Part 5 out of 10
"Would you now!" said the coast guardsman, with a superior and
sardonic smile. "Well, in my 'umble opinion, drowning's too good
With which humane utterance, the coast guardsman walked off,
singing of Tom who
"Never from his word departed, Whose heart was kind and soft."
"Well, I, for one, will lend a hand to help them. Now then, mates!
Which of you is going to help to cheat the devil of his due?" said
the man with the earrings.
Three men proffered their services, but the old seaman with the
telescope checked them.
"Bide a bit, mates, bide a bit; I'm not sure you've a call to go."
He wiped the glasses of his telescope with a red handkerchief, and
then looked out seaward once more.
In the meantime, while their fate was being discussed on the shore,
Raeburn and Erica were face to face with death. They were a long
way from land before the wind had sprung up so strongly. Raeburn,
who in his young days had been at once the pride and anxiety of the
fishermen round his Scottish home, and noted for his readiness and
daring, had now lost the freshness of his experience, and had grown
forgetful of weather tokens. The danger was upon them before he
had even thought of it. The strong wind blowing upon them, the
delicious salt freshness, even the brisk motion, had been such a
relief to them after the pain and excitement of the morning. But
all at once they began to realize that their peril was great.
Their little boat tossed so fearfully that Erica had to cling to
the seat for safety; one moment they were down in the hollow of a
deep green wave, the next they would be tossed up upon its crest as
though their boat had been a mere cockle shell.
"I'm afraid we've made a mistake, Eric," said Raeburn. "I ought to
have seen this storm coming up."
"What?" cried Erica, for the dashing of the waves made the end of
the sentence inaudible.
He looked across the boat at her, and an almost paralyzing dread
filled his heart. For himself he could be brave, for himself death
had no terrors but for his child!
A horrible vision rose before him. He saw her lying stiff and
cold, with glazed eyes and drenched hair. Was there to be a yet
more terrible separation between them? Was death to snatch her
from him? Ah, no that should never be! They would at least go
The vision faded; he saw once more the fair, eager face, no longer
pallid, but flushed with excitement, the brave eyes clear and
bright, but somewhat anxious. The consciousness that everything
depended on him helped him to rise above that overmastering horror.
He was once more his strongest self.
The rudder had been left on the beach, and it was only possible to
steer by the oars. He dismissed even the thought of Erica, and
concentrated his whole being on the difficult task before him. So
grand did he look in that tremendous endeavor that Erica almost
forgot her anxiety; there was something so forceful in his whole
aspect that she could not be afraid. Her heart beat quickly
indeed, but the consciousness of danger was stimulating.
Yet the waves grew more and more furious, rolling, curling, dashing
up in angry, white foam "raging horribly." At length came one
which broke right over the little boat, blinding and drenching its
"Another like that will do for us," Said Raeburn, in a quiet voice.
The boat was half full of water. Erica began to bale out with her
father's hat, and each knew from the other's face that their plight
Raeburn had faced death many times. He had faced it more than once
on a sick bed, he had faced it surrounded by yelling and furious
mobs, but he had never faced it side by side with his child. Again
he looked at the angry gray-green waves, at the wreaths of curling
white foam, again that awful vision rose before him, and, brave man
as he was, he shuddered.
Life was sweet even though he was harassed, persecuted, libeled.
Life was sweet even though his child had deserted his cause, even
though she had "cheated herself into a belief." Life was
infinitely worth living, mere existence an exquisite joy, blank
nothingness a hideous alternative.
"Bale out!" he cried, despair in his eyes, but a curve of
resoluteness about his lips.
A few more strokes warily pulled, another huge wave sweeping along,
rearing itself up, dashing down upon them. The boat reeled and
staggered. To struggle longer was useless. Raeburn threw his oars
inboard, caught hold of Erica, and held her fast. When they could
see once more, they found the boat quite three parts full.
"Child!" he said, "child!" But nothing more would come. For once
in his life words failed him; the orator was speechless. Was it a
minute or an eternity that he waited there through that awful pause
waited with his arm round Erica, feeling the beating of her heart,
the heart which must soon cease beating forever, feeling her warm
breath on his cheek alas! How few more breaths would she draw!
How soon would the cold water grave close over all that he
His thoughts were abruptly checked. That eternal minute of waiting
was over. It was coming death was coming riding along with mocking
scorn on the crest of a giant wave. Higher and higher rose the
towering, sea-green wall, mockingly it rushed forward,
remorselessly swooped down upon them! This time the boat was
"I will at least die fighting!" thought Raeburn, a despairing,
defiant courage inspiring him with almost superhuman strength.
"Trust to me!" he cried. "Don't struggle!" And Erica who would
naturally have fallen into that frantic and vain convulsion which
seizes most people when they find themselves in peril of drowning,
by a supreme effort of will made no struggle at all, but only clung
to her father.
Raeburn was a very strong man, and an expert swimmer, but it was a
fearful sea. They were dashed hither and thither, they were
buffeted, and choked, and blinded, but never once did he lose his
presence of mind. Every now and then he even shouted out a few
words to Erica. How strange his voice sounded in that chaos, in
that raging symphony of winds and waves.
"Tell me when you can't hold any longer," he cried.
"I can't leave go," returned Erica.
And even then, in that desperate minute, they both felt a momentary
thrill of amusement. The fact was, that her effort of will had
been so great when she had obeyed him, and clung with all her might
to him, that now the muscles of her hands absolutely would not
relax their hold.
It seemed endless! Over the cold green and white of the waves
Raeburn seemed to see his whole life stretched out before him, in
a series of vivid pictures. All the long struggles, all the
desperate fights wreathed themselves out in visions round this
supreme death struggle. And always there was the consciousness
that he was toiling for Erica's life, struggling, agonizing,
straining every fiber of his being to save her.
But what was this paralyzing cold creeping over his limbs? What
this pressure at his heart? This dimness of his eyes? Oh! Was
his strength failing him? Was the last hope, indeed, gone?
Panting, he struggled on.
"I will do thirty more strokes!" he said to himself. And he did
"I will do ten more!"
And he forced himself to keep on.
He was gasping now. Erica's weight seemed to be dragging him down,
down, into nothingness.
Six strokes painfully made! Seven! After all nothingness would
mean rest. Eight! No pain to either, since they were together.
Nine! He should live on in the hearts of his people. Ten! Agony
of failure! He was beaten at last!
What followed they neither of them knew, only there was a shout, an
agony of sinking, a vision of a dark form and a something solid
which they grasped convulsively.
When Erica came to herself they were by no means out of danger, but
there was something between them and the angry sea. She was lying
down at the bottom of a boat in close proximity to some
silvery-skinned fishes, and her father was holding her hand.
Wildly they tossed for what seemed to her a very long time; but at
length fresh voices were heard, the keel grated on the shore, she
felt herself lifted up and carried on to the beach. Then, with an
effort, she stood up once more, trembling and exhausted, but
conscious that mere existence was rapture.
Raeburn paused to reward and thank the men who had rescued them in
his most genial manner, and Erica's happiness would have been
complete had not the coast guardsman stepped up in an insolent and
officious way, and observed:
"It is a pity, Mr. Luke Raeburn, that you don't bring yourself to
offer thanks to God almighty!"
"Sir," replied Raeburn, "when I ask your opinion of my personal and
private matters, it will be fitting that you should speak not
The man looked annihilated, and turned away.
Raeburn grasped the rough hands of his helpers and well-wishers,
gave his arm to Erica, and led her up the steep beach.
Later on in the evening they sat over the fire, and talked over
their adventure. June though it was, they had both been thoroughly
"What did you think of when we were in the water?' asked Erica.
"I made a deep calculation," said Raeburn, smiling, "and found
that the sale of the plant and of all my books would about clear
off the last of the debts, and that I should die free. After that
I thought of Cicero's case of the two wise men struggling in the
sea with one plank to rescue them sufficient only for one. They
were to decide which of their lives was most useful to the
republic, and the least useful man was to drop down quietly into
the deep. It struck me that you and I should hardly come to such
a calculation. I think we would have gone down together, little
one! What did you think of?"
But Erica's thoughts could not so easily be put into words.
"For one thing," she said, "I thought we should never be divided
She sighed a little; for, after all, the death they had so narrowly
escaped would have been so infinitely easier than the life which
lay before her.
"Clearly we are inseparable!" said Raeburn. "In that sense, little
son Eric, we can still say, 'We fear nae foe!'"
Perhaps the gentle words, and the sadness which he could not
entirely banish from his tone, moved Erica almost more than his
passionate utterances in the morning.
The day was no bad miniature of her whole life. Very sad, very
happy, full of danger, conflict and strife, warmed by outside
sympathy, wounded by outside insolence.
CHAPTER XXI. What it Involved
Stronger than steel
Is the sword of the spirit;
Swifter than arrows
The life of the truth is;
Greater than anger
Is love, and subdueth. Longfellow
The two or three days at Codrington lengthened out into a week, for
both Raeburn and Erica felt a good deal exhausted after the
eventful Monday. Raeburn, anxious to spare her as much as
possible, himself wrote to Mrs. Craigie, and told her of Erica's
change of views.
"It is a great grief," he wrote, "and she will be a serious loss to
our cause, but I am determined that we will not enact over again
the course of action which drove both you and me from home. Odd!
That she should just reverse our story! Anyhow, you and I, Jean,
have been too much persecuted to turn into persecutors. The child
is as much in earnest for her delusion as we for our truth.
Argument and remonstrance will do no good, and you must understand,
and make Tom understand, that I'll not have her bullied. Don't
think that I am trying to make her mistaken way all easy for her.
She won't find it easy. She will have a miserable time of it with
our own set, and how many Christians, do you imagine, will hold out
a hand to Luke Raeburn's daughter, even though her views have
changed? Maybe half a dozen! Not more, I fancy, unless she
renounced us with atheism, and that she never will do! She will be
between two fires, and I believe between the two she will be
worried to death in a year unless we can keep the peace at home.
I don't blame Osmond for this, though at first I did suspect it was
his doing; but this has been no cram-work. Erica has honestly
faced the questions herself, and has honestly arrived at this
mistaken conclusion. Osmond's kindness and generosity of course
influenced her, but for the rest they have only had the free
discussions of which from the first I approved. Years ago he said
to me plainly, 'What if she should see reasons to change her mind?'
I scouted the notion then, it seemed and still seems almost
INCREDIBLE. He has, you see, acted quite honorably. It is Erica's
own doing. I remember telling him that our name of freethinkers
was a reality, and so it shall still be! She shall be free to
think the untrue is true; she shall be free to confess herself a
Christian before the whole world, though it deal me the hardest of
This letter soon spread the news. Aunt Jean was too much vexed and
not deeply grieved enough to keep silence. Vexation finds some
relief in talking, deep grief as a rule prefers not to speak. Tom,
in his odd way, felt the defection of his favorite cousin as much
as anybody, except Raeburn himself. They had been play-fellows,
they had always been like brother and sister together, and he was
astounded to think that Erica, of all people in the world, should
have deserted the cause. The letter had come by one of the evening
posts. He went out and paced up and down the square in the soft
midsummer twilight, trying to realize the facts of the case.
Presently he heard rapid steps behind him; no one walked at that
pace excepting Brian, and Tom was quite prepared to feel an arm
link itself within his.
"Hallo, old fellow!" exclaimed Brian. "Moonlight meditations?"
"Where did you drop from?" said Tom, evasively.
"Broken leg, round the corner a public-house row. What brutes men
are!" exclaimed the young doctor, hotly.
"Disappointing world altogether," said Tom with a sigh. "What do
you think we have just heard about Erica?"
Brian's heart almost stopped beating; he hardly knew what he
"How can I tell?" he answered, hoarsely. "No bad news, I hope?"
"She's gone and turned Christian," said Tom, in a tone of deep
"Thank God!" he exclaimed, under his breath.
"Confound it!" cried Tom. "I'd forgot you'd be triumphant. Good
night," and he marched off in high dudgeon.
Brian did not even miss him. How could he at such a time? The
weight of years had been lifted off his soul. A consuming
happiness took possession of him; his whole being was a
thanksgiving. By and by he went home, found his father in the
study, and was about to speak, when Charles Osmond put an open
letter into his hand. While Raeburn had written to his sister,
Erica had written to her "prophet" a sad, happy, quaint letter
exactly like herself. Its straightforward simplicity brought the
tears to Brian's eyes.
"It will be a fearful life for her now!" he exclaimed. "She will
never be able to endure it. Father, now at last I may surely speak
He spoke very eagerly. Charles Osmond looked grave.
"My dear old fellow, of course you must do as you think best," he
replied, after a minute's pause; "but I doubt if it is wise just
"Why, it is the very time of all others when she might be glad of
me," said Brian.
"But can't you see," returned his father, "that Erica is the last
girl in the world to marry a man because she was unhappy, or
because she had got a difficult bit of life in front of her? Of
course, if you really think she cares for you, it is different; but--"
"She does not care for me," said Brian quickly; "but in time I
think she would. I think I could make her happy."
"Yes, I think you could, but I fancy you will make shipwreck of
your hopes if you speak to her now. Have patience."
"I am sick of patience!" cried Brian desperately. "Have I not been
patient for nearly seven years? For what would you have me wait?
Am I to wait till, between our injustice to secularists and their
injustice to Christians, she is half badgered out of life? If she
could but love me, if she would marry me now, I could save her from
what must be a life of misery."
"If I could but get you to see it from what I am convinced is
Erica's point of view!" exclaimed Charles Osmond. "Forget for a
minute that you are her knight and champion, and try to see things
as she sees them. Let us try to reverse things. Just imagine for
a minute that you are the child of some leading man, the head and
chief of a party or association we'll say that you are the child of
an Archbishop of Canterbury. You are carefully educated, you
become a zealous worker, you enter into all your father's
interests, you are able to help him in a thousand ways. But, by
slow degrees, we will say that you perceive a want in the system in
which you have been educated, and, after many years of careful
study and thought, you are obliged to reject your former beliefs
and to accept that other system which shall most recommend itself
to you. We will suppose for the sake of analogy that you become a
secularist. Knowing that your change of views will be a terrible
grief to your father the archbishop, it takes your whole strength
to make your confession, and you not only feel your father's
personal pain, but you feel that his pain will be increased by his
public position. To make it worse, too, we must suppose that a
number of people calling themselves atheists, and in the name of
atheism, have at intervals for the last thirty years been annoying
and insulting your father, that in withstanding their attacks he
has often received bodily injury, and that the atheists have so
often driven him into the law courts that he has been pretty nearly
beggared. All his privations you have shared for instance, you
went with him and lived for years in a poky little lodging, and
denied yourself every single luxury. But now you have, in spite of
all these persecutions carried on in the name of secularism,
learned to see that the highest form of secularism is true. The
archbishop feels this terribly. However, being a very loving
father, he wisely refuses to indulge in perpetual controversy with
his child. You agree still to live together, and each try with all
your might to find all the possible points of union still left you.
Probably, if you are such a child as I imagine, you love your
father ten times more than you did before. Then just as you have
made up your mind to try to be more to him, when all you care about
in life is to comfort and help him, and when your heart is much
occupied with your new opinions, a friend of yours a secularist
comes to you, and says: 'A miserable life lies before you. The
atheists will never thoroughly take up with you while you live with
your father the archbishop, and of course it is wretched for you to
be surrounded by those of another creed. Come with me. I love you
I will make you happy, and save you from persecution."
In spite of himself Brian had smiled many times at this putting of
an Archbishop of Canterbury into the position of Luke Raeburn. But
the conclusion arrived at seemed to him to admit of only one
answer, and left him very grave.
"You may be right," he said, very sadly. "But to stand still and
watch her suffer--"
He broke off, unable to finish his sentence.
Charles Osmond took it up.
"To stand still and watch her suffer will be the terribly hard work
of a brave man who takes a true, deep view. To rush in with offers
of help would be the work of an impetuous man who took a very
superficial view. If Erica were selfish, I would say go and appeal
to her selfishness, and marry her at once; for selfishness will
never do any good in Guilford Terrace. But she is one of the most
devoted women I know. Your appeal would be rejected. I believe
she will feel herself in the right place there, and, as long as
that is the case, nothing will move her."
"Father," said Brian, rather desperately, "I would take your
opinion before any other opinion in the world. You know her well
far better than I do. Tell me honestly do you think she could ever
"You have given me a hard task," said Charles Osmond. "But you
have asked for my honest opinion, and you must have it. As long as
her father lives I don't believe Erica will ever love a man well
enough to marry him. I remember, in my young days, a beautiful
girl in our neighborhood, the belle of the whole county; and years
went by, and she had countless offers, but she rejected them all.
People used to remonstrate with her, and ask her how it was. 'Oh,'
she used to reply, 'that is very easily explained.. I never see a
man I think equal to my own brothers!' Now, whatever faults
Raeburn has, we may be sure Erica sees far less plainly than we
see, and nobody can deny that he is a grand fellow. When one bears
in mind all that he has had against him, his nobility of character
seems to me marvelous. He puts us to shame. And that is why he
seems to me the wholesome though powerful medicine for this
nineteenth century of ours, with its great professions and its
"What is the use of patience what is the use of love," exclaimed
Brian, "if I am never to serve her?"
"Never! Who said so?" said his father smiling. "Why, you have
been serving her every blessed day since you first loved her. Is
unspoken love worth nothing? Are prayers useless? Is it of no
service to let your light shine? But I see how it is. As a
doctor, you look upon pain as the one great enemy to be fought
with, to be bound down, to be conquered. You want to shield Erica
from pain, which she can't be shielded from, if she is to go on
"'Knowledge by suffering entereth!'
No one would so willingly indorse the truth of that as she herself.
And it will be so to the end of the chapter. You can't shut her up
in a beautiful casket, and keep her from all pain. If you could
she would no longer be the Erica you love. As for the rest, I may
be wrong. She may have room for wifely love even now. I have only
told you what I think. And whether she ever be your wife or not
and from my heart I hope she may be your love will in no case be
wasted. Pure love can't be wasted; it's an impossibility."
Brian sighed heavily, but made no answer. Presently he took up his
hat and went out. He walked on and on without the faintest idea of
time or place, occupied only with the terrible struggle which was
going on in his heart, which seemed only endurable with the help of
rapid and mechanical exercise. When at length he came to himself,
he was miles away from home, right down at Shepherd's Bush, and he
heard the church clocks striking twelve. Then he turned back, and
walked home more quietly, his resolution made.
If he told Erica of his love, and she refused him now, he should
not only add to her troubles, but he should inevitably put an end
to the comfort of the close friendship which now existed between
the two families. He would keep silence.
Erica and her father returned on the Saturday, and then began a
most trying time. Tom seemed to shrink from her just as he had
done at the time of her mother's death. He was shy and vexed, too,
and kept as much out of her way as possible. Mrs. Craigie, on the
contrary, could not leave her alone. In spite of her brother's
words, she tried every possible argument and remonstrance in the
hope of reconvincing her niece. With the best intentions, she was
often grossly unfair, and Erica, with a naturally quick temper, and
her Raeburn inheritance of fluency and satire, found her patience
sorely tried. Raeburn was excessively busy, and they saw very
little of him; perhaps he thought it expedient that Erica should
fight her own battles, and fully realize the seriousness of the
steps she had taken.
"Have you thought," urged Mrs. Craigie, as a last argument "have
you thought what offense you will give to our whole party? What do
you think they will slay when they learn that you of all people
have deserted the cause?"
The tears started to Erica's eyes, for naturally she did feel this
a great deal. But she answered bravely, and with a sort of ring in
her voice, which made Tom look up from his newspaper.
"They will know that Luke Raeburn's daughter must be true to her
convictions at whatever cost."
"Will you go on writing in the 'Idol'?" asked Tom, for the first
time making an observation to her which was not altogether
"No," said Erica "how can I?"
Tom shrugged his shoulders, and made no further remark.
"Then how do you mean to live? How else can you support yourself?"
asked Aunt Jean.
"I don't know," said Erica. "I must get some other work
But her heart failed her, though she spoke firmly. She knew that
to find work in London was no easy matter.
"Offer yourself to the 'Church Chronicle,'" said Mrs. Craigie
sarcastically, "or, better still, to the 'Watch Dog.' They always
make a good deal of capital out of a convert."
Erica colored and had to bite her lip hard to keep back the quick
retort which occurred to her all too naturally.
By and by Mr. Masterman and another well-known secularist walked
in. They both knew of Erica's defection. Mr. Masterman attacked
her at once in a sort of bantering way.
"So Miss Raeburn, now I understand why some time ago you walked out
in the middle of my lecture one evening."
And then followed a most irritating semi-serious remonstrance, in
questionable taste. Erica writhed under it. A flippant canvassing
of her most private and sacred thoughts was hard to bear, but she
held her ground, and, being not without a touch of her father's
dignity, Mr. Masterman presently beat a retreat, not feeling quite
so well satisfied with himself as usual. His companion did not
allude directly to her change of views, but treated her with a sort
of pitying condescension, as if she had been a mild lunatic.
There was some sort of committee being held in the study that
evening. The next person to arrive was Professor Gosse and almost
immediately after came Mr. Harmston, a charming old man, whom Erica
had known from her childhood. They came in and had some coffee
before going into the study. Mrs. Craigie talked to Mr. Harmston.
Erica, looking her loveliest waited on them. Tom watched them all
philosophically from the hearth rug.
"I am sorry to hear you have deserted your colors," said the
professor, looking more grave than she had ever seen him look
before. Then, his voice softening a little as he looked at her, "I
expect it all comes of that illness of yours. I believe religion
is just an outgrowth of bad health mens sana in corpore sano, you
know. Never mind, you must still come to my workshop, and I shall
see if science won't reconvert you."
He moved away with his good-humored, shaggy-looking face, leaving
Erica to old Mr. Harmston.
"I am much grieved to hear this of you, Erica," he said, lowering
his voice, and bringing his gray head near to hers "as grieved as
if you were my own child. You will be a sore loss to us all."
Erica felt this keenly, for she was very fond of the old man.
"Do you think it does not hurt me to grieve you all?" she said,
piteously. "But one must be honest."
"Quite right, my dear," said the old man, "but that does not make
our loss the less heavy. We had hoped great things of you, Erica.
It is grievous to me that you should have fallen back to the
miserable superstitions against which your father has fought so
"Come, Mr. Harmston," said the professor; "we are late, I fancy."
And before Erica could make any reply Mrs. Craigie and the two
visitors had adjourned to the committee room, leaving her alone
Now, for two or three days Erica had been enduring Tom's coldness
and Mrs. Craigie's unceasing remonstrances; all the afternoon she
had been having a long and painful discussion with her friend, Mrs.
MacNaughton; this evening she had seen plainly enough what her
position would be for the future among all her old acquaintances,
and an aching sense of isolation filled her heart. She was just
going to run upstairs and yield to her longing for darkness and
quiet, when Tom called her back. She could not refuse to hear, for
the coldness of her old playmate had made her very sad, but she
turned back rather reluctantly, for her eyes were brimming with
"Don't go," said Tom, quite in his natural voice. "Have you any
coffee for me, or did the old fogies finish it?"
Erica went back to the table and poured him out a cup of coffee,
but her hand trembled, and, before she could prevent it, down
splashed a great tear into the saucer.
"Come!" said Tom, cheerfully. "Don't go and spoil my coffee with
salt water! All very well for David, in a penitential psalm, to
drink tears, but in the nineteenth century, you know--"
Erica began to laugh at this, a fatal proceeding, for afterward
came a great sob, and the tears came down in good earnest.
Philosophical Tom always professed great contempt for tears, and he
knew that Erica must be very much moved indeed to cry in his
presence, or, indeed, to cry at all; for, as he expressed it: "It
was not in her line." But somehow, when for the first time he saw
her cry, he did not feel contemptuous; instead, he began to call
himself a "hard-hearted brute," and a narrow-minded fool, and to
feel miserable and out of conceit with himself.
"I say, Erica, don't cry," he pleaded. "Don't, I say, I can't bear
to see you. I've been a cold-blooded wretch I'm awfully sorry!"
"It's very cowardly of me," sobbed Erica. "But--but--"with a rush
of tears, "you don't know how I love you all it's like being killed
"You're not cowardly," said Tom, warmly. "You've been brave and
plucky; I only wish it were in a better cause. Look here, Erica,
only stop crying, and promise me that you'll not take this so
dreadfully to heart. I'll stand by you I will, indeed, even though
I hate your cause. But it sha'n't come between us any longer, the
hateful delusion has spoiled enough lives already. It sha'n't
"Oh, don't!" cried Erica, wounded anew by this.
"Well," said Tom, gulping down his longing to inveigh against
Christianity, "it goes hard with me not to say a word against the
religion that has brought us all our misery, but for your sake I'll
try not when talking with you. Now let us begin again on the old
"Not quite on the old footing either," said Erica, who had
conquered her tears. "I love you a thousand times more, you dear
And Tom, who was made of sterling stuff, did from that day forward
stand by her through everything, and checked himself when harsh
words about religious matters rose to his lips, and tried his best
to smooth what could not fail to be a rough bit of walking.
The first meeting between Charles Osmond and Erica, after her
return from Codrington, did not come about till the morning after
her conversation with Tom. They had each called on the other, but
had somehow managed to miss. When at length Erica was shown into
the study, connected in her mind with so many warm discussions, she
found it empty. She sat down in the great arm chair by the window,
wondering if she were indeed the same Erica who had sat there years
before, on the day when her "prophet" had foretold her illness.
What changes had come about since then!
But her "Prophet" was unchanged, his brisk, "Well Erica!" was
exactly what it had been when she had come to him in the days of
her atheism. It had always been full of welcome and sympathy, and
now the only difference was that a great happiness shone in his
eyes as he came forward with his soft, steady tread and took her
hand in both his.
They sat silent for awhile, then talked a little but reservedly,
for both felt that the subject which filled their thoughts was at
once too sacred and too personal to be altogether put into words.
Then by and by they began to discuss the practical consequences of
the change, and especially the great difficulty as to Erica's means
of supporting herself.
"Could you not try teaching?" said Charles Osmond.
"The market is already overstocked."
"True, but I should think that your brains and certificates ought
to secure you work in spite of that."
"I should like it in many ways," said Erica, "but, you see, except
at the night school it is out of the question, and I could not live
upon my grant even if every one of my class passed the examination.
For any other sort of teaching who do you imagine would have the
courage to employ any one bearing the name of Raeburn? Why, I
can't give an order in a shop without being looked all over by the
person who takes the address. No, governessing would be all very
well if one might assume a nom de guerre, but that would not do,
"You couldn't find work of that sort among your own set, I
"Not now," said Erica. "You see, naturally enough, I am very much
out of favor with them all."
"Falling between two stools," said Charles Osmond, half to himself.
"But don't lose heart, Erica: 'A stone that is fit for the wall
will not be left in the way;' there is work for you somewhere. By
the way, I might see old Crutchley he knows all the literary folk,
and might get you an introduction to some one, at any rate."
Just as Erica was leaving Brian came in from his rounds, and they
met at the door. Had he known her trouble and perplexity as to
work, no power on earth could have induced him to keep silence any
longer; but he knew nothing. She looked a little pale, but that
was natural enough, and in her eyes he could see a peace which he
had never seen there before. Then deep unselfish happiness filled
his heart again, and Erica recognized in his greeting a great deal
more than an ordinary by-stander would have seen. She went away
feeling bettered by that handclasp.
"That is a downright good man!" she thought to herself. "Perhaps
by the time he's fifty-five, he'll be almost equal to his father."
CHAPTER XXII. An Editor
Socrates How singular is the thing called pleasure, and how
curiously related to pain, which might be thought to be the
opposite; for they never come to a man together, and yet he who
pursues either of them is generally compelled to take the other.
They are two, and yet they grow together out of one head or stem;
and I can not help thinking that, if Aesop had noticed them, he
would have made a fable about God trying to reconcile their strife,
and when he could not, he fastened their heads together; and this
is the reason why when one comes the other follows. Plato
That Erica should live any longer upon the money which her father
chiefly made by the dissemination of views with which she disagreed
was clearly impossible, at least impossible to one of her sincere
and thorough nature. But to find work was very difficult, indeed.
After an anxious waiting and searching, she was one day surprised
by receiving through Charles Osmond's friend, Mr. Crutchley, an
introduction to the editor of a well-known and widely read paper.
Every one congratulated her, but she could not feel very hopeful,
it seemed too good to prove true it was, in fact, so exactly the
position which she would herself have chosen that it seemed
unlikely it should ever really be hers. Still of course she hoped,
and arrangements were made for an interview with Mr. Bircham,
editor and part proprietor of the "Daily Review."
Accordingly, one hot summer morning Erica dressed herself
carefully, tried to look old and serious, and set off with Tom to
"I'll see you safe to the door of the lion's den," said Tom as they
made their way along the crowded streets. "I only wish I could be
under the table during the interview; I should like to see you
doing the dignified journalist."
"I wouldn't have you for the world!" said Erica, laughing. Then,
growing grave again, "Oh, Tom! How I wish it were over! It's worse
than three hundred visits to a dentist rolled into one."
"Appalling prospect!" said Tom. "I can exactly picture what it
will be. BIRCHAM! Such a forbidding name for an editor. He'll be
a sort of editorial Mr. Squeers; he'll talk in a loud, blustering
way, and you'll feel exactly like a journalistic Smike."
"No," said Erica, laughing. "He'll be a neat little dapper man,
very smooth and bland, and he'll talk patronizingly and raise my
hopes, and then, in a few days' time will send me a polite
"Tell him at once that you hero-worship Sir Michael Cunningham, the
statesman of the age, the most renowned 'Sly Bacon!'"
"Tom, do be quiet!" said Erica. "I wish you had never thought of
that horrid name."
"Horrid! I mean to make my fortune out of it. If you like, you
can offer the pun on reasonable terms to Mr. Bircham."
"Why, this is Fleet Street! Doesn't it lead out of this?" said
Erica, with an indescribable feeling in the back of her neck. "We
must be quite near."
"Nearer than near," said Tom. "Now then, left wheel! Here we are,
you see. It's a mercy that you turn pink with fright, not green
like the sea-green Robespierre. Go in looking as pretty as that,
and Mr. Squeers will graciously accept your services, unless he's
"What a tease you are. Do be quiet!" implored Erica. And then, in
what seemed to her an alarmingly short time she was actually left
by herself to beard the lion, and a clerk was assuring her that Mr.
Bircham was in, and would she walk upstairs.
For reasons best known to himself, the editor of the "Daily Review"
had his private room at the very top of the house. A sedate clerk
led the way up a dingy staircase, and Erica toiled after him,
wondering how much breath she should have left by the time she
reached the end. On one of the landings she caught sight of a
sandy cat and felt a little reassured at meeting such an every-day
creature in this grim abode; she gave it a furtive stroke as she
passed, and would have felt it a protection if she could have
picked it up and taken it with her. That would have been
undignified, however, and by the time she reached the editor's room
only a very observant person could have discovered in her frank,
self-possessed manner any trace of nervousness.
So different was Mr Bircham from their preconceived notions that
she could almost have laughed at the contrast. He was very tall
and pompous, he wore a lank brown wig which looked as if it might
come off at any moment, he had little keen gray eyes which
twinkled, and a broad mouth which shut very closely; whether it was
grim or humorous she could not quite decide. He was sitting in a
swivel chair, and the table strewn with letters, and the desk with
its pigeon holes crammed with papers, looked so natural and so like
her father's that she began to feel a reassuring sense of
fellowship with this entire stranger. The inevitable paste-pot and
scissors, the piles of newspapers, the books of reference, all
looked homelike to her.
Mr. Bircham rose and bowed rather formally, motioned her to a seat,
and swung round his own seat so that they faced one another. Then
he scanned her from head to foot with the sort of appraising glance
to which she was only too well accustomed a glance which said as
plainly as words: "Oh!" So you are that atheist's daughter are
But whatever impression Erica made upon Mr. Bircham, not a muscle
of his face altered, and he began to discuss business in a most
formal and business-like way. Things did not seem very hopeful,
and Erica began to doubt more and ore whether she had the smallest
chance of acceptance. Something in the dry formal manner of the
editor struck a chill to her heart. So much, so very much depended
on this interview, and already the prospect seemed far from
"I should like to see some of your work," observed Mr. Bircham.
"How long have you been in the habit of writing in Mr. Raeburn's
"For the last five years," said Erica.
Mr. Bircham lifted his shaggy eyebrows at this, for Erica looked
even younger than she really was. However, he made no comment, but
took up the end of a speaking tube.
"Send up Jones with the file of 'Idol-Breakers' I ordered."
Erica's color rose. Presently the answer from the lower regions
appeared in the shape of the sedate clerk carrying a great bundle
of last year's 'Idol-Breakers.'
"Perhaps you will show me one or two of your average articles,"
said Mr. Bircham, and, while Erica searched through the bundle of
papers, he took up one of the copies which she had put aside, and
studied the outside page critically. "'The Idol-Breaker:' Advocate
of Freethought and Secularism. Edited by Luke Raeburn."
"They are slaves who dare not be In the right with two or three."
Mr. Bircham put it down and began to watch her attentively. She
was absorbed in her search, and was quite unconscious of his
scrutiny. Even had she noticed him, she would not have understood
what was passing in his mind. His little gray eyes grew bright;
then he pushed back his wig impatiently; then he cleared his
throat; finally he took snuff, sneezed violently, and walked to the
window. When he returned he was even more dry and formal than
"These, I think, are fairly representative," said Erica. "I have
marked them on the margin."
He took the three or four copies she handed to him, and began to
look through one of the articles, muttering a sentence half aloud
every now and then, and making little ejaculations which might have
been either approval or disapproval.
Finally the interview ended. Mr. Bircham put down the papers with
a sigh of utter weariness, Erica thought.
"Well, Miss Raeburn," he remarked, "I will look at one or two of
your other articles, and will communicate with you in a few days'
Then he shook hands with her with frigid politeness, and in another
minute she was slowly making her way down the dingy staircase.
Partly from the reaction after her excitement, partly from mental
worry and physical weariness, she felt by the time she was fairly
out of the office as if she could hardly drag herself along. Her
heart was like lead, blank loss of hope and weary anxiety as to the
next effort to be made were weighing her down. She was naturally
high-spirited, but when high-spirited people do get depressed, they
go down to the very deepest depths; and her interview with Mr.
Bircham, by its dry cheerlessness, by its lack of human interest,
had chilled her all through. If he had even made a remark on the
weather, she thought she could have liked him better; if he had
expressed an opinion on any subject, even if she had disagreed with
him, it would have been a relief; as it was, he seemed to her more
like a hard steel pen dressed in broadcloth than a man.
As to his last remark, that could only mean one thing. He did not
like to tell her to her face that she would not suit him, but, he
would communicate with her in a few days, and say it comfortably on
She had never felt quite so desolate and forlorn and helpless as
she felt that day when she left the "Daily Review" office, and
found herself in the noise and bustle of Fleet Street. The midday
sun blazed down upon her in all its strength; the pavements seemed
to scorch her feet; the weary succession of hurrying, pushing,
jostling passengers seemed to add to her sense of isolation.
Presently a girl stopped her, and asked the way to Basinghall
Street. She knew it well enough, but felt too utterly stupid to
"You had better ask a policeman," she replied, wearily.
Then, recollecting that she had several commissions to do for her
father, besides a great deal to do at the stores, she braced
herself up, and tried to forget Mr. Bircham, and to devote her
whole mind to the petty details of shopping.
]The next evening she was in the study with her father when Tom
brought in a bundle of letters. One of them was for Erica. She at
once recognized Mr. Bircham's writing, and a new pang of
disappointment shot through her, though she had really lost all
hope on the previous day. This very speedy communication could
only mean that his mind had been practically made up before. She
began to think of her next chance, of the next quarter she must
try, and slowly opened the unwelcome letter. But in a moment she
had sprung to her feet in an ecstasy of happiness.
"Oh, father! Oh, Tom! He will have me!"
Raeburn looked up from his correspondence, and together they read
Mr. Bircham's letter. It was quite as business-like as he himself
had been at the interview.
"Dear Madame, Having fully considered the matter, we are prepared
to offer you a place on our staff. The work required was explained
to you yesterday. For this we offer a salary of 200 pounds per
annum. Should you signify your acceptance of these terms, we will
send you our usual form of agreement. I am yours faithfully, Jacob
Bircham. "To Miss Raeburn."
"Commend me to people who don't raise one's expectations!" said
Erica, rapturously. "Three cheers for my dear, stiff old editor!"
So that anxiety was over, and Erica was most thankful to have such
a load taken off her mind. The comfort of it helped her through a
very trying summer.
CHAPTER XXIII. Erica to the Rescue
Isabel: I have spirit to do anything that appears not foul in the
truth of my spirit.
Duke: Virtue is bold, and goodness never fearful.
Measure for Measure
It was the first of September. Watering places were crowded with
visitors, destruction had begun among the partridges, and a certain
portion of the hard-working community were taking their annual
Raeburn, whose holidays were few and far between, had been toiling
away all through the summer months in town. This evening, as he
sat in his stifling little study, he had fallen into a blank fit of
depression. He could neither work nor read. Strong as his nature
was, it was not always proof against this grim demon, which avenged
itself on him for overtasking his brain, shortening his hours of
sleep, and in other ways sacrificing himself to his work. Tonight,
however, there was reason for his depression; for while he sat
fighting his demon at home, Erica had gone to Charles Osmond's
church it was the evening of her baptism.
Of course it was the necessary sequence of the confession she had
made a few months before, and Raeburn had long known that it was
inevitable; but none the less did he this evening suffer more
acutely than he had yet suffered, realizing more fully his child's
defection The private confession had startled, shocked, grieved
him inexpressibly; but the public profession, with its sense of
irrevocableness, filled his heart with a grief for which he could
find no single ray of comfort.
Erica's brave endurance of all the trials and discomforts involved
in her change of faith had impressed him not a little, and even
when most hurt and annoyed by her new views, he had always tried to
shield her; but it had been a hard summer, and the loss of the home
unity had tried him sorely.
Moreover, the comparative quiet of the last year was now ended. A
new foe had arisen in the person of a certain retired cheesemonger,
who had sworn war to the knife against the apostle of atheism.
Unfortunately, Mr. Pogson's war was not undertaken in a Christ-like
spirit; his zeal was fast changing into personal animosity, and he
had avowed the he would crush Raeburn, though it should cost him
the whole of his fortune. This very day he had brought into action
the mischievous and unfair blasphemy laws, and to everybody's
amazement, had commenced a prosecution against Raeburn for a
so-called "blasphemous libel" in one of his recent pamphlets. An
attack on the liberty of the press was to Raeburn what the sound of
the trumpet is to the war horse. Yet, now that the first
excitement was over, he had somehow sunk into a fit of black
depression. How was it? Was his strength failing? Was he growing
old unfit for his work?
He was roused at length by a knock at his door. The servant
entered with a number of letters. He turned them over mechanically
until some handwriting which reminded him of his mother's made him
pause. The letter bore the Greyshot postmark; it must be from his
sister Isabel. He opened it with some eagerness; there had been no
communication between them since the time of his wife's death, and
though he had hoped that the correspondence once begun might have
been continued, nothing more had come of it. The letter proved
short, and not altogether palatable. It began with rejoicings over
Erica's change of views, the report of which had reached Mrs.
Fane-Smith. It went on to regret that he did not share in the
change. Raeburn's lip curled as he read. Then came a request that
Erica might be allowed to visit her relations, and the letter ended
with a kindly-meant but mistaken offer.
"My husband and I both feel that there are many objections to
Erica's remaining in her present home. We should be much pleased
if she would live with us at any rate, until she has met with some
situation which would provide her with a suitable and permanent
The offer was not intended to be insulting, but undoubtedly, to
such a father as Raeburn, it was a gross insult. His eyes flashed
fire, and involuntarily he crushed the letter in his hand; then, a
little ashamed of the passionate act, he forced himself
deliberately to smooth it out again, and, folding it accurately,
put it in his pocket. A note for Erica remained in the envelope;
he placed it on the mantel piece, then fell back in his chair again
After all, might not the visit to Greyshot be a very good thing for
her? Of course she would never dream of living with her aunt,
would indeed be as angry at the proposal as he had been. But might
not a visit of two or three weeks open her eyes to her new
position, and prove to her that among Christians such people as the
Osmonds were only in the minority! He knew enough of society to be
able to estimate the position it would accord to Erica. He knew
that her sensitiveness would be wounded again and again, that, that
her honesty would be shocked, her belief in the so-called Christian
world shaken. Might not all this be salutary? And yet he did not
like the thought; he could not bear sending her out alone to fight
her own battles, could not endure the consciousness that she was
bearing his reproach. Oh, why had this miserable, desolating
change ever occurred? At this very moment she was making public
profession of a faith which could only place her in the most trying
of positions; at this very moment she was pledging herself to a
life of bondage and trouble; while he, standing aside, could see
all the dangers and difficulties of her future, and could do
It reminded him of one of the most horrible moments of his life.
Walking up Regent Street one afternoon, years ago, Erica, walking
with Mrs. Craigie on the opposite side, had caught sight of him,
and regardless of the fourfold chain of carriages, had rushed
across to him with the fearless daring of a six-year-old child, to
whom the danger of horses' hoofs was a mere nothing when compared
with the desire to get a walk with her father. His heart beat
quicker even now as he thought of the paralyzing dread of long ago,
nor had Miss Erica ever been scolded for her loving rashness; in
his relief he had been unable to do anything but clasp the little
hand in his as though nothing should ever part them again.
But her loving disregard of all danger and difficulty was no longer
inspired by love of him, but by love of what Raeburn considered a
myth and a delusion.
In that lay the real sting. He courage, her suffering, all seemed
to him wasted, altogether on the wrong side. Once more black gloom
fell upon him. The room grew dusk then dark, but still he remained
Again he was interrupted by a knock at his door.
"Signor Civita wished to speak to him."
He braced himself up for an interview with some stranger, and in
walked a foreigner wrapped in a long cloak, and looking exceedingly
like a stage brigand.
He bowed, the brigand bowed too, and said something rapid and
unintelligible in Italian. Then glanced at the door to see that it
was safely closed, he made a bound to the open window and shut it
noiselessly. Raeburn quietly reached down a loaded revolver which
hung about the mantel piece, and cocked it, whereupon the brigand
fell into a paroxysm of laughter, and exclaimed in German:
"Why, my good friend! Do you not know me?"
"Haeberlein!" exclaimed Raeburn, in utter amazement, submitting to
a German embrace.
"Eric himself and no other!" returned the brigand. "Draw your
curtains and lock your door and you shall see me in the flesh. I
am half stifled in this lordly wig."
"Wait," said Raeburn. "Be cautious."
He left him for a minute, and Haeberlein heard him giving orders
that no one else was to be admitted that evening. Then he came
back, quietly bolted the door, closed the shutters, and lighted the
gas. In the meantime his friend threw off his cloak, removed the
wig of long, dark hair, and the drooping mustache and shaggy
eyebrows, revealing his natural face and form. Raeburn grasped his
hand once more.
"Now I feel that I've got you, Eric!" he exclaimed. "What lucky
chance has brought you so unexpectedly?"
"No lucky one!" said Haeberlein, with an expressive motion of the
shoulders. "But of that anon; let me look at you, old fellow why
you're as white as a miller! Call yourself six-and-forty! You
might pass for my grandfather!"
Raeburn, who had a large reserve fund of humor, caught up his
friend's black wig from the table and put it on above his own
thick, white hair, showing plainly enough that in face and spirits
he was as young as ever. It was seven years since they had met,
and they fell to talk of reminiscences, and in the happiness of
their meeting put off the more serious matters which must be
discussed before long. It was a good half hour before Haeberlein
alluded to the occasion of his present visit.
"Bring actually in London, I couldn't resist looking in upon you,"
he said, a cloud of care coming over his face. "I only hope it
won't get you into a scrape. I came over to try to avert this
deplorable business about poor Kellner too late, I fear. And the
worst of it is, I must have blundered somehow for my coming leaked
out, and they are on the watch for me. If I get safe across to
France tonight, I shall be lucky."
"Incautious as ever," sighed Raeburn. "And that Kellner richly
deserves his fate. Why should you meddle?"
"I was bound to," said Haeberlein. "He did me many a good turn
during my exile, and though he has made a grave mistake, yet--"
"Yet you must run your chivalrous head into a halter for his sake!"
exclaimed Raeburn. "You were ever Quixote. I shall live to see
you hanged yet."
"No, I don't think you will," he said, cheerfully. "I've had some
bad falls, but I've always fallen on my feet. With a good cause,
a man has little to fear."
"If this WERE a good cause," said Raeburn, with significant
"It was the least I could do," said Haeberlein, with the chivalrous
disregard of self which was his chief characteristic. "I only fear
that my coming here may involve you in it which Heaven forfend! I
should never forgive myself if I injured your reputation."
Raeburn smiled rather bitterly.
"You need not fear that. My reputation has long been at the mercy
of all the lying braggarts in the country. Men label me socialist
one day, individualist the next. I become communist or egotist, as
is most convenient to the speaker and most damaging to myself. But
there," he exclaimed, regaining the tranquil serenity which
characterized him, "why should I rail at the world when I might be
talking to you? How is my old friend Hans?"
The sound of a key in the latch startled them.
"It is only Erica," said Raeburn. "I had forgotten she was out."
"My pretty little namesake! I should like to see her. Is she
still a zealous little atheist?"
"No, she has become a Christian," said Raeburn, speaking with some
"So!" exclaimed Haeberlein, without further comment. He himself
was of no particular creed; he was just indifferent, and the zeal
of his friend often surprised him.
Raeburn went out into the passage, drew Erica into the front
sitting room, and closed the door.
"There is an old friend of yours in my study," he said. "He wishes
to see you, but you must promise secrecy, for he is in danger."
"Is it Herr Haeberlein?" asked Erica.
"Yes, on one of his rash, kindly errands, but one of which I don't
approve. However, his work is over, and we must try to get him
safely off to France. Come in with me if you will, but I wanted to
tell you about it first, so that you should not be mixed up with
this against your will, which would be unfair!"
"Would it?" said Erica, smiling, as she slipped her hand into his.
Haeberlein had taken a newspaper out of his pocket, and was
searching for something. The gas light fell on his clean-shaven
face, revealing a sweet-tempered mouth, keen blue eyes, a broad
German forehead, and closely cropped iron-gray hair. Erica thought
him scarcely altered since their last meeting. He threw down his
newspaper as she approached.
"Well, my Herzblattchen!" he exclaimed, saluting her with a double
kiss, "so you are not ashamed of your old friend? So," holding her
at arms' length and regarding her critically, POtztausend! The
English girls do beat ours all to nothing. Well, my Liebchen, dost
thou remember the day when thou carried the Casati dispatches in
thy geography book under the very nose of a spy? It was a brave
deed that, and it saved a brave man's life."
Erica smiled and colored. "I was not so brave as I seemed," she
said. "My heart was beating so loud, I thought people must hear
"Has thou never heard the saying of the first Napoleon, 'The
bravest man is he who can conceal his fear?' I do not come under
that category, for I never had fear never felt it. Thou wouldst
not dream, Herzblattchen, that spies are at this moment dogging my
steps while I jest here with thee?"
"Is that indeed true?" exclaimed Erica.
They explained to her a little more of Haeberlein's errand and the
risk he ran; he alluded to his hopes that Raeburn might not be
involved in any unpleasant consequences. Erica grew pale at the
"See," exclaimed Haeberlein, "the little one cares more for your
reputation than you do yourself, my friend. See what it is to have
a daughter who can be afraid for you, though she can not be afraid
for herself! But, Liebchen, Thou must not blame me for coming to
see him. Think! My best friend, and unseen for seven years!"
"It is worth a good deal of risk," said Erica, brightly. But as
the terror or having her father's name mentioned in connection with
Herr Kellner's once more returned to her, she added, pleadingly,
"And you WILL be careful when you leave the house?"
"Yes, indeed," said Haeberlein. See what a disguise I have."
He hastily donned the black wig, mustache and eyebrows, and the
long Italian cloak.
Erica looked at him critically.
"Art thou not satisfied?" he asked.
"Not a bit," she said, promptly. "In London every one would turn
to look twice at such a dress as that, which is what you want to
avoid. Besides, those eyebrows are so outrageous, so evidently
She thought for a minute.
"My brown Inverness," suggested Raeburn.
"Too thick for a summer night," said Erica, "and" glancing from her
father to Haeberlein "too long to look natural. I think Tom's
ulster and traveling hat would be better."
"Commend me to a woman when you want sound advice!" cried
Erica went to search Tom's room for the ulster, and in the meantime
Haeberlein showed his friend a paragraph in one of the evening
papers which proved to Raeburn that the risk was indeed very great.
They were discussing things much more gravely when Erica returned.
"The stations will be watched," Haeberlein was saying.
"What station do you go to?" asked Erica.
"I thought of trying Cannon Street," replied the German.
"Because," continued Erica, "I think you had better let me see you
off. You will look like a young Englishman, and I shall do all the
talking, so that you need not betray your accent. They would never
dream of Herr Haeberlein laughing and talking with a young girl."
"They would never dream that a young girl would be brave enough to
run such a risk!" said Haeberlein. "No, my sweet Herzblattchen, I
could not bring thee into danger."
"There will be none for me," said Erica, "and it may save you from
evil and my father from suspicion. Father, if you will let me, it
would be more of a disguise than anything."
"You might meet some one you know," said Raeburn.
"Very unlikely," she replied. "And even if I did, what would it
matter? I need not tell them anything, and Herr Haeberlein would
get off all the same."
He saw that she was too pure and too unconventional to understand
his objection, but his whole heart rebelled against the idea of
letting her undertake the task, and it was only after much
persuasion that she drew from him a reluctant consent. After all,
it would be a great safeguard to Haeberlein, and Haeberlein was his
dearest friend. For no one else could he have risked what was so
precious to him. There was very little time for discussion. The
instant his permission was given, Erica ran upstairs to Tom's
private den, lighted his gas stove, and made a cup of chocolate, at
the same time blackening a cork very carefully. In a few minutes
she returned to the study, carrying the chocolate and a plate of
rusks, which she remembered were a particular weakness of Herr
Haeberlein's. She found that in her absence the two had been
discussing matters again, for Haeberlein met her with another
"Liebe Erica," he began, "I yielded just now to thy generous
proposal; but I think it will not do. For myself I can be rash,
but not for thee. Thou art too frail and lovely, my little one, to
get mixed up with the grim realities of such a life as mine."
She only laughed. "Why, I have been mixed up with them ever since
I was a baby!"
"True; but now it is different. The world might judge thee
harshly, people might say things which would wound thee."
"They say! LET them say!'" quoted Erica, smiling. "mens conscia
recti will carry one through worse things than a little slander.
No, no, you must really let me have my own way. It is right, and
there's an end of it!"
Raeburn let things run their course; he agreed with Erica all the
time, though his heart impelled him to keep her at home. And as to
Eric Haeberlein, it would have needed a far stronger mind than that
of the sweet-tempered, quixotic German to resist the generous help
offered by such a lovely girl.
There was no time to lose; the latest train for the Continent left
at 9:25, and before Haeberlein had adjusted his new disguise the
clock struck nine. Erica very carefully blackened his eyebrows and
ruthlessly sheared the long black wig to an ordinary and
unnoticeable length, and, when Tom's ulster and hat were added, the
disguise was so perfect, and made Haeberlein look so absurdly
young, that Raeburn himself could not possibly have recognized him.
In past years Raeburn had often risked a great deal for his friend.
At one time his house had been watched day and night in consequence
of his well-known friendship with the Republican Don Quixote.
Unfortunately, therefore, it was only too probable that Haeberlein
in risking his visit this evening might have run into a trap. If
he were being searched for, his friend's house would almost
inevitably be watched.
They exchanged farewells, not without some show of emotion on each
side, and just at the last Raeburn hastily bent down and kissed
Erica's forehead, at his heart a sickening sense of anxiety. She
too was anxious, but she was very happy to have found on the
evening of her baptism so unusual a service to render to her
father, and, besides, the consciousness of danger always raised her
When, as they had half expected, they found the would-be
natural-looking detective prowling up and down the cul-de-sac, it
was no effort to her to begin at once a laughing account of a
school examination which Charles Osmond had told her about, and so
naturally and brightly did she talk that, though actually brushing
past the spy under the full light of the street lamp., she entirely
It was a horrible moment, however. Her heart beat wildly as they
passed on, and every moment she thought she should hear quick steps
behind them. But nothing came of it, and in a few minutes they
were walking down Southampton Row. When this was safely passed,
she began to feel comparatively at ease. Haeberlein thought they
might take a cab.
"Not a hansom," she said, quickly, as he was on the point of
hailing one. "You would be so much more exposed, you know!"
Haeberlein extolled her common sense, and they secured a
four-wheeler and drove to Cannon Street.
Talking now became more possible. Haeberlein leaned far back in
the corner, and spoke in low tones.
"Thou has been my salvation, Erica," he said, pressing her hand.
"That fellow would never have let me pass in the Italian costume.
Thou wert right as usual, it was theatrical how do you call stagey,
is it not?
"I am a little troubled about your mouth," said Erica, smiling,
"the mustache doesn't disguise it, and it looks so good-tempered
and like itself. Can't you feel severe just for half an hour?"
Haeberlein smiled his irresistibly sweet smile, and tried to comply
with her wishes, but not very successfully.
"I think," said Erica, presently, "it will be the best way, if you
don't mind, for you just to stroll through the booking office while
I take your ticket. I can meet you by the book stall and I will
still talk for us both in case you betray your accent."
"HERZBLATTCHEN!" exclaimed Haeberlein, "how shall I ever repay
thee! Thou art a real canny little Scot! I only wish I had half
thy caution and forethought!"
"Don't look like that!" said Erica, laughing, as the benignant
expression once more came over his lips. "You really must try to
turn down the corners! Your character is a silent, morose
misanthrope. I am the chatter box, pure and simple."
They were both laughing when they drew near to the station, but a
sense of the risk sobered Haeberlein, and Erica carried out her
programme to perfection. It was rather a shock to her, indeed, to
find a detective keenly inspecting all who went to the ticket
office. He stood so close to the pigeon hole that Erica doubted
whether Herr Haeberlein's eyebrows, improved though they were,
could possibly have escaped detection. It required all her self
command to prevent her color from rising and her fingers from
trembling as she received the ticket and change under that steady
scrutiny. Then she passed out on to the platform and found that
Herr Haeberlein had been wise enough to buy the paper which least
sympathized with his views, and in a few minutes he was safely
disposed in the middle of a well-filled carriage.
Erica took out her watch. There were still three minutes before
the train started, three long, interminable minutes! She looked
down the platform, and her heart died within her; for, steadily
advancing toward them, she saw two men making careful search in
Herr Haeberlein was sitting with his back to the engine. Between
him and the door sat a lady with a copy of the "Graphic" on her
knee. If she could only have been persuaded to read it, it might
have made an effectual screen. She tried to will her to take it up,
but without success. And still the detectives moved steadily
forward with their keen scrutiny.
Erica was in despair. Herr Haeberlein imagined himself safe now,
and she could not warn him without attracting the notice and
rousing the suspicion of the passengers. To complete her misery,
she saw that he had pushed his wig a little on one side, and
through the black hair she caught a glimpse of silver gray.
Her heart beat so fast that it almost choked her, but still she
forced herself to talk and laugh, though every moment the danger
drew nearer. At the very last moment an inspiration came to her.
The detectives were examining the next carriage.
"They are taking things in the most leisurely way tonight!" she
exclaimed. "I'm tired of waiting. I shall say goodbye to you, and
go home, I think.
As she spoke, she opened the carriage door stepped in, and
demonstratively kissed her silent companion, much to the amusement
of the passengers, who had been a good deal diverted by her racy
conversation and the grumpy replies of the traveler. There was a
smile on every face when one of the detectives looked in. He
glanced to the other side of the carriage and saw a dark-haired
young man in an ulster, and a pretty girl taking leave of her
lover. Erica's face entirely hid Herr Haeberlien's from view and
the man passed on with a shrug and a smile. She had contrived to
readjust his wig, and with many last words, managed to spin out the
remaining time, till at last the welcome signal of departure was
Haeberlein's mouth relaxed into a benignant smile, as he nodded a
farewell; then he discreetly composed himself into a sleeping
posture, while Erica stood on the platform and waved her
As she moved away the two detectives passed by her.
"Not there! At any rate," she heard one of them say. "Maybe they
got him by the nine o'clock at Waterloo."
"More likely trapped him in Guilford Terrace," replied the other.
Erica, shaking with suppressed laughter, saw the men leave the
station; and then, springing into a cab, drove to a street in the
neighborhood of Guildford Square.
Now that her work was over, she began to feel what a terrible
strain it had been. At first she lay back in the corner of the cab
in a state of dreamy peace, watching the gas-lighted streets, the
hurrying passengers, with a comfortable sense of security and rest.
But when she was set down near Guilford Square, her courage, which
in real danger had never failed her, suddenly ebbed away, and left
her merely a young girl, with aching back and weary limbs, with a
shrinking dislike of walking alone so late in the evening. Worse
of all, her old childish panic had taken hold of her once more; her
knees trembled beneath her, as she remembered that she must pass
the spy, who would assuredly still be keeping watch in Guilford
Terrace. The dread of being secretly watched had always been a
torment to her. Spies, sometimes real, sometimes imaginary, had
been the terror of her childhood had taken the place of the ghost
and bogy panics which assail children brought up in other creeds.
The fact was, she had been living at very high pressure, and she
was too much exhausted to conquer her unreasonable fright, which
increased every moment, until she was on the point of going to the
Osmonds, willing to frame any excuse for so late a visit if only
she could get one of them to walk home with her. Honesty and shame
hindered her, however, With a great effort of will she forced
herself to pass the door, horrified to find how nearly selfish
cowardice had induced her to draw her friends into suspicion.
Echoes of the hymns sung at her baptism, and at the subsequent
confirmation rang in her ears. She walked on more bravely.
By the time she reached Guilford Terrace, she had herself quite in
hand. And it was well; for, as she walked down the dreary little
alley, a dark form emerged from the shadow, and suddenly confronted
Any one might reasonably be a little startled by having a sudden
pause made before them by an unknown person on a dark night. Erica
thought she could exactly sympathize with a shying horse; she felt
very much inclined to swerve aside. Fortunately she betrayed no
fear, only a little surprise, as she lifted her head and looked the
man full in the face, then moved on with quiet dignity. She felt
him follow her to the very door, and purposely she took out her
latch key with great deliberation, and allowed him, if he pleased,
to take a quiet survey of the passage while she rubbed her boots on
the mat; then, with a delicious sense of safety, she closed the
door on the unfriendly gaze..
In the meantime, Raeburn had spent a miserably anxious evening,
regretting his rash permission for Erica to go, regretting his own
enforced inaction, regretting his well-known and undisguisable face
and form, almost regretting that his friend had visited him. Like
Erica, he was only personally brave; he could not be brave for
other people. Actual risk he would have enjoyed, but this anxious
waiting was to him the keenest torture.
When at length the age-long hour had passed, and he heard the front
door close, he started up with an exclamation of relief, and
hurried out into the passage. Erica greeted him with her brightest
"All safe," she said, following him into the study. "He is well on
his way to Folkestone, and we have eluded three spies."
Then, with a good deal of humor, she related the whole of the
adventure, at the same time taking off her hat and gloves.
"And you met no one you knew?" asked Raeburn.
"Only the bishop who baptized and confirmed me this evening, and he
of course did not recognize me."
As she spoke, she unbuttoned her ulster, disclosing beneath it her
white serge dress.
Raeburn sighed. Words and sight both reawakened a grief which he
would fain have put from him.
But Erica came and sat down on the hearth rug, and nestled up to
him just as usual. "I am so tired, padre mio!" she exclaimed. But
it has been well worth it."
Raeburn did not answer. She looked up in his face.
"What are you thinking?"
"I was thinking that few people had such an ending to their
confirmation day," said Raeburn.
"I thank God for it," said Erica. "Oh, father! There is so much,
so very much we still have in common! And I am so glad this
happened tonight of all nights!"
He stroked her hair caressingly, but did not speak.
CHAPTER XXIV. The New Relations
For all men live and judge amiss
Whose talents jump not just with his. Hudibras
Comfortable moles, whom what they do
Teaches the limit of the just and true.
(And for such doing they require not eyes). Matthew Arnold
One bright afternoon about a week after this, Erica found herself
actually in the train, and on her way to Greyshot. At first she
had disliked the idea, but her father had evidently wished her to
accept the invitation, and a hope of uniting again the two families
would have stimulated her to a much more formidable undertaking
than a visit of a few weeks to perfect strangers. She knew nothing
of the proposal made to her father; her own letter had been most
kind, and after all, though she did not like the actual leaving
home, she could not but look forward to a rest and change after the
long summer months in town. Moreover, Aunt Jean had just returned,
after a brief holiday, and the home atmosphere for the last two or
three days had been very trying; she felt as if a change would make
her better able to bear the small daily frets and annoyances, and
not unnaturally looked forward to the delicious rest of unity. A
Christian home ought to be delightful; she had never stayed in one,
and had a high ideal.
It was about six o'clock by the time she reached her journey's end,
and, waiting for her on the platform, she had no difficulty in
recognizing her aunt, a taller and fairer edition of Mrs. Craigie,
who received her with a kind, nervous diffident greeting, and
seemed very anxious indeed about her luggage, which was speedily
brought to light by the footman, and safely conveyed to the
carriage. Erica, used to complete independence, felt as if she
were being transformed into a sort of grown-up baby, as she was
relieved of her bag and umbrella and guided down the steps, and
assisted into the open landau, and carefully tucked in with a
"I hope you are not overtired with the journey?" inquired her aunt
with an air of the kindest and most anxious solicitude.
Accustomed to a really hard life in London, Erica almost laughed at
the idea of being overtired by such a short journey.
"Oh, I have enjoyed it, thank you," she replied. "What a lovely
line it is!"
"Is it?" said her aunt, a little surprised. "I didn't know it was
considered specially pretty, and I myself am never able to look
much at the scenery in traveling; it always gives me a headache."
"What a pity!" said Erica. "It is such a treat, I think. In fact,
it is the only way in which I have seen what people call scenery.
I never stayed in the country in my life."
"My dear, is it possible," exclaimed Mrs. Fane-Smith, in a
horrified voice. "Yet you do not look pale. Do you mean that you
have spent your whole life in town?"
"I was at Paris for two years," said Erica; "and twice I have spent
a little time at the sea-side; and, years and years ago, father was
once taken ill at Southampton, and we went to him there that was
almost like the country I mean, one could get country walks. It
was delightful; there was a splendid avenue, you know, and oh, such
a common! It was in the spring time. I shall never forget the
yellow gorse and the hawthorns, and such beautiful velvety grass."
Her enthusiasm pleased her aunt; moreover, it was a great relief to
find the unknown niece well-bred and companionable, and not
overburdened with shyness. Already Mrs. Fane-Smith loved her, and
felt that the invitation, which she had given really from a strong
sense of duty, was likely to give her pleasure instead of
discomfort. All the way home, while Erica admired the Greyshot
streets, and asked questions about the various buildings, Mrs.
Fane-Smith was rejoicing that so fair a "brand," as she mentally
expressed it, had been "plucked from the burning," and resolving
that she would adopt her as a second daughter, and, if possible,
induce her to take their name and drop the notorious "Raeburn."
The relief was great, for on the way to the station, Mrs. Fane-
Smith had been revolving the unpleasant thought in her mind that
"really there was no knowing, Erica might be 'anything' since her
mother was a 'nobody.'"
At last they drew up before a large house in the most fashionable
of the Greyshot squares, the windows and balconies of which were
gay with flowers.
"We shall find Rose at home, I expect," said Mrs. Fane-Smith,
leading Erica across a marble-paved hall, and even as she spoke a
merry voice came from the staircase, and down ran a fair-haired
girl, with a charmingly eager and naive manner.
Erica had guessed what she must be from the quaint and kindly meant
letter which she had sent her years before, and though five years
in society had somewhat artificialized Rose, she still retained
much of her childishness and impetuous honesty. She slipped her
arm into her cousin's, and took her off to her room at once.
"I am so glad you have come!" she exclaimed. "I have been longing
to see you for years and years. Mamma has been talking so much
about your cleverness and my stupidity that just at the last I felt
quite in a fright lest you should be too dreadfully 'blue.' I
looked out of the drawing room window for you, and if you had been
very forbidding I should have received you in state in the drawing
room, but you were so charmingly pretty that I was obliged to rush
down headlong to meet you."
Erica laughed and blushed, not being used to such broad
compliments. In the meantime, they had traversed several flights
of stairs, and Rose, opening a door, showed her into a spacious
bedroom, most luxuriously fitted up.
"This great big room for me!" exclaimed Erica.
"It isn't at all ghostly," said Rose, reassuringly. "Will you be
afraid if you have a night light?"
Erica laughed at the idea of being afraid; she was merely amused to
think of herself established in such a palatial bedroom, such a
contrast to the little book-lined room at home. There was a dainty
little book case here, however, with some beautifully bound books,
and in another minute she was delightedly scanning their titles,
and, with a joyous exclamation, had caught up Browning's
"Christmas-eve and Easter-day," when a sound of dismay from her
cousin made her laughingly put it down again.
"Oh, dear me!" said Rose, in a despairing voice, "I am afraid,
after all, you are dreadfully blue. Fancy snatching up a Browning
Erica began to unlock her trunk.
"Do you want your things out?" said Rose. "I'll ring for Gemma;
she'll unpack for you."
"Oh, thank you," said Erica, "I would much rather do it myself."
"But it is nearly dinner time, we are dining early this evening,
and you will want Gemma to help you to dress."
"Oh, no," said Erica, laughing, "I never had a maid in my life."
"How funny," said Rose, "I shouldn't know what to do without one.
Gemma does everything for me, at least everything that Elspeth will
"Is she Italian?" asked Erica.
"Oh, no, her name is really Jemima; but that was quite too
dreadfully ugly, you know, and she is such a pretty girl."
She chattered on while Erica unpacked and put on her white serge,
then they went down to the drawing room where Erica was introduced
to her host, a small elderly man, who looked as if the Indian sun
had partially frizzled him. He received her kindly, but with a
sort of ceremonious stiffness which made her feel less perfectly at
her east than before, and after the usual remarks about the length
of the journey, and the beauty of the weather, he relapsed into
silence, surveying every one from his arm chair as though he were
passing mental judgments on every foolish or trifling remark
uttered. In reality, he was taking in every particular about
Erica. He looked at her broad forehead, overshadowed by the thick
smooth waves of short auburn hair, observed her golden-brown eyes
which were just now as clear as amber; noted the creamy whiteness
and delicate coloring of her complexion, which indeed defied
criticism even the criticism of such a critical man as Mr.
Fane-Smith. The nose was perhaps a trifle too long, the chin too
prominent, for ideal beauty, but greater regularity of feature
could but have rendered less quaint, less powerful, and less
attractive the strangely winsome face. It was only the mouth which
he did not feel satisfied with it added character to the face, but
he somehow felt that it betokened a nature not easily led, not so
gentle and pliable as he could have wished. It shut so very firmly
and the under lip was a little thinner and straighter than the
other and receded a little from it, giving the impression that
Erica had borne much suffering, and had exercised great
Mrs. Fane-Smith saw in her a sort of miniature and feminine edition
of the Luke Raeburn whom she remembered eight-and-twenty years
before in their Scottish home. When Rose had gone into the back
drawing room to fetch her crewels, she drew Erica toward her, and
kissing her again, said in a low, almost frightened voice:
"You are very like what your father was."
But just at that moment Mr. Fane-Smith asked some sudden question,
and his wife, starting and coloring, as though she had been
detected in wrong-doing, hurriedly and nervously devoted herself to
what seemed to Erica a distractingly round-about answer. By the
time it was fairly ended, dinner was announced, and the strangeness
of the atmosphere of this new home struck more and more upon Erica
and chilled her a little. The massive grandeur of the old oak
furniture, the huge oil paintings, which she wanted really to
study, the great silver candelabra, even the two footmen and the
solemn old butler seemed to oppress her. The luxury was almost
burdensome. It was a treat indeed to see and use beautiful glass
and china, and pleasant to have beautiful fruit and flowers to look
at, but Erica was a bohemian and hated stiff ceremony Her heart
failed her when she thought of sitting down night after night to
such an interminable meal. Worse still, she had taken a dislike to
her host. Her likes and dislikes were always characterized by
Highland intensity, and something in her aunt's husband seemed to
rub her the wrong way. Mr. Fane-Smith was a retired Indian judge,
a man much respected in the religious world, and in his way a
really good man; but undoubtedly his sympathies were narrow and his
creed hard. Closely intwined with much true and active
Christianity, he had allowed to spring up a choking overgrowth of
hard criticism, of intolerance, of domineering dogmatism. He was
one of those men who go about the world, trying, not to find points
of union with all men, but ferreting out the most trifling points
of divergence. He did this with the best intentions, no doubt, but
as Erica's whole view of life, and of Christian life in particular,
was the direct opposite of his, their natures inevitably jarred.
She knew that it was foolish to expect every Christian household to
be equal to the Osmonds', but nevertheless a bitter sense of
disappointment stole over her that evening. Where was the sense of
restful unity which she had looked forward to? The new atmosphere
felt strange, the new order of life this luxurious easy life was
hard to comprehend.
To add to her dislike Mr. Fane-Smith was something of an epicure
and had a most fastidious palate. Now, Erica's father thought
scarcely anything about what he ate it was indeed upon record that
he had once in a fit of absence dined upon a plate of scraps
intended for Friskarina, while engaged in some scientific
discussion with the professor. Mr. Fane-Smith, on the other hand,
though convinced that the motto of all atheists was "Let us eat and
drink for tomorrow we die," criticized his food almost as severely
as he criticized human beings. The mulligatawny was not to his
taste. The curry was too not. He was sure the jelly was made with
that detestable stuff gelatine; he wished his wife would forbid the
cook to use it if she had seen old horses being led into a gelatine
manufactory as he had seen, she would be more particular.
Interspersed between these compliments was conversation which
irritated Erica even more. It was chiefly about the sayings and
doings of people whom she did not know, and the doings of some
clergyman in a neighboring town seemed to receive severe censure,
for Mr. Fane-Smith stigmatized him as "A most dangerous man, a
Pelagian in disguise." However, he seemed to be fond of labeling
people with the names of old heresies, for, presently, when Rose
said something about Mr. Farrant, her father replied
Every one knows, my dear, that Mr. Farrant holds unorthodox views.
Why, a few years ago he was an atheist, and now he's a mere
As no one but Mr. Fane-Smith had the faintest idea what a
"Photinian" meant, the accusation could neither be understood nor
refuted. Mrs. Fane-Smith looked very uncomfortable, fearing that
her niece might feel hurt at the tone in which "He was an atheist,"
had been spoken; and indeed Erica's color did rise.
"Is that Mr. Farrant the member?" she asked.
"Yes," replied her aunt, apprehensively. "Do you know him?"
"Not personally, but I shall always honor him for the splendid
speech he made last year on religious toleration," said Erica.
Mr. Fane-Smith raised his eyebrows for the same speech had made him
most indignant. However, he began to realize that, before Erica
could become a patient recipient of his opinions, like his wife and
daughter, he must root out the false ideas which evidently still
clung to her.
"Mr. Farrant is no doubt a reformed character now," he admitted.
"But he is far from orthodox; far from orthodox! At one time I am
told that he was one of the wildest young fellows in the
neighborhood, no decent person would speak to him, and though no
doubt he means well, yet I could never have confidence in such a
"I have heard a good deal about him from my friends the Osmonds,"
said Erica, stimulated as usual to side with the abused. "Mr.
Osmond thinks him the finest character he ever knew."
"Is that the clergyman you told me of?" interposed Mrs. Fane-Smith,
anxious to turn the conversation.
But her husband threw in a question, too.
"What, Charles Osmond, do you mean the author of 'Essays on Modern
"Yes," replied Erica.
"I don't know that he is much more orthodox than Mr. Farrant," said
Mr. Fane-Smith; "I consider that he has Noetian tendencies."
Erica's color rose and her eyes flashed.
"I do not know whether he is what is called orthodox or not," she
said; "but I do know that he is the most Christ-like man I ever
Mr. Fane-Smith looked uncomfortable. He would name any number of
heresies and heretics, but, except at grace, it was against his
sense of etiquette to speak the name of Christ at table.. Even
Rose looked surprised, and Mrs. Fane-Smith colored, and at once
made the move to go.
On the plea of fetching some work, Erica escaped to her own room,
and there tried to cool her cheeks and her temper; but the idea of
such a man as Mr. Fane-Smith sitting in judgment on such men as Mr.
Farrant and Charles Osmond had thoroughly roused her, and she went
down still in a dangerous state a touch would make her anger blaze
"Are you fond of knitting?" asked her aunt, making room for her on
the sofa, and much relieved to find that her niece was not of the
unfeminine "blue" order.
"I don't really like any work," said Erica, "but, of course, a
certain amount must be done, and I like to knit my father's socks."
Mr. Fane-Smith, who had just joined them, took note of this answer,
and it seemed to surprise and displease him, though he made no
"Did he think that atheists didn't wear socks? Or that their
daughters couldn't knit?" thought Erica to herself, with a little
resentful inward laugh.
The fact was that Mr. Fane-Smith saw more and more plainly that the
niece whom his wife was so anxious to adopt was by no means his
ideal of a convert. Of course he was really and honestly thankful
that she had adopted Christianity, but it chafed him sorely that
she had not exactly adopted his own views. He was a man absolutely
convinced that there is but one form of truth, and an exceedingly
narrow form he made it, for all mankind. He Mr. Fane-Smith had
exactly grasped the whole truth, and whoever swerved to the right
or to the left, if only by a hair's breadth, was, he considered, in
a dangerous and lamentable condition. Ah! He thought to himself,
if only he had had from the beginning the opportunity of
influencing Erica, instead of that dangerously broad Charles
Osmond. It did not strike him that he HAD had the opportunity ever
since his return to England, but had entirely declined to admit an
atheist to his house. Other men had labored, and he had entered
into the fruit of their labors, and not finding it quite to his
taste, fancied that he could have managed much better.
There are few sadder things in the world than to see really good
and well-intentioned men fighting for what they consider the
religious cause with the devil's weapons. Mr. Fane-Smith would
have been dismayed if any one could have shown him that all his
life he had been struggling to suppress unbelief by what was
infinitely worse than sincere unbelief denunciation often untrue,
always unjust, invariably uncharitable. He would have been almost
broken-hearted could he ever have known that his hard intolerance,
his narrowness, his domineering injustice had not deterred one soul
from adopting the views he abhorred, but had, on the contrary, done
a great deal to drive into atheism those who were wavering. And
this evening, even while lamenting that he had not been able to
train up his niece exactly in the opinions he himself held, he was
all the time trying her faith more severely than a whole regiment
of atheists could have tried it.
The time passed heavily enough. When two people in the room are
unhappy and uncomfortable, a sense of unrest generally falls upon
the other occupants. Rose yawned, talked fitfully about the
gayeties of the coming week, worked half a leaf on an antimacassar,
and sang three or four silly little coquettish songs which somehow
jarred on every one.
Mrs. Fane-Smith, feeling anxious and harassed, afraid alike of
vexing her husband and offending her niece, talked kindly and
laboriously. Erica turned the heel of her sock and responded as
well as she could, her sensitiveness recoiling almost as much from
the labored and therefore oppressive kindness, as from the
irritating and narrow censure which Mr. Fane-Smith dealt out to the
Family prayers followed. It was the first time she had ever been
present at such a household gathering, and the idea seemed to her
a very beautiful one. But the function proved so formal and
lifeless that it chilled her more than anything. Yet her relations
were so very kind to her personally that she blamed herself for
feeling disappointed, and struggled hard to pierce through the
outer shell, which she knew only concealed their real goodness.
She knew, too, that she had herself to blame in part; her
oversensitiveness, her quick temper, her want of deep insight had
all had their share in making that evening such a blank failure.
Mrs. Fane-Smith went with her into her bedroom to see that she had
all she wanted. Though the September evening was mild, a fire
blazed in the grate, much to Erica's astonishment. Not on the most
freezing of winter nights had she ever enjoyed such a luxury. Her
aunt explained that the room looked north, and, besides, she
thought a fire was cheerful and home-like.
"You are very kind," said Erica, warmly; "but you know I mustn't
let you spoil me, or I shall not be fit to go back to the home
life, and I want to go home much more fit for it."
Something in the spontaneous warmth and confidence of this speech
cheered Mrs. Fane-Smith. She wished above all things to win her
niece's love and confidence, and she wisely reserved her proposal
as to the matter of a home for another time. It was necessary,
however, that she should give Erica a hint as to the topics likely
to irritate Mr. Fane-Smith.
"I think, dear," she began, "it would be as well if, when my
husband and Rose are present, you are careful not to speak of your
father. You won't mind my saying this; but I know it displeases my
husband, and I think you will understand that there are objections
society, you know, and public opinion; we must consult it a little.
Mrs. Fane-Smith grew nervous and incoherent, threw her arms round
her niece's neck, kissed her most affectionately, and wished her
When she left the room, Erica's repressed indignation blazed up.