Part 10 out of 10
Raeburn is ill. I wish he'd die."
"Oh! Broken down at last, has he?" said the other. "Where is it?
Oh, yes, I see. Ordered to take immediate and entire rest. Will
be paralyzed in a week if he doesn't. Pleasant alternative that!
Result of excessive overwork. Fancy calling this blasphemous
teaching work! I could hang that man with my own hands!"
Erica had had a long and harassing day. She was returning from the
city where she had gone to obtain leave of absence from Mr.
Bircham; for her father was to go into the quietest country place
that could be found, and she of course was to accompany him. At
the "Daily Review" office she had met with the greatest kindness,
and she might have gone home cheered and comforted had it not been
her lot to overhear this conversation. Tom was with her. She saw
him hastily transcribing the uncharitable remarks, and knew that
the incident would figure in next week's "Idol-Breaker." It was
only a traceable instance of the harm done by all such words.
"Will you change carriages?" asked Tom.
"Yes," she said; and as she rose to go she quietly handed her card
to the lady, who, it is to be hoped, learned a lesson thereby.
But it would be unjust to show only the dark side of the picture.
Great sympathy and kindness was shown them at that time by many
earnest and orthodox Christians, and though Raeburn used to accept
this sympathy with the remark: "You see, humanity overcomes the
baleful influences of religion in the long run," yet he was always
touched and pleased by the smallest signs of friendliness; while to
Erica such considerateness was an inestimable help. The haste and
confusion of those days, added to the anxiety, told severely on her
strength; but there is this amount of good in a trying bit of
"hurrying life," the rest, when it comes, is doubly restful.
It was about six o'clock on an August evening when Raeburn and
Erica reached the little country town of Firdale. They were to
take up their abode for the next six weeks at a village about three
miles off, one of the few remaining places in England which
maintained its primitive simplicity, its peaceful quiet having
never been disturbed by shriek of whistle or snort of engine.
The journey from town had been short and easy, but Raeburn was
terribly exhausted by it; he complained of such severe headache
that they made up their minds to stay that night at Firdale, and
were soon comfortably established in the most charming old inn,
which in coaching days had been a place of note. Here they dined,
and afterward Raeburn fell asleep on a big old-fashioned sofa,
while Erica sat by the open window, able in spite of her anxiety to
take a sort of restful interest in watching the traffic in the
street below. Such a quiet, easy-going life these Firdale people
seemed to lead. They moved in such a leisurely way; bustle and
hurry seemed an unknown thing. And yet this was market day, as was
evident by the country women with their baskets, and by occasional
processions of sheep or cattle. One man went slowly by driving a
huge pig; he was in sight for quite five minutes, dawdling along,
and allowing the pig to have his own sweet will as far as speed was
concerned, but occasionally giving him a gentle poke with a stick
when he paused to burrow his nose in the mud. Small groups of men
stood talking at the corner of the market place; a big family went
by, evidently returning from a country walk; presently the lamps
were lighted, and then immense excitement reigned in the little
place for at the corner where the two main streets crossed each
other at right angles a cheap-jack had set up his stall and, with
flaring naptha lamps to show his goods, was selling by auction the
most wonderful clocks at the very lowest prices in fact, the most
superior glass, china, clothing, and furniture that the people of
Firdale had ever had the privilege of seeing. Erica listened with
no little amusement to his fervid appeals to the people not to lose
this golden opportunity, and to the shy responses of the small
crowd which had been attracted and which lingered on, tempted yet
cautious, until the cheap-jack had worked himself up into a white
heat of energetic oratory, and the selling became brisk and lively.
By and by the silvery moonlight began to flood the street,
contrasting strangely with the orange glare of the lamps. Erica
still leaned her head against the window frame, still looked out
dreamily at the Firdale life, while the soft night wind lightly
lifted the hair from her forehead and seemed to lull the pain at
It was only in accordance with the general peacefulness when by and
by her father crossed the room, looking more like himself than he
had done for some days.
"I am better, Eric," he said cheerfully "better already. It is
just the consciousness that there is nothing that need be done. I
feel as if I should sleep tonight." He looked out at the moonlit
street. "What a perfect night it is! He exclaimed. "What do you
say, little one; shall we drive over to this rural retreat now?
The good folks were told to have everything ready, and they can
hardly lock up before ten."
She was so glad to see him take an interest in anything, and so
greatly relieved by his recovery of strength and spirits, that she
gladly fell in with the plan, and before long they set off in one
of the wagonettes belonging to the Shrub Inn.
Firdale wound its long street of red-roofed houses along a
sheltered valley in between fir-crowned heights; beyond the town
lay rich, fertile-looking meadows, and a winding river bordered by
pollard willows. Looking across these meadows, one could see the
massive tower of the church, its white pinnacles standing out sharp
and clear in the moonlight. As Raeburn and Erica crossed the
bridge leading out of the town, the clock in the tower struck nine,
and the old chimes began to play the tune which every three hours
fell on the ears of the inhabitants of Firdale.
"'Life let us cherish,'" said Raeburn with a smile. "A good omen
for us, little one."
And whether it was the mere fact that he looked so much more
cheerful already, or whether the dear old tune, with its resolute
good humor and determination to make the best of things, acted upon
Erica's sensitive nature, it would be hard to say, but she somehow
shook off all her cares and enjoyed the novelty of the moonlight
drive like a child. Before long they were among the fir trees,
driving along the sandy road, the sweet night laden with the
delicious scent of pine needles, and to the overworked Londoners in
itself the most delicious refreshment. All at once Raeburn ordered
the driver to stop and, getting out, stooped down by the roadside.
"What is it?" asked Erica.
"Heather!" he exclaimed, tearing it up by handfuls and returning to
the carriage laden. "There! Shut your eyes and bury your face in
that, and you can almost fancy you're on a Scottish mountain.
Brian deserves anything for sending us to the land of heather; it
makes me feel like a boy again."
The three miles were all too short to please them, but at last they
reached the little village of Milford and were set down at a
compact-looking white house known as Under the Oak.
"That direction is charming," said Raeburn, laughing; "imagine your
business letters sent from the 'Daily Review' office to 'Miss
Raeburn, Under the Oak, Milford!' They'll think we're living in a
tent. You'll be nicknamed Deborah!"
It was not until the next morning that they fully understood the
appropriateness of the direction. The little white house had been
built close to the grand old oak which was the pride of Milford.
It was indeed a giant of its kind; there was something wonderfully
fine about its vigorous spread of branches and its enormous girth.
Close by was a peaceful-looking river, flowing between green banks
fringed with willow and marestail and pink river-herb. The house
itself had a nice little garden, gay with geraniums and gladiolus,
and bounded by a hedge of sunflowers which would have gladdened the
heart of an aesthete. All was pure, fresh, cleanly, and perfectly
From the windows nothing was to be seen except the village
green with its flocks of geese and its tall sign post; the river
describing a sort of horseshoe curve round it, and spanned by two
picturesque bridges. In the distance was a small church and a
little cluster of houses, the "village" being completed by a
blacksmith's forge and a post office. To this latter place they
had to pay a speedy visit for, much to Raeburn's amusement, Erica
had forgotten to bring any ink.
"To think that a writer in the 'Daily Review' should forget such a
necessary of life!" he said, smiling. "One would think you were
your little 'Cartesian-well' cousin instead of a journalist!"
However, the post office was capable of supplying almost anything
likely to be needed in the depths of the country; you could
purchase there bread, cakes, groceries, hob-nailed boots, paper,
ink, and most delectable toffee!
The relief of the country quiet was unlike anything which Erica had
known before. There was, indeed, at first a good deal of anxiety
about her father. His acquiescence in idleness, his perfect
readiness to spend whole days without even opening a book, proved
the seriousness of his condition. For the first week he was more
completely prostrated than she had ever known him to be. He would
spend whole days on the river, too tired even to speak, or would
drag himself as far as the neighboring wood and stretch himself at
full length under the trees while she sat by sketching or writing.
Bur Brian was satisfied with his improvement when he came down on
one of his periodical visits, and set Erica's mind at rest about
"You father has such a wonderful constitution," he said as they
paced to and fro in the little garden. "I should not be surprised
if, in a couple of months, he is as strong as ever; though most men
would probably feel such an overstrain to the end of their days."
After that, the time at Milford was pure happiness. Erica learned
to love every inch of that lovely neighborhood, from the hill of
Rocksbury with its fir-clad heights, to Trencharn Lake nestled down
among the surrounding heath hills. In after years she liked to
recall all those peaceful days, days when time had ceased to exist
at any rate, as an element of friction in life. There was no
hurrying here, and the recollection of it afterward was a perpetual
happiness. The quiet river where they had one day seen an otter,
a marked event in their uneventful days; the farm with its red
gables and its crowd of gobbling turkeys; the sweet-smelling fir
groves with their sandy paths; and their own particular wood where
beeches, oaks, and silvery birch trees were intermingled, with here
and there a tall pine sometimes stately and erect, sometimes blown
aslant by the wind.
Here the winding paths were bordered with golden moss, and
sheltered by a tangled growth of bracken and bramble with now and
then a little clump of heather or a patch of blue harebells. Every
nook of that place grew familiar to them and had its special
associations. There was the shady part under the beeches where
they spent the hot days, and this was always associated with
fragments of "Macbeth" and "Julius Caesar." There was the cozy
nook on the fir hill where in cool September they had read volume
after volume of Walter Scott, Raeburn not being allowed to have
anything but light literature, and caring too little for "society"
novels to listen to them even now. There was the prettiest part of
all down below, the bit of sandy cliff riddled with nest holes by
the sand martins; here they discovered a little spring, the natural
basin scooped out in the rock, festooned with ivy and thickly
coated with the pretty green liverwort. Never surely was water so
cold and clear as that which flowed into the basin with its ground
of white sand, and overflowed into a little trickling stream; while
in the distance was heard the roar of the river as it fell into a
small waterfall. There was the ford from which the place was named
and which Erica associated with a long happy day when Brian had
come down to see her father. She remembered how they had watched
the carts and horses splashing though the clear water, going in
muddy on one side and coming out clean on the other. She had just
listened in silence to the talk between Brian and her father which
happened to turn on Donovan Farrant.
They discussed the effect of early education and surroundings upon
the generality of men, and Raeburn, while prophesying great things
for Donovan's future and hoping that he might live to see his first
Budget, rather surprised them both by what he said about his
tolerable well-known early life. He was a man who found it very
difficult to make allowances for temptations he had never felt, he
was convinced that under Donovan's circumstances he should have
acted very differently, and he made the common mistake of judging
others by himself. His ruggedly honest nature and stern sense of
justice could not get over those past failings. However, this
opinion about the past did not interfere with his present liking of
the man. He liked him much; and when, toward the end of their six
weeks' stay at Milford, Donovan invited them to Oakdene, he was
really pleased to accept the invitation. He hoped to be well
enough to speak at an important political meeting at Ashborough
about the middle of October, and as Ashborough was not far from
Oakdene, Donovan wrote to propose a visit there en route.
At length the last evening came. Raeburn and Erica climbed
Rocksbury for the last time, and in the cool of the evening walked
"I have always dreaded old age," he said. "But I shall dread it no
more. This has been a foretaste of the autumn of life, and it has
been very peaceful. I don't see why the winter should not be the
same if I have you with me, little one."
"You shall have me as long as I am alive," she said, giving his
strong hand a little loving squeeze.
"Truth to tell," said Raeburn, "I thought a few weeks ago that it
would be a case of 'Here lies Luke Raeburn, who died of
litigation!' But, after all, to be able to work to the last is the
happiest lot. Tis an enviable thing to die in harness."
They were walking up a hill, a sort of ravine with steep high banks
on either side, and stately pines stretching their blue-green
foliage up against the evening sky. A red glow of sunset made the
dark stems look like fiery pillars, and presently as they reached
the brow of the hill the great crimson globe was revealed to them.
They both stood in perfect silence watching till it sunk below the
And a great peace filled Erica's heart though at one time her
father's wish would have made her sad and apprehensive. In former
times she had set her whole heart on his learning before death that
he was teaching error. Now she had learned to add to "Thy will be
done," the clause which it takes some of us a life time to say,
"Not my will."
CHAPTER XXXIX. Ashborough
There's a brave fellow!
There's a man of pluck!
A man who is not afraid to say his say,
Though a whole town's against him.
A man's love is the measure of his fitness for good or bad company
here or elsewhere. Oliver Wendell Holmes.
The week at Oakdene proved in every way a success; Raeburn liked
his host heartily, and the whole atmosphere of the house was a
revelation to him. The last morning there had been a little
clouded for news had reached them of a terrible colliery accident
in the north of England. The calamity had a special gloom about it
for it might very easily have been prevented, the owners having
long known that the mine was unsafe.
"I must say it is a little hard to see how such a horrible sin as
carelessness of the lives of human beings can ever bring about the
greater good which we believe evil to do," said Erica, as she took
her last walk in the wood with Donovan.
"'Tis hard to see at the time," he replied. "But I am convinced
that it is so. The sin is never good, never right; but when men
will sin, then the result of the sin, however frightful, brings
about more good that the perseverance in sin with no catastrophe
would have done. A longer-deferred good, of course, than the good
which would have resulted by adhering from the first to the right,
and so far inferior."
"Of course," said Erica, "I can see that a certain amount of
immediate good may result from this disaster. It will make the
owners of other mines more careful."
"And what of the hundred unseen workings that will result from it?"
said Donovan, smiling. "In the first shock of horror one can not
even glimpse the larger view, but later on--"
He paused for a minute; they were down in the valley close to the
little church; he opened the gate and led the way to a bench under
the great yew tree. Sitting here, they could see the recumbent
white cross with its ever-fresh crown of white flowers. Erica knew
something of the story it told.
"Shall I tell you what turned me from an anti-theist to an
atheist?" said Donovan. "It was the horror of knowing that a
little child's life had been ruined by carelessness. I had been
taught to believe in a terrific phantom who was severely just; but
when it seemed that the one quality of justice was gone, then I
took refuge in the conviction that there could be no God at all.
That WAS a refuge for the time, for it is better to believe in no
God than to believe in an immoral God and it was long years before
a better refuge found me. Yet, looking back now over these seven-
and-twenty years, I see how that one little child's suffering has
influenced countless lives! How it was just the most beautiful
thing that could have happened to her!"
Erica did not speak for a moment, she read half dreamily the words
engraved on the tombstone. Nearly sixteen years since that short,
uneventful life had passed into the unseen, and yet little Dot was
at this moment influencing the world's history.
She was quite cheerful again as they walked home, and, indeed, her
relief about her father's recovery was so great that she could not
be unhappy for long about anything. They found Raeburn on the
terrace with Ralph and Dolly at his heels, and the two-year-old
baby, who went by the name of Pickle, on his shoulder.
"I shall quite miss these bairnies," he said as Donovan joined
"Gee up, horsey! Gee up!" shouted Pickle from his lofty perch.
"And oh, daddy, may we go into Gleyshot wiv you?" said Dolly,
coaxingly. "Elica's father's going to give me a playcat."
"And me a whip," interposed Ralph. "We may come with you, father,
"Oh! Yes," said Donovan, smiling; "if Mr. Raeburn doesn't mind a
Erica had gone into the house.
"I don't know how to let you go," said Gladys, "We have so much
enjoyed having you. I think you had much better stay here will
Monday and leave those two to take care of themselves at
"Oh, no," said Erica, smiling, "that would never do! You don't
realize what an event this is to me. It is the first time father
has spoken since his illness. Besides, I have not yet quite
learned to think him well enough to look after himself though, of
course, he is getting quite strong again."
"Well, since you will go, come and choose a book for your journey,"
"Oh, I should like that," said Erica; "a nice homish sort of book,
please, where the people lived in Arcadia and never heard of law
Early in the afternoon they drove to Greyshot, stopping first of
all at the toy shop. Raeburn, who was in excellent spirits, fully
entered into the difficulties of Dolly's choice. At length a huge
toy cat was produced.
"Oh, I should like that one!" said Dolly, clapping her hands.
"What a 'normous, gleat big cat it is!"
"I shouldn't have known what it was meant for," said Raeburn,
scrutinizing the rather shapeless furry quadruped. "How is it that
you can't make them more like cats than this?"
"I don't know, sir, how it is," said the shopwoman; "we get very
good dogs and rabbits, and donkeys, but they don't seem to have
attained to the making of cats."
This view of the matter so tickled Raeburn that he left Ralph and
Dolly to see the "'normous gleat big cat" wrapped up, and went out
of the shop laughing.
But just outside, a haggard, wild-looking man came up to him and
began to address him in excited tones.
"You are the vile atheist, Luke Raeburn!" he cried, "Oh, I know you
well enough. I tell you, you have lost my son's soul; do you hear,
wretched infidel, you destroyed my son's soul! His guilt is upon
you! And I will have vengeance! Vengeance!"
"My friend," said Raeburn quietly, "supposing your son had what you
call a soul, do you think that I, a man, should be able to destroy
"You have made him what you are yourself," cried the man, "an
accursed infidel, an incarnate devil! But I tell you I will have
"Have the goodness not to come so near my daughter," said Raeburn
for the man was pushing up roughly against Erica, who had just come
out of the shop. The words were spoken in such an authoritative
manner that the man shrunk back awed, and in another minute the
children had rejoined them, and they drove off to the station.
"What was that man saying?" asked Erica.
"Apparently his son has become a secularist, and he means to
revenge himself on me," said Raeburn. "If it wouldn't have lost me
this train, I would have given him in charge for using threatening
language. But no doubt the poor fellow was half-witted."
Donovan had walked on to the station and so had missed this
incident, and though for the time it saddened Erica, yet she
speedily forgot it in talking to the children. The arrival at
Ashborough, too, was exciting, and she was so delighted to see her
father once more in the enjoyment of full health and strength that
she could not long be disquieted about anything else. It was a
great happiness to her to hear him speak upon any subject on which
they were agreed, and his reception that evening at the Ashborough
Town Hall was certainly a most magnificent one. The ringing cheers
made the tears start to her eyes. The people had been roused by
his late illness and, though many of them disliked his theological
views, they felt that in political matters he was a man whom they
could very ill spare. His speech was a remarkably powerful one,
and calculated to do great good. Erica's spirits rose to their
very highest pitch and, as they went back together to their hotel,
she kept both Raeburn and Donovan in fits of laughter. It was long
months since her father had seen her so brilliant and witty.
"You are 'fey,' little one," he said. "I prophesy a headache for
And the prophecy came true for Erica awoke the next morning with a
sense of miserable oppression. The day, too, was gray and
dreary-looking, it seemed like a different world altogether.
Raeburn was none the worse for his exertions; he took a quiet day,
however, went for a walk with Donovan in the afternoon, and set off
in good time for his evening lecture. It was Sunday evening, Erica
was going to church with Donovan, and had her walking things on
when her father looked into the room to say goodbye.
"What, going out?" he said. "You don't look fit for it, Eric."
"Oh!" she said, "it is no use to give way to this sort of headache;
it's only one's wretched nerves."
"Well, take carte of yourself," he said, kissing her. "I believe
you are worn out with all these weeks of attendance on a
cantankerous old father."
She laughed and brightened up, going out with him to the head of
the stairs, and returning to watch him from the window. Just as he
left the door of the hotel, a small child fell face downward on the
pavement on the opposite side of the road and began to cry
bitterly. Raeburn crossed over and picked up the small elf; they
could hear him saying: "There, there, more frightened than hurt, I
think," as he brushed the dust from the little thing's clothes.
"How exactly like father!" said Erica, smiling; he never would let
us think ourselves hurt. I believe it is thanks to him that Tom
has grown up such a Stoic, and that I'm not a very lachrymose sort
A little later they started for church, but toward the end of the
Psalms Donovan felt a touch on his arm. He turned to Erica; she
was a white as death, and with a strange, glassy look in her eyes.
"Come," she said in a hoarse whisper, "come out with me."
He thought she felt faint, but she walked steadily down the aisle.
When they were outside she grasped his arm and seemed to make a
great effort to speak naturally.
"Forgive me for disturbing you," she said, "but I have such a
dreadful feeling that something is going to happen. I feel that I
must go to my father."
Donovan thought that she was probably laboring under a delusion.
He knew that she was always very anxious about her father and that
Ashborough, owing to various memories, was exactly the place where
this anxiety would be likely to weigh upon her. He thought, too,
that Raeburn was very likely right and that she was rather overdone
by the strain of those long weeks of solitary attendance. But he
was much too wise to attempt to reason away her fears; he knew that
nothing but her father's presence would set her at rest, and they
walked as fast as they could to the Town Hall. He was just turning
down a street which led into the High Street when Erica drew him
instead in the direction of a narrow byway.
"Down here," she said, walking straight on as though she held some
guiding clew in her hand.
He was astonished as she could not possibly have been in this part
of the town before. Moreover, her whole bearing was very strange;
she was still pale and trembling, and her ungloved hands felt as
cold as ice while, although he had given her his arm, he felt all
the time that she was leading him.
At length a sound of many voices was heard in the distance.
Donovan felt a sort of thrill pass through the hand that rested on
his arm, and Erica began to walk more quickly than ever. A minute
more, and the little byway led them out into the market place. It
was lighted with the electric light, and tonight the light was
concentrated at one end, the end at which stood the Town Hall.
Instinctively Donovan's eyes were turned at once toward that
brightest point and also toward the sound, the subdued roar of the
multitude which they had heard on their way. There was another
sound, too a man's ringing voice, a stentorian voice which reached
them clearly even at that distance. Raeburn stood alone, facing an
angry, tumultuous throng, with his back to the closed door of the
building and his tawny eyes scanning the mass of hostile faces
"Every Englishman has a right to freedom of speech. You shall not
rob me or any other man of a right. I have fought for this all my
life, and I will fight as long as I've breath."
"That shall not be long!" shouted another speaker. "Forward,
brothers! Down with the infidel! Vengeance, vengeance."
The haggard, wild-looking man who had addressed Raeburn the day
before at Greyshot now sprang forward ; there was a surging
movement in the crowd like wind in a corn field. Donovan and
Erica, hurrying forward, saw Raeburn surrounded on every side,
forced away from the door, and at length half stunned by a heavy
blow from the fanatical leader; then, taken thus at a disadvantage,
he was pushed backward. They saw him fall heavily down the stone
With a low cry Erica rushed toward him, breaking away from Donovan
and forcing a way through that rough crowd as if by magic.
Donovan, though so much taller and stronger, was longer in reaching
the foot of the steps, and when at length he had pushed his way
through the thickest part of the throng he was hindered for the
haggard-looking man who had been the ringleader in the assault ran
into his very arms. He was evidently struck with horror at the
result of his mad enterprise and now meditated flight. But Donovan
"You must come with me, my friend," he exclaimed, seizing the
fanatic by the collar.
Nor did he pause till he had handed him over to a policeman. Then
once more he forced a passage through the hushed crowd and at last
reached the foot of the steps. He found Erica on the ground with
her father's head raised on her knees. He was perfectly
unconscious, but it seemed as if his spirit and energy had been
transmitted to his child. Erica was giving orders so clearly and
authoritatively that Donovan could only marvel at her strength and
"Stand back!" she was saying as he approached. "How can he come to
while you are shutting out the air? Some one go quickly and fetch
a door or a litter. You go, and you."
She indicated two or three more respectable-looking men, and they
at once obeyed her. She looked relieved to see Donovan.
"Won't you go inside and speak to the people?" she said. "I have
sent for a doctor. If some one doesn't go soon, they will come
out, and then there might be a riot. Tell them if they have any
feeling for my father to separate quietly. Don't let them all out
upon these people; there is sure to be fighting if they meet."
Donovan could not bear to leave her in such a position, but just
then a doctor came up, and the police began to drive back the
crowd; and since the people were rather awed by what had happened,
they dispersed meekly enough. Donovan went into the Town Hall
then, and gradually learned what had taken place. It seemed that
soon after the beginning of Raeburn's lecture, a large crowd had
gathered outside, headed by a man named Drosser, a street preacher,
well-known in Ashborough and the neighborhood. This crowd had
stormed the doors of the hall and had created such an uproar that
it was impossible to proceed with the lecture. The doors had been
quite unequal to the immense pressure from without, and Raeburn,
foreseeing that they would give way and knowing that, if the
insurgents met his audience, there would be serious risk to the
lives of many, had insisted on trying to dismiss the crowd without,
or, at any rate, to secure some sort of order. Several had offered
to go with him, but he had begged the audience to keep still and
had gone out alone the crowd being so astonished by this unexpected
move that they fell back for a moment before him. Apparently his
plan would have succeeded very well had it not been for Drosser's
deliberate assault. He had gained a hearing from the people and
would probably have dispersed them had he not been borne down by
It was no easy task to tell the audience what had happened; but
Donovan was popular and greatly respected and, thanks to his tact,
their wrath, though very great, was restrained. In fact, Raeburn
was so well known to disapprove of any sort of violence that
Donovan's appeal to them to preserve order for his sake met with a
deep, suppressed murmur of assent. When all was safe he hurried
back to the hotel where they were glad enough of his services.
Raeburn had recovered his senses for a minute but only to sink
almost immediately into another swoon. For many hours this went
on; he would partly revive, even speak a few words, and then sink
back once more. Every time Erica thought it would end in death,
nor could she gather comfort from the looks of either of the
doctors or of Donovan.
"This is not the first time I've been knocked down and trampled
on," said Raeburn, faintly, in one of his intervals of
consciousness, "but it will be the last time."
And though the words were spoken with a touch of his native humor
and might have borne more than one interpretation, yet they
answered painfully to the conviction which lay deep in Erica's
"Then let me send a telegram from the 'Ashborough Times' office,"
said Donovan to her in one of the momentary pauses. "I have sent
for your cousin and Mrs. Craigie and for Brian."
For the first time Erica's outward composure gave way. Her mouth
began to quiver and her eyes to fill.
"Oh! Thank you," she said; and there was something in her voice
that went to Donovan's heart.
CHAPTER XL. Mors Janua Vitae
Therefore to whom turn I but to Thee, the ineffable Name?
Builder and maker Thou, of houses not made with hands!
What, have fear of change from Thee who art ever the same?
Doubt that thy power can fill the heart that Thy power expands?
And what is our failure here but a triumph's evidence
For the fullness of the days? Have we withered or agonized?
Why else was the pause prolonged but that singing might issue thence?
Why rushed the discords in, but that harmony should be prized? R. Browning
Early on the Monday morning three anxious-looking travelers arrived
by the first train from London, and drove as fast as might be to
the Park Hotel at Ashborough. They were evidently expected for the
moment their cab stopped a door on one of the upper floors was
opened, and some one ran quickly down the stairs to meet them.
"Is he better?" asked Aunt Jean.
Erica shook her head and, indeed, her face told them much more than
the brief words of the telegram. She was deathly white, and had
that weighed-down look which people wear when they have watched all
night beside one who is hovering between life and death. She
seemed to recover herself a little as her hand rested for a moment
"He has been asking for you," she said. "Do go to him. The
faintness has quite passed off, and they say inflammation has set
in; he is in frightful pain."
Her lips grew a shade whiter as she spoke and, with an effort, she
seemed to turn away from some horrible recollection.
"There is some breakfast ready for you in here," she said to her
aunt. "You must have something before you see him. Oh, I am so
glad you have come, auntie!"
Aunt Jean kissed her and cried a little; trouble always brought
these two together however much they disagreed at other times. Tom
did not say a word, but began to cut a loaf to pieces as though
they had the very largest appetites; the great pile of slices lay
untouched on the trencher, but the cutting had served its purpose
of a relief to his pent-up feelings.
Later on there was a consultation of doctors; their verdict was
perhaps a little more hopeful than Erica had dared to expect. Her
father had received a fearful internal injury and was in the
greatest danger, but there was still a chance that he might
recover, it was just possible; and knowing how his constitution had
rallied when every one had thought him dying three years before,
she grew very hopeful. Without hope she could hardly have got
through those days for the suffering was terrible. She hardly knew
which she dreaded most, the nights of fever and delirium when
groans of anguish came from the writhing lips, or the days with
their clear consciousness when her father never uttered a word of
complaint but just silently endured the torture, replying always,
if questioned as to the pain, "It's bearable."
His great strength and vigor made it seem all the more piteous that
he should now be lying in the very extremity of suffering, unable
to bear even the weight of the bed clothes. But all through that
weary time his fortitude never gave way, and the vein of humor
which had stood him in such good stead all his life did not fail
him even now. On the Monday when he was suffering torments, they
tried the application of leeches. One leech escaped, and they had
a great hunt for it, Raeburn astonishing them all by coming out
with one of his quaint flashes of wit and positively making them
laugh in spite of their anxiety and sorrow.
The weary days dragged on, the torture grew worse, opium failed to
deaden the pain, and sleep, except in the very briefest snatches,
was impossible. But at last on the Thursday morning a change set
in, the suffering became less intense; they knew, however, that it
was only because the end was drawing near and the life energy
For the second time Sir John Larkom came down from London to see
the patient, but every one knew that there was nothing to be done.
Even Erica began to understand that the time left was to be
measured only by hours. She learned it in a few words which Sir
John Larkom said to Donovan on the stairs. She was in her own room
with the door partly open, eagerly waiting for permission to go
back to her father.
"Oh, it's all up with the poor fellow," she heard the London doctor
say. "A wonderful constitution; most men would not have held out
At the time the words did not convey any very clear meaning to
Erica; she felt no very sharp pang as she repeated the sentence to
herself; there was only a curious numb feeling at her heart and a
sort of dull consciousness that she must move, must get away
somewhere, do something active. It was at first almost a relief to
her when Donovan returned and knocked at her door.
"I am afraid we ought to come to the court," he said. "They will,
I am sure, take your evidence as quickly as possible."
She remembered then that the man Drosser was to be brought up
before the magistrates that morning; she and Donovan had to appear
as witnesses of the assault. She went into her father's room
before she started; he had specially asked to see her. He was
quite clear-minded and calm, and began to speak in a voice which,
though weak and low, had the old musical ring about it.
"You are going to give evidence, Eric," he said, holding her hand
in his. "Now, I don't forgive that fellow for having robbed me of
life, but one must be just even to one's foes. They will ask you
if you ever saw Drosser before; you will have to tell them of that
scene at Greyshot, and you must be sure to say that I said, as we
drove off: 'No doubt the poor fellow is half-witted.' Those were
my words, do you remember?"
"Yes," she said, repeating the words after him at his request. "I
remember quite well."
"Those words may affect Drosser's case very much, and I don't wish
any man to swing for me I have always disapproved of the death
penalty. Probably, though, it will be brought in as manslaughter
yes, almost certainly. There go, my child, and come back to me as
soon as you can."
But the examination proved too much for Erica's physical powers;
she was greatly exhausted by the terrible strain of the long days
and nights of nursing, and when she found herself in a hot and
crowded court, pitilessly stared at, confronted by the man who was
in fact her father's murderer, and closely questioned by the
magistrate about all the details of that Sunday evening, her
overtasked strength gave way suddenly.
She had told clearly and distinctly about the meeting at Greyshot,
and had stated positively that in the Ashborough market place she
had seen Drosser give her father a heavy blow and then push him
down the Town Hall steps.
"Can you recollect whether others pushed your father at the same
time?" asked the magistrate. "Don't answer hurriedly; this is an
All at once the whole scene came vividly before Erica the huge
crowd, the glare of the lights, her father standing straight and
tall, as she should never see him again, his thick white hair
stirred by the wind, his whole attitude that of indignant protest;
then the haggard face of the fanatic, the surging movement in the
black mass of people, and that awful struggle and fall. Was it he
who was falling? If so she was surely with him, falling down,
down, endlessly down.
There was a sudden stir and commotion in the court, a murmur of
pity, for Luke Raeburn's daughter had fallen back senseless.
When she came to herself, she was lying on the floor of an
office-like room, with her head on Mrs. MacNaughton's lap. Brian
was bending over her, chafing her hands. A clock in the building
struck one, and the sound seemed to recall things to her mind. She
"Oh!" she cried, "why am I not with my father? Where have you
taken me to?"
"It's all right, dear,"said Mrs. MacNaughton soothingly; "you shall
come back directly you are well enough."
"I remember it all now," she said; "did I finish? Must I go back
It was some relief to know that Donovan had been able to supplement
her evidence, and that the examination was in fact over, Drosser
having been remanded for a week. She insisted on going back to the
hotel at once, and spent the whole of the afternoon and evening
with her father. He was not in great pain now, but very restless,
and growing weaker every hour. He was able, however, to see
several of his friends, and though the farewells evidently tried
him, he would not refuse to see those who had come hundreds of
miles for that last glimpse.
"What does it matter if I am exhausted?" he said when some one
remonstrated with him. "It will make no difference at all as far
as I am concerned, and it will be a happiness to them for the rest
of their lives. Besides, I shall not die today, perhaps not
tomorrow; depend upon it, I shall die hard."
They persuaded Erica to rest for the first part of the night. She
left Tom and Brian to watch, and went to her room, making them
promise to call her if there were any signs of change.
At last the full realization had come to her; though she hated
leaving her father, it was yet a sort of relief to get away into
the dark, to be able to give way for a moment.
"Anything but this, oh, God," she sobbed, "anything but this!"
All else would have been easy enough to bear, but that he should be
killed by the violence and bigotry of one who at any rate called
himself a Christian, this seemed to her not tolerable. The hope of
years had received its death blow, the life she most loved was
sinking away in darkness, the work which she had so bravely taken
as her life work was all but over, and she had failed. Yes, in
spite of all her efforts, all her longings, all her love, she had
failed, or at any rate apparently failed, and in moments of great
agony we do not in fact can not distinguish between the real and
the apparent. Christ Himself could not do it.
She did not dare to let her sobs rise for it was one of the trials
of that time that they were not in their own home but in a busy
hotel where the partitions were thin and every sound could be heard
in the adjoining rooms. Moreover, Aunt Jean was sleeping with her
and must not be disturbed. But as she lay on the floor, trying to
stifle the restrained sobs which shook her from head to foot
trying to check the bitter tears which would come, her thoughts
were somehow lifted quite away from the present; strange little
memories of her childish days returned to her, days when her father
had been to her the living incarnation of all that was noble and
good. Often it is not the great events of a child's life which are
so vividly remembered; memory seems to be strangely capricious and
will single out some special word or deed, some trifling sign of
love which has stamped itself indelibly upon the grain to bear its
golden harvest of responding love through a life time. Vividly
there came back to her now the eager happiness with which she had
awaited a long promised treat, as a little thing of seven years
old. Her father was to take her on some special excursion, she had
long ago forgotten what the particular occasion was, only it was
something that could come but once, the day lost, the treat would
be lost. But the evening before, when she was on the very tiptoe
of expectation, a celebrated action for libel had come to an end
much sooner than was expected, and when her father returned in the
evening he had to tell her that his case was to come on the next
day, and that he could not possibly take her. Even now she could
recall the bitterness of the disappointment, but not so vividly as
the look in her father's face as he lifted her off the floor where
she had thrown herself in the abandonment of her grief. He had not
said a word then about the enormity of crying, he had just held her
closely in his arms, feeling the disappointment a thousand times
more than she felt it herself, and fully realizing that the loss of
such a long-looked-for happiness was to a child what the loss of
thousands of pounds would be to a man. He had been patient with
her though she had entirely failed to see why he could not put off
the case just for that day.
"You'll understand one day, little one," he had said, "and be glad
that you have had your share of pain in a day that will advance the
cause of liberty."
She remembered protesting that that was impossible, that she should
always be miserable; at which he had only smiled.
Then it came to Erica that the life upon earth was, after all, as
compared with the eternal life, what the day is in the life of a
child. It seemed everything at the time, but was in truth such a
fragment. And as she lay there in the immeasurably greater agony
of later life, once more sobbing: "I had hoped, I had planned, this
is more than I can bear!" a Comforter infinitely grater, a Father
whose love was infinitely stronger, drew her so near that the word
"near" was but a mockery, and told her, as the earthly father had
told her with such perfect truth: "One day you will understand,
child; one day you will be glad to have shared the pain!"
In the next room there was for some time quiet. Poor Tom, heavy
with grief and weariness, fell asleep beside the fire; Raeburn was
for the most part very still as if wrapped in thought. At length
a heavy sigh made Brian ask if he were in pain.
"Pain of mind," he said, "not of body. Don't misunderstand me," he
said after a pause, with the natural fear least Brian should fancy
his secularism failed him at the near approach of death. "For
myself I am content; I have had a very full life, and I have tried
always yes, I think I may say always--to work entirely for the
good of Humanity. But I am wretched about Erica. I do not see how
the home can be a very happy one for her when I am gone."
For a minute Brian hesitated; but it seemed to him when he thought
out the matter, that a father so loving as Raeburn would find no
jealousy at the thought that the love he had deemed exclusively his
own might, after all, have been given to another.
"I do not know whether I am right to tell you," he said. "Would it
make you happier to know that I love Erica that I have loved her
for nearly nine years?"
Raeburn gave an ejaculation of astonishment. There was a long
silence; for the idea, once suggested to him, he began to see what
a likely thing it was and to wonder that he had not thought of it
"I think you are well suited to each other," he said at last. "Now
I understand your visit to Florence. What took you away again so
Brian told him all about the day at Fiesole. He seemed greatly
touched; all the little proofs and coincidences which had never
struck him at the time were so plain now. They were still
discussing it when, at about five o'clock, Erica returned. She was
pale and sad, but the worn, harassed, miserable look had quite
gone. It was a strange time and place for a betrothal.
"Brian has been telling me about the day at Fiesole," said Raeburn,
letting his weak, nerveless hands play about in her hair as she
knelt beside the bed. "You have been a leal bairn to me, Eric; I
don't think I could have spared you then even though Brian so well
deserved you. But now it makes me very happy to leave you to him;
it takes away my only care."
Erica had colored faintly, but there was an absence of
responsiveness in her manner which troubled Raeburn.
"You do still feel as you did at Fiesole?" he asked. "You are sure
of your own mind? You think you will be happy?"
"I love Brian," she said in a low voice. "But, oh, I can't think
now about being happy!" She broke off suddenly and hid her face in
the bed clothes.
There was silence in the room. In a minute she raised herself and
turned to Brian who stood beside her.
"You will understand," she said, looking right into his eyes.
"There is only one thing that I can feel just now. You do
understand, I know."
With a sudden impulse she threw her arms round his neck and kissed
And Brian did understand. He knew, too, that she wanted to have
her father to herself. Even in the very fulfillment of his desire
he was obliged to stand aside, obliged even yet to be patient.
Never surely had an impulsive, impetuous man a longer training.
When he had gone Raeburn talked for some time of Erica's future,
talked for so long, indeed, that she grew impatient. How trifling
now seemed the sacrifice she had made at Fiesole to which he kept
"Oh, why do you waste the time in talking of me?" she said at last.
"Why?" he said smiling. "Because you are my bairn of what else
should I speak or think? For myself, I am very content, dear,
though I should have liked a few more years of work. It was not to
be, you see; and, in the end, no doubt this will work good to the
cause of " he broke off, unwilling to pain her.
"Ah, child!" he said after a pause, "How miserable you and I might
have been for these two years if we had not loved each other. You
are not to think, little one, that I have not known what your
wishes have been for me. You, and Brian, and Osmond, and of late
that noble fellow Farrant, have often made me see that Christianity
need not necessarily warp the intellect and cripple the life. I
believe that for you, and such as you, the system is not rooted in
selfishness. But, dear, you are but the exceptions, the rare
exceptions. I know that you have wished with all your heart that
I should come to think as you do, while I have been wishing you
back into the ranks of secularism. Well! It wasn't to be. We
each of us lost our wish. But there is this left, that we each
know the other to be honest; each deem it a case of honest mistake.
I've felt that all along. We've a common love of truth and a
common love of humanity. Oh, my child! Spite of all the creeds,
we are very near to each other!"
"Very near," she whispered. And words which Charles Osmond had
spoken years ago returned to her memory. "I think death will be
your gate of life. You will wake up and exclaim: "Who'd have
After all, death would in a sense make them yet nearer! But human
nature is weak, and it is hard for us to realize the Unseen. She
could not then feel that it was anything but hard, bitter, heart-
breaking that he should be leaving her in this way.
The pain had now almost entirely ceased, and Raeburn, though very
restless, was better able to talk than on the previous day. He
asked for the first time what was passing in the world, showed
special interest in the accounts of the late colliery accident, and
was greatly touched by the gallant efforts of the rescuers who had
to some extent been successful. He insisted, too, on hearing what
the various papers had to say about his own case, listening
sometimes with a quiet smile, sometimes with a gleam of anger in
his eyes. After a very abusive article, which he had specially
desired to hear, he leaned back with an air of weariness.
"I'm rather tired of this sort of thing!" he said with a sigh.
"What will the 'Herald' do when it no longer has me to abuse?"
Of Drosser and of the events of that Sunday evening he spoke
strangely little. What he did say was, for the most part, said to
"You say I was rash to go alone," he replied when the professor had
opened the subject. "Well, that may be. It is not, perhaps, the
first time that in personal matters I've been lacking in due
caution. But I thought it would prevent a riot. I still think it
"And what is your feeling about the whole matter?" asked the
professor. "Do you forgive Drosser for having given you this
"One must bow to necessity," said Raeburn quietly. "When you speak
of forgiving I don't quite understand you; but I don't intend to
hand down a legacy of revenge to my successors. The law will duly
punish the man, and future atheists will reap the benefit of my
death. There is, after all, you know, a certain satisfaction in
feeling that I died as I have lived, in defending the right of free
speech. I can't say that I could not have wished that Drosser had
made an end of me at nine-and-seventy rather than at
nine-and-forty. I shall live on in their hearts, and that is a
glorious immortality! The only immortality I have ever looked
In the afternoon to the astonishment of all, Mr. Fane-Smith came
over from Greyshot, horrified to hear that the man who he had once
treated with scant justice and actual discourtesy was lying on his
death bed, a victim to religious fanaticism. Spite of his very
hard words to her, Erica had always respected Mr. Fane-Smith, and
she was glad that he had come at the last. Her aunt had not come;
she had hesitated long, but in the end the recollection that
Greyshot would be greatly scandalized, and that, too, on the very
eve of her daughter's wedding turned the scale. She sent
affectionate messages and a small devotional book, but stayed at
Mr. Fane-Smith apologized frankly and fully to Raeburn for his
former discourtesy and then plunged at once into eager questions
and eager arguments. He could not endure the thought that the man
in whom at the last he was able to recognize a certain nobility of
character, should be sinking down into what he considered
everlasting darkness. Bitterly did he now regret the indifference
of former years, and the actual uncharitableness in which he had of
Raeburn lay very passively listening to an impassioned setting
forth of the gospel, his hands wandering about restlessly, picking
up little bits of the coverlet in that strange way so often noticed
in dying people.
"You are mistaken," he said when at length Mr. Fane-Smith ceased.
"Had you argued with me in former years, you would never have
convinced me, your books and tracts could never have altered my
firm convictions. All my life I have had tracts and leaflets
showered down upon me with letters from pious folks desiring my
conversion. I have had innumerable letters telling me that the
writers were praying for me. Well, I think they would have done
better to pray for some of my orthodox opponents who are leading
immoral lives; but, insofar as prayers show a certain amount of
human interest, I am very willing that they should pray for me
though they would have shown better taste if they had not informed
me of their supplications. But don't mistake me; it is not in this
way that you will ever prove the truth of your religion. You must
show justice to your opponents first. You must put a different
spirit into your pet word, 'Charity.' I don't think you can do it.
I think your religion false. I consider that it is rooted in
selfishness and superstition. Being convinced of this when I was
still young, I had to find some other system to take its place.
That system I found in secularism. For thirty years I have lived
as a secularist and have been perfectly content notwithstanding
that my life has been a very hard one. As a secularist I now die
Mr. Fane-Smith shuddered. This was of course inexpressibly painful
to him. He could not see that what had disgusted Raeburn with
religion had been the distortion of Christ's teaching, and that in
truth the secularist creed embodied much of the truest and loftiest
Once more he reiterated his arguments, striving hard to show by
words the beauty of his religion. But Christianity can only be
vindicated by deeds, can only be truly shown forth in lives. The
country, the "Christian Country," as it was fond of styling itself,
had had thirty years in which to show to Raeburn the loving
kindness, the brotherhood, the lofty generosity which each
professed follower of Christ ought to show in his life. Now the
time was over, and it was too late.
The dying man bent forward, and a hard look came into his eyes, and
a sternness overspread his calm face.
"What has Christianity done for me?" he asked. "Look at my life.
See how I have been treated."
And Mr. Fane-Smith was speechless. Conscience-stricken, he knew
that to this there was no reply that HE could honestly make, and a
question dawned upon his mind Was his own "Christianity" really
that of Christ?
As evening drew on, Raeburn's life was slowly ebbing away. Very
slowly, for to the last he fought for breath. All his nearest
friends were gathered round him, and to the end he was clearly
conscious and, as in life, calmly philosophical.
"I have been well 'friended' all my life," he said once, looking
round at the faces by his bedside.
They were all too broken-hearted to respond, and there were long
silences, broken only by the laboring breath and restless movements
of the dying man.
Toward midnight there was a low roll of distant thunder, and
gradually the storm drew nearer and nearer. Raeburn asked to be
raised in bed that he might watch the lightning which was unusually
beautiful. It was a strange, weird scene the plainly furnished
hotel room, sparsely lighted by candles, the sad group of watchers,
the pale, beautiful face of the young girl bending over the pillow,
and the strong, rugged Scotchman with his white hair and keen brown
eyes, upon whose face death had already set his pale tokens. From
the uncurtained window could be seen the dark outline of the
adjacent houses and the lights lower down the hill scattered here
and there throughout the sleeping city. Upon all this the vivid
lightning played, and the distant thunder followed with its mighty
crash, rolling and echoing away among the surrounding hills.
"I am glad to have seen one more storm," said Raeburn.
But soon he grew weary, tired just with the slight exertion of
looking and listening. He sighed. To a strong, healthy man in the
very prime of life, this failing of the powers was hard to bear.
Death was very near; he knew it well enough knew it by this slow,
sure, painless sinking.
He held Erica's hand more closely, and after that lay very still,
once or twice asking for more coverings over his feet. The night
wore on. After a long silence, he looked up once more and said to
"I promised Hazeldine a sovereign toward the fund for--" he broke
off with a look of intense weariness, adding after an interval
"He'll tell you. See that it's paid."
The storm had passed, and the golden-red dawn was just breaking
when once more the silence was broken.
"Come nearer, Eric," he whispered "nearer!"
Then came a long pause.
There was stillness that fearful stillness when the watchers begin
to hush their very breath, that they may catch the last faint
breathings. Poor Tom could stand it no longer; he just buried his
face in his hands and sobbed. Perhaps Erica envied him. Violent
grief would surely have been more endurable than this terrible
sinking, this dread of not keeping up to the end. Was she falling
with him down those horrible steps? Was she sinking with him
beneath the cold, green waves? Oh, death cruel death! Why had he
not taken them together on that summer day?
Yet what was she saying? The death angel was but God's messenger,
and her father could never, never be beyond the care of One who
loved him infinitely eternally. If He the Father were taking him
from her, why, she would trust Him, though it should crush her
"Nearer, Eric nearer." How those last words rang in her ears as
she waited there with her hands in his. She knew they would be the
last for he was sinking away into a dreamily passive state just
dying because too tired to live.
"Nearer, nearer!" Was this agony indeed to heal the terrible
division between them? Ah, mystery of evil, mystery of pain,
mystery of death! Only the love of the Infinitely Loving can
fathom you only the trust in that Love give us a glimpse of your
She felt a tightening of the fingers that clasped hers. He was
still conscious; he smiled just such a smile as he used to give her
when, as a little thing, she had fretted about his leaving home.
She pressed her quivering lips to his, clung to him, and kissed him
again and again. There was a sigh. A long interval, and another
sigh. After that, silence.
CHAPTER XLI. Results Closely Following
But that one man should die ignorant who had capacity for
knowledge, this I call a tragedy. Carlyle
Not what I think, but what Thou art, makes sure. George MacDonald
A wave of strangely varied feeling swept through the country in the
next four-and-twenty hours.
From the Raeburnites came a burst of mingled wrath and grief, and a bitter
outcry against the religion which inevitably they thought tended to produce
such fanatics as Drosser. From the poor and oppressed came a murmur of blank
despair; they had looked upon Raeburn as the deliverer from so much
that now weighed upon them, and were so perfectly conscious that he
understood their wants and difficulties in a way which others
failed to do, that his death in the very prime of manhood simply
stunned them. The liberal-minded felt a thrill of horror and
indignation at the thought that such deeds as this could take place
in the nineteenth century; realizing, however, with a shudder that
the rash act of the ignorant fanatic was, in truth, no worse than
the murder of hatred, the perpetual calumny and injustice which
thousands of professing Christians had meted out to Raeburn. In
nothing had the un-Christlikeness of the age been more conspicuous
than in the way in which Raeburn had all his life been treated.
The fashionable world felt a sort of uncomfortableness. The news
reached them at their laziest time of year; they came in from
shooting parties to read the account in the papers; they discussed
it in ball rooms and at evening parties at Brighton and Greyshot
and the other autumnal resorts. "So he was dead! Well, really
they were tired of hearing his name! It was rather horrible,
certainly, that his daughter should have seen it all, but such
infamous creatures as Raeburn had no business to have daughters.
No doubt she would stand it very well anything, you know, for a
little notoriety. Such people lived for notoriety. Of course the
papers had put in a lot of twaddle that he had said on his death
bed 'always had tried to work entirely for the good of humanity,'
and that sort of nonsense. This coffee ice is excellent. Let me
get you another," after which the subject would be dropped, and the
speakers would return to the ball room to improve upon Raeburn's
life, which they presumed so severely to criticize, by a trois
temps enlivened by a broad flirtation.
Here and there a gleam of good was effected inasmuch as some of the
excessively narrow began to see what narrowness leads to. Mr.
Cuthbert, coming home from his annual Swiss tour, was leaning back
sleepily in a first-class carriage at the Folkestone station when
the voice of a newsboy recalled him to the every-day world with a
slight shock. There was the usual list of papers; he was sleepy
and thought he would not get one, but then came the loud voice, not
a couple of yards from his ear, "Death of Mr. Raeburn! Death of
Luke Raeburn this da-ay!"
Mr. Cuthbert had his head out of the window in a moment.
"These boys will call anything to sell their papers," he remarked
to his companion; "I dare say it's nothing more than a rumor."
"Precious good thing for the country if it was true," replied the
other, a young fellow of two-and-twenty who dawdled through life
upon an income of 5,000 pounds a year, and found it quite possible
to combine the enjoyment of lax living with the due expression of
very orthodox sentiments.
Mr. Cuthbert did not answer; his eye was traveling down a column of
the newspaper, and he felt a curious pricking of remorse as he
read. He had once been rude to Erica Raeburn; he had all his life
retailed dubious stories about her father, knowing all the time
that had any one believed such stories of himself upon such shaky
evidence, he would have used very strong language about them. And
now this fellow was dead! Curiously enough, Mr. Cuthbert, who had
many times remarked that "Raeburn ought to be shut up, or better
still, hung," was now the one to wish him alive again. Ugh! It
was a horrible story. He quite shivered as he read the account of
those days of torture.
But in a room at the Park Hotel, Ashborough, two very different men
were discussing the same subject. Mr. Fane-Smith, with all his
faults, had always been well-intentioned, and though frightful harm
may be done by people with good intentions, they can never stand
upon the same level as those who wilfully and maliciously offend.
All too plainly now he saw how grievously he had failed with regard
to Raeburn, and patiently did he listen to Donovan's account of the
really good work which Raeburn had effected in many instances.
"Much as you may hate his views, you must at least see that, as
some one has well expressed it, 'It takes a high-souled man to move
the masses even to a cleaner sty.' And I say that a man who worked
as he worked, striving hard to teach the people to live for the
general good, advocating temperance, promoting the spread of
education, and somehow winning those whom no one else had ever
touched to take an intelligent interest in politics, in science,
and in the future of the race, that such a man claims our respect
however much we may disagree with him."
"But that he should have died ignorant like this!" exclaimed Mr.
Fane-Smith with a shudder.
"'Tis in truth a tragedy," said Donovan, sighing,. "But I can well
believe that in another world the barriers which he allowed to
distort his vision will be removed; the very continuance of
existence would surely be sufficient."
"You are a universalist?" said Mr. Fane-Smith, not in the
condemnatory tone he would once have assumed, but humbly,
anxiously, like one who gropes his way in a dark place.
"Yes," replied Donovan. "Believing in a universal Father, I am
naturally that. Upon any other system, what do you make of the
good which exists in so many of those who deny all in which you
believe? Where does the good go to? I stood beside the death bed
of that noble man this morning. At the very last I saw most
touching proofs of his strong sense of justice, his honesty, his
desire to promote the good of others, his devotion to his child.
Can you believe that all that goodness, which of necessity comes
from God, is to go down into what you call everlasting punishment?
Don't mistake me. Thank God there is a punishment which no one
would wish to forego, such punishment, such drawing forth of the
native good, such careful help in the rooting out of what is evil
as all good fathers give to their children."
They were interrupted by the opening of the door. Mr. Fane-Smith
started and almost trembled when, on turning round, he saw Erica.
She was pale, but preternaturally calm looking, however, they all
felt, as if in her father's death, she had received her own death
"I thought I heard you," she said in that strangely "gravened"
voice which is sometimes one of the consequences of great and
sudden trouble. "Has Donovan taken you into the next room? Will
For his life Mr. Fane-Smith could not have refused anything which
she asked him; there was something in her manner that made the
tears rush to his eyes though he was not, as a rule, easily moved.
He followed her obediently though with a sort of reluctance; but
when he was once there he was glad. Ever since the previous day he
had not been able to rid himself of that stern, hard look with
which Raeburn had so terribly rebuked him; it had persistently
haunted him. There was nothing stern in this dead face. It was
still and passionless, bearing the look of repose which, spite of
a harassed life, it had always borne in moments of leisure. He
hardly looked as though he were dead. Erica could almost have
fancied that he was but resting after the toils of a hard day,
having fallen asleep for a few minutes, as she had often seen him
in his arm chair on a Sunday evening.
Mr. Fane-Smith did not say a word, his eyes wandered from the calm
face to the still hands which clasped some sprigs of his native
heather, the heather which Donovan's children had sent only the day
before, but just in time to win one of his last smiles. Donovan
and Erica spoke together in low tones, but something in the sound
of that "gravened" voice arrested Mr. Fane-Smith's attention. He
had not heard what had passed before, and there was nothing special
in the words that fell now upon his ear; it was rather that his own
soul was in a state of receptivity, and so through the first
channel that came to hand he was able to receive a new truth.
"I am only his child; God is his Father."
And there, by the lifeless body of Luke Raeburn, one, who during
his life had judged him with the very hardest judgment, learned for
the first time what Fatherhood means.
As long as there was anything to be done, Erica struggled on
although the days were terribly hard and were rendered infinitely
harder by the sort of publicity which attended them. There was the
necessity of appearing at the inquest; there was the necessity of
reading every word that was written about her father. She could
not help reading the papers, could not keep her hands off them,
though even now most cruel things were said. There was the
necessity of attending the great public funeral in London, of
seeing the thousands of grief-stricken people, of listening to the
professor's words so broken with sobs that they could hardly be
heard. A week later there was the necessity of going down to the
Ashborough assizes to appear as a witness in the trial of Drosser.
"What do you feel toward this man?" some one asked her once.
"A great pity," she replied. "It is not nearly so hard for me to
forgive this poor fanatic as to forgive those who have taught him
his dark creed, or to forgive those who, while calling themselves
Christians, have hated my father with the hatred that is quite as
bad as murder."
But when the trial was over and there was no longer any necessity
to do anything, Erica suddenly broke down. She had never till now
yielded though not a night had passed in which she had not been
haunted by the frightful recollections of that Sunday evening and
the days following. But the evening she returned from Ashborough
she could hold out no longer.
Very quietly she bore that sad return to the empty house, going
into all the familiar rooms and showing no sign of grief, because
those she loved were with her, watching her with the anxious
solicitude which people cannot help showing at such a time though
it is usually more of a trial than a comfort. Erica longed
inexpressibly to be alone, and when at length, deceived by her
unnatural calm, they were persuaded to leave her, she crept down to
the study and shut herself in, and no longer tried to resist the
inevitable, the mere surroundings were quite sufficient to open the
flood gates of her grief; the books which her father had loved, the
table, the empty chair, the curious cactus which they had brought
back from Italy, and in the growth of which they had taken such an
interest! the desk at which her father had toiled for so many long
years. She hid her face from the light and broke into a passionate
fit of weeping. Then exhausted, nerveless, powerless, she could no
longer cope with that anguish of remembrance which was her nightly
torment. Once more there rose before her that horrible scene in
the Ashborough market place; once more she could see the glare of
light, the huge crowd, the sudden treacherous movement, the fall;
once more she heard the crash, the hushed murmur; once more felt
the wild struggle to get through that pushing, jostling throng that
she might somehow reach him. That nightmare recollection only gave
place to a yet more painful one, to the memory of days of such
agony that to recall them was almost to risk her reason. She had
struggled bravely not to dwell upon these things, but this night
her strength was gone, she could do nothing, and Brian, coming at
last to seek her, found that the climax he had long foreseen had
"Oh," she sobbed, "if you love me, Brian, be willing to let me go!
Don't pray for me to live! Promise that you will not!"
A shade came over Brian's face. Was the dead father still to
absorb all her love? Must he even now resign all to him? Lose
Erica at last after these long years of waiting! There was a look
of agony in his eyes, but he answered quietly and firmly:
"I will pray only that God's will may be done, darling."
A sort of relief was apparent in Erica's flushed, tear-stained face
as though he had given her leave to be ill.
After that, for long, weary weeks, she lay at the very gate of
death, and those who watched by her had not the heart to wish her
back to life again.
CHAPTER XLII. A New Year's Dawn
And the murky planets, I perceived, were but cradles for the infant
spirits of the universe of light
. . . . And in sight of this immeasurability of life no sadness could endure
. . . . And I exclaimed,
Oh! How beautiful is death, seeing that we die in a
world of life and of creation without end!
And I blessed God for my life upon earth, but much more for the life in those
unseen depths of the universe which are comprised of all but the
Supreme Reality, and where no earthly life or perishable hope can enter.
For many weeks Erica had scarcely a conscious interval. Now and
then she had been dimly aware that Brian was in the room, or that
Aunt Jean, and Mrs. MacNaughton, and her many secularist friends
were nursing her; but all had been vague, dream-like, seen through
the distorting fever-mist. On night, however, she woke after a
sleep of many hours to see things once more as they really were.
There was her little room with its green-paneled walls, and its
familiar pictures, and familiar books. There was Aunt Jean sitting
beside the fire, turning over the pages of an "Idol-Breaker," while
all the air seemed to be ringing and echoing with the sound of
"Auntie," she said, "what day is it?"
Aunt Jean came at once to her bedside.
"It is New Year's day," she said; "it struck twelve about five
minutes ago, dear."
Erica made no comment though the words brought back to her the
sense of her desolation brought back to her, too, the remembrance
of another New Year's day long ago when she had stood beside her
father on the deck of the steamer, and the bells of Calais had
gayly pealed in spite of her grief. She took the food her aunt
brought her, and promised to go to sleep once more.
"I shall have to wake up again in this misery!" she thought to
herself. "Oh, if one could only sleep right on!"
But God sometimes saves us from what we have most dreaded; and when
at sunrise Erica woke once more, before any recollection returned
to her mind, she became conscious of One who said to her, "Lo, I am
with you always! Behold, I make all things new!"
Streaks of golden light were stealing in between the window
curtains. She lay quite still, able to face life once more in the
strength of that Inner Presence; able to endure the well-known
sights and sounds because she could once more realize that there
was One who made even "the wrath of man to praise" Him; who, out of
blackest evil and cruelest pain, could at length bring good.
Presently, passing from the restfulness of that conscious
communion, she remembered a strange dream she had had that night.
She had dreamed that she was sitting with Donovan in the little
church yard at Oakdene; in her hand she held a Greek Testament, but
upon the page had only been able to see one sentence. It ran thus,
"Until the times of the Restitution of all things." Donovan had
insisted that the word should rightly be "restoration." She had
clung to the old rendering. While they discussed the distinction
between the words, a beautiful girl had all at once stood before
them. Erica knew in an instant who it must be by the light which
shone in her companion's face.
"You are quite right," she had said, turning her beautiful eyes
upon him. "It is not the mere giving back of things that were, it
is the perfecting of that which was here only in ideal; it is the
carrying out of what might have been. All the time there has been
progress, all the time growth, and so restoration is better, wider,
grander than anything we could dream of here!"
And, as she left them, there had come to both a sort of vision of
the Infinite, in sight of which the whole of earthly existence was
but as an hour, and the sum of human suffering but as the pin prick
to a strong man, and yet both human suffering and human existence
were infinitely worth while. And over them stole a wonderful peace
as they realized the greatness of God's universe, and that in it
was no wasted thing, no wasted pain, but order where there seemed
confusion, and a soul of goodness where there seemed evil.
And, after all, what was this dream compared with the reality which
she knew to exist? Well, it was perhaps a little fragment, a dim
shadow, a seeing through the glass darkly; but mostly it was a
comfort because she was all the time conscious that there was an
infinitely Better which it has not entered into the heart of man to
Brian came in for his morning visit with a face so worn and anxious
that it made her smile.
"Oh!" she said, looking up at him with quiet, shining eyes, "how I
have been troubling you all these weeks! But you are not to be
troubled any more, darling. I am going to get better."
And with a sort of grateful, loving tenderness, she drew his face
down to hers and kissed him.
"Where is Tom?" she asked presently, beginning for the first time
to take an interest in the world again.
"Tom has gone to Oakdene for a day or two," said Brian. "He is
going to be Donovan's private secretary."
"How glad I am!" she said. "Dear old Tom, he does so deserve to be
"They want you to go there as soon as you are well enough to be
moved," said Brian.
"I should like that," she said with a touch of her old eagerness of
manner. "I want to get well quickly; there is so much work for us
to do you know. Oh, Brian! I feel that there is work which HE
would wish me to do, and I'm so glad, so glad to be left to do it!"
Brian thought of the enormous impetus given to the cause of
secularism by Raeburn's martyrdom. The momentary triumph of
bigotry and intolerance had, as in all other ages, been followed by
this inevitable consequence a dead loss to the persecuting side.
Would people at length learn the lesson? Would the reign of
justice at length dawn? Would the majority at length believe that
the All Father needs not to be supported by persecuting laws and
Yet it was not these thoughts which brought the tears to his eyes
it was the rapture caused by Erica's words.
"My darling will live, and is glad to live!" he thought. "Who
could bear witness to the truth so well? Who be so sweet a
"Why, Brian! Brian!" exclaimed Erica as the great drops fell on her
hand lying clasped in his.
And there was that in tone and look and touch which made Brian more