Part 1 out of 10
Etext typed by Theresa Armao
By Edna Lyall
CHAPTER I. Brian Falls in Love
Still humanity grows dearer,
Being learned the more. Jean Ingelow.
There are three things in this world which deserve no quarter--
Hypocrisy, Pharisaism, and Tyranny. F. Robertson
People who have been brought up in the country, or in small places
where every neighbor is known by sight, are apt to think that life
in a large town must lack many of the interests which they have
learned to find in their more limited communities. In a somewhat
bewildered way, they gaze at the shifting crowd of strange faces,
and wonder whether it would be possible to feel completely at home
where all the surroundings of life seem ever changing and
But those who have lived long in one quarter of London, or of any
other large town, know that there are in reality almost as many
links between the actors of the town life-drama as between those of
the country life-drama.
Silent recognitions pass between passengers who meet day after day
in the same morning or evening train, on the way to or from work;
the faces of omnibus conductors grow familiar; we learn to know
perfectly well on what day of the week and at what hour the
well-known organ-grinder will make his appearance, and in what
street we shall meet the city clerk or the care-worn little daily
governess on their way to office or school. It so happened that
Brian Osmond, a young doctor who had not been very long settled in
the Bloomsbury regions, had an engagement which took him every
afternoon down Gower Street, and here many faces had grown familiar
to him. He invariably met the same sallow-faced postman, the same
nasal-voiced milkman, the same pompous-looking man with the bushy
whiskers and the shiny black bag, on his way home from the city.
But the only passenger in whom he took any interest was a certain
bright-faced little girl whom he generally met just before the
Montague Place crossing. He always called her his "little girl,"
though she was by no means little in the ordinary acceptation of
the word, being at least sixteen, and rather tall for her years.
But there was a sort of freshness and naivete and youthfulness
about her which made him use that adjective. She usually carried
a pile of books in a strap, so he conjectured that she must be
coming from school, and, ever since he had first seen her, she had
worn the same rough blue serge dress, and the same quaint little
fur hat. In other details, however, he could never tell in the
least how he should find her. She seemed to have a mood for every
day. Sometimes she would be in a great hurry and would almost run
past him; sometimes she would saunter along in the most
unconventional way, glancing from time to time at a book or a
paper; sometimes her eager face would look absolutely bewitching in
its brightness; sometimes scarcely less bewitching in a consuming
anxiety which seemed unnatural in one so young.
One rainy afternoon in November, Brian was as usual making his way
down Gower Street, his umbrella held low to shelter him from the
driving rain which seemed to come in all directions. The milkman's
shrill voice was still far in the distance, the man of letters was
still at work upon knockers some way off, it was not yet time for
his little girl to make her appearance, and he was not even
thinking of her, when suddenly his umbrella was nearly knocked out
of his hand by coming violently into collision with another
umbrella. Brought thus to a sudden stand, he looked to see who it
was who had charged him with such violence, and found himself face
to face with his unknown friend. He had never been quite so close
to her before. Her quaint face had always fascinated him, but on
nearer view he thought it the loveliest face he had ever seen--it
took his heart by storm.
It was framed in soft, silky masses of dusky auburn hair which hung
over the broad, white forehead, but at the back was scarcely longer
than a boy's. The features, though not regular, were delicate and
piquant; the usual faint rose-flush on the cheeks deepened now to
carnation, perhaps because of the slight contretemps, perhaps
because of some deeper emotion--Brian fancied the latter, for the
clear, golden-brown eyes that were lifted to his seemed bright
either with indignation or with unshed tears. Today it was clear
that the mood was not a happy one.
"I am very sorry," she said, looking up at him, and speaking in a
low, musical voice, but with the unembarrassed frankness of a
child. "I really wasn't thinking or looking; it was very careless
Brian of course took all the blame to himself, and apologized
profusely; but though he would have given much to detain her, if
only a moment, she gave him no opportunity, but with a slight
inclination passed rapidly on. He stood quite still, watching her
till she was out of sight, aware of a sudden change in his life.
He was a busy hard-working man, not at all given to dreams, and it
was no dream that he was in now. He knew perfectly well that he
had met his ideal, had spoken to her and she to him; that somehow
in a single moment a new world had opened out to him. He had
fallen in love.
The trifling occurrence had made no great impression on the "little
girl" herself. She was rather vexed with herself for the
carelessness, but a much deeper trouble was filling her heart. She
soon forgot the passing interruption and the brown-bearded man with
the pleasant gray eyes who had apologized for what was quite her
fault. Something had gone wrong that day, as Brian had surmised;
the eyes grew brighter, the carnation flush deepened as she hurried
along, the delicate lips closed with a curiously hard expression,
the hands were clasped with unnecessary tightness round the
She passed up Guilford Square, but did not turn into any of the old
decayed houses; her home was far less imposing. At the corner of
the square there is a narrow opening which leads into a sort of
blind alley paved with grim flagstones. Here, facing a high blank
wall, are four or five very dreary houses. She entered one of
these, put down her wet umbrella in the shabby little hall, and
opened the door of a barely furnished room, the walls of which
were, however, lined with books. Beside the fire was the one
really comfortable piece of furniture in the room, an Ikeley couch,
and upon it lay a very wan-looking invalid, who glanced up with a
smile of welcome. "Why, Erica, you are home early today. How is
"Oh, I don't know," said Erica, tossing down her books in a way
which showed her mother that she was troubled about something. "I
suppose I tore along at a good rate, and there was no temptation to
stay at the High School."
"Come and tell me about it," said the mother, gently, "what has
gone wrong, little one?"
"Everything!" exclaimed Erica, vehemently. "Everything always does
go wrong with us and always will, I suppose. I wish you had never
sent me to school, mother; I wish I need never see the place
"But till today you enjoyed it so much."
"Yes, the classes and the being with Gertrude. But that will never
be the same again. It's just this, mother, I'm never to speak to
Gertrude again--to have noting more to do with her."
"Who said so? And Why?"
"Why? Because I'm myself," said Erica, with a bitter little laugh.
"How I can help it, nobody seems to think. But Gertrude's father
has come back from Africa, and was horrified to learn that we were
friends, made her promise never to speak to me again, and made her
write this note about it. Look!" and she took a crumpled envelope
from her pocket.
The mother read the note in silence, and an expression of pain came
over her face. Erica, who was very impetuous, snatched it away
from her when she saw that look of sadness.
"Don't read the horrid thing!" she exclaimed, crushing it up in her
hand. "There, we will burn it!" and she threw it into the fire
with a vehemence which somehow relieved her.
"You shouldn't have done that," said her mother. "Your father will
be sure to want to see it."
"No, no, no," cried Erica, passionately. "He must not know; you
must not tell him, mother."
"Dear child, have you not learned that it is impossible to keep
anything from him? He will find out directly that something is
"It will grieve him so; he must not hear it," said Erica. "He
cares so much for what hurts us. Oh! Why are people so hard and
cruel? Why do they treat us like lepers? It isn't all because of
losing Gertrude; I could bear that if there were some real reason
--if she went away or died. But there's no reason! It's all
prejudice and bigotry and injustice; it's that which makes it sting
Erica was not at all given to tears, but there was now a sort of
choking in her throat, and a sort of dimness in her eyes which made
her rather hurriedly settle down on the floor in her own particular
nook beside her mother's couch, where her face could not be seen.
There was a silence. Presently the mother spoke, stroking back the
wavy, auburn hair with her thin white hand.
"For a long time I have dreaded this for you, Erica. I was afraid
you didn't realize the sort of position the world will give you.
Till lately you have seen scarcely any but our own people, but it
can hardly be, darling, that you can go on much longer without
coming into contact with others; and then, more and more, you must
realize that you are cut off from much that other girls may
"Why?" questioned Erica. "Why can't they be friendly? Why must
they cut us off from everything?"
"It does seem unjust; but you must remember that we belong to an
"But if I belonged to the larger party, I would at least be just to
the smaller," said Erica. "How can they expect us to think their
system beautiful when the very first thing they show us is hatred
and meanness. Oh! If I belonged to the other side I would show
them how different it might be."
"I believe you would," said the mother, smiling a little at the
idea, and at the vehemence of the speaker. "But, as it is, Erica,
I am afraid you must school yourself to endure. After all, I fancy
you will be glad to share so soon in your father's
"Yes," said Erica, pushing back the hair from her forehead, and
giving herself a kind of mental shaking. "I am glad of that.
After all, they can't spoil the best part of our lives! I shall go
into the garden to get rid of my bad temper; it doesn't rain now."
She struggled to her feet, picked up the little fur hat which had
fallen off, kissed her mother, and went out of the room.
The "garden" was Erica's favorite resort, her own particular
property. It was about fifteen feet square, and no one but a
Londoner would have bestowed on it so dignified a name. But Erica,
who was of an inventive turn, had contrived to make the most of the
little patch of ground, had induced ivy to grow on the ugly brick
walls, and with infinite care and satisfaction had nursed a few
flowers and shrubs into tolerably healthy though smutty life. In
one of the corners, Tom Craigie, her favorite cousin, had put up a
rough wooden bench for her, and here she read and dreamed as
contentedly as if her "garden ground" had been fairy-land. Here,
too, she invariably came when anything had gone wrong, when the
endless troubles about money which had weighed upon her all her
life became a little less bearable than usual, or when some act of
discourtesy or harshness to her father had roused in her a
tingling, burning sense of indignation.
Erica was not one of those people who take life easily; things went
very deeply with her. In spite of her brightness and vivacity, in
spite of her readiness to see the ludicrous in everything, and her
singularly quick perceptions, she was also very keenly alive to
other and graver impressions.
Her anger had passed, but still, as she paced round and round her
small domain, her heart was very heavy. Life seemed perplexing to
her; but her mother had somehow struck the right key-note when she
had spoken of the vexations which might be shared. There was
something inspiriting in that thought, certainly, for Erica
worshipped her father. By degrees the trouble and indignation died
away, and a very sweet look stole over the grave little face.
A smutty sparrow came and peered down at her from the ivy-colored
wall, and chirped and twittered in quite a friendly way, perhaps
recognizing the scatter of its daily bread.
"After all," though Erica, "with ourselves and the animals, we
might let the rest of the world treat us as they please. I am glad
they can't turn the animals and birds against us! That would be
worse than anything."
Then, suddenly turning from the abstract to the practical, she took
out of her pocket a shabby little sealskin purse.
"Still sixpence of my prize money over," she remarked to herself;
"I'll go and buy some scones for tea. Father likes them."
Erica's father was a Scotchman, and, though so-called scones were
to be had at most shops, there was only one place where she could
buy scones which she considered worthy the name, and that was at
the Scotch baker's in Southampton Row. She hurried along the wet
pavements, glad that the rain was over, for as soon as her purchase
was completed she made up her mind to indulge for a few minutes in
what had lately become a very frequent treat, namely a pause before
a certain tempting store of second-hand books. She had never had
money enough to buy anything except the necessary school books,
and, being a great lover of poetry, she always seized with avidity
on anything that was to be found outside the book shop. Sometimes
she would carry away a verse of Swinburne, which would ring in her
ears for days and days; sometimes she would read as much as two or
three pages of Shelley. No one had every interrupted her, and a
certain sense of impropriety and daring was rather stimulating than
otherwise. It always brought to her mind a saying in the proverbs
of Solomon, "Stolen waters are sweet, and bread eaten in secret is
For three successive days she had found to her great delight
Longfellow's "Hiawatha." The strange meter, the musical Indian
names, the delightfully described animals, all served to make the
poem wonderfully fascinating to her. She thought a page or two of
"Hiawatha" would greatly sweeten her somewhat bitter world this
afternoon, and with her bag of scones in one hand and the book in
the other she read on happily, quite unconscious that three pair of
eyes were watching her from within the shop.
The wrinkled old man who was the presiding genius of the place had
two customers, a tall, gray-bearded clergyman with bright, kindly
eyes, and his son, the same Brian Osmond whom Erica had charged
with her umbrella in Gower Street.
"An outside customer for you," remarked Charles Osmond, the
clergyman, glancing at the shop keeper. Then to his son, "What a
picture she makes!"
Brian looked up hastily from some medical books which he had been
"Why that's my little Gower Street friend," he exclaimed, the words
being somehow surprised out of him, though he would fain have
recalled them the next minute.
"I don't interrupt her," said the shop owner. "Her father has done
a great deal of business with me, and the little lady has a fancy
for poetry, and don't get much of it in her life, I'll be bound."
"Why, who is she?" asked Charles Osmond, who was on very friendly
terms with the old book collector.
"She's the daughter of Luke Raeburn," was the reply, "and whatever
folks may say, I know that Mr. Raeburn leads a hard enough life."
Brian turned away from the speakers, a sickening sense of dismay at
his heart. His ideal was the daughter of Luke Raeburn! And Luke
Raeburn was an atheist leader!
For a few minutes he lost consciousness of time and place, though
always seeing in a sort of dark mist Erica's lovely face bending
over her book. The shop keeper's casual remark had been a fearful
blow to him; yet, as he came to himself again, his heart went out
more and more to the beautiful girl who had been brought up in what
seemed to him so barren a creed. His dream of love, which had been
bright enough only an hour before, was suddenly shadowed by an
unthought of pain, but presently began to shine with a new and
altogether different luster. He began to hear again what was
passing between his father and the shop keeper.
"There's a sight more good in him than folks think. However wrong
his views, he believes them right, and is ready to suffer for 'em,
too. Bless me, that's odd, to be sure! There is Mr. Raeburn, on
the other side of the Row! Fine-looking man, isn't he?"
Brian, looking up eagerly, fancied he must be mistaken for the
only passenger in sight was a very tall man of remarkably benign
aspect, middle-aged, yet venerable--or perhaps better described
by the word "devotional-looking," pervaded too by a certain majesty
of calmness which seemed scarcely suited to his character of public
agitator. The clean-shaven and somewhat rugged face was
unmistakably that of a Scotchman, the thick waves of tawny hair
overshadowing the wide brow, and the clear golden-brown eyes showed
Brian at once that this could be no other than the father of his
In the meantime, Raeburn, having caught sight of his daughter,
slowly crossed the road, and coming noiselessly up to her, suddenly
took hold of the book she was reading, and with laughter in his
eyes, said, in a peremptory voice:
"Five shillings to pay, if you please, miss!"
Erica, who had been absorbed in the poem, looked up in dismay; then
seeing who had spoken, she began to laugh.
"What a horrible fright you gave me, father! But do look at this,
it's the loveliest thing in the world. I've just got to the 'very
strong man Kwasind.' I think he's a little like you!"
Raeburn, though no very great lover of poetry, took the book and
read a few lines.
"Long they lived in peace together,
Spake with naked hearts together,
Pondering much and much contriving
How the tribes of men might prosper."
"Good! That will do very well for you and me, little one. I'm
ready to be your Kwasind. What's the price of the thing? Four and
sixpence! Too much for a luxury. It must wait till our ship comes
He put down the book, and they moved on together, but had not gone
many paces before they were stopped by a most miserable-looking
beggar child. Brian standing now outside the shop, saw and heard
all that passed.
Raeburn was evidently investigating the case, Erica, a little
impatient of the interruption, was remonstrating.
"I thought you never gave to beggars, and I am sure that harrowing
story is made up."
"Very likely," replied the father, "but the hunger is real, and I
know well enough what hunger is. What have you here?" he added,
indicating the paper bag which Erica held.
"Scones," she said, unwillingly.
"That will do," he said, taking them from her and giving them to
the child. "He is too young to be anything but the victim of
another's laziness. There! Sit down and eat them while you can."
The child sat down on the doorstep with the bag of scones clasped
in both hands, but he continued to gaze after his benefactor till
he had passed out of sight, and there was a strange look of
surprise and gratification in his eyes. That was a man who knew!
Many people had, after hard begging, thrown him pence, many had
warned him off harshly, but this man had looked straight into his
eyes, and had at once stopped and questioned him, had singled out
the one true statement from a mass of lies, and had given him--
not a stale loaf with the top cut off, a suspicious sort of charity
which always angered the waif--but his own food, bought for his
own consumption. Most wonderful of all, too, this man knew what it
was to be hungry, and had even the insight and shrewdness to be
aware that the waif's best chance of eating the scones at all was
to eat them then and there. For the first time a feeling of
reverence and admiration was kindled in the child's heart; he would
have done a great deal for his unknown friend.
Raeburn and Erica had meanwhile walked on in the direction of
"I had bought them for you," said Erica, reproachfully.
"And I ruthlessly gave them away," said Raeburn, smiling. "That
was hard lines; I though they were only household stock. But after
all it comes to the same thing in the end, or better. You have
given them to me by giving them to the child. Never mind, 'Little
This was his pet name for her, and it meant a great deal to them.
She was his only child, and it had at first been a great
disappointment to every one that she was not a boy. But Raeburn
had long ago ceased to regret this, and the nickname referred more
to Erica's capability of being both son and daughter to him, able
to help him in his work and at the same time to brighten his home.
Erica was very proud of her name, for she had been called after her
father's greatest friend, Eric Haeberlein, a celebrated republican,
who once during a long exile had taken refuge in London. His views
were in some respects more extreme than Raeburn's, but in private
life he was the gentlest and most fascinating of men, and had quite
won the heart of his little namesake.
As Mrs. Raeburn had surmised, Erica's father had at once seen that
something had gone wrong that day. The all-observing eyes, which
had noticed the hungry look in the beggar child's face, noticed at
once that his own child had been troubled.
"Something has vexed you," he said. "What is the matter, Erica?"
"I had rather not tell you, father, it isn't anything much," said
Erica, casting down her eyes as if all at once the paving stones
had become absorbingly interesting.
"I fancy I know already," said Raeburn. "It is about your friend
at the High School, is it not. I thought so. This afternoon I had
a letter from her father."
"What does he say? May I see it?" asked Erica.
"I tore it up," said Raeburn, "I thought you would ask to see it,
and the thing was really so abominably insolent that I didn't want
you to. How did you hear about it?"
"Gertrude wrote me a note," said Erica.
"At her father's dictation, no doubt," said Raeburn; "I should know
his style directly, let me see it."
"I thought it was a pity to vex you, so I burned it," said Erica.
Then, unable to help being amused at their efforts to save each
other, they both laughed, though the subject was rather a sore one.
"It is the old story," said Raeburn. "Life only, as Pope Innocent
III benevolently remarked, 'is to be left to the children of
misbelievers, and that only as an act of mercy.' You must make up
your mind to bear the social stigma, child. Do you see the moral
"No," said Erica, with something between a smile and a sigh.
"The moral of it is that you must be content with your own people,"
said Raeburn. "There is this one good point about persecution--
it does draw us all nearer together, really strengthens us in a
hundred ways. So, little one, you must forswear school friends,
and be content with your 'very strong man Kwasind,' and we will
"'Live in peace together Speak with naked hearts together.'
By the bye, it is rather doubtful if Tom will be able to come to
the lecture tonight; do you think you can take notes for me
This was in reality the most delicate piece of tact and
consideration, for it was, of course, Erica's delight and pride to
help her father.
CHAPTER II. From Effect to Cause
Only the acrid spirit of the times, Corroded this true steel.
Not Thine the bigot's partial plea,
Not Thine the zealot's ban;
Thou well canst spare a love of Thee
Which ends in hate of man.
Luke Raeburn was the son of a Scotch clergyman of the Episcopal
Church. His history, though familiar to his own followers and to
them more powerfully convincing than many arguments against modern
Christianity, was not generally known. The orthodox were apt to
content themselves with shuddering at the mention of his name; very
few troubled themselves to think or inquire how this man had been
driven into atheism. Had they done so they might, perhaps, have
treated him more considerately, at any rate they must have learned
that the much-disliked prophet of atheism was the most
disinterested of men, one who had the courage of his opinions, a
man of fearless honesty.
Raeburn had lost his mother very early; his father, a well-to-do
man, had held for many years a small living in the west of
Scotland. He was rather a clever man, but one-sided and bigoted;
cold-hearted, too, and caring very little for his children. Of
Luke, however, he was, in his peculiar fashion, very proud, for at
an early age the boy showed signs of genius. The father was no
great worker; though shrewd and clever, he had no ambition, and was
quietly content to live out his life in the retired little
parsonage where, with no parish to trouble him, and a small and
unexacting congregation on Sundays, he could do pretty much as he
pleased. But for his son he was ambitious. Ever since his
sixteenth year--when, at a public meeting the boy had, to the
astonishment of every one, suddenly sprung to his feet and
contradicted a false statement made by a great landowner as to the
condition of the cottages on his estate--the father had foreseen
future triumphs for his son. For the speech, though
unpremeditated, was marvelously clever, and there was a power in it
not to be accounted for by a certain ring of indignation; it was
the speech of a future orator.
Then, too, Luke had by this time shown signs of religious zeal, a
zeal which his father, though far from attempting to copy, could
not but admire. His Sunday services over, he relapsed into the
comfortable, easy-going life of a country gentleman for the rest of
the week; but his son was indefatigable, and, though little more
than a boy himself, gathered round him the roughest lads of the
village, and by his eloquence, and a certain peculiar personal
fascination which he retained all his life, absolutely forced them
to listen to him. The father augured great things for him, and
invariably prophesied that he would "live to see him a bishop yet."
It was a settled thing that he should take Holy Orders, and for
some time Raeburn was only too happy to carry out his father's
plans. In his very first term at Cambridge, however, he began to
feel doubts, and, becoming convinced that he could never again
accept the doctrines in which he had been educated, he told his
father that he must give up all thought of taking Orders.
Now, unfortunately, Mr. Raeburn was the very last man to understand
or sympathize with any phase of life through which he had not
himself passed. He had never been troubled with religious doubts;
skepticism seemed to him monstrous and unnatural. He met the
confession, which his son had made in pain and diffidence, with a
most deplorable want of tact. In answer to the perplexing
questions which were put to him, he merely replied testily that
Luke had been overworking himself, and that he had no business to
trouble his head with matters which were beyond him, and would fain
have dismissed the whole affair at once.
"But," urged the son, "how is it possible for me to turn my back on
these matters when I am preparing to teach them?"
"Nonsense," replied the father, angrily. "Have not I taught all my
life, preached twice a Sunday these thirty years without perplexing
myself with your questionings? Be off to your shooting, and your
golf, and let me have no more of this morbid fuss."
No more was said; but Luke Raeburn, with his doubts and questions
shut thus into himself, drifted rapidly from skepticism to the most
positive form of unbelief. When he next came home for the long
vacation, his father was at length awakened to the fact that the
son, upon whom all his ambition was set, was hopelessly lost to the
Church; and with this consciousness a most bitter sense of
disappointment rose in his heart. His pride, the only side of
fatherhood which he possessed, was deeply wounded, and his dreams
of honorable distinction were laid low. His wrath was great. Luke
found the home made almost unbearable to him. His college career
was of course at an end, for his father would not hear of providing
him with the necessary funds now that he had actually confessed his
atheism. He was hardly allowed to speak to his sisters, every
request for money to start him in some profession met with a sharp
refusal, and matters were becoming so desperate that he would
probably have left the place of his own accord before long, had not
Mr. Raeburn himself put an end to a state of things which had grown
With some lurking hope, perhaps, of convincing his son, he resolved
upon trying a course of argument. To do him justice he really
tried to prepare himself for it, dragged down volumes of dusty
divines, and got up with much pains Paley's "watch" argument.
There was some honesty, even perhaps a very little love, in his
mistaken endeavors; but he did not recognize that while he himself
was unforgiving, unloving, harsh, and self-indulgent, all his
arguments for Christianity were of necessity null and void. He
argued for the existence of a perfectly loving, good God, all the
while treating his son with injustice and tyranny. Of course there
could be only one result from a debate between the two. Luke
Raeburn with his honesty, his great abilities, his gift of
reasoning, above all his thorough earnestness, had the best of it.
To be beaten in argument was naturally the one thing which such a
man as Mr. Raeburn could not forgive. He might in time have
learned to tolerate a difference of opinion, he would beyond a
doubt have forgiven almost any of the failings that he could
understand, would have paid his son's college debts without a
murmur, would have overlooked anything connected with what he
considered the necessary process of "sowing his wild oats." But
that the fellow should presume to think out the greatest problems
in the world, should set up his judgment against Paley's, and worst
of all should actually and palpably beat HIM in argument--this
was an unpardonable offense.
A stormy scene ensued. The father, in ungovernable fury, heaped
upon the son every abusive epithet he could think of. Luke Raeburn
spoke not a word; he was strong and self-controlled; moreover, he
knew that he had had the best of the argument. He was human,
however, and his heart was wrung by his father's bitterness.
Standing there on that summer day, in the study of the Scotch
parsonage, the man's future was sealed. He suffered there the loss
of all things, but at the very time there sprung up in him an
enthusiasm for the cause of free thought, a passionate, burning
zeal for the opinions for which he suffered, which never left him,
but served as the great moving impulse of his whole subsequent
"I tell you, you are not fit to be in a gentleman's house,"
thundered the father. "A rank atheist, a lying infidel! It is
against nature that you should call a parsonage your home."
"It is not particularly home-like," said the son, bitterly. "I can
leave it when you please."
"Can!" exclaimed the father, in a fury, "you WILL leave it, sir,
and this very day too! I disown you from this time. I'll have no
atheist for my son! Change your views or leave the house at once."
Perhaps he expected his son to make some compromise; if so he
showed what a very slight knowledge he had of his character. Luke
Raeburn had certainly not been prepared for such extreme harshness,
but with the pain and grief and indignation there rose in his heart
a mighty resoluteness. With a face as hard and rugged as the
granite rocks without, he wished his father goodbye, and obeyed his
Then had followed such a struggle with the world as few men would
have gone through with. Cut off from all friends and relations by
his avowal of atheism, and baffled again and again in seeking to
earn his living, he had more than once been on the very brink of
starvation. By sheer force of will he had won his way, had risen
above adverse circumstances, had fought down obstacles, and
conquered opposing powers. Before long he had made fresh friends
and gained many followers, for there was an extraordinary magnetism
about the man which almost compelled those who were brought into
contact with him to reverence him.
It was a curious history. First there had been that time of
grievous doubt; then he had been thrown upon the world friendless
and penniless, with the beliefs and hopes hitherto most sacred to
him dead, and in their place an aching blank. He had suffered
much. Treated on all sides with harshness and injustice, it was
indeed wonderful that he had not developed into a mere hater, a
passionate down-puller. But there was in his character a nobility
which would not allow him to rest at this low level. The bitter
hostility and injustice which he encountered did indeed warp his
mind, and every year of controversy made it more impossible for him
to take an unprejudiced view of Christ's teaching; but nevertheless
he could not remain a mere destroyer.
In that time of blankness, when he had lost all faith in God, when
he had been robbed of friendship and family love, he had seized
desperately on the one thing left him--the love of humanity. To
him atheism meant not only the assertion--"The word God is a word
without meaning, it conveys nothing to my understanding." He added
to this barren confession of an intellectual state a singularly
high code of duty. Such a code as could only have emanated from
one about whom there lingered what Carlyle has termed a great
after-shine of Christianity. He held that the only happiness worth
having was that which came to a man while engaged in promoting the
general good. That the whole duty of man was to devote himself to
the service of others. And he lived his creed.
Like other people, he had his faults, but he was always ready to
spend and he spent for what he considered the good of others, while
every act of injustice called forth his unsparing rebuke, and every
oppressed person or cause was sure to meet with his support at
whatever cost to himself. His zeal for what he regarded as the
"gospel" of atheism grew and strengthened year by year. He was the
untiring advocate of what he considered the truth. Neither illness
nor small results, nor loss, could quench his ardor, while
opposition invariably stimulated him to fresh efforts. After long
years of toil, he had at length attained an influential position in
the country, and though crippled by debts incurred in the struggle
for freedom of speech, and living in absolute penury, he was one of
the most powerful men of the day.
The old bookseller had very truly observed that there was more good
in him than people thought, he was in fact a noble character
twisted the wrong way by clumsy and mistaken handling.
Brian Osmond was by no means bigoted; he had moreover, known those
who were intimate with Raeburn, and consequently had heard enough
of the truth about him to disbelieve the gross libels which were
constantly being circulated by the unscrupulous among his
opponents. Still, as on that November afternoon he watched Raeburn
and his daughter down Southampton Row, he was conscious that for
the first time he fully regarded the atheist as a fellow-man. The
fact was that Raeburn had for long years been the champion of a
hated cause; he had braved the full flood of opposition; and like
an isolated rock had been the mark for so much of the rage and fury
of the elements that people who knew him only by name had really
learned to regard him more as a target than as a man. It was he
who could hit hardest, who could most effectually baffle and ruin
him; while the quieter spirits contented themselves with rarely
mentioning his obnoxious name, and endeavoring as far as possible,
to ignore his existence. Brian felt that till now he had followed
with the multitude to do evil. He had, as far as possible, ignored
his existence; had even been rather annoyed when his father had
once publicly urged that Raeburn should be treated with as much
justice and courtesy and consideration as if he had been a
Christian. He had been vexed that his father should suffer on
behalf of such a man, had been half inclined to put down the scorn
and contempt and anger of the narrow-minded to the atheist's
account. The feeling had perhaps been natural, but all was changed
now; he only revered his father all the more for having suffered in
an unpopular cause. With some eagerness, he went back into the
shop to see if he could gather any more particulars from the old
bookseller. Charles Osmond had, however, finished his purchases
and his conversation, and was ready to go.
"The second house in Guilford Terrace, you say?" he observed,
turning at the door. "Thank you. I shall be sure to find it.
Good day." Then turning to his son, he added, "I had no idea we
were such near neighbors! Did you hear what he told me? Mr.
Raeburn lives in Guilford Terrace."
"What, that miserable blind alley, do you mean at the other side of
"Yes, and I am just going round there now, for our friend the
'book-worm' tells me he has heard it rumored that some unscrupulous
person who is going to answer Mr. Raeburn this evening, has hired
a band of roughs to make a disturbance at the meeting. Fancy how
indignant Donovan would be! I only wish he were here to take a
word to Mr. Raeburn."
"Will he not most likely have heard from some other source?" said
"Possibly, but I shall go round and see. Such abominations ought
to be put down, and if by our own side all the better."
Brian was only too glad that his father should go, and indeed he
would probably have wished to take the message himself had not his
mind been set upon getting the best edition of Longfellow to be
found in all London for his ideal. So at the turning into Guilford
Square, the father and son parted.
The bookseller's information had roused in Charles Osmond a keen
sense of indignation; he walked on rapidly as soon as he had left
his son, and in a very few minutes had reached the gloomy entrance
to Guilford Terrace. It was currently reported that Raeburn made
fabulous sums by his work, and lived in great luxury; but the real
fact was that, whatever his income, few men led so self-denying a
life, or voluntarily endured such privations. Charles Osmond could
not help wishing that he could bring some of the intolerant with
him down that gloomy little alley, to the door of that comfortless
lodging house. He rang, and was admitted into the narrow passage,
then shown into the private study of the great man. The floor was
uncarpeted, the window uncurtained, the room was almost dark; but
a red-glow of fire light served to show a large writing table
strewn with papers, and walls literally lined with books; also on
the hearth-rug a little figure curled up in the most
unconventionally comfortable attitude, dividing her attention
between making toast and fondling a loud-purring cat.
CHAPTER III. Life From Another Point of View
Toleration an attack on Christianity? What, then, are we to come
to this pass, to suppose that nothing can support Christianity but
the principles of persecution? . . . I am persuaded that
toleration, so far from being an attack on Christianity, becomes
the best and surest support that can possibly be given to it. . .
. Toleration is good for all, or it is good for none. . . God
forbid. I may be mistaken, but I take toleration to be a part of
Erica was, apparently, well used to receiving strangers. She put
down the toasting fork, but kept the cat in her arms, as she rose
to greet Charles Osmond, and her frank and rather child-like manner
fascinated him almost as much as it had fascinated Brian.
"My father will be home in a few minutes," she said; "I almost
wonder you didn't meet him in the square; he has only just gone to
send off a telegram. Can you wait? Or will you leave a message?"
"I will wait, if I may," said Charles Osmond. "Oh, don't trouble
about a light. I like this dimness very well, and, please, don't
let me interrupt you."
Erica relinquished a vain search for candle lighters, and took up
her former position on the hearth rug with her toasting fork.
"I like the gloaming, too," she said. "It's almost the only nice
thing which is economical! Everything else that one likes
specially costs too much! I wonder whether people with money do
enjoy all the great treats."
"Very soon grow blase, I expect," said Charles Osmond. "The
essence of a treat is rarity, you see."
"I suppose it is. But I think I could enjoy ever so many things
for years and years without growing blase," said Erica.
"Sometimes I like just to fancy what life might be if there were no
tiresome Christians, and bigots, and lawsuits."
Charles Osmond laughed to himself in the dim light; the remark was
made with such perfect sincerity, and it evidently had not dawned
on the speaker that she could be addressing any but one of her
father's followers. Yet the words saddened Him too. He just
caught a glimpse through them of life viewed from a directly
"Your father has a lawsuit going on now, has he not?" he observed,
after a little pause.
"Oh, yes, there is almost always one either looming in the distance
or actually going on. I don't think I can ever remember the time
when we were quite free. It must feel very funny to have no
worries of that kind. I think, if there wasn't always this great
load of debt tied round our necks, like a millstone, I should feel
almost light enough to fly. And then it IS hard to read in some of
those horrid religious papers that father lives an easy-going life.
Did you see a dreadful paragraph last week in the 'Church
"Yes, I did," said Charles Osmond, sadly.
"It always has been the same," said Erica. "Father has a
delightful story about an old gentleman who at one of his lectures
accused him of being rich and self-indulgent--it was a great many
years ago, when I was a baby, and father was nearly killing himself
with overwork--and he just got up and gave the people the whole
history of his day, and it turned out that he had had nothing to
eat. Mustn't the old gentleman have felt delightfully done? I
always wonder how he looked when he heard about it, and whether
after that he believed that atheists are not necessarily everything
"I hope such days as those are over for Mr. Raeburn," said Charles
Osmond, touched both by the anecdote and by the loving admiration
of the speaker.
"I don't know," said Erica, sadly. "It has been getting steadily
worse for the last few years; we have had to give up thing after
thing. Before long I shouldn't wonder if these rooms in what
father calls "Persecution alley" grew too expensive for us. But,
after all, it is this sort of thing which makes our own people love
him so much, don't you think?"
"I have no doubt it is," said Charles Osmond, thoughtfully.
And then for a minute or two there was silence. Erica, having
finished her toasting, stirred the fire into a blaze, and Charles
Osmond sat watching the fair, childish face which looked lovelier
than ever in the soft glow of the fire light. What would her
future be, he wondered. She seemed too delicate and sensitive for
the stormy atmosphere in which she lived. Would the hard life
embitter her, or would she sink under it? But there was a certain
curve of resoluteness about her well-formed chin which was
sufficient answer to the second question, while he could not but
think that the best safeguard against the danger of bitterness lay
in her very evident love and loyalty to her father.
Erica in the meantime sat stroking her cat Friskarina, and
wondering a little who her visitor could be. She liked him very
much, and could not help responding to the bright kindly eyes which
seemed to plead for confidence; though he was such an entire
stranger she found herself quite naturally opening out her heart to
"I am to take notes at my father's meeting tonight," she said,
breaking the silence, "and perhaps write the account of it
afterward, too, and there's such a delightfully funny man coming to
speak on the other side."
"Mr. Randolph, is it not?"
"Yes, a sort of male Mrs. Malaprop. Oh, such fun!" and at the
remembrance of some past encounter, Erica's eyes positively danced
with laughter. But the next minute she was very grave.
"I came to speak to Mr. Raeburn about this evening," said Charles
Osmond. "Do you know if he has heard of a rumor that this Mr.
Randolph has hired a band of roughs to interrupt the meeting?"
Erica made an indignant exclamation.
"Perhaps that was what the telegram was about," she continued,
after a moment's thought. "We found it here when we came in.
Father said nothing, but went out very quickly to answer it. Oh!
Now we shall have a dreadful time of it, I suppose, and perhaps
he'll get hurt again. I did hope they had given up that sort of
She looked so troubled that Charles Osmond regretted he had said
anything, and hastened to assure her that what he had heard was the
merest rumor, and very possibly not true.
"I am afraid," she said, "it is too bad not to be true."
It struck Charles Osmond that that was about the saddest little
sentence he had ever heard.
Partly wishing to change the subject, party from real interest, he
made some remark about a lovely little picture, the only one in the
room; its frame was lighted up by the flickering blaze, and even in
the imperfect light he could see that the subject was treated in no
ordinary way. It was a little bit of the Thames far away from
London, with a bank of many-tinted trees on one side, and out
beyond a range of low hills, purple in the evening light. In the
sky was a rosy sunset glow, melted above into saffron color, and
this was reflected in the water, gilding and mellowing the
foreground of sedge and water lilies. But what made the picture
specially charming was that the artist had really caught the
peculiar solemn stillness of evening; merely to look at that quiet,
peaceful river brought a feeling of hush and calmness. It seemed
a strange picture to find as the sole ornament in the study of a
man who had all his life been fighting the world.
Erica brightened up again, and seemed to forget her anxiety when he
questioned her as to the artist.
"There is such a nice story about that picture," she said, "I
always like to look at it. It was about two years ago, one very
cold winter's day, and a woman came with some oil paintings which
she was trying to sell for her husband, who was ill; he was rather
a good artist, but had been in bad health for a long time, till at
last she had really come to hawking about his pictures in this way,
because they were in such dreadful distress. Father was very much
worried just then, there was a horrid libel case going on, and that
morning he was very busy, and he sent the woman away rather
sharply, and said he had no time to listen to her. Then presently
he was vexed with himself because she really had looked in great
trouble, and he thought he had been harsh, and, though he was
dreadfully pressed for time, he would go out into the square to see
if he couldn't find her again. I went with him, and we had walked
all round and had almost given her up, when we caught sight of her
coming out of a house on the opposite side. And then it was so
nice, father spoke so kindly to her, and found out more about her
history, and said that he was too poor to buy her pictures; but she
looked dreadfully tired and cold, so he asked her to come in and
rest, and she came and sat by the fire, and stayed to dinner with
us, and we looked at her pictures, because she seemed so proud of
them and liked us to. One of them was that little river scene,
which father took a great fancy to, and praised a great deal. She
left us her address, and later on, when the libel case was ended,
and father had got damages, and so had a little spare money, he
sent some to this poor artist, and they were so grateful; though,
do you know, I think the dinner pleased them more than the money,
and they would insist on sending this picture to father. I'll
light the gas, and then you'll see it better."
She twisted a piece of paper into a spill, and put an end to the
gloaming. Charles Osmond stood up to get a nearer view of the
painting, and Erica, too, drew nearer, and looked at it for a
minute in silence.
"Father took me up the Thames once," she said, by and by. "It was
so lovely. Some day, when all these persecutions are over, we are
going to have a beautiful tour, and see all sorts of places. But
I don't know when they will be over. As soon as one bigot--" she
broke off suddenly, with a stifled exclamation of dismay.
Charles Osmond, in the dim light, with his long gray beard, had not
betrayed his clerical dress; but, glancing round at him now, she
saw at once that the stranger to whom she had spoken so
unreservedly was by no means one of her father's followers.
"Well!" he said, smiling, half understanding her confusion.
"You are a clergyman!" she almost gasped.
"Yes, why not?"
"I beg your pardon, I never thought--you seemed so much too--"
"Too what?"urged Charles Osmond. Then, as she still hesitated,
"Now, you must really let me hear the end of that sentence, or I
shall imagine everything dreadful."
"Too nice," murmured Erica, wishing that she could sink through the
But the confession so tickled Charles Osmond that he laughed aloud,
and his laughter was so infectious that Erica, in spite of her
confusion, could not help joining in it. She had a very keen sense
of the ludicrous, and the position was undoubtedly a laughable one;
still there were certain appalling recollections of the past
conversation which soon made her serious again. She had talked of
persecutions to one who was, at any rate, on the side of
persecutors; had alluded to bigots, and, worst of all, had spoken
in no measured terms of "tiresome Christians."
She turned, rather shyly, and yet with a touch of dignity, to her
visitor, and said:
"It was very careless of me not to notice more, but it was dark,
and I am not used to seeing any but our own people here. I am
afraid I said things which must have hurt you; I wish you had
The beautiful color had spread and deepened in her cheeks, and
there was something indescribably sweet and considerate in her tone
of apology. Charles Osmond was touched by it.
"It is I who should apologize," he said. "I am not at all sure
that I was justified in sitting there quietly, knowing that you
were under a delusion; but it is always very delightful to me in
this artificial world to meet any one who talks quite naturally,
and the interest of hearing your view of the question kept me
silent. You must forgive me, and as you know I am too nice to be
"Oh, I beg your pardon. How rude I have been," cried Erica,
blushing anew; "but you did make me say it."
"Of course, and I take it as a high compliment from you," said
Charles Osmond, laughing again at the recollection. "Come, may we
not seal our friendship? We have been sufficiently frank with each
other to be something more than acquaintances for the future."
Erica held out her hand and found it taken in a strong, firm clasp,
which somehow conveyed much more than an ordinary handshake.
"And, after all, you ARE too nice for a clergyman!" she thought to
herself. Then, as a fresh idea crossed her mind, she suddenly
exclaimed: "But you came to tell us about Mr. Randolph's roughs,
did you not? How came you to care that we should know beforehand?"
"Why, naturally I hoped that a disturbance might be stopped."
"Is it natural?" questioned Erica. "I should have thought it more
natural for you to think with your own party."
"But peace and justice and freedom of speech must all stand before
"Yet you think that we are wrong, and that Christianity is right?"
"Yes, but to my mind perfect justice is part of Christianity."
"Oh," said Erica, in a tone which meant unutterable things.
"You think that Christians do not show perfect justice to you?"
said Charles Osmond, reading her thoughts.
"I can't say I think they do," she replied. Then, suddenly firing
up at the recollection of her afternoon's experiences, she said:
"They are not just to us, though they preach justice; they are not
loving, though they talk about love. If they want us to think
their religion true, I wonder they don't practice it a little more
and preach it less. What is the use of talking of 'brotherly
kindness and charity,' when they hardly treat us like human beings,
when they make up wicked lies about us, and will hardly let us sit
in the same room with them!"
"Come, now, we really are sitting in the same room," said Charles
"Oh, dear, what am I to do!" exclaimed Erica. "I can't remember
that you are one of them! You are so very unlike most."
"I think," said Charles Osmond, "you have come across some very bad
Erica, in her heart, considered her visitor as the exception which
proved the rule; but not wishing to be caught tripping again, she
resolved to say no more upon the subject.
"Let us talk of something else," she said.
"Something nicer?" said Charles Osmond, with a little mischievous
twinkle in his eyes.
"Safer," said Erica, laughing. "But stop, I hear my father."
She went out into the passage to meet him. Charles Osmond heard
her explaining his visit and the news he had brought, heard
Raeburn's brief responses; then, in a few moments, the two entered
the room, a picturesque looking couple, the clergyman thought; the
tall, stately man, with his broad forehead and overshadowing masses
of auburn hair; the little eager-faced, impetuous girl, so winsome
in her unconventional frankness.
The conversation became a trifle more ceremonious, though with
Erica perched on the arm of her father's chair, ready to squeeze
his hand at every word which pleased her, it could hardly become
stiff. Raeburn had just heard the report of Mr. Randolph's scheme,
and had already taken precautionary measures; but he was surprised
and gratified that Charles Osmond should have troubled to bring him
word about it. The two men talked on with the most perfect
friendliness; and by and by, to Erica's great delight, Charles
Osmond expressed a wish to be present at the meeting that night,
and made inquiries as to the time and place.
"Oh, couldn't you stay to tea and go with us?" she exclaimed,
forgetting for the third time that he was a clergyman, and offering
the ready hospitality she would have offered to any one else.
"I should be delighted," he said, smiling, "if you can really put
up with one of the cloth."
Raeburn, amused at his daughter's spontaneous hospitality, and
pleased with the friendly acceptance it had met with, was quite
ready to second the invitation. Erica was delighted; she carried
off the cat and the toast into the next room, eager to tell her
mother all about the visitor.
"The most delightful man, mother, not a bit like a clergyman. I
didn't find out for ever so long what he was, and said all sorts of
dreadful things; but he didn't mind, and was not the least
"When will you learn to be cautious, I wonder," said Mrs. Raeburn,
smiling. "You are a shocking little chatter-box."
And as Erica flitted busily about, arranging the tea table, her
mother watched her half musedly, half anxiously. She had always
been remarkably frank and outspoken, and there was something so
transparently sincere about her, that she seldom gave offense. But
the mother could not help wondering how it would be as she grew
older and mixed with a greater variety of people. In fact, in
every way she was anxious about the child's future, for Erica's was
a somewhat perplexing character, and seemed very ill fitted for her
Eric Haeberlein had once compared her to a violin, and there was a
good deal of truth in his idea. She was very sensitive, responding
at once to the merest touch, and easily moved to admiration and
devoted love, or to strong indignation. Naturally high-spirited,
she was subject, too, to fits of depression, and was always either
in the heights or the depths. Yet with all these characteristics
was blended her father's indomitable courage and tenacity. Though
feeling the thorns of life far more keenly than most people, she
was one of those who will never yield; though pricked and wounded
by outward events, she would never be conquered by circumstances.
At present her capabilities for adoration, which were very great,
were lavished in two directions; in the abstract she worshipped
intellect, in the concrete she worshipped her father.
From the grief and indignation of the afternoon she had passed
with extraordinary rapidity to a state of merriment, which would
have been incomprehensible to one who did not understand her
peculiarly complex character. Mrs. Raeburn listened with a good
deal of amusement to her racy description of Charles Osmond.
"Strange that this should have happened so soon after our talk this
afternoon," she said, musingly. "Perhaps it is as well that you
should have a glimpse of the other side, against which you were
inveighing, or you might be growing narrow."
"He is much too good to belong to them!" said Erica
As she spoke Raeburn entered, bringing the visitor with him, and
they all sat down to their meal, Erica pouring out tea and
attending to every one's wants, fondling her cat, and listening to
the conversation, with all the time a curious perception that to
sit down to table with one of her father's opponents was a very
novel experience. She could not help speculating as to the
thoughts and impressions of her companions. Her mother was, she
thought, pleased and interested for about her worn face there was
the look of contentment which invariably came when for a time the
bitterness of the struggle of life was broken by any sign of
friendliness. Her father was--as he generally was in his own
house--quiet, gentle in manner, ready to be both an attentive and
an interested listener. This gift he had almost as markedly as the
gift of speech; he at once perceived that his guest was no ordinary
man, and by a sort of instinct he had discovered on what subjects
he was best calculated to speak, and wherein they could gain most
from him. Charles Osmond's thoughts she could only speculate
about; but that he was ready to take them all as friends, and did
not regard them as a different order of being, was plain.
The conversation had drifted into regions of abstruse science, when
Erica, who had been listening attentively, was altogether diverted
by the entrance of the servant, who brought her a brown-paper
parcel. Eagerly opening it, she was almost bewildered by the
delightful surprise of finding a complete edition of Longfellow's
poems, bound in dark blue morocco. Inside was written: "From
another admirer of 'Hiawatha.'"
She started up with a rapturous exclamation, and the two men paused
in their talk, each unable to help watching the beautiful little
face all aglow with happiness. Erica almost danced round the room
with her new treasure.
"What HEAVENLY person can have sent me this?" she cried. "Look,
father! Did you ever see such a beauty?"
Science went to the winds, and Raeburn gave all his sympathy to
Erica and Longfellow. "The very thing you were wishing for. Who
could have sent it?"
"I can't think. It can't be Tom, because I know he's spent all his
money, and auntie would never call herself an admirer of
'Hiawatha,' nor Herr Haeberlein, nor Monsieur Noirol, nor any one
I can think of."
"Dealings with the fairies," said Raeburn, smiling. "Your
beggar-child with the scones suddenly transformed into a beneficent
"Not from you, father?"
"A pretty substantial fairy for you. No, no, I had no hand in it.
I can't give you presents while I am in debt, my bairn."
"Oh, isn't it jolly to get what one wants!" said Erica, with a
fervor which made the three grown-up people laugh.
"Very jolly," said Raeburn, giving her a little mute caress.
"But now, Erica, please to go back and eat something, or I shall
have my reporter fainting in the middle of a speech."
She obeyed, carrying away the book with her, and enlivening them
with extracts from it; once delightedly discovering a most
"Why, of course," she exclaimed, "you and Mr. Osmond, father, are
smoking the Peace Pipe." And with much force and animation she
read them bits from the first canto.
Raeburn left the room before long to get ready for his meeting, but
Erica still lingered over her new treasure, putting it down at
length with great reluctance to prepare her notebook and sharpen
her pencil. "Isn't that a delightful bit where Hiawatha was
angry," she said; "it has been running in my head all day--
"'For his heart was hot within him, Like a living coal his heart
That's what I shall feel like tonight when Mr. Randolph attacks
She ran upstairs to dress, and, as the door closed upon her, Mrs.
Raeburn turned to Charles Osmond with a sort of apology.
"She finds it very hard not to speak out her thoughts; it will
often get her into trouble, I am afraid."
"It is too fresh and delightful to be checked, though," said
Charles Osmond; "I assure you she has taught me many a lesson
The mother talked on almost unreservedly about the subject that was
evidently nearest her heart--the difficulties of Erica's
education, the harshness they so often met with, the harm it so
evidently did the child--till the subject of the conversation
came down again much too excited and happy to care just then for
any unkind treatment. Had she not got a Longfellow of her very
own, and did not that unexpected pleasure make up for a thousand
privations and discomforts?
Yet, with all her childishness and impetuosity, Erica was womanly,
too, as Charles Osmond saw by the way she waited on her mother,
thinking of everything which the invalid could possibly want while
they were gone, brightening the whole place with her sunshiny
presence. Whatever else was lacking, there was no lack of love in
this house. The tender considerateness which softened Erica's
impetuosity in her mother's presence, the loving comprehension,
between parent and child, was very beautiful to see.
CHAPTER IV. "Supposing it is true!"
A man who strives earnestly and perseveringly to convince others,
at least convinces us that he is convinced himself. Guesses at
The rainy afternoon had given place to a fine and starlit night.
Erica, apparently in high spirits, walked between her father and
"Mother won't be anxious about us," she said. "She has not heard
a word about Mr. Randolph's plans. I was so afraid some one would
speak about it at tea time, and then she would have been in a
fright all the evening, and would not have liked my going."
"Mr. Randolph is both energetic and unscrupulous," said Raeburn.
"But I doubt if even he would set his roughs upon you, little one,
unless he has become as blood thirsty as a certain old Scotch psalm
we used to sing."
"What was that?" questioned Erica.
"I forget the beginning, but the last verse always had a sort of
horrible fascination for us--
"'How happy should that trooper be
Who, riding on a naggie,
Should take thy little children up,
And dash them 'gin the craggie!'"
Charles Osmond and Erica laughed heartily.
"They will only dash you against metaphorical rocks in the
nineteenth century," continued Raeburn. "I remember wondering why
the old clerk in my father's church always sung that verse lustily;
but you see we have exactly the same spirit now, only in a more
civilized form, barbarity changed to polite cruelty, as for
instance the way you were treated this afternoon."
"Oh, don't talk about that," said Erica, quickly, "I am going to
enjoy my Longfellow and forget the rest."
In truth, Charles Osmond was struck with this both in the father
and daughter; each had a way of putting back their bitter thoughts,
of dwelling whenever it was possible on the brighter side of life.
He knew that Raeburn was involved in most harassing litigation, was
burdened with debt, was confronted everywhere with bitter and often
violent opposition, yet he seemed to live above it all, for there
was a wonderful repose about him, an extraordinary serenity in his
aspect, which would have seemed better fitted to a hermit than to
one who has spent his life in fighting against desperate odds. One
thing was quite clear, the man was absolutely convinced that he was
suffering for the truth, and was ready to endure anything in what
he considered the service of his fellow men. He did not seem
particularly anxious as to the evening's proceedings. On the
whole, they were rather a merry party as they walked along Gower
Street to the station.
But when they got out again at their destination, and walked
through the busy streets to the hall where the lecture was to be
given, a sort of seriousness fell upon all three. They were each
going to work in their different ways for what they considered the
good of humanity, and instinctively a silence grew and deepened.
Erica was the first to break it as they came in sight of the hall.
"What a crowd there is!" she exclaimed. "Are these Mr. Randolph's
"We can put up with them outside," said Raeburn; but Charles Osmond
noticed that as he spoke he drew the child nearer to him, with a
momentary look of trouble in his face, as though he shrunk from
taking her through the rabble. Erica, on the other hand, looked
interested and perfectly fearless. With great difficulty they
forced their way on, hooted and yelled at by the mob, who, however,
made no attempt at violence. At length, reaching the shelter of
the entrance lobby, Raeburn left them for a moment, pausing to give
directions to the door keepers. Just then, to his great surprise,
Charles Osmond caught sight of his son standing only a few paces
from them. His exclamation of astonishment made Erica look up.
Brian came forward eagerly to meet them.
"You here!" exclaimed his father, with a latent suspicion confirmed
into a certainty. "This is my son, Miss Raeburn."
Brian had not dreamed of meeting her, he had waited about curious
to see how Raeburn would get on with the mob; it was with a strange
pang of rapture and dismay that he had seen his fair little ideal.
That she should be in the midst of that hooting mob made his heart
throb with indignation, yet there was something so sweet in her
grave, steadfast face that he was, nevertheless, glad to have
witnessed the scene. Her color was rather heightened, her eyes
bright but very quiet, yet as Charles Osmond spoke, and she looked
at Brian, her face all at once lighted up, and with an irresistible
smile she exclaimed, in the most childlike of voices:
"Why, it's my umbrella man!" The informality of the exclamation
seemed to make them at once something more than ordinary
acquaintances. They told Charles Osmond of their encounter in the
afternoon, and in a very few minutes Brian, hardly knowing whether
he was not in some strange dream, found himself sitting with his
father and Erica in a crowded lecture hall, realizing with an
intensity of joy and an intensity of pain how near he was to the
queen of his heart and yet how far from her.
The meeting was quite orderly. Though Raeburn was addressing many
who disagreed with him, he had evidently got the whole and
undivided attention of his audience; and indeed his gifts both as
rhetorician and orator were so great that they must have been
either willfully deaf or obtuse who, when under the spell of his
extraordinary earnestness and eloquence, could resist listening.
Not a word was lost on Brian; every sentence which emphasized the
great difference of belief between himself and his love seemed to
engrave itself on his heart; no minutest detail of that evening
He saw the tall, commanding figure of the orator, the vast sea of
upturned faces below, the eager attention imprinted on all,
sometimes a wave of sympathy and approval sweeping over them,
resulting in a storm of applause, at times a more divided
disapproval, or a shout of "No, no," which invariably roused the
speaker to a more vigorous, clear, and emphatic repetition of the
questioned statement. And, through all, he was ever conscious of
the young girl at his side, who, with her head bent over her
notebook, was absorbed in her work. While the most vital questions
of life were being discussed, he was yet always aware of that hand
traveling rapidly to and fro, of the pages hurriedly turned, of the
quick yet weary-looking change of posture.
Though not without a strong vein of sarcasm, Raeburn's speech was,
on the whole, temperate; it certainly should have been met with
consideration. But, unfortunately, Mr. Randolph was incapable of
seeing any good in his opponent; his combative instincts were far
stronger than his Christianity, and Brian, who had winced many
times while listening to the champion of atheism, was even more
keenly wounded by the champion of his own cause. Abusive epithets
abounded in his retort; at last he left the subject under
discussion altogether, and launched into personalities of the most
objectionable kind. Raeburn sat with folded arms, listening with
a sort of cold dignity. He looked very different now from the
genial-mannered, quiet man whom Charles Osmond had seen in his own
home but an hour or two ago. There was a peculiar look in his
tawny eyes hardly to be described in words, a look which was hard,
and cold, and steady. It told of an originally sensitive nature
inured to ill treatment; of a strong will which had long ago
steeled itself to endure; of a character which, though absolutely
refusing to yield to opposition, had grown slightly bitter, even
slightly vindictive in the process.
Brian could only watch in silent pain the little figure beside him.
Once at some violent term of abuse she looked up, and glanced for
a moment at the speaker; he just caught a swift, indignant flash
from her bright eyes, then her head was bent lower than before over
her notebook, and the carnation deepened in her cheek, while her
pencil sped over the paper fast and furiously. Presently came a
sharp retort from Raeburn, ending with the perfectly warrantable
accusation that Mr. Randolph was wandering from the subject of the
evening merely to indulge his personal spite. The audience was
beginning to be roused by the unfairness, and a storm might have
ensued had not Mr. Randolph unintentionally turned the whole
proceedings from tragedy to farce.
Indignant at Raeburn's accusation, he sprung to his feet and began
a vigorous protest.
"Mr. Chairman, I denounce my opponent as a liar. His accusation is
utterly false. I deny the allegation, and I scorn the allegator
He was interrupted by a shout of laughter, the whole assembly was
convulsed, even Erica's anger changed to mirth.
"Fit for 'Punch,'" she whispered to Brian, her face all beaming
Raeburn, whose grave face had also relaxed into a smile, suddenly
stood up, and, with a sort of dry Scotch humor, remarked:
"My enemies have compared me to many obnoxious things, but never
till tonight have I been called a crocodile. Possibly Mr. Randolph
has been reading of the crocodiles recently dissected at Paris. It
has been discovered that they are almost brainless, and, being
without reason, are probably animated by a violent instinct of
destruction. I believe, however, that the power of their 'jaw' is
Then, amid shouts of laughter and applause, he sat down again,
leaving the field to the much discomfited Mr. Randolph.
Much harm had been done that evening to the cause of Christianity.
The sympathies of the audience could not be with the weak and
unmannerly Mr. Randolph; they were Englishmen, and were, of course,
inclined to side with the man who had been unjustly dealt with,
who, moreover, had really spoken to them--had touched their very
The field was practically lost when, to the surprise of all,
another speaker came forward. Erica, who knew that their side had
had the best of it, felt a thrill of admiration when she saw
Charles Osmond move slowly to the front of the platform. She was
very tired, but out of a sort of gratitude for his friendliness, a
readiness to do him honor, she strained her energies to take down
his speech verbatim. It was not a long one, it was hardly,
perhaps, to be called a speech at all, it was rather as if the man
had thrown his very self into the breach made by the unhappy
wrangle of the evening.
He spoke of the universal brotherhood and of the wrong done to it
by bitterness and strife; he stood there as the very incarnation of
brotherliness, and the people, whether they agreed with him or not,
loved him. In the place where the religion of Christ had been
reviled as well by the Christians as by the atheist, he spoke of
the revealer of the Father, and a hush fell on the listening men;
he spoke of the Founder of the great brotherhood, and by the very
reality, by the fervor of his convictions, touched a new chord in
many a heart. It was no time for argument, the meeting was almost
over; he scarcely attempted to answer to many of the difficulties
and objections raised by Raeburn earlier in the evening. But there
was in his ten minutes' speech the whole essence of Christianity,
the spirit of loving sacrifice to self, the strength of an absolute
certainty which no argument, however logical, can shake, the
extraordinary power which breathes in the assertion: "I KNOW Him
whom I have believed."
To more than one of Raeburn's followers there came just the
slightest agitation of doubt, the questioning whether these things
might not be. For the first time in her life the question began to
stir in Erica's heart. She had heard many advocates of
Christianity, and had regarded them much as we might regard
Buddhist missionaries speaking of a religion that had had its day
and was now only fit to be discarded, or perhaps studied as an
interesting relic of the past, about which in its later years many
corruptions had gathered.
Raeburn, being above all things a just man, had been determined to
give her mind no bias in favor of his own views, and as a child he
had left her perfectly free. But there was a certain Scotch
proverb which he did not call to mind, that "As the auld cock crows
the young cock learns." When the time came at which he considered
her old enough really to study the Bible for herself, she had
already learned from bitter experience that Christianity--at any
rate, what called itself Christianity--was the religion whose
votaries were constantly slandering and ill-treating her father,
and that all the privations and troubles of their life were
directly or indirectly due to it. She, of course, identified the
conduct of the most unfriendly and persecuting with the religion
itself; it could hardly be otherwise.
But tonight as she toiled away, bravely acting up to her lights,
taking down the opponent's speech to the best of her abilities,
though predisposed to think it all a meaningless rhapsody, the
faintest attempt at a question began to take shape in her mind. It
did not form itself exactly into words, but just lurked there like
a cloud-shadow--"supposing Christianity were true?"
All doubt is pain. Even this faint beginning of doubt in her creed
made Erica dreadfully uncomfortable. Yet she could not regret that
Charles Osmond had spoken, even though she imagined him to be
greatly mistaken, and feared that that uncomfortable question might
have been suggested to others among the audience. She could not
wish that the speech had not been made, for it had revealed the
nobility of the man, his broad-hearted love, and she instinctively
reverenced all the really great and good, however widely different
Brian tried in vain to read her thoughts, but as soon as the
meeting was over her temporary seriousness vanished, and she was
once more almost a child again, ready to be amused by anything.
She stood for a few minutes talking to the two Osmonds; then,
catching sight of an acquaintance a little way off, she bade them
a hasty good night, much to Brian's chagrin, and hurried forward
with a warmth of greeting which he could only hope was appreciated
by the thickset, honest-looking mechanic who was the happy
recipient. When they left the hall she was still deep in
conversation with him.
The fates were kind, however, to Brian that day; they were just too
late for a train, and before the next one arrived, Raeburn and
Erica were seen slowly coming down the steps, and in another minute
had joined them on the platform. Charles Osmond and Raeburn fell
into an amicable discussion, and Brian, to his great satisfaction,
was left to an uninterrupted tete-a-tete with Erica. There had
been no further demonstration by the crowd, and Erica, now that the
anxiety was over, was ready to make fun of Mr. Randolph and his
band, checking herself every now and then for fear of hurting her
companion, but breaking forth again and again into irresistible
merriment as she recalled the "alligator" incident and other
grotesque utterances. All too soon they reached their destination.
There was still, however, a ten minutes' walk before them, a walk
which Brian never forgot. The wind was high, and it seemed to
excite Erica; he could always remember exactly how she looked, her
eyes bright and shining, her short, auburn hair, all blown about by
the wind, one stray wave lying across the quaint little sealskin
hat. He remembered, too, how, in the middle of his argument,
Raeburn had stepped forward and had wrapped a white woolen scarf
more closely round the child, securing the fluttering ends. Brian
would have liked to do it himself had he dared, and yet it pleased
him, too, to see the father's thoughtfulness; perhaps in that
"touch of nature," he, for the first time, fully recognized his
kinship with the atheist.
Erica talked to him in the meantime with a delicious, childlike
frankness, gave him an enthusiastic account of her friend,
Hazeldine, the working man whom he had seen her speaking to, and
unconsciously reveled in her free conversation a great deal of the
life she led, a busy, earnest, self-denying life Brian could see.
When they reached the place of their afternoon's encounter, she
alluded merrily to what she called the "charge of umbrellas."
"Who would have thought, now, that in a few hours' time we should
have learned to know each other!" she exclaimed. "It has been
altogether the very oddest day, a sort of sandwich of good and bad,
two bits of the dry bread of persecution, put in between, you and
Mr. Osmond and my beautiful new Longfellow."
Brian could not help laughing at the simile, and was not a little
pleased to hear the reference to his book; but his amusement was
soon dispelled by a grim little incident. Just at that minute they
happened to pass an undertaker's cart which was standing at the
door of one of the houses; a coffin was born across the pavement in
front of them. Erica, with a quick exclamation, put her hand on
his arm and shrank back to make room for the bearers to pass.
Looking down at her, he saw that she was quite pale. The coffin
was carried into the house and they passed on.
"How I do hate seeing anything like that!" she exclaimed. Then
looking back and up to the windows of the house: "Poor people! I
wonder whether they are very sad. It seems to make all the world
dark when one comes across such things. Father thinks it is good
to be reminded of the end, that it makes one more eager to work,
but he doesn't even wish for anything after death, nor do any of
the best people I know. It is silly of me, but I never can bear to
think of quite coming to an end, I suppose because I am not so
unselfish as the others."
"Or may it not be a natural instinct, which is implanted in all,
which perhaps you have not yet crushed by argument."
Erica shook her head.
"More likely to be a little bit of one of my covenanting ancestors
coming out in me. Still, I own that the hope of the hereafter is
the one point in which you have the better of it. Life must seem
very easy if you believe that all will be made up to you and all
wrong set right after you are dead. You see we have rather hard
measure here, and don't expect anything at all by and by. But all
the same, I am always rather ashamed of this instinct, or
selfishness, or Scottish inheritance, whichever it is!"
"Ashamed! Why should you be?"
"It is a sort of weakness, I think, which strong characters like my
father are without. You see he cares so much for every one, and
thinks so much of making the world a little less miserable in this
generation, but most of my love is for him and for my mother; and
so when I think of death--of their death--" she broke off
"Yet do not call it selfishness," said Brian, with a slightly
choked feeling, for there had been a depth of pain in Erica's tone.
"My father, who has just that love of humanity of which you speak,
has still the most absolute belief in--yes, and longing for--
immortality. It is no selfishness in him."
"I am sure it is not," said Erica, warmly, "I shouldn't think he
could be selfish in any way. I am glad he spoke tonight; it does
one good to hear a speech like that, even if one doesn't agree with
it. I wish there were a few more clergymen like him, then perhaps
the tolerance and brotherliness he spoke of might become possible.
But it must be a long way off, or it would not seem such an
unheard-of thing that I should be talking like this to you. Why,
it is the first time in my whole life that I have spoken to a
Christian except on the most every-day subjects."
"Then I hope you won't let it be the last," said Brian.
"I should like to know Mr. Osmond better," said Erica, "for you
know it seems very extraordinary to me that a clever scientific man
can speak as he spoke tonight. I should like to know how you
reconcile all the contradictions, how you can believe what seems to
me so unlikely, how even if you do believe in a God you can think
Him good while the world is what it is. If there is a good God why
doesn't He make us all know Him, and end all the evil and cruelty?"
Brian did not reply for a moment. The familiar gas-lit street, the
usual number of passengers, the usual care-worn or vice-worn faces
passing by, damp pavements, muddy roads, fresh winter wind, all
seemed so natural, but to talk of the deepest things in heaven and
earth was so unnatural. He was a very reserved man, but looking
down at the eager, questioning face beside him his reserve all at
once melted. He spoke very quietly, but in a voice which showed
Erica that he was, at least, as she expressed it "honestly
deluded." Evidently he did from his very heart believe what he
"But how are we to judge what is best?" he replied. "My belief is
that God is slowly and gradually educating the world, not forcing
it on unnaturally, but drawing it on step by step, making it work
out its own lessons as the best teachers do with their pupils. To
me the idea of a steady progression, in which man himself may be a
co-worker with God, is far more beautiful than the conception of a
Being who does not work by natural laws at all, but arbitrarily
causes this and that to be or not to be."
"But then if your God is educating the world, He is educating many
of us in ignorance of Himself, in atheism. How can that be good or
right? Surely you, for instance, must be rather puzzled when you
come across atheists, if you believe in a perfect God, and think
atheism the most fearful mistake possible?"
"If I could not believe that God can, and does, educate some of us
through atheism, I should indeed be miserable," said Brian, with a
thrill of pain in his voice which startled Erica. "But I do
believe that even atheism, even blank ignorance of Him, may be a
stage through which alone some of us can be brought onward. The
noblest man I ever knew passed through that state, and I can't
think he would have been half the man he is if he had not passed
"I have only known two or three people who from atheists became
theists, and they were horrid," said Erica, emphatically. "People
always are spiteful to the side they have left."
"You could not say that of my friend," said Brian, musingly, "I
wish you could meet him."
They had reached the entrance to Guilford Terrace, Raeburn and
Charles Osmond overtook them, and the conversation ended abruptly.
Perhaps because Erica had made no answer to the last remark, and
was conscious of a touch of malice in her former speech, she put a
little additional warmth into her farewell. At any rate, there was
that which touched Brian's very heart in the frank innocence of her
hand clasp, in the sweet yet questioning eyes that were raised to
He turned away, happier and yet sadder than he had ever been in his
life. Not a word passed between him and his father as they crossed
the square, but when they reached home they instinctively drew
together over the study fire. There was a long silence even then,
broken at last by Charles Osmond.
"Well, my son?" he said.
"I cannot see how I can be of the least use to her," said Brian,
abruptly, as if his father had been following the whole of his
train of thought, which, indeed, to a certain extent, he had.
"Was this afternoon your first meeting?"
"Our first speaking. I have seen her many times, but only today
realized what she is."
"Well, your little Undine is very bewitching, and much more than
bewitching, true to the core and loyal and loving. If only the
hardness of her life does not embitter her, I think she will make
a grand woman."
"Tell me what you did this afternoon," said Brian; "you must have
been some time with them."
Charles Osmond told him all that had passed; then continued:
"She is, as I said, a fascinating, bright little Undine, inclined
to be willful, I should fancy, and with a sort of warmth and
quickness about her whole character, in many ways still a child,
and yet in others strangely old for her years; on the whole I
should say as fair a specimen of the purely natural being as you
would often meet with. The spiritual part of her is, I fancy,
"No, I fancy tonight has made it stir for the first time," said
Brian, and he told his father a little of what had passed between
himself and Erica.
"And the Longfellow was, I suppose, from you," said Charles Osmond.
"I wish you could have seen her delight over it. Words absolutely
failed her. I don't think any one else noticed it, but, her own
vocabulary coming to an end, she turned to ours, it was "What
HEAVENLY person can have sent me this?"
Brian smiled, but sighed too.
"One talks of the spiritual side remaining untouched," he said,
"yet how is it ever to be otherwise than chained and fettered,
while such men as that Randolph are recognized as the champions of
our cause, while injustice and unkindness meet her at every turn,
while it is something rare and extraordinary for a Christian to
speak a kind word to her. If today she has first realized that
Christians need not necessarily behave as brutes, I have realized
a little what life is from her point of view."
"Then, realizing that perhaps you may help her, perhaps another
chapter of the old legend may come true, and you may be the means
of waking the spirit in your Undine."
"I? Oh, no! How can you think of it! You or Donovan, perhaps,
but even that idea seems to me wildly improbable."
There was something in his humility and sadness which touched his
"Well, he said, after a pause, "if you are really prepared for all
the suffering this love must bring you, if you mean to take it, and
cherish it, and live for it, even though it brings you no gain, but
apparent pain and loss, then I think it can only raise both you and
Brian knew that not one man in a thousand would have spoken in such
a way; his father's unworldliness was borne in upon him as it had
never been before. Greatly as he had always reverenced and loved
him, tonight his love and reverence deepened unspeakably--the two
were drawn nearer to each other than ever.
It was not the habit in this house to make the most sacred ties of
life the butt for ill-timed and ill-judged joking. No knight of
old thought or spoke more reverently or with greater reserve of his
lady love than did Brian of Erica. He regarded himself now as one
bound to do her service, consecrated from that day forward as her
CHAPTER V. Erica's Resolve
Men are tattooed with their special beliefs like so many South Sea
Islanders; but a real human heart, with Divine love in it, beats
with the same glow under all the patterns of all earth's thousand
tribes. O. Wendell Holmes.
For the next fortnight Brian and Erica continued to pass each other
every afternoon in Gower Street, as they had done for so long, the
only difference was that now they greeted each other, that
occasionally Brian would be rendered happy for the rest of the day
by some brief passing remark from his Undine, or by one of her
peculiarly bright smiles. One day, however, she actually stopped;
her face was radiant.
"I must just tell you our good news," she said. "My father has won
his case, and has got heavy damages."
"I am very glad," said Brian. "It must be a great relief to you
all to have it over."
"Immense! Father looks as if a ton's weight had been taken off his
mind. Now I hope we shall have a little peace."
With a hasty good bye she hurried on, an unusual elasticity in her
light footsteps. In Guilford Square she met a political friend of
her father's, and was brought once more to a standstill. This time
it was a little unwillingly, for M. Noirol teased her unmercifully,
and at their last meeting had almost made her angry by talking of
a friend of his at Paris who offered untold advantages to any
clever and well-educated English girl who wished to learn the
language, and who would in return teach her own. Erica had been
made miserable by the mere suggestion that such a situation would
suit her; the slightest hint that it might be well for her to go
abroad had roused in her a sort of terror lest her father might
ever seriously think of the scheme. She had not quite forgiven M.
Noirol for having spoken, although the proposal had not been
gravely made, and probably only persevered in out of the spirit of
teasing. But today M. Noirol looked very grave.
"You have heard our good news?" said Erica. "Now don't begin again
about Madame Lemercier's school; I don't want to be made cross
today of all days, when I am so happy."
"I will tease you no more, dear mademoiselle," said the Frenchman;
but he offered no congratulations, and there was something in his
manner which made Erica uneasy.
"Is anything wrong? Has anything happened?" she asked quickly.
The Frenchman shrugged his shoulders.
"Who knows! It is an evil world, Mademoiselle Erica, as you will
realize when you have lived in it as long as I have. But I detain
you. Good bye. AU REVOIR!"
He took off his hat with a flourish, and passed on.
Erica, feeling baffled and a little cross, hurried home. M. Noirol
had not teased her today, but he had been inscrutable and tiresome,
and he had made her feel uneasy. She opened the front door, and
went at once to her father's study, pausing for a moment at the
sound of voices within. She recognized, however, that it was her
cousin, Tom Craigie, who was speaking, and without more delay she
entered. Then in a moment she understood why M. Noirol had been so
mysterious. Tom was speaking quickly and strongly, and there was
a glow of anger on his face. Her father was standing with his back
to the mantlepiece, and there was a sort of cold light in his eyes,
which filled Erica with dismay. Never in the most anxious days had
she seen him look at once so angry, yet as weighed down with care.
"What is the matter?" she questioned, breathlessly, instinctively
turning to Tom, whose hot anger was more approachable.
"The scamp of a Christian has gone bankrupt," he said, referring to
the defendant in the late action, but too furious to speak very
"Mr. Cheale, you mean?" asked Erica.
"The scoundrel! Yes! So not a farthing of costs and damages shall
we see! It is the most fiendish thing ever heard of!"
"Will the costs be very heavy?"
"Heavy! I should think they would indeed!" He named the probable
sum; it seemed a fearful addition to the already existing burden of
A look of such pain and perplexity came over Erica's face that
Raeburn for the first time realizing what was passing in the room,
drew her toward him, his face softening, and the cold, angry light
in his eyes changing to sadness.
"Never mind, my child," he said, with a sigh. "'Tis a hard blow,
but we must bear up. Injustice won't triumph in the end."
There was something in his voice and look which made Erica feel
dreadfully inclined to cry; but that would have disgraced her
forever in the eyes of stoical Tom, so she only squeezed his hand
hard and tried to think of that far-distant future of which she had
spoken to Charles Osmond, when there would be no tiresome
Christians and bigots and lawsuits.
There was, however, one person in the house who was invariably the
recipient of all the troubled confidences of others. In a very few
minutes Erica had left the study and was curled up beside her
mother's couch, talking out unreservedly all her grief, and anger,
Mrs. Raeburn, delicate and invalided as she was, had nevertheless
a great deal of influence, though perhaps neither Raeburn, nor
Erica, nor warm-hearted Tom Craigie understood how much she did for
them all. She was so unassuming, so little given to unnecessary
speech, so reticent, that her life made very little show, while it
had become so entirely a matter of course that every one should
bring his private troubles to her that it would have seemed
extraordinary not to meet with exactly the sympathy and counsel
needed. Today, however, even Mrs. Raeburn was almost too
despondent to cheer the others. It comforted Erica to talk to her,
but she could not help feeling very miserable as she saw the
anxiety and sadness in her mother's face.
"What more can we do, mother?" she questioned. "I can't think of
a single thing we can give up."
"I really don't know, dear," said her mother with a sigh. "We have
nothing but the absolute necessaries of life now, except indeed
your education at the High School, and that is a very trifling
expense, and one which cannot be interfered with."
Erica was easily depressed, like most high-spirited persons; but
she was not used to seeing either her father or her mother
despondent, and the mere strangeness kept her from going down to
the very deepest depths. She had the feeling that at least one of
them must try to keep up. Yet, do what she would, that evening was
one of the saddest and dreariest she had ever spent. All the
excitement of contest was over, and a sort of dead weight of gloom
seemed to oppress them. Raeburn was absolutely silent. From the
first Erica had never heard him complain, but his anger, and
afterward his intense depression, spoke volumes. Even Tom, her
friend and play fellow, seemed changed this evening, grown somehow
from a boy to a man; for there was a sternness about him which she
had never seen before, and which made the days of their childhood
seem far away. And yet it was not so very long ago that she and
Tom had been the most light-hearted and careless beings in the
world, and had imagined the chief interest of life to consist in
tending dormice, and tame rats, and silk worms! She wondered
whether they could ever feel free again, whether they could ever
enjoy their long Saturday afternoon rambles, or whether this weight
of care would always be upon them.
With a very heavy heart she prepared her lessons for the next day,
finding it hard to take much interest in Magna Charta and legal
enactments in the time of King John, when the legal enactments of
today were so much more mind-engrossing. Tom was sitting opposite
to her, writing letters for Raeburn. Once, notwithstanding his
grave looks, she hazarded a question."Tom," she said, shutting up
her "History of the English People," "Tom, what do you think will
Tom looked across at her with angry yet sorrowful eyes.
"I think," he said, sternly, "that the chieftain will try to do the
work of ten men at once, and will pay off these debts or die in the
The "chieftain" was a favorite name among the Raeburnites for their
leader, and there was a great deal of the clan feeling among them.
The majority of them were earnest, hard-working, thoughtful men,
and their society was both powerful and well-organized, while their
personal devotion to Raeburn lent a vigor and vitality to the whole
body which might otherwise have been lacking. Perhaps
comparatively few would have been enthusiastic for the cause of