something murmured to him, are people always attributing
to you unworthy motives, first your aunt, then Foster, now this man?) "You
are quite correct in saying that there is strong opposition to your
appointment here. But that is quite natural; you have only to consider
some of your published works to understand that. A battle is being fought
with the more conservative elements in the place. You have heard probably
that the Archdeacon is their principal leader, but I think I may say that
our victory is already assured. There was never any real doubt of the
issue. Archdeacon Brandon is a splendid fellow, and has done great work
for the Church here, but he is behind the times, out-of-date, and too
obstinate to change. Then certain, family misfortunes have hit him hard
lately, and his health is not, I fear, what it was. His opposition is as
good as over."
"That's a swift decline," said Wistons. "I remember only some six months
ago hearing of him as by far the strongest man in this place."
"Yes, it has been swift," said Ronder, shaking his head regretfully, "but
I think that his position here was largely based on the fact that there
was no one else here strong enough to take the lead against him.
"My coming into the diocese--some one, however feeble, you understand,
coming in from outside--made an already strong modern feeling yet
"I will tell you one thing," said Wistons, suddenly shooting up his
shoulders and darting forward his head. "I think all this Cathedral
intrigue disgusting. No, I don't blame you. You came into the middle of
it, and were doubtless forced to take the part you did. But I'll have no
lot or hold in it. If I am to understand that I gain the Pybus appointment
only through a lot of backstairs intrigue and cabal, I'll let it be known
at once that I would not accept that living though it were offered me a
"No, no," cried Ronder eagerly. "I assure you that that is not so. There
has been intrigue here owing to the old politics of the party who governed
the Cathedral. But that is, I hope and pray, over and done with. It is
because so many of us want to have no more of it that we are asking you to
come here. Believe me, believe me, that is so."
"I should not have said what I did," continued Wistons quietly. "It was
arrogant and conceited. Perhaps you cannot avoid intrigue and party
feeling among the community of any Cathedral body. That is why I want you
to understand, Canon Ronder, the kind of man I am, before you propose me
for this post. I am afraid that you may afterwards regret your advocacy.
If I were invited to a Canonry, or any post immediately connected with the
Cathedral, I would not accept it for an instant. I come, if I come at all,
to fight the Cathedral--that is to fight everything in it, round and about
it, that prevents men from seeing clearly the figure of Christ.
"I believe, Canon Ronder, that before many years are out it will become
clear to the whole world that there are now two religions--the religion of
authority, and the religion of the spirit--and if in such a division I
must choose, I am for the religion of the spirit every time."
The religion of the spirit! Ronder stirred, a little restlessly, his fat
thighs. What had that to do with it? They were discussing the Pybus
appointment. The religion of the spirit! Well, who wasn't for that? As to
dogma, Ronder had never laid very great stress upon it. A matter of words
very largely. He looked out to the garden, where a tree, scooped now like
a great green fan against the blue-white sky, was shading the sun's rays.
Lovely! Lovely! Lovely like the Hermes downstairs, lovely like the piece
of red amber on his writing-table, like the Blind Homer...like a scallop
of green glass holding water that washed a little from side to side, the
sheen on its surface changing from dark shadow to faintest dusk. Lovely!
He stared, transported, his comfort flowing full-tide now into his soul.
"Exactly!" he said, suddenly turning his eyes full on Wistons. "The
Christian Church has made a golden calf of its dogmas. The Calf is
worshipped, the Cathedral enshrines it."
Wistons gave a swift curious stab of a glance. Ronder caught it; he
flushed. "You think it strange of me to say that?" he asked. "I can see
that you do. Let me be frank with you. It has been my trouble all my life
that I can see every side of a question. I am with the modernists, but at
the same time I can understand how dangerous it must seem to the
dogmatists to abandon even an inch of the country that Paul conquered for
them. I'm afraid, Wistons, that I see life in terms of men and women
rather than of creeds. I want men to be happy and at peace with one
another. And if to form a new creed or to abandon an old one leads to
men's deeper religious happiness, well, then...." He waved his hands.
Wistons, speaking again as it were to himself, answered, "I care only for
Jesus Christ. He is overshadowed now by all the great buildings that men
have raised for Him. He is lost to our view; we must recover Him. Him!
Him! Only Him! To serve Him, to be near Him, almost to feel the touch of
His hand on one's head, that is the whole of life to me. And now He is
hard to come to, harder every year...." He got up. "I didn't come to say
more than that.
"It's the Cathedral, Render, that I fear. Don't you yourself sometimes
feel that it has, by now, a spirit of its own, a life, a force that all
the past years and all the worship that it has had have given it? Don't
you even feel that? That it has become a god demanding his own rites and
worshippers? That it uses men for its own purposes, and not for Christ's?
That almost it hates Christ? It is so beautiful, so lovely, so haughty, so
"For I, thy God, am a jealous God.'..." He broke off. "I could love Christ
better in that garden than in the Cathedral. Tear it down and build it up
again!" He turned restlessly, almost savagely, to Ronder. "Can you be
happy and comfortable and at ease, when you see what Christ might be to
human beings and what He is? Who thinks of Him, who cares for Him, who
loves His sweetness and charity and tenderness? Why is something always in
the way, always, always, always? Love! Charity! Doesn't such a place as
this Cathedral breed hatred and malice and pride and jealousy? And isn't
its very beauty a contempt?...And now what right have you to help my
appointment to Pybus?"
"You are what we need here," he said. "You shall shake some of our comfort
from us--make a new life here for us."
Wistons was suddenly almost timid. He spoke as though he were waking from
"Good-bye.... Good-bye. No, don't come down. Thank you so much. Thank you.
Very kind of you. Good-bye."
But Ronder insisted on coming down. They shook hands at his door. The
figure was lost in the evening sun.
Ronder stood there for a moment gazing at the bright grass, the little
houses with their shining knockers, the purple shadow of the Cathedral.
Had he done right? Was Wistons the man? Might he not be more dangerous
than...? No, no, too late now. The fight with Brandon must move to its
appointed end. Poor Brandon! Poor dear Brandon!
He looked across at the house as on the evening of his arrival from that
same step he had looked.
Poor Brandon! He would like to do something for him, some little kindly
He closed the door and softly padded upstairs, humming happily to himself
that little chant.
Two in the House
A letter from Falk to Joan.
Dear Joan--Mother has been here. I could get nothing out of her. I had
only one thing to say--that she must go back to father. That was the one
thing that she asserted, over and over again, that she never would. Joan,
she was tragic. I felt that I had never seen her before, never known her.
She was thinking of nothing but Morris. She seemed to see him all the time
that she was in the room with me. She is going abroad with Morris at the
end of this week--to South America, I believe. Mother doesn't seem now to
care what happens, except that she will not go back to father.
She said an odd thing to me at the end--that she had had her time, her
wonderful time, and that she could never be as unhappy or as lonely as she
was, and that she would love him always (Morris, I suppose), and that he
would love her.
The skunk that Morris is! And yet I don't know. Haven't I been a skunk
too? And yet I don't feel a skunk. If only father would be happy! Then
things would be better than they've ever been. You don't know how good
Annie is, Joan. How fine and simple and true! Why are we all such
mixtures? Why can't you ever do what's right for yourself without hurting
other people? But I'm not going to wait much longer. If things aren't
better soon I'm coming down whether he'll see me or no. We _must_
make him happy. We're all that he has now. Once this Pybus thing is
settled I'll come down. Write to me. Tell me everything. You're a brick,
Joan, to take all this as you do. Why did we go all these years without
knowing one another?--Your loving brother,
A letter from Joan to Falk.
DEAREST FALK--I'm answering you by return because I'm so frightened. If I
send you a telegram, come down at once. Mr. Morris's sister-in-law is
telling everybody that he only went up to London on business. But she's
not going to stay here, I think. But I can't think much even of mother. I
can think of no one but father. Oh, Falk, it's been terrible these last
three days, and I don't know _what's_ going to happen.
I'll try and tell you how it's been. It's two months now since mother went
away. That night it was dreadful. He walked up and down his room all
night. Indeed he's been doing that ever since she went. And yet I don't
think it's of her that he's thinking most. I'm not sure even that he's
thinking of her at all.
He's concentrating everything now on the Pybus appointment. He talks to
himself. (You can see by that how changed he is.) He is hurrying round to
see people and asking them to the house, and he's so odd with them,
looking at them suddenly, suspiciously, as though he expected that they
were laughing at him. There's always something in the back of his mind--
not mother, I'm sure. Something happened to him that last day of the
Jubilee. He's always talking about some one who struck him, and he puts
his hand up to feel his forehead, where there was a bruise. He told me
that day that he had fallen down, but I'm sure now that he had a fight
He's always talking, too, about a "conspiracy" against him--not only Canon
Ronder, but something more general. Poor dear, the worst of it all is, how
bewildered he is. You know how direct he used to be, the way he went
straight to his point and wasn't afraid of anybody. Now he's always
hesitating. He hesitates before he goes out, before he goes upstairs,
before he comes into my room. It's just as though he was for ever
expecting that there's some one behind the door waiting for him with a
hammer. It's so strange how I've changed my feeling about him. I used to
think him so strong that he could beat down anybody, and now I feel he
wants looking after all the time. Perhaps he never was really strong at
all, but it was all on the outside. All the same he's very brave too. He
knows all the town's been talking about him, but I think he'd face a whole
world of Polchesters if he could only beat Canon Ronder over the Pybus
appointment. If Mr. Forsyth isn't appointed to that I think he'll go to
pieces altogether. You see, a year ago there wouldn't have been any
question about it at all. Of course he would have had his way.
But what makes me so frightened, Falk, is of something happening in the
house. Father is so suspicious that it makes me suspicious too. It doesn't
seem like the house it was at all, but as though there were some one
hiding in it, and at night it is awful. I lie awake listening, and I can
hear father walking up and down, his room's next to mine, you know. And
then if I listen hard enough, I can hear footsteps all over the house--
you know how you do in the middle of the night. And there's always some
one coming upstairs. This will sound silly to you up in London, but it
doesn't seem silly here, I assure you. All the servants feel it, and
Gladys is going at the end of the month.
And oh, Falk! I'm so sorry for him! It does seem so strange that
everything should have changed for him as it has. I feel his own
bewilderment. A year ago he seemed so strong and safe and secure as though
he would go on like that for ever, and hadn't an enemy in the world. How
could he have? He's never meant harm to any one. Your going away I can
understand, but mother, I feel as though I never could speak to her again.
To be so cruel to father and to write him such a letter! (Of course I
didn't see the letter, but the effect of it on father was terrible.)
He's so lonely now. He scarcely realises me half the time, and you see he
never did think very much about me before, so it's very difficult for him
to begin now. I'm so inexperienced. It's hard enough running the house
now, and having to get another servant instead of Gladys--and I daresay
the others will go too now, but that's nothing to waiting all the time for
something to happen and watching father every minute. We _must_ make
him happy again, Falk. You're quite right. It's the only thing that
matters. Everything else is less important than that. If only this Pybus
affair were over! Canon Ronder is so powerful now. I'm so afraid of him. I
do hate him so! The Cathedral, and the town, everything seems to have
changed since he came. A year ago they were like father, settled for ever.
And now every one's talking about new people and being out-of-date, and
changing the Cathedral music and everything! But none of that matters in
comparison with father.
I've written a terribly long letter, but it's done me ever so much good.
I'm sometimes so tempted to telegraph to you at once. I'm almost sure
father would be glad to see you. You were always the one he loved most.
But perhaps we'd better wait a little: if things get worse in any way I'll
telegraph at once.
I'm so glad you're well, and happy. You haven't in your letters told me
anything about the Jubilee in London. Was it very fine? Did you see the
Queen? Did she look very happy? Were the crowds very big? Much love from
your loving sister,
* * * * *
Joan, waiting in the shadowy drawing-room for Johnny St. Leath, wondered
whether her father had come in or no.
It wouldn't matter if he had, he wouldn't come into the drawing-room. He
would go directly into his study. She knew exactly what he would do. He
would shut the door, then a minute later would open it, look into the hall
and listen, then close it again very cautiously. He always now did that.
And in any case if he did come into the drawing-room and saw Johnny it
wouldn't matter. His mind was entirely centred on Pybus, and Johnny had
nothing to do with Pybus. Johnny's mother, yes. Had that stout white-
haired cockatoo suddenly appeared, she would be clutched, absorbed,
utilised to her last white feather. But she didn't appear. She stayed up
in her Castle, serene and supreme.
Joan was very nervous. She stood, a little grey shadow in the grey room,
her hands twisting and untwisting. She was nervous because she was going
to say good-bye to Johnny, perhaps for ever, and she wasn't sure that
she'd have the strength to do it.
Suddenly he was there with her in the room, big and clumsy and cheerful,
quite unaware apparently that he was never, after this, to see Joan again.
He tried to kiss her but she prevented him. "No, you must sit over there,"
she said, "and we must never, at least not probably for years and years,
kiss one another again."
He was aware, as she spoke, of quite a new, a different Joan; he had been
conscious of this new Joan on many occasions during these last weeks. When
he had first known her she had been a child and he had loved her for her
childishness; now he must meet the woman and the child together, and
instinctively he was himself more serious in his attitude to her.
"We could talk much better, Joan dear," he said, "if we were close
"No," she said; "then I couldn't talk at all. We mustn't meet alone again
after to-day, and we mustn't write, and we mustn't consider ourselves
"Can't you see that it's all impossible? We've tried it now for weeks and
it becomes more impossible every day. Your mother's absolutely against it
and always will be--and now at home--here--my mother----"
She broke off. He couldn't leave her like that; he sprang up, went across
to her, put his arms around her, and kissed her. She didn't resist him nor
move from him, but when she spoke again her voice was firmer and more
resolved than before.
"No, Johnny, I mean it, I can think of nothing now but father. So long as
he's alive I must stay with him. He's quite alone now, he has nobody. I
can't even think about you so long as he's like this, so unwell and so
unhappy. It isn't as though I were very clever or old or anything. I've
never until lately been allowed to do anything all my life, not the
tiniest bit of housekeeping, and now suddenly it has all come. And if I
were thinking of you, wanting to see you, having letters from you, I
shouldn't attend to this; I shouldn't be able to think of it----"
"Do you still love me?"
"Why, of course. I shall never change."
"And do you think that I still love you?"
"And do you think I'll change?"
"You may. But I don't want to think so."
"Well, then, the main question is settled. It doesn't matter how long we
"But it _does_ matter. It may be for years and years. You've got to
marry, you can't just stay unmarried because one day you may marry me."
"Can't I? You wait and see whether I can't."
"But you oughtn't to, Johnny. Think of your family. Think of your mother.
You're the only son."
"Mother can just think of me for once. It will be a bit of a change for
her. It will do her good. I've told her whom I want to marry, and she must
just get used to it. She admits herself that she can't have anything
against you personally, except that you're too young. I asked her whether
she wanted me to marry a Dowager of sixty."
Joan moved away. She walked to the window and looked out at the grey mist
sweeping like an army of ghostly messengers across the Cathedral Green.
She turned round to him.
"No, Johnny, this time it isn't a joke. I mean absolutely what I say.
We're not to meet alone or to write until--father doesn't need me any
more. I can't think, I mustn't think, of anything but father now. Nothing
that you can say, or any one can say, will make me change my mind about
that now.... And please go, Johnny, because it's so hard while you're
here. And we _must_ do it. I'll never change, but you're free to, and
you _ought_ to. It's your duty to find some one more satisfactory
But Johnny appeared not to have heard her last words. He had been looking
about him, at the walls, the windows, the ceiling--rather as a young dog
sniffs some place new to him.
"Joan, tell me. Are you all right here? You oughtn't to be all alone here
like this, just with your father. Can't you get some one to come and
"No," she answered bravely. "Of course it's all right. I've got Gladys,
who's been with us for years."
"There's something funny," he said, still looking about him. "It feels
queer to me--sort of unhappy."
"Never mind that," she said, hurriedly moving towards the door, as though
she had heard footsteps. "You must go, Johnny. Kiss me once, the last
time. And then no letters, no anything, until--until--father's happy
She rested in his arms, suddenly tranquil, safe, at peace. Her hands were
round his neck. She kissed his eyes. They clung together, suddenly two
children, utterly confident in one another and in their mutual faith.
A hand was on the door. They separated. The Archdeacon came in. He peered
into the dusky room.
"Joan! Joan! Are you there?"
She came across to him. "Yes, father, here I am. And this is Lord St.
"How do you do, sir?" said Johnny.
"How do you do? I hope your mother is well."
"Very well, thank you, sir."
"That's good, that's good. I have some business to discuss with her.
Rather important business; I may come and see her to-morrow afternoon if
she is disengaged; Will you kindly tell her?"
"Indeed I will, sir."
"Thank you. Thank you. This room is very dark. Why are there no lights?
Joan, you should have lights. There's no one else here, is there?"
Johnny heard their voices echoing in the empty hall as he let himself out.
Brandon shut his study door and looked about him. The lamp on his table
was lit, his study had a warm and pleasant air with the books gleaming in
their shelves and the fire crackling. (You needed a fire on these late
summer evenings.) Nevertheless, although the room looked comfortable, he
did not at once move into it. He stood there beside the door, as though he
was waiting for something. He listened. The house was intensely quiet. He
opened the door and looked into the passage. There was no one there. The
gas hissed ever so slightly, like a whispering importunate voice. He came
back into his room, closing the door very carefully behind him, went
across softly to his writing-table, sat down, and took up his pen. His
eyes were fixed on the door, and then suddenly he would jerk round in his
chair as though he expected to catch some one who was standing just behind
Then began that fight that always now must be waged whenever he sat down
at his desk, the fight to drive his thoughts, like sheep, into the only
pen that they must occupy. He must think now only of one thing; there were
others--pictures, ideas, memories, fears, horrors even--crowding, hovering
close about him, and afterwards--after Pybus--he would attend to them.
Only one thing mattered now. "Yes, you gibbering idiots, do your worst;
knock me down. Come on four to one like the cowards that you are, strike
me in the back, take my wife from me, and ruin my house. I will attend to
all of you shortly, but first--Pybus."
His lips were moving as he turned over the papers. _Was_ there some
one in the room with him? His head was aching so badly that it was
difficult to think. And his heart! How strangely that behaved in these
days! Five heavy slow beats, then a little skip and jump, then almost as
though it had stopped beating altogether.
Another thing that made it difficult to work in that room was that the
Cathedral seemed so close. It was not close really, although you could, so
often, hear the organ, but now Brandon had the strange fancy that it had
drawn closer during these last weeks, and was leaning forward with its ear
to his house, listening just as a man might! Funny how Brandon now was
always thinking of the Cathedral as a person! Stones and bricks and mortar
and bits of glass, that's what the Cathedral was, and yet lately it had
seemed to move and have a being of its own.
Fancies! Fancies! Really Brandon must attend to his business, this
business of Pybus and Forsyth, which in a week now was to be settled. He
talked to himself as he turned the papers over. He had seen the Bishop,
and Ryle (more or less persuaded), and Bentinck-Major (dark horse, never
could be sure of him), Foster, Rogers...Foster? Foster? Had he seen
Foster? Why did the mention of that name suddenly commence the unveiling
for him of a scene upon which, he must not look? The crossing the bridge,
up the hill, at the turnstile, paying your shilling...no, no, no
farther. And Bentinck-Major! That man laughed at him! Positively he dared,
when a year ago he would have bent down and wiped the dust off his shoes!
That man! That worm! That mean, sycophantic...He was beginning to get
angry. He must not get angry. That's what Puddifoot had said, that had
been the one thing that old Puddifoot had said correctly. He must not get
angry, not even with--Ronder.
At the mention of that name something seemed to stir in the room, some one
to move closer. Brandon's heart began to race round like a pony in a
paddock. Very bad. Must keep quiet. Never get excited. Then for a moment
his thoughts did range, roaming over that now so familiar ground of
bewilderment. Why? Why? Why?
Why a year ago _that_, and now _this_? When he had done no one
in the world any harm and had served God so faithfully? Why? Why? Why?
Back, back to Pybus. This wasn't work. He had much to do and no time to
lose. That enemy of his was working, you could be sure of that. Only a
week! Only a week!
Was that some one moving in the room? Was there some one stealing behind
him, as they had done once, as...? He turned sharply round, rising in his
chair. No one there. He got up and began stealthily to pace the floor. The
worst of it was that however carefully you went you could never be quite
sure that some one was not just behind you, some one very clever,
measuring his steps by yours. You could never be sure. How still the house
was! He stopped by his door, after a moment's hesitation opened it and
looked out. No one there, only the gas whispering.
What was he doing, staring into the hall? He should be working, making
sure of his work. He went back to his table. He began hurriedly to write a
DEAR FOSTER--I cannot help feeling that I did not make myself quite
clear when I was speaking to you yesterday about Forsyth as the best
incumbent of the Pybus living. When I say best, I mean, of course, most
When he said _best_ did he meant _most suitable? Suitable_ was
not perhaps exactly the word for Forsyth. It was something other than a
question of mere suitability. It was a keeping out of the _bad_, as
well as a bringing in of the _good_. _Suitable_ was not the word
that he wanted. What did he want? The words began to jump about on the
paper, and suddenly out of the centre of his table there stretched and
extended the figure of Miss Milton. Yes, there she was in her shabby
clothes and hat, smirking.... He dashed his hand at her and she vanished.
He sprang up. This was too bad. He must not let these fancies get hold of
him. He went into the hall.
He called out loudly, his voice echoing through the house, "Joan! Joan!"
Almost at once she came. Strange the relief that he felt! But he wouldn't
show it. She must notice nothing at all out of the ordinary.
She sat close to him at their evening meal and talked to him about
everything that came into her young head. Sometimes he wished that she
wouldn't talk so much; she hadn't talked so much in earlier days, had she?
But he couldn't remember what she had done in earlier days.
He was very particular now about his food. Always he had eaten whatever
was put in front of him with hearty and eager appreciation; now he seemed
to have very little appetite. He was always complaining about the cooking.
The potatoes were hard, the beef was underdone, the pastry was heavy. And
sometimes he would forget altogether that he was eating, and would sit
staring in front of him, his food neglected on his plate.
It was not easy for Joan. Not easy to choose topics that were not
dangerous. And so often he was not listening to her at all. Perhaps at no
other time did she pity him so much, and love him so much, as when she saw
him staring in front of him, his eyes puzzled, bewildered, piteous, like
those of an animal caught in a trap. All her old fear of him was gone, but
a new fear had come in its place. Sometimes, in quite the old way, he
would rap out suddenly, "Nonsense--stuff and nonsense!...As though
_he_ knew anything about it!" or would once again take the whole
place, town and Cathedral and all of them, into his charge with something
like, "I knew how to manage the thing. What they would have done without--
" But these defiances never lasted.
They would fade away into bewilderment and silence.
He would complain continually of his head, putting his hand suddenly up to
it, and saying, like a little child:
"My head's so bad. Such a headache!" But he would refuse to see Puddifoot;
had seen him once, and had immediately quarrelled with him, and told him
that he was a silly old fool and knew nothing about anything, and this
when Puddifoot had come with the noblest motives, intending to patronise
After dinner to-night Joan and he went into the drawing-room. Often, after
dinner, he vanished into the study "to work"--but to-night he was "tired,
very tired--my dear. So much effort in connection with this Pybus
business. What'a come to the town I don't know. A year ago the matter
would have been simple enough...anything so obvious...."
He sat in his old arm-chair, whence for so many years he had delivered his
decisive judgments. No decisive judgments tonight! He was really tired,
lying back, his eyes closed, his hands twitching ever so slightly on his
Joan sat near to him, struggling to overcome her fear. She felt that if
only she could grasp that fear, like a nettle, and hold it tightly in her
hand it would seem so slight and unimportant. But she could not grasp it.
It was compounded of so many things, of the silence and the dulness, of
the Precincts and the Cathedral, of whispering trees and steps on the
stairs, of her father and something strange that now inhabited him like a
new guest in their house, of her loneliness and of her longing for some
friend with whom she could talk, of her ache for Johnny and his
comforting, loving smile, but most of all, strangely, of her own love for
her father, and her desire, her poignant desire, that he should be happy
again. She scarcely missed her mother, she did not want her to come back;
but she ached and ached to see once again that happy flush return to her
father's cheek, that determined ring to his voice, that buoyant confident
movement to his walk.
To-night she could not be sure whether he slept or no. She watched him,
and the whole world seemed to hold its breath. Suddenly an absurd fancy
seized her. She fought against it for a time, sitting there, her hands
tightly clenched. Then suddenly it overcame her. Some one was listening
outside the window; she fancied that she could see him--tall, dark, lean,
his face pressed against the pane.
She rose very softly and stole across the floor, very gently drew back one
of the curtains and looked out. It was dark and she could see nothing--
only the Cathedral like a grey web against a sky black as ink. A lamp,
across the Green, threw a splash of orange in the middle distance--no
other light. The Cathedral seemed to be very close to the house.
She closed the curtain and then heard her father call her.
"Joan! Joan! Where are you?"
She came back and stood by his chair. "I was only looking out to see what
sort of a night it was, father dear," she said.
He suddenly smiled. "I had a pleasant little nap then," he said; "my
head's better. There. Sit down close to me. Bring your chair nearer. We're
all alone here now, you and I. We must make a lot of one another."
He had paid so little attention to her hitherto that she suddenly realised
now that her loneliness had, during these last weeks, been the hardest
thing of all to bear. She drew her chair close to his and he took her
"Yes, yes, it's quite true. I don't know what I should have done without
you during these last weeks. You've been very good to your poor, stupid,
She murmured something, and he burst out, "Oh, yes, they do! That's what
they say! I know how they talk. They want to get me out of the way and
change the place--put in unbelievers and atheists. But they shan't--not
while I have any breath in my body--" He went on more gently, "Why just
think, my dear, they actually want to have that man Wistons here. An
atheist! A denier of Christ's divinity! Here worshipping in the Cathedral!
And when I try to stop it they say I'm mad. Oh, yes! They do! I've heard
them. Mad. Out-of-date. They've laughed at me--ever since--ever since...
that elephant, you know, dear...that began it...the Circus...."
She leaned over him.
"Father dear, you mustn't pay so much attention to what they say. You
imagine so much just because you aren't very well and have those
headaches--and--and--because of other things. You imagine things that
aren't true. So many people here love you----"
"Love me!" he burst out suddenly, starting up in his chair. "When they set
upon me, five of them, from behind and beat me! There in public with the
lights and the singing." He caught her hand, gripping it. "There's a
conspiracy, Joan. I know it. I've seen it a long time. And I know who
started it and who paid them to follow me. Everywhere I go, there they
are, following me.
"That old woman with her silly hat, she followed me into my own house.
Yes, she did! 'I'll read you a letter,' she said. 'I hate you, and I'll
make you cry out over this.' They're all in it. He's setting them on. But
he shan't have his way. I'll fight him yet. Even my own son----" His voice
Joan knelt at his feet, looking up into his face. "Father! Falk wants to
come and see you! I've had a letter from him. He wants to come and ask
your forgiveness--he loves you so much."
He got up from his chair, almost pushing her away from him. "Falk! Falk! I
don't know any one called that. I haven't got a son----"
He turned, looking at her. Then suddenly put his arms around her and
kissed her, holding her tight to his breast.
"You're a good girl," he said. "Dear Joan! I'm glad you've not left me
too. I love you, Joan, and I've not been good enough to you. Oh, no, I
haven't! Many things I might have done, and now it's too late...too
He kissed her again and again, stroking her hair, then he said that he was
tired, very tired--he'd sleep to-night. He went slowly upstairs.
He undressed rapidly, flinging off his clothes as though they hurt him. As
though some one else had unexpectedly come into the room, he saw himself
standing before the long glass in the dressing-room, naked save for his
vest. He looked at himself and laughed.
How funny he looked only in his vest--how funny were he to walk down the
High Street like that! They would say he was mad. And yet he wouldn't be
mad. He would be just as he was now. He pulled the vest off over his head
and continued to stare at himself. It was as though he were looking at
some one else's body. The long toes, the strong legs, the thick thighs,
the broad hairless chest, the stout red neck--and then those eyes, surely
not his, those strange ironical eyes! He passed his hand down his side and
felt the cool strong marble of his flesh. Then suddenly he was cold and he
hurried into his night-shirt and his dressing-gown.
He sat on his bed. Something deep down in him was struggling to come up.
Some thought...some feeling...some name. Falk! It was as though a bell
were ringing, at a great distance, in the sleeping town--but ringing only
for him. Falk! The pain, the urgent pain, crept closer. Falk! He got up
from his bed, opened his door, looked out into the dark and silent house,
stepped forward, carefully, softly, his old red dressing-gown close about
him, stumbling a little on the stairs, feeling the way to his study door.
He sat in his arm-chair huddled up. "Falk! Falk! Oh, my boy, my boy, come
back, come back! I want you, I want to be with you, to see you, to touch
you, to hear your voice! I want to love you!
"Love--Love! I never wanted love before, but now I want it, desperately,
desperately, some one to love me, some one for me to love, some one to be
kind to. Falk, my boy. I'm so lonely. It's so dark. I can't see things as
I did. It's getting darker.
"Falk, come back and help me...."
Prelude to Battle
That night he slept well and soundly, and in the morning woke tranquil and
refreshed. His life seemed suddenly to have taken a new turn. As he lay
there and watched the sunlight run through the lattices like strands of
pale-coloured silk, it seemed to him that he was through the worst. He did
what he had not done for many days, allowed the thought of his wife to
come and dwell with him.
He went over many of their past years together, and, nodding his head,
decided that he had been often to blame. Then the further thought of what
she had done, of her adultery, of her last letter, these like foul black
water came sweeping up and darkened his mind.... No more. No more. He must
do as he had done. Think only of Pybus. Fight that, win his victory, and
then turn to what lay behind. But the sunlight no longer danced for him,
he closed his eyes, turned on his side, and prayed to God out of his
After breakfast he started out. A restless urgency drove him forth. The
Chapter Meeting at which the new incumbent of Pybus was to be chosen was
now only three days distant, and all the work in connection with that was
completed--but Brandon could not be still. Some members of the Chapter he
had seen over and over again during the last months, and had pressed Rex
Forsyth's claims upon them without ceasing, but this thing had become a
symbol to him now--a symbol of his fight with Ronder, of his battle for
the Cathedral, of his championship, behind that, of the whole cause of
It seemed to him that if he were defeated now in this thing it would mean
that God Himself had deserted him. At the mere thought of defeat his heart
began to leap in his breast and the flags of the pavement to run before
his eyes. But it could not be. He had been tested; like Job, every plague
had been given to him to prove him true, but this last would shout to the
world that his power was gone and that the Cathedral that he loved had no
longer a place for him. And then--and then-----
He would not, he must not, look. At the top of the High Street he met Ryle
the Precentor. There had been a time when Ryle was terrified by the
Archdeacon; that time was not far distant, but it was gone. Nevertheless,
even though the Archdeacon were suddenly old and sick and unimportant, you
never could tell but that he might say something to somebody that it would
be unpleasant to have said. "Politeness all the way round" was Ryle's
motto, and a very safe one too. Moreover, Ryle, when he could rise above
his alarm for the safety of his own position, was a kindly man, and it
really _was_ sad to see the poor Archdeacon so pale and tired, the
scratch on his cheek, even now not healed, giving him a strangely battered
And how would Ryle have liked Mrs. Ryle to leave him? And how would he
feel if his son, Anthony (aged at present five), ran away with the
daughter of a publican? And how, above all, would he feel did he know that
the whole town was talking about him and saying "Poor Precentor!"? But
perhaps the Archdeacon did _not_ know. Strange the things that people
did not know about themselves!--and at that thought the Precentor went
goose-fleshy all over, because of the things that at that very moment
people might be saying about _him_ and he knowing none of them!
All this passed very swiftly through Ryle's mind, and was quickly
strangled by hearing Brandon utter in quite his old knock-you-down-if-you-
don't-get-out-of-my-way voice, "Ha! Ryle! Out early this morning! I hope
you're not planning any more new-fangled musical schemes for us!"
Oh, well! if the Archdeacon were going to take that sort of tone with him,
Ryle simply wasn't going to stand it! Why should he? To-day isn't six
"That's all right, Archdeacon," he said stiffly. "Ronder and I go through
a good deal of the music together now. He's very musical, you know. Every
one seems quite satisfied." _That_ ought to get him--my mention of
Ronder's name.... At the same time Ryle didn't wish to seem to have gone
over to the other camp altogether, and he was just about to say something
gently deprecatory of Ronder when, to his astonishment, he perceived that
Brandon simply hadn't heard him at all! And then the Archdeacon took his
arm and marched with him down the High Street.
"With regard to this Pybus business, Precentor," he was saying, "the
matter now will be settled in another three days. I hope every one
realises the extreme seriousness of this audacious plot to push a heretic
like this man Wistons into the place. I'm sure that every one _does_
realise it. There can be no two opinions about it, of course. At the same
How very uncomfortable! There had been a time when the Precentor would
have been proud indeed to walk down the High Street arm-in-arm with the
Archdeacon. But that time was past. The High Street was crowded. Any one
might see them. They would take it for granted that the Precentor was of
the Archdeacon's party. And to be seen thus affectionately linked with the
Archdeacon just now, when his family affairs were in so strange a
disorder, when he himself was behaving so oddly, when, as it was
whispered, at the Jubilee Fair he had engaged in a scuffle of a most
disreputable kind. The word "Drink" was mentioned.
Ryle tried, every so gently, to disengage his arm. Brandon's hand was of
"This seems to me," the Archdeacon was continuing, "a most critical moment
in our Cathedral's history. If we don't stand together now we--we--"
The Archdeacon's hand relaxed. His eyes wandered. Ryle detached his arm.
How strange the man was! Why, there was Samuel Hogg on the other side of
He had taken his hat off and was smiling. How uncomfortable! How
unpleasant to be mixed in this kind of encounter! How Mrs. Ryle, would
dislike it if she knew!
But his mind was speedily taken off his own affairs. He was conscious of
the Archdeacon, standing at his full height, his eyes, as he afterwards
described it a thousand times, "bursting from his head." Then, "before you
could count two," the Archdeacon was striding across the street.
It was a sunny morning, people going about their ordinary business, every
one smiling and happy. Suddenly Ryle saw the Archdeacon stop in front of
Hogg; himself started across the street, urged he knew not by what
impulse, saw Hogg's ugly sneering face, saw the Archdeacon's arm shoot
out, catch Hogg one, two terrific blows in the face, saw Hogg topple over
like a heap of clothes falling from their peg, was in time to hear the
Archdeacon crying out, "You dirty spy! You'd set upon me from behind,
would you? Afraid to meet me face to face, are you? Take that, then, and
that!" And then shout, "It's daylight! It's daylight now! Stand up and
face me, you coward!"
The next thing of which the terrified Ryle was conscious was that people
were running up from all sides. They seemed to spring from nowhere. He
saw, too, how Hogg, the blood streaming from his face, lay there on his
back, not attempting to move. Some were bending down behind him, holding
his head, others had their hands about Brandon, holding him back. Errand-
boys were running, people were hurrying from the shops, voices raised on
every side--a Constable slowly crossed the street--Ryle slipped away--
Joan had gone out at once after breakfast that morning to the little shop,
Miss Milligan's, in the little street behind the Precincts, to see whether
she could not get some of that really fresh fruit that only Miss Milligan
seemed able to obtain. She was for some little time in the shop, because
Miss Milligan always had a great deal to say about her little nephew
Benjie, who was at the School as a day-boy and was likely to get a
scholarship, and was just now suffering from boils. Joan was a good
listener and a patient, so that it was quite late--after ten o'clock--as
she hurried back.
Just by the Arden Gate Ellen Stiles met her.
"Oh, you poor child!" she cried; "aren't you at home? I was just hurrying
up to see whether I could be of any sort of help to you!"
"Any help?" echoed Joan, seeing at once, in the nodding blue plume in
Ellen's hat, forebodings of horrible disaster.
"What, haven't you heard?" cried Ellen, pitying from the bottom of her
heart the child's white face and terrified eyes.
"No! What? Oh, tell me quickly! What has happened? To father--"
"I don't know exactly myself," said Ellen. "That's what I was hurrying up
to find out.... Your father...he's had some sort of fight with that
horrible man Hogg in the High Street.... No, I don't know...But wait a
Joan was gone, scurrying through the Precincts, the paper bag with the
fruit clutched tightly to her.
Ellen Stiles stared after her; her eyes were dim with kindness. There was
nothing now that she would not do for that girl and her poor father!
Knocked down to the ground they were, and Ellen championed them wherever
she went. And now this! Drink or madness--perhaps both! Poor man! Poor
man! And that child, scarcely out of the cradle, with all this on her
shoulders! Ellen would do anything for them! She would go round later in
the day and see how she could be useful.
She turned away. It was Ronder now who was "up"...and a little pulling-
down would do him no sort of harm. There were a few little things she was
longing, herself, to tell him. A few home-truths. Then, half-way down the
High Street, she met Julia Preston, and didn't they have a lot to say
about it all!
Meanwhile Joan, in another moment, was at her door. What had happened? Oh,
what had happened? Had he been brought back dying and bleeding? Had that
horrible man set upon him, there in the High Street, while every one was
about? Was the doctor there, Mr. Puddifoot? Would there perhaps have to be
an operation? This would kill her father. The disgrace.... She let herself
in with her latch-key and stood in the familiar hall. Everything was just
as it had always been, the clocks ticking. She could hear the Cathedral
organ faintly through the wall. The drawing-room windows were open, and
she could hear the birds, singing at the sun, out there in the Precincts.
Everything as it always was. She could not understand. Gladys appeared
from the kitchen.
"Oh, Gladys, here is the fruit.... Has father come in?"
"I don't know, miss."
"You haven't heard him?"
"No, miss. I've been upstairs, 'elping with the beds."
"Oh--thank you, Gladys."
The terror slipped away from her. Then it was all right. Ellen Stiles had,
as usual, exaggerated. After all, she had not been there. She had heard it
only at second-hand. She hesitated for a moment, then went to the study
door. Outside she hesitated again, then she went in.
To her amazement her father was sitting, just as he had always sat, at his
table. He looked up when she entered, there was no sign upon him of any
trouble. His face was very white, stone-white, and it seemed to her that
for months past the colour had been draining from it, and now at last all
colour was gone. A man wearing a mask. She could fancy that he would put
up his hands and suddenly slip it from him and lay it down upon the table.
The eyes stared through it, alive, coloured, restless.
"Well, Joan, what is it?"
She stammered, "Nothing, father. I only wanted to see--whether--that--"
"Yes? Is any one wanting to see me?"
"No--only some one told me that you...I thought--"
"You heard that I chastised a ruffian in the town? You heard correctly. I
did. He deserved what I gave him."
A little shiver shook her.
"Is that all you want to know?"
"Isn't there anything, father, I can do?"
"Nothing--except leave me just now. I'm very busy. I have letters to
She went out. She stood in the hall, her hands clasped together. What was
she to do? The worst that she had ever feared had occurred. He was mad.
She went into the drawing-room, where the sun was blazing as though it
would set the carpet on fire. What _was_ she to do? What _ought_
she to do? Should she fetch Puddifoot or some older woman like Mrs.
Combermere, who would be able to advise her? Oh, no. She wanted no one
there who would pity him. She felt a longing, urgent desire to keep him
always with her now, away from the world, in some corner where she could
cherish and love him and allow no one to insult and hurt him. But madness!
To her girlish inexperience this morning's acts could be nothing but
madness. There in the middle of the High Street, with every one about, to
do such a thing! The disgrace of it! Why, now, they could never stay in
Polchester.... This was worse than everything that had gone before. How
they would all talk, Canon Ronder and all of them, and how pleased they
At that she clenched her hands and drew herself up as though she were
defying the whole of Polchester. They should not laugh at him, they should
But meanwhile what immediately was she to do? It wasn't safe to leave him
alone. Now that he had gone so far as to knock some one down in the
principal street, what might he not do? What would happen if he met Canon
Ronder? Oh! why had this come? What had they done to deserve this?
What had _he_ done when he had always been so good?
She seemed for a little distracted. She could not think. Her thoughts
would not come clearly. She waited, staring into the sun and the colour.
Quietness came to her. Her life was now his. Nothing counted in her life
but that. If they must leave Polchester she would go with him wherever he
must go, and care for him. Johnny! For one terrible instant he seemed to
stand, a figure of flame, outside there on the sun-drenched grass.
Outside! Yes, always outside, until her father did not need her any more.
Then, suddenly she wanted Johnny so badly that she crumpled up into one of
the old arm-chairs and cried and cried and cried. She was very young. Life
ahead of her seemed very long. Yes, she cried her heart out, and then she
went upstairs and washed her face and wrote to Falk. She would not
telegraph until she was quite sure that she could not manage it by
The wonderful morning changed to a storm of wind and rain. Such a storm!
Down in the basement Cook could scarcely hear herself speak! As she said
to Gladys, it was what you must expect now. They were slipping into
Autumn, and before you knew, why, there would be Winter! Nothing odder
than the sudden way the Seasons took you! But Cook didn't like storms in
that house. "Them Precincts 'ouses, they're that old, they'd fall on top
of you as soon as whistle Trefusis! For her part she'd always thought this
'ouse queer, and it wasn't any the less queer since all these things had
been going on in it." It was at this point that the grocery "boy" arrived
and supposed they'd 'eard all about it by that time. All about what? Why,
the Archdeacon knocking Samuel 'Ogg down in the 'Igh Street that very
morning! Then, indeed, you could have knocked Cook down, as she said, with
a whisper. Collapsed her so, that she had to sit down and take a cup of
tea, the kettle being luckily on the boil. Gladys had to sit down and take
one too, and there they sat, the grocer's boy dismissed, in the darkening
kitchen, their heads close together, and starting at every hiss of the
rain upon the coals. The house hung heavy and dark above them. Mad, that's
what he must be, and going mad these past ever so many months. And such a
fine man too! But knocking people down in the street, and 'im such a man
for his own dignity! 'Im an Archdeacon too. 'Ad any one ever heard in
their lives of an Archdeacon doing such a thing? Well, that settled Cook.
She'd been in the house ten solid years, but at the end of the month she'd
be off. To sit in the house with a madman! Not she! Adultery and all the
talk had been enough, but she had risked her good name and all, just for
the sake of that poor young thing upstairs, but madness!--no, that was
another pair of shoes.
Now Gladys was peculiar. She'd given her notice, but hearing this, she
suddenly determined to stay. That poor Miss Joan! Poor little worm! So
young and innocent--shut up all alone with her mad father. Gladys would
see her through--
"Why, Gladys," cried Cook, "what will your young feller you're walkin'
"If 'e don't like it 'e can lump it," said Gladys. "Lord, 'ow this house
All the afternoon of that day Brandon sat, never moving from his study-
table. He sat exultant. Some of the shame had been wiped away. He could
feel again the riotous happiness that had surged up in him as he struck
that face, felt it yield before him, saw it fade away into dust and
nothingness. That face that had for all these months been haunting him, at
last he had banished it, and with it had gone those other leering faces
that had for so long kept him company. His room was dark, and it was
always in the dark that they came to him--Hogg's, the drunken painter's,
that old woman's in the dirty dress.
And to-day they did not come. If they came he would treat them as he had
treated Hogg. That was the way to deal with them!
His heart was bad, fluttering, stampeding, pounding and then dying away.
He walked about the room that he might think less of it. Never mind his
heart! Destroy his enemies, that's what he had to do--these men and women
who were the enemies of himself, his town and his Cathedral.
Suddenly he thought that he would go out. He got his hat and his coat and
went into the rain. He crossed the Green and let himself into the
Cathedral by the Saint Margaret Chapel door, as he had so often done
The Cathedral was very dark, and he stumbled about, knocking against
pillars and hassocks. He was strange here. It was as though he didn't know
the place. He got into the middle of the nave, and positively he didn't
know where he was. A faint green light glimmered in the East end. There
were chairs in his way. He stood still, listening.
He was lost. He would never find his way out again. _His_ Cathedral,
and he was lost! Figures were moving everywhere. They jostled him and said
nothing. The air was thick and hard to breathe. Here was the Black
Bishop's Tomb. He let his fingers run along the metal work. How cold it
was! His hand touched the cold icy beard! His hand stayed there. He could
not remove it. His fingers stuck.
He tried to cry out, and he could say nothing. An icy hand, gauntleted,
descended upon his and held it. He tried to scream. He could not.
He shouted. His voice was a whisper. He sank upon his knees. He fainted,
slipping to the ground like a man tired out.
There, half an hour later, Lawrence found him.
The Last Tournament
On the morning of the Chapter Meeting Ronder went in through the West
door, intending to cross the nave by the Cloisters. Just as he closed the
heavy door behind him there sprang up, close to him, as though from
nowhere at all, that horrible man Davray. Horrible always to Ronder, but
more horrible now because of the dreadful way in which he had, during the
last few months, gone tumbling downhill. There had been, until lately, a
certain austerity and even nobility in the man's face. That was at last
completely swept away. This morning he looked as though he had been
sleeping out all night, his face yellow, his eyes bloodshot, his hair
tangled and unkempt, pieces of grass clinging to his well-worn grey
"Good morning, Canon Ronder," he said.
"Good morning," Ronder replied severely, and tried to pass on. But the man
stood in his way.
"I'm not going to keep you," he said. "I know what your business is this
morning. I wouldn't keep you from it for a single moment. I know what
you're going to do. You're going to get rid of that damned Archdeacon.
Finish him for once and all. Stamp on him so that he can never raise up
his beautiful head again. I know. It's fine work you've been doing ever
since you came here, Canon Ronder. But it isn't you that's been doing it.
It's the Cathedral."
"Please let me pass," said Ronder. "I haven't any time just now to spare."
"Ah, that hurts your pride. You like to think it's you who's been the
mighty fine fellow all this time. Well, it isn't you at all. It's the
Cathedral. The Cathedral's jealous, you know--don't like its servants
taking all the credit to themselves. Pride's dangerous, Canon Ronder. In a
year or two's time, when you're feeling pretty pleased with yourself, you
just look back on the Archdeacon's history for a moment and consider it.
It may have a lesson for you. Good morning, Canon Ronder. Pleased to have
The wretched creature went slithering up the aisle, chuckling to himself.
How miserable to be drunk at that early hour of the morning! Ronder
shrugged his shoulders as though he would like to shake off from them
something unpleasant that was sticking to them. He was not in a good mood
this morning. He was assured of victory--he had no doubt about it at all--
and unquestionably when the affair was settled he would feel more tranquil
about it. But ever since his talk with Wistons he had been unsure of the
fellow. Was it altogether wise that he should come here? His perfect
content seemed to be as far away as ever. Was it always to be so?
And then this horrible affair in the High Street three days ago, how
distressing! The Archdeacon's brain was going, and that was the very last
thing that Ronder had desired. What he had originally seen was the
pleasant picture of Brandon retiring with his wife and family to a nice
Rectory in the diocese and ending his days--many years hence it is to be
hoped--in a charming old garden with an oak-tree on the lawn and pigeons
cooing in the sunny air.
But this! Oh, no! not this! Ronder was a practical man of straight common-
sense, but it did seem to him as though there had been through all the
movement of the last six months some spirit far more vindictive than
himself had ever been. He had never, from the first moment to the last,
been vindictive. With his hand on his heart he could say that. He did not
like the Cathedral that morning, it seemed to him cold, hostile, ugly. The
thick stone pillars were scornful, the glass of the East window was dead
and dull. A little wind seemed to whistle in the roof so far, so far above
He hurried on, his great-coat hugged about him. All that he could say was
that he did hope that Brandon would not be there this morning. His
presence could alter nothing, the voting could go only one way. It would
be very painful were he there. Surely after the High Street affair he
would not come.
Ronder saw with relief when he came into the Chapter House that Brandon
was not present. They were standing about the room, looking out into the
Cloisters, talking in little groups--the Dean, Bentinck-Major, Ryle,
Foster, and Bond, the Clerk, a little apart from the others as social
decency demanded. When Ronder entered, two things at once were plain--one,
how greatly during these last months he had grown in importance with all
of them and, secondly, how nervous they were all feeling. They all turned
"Ah, Ronder," said the Dean, "that's right. I was afraid lest something
should keep you."
"No--no--what a cold damp day! Autumn is really upon us."
They discussed the weather, once and again eyeing the door apprehensively.
Bentinck-Major took Ronder aside:
"My wife and I have been wondering whether you'd honour us by dining with
us on the 25th," he said. "A cousin of my wife's, Lady Caroline Holmesby,
is to be staying with us just then. It would give us such great pleasure
if you and Miss Ronder would join us that evening. My wife is, of course,
writing to Miss Ronder."
"So far as I know, my aunt and I are both free and will be delighted to
come," said Ronder.
"Delightful! That will be delightful! As a matter of fact we were thinking
of having that evening a little Shakespeare reading. We thought of _King
"Ah! That's another matter," said Ronder, laughing. "I'll be delighted to
listen, but as to taking part--"
"But you must! You must!" said Bentinck-Major, catching hold of one of the
buttons on Ronder's waistcoat, a habit that Ronder most especially
disliked. "More culture is what our town needs--several of us have been
thinking so. It is really time, I think, to start a little Shakespeare
reading amongst ourselves--strictly amongst ourselves, of course. The
trouble with Shakespeare is that he is so often a little--a little bold,
for mixed reading--and that restricts us. Nevertheless, we hope...I do
trust that you will join us, Canon Ronder."
"I make no promises," said Ronder. "If you knew how badly I read, you'd
hesitate before asking me."
"We are past our time," said the Dean, looking at his watch. "We are all
here, I think, but Brandon and Witheram. Witheram is away at Drymouth. He
has written to me. How long we should wait----"
"I can hardly believe," said Byle nervously, "that Archdeacon Brandon will
be present. He is extremely unwell. I don't know whether you are aware
that three nights ago he was found by Lawrence the Verger here in the
Cathedral in a fainting fit. He is very unwell, I'm afraid."
The whole group was immensely interested. They had heard.... Fainting?
Here in the Cathedral? Yes, by the Bishop's Tomb. He was better yesterday,
but it is hardly likely that he will come this morning.
"Poor man!" said the Dean, gently distressed. "I heard something...That
was the result, I'm afraid, of his fracas that morning in the High Street;
he must be most seriously unwell."
"Poor man, poor man!" was echoed by everybody; it was evident also that
general relief was felt. He could not now be expected to be present.
The door opened, and he came in. He came hurriedly, a number of papers in
one hand, wearing just the old anxious look of important care that they
knew so well. And yet how changed he was! Instead of moving at once to his
place at the long table he hesitated, looked at Bentinck-Major, at Foster,
then at Bond, half-puzzled, as though he had never seen them before.
"I must apologise, gentlemen," he said, "for being late. My watch, I'm
afraid, was slow."
The Dean then showed quite unexpected qualities.
"Will you sit here on my right, Archdeacon?" he said in a firm and almost
casual voice. "We are a little late, I fear, but no matter--no matter. We
are all present, I think, save Archdeacon Witheram, who is at Drymouth,
and from whom I have received a letter." They all found their places.
Ronder was as usual exactly opposite to Brandon. Foster slouched into his
seat with his customary air of absentmindedness. Ryle tried not to look at
Brandon, but his eyes were fascinated and seemed to swim in their watery
fashion like fish fascinated by a bait.
"Shall we open with a prayer," said the Dean, "and ask God's blessing on
this morning's work?"
They prayed with bent heads. Brandon's head was bent longer than the
When he looked up he stared about him as though completely bewildered.
"As you all know," the Dean said in his softly urgent voice, as though he
were pressing them to give him flowers for his collection, "our meeting
this morning is of the first urgency. I will, with your approval, postpone
general business until the more ordinary meeting of next week. That is if
no one has any objection to such a course?"
No one had any objections.
"Very well, then. As you know, our business this morning is to appoint a
successor to poor Morrison at Pybus St. Anthony. Now in ordinary cases,
such an appointment is not of the first importance, but in the matter of
Pybus, as you all know, there is a difference. Whether rightly or wrongly,
it has been a tradition in the Diocese that the Pybus living should be
given only to exceptional men. It has been fortunate in having a
succession of exceptional men in its service--men who, for the most part,
have come to great position in the Church afterwards. I want you to
remember that, gentlemen, when you are making your decision this morning.
At the same time you must remember that it has been largely tradition that
has given this importance to Pybus, and that the living has been vacant
already too long."
He paused. Then he picked up a piece of paper in front of him.
"There have been several meetings with regard to this living already," he
said, "and certain names have been very thoroughly discussed among us. I
think we were last week agreed that two names stood out from the others.
If to-day we cannot agree on one of those two names, we must then consider
a third. That will not, I hope, be necessary. The two names most
favourably considered by us are those of the Rev. Rex Forsyth, Chaplain to
Bishop Clematis, and the Rev. Ambrose Wistons of St. Edward's Hawston. The
first of these two gentlemen is known to all of us personally, the second
we know chiefly through his writings. We will first, I think, consider Mr.
Wistons. You, Canon Foster, are, I know, a personal friend of his, and can
tell us why, in your opinion, his would be a suitable appointment."
"It depends on what you want," said Foster, frowning around upon every one
present; and then suddenly selecting little Bond as apparently his most
dangerous enemy and scowling at him with great hostility, "if you want to
let the religious life of this place, nearly dead already, pass right
away, choose a man like Forsyth. But I don't wish to be contentious;
there's been contention enough in this place during these last months, and
I'm sick and ashamed of the share I've had in it. I won't say more than
this--that if you want an honest, God-fearing man here, who lives only for
God and is in his most secret chamber as he is before men, then Wistons is
your man. I understand that some of you are afraid of his books. There'll
be worse books than his you'll have to face before you're much older.
_That_ I can tell you! I said to myself before I came here that I
wouldn't speak this morning. I should not have said even what I have,
because I know that in this last year I have grievously sinned, fighting
against God when I thought that I was fighting for Him. The weapons are
taken out of my hands. I believe that Wistons is the man for this place
and for the religious life here. I believe that you will none of you
regret it if you bring him to this appointment. I can say nothing more."
What had happened to Foster? They had, one and all, expected a fighting
speech. The discomfort and uneasiness that was already in the room was now
The Dean asked Ronder to say something. Ronder leaned forward, pushing his
spectacles back with his fingers. He leaned forward that he might not see
By chance he had not seen Brandon for more than a fortnight. He was
horrified and frightened by the change. The grey-white face, the restless,
beseeching, bewildered eyes belonging apparently to some one else, to whom
they were searching to return, the long white fingers ceaselessly moving
among the papers and tapping the table, were those of a stranger, and in
the eyes of the men in that room it was he who had produced him. Yes, and
in the eyes of how many others in that town? You might say that had
Brandon been a man of real spiritual and moral strength, not Ronder, not
even God Himself, could have brought Brandon to this. But was that so?
Which of us knows until he is tried? His wife, his son, his body, all had
failed him. And now this too.... And if Ronder had not come to that town
would it have been so? Had it not been a duel between them from the moment
that Ronder first set his foot in that place? And had not Ronder
deliberately willed it so? What had Ronder said to Brandon's son and to
the woman who would ruin Brandon's wife?
All this passed in the flash of a dfeam through Ronder's brain, perhaps
never entirely to leave him again. In that long duel there had been
perhaps more than one defeat. He knew that they were waiting for him to
speak, but the thoughts would not come. Wistons? Forsyth?...Forsyth?
Wistons? Who were they? What had they to do with this personal relation of
his with the man opposite?
He flushed. He must say something. He began to speak, and soon his brain,
so beautifully ordered, began to reel out the words in soft and steady
sequence. But his soul watched Brandon's soul.
"My friend, Canon Foster, knows Mr. Wistons so much better than I do," he
said, "that it is absurd for me to try and tell you what he should tell
"I do regard him as the right man for this place, because I think our
Cathedral, that we all so deeply love, is waiting for just such a man.
Against his character no one, I suppose, has anything to say. He is known
before all the world as a God-fearing Christian. He is no youth; he has
had much experience; he is, every one witnesses, lovable and of strong
personal charm. It is not his character, but his ideas, that people have
criticised. He is a modernist, of course, a man of an enquiring,
penetrating mind, who must himself be satisfied of the truth for which he
is searching. Can that do us here any harm? I believe not. I think that
some of us, if I may say so, are too easily frightened of the modern
spirit of enquiry. I believe that we Churchmen should step forward ready
to face any challenge, whether of scientists, psychologists or any one
else--I think that before long, whether we like it or no, we shall have to
do so. Mr. Wistons is, I believe, just the man to help us in such a
crisis. His opinions are not precisely the same as those of some of us in
this diocese, and I've no doubt that if he came here there would be some
disputes from time to time, but I believe those same disputes would do us
a world of good. God did not mean us to sit down twiddling our thumbs and
never using our brains. He gave us our intelligences, and therefore I
presume that He meant us to make some use of them.
"In these matters Mr. Wistons is exactly what we want here. He is a much-
travelled man, widely experienced in affairs, excellent at business. No
one who has ever met him would deny his sweetness and personal charm. I
think myself that we are very fortunate to have a chance of seeing him
Ronder ceased. He felt as though he had been beating thin air with weak
ineffective hands. They had, none of them, been listening to him or
thinking of him; they had not even been thinking of Wistons. Their minds
had been absorbed, held, dominated by the tall broad figure who sat in
their midst, but was not one of them.
Brandon, in fact, began to speak almost before Ronder had finished. He did
not look up, but stared at his long nervous fingers. He spoke at first
almost in a whisper, so that they did not catch the first few words.
"...Horrified..." they heard him say. "Horrified.... So calmly.... These
"Cannot understand...." Then his words were clearer. He looked up, staring
across at Ronder.
"Horrified at this eager acceptance of a man who is a declared atheist
before God." Then suddenly he flung his head back in his old challenging
way and, looking round upon them all, went on, his voice now clear,
although weak and sometimes faltering:
"Gentlemen, this is perhaps my last appearance at these Chapter Meetings.
I have not been very well of late and, as you all know, I have had
trouble. You will forgive me if I do not, this morning, express myself so
clearly or carefully as I should like.
"But the first thing that I wish to say is that when you are deciding this
question this morning you should do your best, before God, to put my own
personality out of your minds. I have learnt many things, under God's
hand, in the last six months. He has shown me some weaknesses and
failings, and I know now that, because of those weaknesses, there are some
in this town who would act against anything that I proposed, simply
because they would wish me to be defeated. I do implore you this morning
not to think of me, but to think only of what will be best--best--best----
" He looked around him for a moment bewildered, frowning in puzzled
fashion at Ronder, then continued again, "best for God and the work of His
"I'm not very well, gentlemen; my thoughts are not coming very clearly
this morning, and that is sad, because I've looked forward to this morning
for months past, wishing to fight my very best...." His voice changed.
"Yes, fight!" he cried. "There should be no fight necessary in such a
matter. But what has happened to us all in the last year?
"A year ago there was not one of us who would have considered such an
appointment as I am now disputing. Have you read this man's books? Have
you read in the papers his acknowledged utterances? Do you know that he
questions the Divinity of Christ Himself----"
"No, Archdeacon," Foster broke in, "that is not true. You can have no
evidence of that."
Brandon seemed to be entirely bewildered by the interruption. He looked at
Foster, opened his mouth as though he would speak, then suddenly put his
hand to his head.
"If you will give me time," he said. "Give me time. I will prove
everything, I will indeed. I beg you," he said, suddenly turning to the
Dean, "that you will have this appointment postponed for a month. It is so
serious a matter that to decide hastily----"
"Not hastily," said the Dean very gently. "Morrison died some months ago,
and I'm afraid it is imperative that we should fill the vacancy this
"Then consider what you do," Brandon cried, now half-rising from his
chair. "This man is breaking in upon the cherished beliefs of our Church.
Give him a little and he will take everything. We must all stand firm upon
the true and Christian ground that the Church has given us, or where shall
we be? This man may be good and devout, but he does not believe what we
believe. Our Church-that we love--that we love----" He broke off again.
"You are against me. Every man's hand now is against me. Nevertheless
what-I say is right and true. What am I? What are you, any of you here in
this room, beside God's truth? I have seen God, I have walked with God, I
shall walk with Him again. He will lead me out of these sore distresses
and take me into green pastures----"
He flushed. "I beg your pardon, gentlemen. I am taking your time. I must
say something for Mr. Forsyth. He is young; he knows this place and loves
it; he cares for and will preserve its most ancient traditions....
"He cares for the things for which we should care. I do commend him to
There was a long silence. The rain that had begun a thick drizzle dripped
on the panes. The room was so dark that the Dean asked Bond to light the
gas. They all waited while this was being done. At last the Dean spoke:
"We are all very grateful to you, Archdeacon, for helping us as you have
done. I think, gentlemen, that unless there is some other name definitely
to be proposed we had better now vote on these two names.
"Is there any further name suggested?"
No one spoke.
"Very well, then. I think this morning, contrary to our usual custom, we
will record our votes on paper. I have Archdeacon Witheram's letter here
advising me of his wishes in this matter."
Paper and pens were before every one. The votes were recorded and sent up
to the Dean. He opened the little pieces of paper slowly.
At last he said:
"One vote has been recorded in favour of Mr. Forsyth, the rest for Mr.
Wistons. Mr. Wistons is therefore appointed to the living of Pybus St.
Brandon was on his feet. His body trembled like a tree tottering. He flung
out his hands.
"No.... No.... Stop one moment. You must. You--all of you----
"Mr. Dean--all of you.... Oh, God, help me now!...You have been
influenced by your feelings about myself. Forget me, turn me away, send me
from the town, anything, anything.... I beseech you to think only of the
good of the Cathedral in this affair. If you admit this man it is the
beginning of the end. Slowly it will all be undermined. Belief in Christ,
belief in God Himself.... Think of the future and your responsibility to
the unborn children when they come to you and say: 'Where is our faith?
Why did you take it from us? Give it back to us!' Oh, stop for a moment!
Postpone this for only a little while. Don't do this thing!...Gentlemen!"
They could see that he was ill. His body swayed as though it were beyond
his control. His hands were waving, turning, beseeching....
Suddenly tears were running down his cheeks.
"Not this shame!" he cried. "Not this shame!--kill me--but save the
They were on their feet. Foster and Ryle had come round to him.
"Archdeacon, sit down." "You're ill." "Rest a moment" With a great heave
of his shoulders he flung them off, a chair falling to the ground with the
He saw Ronder.
"You!...my enemy. Are you satisfied now?" he whispered. He held out his
quivering hand. "Take my hand. You've done your worst."
He turned round as though he would go from the room. Stumbling, he caught
Foster by the shoulder as though he would save himself. He bent forward,
staring into Foster's face.
"God is love, though," he said. "You betray Him again and again, but He
He gripped Foster's shoulder more tightly. "Don't do this thing, man," he
said. "Don't do it. Because Ronder's beaten me is no reason for you to
betray your God.... Give me a chair. I'm ill."
He fell upon his knees.
"This...Death," he whispered. Then, looking up again at Foster, "My
heart. That fails me too."
And, bowing his head, he died.