Part 3 out of 10
definition of that very wide, not to say vague, term?"
"I don't think I can define it," she said; "but one knows it when
one sees it."
"Do you mean by it unselfishness, courage, truthfulness, or any
"Oh, it isn't any one virtue, or even a parcel of virtues, it will
not go into words."
"It is then the nearest approach to some perfect ideal which is in
"I suppose it is," she said, slowly.
"How did that ideal come into your mind?"
"I don't know; I suppose I got it by inheritance."
"From the original moneron?"
"You are laughing at me. I don't know how of course, but I have
it, which, as far as I can see, is all that matters."
"I am not sure of that," said Charles Osmond. "The explanation of
that ideal of goodness which more or less clearly exists in all our
minds, seems to me to rest only in the conviction that all are
children of one perfect Father. And I can give you our definition
of goodness without hesitation, it is summed up for us in one word
"I cannot see it; it seems to me all exaggerated," said Erica. ?"I
believe it is only because people are educated to believe and
predisposed to think it all good and perfect that there are so many
Christians. You may say it is we who are prejudiced. If we are,
I'm sure you Christians have done enough to make us so! How could
I, for instance, be anything but an atheist? Shall I tell you the
very first thing I can remember?"
Her eyes were flashing with indignant light.
"I was a little tiny child--only four years old--but there are
some scenes one never forgets. I can see it all as plainly as
possible, the room in a hotel, the very doll I was playing with.
There was a great noise in the street, trampling, hissing, hooting.
I ran to the window, an immense crowd was coming nearer and nearer,
the street was black with the throng, they were all shouting and
yelling--'Down with the infidel!' 'Kill the atheist!' Then I saw
my father, he was there strong and fearless, one man against a
thousand! I tell you I saw him, I can see him now, fighting his
way on single-handed, not one creature brave enough to stand up for
him. I saw him pushed, struck, spit upon, stoned. At last a great
brick struck him on the head. I think I must have been too sick or
too angry to see any more after that. The next thing I remember is
lying on the floor sobbing, and hearing father come into the room
and say: 'Why, little son Eric, did you think they'd killed me?'
And he picked me up and let me sit on his knee, but there was blood
on his face, and as he kissed me it dropped upon my forehead. I
tell you, you Christians baptized me into atheism in my own
father's blood. They were Christians who stoned him, champions of
religion, and they were egged on by the clergy. Did I not hear it
all then in my babyhood? And it is true; it is all fact; ask
anybody you like; I have not exaggerated."
"My dear child, I know you have not," said Charles Osmond, putting
his strong hand upon hers. He could feel that she was all
trembling with indignation. Was it to be wondered at? "I remember
those riots perfectly well," he continued. "I think I felt and
feel as indignant about them as yourself. A fearful mistake was
made--Mr. Raeburn was shamefully treated. But, Erica"--it was
the first time he had called her by her name--"you who pride
yourself upon fairness, you who make justice your watchword must be
careful not to let the wrong doing of a few Christians prejudice
you against Christianity. You say that we are all predisposed to
accept Christ; but candidly you must allow, I think, that you are
trebly prejudiced against the very name of Christian. A Christian
almost inevitably means to you only one of your father's mistaken
"Yes, you are so much of an exception that I always forget you are
one," said Erica, smiling a little. "Yet you are not like one of
us--quite--you somehow stand alone, you are unlike any one I
ever met; you and Thekla Sonnenthal and your son make to me a sort
of new variety."
Charles Osmond laughed, and changed the subject."You are busy with
your examination work, I suppose?" And the question led to a long
talk about books and lectures.
In truth, Erica had plunged into work of all kinds, not merely from
love of it, but because she felt the absolute need of fresh
interests, the great danger of dwelling unduly on her sorrow.
Then, too, she had just grasped a new idea, an idea at once noble
and inspiriting. Hitherto she had thought of a happy future for
herself, of a home free from troubles and harassing cares. That
was all over now, her golden dream had come to an end, "Hope dead
lives nevermore." The life she had pictured to herself could never
be, but her nature was too strong to be crushed by the sorrow;
physically the shock had weakened her far more than any one knew,
but, mentally, it had been a wonderful stimulant. She rose above
herself, above her trouble, and life began to mean something
broader and deeper than before.
Hitherto her great desire had been to be free from care, and to be
happy; now the one important thing seemed not so much to be happy,
as to know. To learn herself, and to help others to learn, became
her chief object, and, with all the devotion of an earnest,
high-souled nature, she set herself to act out these convictions.
She read hard, attended lectures, and twice a week taught in the
night school attached to the Institute.
Charles Osmond could not help smiling as she described her days to
him. She still retained something of the childishness of an
Undine, and as they talked she had taken up her old position on the
hearth rug, and Friskarina had crept on to her knee. Here,
undoubtedly, was one whom ignorant people would stigmatize as
"blue" or as a "femme savante;" they would of course be quite wrong
and inexpressively foolish to use such terms, and yet there was,
perhaps, something a little incongruous in the two sides, as it
were, of Erica's nature, the keen intellect and the child-like
devotion , the great love of learning and the intense love of fun
and humor. Charles Osmond had only once in all his long years of
experience met with a character which interested him so much.
"After all," he said, when they had talked for some time, "I have
never told you that I came on a begging errand, and I half fear
that you will be too busy to undertake any more work."
Erica's face brightened at the word; was not work what she lived
"Oh! I am not too busy for anything!" she exclaimed. "I shall
quote Marcus Aurelius to you if you say I haven't time! What sort
"Only, when you can, to come to us in the afternoon and read a
little to my mother. Do you think you could? Her eyes are
failing, and Brian and I are hard at work all day; I am afraid she
is very dull."
"I should like to come very much," said Erica, really pleased at
the suggestion. "What sort of books would Mrs. Osmond like?"
"Oh, anything! History, travels, science, or even novels, if you
are not above reading them!"
"I? Of course not," said Erica, laughing. "Don't you think we
enjoy them as much as other people? When there is time to read
them, at least, which isn't often."
Charles Osmond laughed.
"Very well then, you have a wide field. From Carlyle to Miss Bird,
and from Ernst Haeckel to Charles Reade. I should make them into
a big sandwich if I were you."
He said goodbye, and left Erica still on the hearth rug, her face
brighter than it had been for months.
"I like that man," she said to herself. "He's honest and thorough,
and good all through. Yet how in the world does he make himself
believe in his creed? Goodness, Christlikeness. He looked so
grand, too, as he said that. It is wonderful what a personal sort
of devotion those three have for their ideal."
She wandered away to recollections of Thekla Sonnenthal, and that
carried her back to the time of their last parting, and the
recollection of her sorrow. All at once the loneliness of the
present was borne in upon her overwhelmingly; she looked around the
little room, the Ilkley couch was pushed away into a corner, there
was a pile of newspapers upon it. A great sob escaped her. For a
minute she pressed her hands tightly together over her eyes, then
she hurriedly opened a book on "Electricity," and began to read as
if for her life.
She was roused in about an hour's time by a laughing exclamation.
She started, and looking up, saw her cousin Tom.
"Talk about absorption, and brown studies!" he cried, "why, you eat
everything I ever saw. I've been looking at you for at least three
Tom was now about nineteen; he had inherited the auburn coloring of
the Raeburns, but otherwise he was said to be much more like the
Craigies. He was nice looking, but somewhat freckled, and though
he was tall and strongly built, he somehow betrayed that he had led
a sedentary life and looked, in fact, as if he wanted a training in
gymnastics. For the rest he was shrewd, business-like,
good-natured, and at present very conceited. He had been Erica's
friend and playfellow as long as she could remember; they were
brother and sister in all but the name, for they had lived within
a stone's throw of each other all their lives, and now shared the
"I never heard you come in," she said, smiling a little. "You must
have been very quiet."
"I don't believe you'd hear a salute fired in the next room if you
were reading, you little book worm! But look here; I've got a
parody on the chieftain that'll make you cry with laughing. You
remember the smashed windows at the meeting at Rilchester last
Erica remembered well enough, she had felt sore and angry about it,
and the comments in the newspapers had not been consolatory. She
had learned to dread even the comic papers; but there was nothing
spiteful in the one which Tom produced that evening. It was
Scotch song (Tune--"Twas within a mile of Edinboro'town"
"Twas within a hall of Rilchester town,
In the bleak spring-time of the year,
Luke Raeburn gave a lecture on the soul of man,
And found that it cost him dear.
Windows all were smashed that day,
They said: 'The atheist can pay.'
But Scottish Raeburn, frowning cried:
'Na, na, it winna do,
I canna, canna, winna, winna, munna pay for you.'"
The parody ran on through the three verses of the song, the
conclusion was really witty, and there was no sting in it. Erica
laughed over it as she had not laughed for weeks. Tom, who had
been trying unsuccessfully to cheer her ever since her return, was
"I believe the sixpence a day style suits you," he said. "But, I
say, isn't anything coming up? I'm as hungry as a hunter."
Their elders being away for a few days, Tom and Erica were amusing
themselves by trying to live on the rather strange diet of the man
who published his plan for living at the smallest possible cost.
They were already beginning to be rather weary of porridge, pea
soup and lentils. This evening pea soup was in the ascendant, and
Erica, tired with a long afternoon's work, felt as if she could
almost as soon have eaten Thames mud.
"Dear me," she said, "it never struck me, this is our Lenten
penance! Now, wouldn't any one looking in fancy we were poor
Romanists without an indulgence?"
"Certainly without any self-indulgence," said Tom, who never lost
an opportunity of making a bad pun.
"It would be a great indulgence to stop eating," said Erica,
sighing over the soup yet to be swallowed.
"Do you think it is more inspiriting to fast in order to save one's
soul than it is to pay the chieftain's debts? I wish I could
honestly say, like the little French girl in her confession: 'J'ai
Tom dearly loved that story, he was exceeding fond of getting
choice little anecdotes from various religious newspapers,
especially those which dealt in much abuse of the Church of Rome,
and he retailed them CON AMORE. Erica listened to several, and
laughed a good deal over them.
"I wonder, though, they don't see how they play into our hands by
putting in these things," she said after Tom had given her a
description of some ludicrous attack made by a ritualist on an
evangelical. "I should have thought they would have tried to agree
whenever they could, instead of which they seem almost as spiteful
to each other as they are to us."
"They'd know better if they'd more than a grain of sense between
them," said Tom, sweepingly, "but they haven't; and as they're
always playing battledoor and shuttlecock with that, it isn't much
good to either. Of course they play into our hands. I believe the
spiteful ultra-high paper, and the spiteful ultra-low paper do more
to promote atheism than the 'Idol-Breaker' itself."
"How dreadful it must be for men like Mr. Osmond, who see all
round, and yet can't stop what they must think the mischief. Mr.
Osmond has been here this afternoon."
"Ah, now, he's a stunning fellow, if you like," said Tom. "He's
not one of the pig-headed narrow-minded set. How he comes to be a
parson I can't make out."
"Well, you see, from their point of view it is the best thing to
be; I mean he gets plenty of scope for work. I fancy he feels as
much obliged to speak and teach as father does."
"Pity he's not on our side," said Tom; "they say he's a first-rate
speaker. But I'm, afraid he is perfectly crazy on that point;
he'll never come over."
"I don't think we've a right to put the whole of his religiousness
down to a mania," said Erica. "Besides, he is not the sort of man
to be even a little mad, there's nothing the least fanatical about
"Call it delusion if you like it better. What's in a name? The
thing remains the same. A man can't believe what is utterly
against reason without becoming, as far as that particular belief
is concerned, unreasonable, beyond the pale of reason, therefore
deluded, therefore mad."
Erica looked perplexed; she did not think Tom's logic altogether
good, but she could not correct it. There was, however, a want of
generosity about the assertion which instantly appealed to her fine
sense of honor.
"I can't argue it out," she said at last, "but it doesn't seem to
me fair to put down what we can't understand in other people to
madness; it never seemed to me quite fair for Festus to accuse Paul
of madness when he really had made a splendid defense, and it
doesn't seem fair that you should accuse Mr. Osmond of being mad."
"Only on that one point," said Tom. "Just a little touched, you
know. How else can you account for a man like that believing what
he professes to believe?"
"I don't know," said Erica, relapsing into perplexed silence.
"Besides," continued Tom, "you cry out because I say they must be
just a little touched, but they accuse us of something far worse
than madness, they accuse us of absolute wickedness."
"Not all of them," said Erica.
"The greater part," said Tom. "How often do you think the
chieftain meets with really fair treatment from the antagonists?"
Erica had nothing to say to this. The harshness and intolerance
which her father had constantly to encounter was the great grief of
her life, the perpetual source of indignation, her strongest
argument against Christianity.
"Have you much to do tonight?" she asked, not anxious to stir up
afresh the revolt against the world's injustice which the merest
touch would set working within her. "I was thinking that, if there
was time to spare, we might go to see the professor; he has
promised to show me some experiments."
"Electricity?" Tom pricked up his ears. "Not half a bad idea. If
you'll help me we can polish off the letters in an hour or so, and
be free by eight o'clock."
They set to work, and between them disposed of the correspondence.
It was a great relief to Erica after her long day's work to be out
in the cool evening air. The night was fine but very windy, indeed
the sudden gusts at the street corners made her glad to take Tom's
arm. Once, as they rather slackened their speed, half baffled by
the storm, a sentence from a passer-by fell on their ears. The
speaker looked like a countryman.
"Give me a good gas-burner with pipes and a meter that a honest man
can understand! Now this 'ere elective light I say it's not canny;
I've no belief in things o' that kind, it won't never--"
The rest of the speech died away in the distance. Tom and Erica
laughed, but the incident set Erica thinking. Here was a man who
would not believe what he could not understand, who wanted "pipes
and a meter," and for want of comprehensible outward signs
pooh-poohed the great new discovery.
"Tom," she said slowly, and with the manner of one who makes a very
unpleasant suggestion, reluctantly putting forward an unwelcome
thought, "suppose if, after all, we are like that man, and reject
a grand discovery because we don't know and are too ignorant to
understand! Tom, just suppose if, after all, Christianity should
be true and we in the wrong!"
"Just suppose if, after all, the earth should be a flat plain with
the sun moving round it!" replied Tom scornfully.
They were walking down the Strand; he did not speak for some
minutes, in fact he was looking at the people who passed by them.
For the first time in his life a great contrast struck him.
Disreputable vulgarity, wickedness, and vice stared him in the
face, then involuntarily he turned to Erica and looked down at her
scrutinizingly as he had never looked before. She was evidently
wrapped in thought but it was not the intellect in her face which
he thought of just then, though it was ever noticeable, nor was it
the actual beauty of feature which struck him, it was rather an
undefined consciousness that here was a purity which was adorable.
From that moment he became no longer a boy, but a man with a high
standard of womanhood. Instantly he thought with regret of his
scornful little speech--it was contemptible.
"I beg your pardon," he said, abruptly ,as if she had been
following his whole train of thought. "Of course one is bound to
study the question fairly, but we have done that, and all that
remains for us is to live as usefully as we can and as creditably
to the cause as may be."
They had turned down one of the dingy little streets leading to the
river, and now stood outside Professor Gosse's door. Erica did not
reply. It was true she had heard arguments for and against
Christianity all her life, but had she ever studied it with strict
impartiality? Had she not always been strongly biased in favor of
secularism? Had not Mr. Osmond gone unpleasantly near the mark
when he warned her against being prejudiced by the wrong-doing of
a few modern Christians against Christianity itself! She was
coming now for special instruction in science from one who was best
calculated to teach; she would not have dreamed of asking
instruction from one who was a disbeliever in science. Would the
same apply in matters of religious belief? Was she bound actually
to ask instruction from Charles Osmond, for instance, even though
she believed that he taught error--harmful error? Yet who was to
be the judge of what was error, except by perfectly fair
consideration of both sides of the case. Had she been fair? What
was perfect fairness?
But people must go on living, and must speak and act even though
their minds are in a chaos of doubts and questionings. They had
reached Professor Gosse's study, or as he himself called it, his
workshop, and Erica turned with relief to the verifiable results of
CHAPTER XI. The Wheels Run Down
Great grace, as saith Sir Thomas More,
To him must needs be given,
Who heareth heresy, and leaves
The heretic to Heaven. Whittier.
The clock in a neighboring church tower was just striking five on
a warm afternoon in June. The pillar box stood at the corner of
Guilford Square nearest the church, and on this particular
afternoon there chanced to be several people running at the last
moment to post their letters. Among others were Brian and Erica.
Brian, with a great bundle of parish notices, had just reached the
box when running down the other side of the square at full speed he
saw his Undine carrying a bagful of letters. He had not met her
for some weeks, for it happened to have been a busy time with him,
and though she had been very good in coming to read to old Mrs.
Osmond, he had always just missed her.
"This is a funny meeting place," she exclaimed, rather
breathlessly. "It never struck me before what a truly national
institution the post office is--a place where people of all
creeds and opinions can meet together, and are actually treated
"You have been very busy," he said, glancing at the innumerable
envelopes, which she was dropping as fast as might be into the
narrow receptacle. He could see that they were directed in her
small, clear, delicate handwriting.
"And you, too," she said, looking at his diminished bundle. "Mine
are secularist circulars, and yours, I suppose, are the other kind
of thing, but you see the same pillar eats them up quite
contentedly. The post office is beautifully national, it sets a
She spoke lightly, but there was a peculiar tone in her voice which
betrayed great weariness. It made Brian look at her more
attentively than he had yet done--less from a lover's point of
view, more from a doctor's. She was very pale. Though the running
had brought a faint color to her cheeks, her lips were white, her
forehead almost deathly. He knew that she had never really been
well since her mother's death, but the change wrought within the
last three weeks dismayed him; she was the mere shadow of her
"This hot weather is trying you," he said.
"Something is," she replied. "Work, or weather, or worry, or the
"Come in and see my father," said Brian, "and be idle for a little
time; you will be writing more circulars if you go home."
"No, they are all done, and my examination is over, and there is
nothing special going on just now; I think that is why I feel so
like breaking down."
After a little more persuasion, she consented to go in and see Mr.
Osmond. The house always had a peculiarly restful feeling, and the
mere thought of rest was a relief to her; she would have liked the
wheels of life to stop for a little while, and there was rest in
the mere change of atmosphere. On the doorstep Brian encountered
a patient, much to his vexation; so he could only take Erica into
the study, and go in search of his father. He lingered however,
just to tell him of his fears.
"She looks perfectly worn out; you must find out what is wrong,
father, and make her promise to see some one."
His tone betrayed such anxiety that his father would not smile
although he was secretly amused at the task deputed to him.
However, clergyman as he was, he had a good deal of the doctor
about him, and he had seen so much of sickness and disease during
his long years of hard work among the poor that he was after all
about as ready an observer and as good a judge as Brian could have
Erica, leaning back in the great easy chair, which had been moved
into summer quarters beside the window, heard the slow soft step
she had learned to know so well, and before she had time to get up,
found her hand in Charles Osmond's strong clasp.
"How comfortable your chair is," she said, smiling; "I believe I
was nearly asleep."
He looked at her attentively, but without appearing to study her
face in any way. She was very pale and there was an indefinable
look of pain in her eyes.
"Any news of the examination?" he asked, sitting down opposite her.
"No, it is too soon yet," she replied. "I thought I should have
felt so anxious about it, but do you know, now that it is over, I
can't make myself care a bit. If I have failed altogether, I don't
believe I shall mind very much."
"Too tired to care for anything?"
"Yes, I seem to have come to the end. I wish I were a watch, and
could run down and rest for a few days and be wound up again."
He smiled. "What have you been doing with yourself to get so
"Oh, nothing particular; it has been rather a long day. Let me
see! In the morning there were two delegates from Rilchester who
had to be kept in a good temper till my father was ready for them;
then there was father's bag to be packed, and a rush to get him off
in time for the morning express to Longstaff. Then I went to a
lecture at South Kensington, and then by train to Aldersgate Street
to see Hazeldine's wife, who is unconscionable enough to live at
the top of one of the model lodging houses. Then she told me of
another of our people whose child is ill, and they lived in another
row of Compton buildings up a hundred more steps, which left my
back nearly broken. And the poor little child was fearfully ill,
and it is so dreadful to see pain you can do nothing for; it has
made me feel wretched ever since. Then--let me think--oh, I
got home and found Aunt Jean with a heap of circulars to get off,
and there was a great rush to get them ready by post time."
She paused; Charles Osmond withdrew his eyes from the careful
scrutiny of her face, and noticed the position she had taken up in
his chair. She was leaning back with her arms resting on the arms
of the chair; not merely stretched out upon them, but rather as if
she used them for support. His eyes wandered back again to her
face. After a short silence, he spoke.
"You have been feeling very tired lately; you have had
unaccountable pains flying about all over you, but specially your
back has felt, as you just said, somewhat 'broken.' You have
generally noticed this when you have been walking, or bending over
your desk writing for the 'Idol-Breaker.'"
"Now please don't turn into a clairvoyant; I shall begin to think
you uncanny; and, besides, it would be an argument for Tom when we
quarrel about you."
"Then my surmises are true?"
"Substitute first person singular for second plural, and it might
have come from my own lips," said Erica, smiling. "But please
stop; I'm afraid you will try to turn prophet next, and I'm sure
you will prophesy something horrid."
"It would need no very clear-sighted prophet to prophesy that you
will have to let your wheels run down for a little while."
"Do you mean that you think I shall die?" asked Erica, languidly.
"It wouldn't be at all convenient just now; father couldn't spare
me. Do you know," and her face brightened, "he is really beginning
to use me a good deal?"
"I didn't mean that I thought your wheels would run down in that
way," said Charles Osmond, touched by the pathos of her words. "I
may even be wrong, but I think you will want a long rest, and I am
quite sure you mustn't lose a day before seeing a doctor. I should
like my brother to see you; Brian is only junior partner, you
"What, another Mr. Osmond! How muddled we shall get between you
all!" said Erica, laughing.
"I should think that Brian might be Brian by this time," said
Charles Osmond; "that will dispose of one; and perhaps you would
like to follow the example of one of my servants, who, I hear,
invariably speaks of me as the 'dear rev.'"
"No, I shall call you my 'prophet,' though it is true you have
begun by being a prophet of evil! By the bye, you can not say
again that I am not impartial. What do you think Tom and I did
"Read the New Testament backward?"
"No, we went to a Holy Scripture Society meeting at Exeter Hall."
"Hope you were edified," said Charles Osmond, with a little twinkle
in his eye; but he sighed, nevertheless.
"Well," said Erica, "it was rather curious to hear everything
reversed, and there was a good deal of fun altogether. They talked
a great deal about the numbers of bibles, testaments, and portions
which had been sent out. There was one man who spoke very broadly,
and kept on speaking of the 'PORTIONS,' and there was another whom
we called the 'Great Door,' because eight times in his speech he
said that a great door had been opened for them in Italy and other
places. Altogether, I thought them rather smug and self-satisfied,
especially one man whose face shone on the slightest provocation,
and who remarked, in broad Lincolnshire, that they had been
'aboondantly blessed.' After his speech a little short, sleek oily
man got up, and talked about Providence. Apparently it had been
very kind to him, and he thought the other sort of thing did best
for those who got it. But there were one or two really good
speakers, and I dare say they were all in earnest. Still, you
know, Tom and I felt rather like fish out of water, and especially
when they began to sing, 'Oh, Bible, blessed Bible!' and a lady
would make me share her hymn book. Then, too, there was a
collection, and the man made quite a pause in front of us, and of
course we couldn't give anything. Altogether, I felt rather horrid
and hypocritical for being there at all."
"Is that your only experience of one of our meetings?"
"Oh, no, father took me with him two or three times to Westminster
Abbey a good many years ago. We heard the dean; father admired him
very much. I like Westminster Abbey. It seems to belong a little
to us, too, because it is so national. And then it is so
beautiful, and I liked hearing the music. I wonder, though, that
you are not little afraid of having it so much in your worship. I
remember hearing a beautiful anthem there once, which just thrilled
one all through. I wonder that you don't fear that people should
mistake that for what you call spiritual fervor."
"I think, perhaps, there is a danger in any undue introduction of
externals, but any one whose spirit has ever been awakened will
never mistake the mere thrill of sensuous rapture for the
quickening of the spirit by the Unseen."
"You are talking riddles to me now!" said Erica; "but I feel sure
that some of the people who go to church regularly only like it
because of that appeal to the senses. I shall never forget going
one afternoon into Notre Dame with Mme. Lemercier. A flood of
crimson and purple light was shining in through the south transept
windows. You could see the white-robed priests and choristers--
there was one boy with the most perfect voice you can conceive. I
don't know what they were singing, something very sweet and
mournful, and, as that one voice rang up into the vaulted roof, I
saw Mme. Lemercier fall down on her knees and pray in a sort of
rapture. Even I myself felt the tears come to my eyes, just
because of the loveliness, and because the blood in one's veins
seemed to bound. And then, still singing, the procession passed
into the nave, and the lovely voice grew more and more distant. It
was a wonderful effect; no doubt, the congregation thought they
felt devout, but, if so, then I too felt devout--quite as
religious as they. Your spiritual fervor seems to me to resolve
itself into artistic effect produced by an appeal to the senses and
"And I must repeat my riddle," said Charles Osmond, quietly. "No
awakened spirit could ever mistake the one for the other. It is
impossible! How impossible you will one day realize."
"One evil prophesy is enough for today!" said Erica laughing. "If
I stay any longer, you will be prophesying my acceptance of
Christianity. No, no, my father will be grieved enough if your
first prediction comes true, but, if I were to turn Christian, I
think it would break his heart!"
She rose to go, and Charles Osmond went with her to the door,
extracting a promise that she would discuss things with her aunt,
and if she approved send for Mr. Osmond at once. He watched her
across the square, then turning back into his study paced to and
fro in deep thought. Erica's words rang in his ears. "If I were
to turn Christian, I think it would break his heart." How
strangely this child was situated! How almost impossible it seemed
that she could ever in this world come to the light! And yet the
difficulty might perhaps be no hindrance to one so beautifully
sincere, so ready to endure anything and everything for the sake of
what she now considered truth. She had all her father's zeal and
self-devotion; surely the offering up of self, even in a mistaken
cause, must sooner or later lead to the Originator of all
self-sacrifice. Surely some of those who seem only to thwart God,
honestly deeming Christianity a mischievous delusion, are really
acting more in His spirit, unconsciously better doing His will than
many who openly declare themselves on His side! Yet, as Charles
Osmond mused over the past lives of Luke Raeburn and his daughter,
and pictured their probable future, a great grief filled his heart.
They wee both so lovable, so noble! That they should miss in a
great measure the best of life seemed such a grievous pity! The
chances that either of them would renounce atheism were, he could
not but feel, infinitesimally small. Much smaller for the father
than for the child.
It was true, indeed, that she had never fairly grasped any real
idea of the character of Christ. He had once grasped it to a
certain extent, and had lost the perception of its beauty and
truth. It was true also that Erica's transparent sincerity, her
quick perception of the beautiful might help very greatly to
overcome her deeply ingrained prejudices. But even then what an
agony--what a fearful struggle would lie before her; "I think it
would break his heart!" Charles Osmond felt his breath come fast
and hard at the mere thought of such a difference between the
father and daughter! Could human strength possibly be equal to
such a terrible trial? For these two were everything to each
other. Erica worshipped her father, and Raeburn's fatherhood was
the truest, deepest, tenderest part of his character. No, human
strength could not do it, but--
"I am; nyle ye drede!"
His eye fell on a little illuminated scroll above his mantelpiece,
Wycliff's rendering of Christ's reassuring words to the fearful
disciples. Yes, with the revelation of Himself, He would give the
strength, make it possible to dread nothing, not even the
infliction of grief to one's nearest and dearest. Much pain, much
sacrifice there would be in his service, but dread--never. The
strength of the "I am," bade it forever cease. In that strength
the weakest could conquer.
But he had wondered on into a dim future, had pictured a struggle
which in all probability would not take place. Even were that the
case, however, he needed these words of assurance all the more
himself. They wove themselves into his reverie as he paced to an
fro; they led him further and further away from perplexed surmises
as to the future of Raeburn and Erica, but closer to their souls,
because they took him straight to the "God and father of all, who
is above all, and through all, and in all."
The next morning as he was preparing a sermon for the following
Sunday, there came a knock at his study door. His brother came in.
He was a fine looking man of two or three-and-fifty.
"I can't stay," he said, "I've a long round, but I just looked in
to tell you about your little heretic."
Charles Osmond looked up anxiously.
"It is as you thought," continued his brother. "Slight curvature
of the spine. She's a brave little thing; I don't wonder you are
interested in her."
"It means a long rest, I suppose?"
"Yes, I told her a year in a recumbent posture; for I fancy she is
one of those restless beings who will do nothing at all unless you
are pretty plain with them. It is possible that six or eight
months may be sufficient."
"How did she take it?"
"Oh, in the pluckiest way you can conceive! Tried to laugh at the
prospect, wanted me to measure her to see how much she grew in the
time, and said she should expect at least three inches to reward
"A Raeburn could hardly be deficient in courage. Luke Raeburn is
without exception the bravest man I ever met."
"And I'd back his daughter against any woman I know," said the
He left the room, but the news he had brought caused a long pause
in his brother's sermon.
CHAPTER XII. Raeburn's Homecoming
He is a man both loving and severe,
A tender heart, a will inflexible. Longfellow
Luke Raeburn had been lecturing in one of the large manufacturing
towns. It was the hottest part of a sultry day in June. He was
returning home, and sat in a broiling third-class carriage reading
a paper. Apparently what he read was the reverse of gratifying for
there was a look of annoyance on his usually serene face; he was
displeased with the report of his lecture given in the local
papers, it was calculated to mislead very greatly.
Other matters, too, were harassing him just then and he was,
moreover, paying the penalty of his two years' campaign, in which
his almost superhuman exertions and the privations he had
voluntarily endured had told severely upon his health. Possessed
of a singularly well-regulated mind, and having in an unusual
degree the inestimable gift of common sense, he nevertheless often
failed to use it in his personal affairs. He had no idea of
sparing himself, no idea of husbanding his strength; this was
indeed great, but he treated himself as if it were inexhaustible.
The months of trouble had turned his hair quite white; he was now
a more noticeable-looking man than ever.
Not unfrequently he made friends with the men with whom he
traveled; he was always studying life from the workingman's point
of view, and there was such a charm in his genial manner and ready
sympathy that he invariably succeeded in drawing people out. But
on this day he was not in the humor for it; instead, he thought
over the abusive article and the mangled report in the "Longstaff
Mercury," and debated within himself whether it were worth an
action for libel. His love of fighting said yes, his common sense
said no; and in the end common sense won the day, but left him
doubly depressed. He moved to the shady side of the carriage and
looked out of the window. He was a great lover of Nature, and
Nature was looking her loveliest just then. The trees, in all the
freshness of early June, lifted their foliage to the bluest of
skies, the meadows were golden with buttercups, the cattle grazed
peacefully, the hay fields waved unmown in the soft summer air,
which, though sparing no breath for the hot and dusty traveler, was
yet strong enough to sweep over the tall grasses in long,
undulating waves that made them shimmer in the sunlight.
Raeburn's face grew serene once more; he had a very quick
perception of the beautiful. Presently he retired again behind a
newspaper, this time the "Daily Review," and again his brow grew
stern, for there was bad news from the seat of war; he read the
account of a great battle, read the numbers of his slain
countrymen, and of those who had fallen on the enemy's side. It
was an unrighteous war, and his heart burned within him at the
thought of the inhuman havoc thus caused by a false ambition.
Again, as if he were fated that day to be confronted with the dark
side of life, the papers gave a long account of a discovery made
in some charity school, where young children had been hideously
ill-treated. Raeburn, who was the most fatherly of men, could
hardly restrain the expression of his righteous indignation. All
this mismanagement, this reckless waste of life, this shameful
cruelty, was going on in what was called "Free England." And here
was he, a middle-aged man, and time was passing on with frightful
rapidity, and though he had never lost an opportunity of lifting up
his voice against oppression, how little had he actually
"So many worlds, so much to do, So little done, such things to be!"
That was the burden of the unuttered cry which filled his whole
being. That was the point where his atheism often brought him to
a noble despair. But far from prompting him to repeat the maxim
"Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die!" it spurred him rather
to a sort of fiery energy, never satisfied with what it had
accomplished. Neither the dissatisfaction, however, nor even the
despair ever made him feel the need of any power above man. On the
contrary, the unaccountable mystery of pain and evil was his
strongest argument against the existence of a God. Upon that rock
he had foundered as a mere boy, and no argument had ever been able
to reconvince him. Impatience of present ill had in this, as in
many other cases, proved the bane of his life.
He would write and speak about these cases of injustice, he would
hold them up to the obloquy they so richly deserved.
Scathing sentences already took shape in his brain, but deeper
investigation would be necessary before he could write anything.
In the meantime to cool himself, to bring himself into a judicial
frame of mind, he took a Hebrew book from his bag, and spent the
rest of the journey in hard study.
Harassed, and tired, and out of spirits as he was, he nevertheless
felt a certain pleasurable sensation as he left St. Pancras,
driving homeward through the hot crowded streets. Erica would be
waiting for him at home, and he had a comparatively leisure
afternoon. There was the meeting on the Opium Trade at eight, but
he might take her for a turn in one of the parks beforehand. She
had always been a companion to him since her very babyhood, but now
he was able to enjoy her companionship even more than in the olden
times. Her keen intellect, her ready sympathy, her eagerness to
learn, made her the perfection of a disciple, while not unnaturally
he delighted in tracing the many similarities of character between
himself and his child. Then, too, in his hard, argumentative,
fighting life it was an unspeakable relief to be able to retire
every now and then into a home which no outer storms could shake or
disturb. Fond as he was of his sister, Mrs. Craigie, and Tom, they
constituted rather the innermost circle of his friends and
followers; it was Erica who made the HOME, though the others shared
the house. It was to Erica's pure child-like devotion that he
invariably turned for comfort.
Dismissing the cab at the corner of Guilford Square, he walked down
the dreary little passage, looking up at the window to see if she
were watching for him as usual. But today there was no expectant
face; he recollected, however, that it was Thursday, always a busy
day with them.
He opened the door with his latch key, and went in; still there was
no sound in the house; he half paused for an instant, thinking that
he should certainly hear her quick footsteps, the opening of a
door, some sign of welcome, but all was as silent as death. Half
angry with himself for having grown so expectant of that loving
watch as to be seriously apprehensive at its absence, he hastily
put down his bag and walked into the sitting room, his calm
exterior belying a nameless fear at his heart.
What the French call expressively a "serrement de coeur" seized him
when he saw that Erica was indeed at home, but that she was lying
on the couch. She did not even spring up to greet him.
"Is anything the matter, dear? Are you ill?" he asked, hurriedly
crossing the little room.
"Oh, have you not seen Aunt Jean? She was going to meet you at St.
Pancras," said Erica, her heart failing her a little at the
prospect of telling her own bad news. But the exceeding anxiety of
her father's face helped her to rise to the occasion. She laughed,
and the laugh was natural enough to reassure him.
"It is nothing so very dreadful, and all this time you have never
even given me a kiss, father." She drew down the grand-looking
white head, and pressed her fair face to his. He sat down beside
"Tell me, dear, what is wrong with you?" he repeated.
"Well, I felt rather out of order, and they said I ought to see
some one, and it seems that my tiresome spine is getting crooked,
and the long and the short of it is that Mr. Doctor Osmond says I
shall get quite well again if I'm careful; but" she added, lightly,
yet with the gentleness of one who thinks merely of the hearer's
point of view "I shall have to be a passive verb for a year, and
you will have to be my very strong man Kwasind.'"
"A year?" he exclaimed in dismay.
"Brian half gave me hope that it might not be so long," said Erica,
"if I'm, very good and careful, and of course I shall be both. I
am only sorry because it will make me very useless. I did hope I
should never have been a burden on you again, father."
"Don't talk of such a thing, my little son Eric," he said, very
tenderly. "Who should take care of you if not your own father?
Besides, if you never wrote another line for me, you would help me
by just being yourself. A burden!"
"Well, I've made you look as grave as half a dozen lawsuits," said
Erica, pretending to stroke the lines of care from his forehead.
"I've had the morning to ruminate over the prospect, and really now
that you know, it is not so very dreadful. A year will soon pass."
"I look to you, Eric," said her father, "to show the world that we
secularists know how to bear pain. You won't waste the year if you
can do it."
Her face lighted up.
"It was like you to think of that!" she said; "that would indeed be
Still, do what she would, Erica could not talk him back to
cheerfulness. He was terribly distressed at her news, and more so
when he found that she was suffering a good deal. He thought with
a pang of the difference of the reality to his expectations. No
walk for them in the park that evening, nor probably for many years
to come. Yet he was ignorant of these matters, perhaps he
exaggerated the danger or the duration; he would go across and see
Brian Osmond at once.
Left once more to herself, the color died out of Erica's cheeks;
she lay there pale and still, but her face was almost rigid with
"I am not going to give way!" she thought to herself. "I won't
shed a single tear. Tears are wasteful luxuries, bad for body and
mind. And yet yet oh, it is hard just when I wanted to help father
most! Just when I wanted to keep him from being worried. And a
whole year! How shall I bear it, when even six hours has seemed
half a life time! This is what Thekla would call a cross, but I
only call it my horrid, stupid, idiotic old spine. Well, I must
try to show them that Luke Raeburn's daughter knows how to bear
pain; I must be patient, however much I boil over in private. Yet
is it honest, I wonder, to keep a patient outside, while inside you
are all one big grumble? Rather Pharisaical outside of the cup and
platter; but it is all I shall be able to do, I'm sure. That is
where Mr. Osmond's Christianity would come in; I do believe that
goes right through his life, privatest thoughts and all. Odd, that
a delusion should have such power, and over such a man! There is
Sir Michael Cunningham, too, one of the greatest and best men in
England, yet a Christian! Great intellects and much study, and
still they remain Christians 'tis extraordinary. But a Christian
would have the advantage over me in a case like this. First of
all, I suppose, they would feel that they could serve their God as
well on their backs as upright,while all the help I shall be able
to give the cause is dreadfully indirect and problematical. Then
ertainly they would feel that they might be getting ready for the
next world where all wrong is, they believe, to be set right, while
I am only terribly hindered in getting ready for this world a whole
year without the chance of a lecture. And then they have all kinds
of nice theories about pain, discipline, and that sort of thing,
which no doubt make it more bearable, while to me it is just the
one unmitigated evil. But, oh! They don't know what pain means!
For there is no death to them no endless separation. What a
delusion it is! They ought to be happy enough. Oh, mother!
After all, what she really dreaded in her enforced pause was the
leisure for thought. She had plunged into work of all kinds, had
half killed herself with work, had tried to hold her despair at
arms' length. But now there was no help for it. She must rest,
and the thoughts must come.
CHAPTER XIII. Losing One Friend to Gain Another
For toleration had its griefs,
And charity its trial. Whittier
"Well, Osmond, you got into hot water a few years ago for defending
Raeburn in public, and by this time you will find it not merely
hot, but up to boiling point. The fellow is more notorious than
The speaker was one of Charles Osmond's college friends, a certain
Mr. Roberts, who had been abroad for a good many years, but, having
returned on account of his health, had for a few months been acting
as curate to his friend.
"A man who works as indefatigably as Mr. Raeburn has done can
hardly avoid being noticed," replied Charles Osmond.
"You speak as if you admired the fellow!"
"There is a good deal to admire in Mr. Raeburn. However greatly
mistaken he is, there is no doubt that he is a brave man, and an
"You can speak in such a way of a man who makes his living by
speaking and writing against God."
"I hope I can speak the truth of every man, whether his creed
agrees with mine or not."
"A man who grows rich on blasphemy! Who sows poison among the
people and reaps the harvest!" exclaimed Mr. Roberts.
"That he teaches fearful error, I quite allow," said Charles
Osmond, "but it is the grossest injustice to say that he does it
for gain. His atheism brought him to the very brink of starvation
some years ago. Even now he is so crippled by the endless
litigation he has had that he lives in absolute penury."
"But that letter you sent to the 'Church Chronicle' was so uncalled
for, you put the comparison so broadly"
"I put it in plain "English," said Charles Osmond, "I merely said,
as I think, that he puts many of us to shame by his great devotion.
The letter was a reply to a very unfair article about the
Rilchester riot; it was absolutely necessary that some one should
speak. I tell you, Roberts, if you knew the man, you could not
speak so bitterly of him. It is not true that he leads a selfish,
easy-going life; he has spent thousands and thousands of pounds in
the defense of his cause. I don't believe there is a man in
England who has led a more self-denying life. It may be very
uncomfortable news for us, but we've no right to shut our ears to
it. I wish that man could stir up an honest sense of shame in
every sleepy Christian in the country. I believe that, indeed, to
be his rightful mission. Raeburn is a grand text for a sermon
which the nation sorely needs. 'Here is a man who spends his whole
strength in propagating his so-called gospel of atheism. Do you
spend your whole strength in spreading the gospel of Christ? Here
is a man, willing to leave his home, willing to live without one
single luxury, denying himself all that is not necessary to actual
health. Have you ever denied yourself anything? Here is a man who
spends his whole living all that he has on what he believes to be
the truth. What meager tithe do you bestow upon the religion of
which you speak so much? Here is a man who dares to stand up alone
in defense of what he holds true, a man who never flinches. How
far are you brave in the defense of your faith? Do you never keep
a prudent silence? Do you never howl with the wolves?'"
"Thank Heaven you are not in the pulpit!" ejaculated Mr. Roberts.
"I wish those words could be sent through the length and breadth
of the land," said Charles Osmond.
"No doubt Mr. Raeburn would thank you," said his friend, with a
sharp-edged smile. "It would be a nice little advertisement for
him. Why, from a Church of England parson it would make his
fortune! My dear Osmond, you are the best fellow in the world, but
don't you see that you are playing into the enemy's hands."
"I am trying to speak the words that God has given me to speak,"
said Charles Osmond. "The result I can well trust to Him. An
uncomfortable truth will never be popular. The words of our Lord
Himself were not popular; but they sunk into men's hearts and bore
fruit, though He was put to death as a blasphemer and a
"Well, at least then, if you must take up the cudgels in his
defense, do not dishonor the clerical profession by personal
acquaintance with the man. I hear that he has been seen actually
in your house, that you are even intimate with his family."
"Roberts, I didn't think our beliefs were so very different. In
fact, I used to think we were nearer to each other on these points
than most men. Surely we both own the universal Fatherhood of
"Of course, of course," said Mr. Roberts, quickly.
"And owning that, we cannot help owning the universal brotherhood
of men. Why should you then cut yourself off from your brother,
"He's no brother of mine!" said Mr. Roberts, in a tone of disgust.
Charles Osmond smiled.
"We do not choose our brothers, we have no voice in the growth of
the family. There they are."
"But the man says there is no God."
"Excuse me, he has never said that. What he says is, that the word
God conveys no meaning to him. If you think that the best way to
show your belief in the All-Father and your love to all His
children lies in refusing so much as to touch those who don't know
Him, you are of course justified in shunning every atheist or
agnostic in the world. But I do not think that the best way. It
was not Christ's way. Therefore, I hail every possible opportunity
of meeting Mr. Raeburn or his colleagues, try to find all the
points we have in common, try as far as possible to meet them on
their own ground."
"And the result will be that people will call you an atheist
yourself!" broke in Mr. Roberts.
"That would not greatly matter," said Charles Osmond. "It would be
a mere sting for the moment. It is not what men call us that we
have to consider, but how we are fulfilling the work God has given
us to do."
"'Pon my life, it makes me feel sick to hear you talk like this
about that miserable Raeburn!" exclaimed Mr. Roberts, hotly. "I
tell you, Osmond, that you are ruining your reputation, losing all
chance of preferment, just because of this mistaken zeal. It makes
me furious to think that such a man as you should suffer for such
a creature as Raeburn."
"Have you forgotten that such creatures as you and I and Luke
Raeburn had such a Saviour as Jesus Christ? Come, Roberts, in your
heart you know you agree with me. If one is indeed our Father,
then indeed we are all brethren."
"I do not hold with you!" retorted Mr. Roberts, the more angrily
because he had really hoped to convince his friend. "I wouldn't
sit in the same room with the fellow if you offered me the richest
living in England. I wouldn't shake hands with him to be made an
archbishop. I wouldn't touch him with a pair of tongs."
"Even less charitable than St. Dunstan to the devil," said Charles
Osmond, smiling a little, but sadly. "Except in that old legend,
however, I don't think Christianity ever mentions tongs. If you
can't love your enemies, and pray for them, and hold out a
brotherly hand to them, perhaps it were indeed better to hold aloof
and keep as quiet as you can."
"It is clearly impossible for us to work together any longer,
Osmond," said Mr. Roberts, rising. "I am sorry that such a cause
should separate us, but if you will persist in visiting an outcast
of society, a professed atheist, the most bitter enemy of our
church, I cannot allow my name to be associated with yours it is
impossible that I should hold office under you."
So the two friends parted.
Charles Osmond was human, and almost inevitably a sort of reaction
began in his mind the instant he was alone. He had lost one of his
best friends, he knew as well as possible that they could never be
on the same footing as before. He had, moreover, lost in him a
valuable co-worker. Then, too, it was true enough that his
defense of Raeburn was bringing him into great disfavor with the
religious world, and he was a sensitive and naturally a proud man,
who found blame, and reproach, and contemptuous disapproval very
hard to bear. Years of hard fighting, years of patient imitation
of Christ had wonderfully ennobled him, but he had not yet attained
to the sublime humility which, being free from all thought of self,
cares nothing, scarcely even pauses to think of the world's
judgment, too absorbed in the work of the Highest to have leisure
for thought of the lowest, too full of love for the race to have
love to spare for self. To this ideal he was struggling, but he
had not yet reached it, and the thought of his own reputation, his
own feelings would creep in. He was not a selfishly ambitious man,
but every one who is conscious of ability, every one who feels
within him energies lying fallow for want of opportunity, must be
ambitious for a larger sphere of work. Just as he was beginning to
dare to allow himself the hope of some change in his work, some
wider field, just as he was growing sure enough of himself to dare
to accept any greater work which might have been offered to him, he
must, by bringing himself into evil repute, lose every chance of
preferment. And for what? For attempting to obtain a just
judgment for the enemy of his faith; for holding out a brotherly
hand to a man who might very probably not care to take it; for
consorting with those who would at best regard him as an amiable
fanatic. Was this worth all it would cost? Could the exceedingly
problematical gain make up for the absolutely certain loss?
He took up the day's newspaper. His eye was at once attracted to
a paragraph headed: "Mr. Raeburn at Longstaff." The report, sent
from the same source as the report in the "Longstaff Mercury,"
which had so greatly displeased Raeburn that morning, struck
Charles Osmond in a most unfavorable light. This bitter opponent
of Christianity, this unsparing denouncer of all that he held most
sacred, THIS was the man for whom he was sacrificing friendship,
reputation, advancement. A feeling of absolute disgust rose within
him. For a moment the thought came: "I can't have any more to do
with the man."
But he was too honest not to detect almost at once his own
Pharisaical, un-Christlike spirit.
"Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the
things of others. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ
He had been selfishly consulting his own happiness, his own ease.
Worse still, he, of all men in the world, had dared to set himself
up as too virtuous forsooth to have anything to do with an atheist.
Was that the mind which was in Christ? Was He a strait-laced,
self-righteous Pharisee, too good, too religious to have anything
to say to those who disagreed with Him? Did He not live and die
for those who are yet enemies to God? Was not the work of
reconciliation the work he came for? Did He calculate the loss to
Himself, the risk of failure? Ah, no, those who would imitate God
must first give as a free gift, without thought of self, perfect
love to all, perfect justice through that love, or else they are
not like the Father who "maketh His sun to shine on the evil and
the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust."
Charles Osmond paced to and fro, the look of trouble gradually
passing from his face. Presently he paused beside the open window;
it looked upon the little back garden, a tiny strip of ground,
indeed, but just now bright with sunshine and fresh with the beauty
of early summer. The sunshine seemed to steal into his heart as he
"All-Father, drive out my selfish cowardice, my self-righteous
conceit. Give me Thy spirit of perfect love to all, give me Thy
pure hatred of sin. Melt my coldness with Thy burning charity, and
if it be possible make me fit to be Luke Raeburn's friend."
While he still stood by the window a visitor was announced. He had
been too much absorbed to catch the name, but it seemed the most
natural thing that on turning round he should find himself face to
face with the prophet of atheism.
There he stood, a splendid specimen of humanity; every line in his
rugged Scottish face bespoke a character of extraordinary force,
but the eyes which in public Charles Osmond had seen flashing with
the fire of the man's enthusiasm, or gleaming with a cold metallic
light which indicated exactly his steely endurance of ill
treatment, were now softened and deepened by sadness. His heart
went out to him. Already he loved the man, only hitherto the
world's opinions had crept into his heart between each meeting, and
had paralyzed the free God-like love. But it was to do so no
longer. That afternoon he had dealt it a final blow, there was no
more any room for it to rear its fair-speaking form, no longer
should its veiled selfishness, its so-called virtuous indignation
turn him into a Pharisaical judge.
He received him with a hand shake which conveyed to Raeburn much of
the warmth, the reality, the friendliness of the man. He had
always liked Charles Osmond, but he had generally met him either in
public, or when he was harassed and preoccupied. Now, when he was
at leisure, when, too, he was in great trouble, he instinctively
perceived that Osmond had in a rare degree the broad-hearted
sympathy which he was just now in need of. From that minute a
life-long friendship sprung up between the two men.
"I came really to see your son," said Raeburn, "but they tell me he
is out. I wish to know the whole truth about Erica." It was not
his way to speak very much where he felt deeply, and Charles Osmond
could detect all the deep anxiety, the half-indulged hope which lay
hidden behind the strong reserved exterior. He had heard enough of
the case to be able to satisfy him, to assure him that there was no
danger, that all must be left to time and patience and careful
observance of the doctor's regulations. Raeburn sighed with relief
at the repeated assurance that there was no danger, that recovery
was only a question of time. Death had so recently visited his
home that a grisly fear had taken possession of his heart. Once
free of that, he could speak almost cheerfully of the lesser evil.
"It will be a great trial to her, such absolute imprisonment; she
is never happy unless she is hard at work. But she is brave and
strong-willed. Will you look in and see her when you can?"
"Certainly," said Charles Osmond. "We must do our best to keep up
"Yes, luckily she is a great reader, otherwise such a long rest
would be intolerable, I should fancy."
"You do not object to my coming to see her?" said Charles Osmond,
looking full into his companion's eyes. "You know that we discuss
religious questions pretty freely."
"Religious questions always are freely discussed in my house," said
Raeburn. "It will be the greatest advantage to her to have to turn
things well over in her mind. Besides, we always make a point of
studying our adversaries' case even more closely than our own, and,
if she has a chance of doing it personally as well as through
books, all the better."
"But supposing that such an unlikely thing were to happen as that
she should see reason to change her present views? Supposing, if
you can suppose anything so unlikely, she should ever in future
years come to believe in Christianity?"
Raeburn smiled, not quite pleasantly.
"It is as you say such a very remote contingency!" He paused, grew
grave, then continued with all his native nobility: "Yet I like you
the better for having brought forward such an idea, improbable as
I hope it may be considered. I feel very sure of Erica. She has
thought a great deal, she has had every possible advantage. We
never teach on authority; she has been left perfectly free and has
learned to weigh evidences and probabilities, not to be led astray
by any emotional fancies, but to be guided by reason. She has
always heard both sides of the case; she has lived as it were in an
atmosphere of debate, and has been, and of course always will be,
quite free to form her own opinion on every subject. It is not for
nothing that we call ourselves Freethinkers. Absolute freedom of
thought and speech is part of our creed. So far from objecting to
your holding free discussions with my daughter, I shall be
positively grateful to you, and particularly just now. I fancy
Erica has inherited enough of my nature to enjoy nothing better
than a little opposition."
"I know you are a born fighter," said Charles Osmond. "We
sympathize with each other in that. And next to the bliss of a
hard-won victory, I place the satisfaction of being well
"I am glad we think alike there. People are very fond of
describing me as a big bull dog, but if they would think a little,
they would see that the love of overcoming obstacles is deeply
rooted in the heart of every true man. What is the meaning of our
English love of field sports? What the explanation of the mania
for Alpine climbing? It is no despicable craving for distinction,
it is the innate love of fighting, struggling, and conquering."
"Well, there are many obstacles which we can struggle to remove,
side by side," said Charles Osmond. "We should be like one man, I
fancy on the question of the opium trade, for instance."
In a few vigorous words Raeburn denounced this monstrous national
"Are you going to the meeting tonight?" he added, after a pause.
"Yes, I had thought of it. Let us go together. Shall you speak?"
"Not tonight," said Raeburn, a smile flickering about his usually
stern lips. "The Right Reverend Father, etc., etc., who is to
occupy the chair, might object to announcing that 'Mr. Raeburn
would now address the meeting.' No, this is not the time or place
for me. So prejudiced are people that the mere connection of my
name with the question would probably do more harm than good. I
should like, I confess, to get up without introduction, to speak
not from the platform but from among the audience incognito. But
that is impossible for a man who has the misfortune to be five
inches above the average height, and whose white hair has become a
proverb, since some one made the unfortunate remark, repeated in a
hundred newspapers, that the 'hoary head was only a crown of glory
when found in the way of righteousness.'"
Charles Osmond could not help laughing.
"The worst of these newspaper days is that one never can make an
end of anything. That remark has been made to me since at several
meetings. At the last, I told the speaker that I was so tired of
comments on my personal appearance that I should soon have to
resort either to the dyer or the wigmaker. But here am I wasting
your time and my own, and forgetting the poor little maid at home.
Goodbye. I'll call in passing, then, at a quarter to eight. Tom
Craigie will probably be with me, he is very rabid on the subject."
"Craigie and I are quite old friends," said Charles Osmond.
And then, as on the preceding night he had stood at the door while
Erica crossed the square, so now involuntarily his eyes followed
Raeburn. In his very walk the character of the man was indicated
firm, steady, imperturbable, straightforward.
CHAPTER XIV. Charles Osmond Speaks His Mind
Fiat justitia ruat coelum. Proverb
Justice, the miracle worker among men. John Bright (July 14,
"I thought you were never coming to see me," said Erica, putting
down a newspaper and looking up with eager welcome at Charles
Osmond, who had just been announced.
"It has not been for want of will," he replied, sitting down near
her couch, "but I have been overwhelmed with work the last few
days. How are you getting on? I'm glad you don't altogether
refuse to see your prophet of evil."
"It would have been worse if you hadn't spoken," she said, in the
tone of one trying hard to make the best of things. "I was rather
rash though to say that I should like my wheels to run down; I
didn't know how terrible it is to be still. One does so grudge all
the lost time."
"But you will not let this be lost time you will read."
"Oh, yes, happily I can do that. And Mrs. McNaughton is going to
give me physiology lessons, and dear old Professor Gosse has
promised to come and teach me whenever he can. He is so devoted to
father, you know, I think he would do anything for me just because
I am his child. It is a comfort that father has so many real good
friends. What I do so hate though is the thought of having to be
a passive verb for so long. You've no idea how aggravating it is
to lie here and listen to all that is going on, to hear of great
meetings and not to be able to go, to hear of work to be done and
not to be able to do it. And I suppose one notices little things
more when one is ill, for just to lie still and watch our clumsy
little servant lay the table for dinner, clattering down the knives
and forks and tossing down the plates, makes me actually cross.
And then they let the room get so untidy; just look at that stack
of books for reviewing, and that chaos of papers in the corner. If
I could but get up for just five minutes I shouldn't mind."
"Poor child," said Charles Osmond, "this comes very hard on you."
"I know I'm grumbling dreadfully, but if you knew how horrid it is
to be cut off from everything! And, of course, it happens that
another controversy is beginning about that Longstaff report. I
have been reading half a dozen of today's newspapers, and each one
is worse than the last. Look here! Just read that, and try to
imagine that it's your father they are slandering! Oh, if I could
but get up for one minute and stamp!"
"And is this untrue?" asked Charles Osmond, when he had finished
the account in question.
"There is just enough truth in it to make it worse than a direct
lie," said Erica, hotly. "They have quoted his own words, but in
a sense in which he never meant them, or they have quite
disregarded the context. If you will give me those books on the
table, I'll just show you how they have misrepresented him by
hacking out single sentences, and twisting and distorting all he
says in public."
Charles Osmond looked at the passages referred to, and saw that
Erica had not complained without reason.
"Yes, that is very unfair shamefully unfair," he said. Then, after
a pause, he added, abruptly: "Erica, are you good at languages?"
"I am very fond of them," she said, surprised at the sudden turn he
had given to the conversation.
"Supposing that Mr. Raeburn's speeches and doings were a good deal
spoken of in Europe, as no doubt they are, and that a long time
after his death one of his successors made some converts to
secularism in Italy, and wrote in Italian all that he could
remember of the life and words of his late teacher. Then suppose
that the Italian life of Raeburn was translated into Chinese, and
that hundreds of years after, a heathen Chinee sat down to read it.
His Oriental mind found it hard to understand Mr. Raeburn's
thoroughly Western mind; he didn't see anything noble in Mr.
Raeburn's character, couldn't understand his mode of thought, read
through the life, perhaps studied it after a fashion, or believed
he did; then shut it up, and said there might possibly have been
such a man, but the proofs were very weak, and, even if he had
lived, he didn't think he was any great shakes, though the people
did make such a fuss about him. Would you call that heathen Chinee
Erica could not help smiling, though she saw what he was driving
But Charles Osmond felt much too keenly to continue in such a light
strain. He was no weak-minded, pleasant conversationalist, but a
prophet, who knew how to speak hard truths sometimes.
"Erica," he said, almost sternly, "you talk much about those who
quote your father's words unfairly; but have you never misquoted
the words of Christ? You deny Him and disbelieve in Him, yet you
have never really studied His life. You have read the New
Testament through a veil of prejudice. Mind, I am not saying one
word in defense of those so-called Christians who treat you
unfairly or uncharitably; but I do say that, as far as I can see,
you are quite as unfair to Christ as they are to your father. Of
course, you may reply that Jesus of Nazareth lived nearly nineteen
hundred years ago, and that your father is still living; that you
have many difficulties and doubts to combat, while our bigots can
verify every fact or quotation with regard to Mr. Raeburn with
perfect ease and certainty. That is true enough. But the
difficulties, if honestly faced, might be surmounted. You don't
honestly face them; you say to yourself, 'I have gone into all
these matters carefully, and now I have finally made up my mind;
there is an end of the matter!' You are naturally prejudiced
against Christ; every day your prejudices will deepen unless you
strike out resolutely for yourself as a truth-seeker, as one who
insists on always considering all sides of the question. At
present you are absolutely unfair, you will not take the trouble to
study the life of Christ."
Few people like to be told of their faults. Erica could just
endure it from her father, but from no one else. She was, besides,
too young yet to have learned even the meaning of the word
humility. Had Charles Osmond been a few years younger, she would
not even have listened to him. As it was, he was a gray-haired
man, whom she loved and revered; he was, moreover, a guest. She
was very angry with him, but she restrained her anger.
He had watched her attentively while he spoke. She had at first
only been surprised; then her anger had been kindled, and she gave
him one swift flash from eyes which looked like live coals. Then
she turned her face away from him, so that he could only see one
crimson cheek. There was a pause after he had said his say.
Presently, with a great effort, Erica faced him once more, and in
a manner which would have been dignified had it not been a trifle
too frigid, made some casual remark upon a different subject. He
saw that to stay longer was mere waste of time.
When the door had closed behind him, Erica's anger blazed up once
more. That he should have dared to accuse her of unfairness! That
he should have dared actually to rebuke her! If he had given her
a good shaking she could not have felt more hurt and ruffled. And
then to choose this day of all others, just when life was so hard
to her, just when she was condemned to a long imprisonment. It was
simply brutal of him! If any one had told her that he would do
such a thing she would not have believed them. He had said nothing
of the sort to her before, though they had known each other so
long; but, now that she was ill and helpless and unable to get away
from him, he had seen fit to come and lecture her. Well, he was a
parson! She might have known that sooner or later the horrid,
tyrannical, priestly side of him would show! And yet she had liked
him so much, trusted him so much! It was indescribably bitter to
think that he was no longer the hero she had thought him to be.
That, after all, he was not a grand, noble, self-denying man, but
a fault-finding priest!
She spent the rest of the afternoon in alternate wrath and grief.
In the evening Aunt Jean read her a somewhat dry book which
required all her attention, and, consequently, her anger cooled for
want of thoughts to stimulate it. Her father did not come in till
late; but, as he carried her upstairs to bed, she told him of
Charles Osmond's interview.
"I told him you like a little opposition," was his reply.
"I don't know about opposition, but I didn't like him, he showed
his priestly side."
"I am sorry," replied Raeburn. "For my part I genuinely like the
man; he seems to me a grand fellow, and I should have said not in
the least spoiled by his Christianity, for he is neither exclusive,
nor narrow-minded, nor opposed to progress. Infatuated on one
point, of course, but a thorough man in spite of it."
Left once more alone in her little attic room, Erica began to think
over things more quietly. So her father had told him that she
liked opposition, and he had doled out to her a rebuke which was
absolutely unanswerable! But why unanswerable? She had been too
angry to reply at the time. It was one of the few maxims her
father had given her, "When you are angry be very slow to speak."
But she might write an answer, a nice, cold, cutting answer,
respectful, of course, but very frigid. She would clearly
demonstrate to him that she was perfectly fair, and that he, her
accuser, was unfair.
And then quite quietly, she began to turn over the accusations in
her mind. Quoting the words of Christ without regard to the
context, twisting their meaning. Neglecting real study of Christ's
character and life. Seeing all through a veil of prejudice.
She would begin, like her father, with a definition of terms. What
did he mean by study? What did she mean by study? Well such
searching analysis, for instance, as she had applied to the
character of Hamlet, when she had had to get up one of
Shakespeare's plays for her examination. She had worked very hard
at that, had really taken every one of his speeches and
soliloquies, and had tried to gather his true character from them
as well as from his actions.
At this point she wandered away from the subject a little and began
to wonder when she should hear the result of the examination, and
to hope that she might get a first. By and by she came to herself
with a sudden and very uncomfortable shock. If the sort of work
she had given to Hamlet was study, HAD she ever studied the
character of Christ?
She had all her life heard what her father had to say against Him,
and what a good many well-meaning, but not very convincing, people
had to say for Him. She had heard a few sermons and several
lectures on various subjects connected with Christ's religion. She
had read many books both for and against Him. She had read the New
Testament. But could she quite honestly say that she had STUDIED
the character of Christ? Had she not been predisposed to think her
father in the right? He would not at all approve of that. Had she
been a true Freethinker? Had she not taken a good deal to be truth
because he said it? If so, she was not a bit more fair than the
majority of Christians who never took the trouble to go into things
for themselves, and study things from the point of view of an
In the silence and darkness of her little room, she began to
suspect a good many unpleasant and hitherto unknown facts about
"After all, I do believe that Mr. Osmond was right," she confessed
at length. "I am glad to get back my belief in him; but I've come
to a horrid bit of lath and plaster in myself where I thought it
was all good stone." She fell asleep and dreamed of the heathen
Chinee, reading the translation of the translation of her father's
words, and disbelieving altogether in "that invented demagogue,
The next day Charles Osmond, sitting at work in his study, and
feeling more depressed and hopeless than he would have cared to own
even to himself, was roused by the arrival of a little
three-cornered note. It was as follow:
"Dear Mr. Osmond, You made me feel very angry yesterday, and sad,
too, for of course it was a case of 'Et tu, Brute.' But last night
I came to the unpleasant conclusion that you were quite right, and
that I was quite wrong. To prove to you that I am no longer angry,
I am going to ask you a great favor. Will you teach me Greek?
Your parable of the heathen Chinee has set me thinking. Yours very
sincerely, Erica Raeburn"
Charles Osmond felt the tears come to his eyes. The
straightforward simplicity of the letter, the candid avowal of
having been "quite wrong," an avowal not easy for one of Erica's
character to make, touched him inexpressibly. Taking a Greek
grammar from his book shelves, he set off at once for Guilford
He found Erica looking very white and fragile, and with lines of
suffering about her mouth; but, though physically weary, her mind
seemed as vigorous as ever. She received him with her usual
frankness, and with more animation in her look than he had seen for
"I did think you perfectly horrid yesterday!" she exclaimed. "And
was miserable, besides, at the prospect of losing one of my heroes.
You can be very severe."
"The infliction of pain is only justified when the inflictor is
certain, or as nearly certain as he can be, that the pain will be
productive of good," said Charles Osmond.
"I suppose that is the way you account for the origin of evil,"
said Erica, thoughtfully.
"Yes," replied Charles Osmond, pleased that she should have thought
of the subject, "that to me seems the only possible explanation,
otherwise God would be either not perfectly good or not omnipotent.
His all-wisdom enables Him to overrule that pain which He has
willed to be the necessary outcome of infractions of His order.
Pain, you see, is made into a means of helping us to find out where
that order has been broken, and so teaching us to obey it in the
"But if there is an all-powerful God, wouldn't it have been much
better if He had made it impossible for us to go wrong?"
"It would have saved much trouble, undoubtedly; but do you think
that which costs us least trouble is generally the most worth
having? I know a noble fellow who has fought his way upward
through sins and temptations you would like him, by the way, for he
was once an atheist. He is, by virtue of all he has passed
through, all he has overcome, one of the fines men I have ever
"That is the friend, I suppose, whom your son mentioned to me. But
I don't see your argument, for if there was an all-powerful God, He
could have caused the man you speak of to be as noble and good
without passing through pain and temptation."
"But God does not work arbitrarily, but by laws of progression.
Nor does His omnipotence include the working of contradictions. He
cannot both cause a thing to be and not to be at the same time. If
it is a law that that which has grown by struggle and effort shall
be most noble, God will not arbitrarily reverse that law or truth
because the creation of sinless beings would involve less trouble."
"It all seems to me so unreal!" exclaimed Erica. "It seems like
talking of thin air!"
"I expect it does," said Charles Osmond, trying to realize to
himself her position.
There was a silence.
"How did this man of whom you speak come to desert our side?" asked
Erica. "I suppose, as you say he was one of the finest men you
ever knew, he must, at least, have had a great intellect. How did
he begin to think all these unlikely, unreal things true?"
"Donovan began by seeing the grandeur of the character of Christ.
He followed his example for many years, calling himself all the
time an atheist; at last he realized that in Christ we see the
"I am sorry we lost him if he is such a nice man," was Erica's sole
comment. Then, turning her beautiful eyes on Charles Osmond, she
said, "I hope my note did not convey to you more than I intended.
I asked you if you would teach me Greek, and I mean to try to study
the character of Christ; but, quite to speak the truth, I don't
really want to do it. I only do it because I see I have not been
"You do it for the sake of being a truth-seeker, the best possible
"I thought you would think I was going to do it because I hoped to
get something. I thought one of your strong points was that people
must come in a state of need and expecting to be satisfied. I
don't expect anything. I am only doing it for the sake of honesty
and thoroughness. I don't expect any good at all."
"Is it likely that you can expect when you know so little what is
there? What can you bring better than an hones mind to the search?
Erica, if I hadn't known that you were absolutely sincere, I should
not have dared to give you the pain I gave you yesterday. It was
my trust in your perfect sincerity which brought you that strong
accusation. Even then it was a sore piece of work."
"Did you mind it a little," exclaimed Erica. But directly she had
spoken, she felt that the question was absurd, for she saw a look
in Charles Osmond's eyes that made the word "little" a mockery.
"What makes that man so loving?" she thought to herself. "He
reminded me almost of father, yet I am no child of his. I am
opposed to all that he teaches. I have spoken my mind out to him
in a way which must sometimes have pained him. Yet he cares for me
so much that it pained him exceedingly to give me pain yesterday."
His character puzzled her. The loving breath, the stern
condemnation of whatever was not absolutely true, the disregard of
what the world said, the hatred of shams, and most puzzling of all,
the often apparent struggle with himself, the unceasing effort to
conquer his chief fault. Yet this noble, honest, intellectual man
was laboring under a great delusion, a delusion which somehow gave
him an extraordinary power of loving! Ah, no! It could not be his
Christianity, though, which made him loving, for were not most
Christians hard and bitter and narrow-minded?
"I wish," she said, abruptly, "you would tell me what makes you
willing to be friends with us. I know well enough that the 'Church
Chronicle' has been punishing you for your defense of my father,
and that there must be a thousand disagreeables to encounter in
your own set just because you visit us. Why do you come?"
"Because I care for you very much."
"But you care, too, perhaps, for other people who will probably cut
you for flying in the face of society and visiting social
"I don't think I can explain it to you yet, he replied. "You
would only tell me, as you told me once before, that I was talking
riddles to you. When you have read your Greek Testament and really
studied the life of Christ, I think you will understand. In the
meantime, St. Paul, I think, answers your question better than I
could, but you wouldn't understand even his words, I fancy. There
they are in the Greek" he opened a Testament and showed her a
passage. "I believe you would think the English almost as great
gibberish as this looks to you in its unknown characters."
"Do you advise every one to learn Greek?"
"No, many have neither time nor ability, and those who are not apt
at languages would spend their time more usefully over good
translations, I think. But you have time and brains, so I am very
glad to teach you."
"I am afraid I would much rather it were for any other purpose!"
said Erica. "I am somehow weary of the very name of Christianity.
I have heard wrangling over the Bible till I am tired to death of
it, and discussions about the Atonement and the Incarnation, and
the Resurrection, till the very words are hateful to me. I am
afraid I shock you, but just put yourself in my place and imagine
how you would feel. It is not even as if I had to debate the
various questions; I have merely to sit and listen to a
"You sadden me; but it is quite natural that you should be weary of
such debates. I want you to realize, though, that in the stormy
atmosphere of your father's lecture hall, in the din and strife of
controversy, it is impossible that you should gain any true idea of
Christ's real character. Put aside all thought of the dogmas you
have been wearied with, and study the life of the Man."
Then the lesson began. It proved a treat to both teacher and
pupil. When Charles Osmond had left, Erica still worked on.
"I should like, at any rate, to spell out his riddle," she thought
to herself, turning back to the passage he had shown her. And
letter by letter, and word by word, she made out "For the love of
The verb baffled her, however, and she lay on the sofa, chafing at
her helplessness till, at length, Tom happened to come in, and
brought her the English Testament she needed. Ah! There it was!
"For the love of Christ constraineth us."
Was THAT what had made him come? Why, that was the alleged reason
for half the persecutions they met with! Did the love of Christ
constrain Charles Osmond to be their friend, and at the same time
constrain the clergy of X______ not many years before to incite the
people to stone her father, and offer him every sort of insult?
Was it possible that the love of Christ constrained Mr. Osmond to
endure contempt and censure on their behalf, and constrained Mr.
Randolph to hire a band of roughs to interrupt her father's
"He is a grand exception to the general rule," she said to herself.
"If there were many Christians like him, I should begin to think
there must be something more in Christianity than we thought.
Well, if only to please him I must try to study the New Testament
over again, and as thoroughly as I can. No, not to please him,
though, but for the sake of being quite honest. I would much
rather be working at that new book of Tyndall's."
CHAPTER XV. An Interval
How can man love but what he yearns to help? R. Browning
During the year of Erica's illness, Brian began to realize his true
position toward her better than he had hitherto done.
He saw quite well that any intrusion of his love, even any slight
manifestation of it, might do untold harm. She was not ready for
it yet why, he could not have told.
The truth was, that his Undine, although in many respects a
high-souled woman, was still in some respects a child. She would
have been merely embarrassed by his love; she did not want it. She
liked him very much as an acquaintance; he was to her Tom's friend,
or her doctor, or perhaps Mr. Osmond's son. In this way she liked
him, was even fond of him, but as a lover he would have been a
He knew well enough that her frank liking boded ill for his future
success; but in spite of that he could not help being glad to
obtain any footing with her. It was something even to be "Tom's
friend Brian." He delighted in hearing his name from her lips,
although knowing that it was no good augury. He lived on from day
to day, thinking very little of the doubtful future as long as he
could serve her in the present. A reserved and silent man, devoted
to his profession, and to practical science of every kind, few
people guessed that he could have any particular story of his own.
He was not at all the sort of man who would be expected to fall
hopelessly in love at first sight, nor would any one have selected
him as a good modern specimen of the chivalrous knight of olden
times; he was so completely a nineteenth-century man, so
progressive, so scientific. But, though his devotion was of the
silent order, it was, perhaps for that reason, all the truer.
There was about him a sort of divine patience. As long as he could
serve Erica, he was content to wait any number of years in the hope
of winning her love. He accepted his position readily. He knew
that she had not the slightest love for him. He was quite
secondary to his father, even, who was one of Erica's heroes. He
liked to make her talk of him; her enthusiastic liking was
delightful perhaps all the more so because she was far from
agreeing with her prophet. Brian, with the wonderful
self-forgetfulness of true love, liked to hear the praises of all
those whom she admired; he liked to realize what were her ideals,
even when conscious how far he fell short of them.
For it was unfortunately true that his was not the type of
character she was most likely to admire. As a friend she might
like him much, but he could hardly be her hero. His wonderful
patience was quite lost upon her; she hardly counted patience as a
virtue at all. His grand humility merely perplexed her; it was at
present far beyond her comprehension. While his willingness to
serve every one, even in the most trifling and petty concerns of
daily life, she often attributed to mere good nature. Grand acts
of self-sacrifice she admired enthusiastically, but the more really
difficult round of small denials and trifling services she did not
in the least appreciate. Absorbed in the contemplation, as it
were, of the Hamlets in life, she had no leisure to spare for the
She proved a capital patient; her whole mind was set on getting
well, and her steady common sense and obedience to rules made her
a great favorite with her elder doctor. Really healthy, and only
invalided by the hard work and trouble she had undergone, seven or
eight months' rest did wonders for her. In the enforced quiet,
too, she found plenty of time for study. Charles Osmond had never
had a better pupil. They learned to know each other very well
during those lessons, and many were the perplexing questions which
Erica started. But they were not as before, a mere repetition of
the difficulties she had been primed with at her father's lecture
hall, nor did she bring them forward with the triumphant conviction
that they were unanswerable. They were real, honest questions,
desiring and seeking everywhere for the true answer which might be
The result of her study of the life of Christ was at first to make
her a much better secularist. She found to her surprise that there
was much in His teaching that entirely harmonized with secularism;
that, in fact, He spoke a great deal about the improvement of this
world, and scarcely at all about that place in the clouds of which
Christians made so much. By the end of a year she had also reached
the conviction that, whatever interpolations there might be in the
gospels, no untrue writer, no admiring but dishonest narrator COULD
have conceived such a character as that of Christ. For she had dug
down to the very root of the matter. She had left for the present
the, to her, perplexing and almost irritating catalogue of
miracles, and had begun to perceive the strength and indomitable
courage, the grand self-devotion, the all-embracing love of the
man. Very superficial had been her former view. He had been to
her a shadowy, unreal being, soft and gentle, even a little
effeminate, speaking sometimes what seemed to her narrow words
about only saving the lost sheep of the house of Israel. A
character somehow wanting in that Power and Intellect which she
But on a really deep study she saw how greatly she had been
mistaken. Extraordinarily mistaken, both as to the character and
the teaching. Christ was without doubt a grand ideal! To be as
broad-hearted as he was, as universally loving it would be no bad
aim. And, as in daily life Erica realized how hard was the
practice of that love, she realized at the same time the loftiness
of the ideal, and the weakness of her own powers.
"But, though I do begin to see why you take this man as your
ideal," she said, one day, to Charles Osmond, "I can not, of
course, accept a great deal that He is said to have taught. When
He speaks of love to men, that is understandable, one can try to
obey; but when he speaks about God, then, of course, I can only
think that He was deluded. You may admire Joan of Arc, and see the
great beauty of her character, yet at the same time believe that
she was acting under a delusion; you may admire the character of
Gotama without considering Buddhism the true religion; and so with
Christ, I may reverence and admire His character, while believing
Him to have been mistaken."
Charles Osmond smiled. He knew from many trifling signs, unnoticed
by others, that Erica would have given a great deal to see her way
to an honest acceptance of that teaching of Christ which spoke of
an unseen but everywhere present Father of all, of the
everlastingness of love, of a reunion with those who are dead. She
hardly allowed to herself that she longed to believe it, she
dreaded the least concession to that natural craving; she
distrusted her own truthfulness, feared above all things that she
might be deluded, might imagine that to be true which was in
And happily, her prophet was too wise to attempt in any way to
quicken the work which was going on within her; he was one of those
rare men who can be, even in such a case, content to wait. He
would as soon have thought of digging up a seed to see whether he
could not quicken its slow development of root and stem as of
interfering in any way with Erica. He came and went, taught her
Greek, and always, day after day, week after week, month after
month, however much pressed by his parish work, however harassed by
private troubles, he came to her with the genial sympathy, the
broad-hearted readiness to hear calmly all sides of the question,
which had struck her so much the very first time she had met him.
The other members of the family liked him almost as well, although
they did not know him so intimately as Erica. Aunt Jean, who had
at first been a little prejudiced against him, ended by singing his
praises more loudly than any one, perhaps conquered in spite of
herself by the man's extraordinary power of sympathy, his ready
perception of good even in those with whom he disagreed most.
Mrs. Craigie was in many respects very like her brother, and was a
very useful worker, though much of her work was little seen. She
did not speak in public; all the oratorical powers of the family
seemed to have concentrated themselves in Luke Raeburn; but she
wrote and worked indefatigably, proving a very useful second to her
brother. A hard, wearing life, however, had told a good deal upon
her, and trouble had somewhat imbittered her nature. She had not
the vein of humor which had stood Raeburn in such good stead.
Severely mater-of-fact, and almost despising those who had any
poetry in their nature, she did not always agree very well with
Erica. The two loved each other sincerely, and were far too loyal
both to clan and creed to allow their differences really to
separate them; but there was, undoubtedly, something in their
natures which jarred. Even Tom found it hard at times to bear the
strong infusion of bitter criticism which his mother introduced
into the home atmosphere. He was something of a philosopher,
however, and knowing that she had been through great trouble, and
had had much to try her, he made up his mind that it was natural
therefore inevitable therefore to be borne
The home life was not without its frets and petty trials, but on
one point there was perfect accord. All were devoted to the head
of the house would have sacrificed anything to bring him a few
As for Raeburn, when not occupied in actual conflict, he lived in
a sort of serene atmosphere of thought and study, far removed from
all the small differences and little cares of his household. They
invariably smoothed down all such roughnesses in his presence, and
probably in any case he would have been unable to see such
microscopic grievances; unless, indeed, they left any shade of
annoyance on Erica's face, and then his fatherhood detected at once