Part 4 out of 7
knowledge that he secretly felt that her decision would be founded on
strong common sense. He tried to assure himself that it was her
dangerous laxity of principle that blinded her to the nobility and
sanctity of asceticism; but it was impossible to feel that such was the
case. He was teased by a wish which he would not acknowledge that she
might advance arguments which he could not controvert; though to
himself he said that she would be his temptation in tangible form, and
that he would struggle against it with his whole soul.
His opportunity came while they were discussing the election of the
bishop. Mrs. Morison was not immediately concerned in the matter, not
being a churchwoman, but she had an intelligent interest in all
questions of the day.
"I find it hard to understand," Mrs. Morison observed, "how any
churchman can be so blind to the importance of conciliating public
thought and the general feeling as for a moment to think of any other
candidate than Mr. Strathmore. He is so completely in sympathy with the
broadening tendencies of the time."
"But that means ultimately the destruction of creeds," Maurice
objected, answering rather the implication than her words.
"I think that perhaps the highest courage men are called upon to show,"
she answered, "is that of giving up a theory which has served its use.
The race forces us to do it sooner or later, but the men who are
really great are those who are able to say frankly that their creeds
have done their work, and that the new day must have new ones. You
might almost say that the extent to which a man prefers truth to
himself is to be judged by his willingness to give up a dogma that is
"But you leave no stability to truth."
"The truth is stable without effort or will of mine," she returned,
smiling; "but surely you would have human appreciation of it advance."
He felt that there must be an answer to this, but he was not able to
see just what it was, and he shifted the question.
"But Mr. Strathmore," he said hesitatingly, "is married."
"Yes," she assented. "'The husband of one wife.'"
"If you begin to quote Scripture against me," Maurice retorted,
laughing in spite of himself, "I might easily reply to St. Paul by St.
Paul. But letting that pass, it is certainly true that the church has
always held that marriage absorbs a man in earthly things so that he
cannot give the best of his thoughts to his work."
"When the church sets itself against marriage," Mrs. Morison responded
quietly, "it seems to me to be setting up to know more than the Creator
of the race."
Maurice colored, although he might not have been able to tell whether
his strongest feeling was horror at this bold language or joy at the
emphasis with which she spoke.
"Perhaps I should beg your pardon for saying so frankly what I think,"
Mrs. Morison continued. "It isn't the way in which one generally talks
to a clergyman; but the subject is one for which I haven't much
patience, and of course I couldn't help seeing that you are in doubt
"What do you mean?" he stammered. "I--I in doubt?"
"I hadn't any intention of forcing your confidence," returned she. "I
am an old woman, and sometimes I find that I don't make allowance
enough for the slowness of you young people in arriving at a knowledge
He cast down his eyes.
"Until this moment," he said, "I have never acknowledged to myself that
I was in doubt. I see what you mean, and it shows that I have been
playing with fire."
She looked at him questioningly, then turned the subject.
"Which is perhaps a hint that our fire is going down. Sit still,
please. Every woman likes to tend her own fire."
"I should have learned that by this time," was his answer. "I lost an
inheritance once by insisting upon fixing a fire."
"That sounds interesting. Is it proper to ask for the story?"
"Oh, there isn't much of a story. I had a great-aunt who was worth a
lot of money, and who was eccentric. She was in a way fond of me when I
was a child, and used to have me at the house a good deal. I confess I
didn't like it much. Things went by rule, and the rules were often
pretty queer. One of them was that nobody should presume to touch the
fire if she was in the room. I liked to play with the fire as well as
she did, and when I was a boy just in my teens I used to do it. After
she'd corrected me half a dozen times I got into my foolish pate that
it was my duty to cure her of her whim. So I set to poking the fire
ostentatiously until she lost her temper and ordered me out of the
house. Then she burned up the will in my favor and made a new one,
giving all her money to the church."
"How unjust," commented Mrs. Morison, "and how human. Did you never
make peace with her?"
"Yes, but of course I was careful that she should understand that I
didn't do it for the sake of her money. She told my mother that she had
made a new will in my favor, but it never turned up. My aunt's death
was very singular. She was found dead in her bed, and the woman who
lived with her, an old nurse of mine, had disappeared. Of course there
was at once suspicion of foul play, but the doctors pronounced the
death natural, and there was no evidence of theft."
"Did you never discover the nurse?"
"Never. We tried, for we thought she might give a clue to the missing
will. She'd been in the family so long that she was a sort of
confidential servant, and knew all Aunt Morse's affairs. She was
devoted to me."
"The romance may not be ended yet," Mrs. Morison suggested smilingly.
"Who knows but the missing nurse will some day turn up with the missing
"I'm afraid that after a dozen years there's little enough chance of
His mind was so racked upon this wretched question of the right of a
priest to marry, that he could not rest until he had drawn from
Berenice also an expression of opinion on the subject. He made Mr.
Strathmore again the excuse for the introduction of the topic.
"I don't see," he said to her, "how you can think that it's well to
have a married bishop. His wife is sure to be meddling in the affairs
of the diocese."
She looked at him with a mocking glance.
"Do you wish to drag me into a discussion of the wisdom of allowing the
clergy to have wives?" she asked cruelly.
He flushed with confusion, but tried to carry a bold front.
"Very likely it does come down to the general principle of the thing,"
"Well then, the question of the marriage of the clergy doesn't interest
me in the least."
She looked so pretty and mischievous that he began to lose his head.
"But it is of the greatest possible interest to me," he returned, with
a manner which gave the words a personal application.
She flushed in her turn, and tossed her head.
"That is by no means the same thing," she retorted.
"But what interests me you might try to consider; just out of charity,
"Oh, well, then, since you ask me, this celibacy of the clergy of our
church isn't at all a thing that anybody can take seriously. Everybody
knows that a clergyman may have his vows absolved by the bishop, so
that after all he can marry if he wants to; so that the whole thing
"Well?" he demanded, as she broke off. "Seems how?"
"Pardon me. I didn't realize what I was saying."
"Seems how?" he repeated insistently.
He challenged her with his eyes, and he could see the spark which
kindled defiantly in hers. She threw back her head saucily.
"Well, since you insist! I was going to say that it made the whole
thing seem a little like amateur theatricals."
He became grave instantly.
"I beg your pardon," he said. "You do not seem to understand that what
you are speaking of may mean the bitter sacrifice of a man's whole
life. Even a clergyman is human, and may love as strongly, as
He choked with the emotion he could not control. He realized that he
was telling his passion, and there came to him an overwhelming sense
that he must never tell it save in this indirect manner. He hastened on
lest she should interrupt him.
"Don't you suppose that a priest may know what it is to worship the
very ground a woman walks on? Don't you suppose he has had his heart
beat till it suffocated him just because her fingers touched his or her
gown brushed him? A man is a man after all, and the dreams that come to
one are much the same as come to another. The difference is that the
priest has to tear his very heart out, and turn his back on all that
other men may find delight in."
Berenice looked at him with shining eyes, not undimmed, he thought, by
"If you really care for her so much," she said softly, "you can give
only a divided heart to your work. It is better to own that to
yourself, isn't it?"
"For her?" he echoed.
"Oh, there must be somebody," she returned hastily, her color coming.
"No matter about that."
"But think of giving up!" he cried, leaning toward her. "Even those who
believe nothing despise a renegade priest."
"That's of less consequence than that he should ruin his life and
He held out his uninjured hand impulsively.
"Berenice!" he whispered.
She flushed celestial red, and for an instant her eyes responded to the
love in his. Then she sprang to her feet, with a laugh.
"There!" she cried. "See what dunces we are to get to discussing
theology. I'll never forgive you if you try to inveigle me into another
talk about such subjects. Here is Mehitabel to say that she's ready to
help you with your packing."
THE GREAT ASSAY OF ART
Macbeth, iv. 3.
"I am sorry if I kept you waiting," Mrs. Wilson said to her husband,
coming into the library one afternoon, "but the fact is that I was
dressing for a comedy." "Gad! you dress for a comedy every day, as
far as that goes."
She made a mocking courtesy.
"Well, what is life without comedy?"
"Oh, nothing but a bore, of course. Is this comedy with some of your
She sat down by the fire and stretched out her feet upon a hassock. She
was radiant with beauty and mischief, and dressed to perfection.
"That isn't a respectful way to speak of the clergy."
"It's as respectful as I feel," he responded, lighting a pipe. "You do
have a nice gang of them round. There's Candish, for instance. He looks
like an advertisement for a misfit tailor, and he's fairly putrid with
Elsie gave a quick burst of laughter. Then she pretended to frown.
"Chauncy," she said, "you have the most abominable way of putting
things that I ever heard. What would you say to the youngsters from the
Clergy House that I have in train? They're perfect lambs, and they
love each other like twins. Have you seen them?"
"Oh, yes; I've seen them. They seem to have been brought up on
sterilized milk of the gospel, and to have Jordan water for blood."
"Oh, don't be too sure. You can't tell from a man's looks how red his
blood is, especially if he's a priest. I suppose it's the men that have
to hold themselves in hardest that make the best ministers."
"I dare say," he answered indifferently. "Priest-craft has always been
clever enough to see that unless the things it called sins were natural
and inevitable its occupation would be gone. However, as long as folks
will follow after them they'd be foolish to give up their trade."
"Of course," his wife assented laughingly. "You won't get a rise out of
me, my dear boy."
Dr. Wilson chuckled.
"You're a devilish humbug," he remarked admiringly; "but you do manage
to get a lot of fun out of it."
She smoothed her gown a moment, half smiling and half grave.
"Of course it's of no use to tell you that in spite of all my fun I'm
serious at bottom," she said slowly; "but it's a fact all the same. I
don't take things with doleful solemnity like the old tabbies; but
that's no sign that I'm not just as sincere. It's no matter, though;
you won't believe it. What did you want to see me about?"
"Oh, it was about those mortgages. I saw Lincoln this morning, and he
has heard from Mrs. Frostwinch. She insists upon paying them off."
"Then there isn't any truth in the story that that Sampson woman is
circulating that Anna is going to build a spiritual temple or
something. I never believed that Anna could be such an idiot as to give
her money for anything so vulgar."
"The whole thing is nonsensical on the face of it," was his response.
"Mrs. Frostwinch can't build churches, let alone temples, if there's
"Oh, in these days," Elsie interpolated, "a temple is only a church
"She has only a life interest in the property," Wilson went on.
"Berenice Morison is residuary legatee of almost everything, unless
Mrs. Frostwinch has saved up her income."
The talk ran on business for a few moments, Wilson advising with
shrewdness, and practically deciding the matter for his wife.
"I suppose," he said, when this was disposed of, "that Mrs. Frostwinch
is too much wrapped up in faith-cure nonsense to take much interest in
your holy war against Strathmore."
"She isn't so much wrapped up in that stuff as you think. Dear Anna
hasn't any sense of humor, but she's a model of propriety, and she's
constantly shocked at herself for being alive by a treatment so
irregular. She was mortified beyond words when that Crapps woman gave a
treatment to Mrs. Bodewin Ranger's dog."
"That snarling little black devil that's always under foot at the
Rangers'? Gad! I'd like to give it a treatment!"
"It got its ear hurt somehow, and Mrs. Crapps pretended to cure it.
Mrs. Ranger was all but in tears over it, she was so grateful. Anna was
entirely disgusted. She told Mrs. Crapps that she hadn't known before
that she was in the hands of a veterinary."
Dr. Wilson smoked in silence for a moment. The fire of soft coal purred
in the grate, the smoke from his pipe ascended in the warm air. The
thin sunshine of the winter afternoon filtered in through the windows,
and made bright patches on the rugs.
"By the way," Wilson asked lazily, "how is the campaign going? I
haven't heard anything interesting about it for some time."
"Oh, things are moving on. The man I sent up to canvass the western
part of the state--one of your sterilized milk-of-the-word babies, you
know,--got smashed up in the accident; but he'll be back in a few days.
Cousin Anna has brought her pensioners into line beautifully. There's
no doubt that we'll carry the convention."
"What happens after that?"
"The election has to be ratified by a majority of bishops; but of
course they'll hardly dare to go against the convention, even if they
"It would make things much more interesting if they'd do it, and get up
a scandal," commented the doctor. "You'll get bored to death with the
whole thing if something exciting doesn't turn up."
"I had half a mind to get up a scandal myself with Mr. Strathmore,"
Elsie said with a laugh; "but I confess I should be afraid of that she-
dragon of a wife of his."
"It's devilish interesting to know that you are afraid of anybody."
"At least," she went on, "I could go to New York and see Bishop
Candace. I can wind him round my finger. I'd tell him what Mrs.
Strathmore said about his Easter sermon last year. With a little
judicious comment that would do a good deal. I never yet saw a man that
couldn't be managed through his vanity."
"I suppose that explains why I'm as clay in your hands."
"Oh, you're not a man; you're a monster," she retorted, rising. "Well,
I must go and prepare for my comedy."
He regarded her with a look of evident admiration; a look not without a
savor of the sense of ownership, and, too, not entirely devoid of good-
"You are devilishly well dressed for it," he observed.
"Thank you," returned Elsie, sweeping him a courtesy again. "The wife
that can win compliments from her own husband has indeed scored a
Dr. Wilson puffed out a cloud of smoke with a characteristic chuckle.
"I have to admire you to justify my own taste. But you haven't told me
about the comedy."
She thrust forward one of her pretty slippers.
"Do you see that?" she demanded.
"I suppose you expect me to say that I see the prettiest foot in
"Thank you again, but I'm not yet reduced to trying to drag compliments
out of you, Chauncy. I sha'n't do that till the other men fail me. It's
the slipper I wanted you to notice, and these ravishing stockings."
"If the comedy has stockings in it," he began; but she stopped him.
"There, no impudence," she said. "Did you ever see anything so
entirely heavenly as those stockings and slippers? I declare I've
wanted ever since I put them on to keep my feet on the table to look
"You might do worse."
"Oh, I'm going to."
"Indeed! It's apparently getting time for me to interfere. What's your
"I'm going to squelch that detestable Fred Rangely."
"My slippers," Elsie said vivaciously, again thrusting one of them
forward, "are ravishing."
"Gad," her husband returned, regarding her with a look of the utmost
amusement in his topaz-brown eyes, "you have a good deal to say about
"Do you notice anything particular about my hair?" she asked.
"It looks as if it might come down."
"It will come down," she corrected, nodding. Then she glanced at the
clock. "It will come down in about twenty minutes; all tumbling over my
shoulders. I shall be so mortified and surprised!"
Her husband stretched himself luxuriously back in his chair, regarding
her with laughing eyes. There was an air of perfect understanding
between the two which might have been an effectual enlightenment for
any man who thought of making love to the wife. Elsie went on, telling
off on her slender fingers the points as she made them.
"In fifteen minutes I shall be standing on the piano in the drawing-
room, straightening a picture. I never can bear a picture crooked, and
I had Jane tip it a little this morning, just to vex me. Fred Rangely
will come in unannounced. Of course I shall be dreadfully confused,
and have to get down. In my maidenly confusion I am almost sure I can't
help showing my slippers, and just a trifle--a very discreet trifle, of
course,--of these beautiful, beautiful stockings. Nothing vulgar, you
"But just enough," interpolated Wilson with huge enjoyment. "You
needn't apologize. I don't begrudge the poor devil whatever
satisfaction he can get out of that."
"And then as he is helping me down, with his heart in a flutter,--it
will flutter, I assure you."
"You mean his vanity; but it's of no consequence. He'd call it a heart
if he were putting the scene in a novel."
"With his whichever it is in a flutter, by some provoking accident down
comes my hair and tumbles over his shoulders."
Wilson regarded her with amused admiration.
"Five years ago," he observed placidly, "I should have thought you were
telling me half the truth to cover the other half, and were really
having a devilish flirtation with that cad."
Elsie flushed, and into her gay voice came a strain of seriousness.
"Five years are five years," she answered. "Don't go to dragging all
that up again, Chauncy."
His laugh was not untinged with malicious delight, but he put his hand
on hers and patted her fingers.
"All right, old girl. Bygones are bygones. But what in the world is all
this fooling with Rangely for?"
"Why, don't you see? The fool is sure to say something so silly that I
can snub him within an inch of his life. I've only been holding off
until he had that thing written for the Churchman. Now I've got that,
I'll settle him."
"Oh, the gratitude of women!"
"Why, it isn't that. He needn't be smirking at me the way he does. I
simply won't stand it. Besides, he makes eyes at me wherever I go, just
to advertise the fact that he's silly about me. He's a cad, through and
through. Would you come here as he does if I refused to invite your
Chauncy Wilson laughed again, leaning forward to knock the ashes out of
"He's a fool, fast enough; and I dare say you're tired of his beastly
spooning; but all the same, the real reason for this circus is that you
want to amuse yourself."
She drew up her head in mock dignity.
"Of course," she returned, "if my own husband does not appreciate how I
resent"--She broke off in a burst of laughter. "Nobody ever understood
me but you, Chauncy," she cried. "Good-by. It's time I took the stage."
She threw him a kiss, and went to the drawing-room. Looking at her
watch, she placed herself behind the curtains of a window which
commanded the avenue. Presently she espied her victim, and with a last
glance around to assure herself that everything was as she wished it to
be, she mounted to the top of the piano. There she hastily tucked the
hem of her skirt between the piano and the wall. The reflection in a
great blue-black Chinese jar showed her when Rangely appeared between
the portieres, so that she was able to step back as if to view the
effect of her work just as he reached the middle of the room.
"Be careful!" exclaimed he, hurrying forward. "You almost stepped off
She wheeled about quickly.
"O Mr. Rangely!" she cried. "How did you get into the room without my
knowing? How horrid of you to surprise me like that!"
"But think how charming it is for me," he responded with an elaborate
air of gallantry. "It is so delightful to see you on a pedestal."
"Meaning that I am no better than a graven image?" she demanded with a
smile. "If that is the best you can do, I may as well come down."
She held out her hand for his, and then sat down, displaying one of the
fascinating slippers, and the openwork instep of her silk stocking,
through the meshes of which the pearly skin gleamed evasively.
"My dress is caught," she said, turning to conceal her face, and
pretending to pull at her skirt. "I hope my slippers haven't damaged
"The piano is harder than my heart if they haven't!"
She gave a sly twitch at a hairpin.
"That is very pretty," observed she, giving her head a shake that
brought her hair down in a rolling billow. "Oh, dear! Now my hair has"--
Before she could finish he had dropped her fingers, and gathered her
hair in both hands, kissing it again and again.
"Mr. Rangely!" she exclaimed. "What do you mean?"
For reply he stooped to her foot, and kissed the mesh-clad instep
"How dare you!" she cried, scrambling down hastily without his
But, alas, even trickery is not always successful in this uncertain
world! The hold of the piano upon the hem of her gown was stronger
than she realized. She tripped and stumbled, half-hung for a second,
and then dropped in an inglorious heap at the feet of the man she
wished to humiliate.
Elsie was on her feet in a minute. She did not take the hand which
Rangely extended, but drew back, her eyes sparkling with rage.
"Oh, you find it laughable, do you?" she cried. "A gentleman would at
least have concealed his amusement!"
He grew suddenly grave, and seemed not a little surprised.
"I beg your pardon," he said. "I hope you were not hurt."
She looked at him scornfully without replying, and then walked to the
mantel, where there was a small antique mirror of silver.
"Thank you, not in the least."
Her tone was no warmer than an arctic night. She gathered her hair, and
began to twist it up. He followed and stood behind her with an air at
once deprecatory and insinuating.
"I shouldn't think you could see in that thing," he observed.
She took no notice of his words.
"If I laughed," continued he, "it was only from nervousness. I was
"I observed that you were," she interrupted icily.
He stood awkwardly a moment, while she finished putting up her hair.
Then, as she turned toward him, he smiled again, holding out his hand.
"Surely you are not angry with me," he pleaded. "I care more for your
feeling toward me than for anything else in the world."
"It would amuse Mrs. Rangely to hear you say so, not to mention my
He stared at her with the air of a man not sure whether he is awake or
"What are they to us?" he asked, sinking his voice almost to a whisper.
"Mrs. Rangely may be nothing to you, but Dr. Wilson is still a good
deal to me, thank you."
He looked at her again with perplexity in his glance, but with his face
"You surely cannot mean that you have ceased to care for me just for a
second of meaningless laughter?"
She swept him a scornful courtesy.
"You do these things better in your novels, Mr. Rangely, which shows
what an advantage it is to have time to think speeches over. I wouldn't
have my hero say a thing like that, if I were you. It would make him
seem like a conceited cad."
The insolence of her manner was such as no man could bear. Rangely
crimsoned to the temples. He paced across the room, while she coolly
seated herself in a great Venetian chair, and began to play with a
little jade image. He came back to her, and stood a moment as if he
could not find words.
"Why don't you go?" she asked, looking up at him as if he were a
servant sent upon an errand.
"Because," he broke out angrily, "when I go I shall not come back; and
I should like to understand this thing."
She shrugged her shoulders, and leaned back in her chair, looking him
over from head to foot.
"Why you quarrel with me is more than I know," he went on. "You've got
tired of me, I suppose, and want to amuse yourself with another man."
The red flushed in her cheek.
"If my husband, who you say is nothing to us, were here," she said, "he
would horsewhip you."
The other laughed savagely.
"He is not here, however, so you may digest my remark at your leisure."
Mrs. Wilson rose from her seat with an air of dignity which was really
"Mr. Rangely," she said, "it is not my custom to bandy words, even with
my equals. I have allowed you the freedom of my house because I was
willing to help you in your desire to be useful to Father Frontford.
You have taken advantage of my kindness to insult me. This seems to me
sufficiently to explain the situation."
He stared at her a moment in evident amazement. Then he burst into
"My desire to be useful to Father Frontford!" he echoed. "That is the
best yet! You know I cared nothing about your pottering old church
politics except to please you."
"I see that I was deceived completely," she responded coldly.
She crossed the room and pressed an ivory button.
"Deceived!" he sneered. "It would take a clever man to deceive you."
She looked not at him, but beyond him. He turned, and saw a footman in
"The gentleman wishes to be shown out, Forrester," said she.
She held the tips of her fingers to Rangely.
"Thank you so much for coming," she murmured in her most conventional
"The pleasure has been mine," he responded.
They both bowed, and Rangely followed the footman.
A BOND OF AIR
Troilus and Cressida, i. 3.
"You have made a new man of me," Maurice Wynne had said to Mrs. Morison
in bidding her good-by; and the words repeated themselves in his mind
as he came back to Boston, and as he once more took up for a few days
his home with Mrs. Staggchase.
There is nothing more inflammable than the punk left by the decay of a
religion, and any theology may be said to be doomed from the moment
when men begin to ask themselves whether they believe it. Maurice had
been so strenuously questioning his belief that it is small wonder that
he found his heart full of fire. In the days of his stay at Brookfield,
moreover, he had been rapidly journeying on the road toward a new view
of life; and the idea of returning to the Clergy House became to him
well-nigh intolerable. It seemed like taking upon himself once more the
swaddling-clothes of infancy.
On the afternoon of his return, he hurried to see Ashe, and found
himself obliged to wait some time for his friend's return from a
committee meeting. Mr. Herman chanced to be at home alone, and Maurice
sat with him in the library. Wynne had come to know the sculptor fairly
well, and had been warmly drawn toward him. He was to-day struck more
than ever by the strength and self-poise which Herman showed. The
young man was seized with a desire to appeal to the sanity and the
kindliness of one who seemed to possess both so aboundingly.
"Have you ever found yourself all at sea, Mr. Herman?" he asked
"Of course. I fancy every man has had that experience."
"But," Maurice hurried on, more impulsively yet, "you can never have
felt that you were a renegade and a hypocrite. That's where I am now."
The sculptor regarded him with evident surprise, yet with a look so
keen that Maurice felt his cheeks grow warm.
"Does that mean," Herman asked with kindly deliberation, "that you are
tired and out of sorts, or is it something deeper?"
Wynne was silent a moment. Now that he had broken the ice, he feared to
go on. It was something of a shock to find himself on the brink of a
confidence when he had not intended to make one.
"I'm afraid it goes deep," he answered. "The truth is, Mr. Herman, that
I've come back with my whole mind in a turmoil."
Herman seemed to hesitate in his turn.
"I'm afraid I'm a poor one to help you, Mr. Wynne. Mrs. Herman does the
mental straightening-out for this family. Besides, we look at things so
differently, you and I, that I shouldn't know how to put things to you
if I tried."
"I've no right to bother anybody with my troubles," Maurice said.
"That anybody could help you would give you a claim upon him," Herman
responded cheerily. "I noticed, Mr. Wynne, that things were not going
right with you before you went away. May I give you a piece of
"I shall be glad if you will."
"Then if I were you, I'd go and talk with Mr. Strathmore."
"With Mr. Strathmore!" Maurice echoed in surprise.
"Oh, I know he isn't exactly of your way of thinking in church
matters," Herman proceeded. "He's still farther from my position, but
he's the man I should go to. He is so human, and so sympathetic, that
there isn't such another man in Boston for comfort and advice."
"But I've always been opposed," Maurice protested, "to all"--
"That's no matter. He's too big a man for that to make any difference.
Go to him as a fellow that's in a hobble, and the only thing he'll
consider is how to help you. He's had experience, and he has the gift
No more was said on the subject, but the words stuck in Wynne's mind.
Since all things seemed to him to be turning round, why should he not
take this one more departure from the old ways? Yet it was in some sort
almost like treason to Father Frontford to seek aid and comfort from
Strathmore. Although the thing had never been so stated in words, it
was understood at the Clergy House that Strathmore was to be looked
upon in the light of an enemy to the faith, and Wynne felt as if he had
been enrolled to fight the popular preacher under the banner of Father
Frontford. It seemed the more treasonable to desert the Father Superior
now that he was in the midst of a desperate struggle. Maurice knew,
however, that it was useless to carry to his old confessor doubts
which for the heart of the stern priest could not exist. He would
simply be told that doubt was of the devil and was to be crushed; and
the young man felt that this would leave him where he was now. If he
were to seek aid, it must at least be from one who would understand his
state of mind.
Wynne resumed his clerical garb on the morning after his return to
Boston. His conscience reproached him for the strong distaste which he
felt for the dress, and his spirits were of the lowest. About the
middle of the forenoon, he started out to try the effects of a walk. It
was a clear, brisk morning, with a white frost still on the pavements
where the sun had not fallen. The air was invigorating, and Maurice
began to feel its exhilaration. He walked more briskly, holding his
head more erect, even forgetting to be irritated by the swish of his
cassock about his legs. Without consciously determining whither he
would go, he followed the streets toward the house of Mr. Strathmore,
in that strange yet not uncommon state of mind in which a man knows
fully what he is doing, yet assures himself that he has no purpose.
When at last he found himself ringing the bell, Wynne carried his
private histrionics so far that he told himself that he was surprised
to be there.
The visitor was shown at once to the study of Mr. Strathmore, whose
readiness to receive those who sought him was one of the traits which
endeared him to the general public. Maurice felt the keen and inquiring
look which the clergyman bestowed upon him, and found himself somewhat
at a loss how to begin.
"I am from the Clergy House of St. Mark," he said, rather awkwardly.
"So I judged from your dress," Strathmore responded cordially. "Sit
down, please. That is a comfortable chair by the fire."
The professed ascetic smiled, but he took the chair indicated.
"It is a beautiful, brisk morning," the host went on. "The tingle in
the air makes a man feel that he can do impossible things."
Wynne looked up at him with a smile. He was won by the heartiness of
the tone, by the bright glance of the eye, by some intangible personal
charm which put him at once at his ease and made him feel that
understanding and sympathy were here.
"And I have done the impossible," he said. "I have ventured to come to
talk with you about the celibacy of the clergy."
He saw the face of the other change with a curious expression, and then
melt into a smile.
"And what am I, a married clergyman, expected to say on such a topic?"
Maurice smiled at the absurdity of his own words, and then with sudden
gravity broke out earnestly:--
"I am completely at sea. All things I have believed seem to be failing
me. I don't even know what I believe."
"Will you pardon me," Strathmore asked, "if I ask why you consult me
rather than your Superior?"
Maurice flushed and hesitated: yet he felt that nothing would do but
"I will tell you!" he returned. "I was to be a priest. I went into the
Clergy House supposing that that was settled. I see now that I really
followed a friend. If he went, I couldn't be shut out. Now I have been
among men, and"--
He hesitated, but the friendly smile of the other reassured him.
"And among women," he went on bravely; "and--and"--
"And you have discovered the meaning of a certain text in Genesis which
declares that 'male and female created He them,'" concluded Strathmore.
Wynne felt the tone like a caress. He seemed to be understood without
need of more speech. His condition, which had seemed to him so
intricate and so unique, began to appear possible and human. He was not
so completely cut off from human sympathy as he had felt.
"Yes," he assented; "I will be frank about it. I did not think that
Father Frontford would understand what it meant to feel that life is
given to us to be glorified by the love of a woman."
"If this is all that is troubling you," Strathmore remarked, "it seems
to me that your position, though it may not be pleasant, is not very
tragical. Our bishops are generally willing to absolve from vows of
"I doubt if Father Frontford would be," Maurice commented
"That is perhaps one of his virtues in the eyes of his supporters,"
Strathmore suggested with a twinkle.
"I have not taken the vows, however," Maurice responded hastily,
flushing, and ignoring the thrust.
"Then what is your trouble?"
"When I meant to take them, it was the same thing."
"Do I understand you that to intend to do a thing and then to change
the mind is the same as to do it?"
"Oh, no; not that; but I am not clear that it isn't my duty to take
them. I'm not sure that it is right for a priest to marry--if you will
pardon my saying so."
"And you come to me to convince you? It seems to me that Providence has
already done that through the agency of some young woman. If you really
know what it is to love a good woman there is no real doubt in your
mind as to the sacredness of marriage,--for the clergy or for anybody
else. Isn't your trouble perhaps an obstinate dislike to seem to
abandon a position once taken?"
The words might have sounded severe but for the tone in which they were
"But that is not the whole of the matter," Maurice continued, feeling
as if he were being carried forward by an irresistible current. "If I
have been mistaken on this point about which I have felt so sure and so
strongly, what confidence can I have in my other beliefs?"
"Ah, it goes deep," Strathmore said with emphasis. "It is of no use to
put old wine into new bottles. The effect of trying to make you young
men accept mediaevalism, like clerical celibacy, is in the end to make
you doubt everything. Haven't you any respect for the authority of the
"Oh, implicit!" Maurice responded.
"But," his host remarked with a smile, "because you begin to have
doubts about a thing which the church doesn't inculcate, you show an
inclination to throw overboard all that she does teach."
Maurice was silent a moment, playing with a rosary which he wore at his
belt. He was surprised that he had never thought of this; and he was
startled by the doubt which had arisen in his mind as soon as he had
declared his implicit faith in the church. He realized in a flash that
while he had spoken honestly, he had not told the truth.
"I am afraid that I'm not quite honest," he said, "though I meant to
be. I'm afraid that after all I don't feel sure of all the church
"My dear young man," the other replied kindly, "you are fighting
against the age. You have been taught to believe,--if you will pardon
me,--that the thing for a true man to do is to resist the light of
reason. There are, for instance, a great many things which used to be
received literally which we now find it necessary to interpret
figuratively. It would be refusing to use the reason heaven gives us if
we refused to recognize this. The teachings of the church are true and
infallible, but every man must interpret them according to the light of
his own conscience and reason."
"But if this is once allowed I don't see where you are to draw the
line. The heathen are very likely honest enough."
"I said the teaching of the church, Mr. Wynne. If a man earnestly
searches his heart and follows this guide as he understands it, there
can be no danger."
"Mr. Strathmore," Maurice said, "perhaps it seems like forcing myself
upon you, and then taking the liberty of fighting your views; but this
is too vital to me to allow of my stopping for conventionalities. You
seem to me to be inconsistent. You refer to the church as the supreme
authority, but you give into the hand of every man a power over that
The other smiled with that warm, sympathetic glance which was so
"Does it seem possible to you," asked he, "that two human beings ever
mean quite the same thing by the same words? Isn't there always some
little variation, at least, in the impression that a given phrase
conveys to you and to me?"
"Theoretically I suppose that this is true," assented Maurice; "but
practically it doesn't amount to much, does it?"
"It at least amounts to this," was the reply, "that what one man means
by a set form of words cannot be exactly the same that another would
mean by it. The creed is one thing to the simple-minded, ignorant man,
and something infinitely higher and richer to a Father in the church.
You would allow that, of course."
"Yes," Maurice hesitatingly assented, "but I shouldn't have thought of
it as an excuse for laxity of doctrine."
"I am not recommending laxity of doctrine. I am only saying that since
absolute unity of conception is impossible, it is idle to insist upon
it. I am not excusing anything. A fact cannot need an excuse in the
search for truth."
The young deacon felt himself sliding into deeper and deeper waters,
though the mien of Strathmore seemed to inspire confidence. He was more
and more uncertain what he believed or ought to believe.
"But is this the belief of the church?" he persisted.
"What is the belief of the church if not the belief of its members?"
"I do not know," Maurice answered. "I came to you to be told."
He tried to grasp definitely the belief which was being presented to
him, but it appeared as elusive as a shadow in the mist. Mr.
Strathmore's look was as frank and clear as ever. There was in his eyes
no sign of wavering or of evasion; his smile was full of warmth and
"My dear young friend," the elder said, "I don't pretend to speak with
the authority of the church; but to me it seems like this. We live in
an age when we must recognize the use of reason. We are only doing
frankly what men have in all ages been doing in their hearts. Men
always have their private interpretations whether they recognize it or
not. Nothing more is ever needed to create a schism than for some clear
thinker to define clearly what he believes. There are always those who
are ready to follow him because this seems so near to what many are
"But that is because so few persons are ever able to define for
themselves what they do believe," Maurice threw in.
"Then do they ever really appreciate what the doctrines of the church
are?" Strathmore asked significantly.
Maurice shook his head. He seemed to himself to be entangled in a net
of words. He could not tell whether the man before him was entirely
sincere or not. There seemed something hopelessly incongruous between
the position of Mr. Strathmore as a religious leader and these opinions
which seemed to strike at the very foundations of all creeds; yet the
manner and look with which all was said were evidently honest and
"Don't suppose that I think it would be wise to proclaim such a
doctrine from the housetops," continued Strathmore, answering, Maurice
felt, the doubt in the face of the latter. "I speak to you as one who
is face to face with these facts, and must have the whole of it."
Maurice rose with a feeling that he must get away by himself and think.
"Mr. Strathmore," he said, "I am more grateful than I can say for your
kindness. I'm afraid that I've seemed stupid and ungracious, but I
haven't meant to be either. I see that every man must work out his own
"But with fear and trembling, Mr. Wynne."
The smile of the rector was so warm and so winning that it cheered
Maurice more than any words could have cheered him; Mr. Strathmore
grasped the young man warmly by the hand and added:--
"Don't think me a heretic because I have spoken with great frankness.
Remember that the good of the church is to me more dear than anything
else on earth except the good of men for whom the church exists. God
help you in your search for light."
CRUEL PROOF OF THIS MAN'S STRENGTH
As You Like It, i. 2.
The afternoon was already darkening into dusk one day late in January
when Philip Ashe stood in the hallway of a squalid tenement house,
looking out into a dingy court. The place was surrounded by tall
buildings which cut off the light and made day shorter than nature had
intended, an effect which was not lessened by the clothes drying
smokily on lines above. In one corner of the court yawned like the
entrance to a cave the mouth of the passageway by which it was entered.
In another stood a dilapidated handcart in which some dweller there was
accustomed to carry abroad his rubbishy wares. The windows were for the
most part curtainless, rising row above row with an aspect of
wretchedness which gave Ashe a sense of discomfort so strong as almost
to be physical. Here and there rags and old hats did duty instead of
glass; some windows were open, framing slatternly women.
These women were stupidly quiet. Ashe wondered if they would have
talked to each other across the court if he had not been in sight, or
if the gathering dusk silenced them. One of them was smoking a short
black pipe, and once let fall a spark upon the head of another idler a
couple of floors below. The injured woman poured forth a volley of
oaths, and Ashe expected a war of words. Nothing of the sort occurred.
The figure above was so indifferent as hardly to glance down where the
offended harridan was steaming with a fume of curses.
Philip began to be uneasy. He looked up at the darkening sky, and
backward to the gloom of the stairway behind him. No gas had been
lighted in the building, and he wondered if any ever were. It was
certainly too late for Mrs. Fenton to be poking about in these
dangerous places. They had been doing charity visiting together, and
she had insisted on coming to this one house more before going home. He
had remonstrated, but she had laughed at his fears.
"I don't believe any of these places are really dangerous," she had
declared. "I've been coming here for years, and nobody ever troubled
"By daylight it is all very well," he had answered, "but it's a
different thing after dark. I have been here once or twice to see some
sick person in the evening, and it is a rough place."
"But it isn't after dark," she had persisted, "and it won't be for an
She had had her way, but Ashe reflected uneasily that if harm came to
her it would be his fault. He should have insisted upon her going home.
The light was fading fast, and the locality was one of the worst in
town. He wondered why the mere absence of daylight gave wickedness so
much boldness. Men who by day were the veriest cowards seemed to spring
into appalling fearlessness as soon as darkness gave its uncertain
promise of concealment. The thought made him turn, and begin slowly to
walk up the stairs.
He was not sure what floor she meant to visit. She was going, he knew,
to see a woman whose husband got drunk and beat her. She had told him
about the poor creature as they came along. She was sure Mrs. Murphy
must have known a decent life. She set her down as having been a
housekeeper or upper servant who had foolishly married a rascal. The
woman, Mrs. Fenton had added, was evidently ashamed of her present
condition, and afraid that those who had known her in her better days
should discover her.
"It is pitiful," Mrs. Fenton had said musingly, "to see how she clings
to her husband. She pulls down her sleeves to cover the bruises, and
tells how good he was to her when they were first married. She says he
doesn't mean to hurt her, but that he's the strongest man in the court,
and doesn't realize what he is doing. She's even proud of his
"Strength is apt to impress women," Ashe had answered, not without a
secret sense of humiliation to lack this quality.
As he walked gropingly up the dark stairway, a man came clumsily after,
and presently stumbled past him. A strong smell of liquor enveloped the
newcomer, and he lurched heavily against Ashe without apology. Philip
heard his uneven steps mounting in the gloom, and followed almost
mechanically. He paused in one of the hallways to listen to a babble of
words in one of the rooms. It was chiefly profanity, but it hardly
seemed to be ill-natured. It was simply a family cursing each other
with well-accustomed vehemence. He grew every instant more and more
uneasy, and thought of knocking at every door until he found his
friend. What right had philanthropy to demand that a beautiful, noble
woman should be exposed to the chances of a nest of ruffianism and
vice? He was indignant at the committee for not delegating such work to
men. Then he remembered that Mrs. Fenton was herself on the committee,
and that it was by her own insistence that she was here.
"She is capable of any sacrifice to what she believes to be right," he
said to himself; "but she is too good for such work; she is too
Suddenly a noise arose on the floor above him. A man's voice, thick
with anger or drink, was pouring out a stream of words, half oaths; a
woman was shrilly entreating. Ashe sprang quickly upstairs, and as he
did so he heard Mrs. Fenton scream. The sound was behind a door, and
without stopping to deliberate he tried to open it. The latch yielded,
but he could not open.
"Let me in!" he cried fiercely. "What is the matter?"
The voice of a man who was evidently against the door answered him with
blasphemies. A woman within cried to the man to stop, while Mrs. Fenton
called to Ashe for help. Philip set his shoulder against the door and
strained with all his might to force it. He remembered then what Mrs.
Fenton had said about the strength of the husband of her pensioner.
"Go to the window, and call the police," he shouted.
"He's holding me!" Mrs. Fenton cried back pantingly.
Philip strained more desperately, and as he did so he heard the window
within flung open, and the voice of a woman yelling for the police. The
man inside sprang forward with an oath, the door yielded, and Philip
plunged headlong into the room.
As Philip fell upon his knees, he saw a man seize the woman who from
the window was calling for help, and fling her to the floor. The sound
of her fall, with her wild shriek beaten into a choking gasp by the
force with which she struck, turned his heart sick; but his fear for
Mrs. Fenton kept him up. He scrambled to his feet, and as he did so she
ran toward him.
"Your cassock is all dust!" she cried hysterically. "Oh, come away!"
The absurdity of the words made him burst into nervous laughter; yet he
saw that the drunken man was coming, and he instinctively put her
behind him and took some sort of a posture of defense.
"Save yourself," he cried hastily. "He's killed the woman."
All this passed with the quickness of thought. There seemed to Philip
hardly the time of a breath between the opening of the door and the
blow which now fell upon the side of his face. Fortunately he partly
evaded it, but he reeled and staggered, feeling the earth shake and the
air full of stinging points of fire. He saw the figure of his assailant
towering between him and the light; he had a glimpse of Mrs. Fenton
rushing to the window to call again for help; he realized with a
horrible shrinking that that hammer-like fist was again striking out
for his face; he was conscious of a sickening impulse to run, a
humiliating and overwhelming sense of his inability to cope with this
brute and of even his ignorance how to try; yet most of all he felt the
determination to defend Edith or to die in the attempt. In a wild and
futile fashion he dashed against his assailant, striking blindly and
furiously, crying with rage and weakness, but throwing all his force
into the fight. He felt crushing blows on his head and chest. Once he
was struck on the side of the throat so that he gasped for breath with
the sensation that he was drowning. Now and then he felt his own fist
strike flesh, and the sensation was to him horrible. He fought blindly,
doggedly, inwardly weeping for the shame and the pity of it, wondering
if there would never be any end, and what would happen to Mrs. Fenton
if he were beaten helpless. Surely if aid were coming it must have
arrived long ago. He had been fighting for hours. He kept striking on,
but he felt his strength failing, and he could have laughed wildly at
the pitiful feebleness of his blows. He was knocked down, and scrambled
up again, amazed that he was not killed or disabled. His one hope lay
in the fact that the man was evidently much the worse for drink, and
often struck as blindly as himself. If he could but occupy the brute's
attention until help came, Mrs. Fenton would be saved.
Suddenly he was aware that the roaring in his ears was not all from the
ringing in his head, but that heavy steps were sounding from the
stairway. In a moment more screaming women were swarming in, and the
din become intolerable as they scuttled about him, calling out to his
opponent to stop and not to do murder. Men followed, and a couple of
policemen came in their wake. Ashe saw through heavy eyelids the shine
of brass buttons, and felt that the wearers of the uniforms to which
these belonged had seized upon his assailant. He staggered against the
wall, sick, faint, and dizzy. The two policemen were having a severe
struggle to subdue their prisoner, and it seemed to Philip that all the
inhabitants of the neighborhood were crowding in at the narrow door.
The wife lay where she had been dashed to the floor, and Mrs. Fenton
bent over her.
"Oh, Mr. Ashe," the latter said, coming to him, "you must be terribly
hurt! I think Mrs. Murphy's killed."
He tried to smile, but his face was swollen and unmanageable.
"It's no matter about me," he managed with difficulty to say, "if you
are not hurt."
The realities of life came back. The whirling rush of the swift moments
of the fight seemed already far off. The crowd examined him with frank
curiosity, commenting on him as "the dude that's been scrappin' with
Mike Murphy." He saw some of the women busy over the prostrate form of
Mrs. Murphy, lifting her from the floor to the bed.
"Well, Mike," one of the policemen said, "I guess this job'll be your
last. You've done it this time."
The prisoner seemed to have become sober all at once, now that he was
in the hands of the law. He went over to the bed, between his captors,
and examined the injured woman with the air of one accustomed to such
"Oh, the old woman'll pull round all right," he growled. "She ain't no
flannel-mouth charity chump."
Without a word Ashe put his hand upon the arm of Mrs. Fenton, and led
her toward the door. The insult cut him more than all that had gone
before. What had passed belonged to a drunken and irrational mood. This
taunt came evidently from deliberate contempt and ingratitude. Philip
had a bewildered sense of being outside of all conditions which he
could understand. This shameless effrontery and brutality seemed to him
rather the distorted fantasy of an evil dream than anything which could
be real. His one thought now was to get his companion away before she
was exposed to fresh insult.
They were detained a little by the police; but after giving their
addresses were allowed to go. Ashe felt shaky and exhausted, but the
hand of Mrs. Fenton was on his arm, and the need of sustaining her gave
him strength. They got with some difficulty through the crowd and out
of the court, and after walking a block or two were fortunate enough to
find a carriage.
"Mr. Ashe," Mrs. Fenton said, as they drove up Hanover Street, "I'm
afraid you're terribly hurt; and it is all my fault."
"No, no," he replied with swollen lips. "The fault was mine. I
shouldn't have let you go into that place."
"But you did try to stop me; only I was obstinate. Oh, I don't know how
to thank you for coming as you did."
"But what happened before I came?"
Mrs. Fenton shuddered.
"Oh, I don't think I know very clearly. That great drunken man came in,
and asked me for money. Of course I didn't give it to him; and his wife
tried to get him to let me go. Then he struck her on the mouth!"
"The brute!" Ashe involuntarily cried, clenching his bruised fists.
"Then he caught me by the waist, and I screamed; and in another minute
I heard you at the door."
"But it was the woman that called the police."
"Yes; and when she did that I was fearfully frightened. I knew that if
she called the police against her own husband she must think that he'd
really hurt me."
Philip leaned back in the carriage, dizzy with the overwhelming sense
of the peril that had beset her,--her! Then, mastered by an
overpowering impulse, he threw himself forward and caught her hands,
covering them with kisses.
"Oh, my darling!" he gasped. "Oh, thank God you are safe!"
She dragged her hands away from him, and shrank back.
"Mr. Ashe!" she cried. "What is the matter with you? What are you
He did not attempt to retain his hold, but drew himself back into the
darkness of his corner of the carriage. A strange calmness followed his
outbreak; a sort of joyous uplifting which made him master of himself
"I am sinning," he answered with a riotous sense of delight. "I am
laying up remorse for all my future. I am telling you I love you; that
I love you: I love you! I love you and I have saved you; and I shall
brood over that, and do penance, and brood over it again, and do
penance again, all my life long!"
"Oh, you are confused, excited, hurt," she cried. "You don't know what
you are saying!"
"I know only too well what I am saying. I am saying that I"--
"Oh, for pity's sake, don't!" she moaned, putting out her hand.
He caught her wrist, and again kissed her hand passionately.
"Yes, I know that I ought not to say this now when you have had to bear
so much already; that I ought never to say it; but it is said! It is
said! You'll forget it, but I shall remember it all my life. I shall
remember that you heard me say that I love you!"
He threw himself back into his corner, and she shrank into hers, while
the carriage went rattling over the pavement. Aching and sore, Philip
yet knew a wild exhilaration, a certain divine madness which was so
intense a delight that it almost made him weep. It was like a religious
ecstasy, recalling to his mind moments in which he had seemed to be
lifted almost to trance-like communion with holy spirits.
"I ought to ask you to forgive me, Mrs. Fenton," he said as they drew
near her house, "but I cannot. I did not mean to do this; but I can't
regret it. I am sorry for you; I am sorry--I shall be sorry, that is--
for the sin of it; but the sin is sweet."
He wondered at his own voice, so even yet so high in pitch.
"Oh, what shall I do?" Mrs. Fenton cried sobbingly. "Is it my fault
that this happened?"
"Oh, nothing can be your fault. It is all mine! But you must love me, I
love you so!"
"No, no," she exclaimed vehemently. "I don't love you! I cannot love
you! For pity's sake don't say such things!"
She buried her face in her hands and burst into sobs. Philip set his
lips together, smiling bitterly at the pain it gave him. He controlled
his voice as well as he was able.
"I beg you will forgive me," said he. "I have been out of my head.
Forget my impertinence, and"--
He could not finish, but the stopping of the carriage at her door saved
him the need of farther effort.
He assisted her to alight, rang the bell, and said goodnight in a voice
which he was sure did not betray him to the coachman.
'TWAS WONDROUS PITIFUL
Othello, i. 3.
Poor Ashe got home more dead than alive. His passion had shaken him
like a delirium. He had been swept away by his emotion, and had thrown
to the winds past and future. He felt as the carriage drove away from
Mrs. Fenton's as if he had been swung up and down on some monstrous
wave and dashed, broken and bleeding, on a rough shore. He could not
think; and fortunately for him he was even too benumbed to feel
He reached the Hermans' in a sort of half-stupor, in which
indifference, keen joy, and bitter contrition were strangely mingled.
The contrition, however, seemed somehow to belong to the future; it was
what he must endure when the time should come for repentance; the joy
was a present blessing, tingling in his every fibre.
He met Mrs. Herman in the hall. She exclaimed when she saw him, and he
stood smiling at her, swaying as if he were intoxicated.
"What has happened?" she cried. "What have you done to your face?"
The room and his cousin swam before him in a golden mist. He felt that
he was grinning idiotically, yet he could not stop. He tried to speak,
but his lips seemed too swollen to form words. He put out his hand to
grasp a chair, and perceived that he could not reach it.
"I--fall!" he managed to ejaculate.
Mrs. Herman caught him, and supported him to a chair. He felt her arm
around him, and he wondered how he came to be thus embraced. He tried
to grope back into the dusk of his mind to tell what had happened, and
the fiery glow of the moment in which he had kissed the hand of Mrs.
Fenton came back to him. He sat suddenly erect.
"Cousin Helen," he said, with husky fervor, "I have been a wretch, and
I rejoice in it! I have found out how sweet it is to sin! I am lost,
He buried his face in his hands, almost hysterical. He felt his
cousin's hand on his shoulder.
"Philip," she said decisively, "you must stop this, and tell me what
"I beg your pardon," he answered, dropping his hands. "Mrs. Fenton was
attacked by a drunken man in the North End, and I fought him. I am
afraid that I am pretty disreputable looking."
"Yes, you are. I hope that is the worst of it."
She took him by the arm and led him into the library, where she
established him in an easy-chair by the fire.
"I'll send for a doctor to look you over," she said, "and meanwhile you
are to take what I give you."
She left him, and Philip sat looking into the coals.
"Ah, if the glove had been off!" he murmured half aloud.
He flushed hotly, and struck his clenched hand against his breast,
rubbing it back and forth until the haircloth within stung and smarted.
"No, no," he said to himself fiercely. "I will not think about it!"
Helen came back with a tumbler of something hot and fragrant, which
made his eyes water as he drank. It sent a strange sensation of warmth
through him, and seemed to restore his energy. The doctor, who came in
soon after, found nothing serious the matter. Ashe was temporarily
disfigured, but had luckily escaped without worse injury. He was sent
to bed, and despite his expectation of passing the night in an agony of
remorse, he sank almost immediately into a dreamless sleep.
When Philip awoke his first sensation was that of stiffness and
soreness,--soreness such as he had felt once when he had slept on the
floor with his arms extended in the form of a cross. The thought of
penance performed gave him a thrill of happiness, but to this instantly
succeeded the remembrance of the events of yesterday, and his brief
His face was discolored, and as he set out after breakfast to seek his
spiritual adviser he felt a grim satisfaction in going abroad thus
marked. It was in the nature of a mortification and a penance. He
repeated prayers as he walked, his eyes cast down, his bosom pricked by
haircloth. He felt that he had already begun the expiation of the sin
He found Father Frontford at home, but so occupied as to be unable to
listen to him. It would have been impossible for Philip to do as
Maurice had done, and go to a man like Strathmore; and indeed, he had
come to his Father Superior partly because of the sharpness with which
he felt that his offending would be judged. Where Maurice would
question, Philip would submit blindly and with ardent faith.
"Good-morning," the Father greeted Ashe kindly, holding out his left
hand, while the right held suspended the pen which had already produced
a heap of letters. "I am very glad to see you; but you find me
extremely busy. There are so many things to be thought of just now, and
so many letters to be written."
"Yes?" Philip responded absently.
"The election is so near at hand now," the other continued, "that we
cannot leave any stone unturned. I am writing to some of the country
clergy this morning. By the way, I wanted to speak to you about
Philip wondered at himself for the remoteness which the affairs of the
church had for him, so absorbed had he been in his own experiences.
"It seems to me," Father Frontford went on with fresh animation, "that
perhaps you can do something there. Can't you go down and talk with Mr.
Wentworth? He's inclined to support Mr. Strathmore. You should be able
to influence him; you are his spiritual son."
Mr. Wentworth was the rector in Philip's native town, and under him
both Ashe and Wynne had come from Congregationalism into the Church.
"It is possible," Philip said doubtfully. "Mr. Wentworth is, however,
rather inclined to disagree with me nowadays. He is completely carried
away by Mr. Strathmore."
A strange look came into the face of the old priest. He laid down his
pen, and pressed together the tips of his white fingers, thin with
fasting and self-denial.
"Did you not once tell me," he asked, "that Mr. Wentworth has hoped for
years that he might bring your mother also into the fold?"
"And you are her only child?"
Father Frontford cast down his eyes; then raised them to flash a glance
of vivid intelligence upon Ashe. Then again he looked down.
"I think that you had better run down and see your mother," he said.
"It is possible that she may be even now leaning toward the truth; and
in any case you might arouse Mr. Wentworth to fresh activity. It is of
much importance that the country clergy should be pledged not to
support Mr. Strathmore in the convention."
Philip went away confused and baffled. He said to himself that his
feeling was caused solely by his disappointment that he had found no
opportunity to talk with the Father Superior about his own affairs; but
it was impossible for him to put out of his mind the way in which his
mission to Montfield had been spoken of. He was willing to go down and
do what he could to arouse Mr. Wentworth to the gravity of the
situation, but he could neither forget nor endure the hint that he
should make of the hope of his mother's conversion to the church a
bribe. He could not think of this without being moved to blame Father
Frontford; and he set himself to argue his mind into the belief that
there was no harm in the suggestion. He walked along in a reverie as
deep as it was painful, trying to see that the occasion called for the
use of all lawful means, and that it was natural for the Father to
suppose that Mrs. Ashe might be influenced more readily if the rector
yielded to the wishes of her son in voting for Frontford.
"My dear Ashe, what have you been doing to yourself?" a strong voice
He came with a start to the consciousness of where he was, and that he
had almost run into the Rev. De Lancy Candish. The thought flashed
through his mind that Father Frontford had been too deeply absorbed in
his plans to notice the bruised face of his deacon.
"How do you do?" he exclaimed impulsively. "Providence has sent you to
me. Can you spare me a little of your time?"
"Certainly," the other answered, with some appearance of surprise. "I'm
on my way home now."
They walked in silence toward the home of Mr. Candish, Ashe trying to
frame some form of words by which he could confess the sin of his heart
without betraying Mrs. Fenton. He wondered if Maurice Wynne could have
helped him, and reflected how they had been in the habit of confiding
everything to one another. Now he shrank from opening his heart to his
friend, and was almost seeking out a confidant in the highways and
"You have not told me what sort of an accident you have had," Candish
observed, as he fitted the latch-key into the lock of his door.
"I was attacked by a man in the North End," Philip answered, obeying
the wave of the hand which invited him to enter. "He had insulted Mrs.
"Mrs. Fenton!" echoed Candish.
The tone made Ashe turn quickly. Into his mind flashed the words of
Helen and of Mrs. Wilson connecting the name of Candish with that of
Mrs. Fenton. In his longing for comfort and advice he had seized upon
the rector of the Nativity without remembering that he was the last
person to whom he should come.
"Ah," he said, "it was true!"
Candish did not answer, and they went into the study in silence. The
host sat down in the well-worn chair by his writing-table, while Philip
took a seat facing him.
"What a foolish thing for me to say," Ashe broke out; then surprised at
the querulousness of his tone he stopped abruptly.
"Mr. Ashe," Candish said gravely, "if there is anything I can do for
you will you tell me what it is?"
Philip rose quickly, and took a step towards him, leaning down over the
thin, homely face.
"I have found you out!" he cried with exultation. "I came to confess my
sin to you, and I find that you love her too!"
"Don't be hysterical and melodramatic," was the cool response. "Sit
down, and let us talk rationally if we are to talk at all."
The manner of Candish recalled Philip to himself. He sat down heavily.
"I beg your pardon," he said. "Since that fight I have been half beside
myself. I am like a hysterical girl."
The other regarded him compassionately.
"Mr. Ashe," responded he, "there is no good in my pretending that I
didn't understand what you meant just now. You and I are both given to
the priesthood. If we both love a woman"--
"I love her," burst in Philip, half defiantly, half remorsefully, "and
I have told her so! I have condemned myself"--
"Stop," Candish interrupted. "First you have to think of her."
Philip stared in silence. It came over him how entirely he had been
thinking of himself, and how little he had considered Mrs. Fenton in
his reflections upon the events of the previous evening. Here was a man
who could love her so well as to think of her first and himself last.
"But I have given her up," Philip stammered.
"Was she yours to give up?"
There was nothing bitter or sneering in the words; they were said
simply and dispassionately.
"No," Philip answered, dropping his voice; "she was not mine."
The older man rose and walked to the fire, where he stood looking down
at the flaming coals.
"After all," he said, "we are pretty much in the same plight. I knew
her when her husband brought her here a bride, the loveliest creature
alive. Arthur Fenton was a clever, selfish, wholly irreligious man; and
I could not help seeing how completely he failed to understand or
appreciate his wife. She was kind to me, and when her trouble came she
turned to me for comfort and sympathy. It is my weakness that I love
her; but she will never know it."
"And does she love nobody?" demanded Ashe jealously.
Candish turned upon him a look of rebuke.
"What right have you or I to ask that question?" he retorted sternly.
"I do penance for loving her, and God is my witness how carefully I
have hidden it. It is not for me to question her right to love if she
Philip rose, and went to the other, holding out his hand.
"Mr. Candish," said he earnestly, "you have taught me my lesson. I
have been a weak fool, and worse. I will pray for strength to lay my
passion on the altar and forget it."
The rector took the extended hand, looking into Philip's eyes with a
glance so wistful, so humble, and so tender that the remembrance went
with Ashe long.
"And forget it?" he repeated. "I do not know that I could do that!"
He dropped the hand of Ashe, and shook himself as if he would shake off
the mood which had taken possession of him.
"Come," he declared resolutely, "this will not do. This is not the sort
of mood that makes men. Let me give you a single piece of advice,--I am
older, you know; don't pity yourself, whatever else you do. In the
first place, that would be equivalent to saying that Providence doesn't
know what is best for you; and in the second, it spoils all one's sense
As Ashe that afternoon journeyed down to Montfield, he recalled all the
details of this interview. The more he considered the more he respected
Candish and the less satisfaction he found in his own conduct. Yet
perhaps the human mind cannot cease self-justification at any point
short of annihilation, and Philip still had in his secret thought a
deep feeling that the church should more absolutely settle the question
of the celibacy of its clergy, so that there might be no more doubts.
He honored the attitude of Candish, and he resolved to imitate it. He
who has never shaken hands with the devil, however, can have little
idea how hard it is to loose his grasp; and Philip groaned at the
thought of how far he was even from wishing to put his love out of its
high place in his heart.
His mind was calmer as he sat that evening talking with his mother.
Mrs. Ashe was a plain, sweet-faced woman, with gray hair brushed
smoothly under her cap of black lace. There was in her pale, faded face
little beauty of feature or coloring; yet the light of her kindly and
delicate spirit shone through. Maurice Wynne had once said that she was
like a sweet-pea,--born with wings, but tethered so that she might not
fly away. Philip, with his exquisite sensitiveness, found an
unspeakable comfort in her presence; a soothing sense of rest and peace
so blissful that it seemed almost wrong. There are even in this worldly
age many women who hide under the covering of uneventful, commonplace
lives existences full of spiritual richness,--women who find in
religion not the mechanical acceptance of form, not a mere superstition
which encrusts an outworn creed, but a vital, uplifting force; a power
which fills their souls with imaginative warmth and fervor. The worth
of an experience is to be estimated by the emotional fire which it
kindles; and to the lives of such women the dull, colorless round of
their daily existence gives no real clue. Theirs is the life of the
spirit, and for them the inner is the only true life. It is when the
sunken eye shines with a glow from deep within; when the thin cheeks
faintly warm with the ghost of a flush and the blue veins swell from
the throbbing of a heart stirred by a spiritual vision, that the
observer gets a hint of the realities of such a life.
Mrs. Ashe was a type of the saintly woman that the spirit of Puritanism
bred in rural New England. Such women are the living embodiment of the
power which has inspired whatever is best in the nation; the power
which has been a living force amid the worldliness, the materialism,
the crudity that have threatened to overwhelm the people of this yet
young land, so prematurely old. In her face was a look of high
unworldliness that marks the mystic, the inheritance from ancestors
bred in a faith impossible without mysticism in the very fibres of the
race. The heroic self-denial, the persistent belief, the noble fidelity
to the ideal which is the salvation of a nation, shine in such a
countenance, and make real the high deeds of a past generation the
narrowness of whose creeds too often blinds us to-day to the greatness
of their character.
She smiled a little on hearing the object of her son's visit.
"I am glad to see you on any terms," she observed, "but I cannot say
that I think your coming very wise."
"But, mother," he urged, "don't you see that it is a matter of so much
importance that we ought not to neglect any chance?"
"My dear boy," questioned she, "do you really think that it is of so
much importance who is bishop?"
"It is of the greatest possible importance," he returned earnestly. "Of
course you don't agree with me as to the importance of forms of
worship, but suppose that it were your own church, and the question
were of having a man put into a place so influential. Wouldn't you be
troubled if one were likely to be chosen who taught what you regarded
She smiled on him still, but he saw the seriousness in her eyes.
"Yes," she said, "I suppose I should; but doesn't it ever occur to you,
Philip, that we are all too much inclined to feel that everything is
going wrong if Providence doesn't work in our way? We can't help, I
suppose, the habit of regarding our plans as somehow essential to the
proper management of the universe."
He laughed and shook his head.
"You always had a most effective way of taking down my conceit," he
responded. "I don't mean that it is necessary that Father Frontford
shall be bishop because I want him, but"--
"But because you believe in him," his mother interrupted with a little
twinkle in her eye. "Well, we cannot do better than to follow our
convictions, I suppose."
She ended with a sigh, and Philip knew that it was because into her
mind came the sadness she felt at his defection from the faith of his
"Yes, you trained me from the cradle to do what I thought right without
considering the consequences."
They fell into more general talk after that; and after the news of the
family and the neighborhood had been pretty well exhausted, Mrs. Ashe
"I have asked Alice Singleton to make me a visit."
"Alice Singleton! Why, mother, I cannot think of a person I should have
supposed it less likely you would want to stay with you."
"I'm afraid that I don't want her very much; but she wrote me that she
was very lonely, that she hadn't any plans, and that Boston seemed to
her a very homesick place. Her mother was my nearest friend, you know;
and if Alice needs friendship it's very little for me to do for her."
"I didn't know she'd been in Boston," Philip commented thoughtfully.
"She never seemed to me honest, mother. I never could be charitable to
her at all."
The sweet face of his mother took on a curious expression of mingled
amusement and contrition.
"If I must confess it, Phil," she said, "neither could I; and I'm
afraid that there was more notion of doing penance in my asking her
than of real hospitality. She is after all not to blame for her manner,
and no doubt we do her wrong."
"If you have come to doing penance, mother, there's no knowing how soon
you will be with me."
"No, Phil," she answered softly, "do you remember what Monica told her
son? 'Not where he is, shalt thou be, but where thou art he shall be.'"
He shook his head, sighing.
"I ought not to have touched on that matter, mother. You know that I am
trying to follow my conscience."
"Yes, I cling to that. I should be miserable if I did not believe that
your way and my way will come together somewhere, on this side or the
other; and I bid you Godspeed on whatever way you go with prayerful
A sudden impulse leaped up within him, and it was almost as if some
voice not his own spoke through his lips, so little was he conscious of
meaning to ask such a question.
"Even if the way led to Home?"
Mrs. Ashe grew paler, but her eyes steadfastly met those of her son.
"I trust you in the hands of God," she said.
Late that night Philip woke from a heavy sleep into which fatigue had
plunged him. He reached out his arm, and drew aside the curtain near
his bed, so that he might see the window of his mother's chamber. A
faint light was shining there; and he knew that the beams of the candle
fell on his mother on her knees.
IN WAY OF TASTE
Troilus and Cressida, iii. 3.
The two deacons were together again in the Clergy House. Maurice
frankly confessed to himself that he did not like it, and he wondered
if Philip were also dissatisfied. It was a question too delicate to
ask, however; and he contented himself with watching his friend to
discover, if possible, whether the stay outside had affected Ashe as it
had him. They returned late in the afternoon, and their greeting was of
"Dear old boy," Maurice cried, "you don't know how glad I am to get at
you again. Where in the world have you kept yourself?"
"Just at the last," Philip responded, "I've been down to Montfield."
"Down home? Have you really? How is everybody? I hope your mother is
"She is very well, and I do not remember anybody that we know who
isn't. I went down to see Mr. Wentworth, and found that he is already
pledged to Mr. Strathmore."
"Is he really? How did that happen?"
"It seems that he is a cousin of that Mrs. Gore where we heard that
heathen, and she is greatly interested in Mr. Strathmore's election.
Mr. Wentworth promised her his vote. How people are carried away by
that man. Mr. Wentworth told me that he looked upon him as the greatest
man in the church to-day."
"It is strange," Maurice assented absently; "but he is a man of great
"To me," Philip retorted, "he is a whited sepulchre. His doctrine of
mental reservation amounts to nothing less than that a priest is at
liberty to believe anything he pleases if he will only conform
Maurice was secretly much of the same opinion, but they came now to the
dinner table, where silence was the rule. Wynne had a feeling of
dishonesty from the fact that he concealed from his friend that he had
sought an interview with Strathmore, yet he felt that he could not
confess the visit. While they sat at table a brother read aloud, and
the reading chanced to be to-night from the book of Job. The words of
the splendid poem mingled in the mind of Maurice with the most
incongruous and unpriestly thoughts. He chafed at the routine into
which he had fallen as into a pit from which he had once escaped; the
meagre repast seemed to him pitifully poor; and most of all he was
angry with himself that he could not feel joy at his return to the
house which was the symbol of the consecrated work to which he had
given his life. After dinner came an hour and a half of recreation, and
in this he was called to the study of the Father Superior.
"You returned so late in the day," the Father said with a smile, "that
you will not mind giving up recreation to-night. I wish to speak with
you on a matter of importance."
Maurice took the seat toward which the other waved his hand. He felt
alien and strange. He recalled the attitude of submission and reverence
with which he had once been accustomed to enter this room, the respect
with which he had heard every word of the Father; and he blamed
himself bitterly that he now took rather a defensive mood, and felt an
instinctive desire to escape. He reflected that he had been poisoned by
the world; yet he could not wholly shut out the consciousness that he
had no genuine desire to be freed from the sweet madness which had
seized him. He tried to put all thought of these matters by, however,
and to give his whole attention to what the priest might say to him.
"I think that you have met Mrs. Frostwinch," the Father said.
"I went to her house once," Maurice answered, surprised at the remark,
and feeling his pulse quicken at the remembrance of his first sight of
"I remember that you mentioned it in confession," was the grave reply.
"Satan sets his snares in the most unlikely places."
The words seemed almost a reply to Wynne's secret thought. His first
impulse was to resent this open allusion to a sacred confidence
whispered in the confessional. It was like a stab in the back, or a
trick to take unfair advantage; and the matter was made worse by this
allusion to a snare of Satan, which could mean nothing else but
Berenice herself. Maurice flushed hotly, but habit was strong in him,
and he cast down his eyes without reply.
"Have you heard that Mrs. Frostwinch is on her way home?" Father
Frontford went on.
"It is said that her faith-healing superstition has failed her, and she
is coming home to die."
"To die?" echoed Maurice.
He recalled Mrs. Frostwinch as he had seen her, gracious, high-bred,
apparently brilliantly well; and it appeared monstrously impossible
that death should be near her. She had seemed a woman who would defy
death, and live on simply by her own splendid will.
"So it is said," the Father assured him. "Do you know how important it
is to us to have her influence in the election?"
"I know that there are certain votes that she may influence, and that
she is in"--he almost said "your," but he caught himself in time--"our
"There are three and perhaps four votes which depend upon her. Three
are sure to go over to the other side if she is not able to stand
behind them. They are all dependent upon her for support in one way or
"But surely," Maurice suggested, "they would not vote
unconscientiously? They wouldn't sell their convictions for her
"They would not vote unconscientiously," was the dry response, "but
they believe that the support which she gives to them and to their
missions is of more importance than that the man they really prefer
should be chosen."
"But what can be done?"
Father Frontford sat leaning back in his chair, his face in shadow, and
the tips of his thin fingers pressed together in his habitual gesture.
"Perhaps nothing," he answered.
His voice had dropped into a soft, silky half-tone, insinuating and
persuasive. Maurice began to have an uneasy feeling as if he were being
hypnotized; yet the words of the other came to him with a quality
strangely soothing and attractive.
"Perhaps," the priest went on after a pause of a second, "perhaps
everything that is necessary."
It seemed to Maurice that there was something significant in the tone
which the words did not reveal. He looked keenly at the shadowed face,
but without being able clearly to make out its expression. He could see
little but the bright eyes holding and dominating his own.
"It is for you to do this work," Father Frontford continued; "and it is
wonderful how Providence brings good out of all things. Here is an
opportunity for you not only to expiate your fault, but to serve the
cause of the church."
Without understanding, Maurice began to tremble with inner dread lest
the name of Berenice should again be brought up between himself and
this pitiless priest.
"I do not see that there is anything that I can do," he said coldly.
"On the contrary. Do you chance to know anything about the Canton
estate? I suppose you are not likely to."
"Nothing whatever. What is the Canton estate?"
"Mrs. Frostwinch was a Canton. Her father was a brother of old Mrs.
Maurice could not see how all this involved him, but he became more and
"The estate of old Mr. Canton," the Father went on in the same smooth
voice, "was, as I have just learned from Mrs. Wilson, left to his
daughter for life and to her children after her. If she died childless
it was to go to Miss Morison."
"And she is childless?"
"She is childless. If she is taken away now, the property will all be
in the hands of Miss Morison."
There was a moment of stillness in which the thought most insistent in
the mind of Maurice was that in this fortune fate had raised another
wall between himself and Berenice. He spoke to escape the reflection.
"But all this is surely not my concern."
"It is your concern if it shows you a way in which the votes of those
clergymen may be assured, although Mrs. Frostwinch should not recover."
"It shows me no way."