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  • 1899
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cassock hung about him in rags, his face was smeared with blood and grime, his arm hung limp and bleeding. The words of the rescuer on the car-roof came to her, and she saw in the disfigured form of the young deacon the body of the man who had given his life for hers. Instantly all her powers rallied to help and if possible to save him.

“Bring him this way,” she said, stepping forward eagerly, her weakness forgotten. “I’ll take care of him.”

She moved out of the smoke without any clear idea where she was going or what she could do. The hurt man was brought after her, one of the many that were being carried as dead weights among the confused and agonized crowd. At a short distance from the track there were hastily arranged car-cushions, coats, and loose coverings thrown down on a bank half covered with snow. Here the bearers laid Wynne, hurrying back to their work with a precipitancy which seemed to Berenice heartless.

The scene which Berenice took in at a glance was so wild and terrible that it stamped itself on her brain in a flash. Lanterns were burning all about, dancing and flitting to and fro like fireflies in a mist. The eye caught everywhere glimpses by their light of disordered groups, dim and dreadful as a nightmare. Close about her were the victims heaped as if from a battlefield, the wounded moaning in pain, the women wailing over the dying or the dead, each with cruel egotism intent upon her own, and seizing upon any helper with terrible eagerness of despair. A hundred feet away, lighted by the flames which were beginning to thrust quick tongues through the smoke and the darkness, was a long heap of shapeless wreck, about which dark figures were swarming like midges about a bonfire. She could distinguish in the middle of the line the two locomotives silhouetted against the darkness, standing half on end like two grotesque monsters rearing in deadly conflict. Every moment the flames became fiercer, and the hurrying lanterns moved more wildly.

It was Wynne, however, that claimed her attention. One swift glance took in the awful picture, and then she sank down on her knees beside him as he lay, bleeding and insensible, perhaps dead. For a moment she was ready to cast herself down on the snow in helplessness and in terror at the horrors of the situation; but the grit of stout Puritan ancestors was in her fibres, the moral endurance which finds in the sense of a duty to be done an inspiration that lifts above all difficulties. Her work was before her; to abandon it impossible.

The flames of the burning car brightened with appalling rapidity. Shrieks arose so piercing that they wrung her heart as if with a physical agony. It was the car from which she and Wynne had been taken which was now that hell of fire. Its glare lit up the pale and bleeding face beside her, and she realized that at that minute they might have been in that awful agony. She began to sob wildly, but she began, too, to try to bring Wynne back to consciousness. She took snow in her hands and put it to his forehead; she twisted her handkerchief about his arm to stop its bleeding. She tried to recall what she had heard at Emergency Lectures, with a strong determination forcing herself to remember. Kneeling in the snow, in the light of the burning car, her heart torn by the cries of the suffering, trembling with excitement, fear, and the shock she had undergone, sobbing almost hysterically, she yet constrained herself to do her best, binding up his arm with strips of her clothing, and trying to bring back his senses.

A physician came to her without her knowing until he was at her side. He bent to examine Wynne, and Berenice tried to repress her sobs that she might talk to him, and take his directions. The life of Wynne might depend upon her calmness. She caught up more snow, and pressed it to her own temples.

“Is he much hurt?” she asked feverishly.

“It is not dangerous as far as I can judge,” the doctor answered hurriedly. “Get him away from here as soon as you can.”

She looked after him as he hurried on to other patients, and her first feeling was one of indignation. Then it occurred to her that his going so soon must mean that her patient was less hurt than she had feared. But why was Wynne so long insensible? She knelt beside him again, and as she did so he opened his eyes.

“Where am I?” he cried feebly.

He tried to start up, but fell back with a groan.

“There has been an accident,” she said hurriedly. “It’s all right now. You are safe. Are you in much pain?”

“Are you hurt?” he demanded almost fiercely.

“No, no; never mind me.”

He struggled again to rise, but fell back with a groan. She put her hand on his shoulder.

“Lie still,” she commanded authoritatively. “I’ll see what can be done. Lie still while I look about.”

A second car was burning, and the whole place was aglare with yellow light. The wild groups stood out black against the trodden and dingy snow, while overhead rolled clouds of sooty smoke. It occurred to Berenice that the accident had taken place so near Brookfield that many persons must have come from the town. She seized a respectable-looking man by the arm, and asked him if he knew of any way in which she could get an injured friend to Brookfield. He stared at her a moment as if it was impossible at such a time to receive words in their ordinary meaning, but when the question had been repeated he answered that there were some hackmen from town in the crowd. He helped her to find one, and as Mrs. Morison was well known, Berenice had little further difficulty. Wynne submitted to being half led, half carried through the crowd, and when at last with the assistance of the hackman Berenice got him into the carriage he fainted again.

Singular and frightful to Berenice was that ride. The terrors through which she had passed, the shock, mental and physical, which she had undergone, had almost prostrated her. As soon as she was in the carriage she broke out into hysterical tears. The fainting of her companion, however, called her attention from herself, forcing her to think of him. She supported his head on her shoulder, lifting his wounded arm on to her lap; and into her heart came that thrill of interest and compassion which is the instinctive response of a woman to the appeal of masculine helplessness. A woman’s love is apt to be half maternal, and she who nurses a man is for the time being in place of his mother. Berenice’s thoughts were in a whirl, but pity for the hurt man at her side was her most conscious feeling. She remembered the words of her rescuer, and endowed Wynne with the nobility which belongs to him who risks his life for another. What had happened she could not tell. She remembered the awful terror of the collision, and mistily of being hurled into his arms; but after that came a blank until the moment of her rescue. It was evident that Wynne had in some way been hurt in protecting her, and the very vagueness of the service he had rendered made the deed loom larger in her imagination. She felt his breath warm on her cheek, and suddenly into her dispassionate musings there came a fresh sense, which made her face grow hot. She was angry at the absurdity of flushing there in the dark, and asked herself why the mere breath on her cheek of an insensible and wounded man should set her to blushing like a self-conscious fool! Then she remembered how he had held her in his arms, and she grew more self- conscious still. A jolt made her companion moan, and in a twinkling all else was forgotten in the anxiety of getting to shelter and aid.

When the carriage stopped before the house of Mrs. Morison, the old lady and a servant appeared instantly, rushing out to see what the arrival meant. Almost before the carriage had come to a stand-still, Berenice put her head out of the window and called as cheerily as she could:–

“All right, grandmamma.”

She could not keep her voice steady, and she could only try to carry off her emotion by a laugh which was rather shaky and hysterical. She could not rise, for Wynne’s head was on her shoulder. The carriage door was torn open, and she felt her grandmother’s arms about her in the darkness.

“My darling! My darling!” she heard murmured in a sobbing voice.

“Look out, grandmother,” she said, embracing Mrs. Morison with her one free arm; “I’ve brought a man with me, and he’s hurt. I think he’s fainted.”

There is nothing so efficacious in restraining the outpouring of emotion as the necessity of attending to practical details. The need of getting Wynne out of the hack and into the house as speedily and as safely as possible restored Mrs. Morison to calmness, and although for the rest of the evening and for many days after she and her granddaughter had a fashion of rushing into each other’s arms in the most unexpected manner, they now devoted themselves to the unconscious young deacon.

Wynne revived again when he was lifted out of the carriage, and when he had been, with the friendly aid of the driver, got into the house and given a little brandy, he came once more to his complete if somewhat shaken senses. He was too weak from the shock and the loss of blood to resist anything that his friends chose to do to him, and although he feebly protested against being quartered upon Mrs. Morison, his protest was not in the least heeded.

“Say no more about it,” Mrs. Morison said, with a quiet smile. “You are here, and you are to stay here. There is nowhere else for you to go, even if you don’t like our hospitality.”

“That isn’t it,” he began feebly; “only I’ve no claim”–

“There, that will do,” Berenice interposed with decision. “Do you suppose, grandmother, that it’s possible to get anybody to come and see his arm?”

“I’m afraid not, dear,” was the answer. “Everybody’s at the wreck. I’ve been cowering down in the corner of the fire for what seemed to me years since Mehitabel came rushing in with the news; and all the time I’ve heard people driving past the house on their way out of town.”

“There ain’t a man left,” put in Mehitabel, a severe elderly servant, who had the air of being personally responsible for her mistress, and of being bound to fulfill her duties faithfully, even if the effort killed her. “I see Dr. Strong go gallopin’ past first, and the other doctors was all after him; even to that little squinchy electrical image that’s round the corner on Front Street.”

“Electrical image?” repeated Berenice.

“She means the eclectic physician,” explained Mrs. Morison. “I’m sure that there’s no use in sending for the doctors now. Later we will see. We must manage the best we can. If I hurt you, Mr. Wynne, you must tell me.”

Berenice looked on, sick with the sight of the blood, while her grandmother examined the wounded arm. Wynne shrank a little, but Berenice noted that he bore the pain pluckily. The sleeve was cut to the shoulder, and his arm laid bare. A jagged cut was revealed reaching from the wrist to the elbow; a cut so ugly in appearance that the girl went faint again.

“There, there, Miss Bee,” old Mehitabel said, taking her by the shoulder. “You’ve had enough of this sort of thing for one night. You’ll dream gray hairs all over your head if you don’t get out.”

But Berenice refused to give up her place. She stood beside Wynne while her grandmother examined the arm, handing the things that were wanted; fighting with the faintness that came over her in waves.

“No, Mehitabel,” said she. “I’m made of better stuff than you think.”

In her heart she had a half unconscious feeling that she had been inclined to hold this man in contempt because of his priestly garb; and that she owed him this reparation. She did not know what had occurred in that overturned car; but she looked back to it as to a horror of great darkness in which Wynne had risked his life for hers. She felt that she could not do less than to stand by while the wound he had received in her service was being attended to. It was Wynne himself who put her away.

“You are too kind, Miss Morison,” he said; “but you are not fit to do this. I beg that you’ll not stay. Your face shows how hard it is for you.”

The first thought that shot through her mind was one of relief that she now might properly leave her self-inflicted task; the second was a pang of self-reproach that she should wish to leave it; the third and lasting was a sense of pleasure that even in his pain he had not failed to note her face and divine her feelings.

“Mr. Wynne is right,” Mrs. Morison added decisively. “Mehitabel can help me, my dear. Go into the other room and let Rosa get you a cup of tea.”

“It won’t be much of a cup of tea,” Mehitabel commented grimly. “That fool of a girl’s got it into her head that it’s a good time to cry for her doxy, because he’s a brakeman on some other train.”

Berenice smiled at the characteristic crispness and the absurd speech of the old servant. She remembered Mehitabel from the days when in pinafores she used to visit here, and when she looked upon the tall, gaunt woman with an awe which was saved from being terror only by the fact that she had learned to associate with that abrupt speech an after gift of crisp cakes. Mehitabel was to her as much a part of the establishment as were the tall chairs, the lion-headed fire-dogs, or the silver which had belonged to her grandmother’s grandmother.

Passing into the dining-room Berenice summoned the afflicted Rosa, who came with face all be-blubbered with tears, and who sniffed audibly as soon as she caught sight of the visitor.

“How do you do, Rosa? I wouldn’t cry, if I were you,” Berenice said. “Mehitabel says that this wasn’t his train.”

“Oh, I know it, Miss,” responded Rosa, with more tears; “but I can’t help thinking how dreadful it would be if it was; and me not to know whether he was dead or alive. It don’t seem to me I could ever marry him, not to be able to tell whether he’d come home any day dead or alive. I’ll have to give him up, Miss; and he’s real kind and free- handed.”

Her tears flowed so freely at the thought of giving up her lover that they splashed on Berenice’s hand as Rosa leaned over to reach for something on the table.

“Well, Rosa,” Miss Morison remarked, smiling at the absurdity of the maid, and wiping her hand, “I’m sorry that you feel so bad; but I don’t like to be deluged with tears.”

“Indeed, Miss,” Rosa returned penitently, “I didn’t mean to cry on you; but tears come so easy in this world. We’re all born crying.”

Berenice laughed in spite of herself.

“If we are born crying,” she said, “that’s reason enough for our smiling when we’ve outgrown being babies.”

“That’s all well enough for you,” Rosa retorted with fresh tears. “You’ve got your man here all safe if he is hurt a little; and I don’t know”–

Berenice broke in with indignant amazement, feeling her face burn.

“My man!” she exclaimed. “How dare you speak to me like that! Mr. Wynne is nothing to me. He’s only a clergyman that was hurt saving my life.”

She broke off with a laugh somewhat hysterical. Her nerves were not under control yet.

“I’m sure I didn’t mean,” wailed the girl, “to say anything wrong.”

“There, there, Rosa,” the other interrupted. “We are both upset. You shouldn’t take so much for granted, or talk to me about ‘men.'”

But in her mind the phrase repeated itself vexatiously: “your man.”

XI

IN PLACE AND IN ACCOUNT NOTHING
1 Henry IV., v. 1.

The power of self-torture which the human heart possesses is well-nigh infinite. When one considers how futile are self-reproaches, self- examinations, remorses for faults and weaknesses; how vanity puts itself upon the rack and conscience inflicts envenomed wounds; how self tortures self until the whole man writhes in anguish, and in the end nothing is altered by all this pain, one might almost thank the gods for moral insensibility. Yet New England was founded upon the principle that this temper of mind develops manlihood; that inward struggles are the only discipline which can fit a human being for the outward conquest of life. The Puritans had power to subdue the wilderness, to overcome whatever obstacles interposed to the founding of a state and the establishing of the truth as they conceived it, because all these difficulties were accidents, outward and of comparative insignificance when set against the real life, which was within. If a heritage of self-consciousness has come down with the noble gifts which the forefathers have left to their children, it is at least part of the price paid for great things.

To Maurice that night only the pain and misery of his Puritan inheritance made themselves felt. Through the long hours he lacerated his heart and soul with repentance, with remorseful self-reproaches, enduring agony intense enough to be the reward meet for a crime. Fevered with the loss of blood, racked with the smart of bodily wounds, bruised and sore from the injuries of the accident, unable to move without torture in every joint, he yet forgot physical in mental suffering.

The weakness and disorder of his body confused and distorted his thoughts, but it was in any case inevitable that with his training he should be wrung with bitter self-condemnation. He flushed and thrilled at the remembrance of the pressure of Berenice against his breast; the warmth of her breath, the odor of her hair, seemed to come back to him even out of the tumult and reek of the burning car. He remembered how it had seemed to him–to him, a priest–sweet to die if he might die clasping unrebuked this woman in his arms. The blood throbbed in his temples as he recalled the wild thoughts that had swirled in a mad throng through his brain in those moments which had seemed like hours; the blood throbbed, too, in his wounded arm, so that a groan forced itself through his parched lips. He was constantly throwing himself to and fro as if to escape from some teasing thought, always to be by the sharp pang in his wound brought to a sense of his condition. The whole night passed in an agony of mind and body.

There were moments, too, when he seemed to stand outside of himself and judge dispassionately this human creature, wounded, broken, rent in body and in soul; moments in which he sometimes seemed to smile in supreme contempt of the wretch so weak, so wavering, so utterly to be despised; sometimes to protest in angry pity against the unmerited anguish which had been heaped upon the sufferer. He had instants of delirious clearness and exaltation in which he felt himself lifted above the ordinary weaknesses of humanity; to see more clearly, and to take a view broader than any to which he had ever before attained. It shocked and startled him to realize that in these intervals which seemed like inspiration,–intervals in which he felt himself illuminated with inner light,–he cast from him the ideals which he had hitherto cherished. As if for the first time seeing clearly, he felt that men should not be hampered by dogmas which cramp and restrain. A line he had seen somewhere, and which he had put aside as irreverent and irreligious, kept repeating itself over and over in his head–

“He had crippled his youth with a creed.”

Life stretched out before him futile and meaningless unless love should light it, unless he could win Berenice; and he protested feverishly against any vow that would thwart or restrain him. He had crippled his youth with a creed unnatural and deforming; it was time for the manhood within him to shake off its fetters and assert its strength. He told himself wildly that now for the first time he saw life as it was; that now first he understood the meaning of existence, and that life meant nothing without freedom and love.

The beliefs of years, however, or even those habits which so often pass for beliefs, are not to be done away with in a night. Even love cannot completely alter the course of life in a moment. At the last, worn out with the conflict, but with a supreme effort to regain spiritual calm, Maurice flung his whole soul into an agony of supplication, as he might have flung his body at the foot of a cross, and prayed to be delivered from this too great temptation. He would renounce; he would pluck up by the roots this passion which had sprung and grown in his heart; at whatever cost he would tear it up, and be faithful to his high calling. As a child casts itself upon the bosom of its mother, he cast himself upon the Divine, and with an ecstatic sense of pardon, of peace, of perfect joy, he fell asleep at last.

Maurice awoke in broad daylight, with a confused sense that the world was falling in fragments about his ears, and that his name was being shouted by the angel of the last trump. He found that the physician who could not be had on the previous night had now been brought to his chamber by Mehitabel.

“Here’s the saw-bones at last,” was the characteristically uncompromising introduction of the woman.

“Dr. Murray’s come to tell you that all Mis’ Morison did last night was wrong, and that probably you’ll have to have your arm cut off ’cause of it.”

Wynne sat up in bed dazed and uncomprehending, but the smile of the doctor brought him to a sense of where he was. The latter was not in the least surprised by Mehitabel’s manner of speech.

“If you’d had anything to do with it, Mehitabel,” was Dr. Murray’s comment, “I’ve no doubt the arm would have had to go; but when Mrs. Morison does a thing, it’s another story.”

“Humph!” sniffed she. “You’ve got some small amount of sense, if it ain’t much. Now, young man, set your teeth together and put out your tongue–your arm, I mean.”

Maurice smiled, not so much at the humor of the error as at the fact that it was so evidently intentional on the part of the elderly virgin, who cunningly glanced at him and at the doctor to discover if the rare stroke of wit were properly appreciated.

“Jocose as ever, Mehitabel,” observed the doctor, going to work at once with swift and delicate precision. “You’ve a nasty cut here, Mr. Wynne; but you’re lucky to get off with nothing worse. It’s a good deal to come through such an accident without a permanent injury.”

“That’s true,” Maurice responded cheerfully. “I dreamed in the night that I was all in bits.”

“Plenty of poor fellows were. It was the most terrible smash-up for years.”

“How is Miss Morison?” Wynne asked, wondering if his voice betrayed the inward agitation without which he could not pronounce her name.

“Oh, she’s all right. Nervous and shaky, of course; but she’s a sound, wholesome creature, and it won’t take her long to recover her tone.”

“Yes; I brought her up,” interposed Mehitabel, with grim self- complacency. “Don’t pull that bandage so tight, doctor. You want to have me running over after you in an hour to come and loosen it.”

“That’s it, Mehitabel; teach your grandmother to suck eggs. I come here, Mr. Wynne, chiefly to learn my profession from her.”

“She seems willing to teach you,” Wynne replied, and then, with a boyish doubt if she might not take offense, he added, “which of course is very kind of her.”

Mehitabel chuckled in high good-humor.

“Kind it is and unappreciated it is; and little is the credit he does to his training. Men are all alike; if they owned half they owe to women they’d be too ashamed to show their heads in daylight.”

The droll airs of the old woman entertained Wynne so greatly that he bore with exemplary fortitude the painful attentions of the physician, the harder to bear because the wound had had time to inflame. The arm was dressed at last, and the doctor took himself away with a parting passage of arms with Mehitabel.

“The thing for you to do, young man,” she said, when Dr. Murray had departed, “is to stay in bed where you are, and that’s reason enough for a man to want to get up.”

“I’m not fond of staying in bed,” Maurice responded with a smile; “and besides that I must get back to Boston.”

She regarded him with an expression of marked disfavor.

“Humph,” said she. “Quarters ain’t good enough for you, I suppose.”

“On the contrary, it is I who am not good enough for the quarters.”

Mehitabel went on with her work of arranging the curtains and putting the room to rights as she answered:–

“Well, I dare say you ain’t; but what special thing’ve you done?”

“Special thing?” Maurice repeated, somewhat confused. “Oh, I see. The fact is, I don’t think I’ve any right to impose on the hospitality of Mrs. Morison.”

“Well,” assented she again, “I dare say you ain’t; but if she’s willing, you ain’t no occasion to grumble, ‘s I see. She ain’t a-going to hear of your starting out hot-foot, ‘s if she wouldn’t keep you. It’d look bad for the reputation of the family.”

“But,” began he, “I”–

“Besides,” the old woman continued, ignoring his attempt to speak, “you ain’t got much to wear. Them petticoats you come in, which ain’t suitable for any man to wear, without it’s the bearded lady in the circus if she’s a man, which I never rightly knew, is so torn to pieces by the grace of heaven that you can’t go in them, and all the rest of your clothes are all holes and blood.”

“I suppose my clothes were pretty well used up,” he replied, divided between a desire to laugh and a feeling that he should resent the affront to his clerical garb; “and of course my baggage is nowhere. Can I get clothing here, or shall I have to send to Boston?”

“You can’t get men’s petticoats,” Mehitabel retorted uncompromisingly, “nor none of them Popish things. If it’s good, plain God-fearing pants and such, there ain’t no trouble, and the price is reasonable.”

“Plain God-fearing trousers and coat will do,” Maurice answered, bursting into a laugh. “Do you think that you could send for some if I give you the size?”

She was evidently pleased at the success of her attempts to be funny, for her face relaxed, but she set her mouth primly.

“I’d go myself,” was her reply. “I’d trust myself to pick out things, and it might give the girls ideas to go traipsing round buying pants and men’s fixings.”

When she was gone Maurice lay in a pleasant half-doze, smiling at the absurd old servant with her labored determination to be thought witty, and wondering at the caprices of existence. He was interrupted by the arrival of his breakfast, and after that had been disposed of he received a visit from Mrs. Morison. She was a fine old lady with snowy hair, her sweet face wrinkled into a relief-map of the journey of life, her eyes as bright and sparkling as those of her granddaughter. Wynne could see the family likeness at a glance, and said to himself that some day when time had wrinkled her smooth cheeks and whitened her hair Berenice would be such another beautiful dame. Mrs. Morison brought with her an air of brisk yet serene individuality, as of the fire which on a winter evening burns cheerily on the hearth, warming, invigorating, suggesting wholesome and happy thoughts. She was so kindly and yet so thoroughly alive to the very tips of her fingers that her age almost seemed rather a merry disguise like the powdered hair of a young girl.

“Good-morning,” she greeted him cheerily. “The doctor says that you are doing well. I hope that you feel so.”

“Thank you,” he answered. “I don’t seem to have as many joints as I used to have, but I’m doing famously, thanks to the skillful treatment I had last night.”

“It was not too skillful, I’m afraid; but Dr. Murray says I did no harm, and that’s really a good deal of a compliment from him.”

“I cannot thank you enough for your kindness,” Maurice said. “It is so strange to be taken care of”–

He broke off suddenly, awkward from shyness and genuine feeling. He looked up, however, to meet a glance so reassuring that he felt at once at ease.

“It is time that it ceased to be strange,” she returned. “We must try before you go to make you more accustomed to being looked after a little.”

He returned her kind look with a grateful smile.

“You are too generous,” he said. “I must not trespass on your good- nature. I think that I could manage to get back to Boston to-day if the trains are running.”

“The trains are running, but that is no reason why you should think of running too. We mean to mend you before we let you go.”

“But”–

“There is no ‘but’ about it,” Mrs. Morison declared, speaking more seriously. “Berenice and I have settled it, and we are accustomed to having our own way. You are selfish to wish that we should be left with all the obligation on our shoulders.”

“Obligation?” repeated he. “How on earth is there any obligation but mine?”

“Do you think that there is no obligation in owing to you Bee’s life?”

He stared at her in complete confusion. He made a vain effort to recall clearly what had happened in the car. He remembered the crash, the din, the pain, the horrible clutch on his arm, the choking reek of the smoke, his frantic fear for Berenice, but all these things seemed blurred in his mind like a landscape obscured by a night-fog. Only one memory stood out clear and sharp; that was the joy of holding Berenice clasped in his arms, and of thinking that they would die together. He felt the blood mount in his cheek at the thought, and he hastened to speak, lest his hostess should divine what was in his mind.

“Why do you say that?” he asked. “It was not I that saved her. I was not even conscious when she was taken out.”

Mrs. Morison smiled, and touched lightly with the tip of her finger the bandaged arm which lay on the outside of the coverlid.

“We won’t dispute about it,” said she. “The proof is here. Let it go, if you like; but we shall remember.”

“But,” protested Maurice, “it wouldn’t be honest for me to let you think that I did anything for Miss Morison. I should have been only too glad to help her, but I couldn’t. I wish what you think could have been true; but since it isn’t, I can’t let you think it is.”

Mrs. Morison let the matter drop, but her kind old eyes were brighter than ever. She contented herself with saying that at least he was to remain with them, and need not try to escape; then she led the talk to more indifferent matters. Her hand, worn and thin, the blue veins relieved under the delicate skin, lay on the white coverlid like a beautiful carving of ivory. As Maurice looked at it, it brought into his mind the hand of his mother, as in her last days, when he sat by her bedside, it had rested in the same fashion. The tears sprang in his eyes at the memory, half-blinding him. As he tried to brush them away unseen he caught the sympathetic look of his hostess, and its sweetness overpowered him still more. Meeting his glance, she leaned forward tenderly, taking his fingers in her own.

“What is it?” asked she softly.

“Your hand,” he answered simply. “It looked so like my mother’s.”

“Poor boy,” she murmured.

He returned the pressure of her clasp, and then the masculine dislike for effusiveness asserted itself.

“I’m afraid I’m weaker than I thought,” he said shamefacedly. “I’m almost hysterical.”

She glanced at him shrewdly, and smiling, rose.

“For all that,” she returned, “you are to get up. Dr. Murray says that it will be better, and you would get hopelessly tired of bed before to- morrow morning. I’ll send you something in the way of clothing, and we’ll let you play invalid in a dressing-gown to-day. If Mehitabel can help you, you’ve only to ring. I dare say that you can do something with one hand.”

“One never knows until he tries,” Wynne answered.

Maurice wished to ask for a barber, but could not pluck up courage. When he was alone he gazed ruefully into the mirror at his stoutly sprouting black beard, which so little understood the exigencies of the situation that it persisted in growing as vigorously as ever.

“If I stay here a couple of days without shaving,” he mused, “I shall simply be hideous. Well, my vanity very likely needs a lesson. What did Mrs. Morison mean by my saving Miss Morison’s life? I certainly could not have said so when I was unconscious. It must be from something she herself has said. If I could only remember what did happen after the car went over!”

His bath and toilet were difficult and unsatisfactory enough. The linen with which he was provided, however, smelled sweetly of lavender, and the odor seemed to bear him away into a pleasant reverie, in which he was chiefly conscious of the pleasure of being near–of being near, he assured himself, so delightful and sympathetic an old lady as Mrs. Morison. A feeling of well-being, of content, saturated him. Behind his thought of his hostess and his denial to himself that the presence under the same roof of Berenice was the true source of his happiness, lay the consciousness that the latter regarded him as her preserver. He resolutely thrust the thought down deep into his heart, but he could not forget it.

Before he was ready to leave his chamber Mehitabel brought him a telegram from Mrs. Staggchase, to whom he had sent a line announcing his safety. It was merely a friendly word with an offer to come to him if he needed her; but it changed the whole current of his thoughts. He seemed to see the mocking smile of his cousin as she read that he was staying with the Morisons, and to hear again her words about his period of temptation. He resolved, however, to put the whole question of the future out of his mind. Somehow there must be a way to steer safely between his duty and his inclination. He failed to reflect that he who decides to compromise between duty and desire has already sacrificed the former.

Berenice greeted him on his appearance in the library, whither he descended rather shakily. She held in her hand a telegram when he entered under the escort of Mehitabel, and her cheeks were flushed. Instantly into his mind came the feeling that her color was connected with the message which the yellow paper brought, and he became jealous in a flash. There was no possible reason why he should scent a rival in the mere presence in his lady’s hand of a telegram, unless there were an intangible shade of self-consciousness in her manner. He had come downstairs eager to see her and to assure himself that she was really no worse for the accident, but the sight of the paper instantly changed his mood. In crossing the half-dozen steps from the door to the fire Maurice shifted from frank eagerness to aggrieved distrust. He said good-morning as he entered in the tone of a lover; he spoke as he reached the hearth with the formality of an acquaintance.

He was too keenly alive to the change in his feelings not to know that he showed it. He endeavored to hide his perturbation under an appearance of simple politeness, but he was sure that she watched him and that she was puzzled.

“Well,” she said, as she arranged a cushion in the big easy-chair beside the crackling wood fire, “you have the genuine scarred veteran air.”

“Please don’t bother to wait on me, Miss Morison,” he answered, trying to speak naturally, and painfully aware that he did not succeed. “I’m all right, except for the scratch on my arm.”

“Scratch, indeed,” she returned with a smile which almost disarmed him. “How many stitches did the doctor have to put in?”

“‘Bout enough for a week’s mending,” interpolated Mehitabel, putting him into the chair with an air of authority, and preparing to retire. “There, now stay there till you want to go upstairs again, and then send for me.”

“Indeed,” he protested, laughing, “I am not helpless. You can’t make a baby of me just for a disabled arm.”

“I suppose,” Berenice said, “that I ought to be willing to say that I had rather the wound were in my back, where it would have been but for you; only as a matter of fact I shouldn’t be telling the truth. I am sorry for you, Mr. Wynne; but I can’t help being glad for myself.”

She seemed to be setting herself to win him from his ill-humor, and he had to look into the fire away from her lips and eyes to prevent himself from yielding. He fortified his resistance, which he felt to be weakening, by the reflection that it was his duty not to be carried away by her charm. He called upon his religious scruples to aid him in holding to his passion-born jealousy.

“There,” Miss Morison said, when he had been properly ensconced and Mehitabel had departed, “now it is my duty to entertain you. What shall I do? My accomplishments are at your service. I can read, without stopping to spell out any except the very longest words. I can play two tunes on the mandolin, only that I’ve forgotten the middle of one and the other has a run in it that I always have to skip. The piano is too far off across the hall to be available; so that the little I can do in that way doesn’t count. I can–let me see, I can teach you three solitaires, or play cribbage, or–I beg your pardon, I forgot.”

“You forgot what?” he asked, so intent upon watching the sunlight filtering through her hair that he had hardly noticed what she said.

She looked at him questioningly.

“You don’t play cards, perhaps?” she said tentatively.

“No,” he answered. “In the country in my boyhood they weren’t held in high repute, to say the least; and naturally we don’t play at the Clergy House.”

There was a brief interval of silence, during which he watched her, while she in her turn looked into the fire. When she spoke again it was in a different tone.

“I know,” said she, “that you must think me frivolous, and that I can’t be anything else; but”–

“Oh, no,” he interrupted, “I never thought you frivolous.”

She made an impulsive little gesture with one of her hands.

“Oh, you wouldn’t put it in that way, I dare say. You’d call it being worldly, I suppose; but it comes to much the same thing.”

Wynne could not understand what was the direction of her thoughts, and he was taken entirely by surprise when she leaned forward impulsively and took in hers his free hand.

“At least,” she said, quickly and eagerly, “I can’t forget that you saved my life, and I thank you from my heart if I don’t know just how to do it in words.”

He returned the pressure of her fingers, longing to cover them with kisses.

“I’m afraid,” responded he, “that I’ve very little claim to glory on account of anything I did for you. I certainly don’t deserve the credit of having saved you. I only wish I did.”

She laughed gayly, springing up from her seat, and he realized that his voice had lost all trace of unfriendliness. He told himself recklessly that he did not care; that if he were a thousand times a priest he could not but be kindly to Berenice.

“Come,” she laughed, “we have been through a real adventure; and that’s more than happens to most people if they live to be a hundred.” Suddenly she became grave. “I can’t bear to think of it, though,” she added. Then she turned toward him, and spoke with seriousness. “At least, Mr. Wynne, I am not so flighty that I do not thank God for my escape yesterday.”

“Amen,” he responded.

She walked over to the window, and stood looking out at the sunny day. The fire burned cheerfully on the wide, red hearth, and Maurice looked into its glowing heart thinking gratefully of his preservation and of the friendly refuge into which he had been brought. No reverent man can come face to face with death and escape without some feeling of awe and of gratitude to the power which has preserved him; and Maurice was filled with a sense of how great had been the hand which could bring him through such peril, how kind the protection which had preserved Berenice unscathed. Humility and tenderness overflowed his heart, and the inward thanksgiving which his spirit breathed was as sweet and as unselfish as if a personal passion had never invaded his breast.

“It seems to me,” Berenice remarked from her place by the window, “that the woods on the hills over there are already beginning to show signs of spring. There is a sort of delicate change of color in them that means buds beginning to grow.”

Before he could reply, the door opened, and Mehitabel presented herself with a card.

“Oh,” said Berenice, as she received it, “already!”

There seemed to Maurice something of impatience or dismay in her tone. She excused herself and went out, leaving the old servant with Wynne. As soon as the door closed, Mehitabel turned upon him at once.

“Do you know him?” she demanded.

“Know whom?”

“This sprig that’s come from Boston to see Miss Bee?”

Maurice looked at her with a sharp sense that he ought not to allow her to go on, yet with a desire to know more so burning that he could not refrain.

“I didn’t even know that anybody had come from Boston to see Miss Morison,” he replied; “so that it isn’t easy to say whether I know him or not.”

“His name is Parker Stanford, and he’s all the signs of being better’n his grandfathers and knowing it through and through. He’s too fond of his looks to suit me.”

“I don’t know him,” Maurice answered, “except that I’ve heard my cousin, Mrs. Staggchase, mention his name. He’s very rich, I believe, and a good deal of a leader in society.”

“Humph,” sniffed Mehitabel. “He may be a leader in society, but he’s as selfish as a sucking calf!”

“You seem to know him pretty well,” commented Maurice. “I suppose you’ve seen him often.”

“Never saw him in my life till this minute. Young man, I’ll tell you this, though. Every woman with any brains knows what a man is the minute she claps eyes on him; only if he’s good-looking, or awful wicked, or makes love to her, or forty thousand other things, she’ll deny to herself that she knows any bad about him.”

“Then it seems to be much the same thing as if your sex weren’t gifted with such extraordinary insight,” Maurice responded, laughing.

“If women didn’t cheat themselves there wouldn’t be no marriages,” Mehitabel retorted, grinning, and retired in evident delight over her success in repartee.

As for Maurice, he became wonderfully grave the moment he was left alone.

XII

THE ONLY TOUCH OF LOVE
Two Gentlemen of Verona, ii. 7.

_To be_ is an irregular verb in all languages, but always regular is the verb _to love_. There are many sides to the existence of mortals; but to love is the same for high and low. Any mortal knows little enough about himself; but a mortal in love knows nothing. Love is a bewildering and a bedazzling fire, wherewith the eyes of youth are so blinded that they are able to see clearly neither within nor without. Often it happens, indeed, that the first intimation the heart has of the presence of the divine flame is the bewilderment which fills the mind.

Berenice had long been contentedly and unenthusiastically convinced that, she was to marry Parker Stanford. She approved of him; he was wealthy, well-born, agreeable enough, and apparently very fond of her. She had not, it is true, become formally engaged to him. When he had asked her to become his wife she had teasingly asked for time for deliberation; but this was not because she felt any especial doubt about ultimately accepting him. She was pleased, maiden-like, to dally, and shrank from being formally bound. Her pulses had not yet stirred with the unrest which love awakens. Her vanity had been pleasantly aroused, and for the rest she was in all the ignorance of those whom passion has not yet made wise. She regarded marriage rather as an abstract thing; she was familiar with the idea that it was a matter of social arrangement and necessity, to be looked upon as a part of life. She had, it is true, some vaguely sentimental notion that love was a necessity, and being persuaded that the match before her was a desirable one, was persuaded also that she was in love with Stanford. At least she was sure that he was in love with her, and as she liked him, that answered. To find a man amusing, agreeable, handsome, and fulfilling the social requirements of a desirable husband seemed to her unsophisticated mind to love him. She was pleased with her lover; she was not insensible of the triumph of having won the attentions of one of the most sought-after men in her set; to pass her life in the well- ordered establishment which he would provide seemed to her a decorous and desirable method of fulfilling the destiny of a woman. She was willing that the event should be postponed indefinitely, it is true; and the man himself in her considerations of the future was something of a shadow; a shadow pleasant enough, yet so remote as to count for nothing intimately important. She was somewhat less sophisticated than most modern girls, inheriting that New England nature which is slow to understand emotion and endowed with the power rather of tenacity than of spontaneity of passion.

When on the day previous Stanford had come to the train to see Berenice off, she had been especially gracious. She had been in particularly good spirits, full of amusement that Mr. Wynne was to be her neighbor on the train, and that he did not know it. She had chanced to send for tickets with Mrs. Wilson, the pair had laughingly planned the arrangement, and Berenice had promised herself some entertainment in teasing the young cleric on the journey. It pleased her, too, that Stanford should take the trouble to come to the station, especially as Kate West, who had tried so hard to secure him despite the fact that she was ten years his senior, chanced to be meeting a friend and to be there to see. She allowed herself to smile on her lover with more warmth than usual, and was a little vexed as well as a little amused by it afterward. On the train she reflected that if she were to be so gracious Stanford would press his suit more warmly than she wished; yet on the other hand it occurred to her that if she were to be engaged to him, she might as well get it over. Why not marry in the spring and go abroad? She wished much to go to Bayreuth for the Wagner operas in the summer, and the aunt with whom she had hoped to travel was not willing to go. Besides, she really could not afford the trip, and at least Stanford had plenty of money. The idea of marrying with a thought to his wealth was distasteful, and she at once said to herself that she could not do that; but if she were to marry him–As the train rolled on she had filled in the talk with Wynne with speculations whether it might not be as well to let Stanford propose once more, and have matters settled.

These cogitations, however, she interspersed with reflections that her traveling companion had a beautiful eye and a finely cut nostril; that he was on the whole a fine-looking man, handsome and well made, if he were not disguised in that detestable clerical garb; and that his hands were distinctly those of a gentleman. She liked the tones of his voice and the carriage of his head, smiling to herself at the thought that in the latter there was hardly so much meekness as was to be expected in one of his profession. She laughed at him almost openly, for to the young woman of to-day there is apt to be something bordering on the ludicrous and unmanly in a youth who is preparing to take orders, no matter how great her respect for the completed clergyman. Berenice felt something not entirely free from a trace of good-natured contempt for deacons in the abstract, not dreaming that she might be led to make an exception in favor of this especial deacon in the concrete. She became more and more alive to the attractions of Wynne, although up to the time of the accident she hardly realized the fact.

From the moment, however, that the rescuer said to her that Maurice had saved her life, her feeling was changed. She felt that she had failed to do Wynne justice; that she had allowed his cassock to be the sign of a lack of manhood; she accused herself of having wronged him. She began now to exalt him in her thoughts, and to regard him as a hero. She had long been aware of the effect that she had on him. From the morning when she had encountered him at the North End, and had met the quick, troubled glance of his eye, full of doubt and of fire, she had been conscious that he was not indifferent to her presence. She had not reasoned about it; but it gave her pleasure. It was a passing breath of homage, pleasing like a breath from some rose-bed passed in a walk. Up to the moment, however, when she said to herself that he had risked his life for her, Berenice had never consciously thought of Maurice as a lover. When she saw him lying insensible, depending upon her, a new feeling kindled in her breast. She would not think of it; she shrank from it, and refused to acknowledge it to herself. Yet for her the world was altered, and however she might try to hide the fact from her heart, secretly she felt it fluttering and throbbing deep within her breast.

When the telegram came in the morning announcing the visit of Stanford, her first thought was one of gratification. The act was friendly, and it gave her a pleasant sense of importance. The reaction came instantly. The purport of the visit flashed upon her. She remembered how she had smiled on Stanford yesterday,–Yesterday that now seemed so far away that she looked back to it over distances of emotion which made it strangely remote. She felt that she must receive him; but she found herself seeking for the means of making him understand that what he hoped was forever impossible. She certainly could never marry him. She was sure that the thought could never have been seriously in her mind. The idea of belonging to him, of having no right to think of another man with tenderness, became all at once too repugnant to be endured. She would not consider why her attitude was so different from that of yesterday; she only insisted vehemently in her thought that now first she really knew her own mind. Her cheek burned at the reflection that Stanford was probably sure of her consent to be his. It seemed to give him a claim upon her; to shut the door upon all other possibilities; to smutch the whiteness of her soul and render her unworthy of any man whom she might some day come to love. To remember that in her secret thought she had actually contemplated being Stanford’s wife made her cringe.

She stood by the window with the telegram in her hands, twisting it to and fro, wondering what it was possible for her to do. She thought of excusing herself from her visitor when he should come, but the evasion seemed to her unworthy, and she was eager to free herself from even the suspicion of belonging to him. She felt that she could not breathe freely until she were clear of the faintest shadow of any claim, even in Stanford’s secret thought. She must belong once more to herself.

It was at this point in her musings that Wynne came into the library. He was pale and sunken-eyed, and the tinge of his sprouting beard gave to his face a certain virility which startled her. It imparted a trace of something perhaps remotely animal and brutal, subtly altering his whole expression. He became in appearance at once more vigorous and more human. For the first time Berenice saw a suggestion of the possibility that this man might be a master; and the strength in man that makes a woman tremble also makes her thrill. Some inward voice cried in her ear: “Here is the reason why Parker Stanford is repugnant!” But she denied the accusation indignantly in her mind, putting the thought by, and refusing to see in Wynne anything more than the man to whom she had cause to be grateful. Yet in that part of her mind where a woman keeps so many things which she declines to confess to herself that she knows, Berenice from that moment kept the fact that this man before her had touched her heart.

She made a strong effort to greet Wynne frankly, and to conceal from him the feeling which his coming excited. She would have died rather than show him how glad she was that he had come. She saw the eagerness of his glance when he entered, and she felt the warmth of his greeting. She noted the change in his manner, and fancied it arose from his fear lest he betray himself. She set herself to overcome his reserve; and when she had succeeded she sprang up with a gay laugh, light-hearted and full of a delicious, incomprehensible pleasure. She wanted to break out into singing, so sweet is the delight of new love unrecognized save as simple joy in living.

The entrance of Mehitabel with the card of Mr. Stanford brought her back to earth.

“Already?” she said, feeling as if she were defrauded that thus her moment of enjoyment was cut short.

She could not trust herself for more than a word of excuse to Wynne, but hurried to her chamber to collect her thoughts and to examine her toilet before she descended to her visitor. Some inward personality seemed to be trying properly to frame the speech by which she should make Stanford understand that it was idle for him to hope longer; while all the time she was thinking of the man whom she had just left.

Stanford was holding out his hands to the blaze in the fireplace when she entered the parlor, for the morning was a sharp one. Berenice saw with appreciation how satisfactory he was in all his appointments and in his bearing; how well kept and how well bred. She felt, however, for the first time that he was perhaps a little too faultlessly attired for a man, and she glanced at his cleanly shaven cheek with an acute memory of the stout black stubble on the face she had left behind her, yet carried still in the eye of her mind.

“Good-morning,” she said, giving the visitor her hand, and making her manner at once as cordial and as unemotional as possible. “It was too good of you to come all the way up here in this cold weather, just to see me.”

He pressed her hand with eagerness, and so meaningly that the color flushed into her cheeks. His air seemed to her to have in it a suggestion of intimacy which was irritating beyond endurance.

“There was nothing good about it,” he answered. “I had to assure myself by actual sight that you were safe; and, besides, it gave me an excuse for coming, and I was only too glad of that.”

“Sit down,” Berenice said, ignoring the compliment. “It really was frightful; but I came through safe. Grandmother wouldn’t let me see the paper this morning; but I know the details must have been horrible.”

She grew grave as she spoke. She seemed again to see the whole terrible sight. The wreck, thrusting out tongues of fire, the dead and the dying strewn about on the snow; Wynne, at her feet, insensible and ghastly in the uncertain light. She shuddered and drew in her breath.

“Oh, don’t let’s talk about it!” she exclaimed. “I can’t bear to think of it, and I feel as if I should never get it out of my head!”

Stanford was silent a moment, pulling his mustache as if trying to find the right word.

“It must have been awful,” he said hesitatingly; “and I’ll never speak of it again if you don’t wish. Only I must say that it was dreadful to me too. The thought of how near I came to losing you is more than I can stand.”

She leaned back in her chair, suddenly chilled, yet moved by the feeling in his voice. Her conscience reproached her that she had allowed a false hope to grow up in his mind. She felt as if he were establishing a claim upon her, and that at any cost she must make him see things as they were.

“You are very kind,” she responded, trying to keep her tones from being too cold; “but of course we always feel a shock when any friend has been through a great danger.”

Her eyes were cast down, but she could divine his regard of disquiet and surprise.

“And especially those we love,” he added, leaning forward, and endeavoring to take her hand.

“Oh, of course, Mr. Stanford,” she said hastily. “That is of course true. Were people in Boston much excited about the accident?”

She felt herself a hypocrite, yet she could not help this one more effort to avoid the explanation she dreaded.

“I suppose so. I don’t know. I was so taken up with thinking about you, that I paid very little attention to anything else.”

“I’m afraid I didn’t deserve it. I wasn’t thinking of anybody but myself. It was very good of you.”

“Of course you weren’t thinking of anybody,” Stanford responded, pulling his mustache more furiously than ever; “but I was at the club instead of being in a burning car. I was half crazy at the thought that my future wife”–

“Stop!” Berenice broke in. “You mustn’t say such things. I’m not your future wife!”

“Forgive me. I know I haven’t any right to say that when you haven’t promised; but I can’t help thinking of you so, and”–

“Oh, please don’t!” she cried.

A wave of humiliation, of repulsion, of terror, swept over her. That this man had thought of her as his wife seemed almost like an inexorable bond. She shrank away from him with an impulse too strong to be controlled.

“But, Berenice, I”–

She sprang up and faced him.

“I have never promised you!” she declared with hurried vehemence. “I never will promise you! I can’t marry you. If I’ve made you think so, I didn’t mean to. I didn’t know my own mind. I thought–O Mr. Stanford, if I have deceived you, I beg your pardon. I”–

The tears choked and blinded her. She broke off, and put her handkerchief to her eyes; but when she heard him rise and hurry toward her, she went on hastily.

“I’ve let you go on thinking I’d marry you; I know I have. I thought so myself; but I’ve found out that it’s all a mistake. I didn’t realize what I was doing. I’m so sorry. I do hope you’ll forgive me.”

He regarded her in amazement not unmingled with indignation.

“You have let me think so,” he said. “Now I suppose there’s somebody else.”

“Oh, I shall never marry anybody,” she answered quickly.

“When a girl tells one man she never’ll marry,” retorted he bitterly, “there’s sure to be another man in her mind.”

She felt herself burn with blushes to her brow; and then in very shame and anger to grow pale again. Her first impulse was to leave him; but she controlled herself. He was her guest, he had come all the way from Boston to assure himself that she was safe, and more than all she was sorely aware that she had not treated him well. To have injured a man is to a woman apt to be an excuse for continuing to treat him ill; but when the opposite occurs she can be very forbearing.

“There is no other man,” she said with dignity. Then she added, more mildly: “Badly as I may have treated you, I don’t think you’ve quite the right to say such a thing as that to me.”

“I haven’t,” he acknowledged contritely. “I beg your pardon; but I surely have a right to ask what I’ve done to change you so. You were not like this yesterday.”

Berenice forced herself to meet his eyes, but she ignored his question. She sank back into the chair from which she had risen to face him.

“Come,” said she, trying to speak lightly, “I don’t see why we need stand. We are not rehearsing private theatricals. It was very kind of you to take the trouble to come all the way up here, but you must see that my nerves are all on edge. The shock has completely upset me.”

“Poor girl!” he said.

There was a genuine ring in his voice which irritated while it touched her. She hated to feel that he was really hurt. It made her seem the more deeply guilty, and she unconsciously desired to discover in him some excuse for her own shortcomings.

“Oh, it’s over now,” she responded. “Let’s talk of something else.”

“I’d be glad to,” Stanford replied, “but I can’t seem to. I want to know how you escaped. I won’t ask you to tell me now, but I keep thinking about it.”

“I’m afraid I can’t tell you much. I remember a tremendous crash, and being thrown against Mr. Wynne”–

“Mr. Wynne?”

The tone showed Berenice that Stanford did not attach especial importance to the question, but asked only from a natural curiosity. Nevertheless she could not keep her voice from, hurrying a little as she answered:–

“Mr. Wynne is a young clergyman who was in the seat next to mine. He’s a cousin of Mrs. Staggchase.”

“Oh, a clergyman,” Stanford echoed.

The tone seemed to her excited mood to be full of intolerable superiority.

“He may be a clergyman,” she retorted with unnecessary warmth, “but he is a gentleman and a hero. He saved my life!”

“Oh, he did!”

The exclamation stung her beyond endurance. She sprang up with flashing eyes.

“Mr. Stanford,” she exclaimed, “I don’t know what you mean to insinuate, but you will please to remember that you are speaking of the man that saved me, and of my grandmother’s guest.”

“Your grandmother’s guest? Do you mean that he is staying here?”

“Certainly he is. Why shouldn’t he be?”

The young man rose, and stood looking at her a moment; then he began to pace up and down, his gaze fixed on the floor. Berenice felt herself being swept away by tumultuous feelings which she could neither compel nor understand. Her mind was in confusion, out of which rose most definitely the desire that Stanford would go and leave her in peace.

“There is no reason why I should question the right of Mrs. Morison to choose her own guests,” said Stanford at length, pausing, and speaking with an evident effort to be entirely calm; “and as I know nothing of this Mr. Wynne, I shouldn’t in any case have a right to say anything about him. You can’t wonder, though, that I’m jealous of him for having had the luck to save your life, or that when I come here and find you so suddenly different and this man staying in the house and a hero in your eyes”–

“I wish that you wouldn’t keep calling Mr. Wynne ‘this,'” she interrupted hastily. “It sounds dreadfully superior. Come,” she added, softening her tone, and pleased at having prevented him from going on, “there is no need that we should quarrel about him. He is a priest, or going to be, and he’s to take the vows of celibacy, so that it is absurd for anybody to think of being jealous of him. If I seem different to-day, it isn’t any wonder after what I’ve been through.”

“I beg your pardon,” he said, coming quickly forward and extending his hand. “I’m awfully selfish. Of course I understand that what you’ve been saying isn’t to be taken seriously. We stand as we did before. Only,” he added, his voice deepening, “you are to remember that the danger of losing you has shown me how fond I am of you. Good-by.”

He stooped and kissed her hand, and before she could speak, he was gone. She stood where he had left her, hearing him leave the house, and the tears came into her eyes.

“Oh,” she moaned to herself, “I’ve made it worse than it was before. I wanted to be honest, and he wouldn’t let me!”

She stood a moment disconsolately, then she shrugged her shoulders as if to throw off all care.

“Well,” she told herself, “I’ve given him fair warning. Now it is time to go and entertain grandmother’s guest.”

XIII

A NECESSARY EVIL
Julius Caesar, ii. 2.

While the advocates of Father Frontford were laboring, the friends of other candidates were not idle. By the middle of January, however, the contest had practically narrowed itself down to a struggle between the supporters of the Father and those of the Rev. Rutherford Strathmore. Other names had been suggested, but in the end it was felt that there was no doubt that one or the other of these men would succeed to the vacant bishopric. Even church politicians are human, and most divisions are sure sooner or later to arouse the vanity of contestants. The struggle, which begins without consciously personal motives, is apt to be strongly tempered by the determination not to be beaten. For thousands who can accomplish the difficult feat of triumphing humbly, there is hardly one who can submit to defeat generously; and against the humiliation of failure the human being instinctively strives with every power. Those who upheld the rival candidates were undoubtedly convinced that they had the best interests of the church at heart; but that meant the election–even at some cost!–of their favorite.

There could be no question that Mr. Strathmore was the more generally popular candidate. He was a man who appealed strongly to the common heart, both by his sympathy and by flexibility of character and temperament which made it impossible for him to be repellantly stern or austere. He preached the high ideals which are dear to the best thought of the children of the Puritans; he demanded high purpose and high life, noble aims and unfailing charity; while he laid little stress on dogmas, and allowed an elasticity of individual interpretation of doctrine which made the creed easy of adoption by all who believed anything. His enemies–for he was by no means so insignificant as to be without enemies–declared that he carried the doctrine of “mental reservations” to the extent of rendering the articles of faith mere empty forms of words; his defenders protested that he was but wisely conforming in non-essentials to the progressive spirit of the age. Bitterly attacked by the more conservative members of his own denomination, he was looked up to by the general public as a great spiritual leader, and loved with an affection exceedingly rare in this unpriestly age. Those who urged his elevation had the support of the body of the laity, and also of the public outside of the church, which for once was interested in church politics on account of affection and reverence for the candidate.

Mr. Strathmore himself had the discretion not to express himself freely in relation to his own feelings in the matter. The enthusiastic assertions of his friends that no one save him could fill the vacant office he had answered by observing with a smile that the church was indeed fallen upon evil times if there was in it but one man fit to be made a bishop. He had added, it is true, that if it were the will of Providence that he be the one chosen he should accept the office as a duty given him by Heaven, and should devote himself to it with all his ability. It was by no means the least of Mr. Strathmore’s gifts that he had the grace of speaking always without any suggestion of cant. There was an impression of candor and enthusiasm in everything he said, so that words which might on the lips of another sound conventional or meaningless became on his spontaneous and vital. “He is too modest and self-forgetful to wish for the honor,” his friends commented now; “but he is too conscientious not to put aside his personal preferences for the good of the church. He may shrink from the high places, but he is the ideal man for them.” As much of this sort of thing was said in the public print, it is not impossible that the Rev. Rutherford Strathmore was aware of it; but he had the good taste to ignore it, even in conversation with his nearest friends, and the tact to carry himself without self-consciousness or the appearance of humility with which a smaller man would have shown that he knew that he was being praised.

Of friends he had a host well-nigh innumerable. He had an especial liking for young men, and a great influence over them. He had the art of arousing in them an emotional enthusiasm toward a higher life, so that he had never lack of efficient helpers among the laymen in whatever projects he undertook. He had also that invaluable attribute of the priest, the gift of inspiring confidence and opening the heart. He did not seem to seek confidences, yet they always came to him. Young men in trouble, young women in woe, lads in the impressionable period when sentimental experiences assume importance prodigious, youth of both sexes bewildered between physical and religious sensations, the sick and the poor, the ignorant and the cultivated, all found in him that sympathy which opens the heart, and which, most of human qualities, endears a man to his fellows.

Mr. Strathmore and Father Frontford might not unfairly be said to represent the two extremes of modern theology: on the one hand the relaxing of creeds, the liberalizing of thought, the breaking down of barriers which have divided the church from the world, and, above all, acquiescence in individual liberty of thought; on the other hand, the conservative element taking the position that individual liberty of interpretation means nothing less than a practical destruction of all standards, and that what is called the liberalizing of thought can result in nothing less than the utter overthrow of the church. Undoubtedly either would have declared that he held the other to be a devout and godly man; but he must inwardly have added, a mistaken and conscientiously mischievous one. If Mr. Strathmore was right, Father Frontford was little less than a mediaeval bigot, unhappily belated; if the Father was correct, then Strathmore, despite all his influence, his popularity, his power of attracting great congregations, was little better than a dangerous and pestilent heretic.

One morning Mr. Strathmore sat in his study talking to a visitor in clerical dress. The room was luxuriously appointed, for Mr. Strathmore’s belongings were always of a sort to minister pleasantly to the sense. The walls were lined with books in sumptuous bindings, the windows hung with heavy curtains of crimson velvet, the floor covered with rich rugs. A bronze statuette of Savonarola stood on an ebony pedestal between two windows, consorting somewhat oddly with the velvet draperies which swept down on either side. Indeed, there might be thought to be something in the thin, spiritually impassioned face of the monk, in the eagerly imperative gesture with which he pointed with one hand to the open Bible he held in the other, not entirely consistent with the somewhat worldly air of the room. The handsome carved chairs, cushioned with fine leather, the beautiful landscape by Rousseau above the mantel, the bronze and silver of the writing-table, had been given to the popular pastor by enthusiastic admirers, however, and perhaps the Savonarola better expressed his own inner feelings. Mr. Strathmore’s face, it is true, was in itself somewhat unspiritual. The clergyman was of commanding presence, and while neither unusually tall nor exceptionally large, he somehow gave, from the air with which he carried himself, the impression of size and importance. His eyes were keen and piercing, neither study nor the advance of years having dimmed their clear sight or reduced him to the necessity of wearing glasses. He was still handsome, although his face was too full, and he was too generously provided with chins. As he talked, his face would have seemed almost blank and expressionless had it not been for his keen eyes, full of alert intelligence and abundant vitality. His glance was acute and searching, and yet nothing could exceed its kindliness and sympathy.

The visitor who sat talking with Mr. Strathmore was almost ludicrously his opposite. Mr. Pewtap was a small, ineffectual creature, with inefficiency oozing out of his every pore. He was conspicuously the incarnation of well-meaning and exasperating incompetence; one of those men who might be forgiven everything but the fact that their stupidities are invariably the result of the best intentions. It was evident at a glance that this man had used the church as a genteel pauper asylum, wherein his ineptitude might be devoted to the service of Heaven since nothing gifted with the common sense of earth would tolerate it. His very attitude was an excuse, and the way in which he handled his hat might have provoked profanity in any saint at all addicted to nerves. Mr. Pewtap was more than usually crushed in his appearance, and toed in more than was his custom, because he had come on an awkward errand, and had been telling his host that he could not vote for him in the coming election.

Mr. Strathmore had received this declaration with good-humor, and even with no appearance of disapproval.

“Of course, Mr. Pewtap,” he said, “I am human, and it would be disingenuous for me to pretend that I am not pleased by the fact that my name has been mentioned in connection with the bishopric. I can conscientiously affirm, however, that the good of the church is more dear to me than ambition. Even were it not, I hardly think that I am capable of being offended with any man who felt it his duty to vote against me.”

He smiled with winning warmth. The other moved in his seat uneasily, becoming momentarily more apologetic until he seemed to beg pardon for existing at all.

“I have always felt,” he said confusedly, “that you ought to be chosen. That is, I mean that when Bishop Challoner was taken from us I said to Mrs. Pewtap that you were sure to succeed him.”

Mr. Strathmore smiled, but he did not offer to help his visitor out of the tangle in which he was evidently involving himself.

“It isn’t the good of the church, exactly,” Mr. Pewtap stumbled on, turning his seedy hat about like a slow wheel which had some connection with grinding out his speech, “that I–Yes, of course I mean that the good of the church must be considered first, as you say.”

Speechlessness seemed to overcome him, and he looked upon his host with a piteous appeal in his face.

“I understand that it is not an easy thing for you to tell me that it seems best to you not to vote for me,” Mr. Strathmore said kindly. “I appreciate your coming to me on an errand so hard for you.”

Mr. Pewtap sighed eloquently.

“If circumstances,” he interpolated eagerly, “if circumstances were different”–

“Of course,” the other responded with a genial laugh. “As they are, however, it seems to you best to vote for Father Frontford, and you have a kindness for me that makes you come and tell me your reason. I’m glad you do me the justice to believe that I won’t misunderstand.”

“Oh, I was sure you wouldn’t misunderstand. You see, Mrs. Frostwinch has been so good to my family. I have seven children, Mr. Strathmore, all under ten.”

The eye of the host twinkled, but he was otherwise of admirable gravity.

“And my chance might be better if you hadn’t so many?” he suggested.

“Oh, we never could have had so many if it hadn’t been for Mrs. Frostwinch,” Mr. Pewtap responded eagerly. “I mean, of course, that we couldn’t have taken care of them all. She has for years given Mrs. Pewtap a little annual income,–little to her, I mean, of course; but it doesn’t take much to be a great deal to us.”

Mr. Strathmore picked up a paper-knife of cut silver and played with it a moment in silence, as if waiting for the other to go on.

“Do I understand,” he said at length, “that Mrs. Frostwinch has something to do with your decision in regard to the election?”

“Yes; she wrote to me that she was sure that I’d vote for Father Frontford, and that she was greatly interested in his being bishop. It’s the only thing she ever asked of me, and she has been so generous that I don’t see how I can refuse when Father Frontford is so good a man, and so earnest for the upbuilding of the church.”

“You must certainly follow your conscience,” Strathmore commented blandly.

“Oh, I shouldn’t have any conscience against voting for you, Mr. Strathmore; I couldn’t possibly have. Besides, it would be my inclination if circumstances were different. I wanted to explain to you that it is not because I fail to appreciate how kind you have been to me that I vote for him. When I was told yesterday that the vote was likely to be close, and that my vote might make a difference, I assure you I was quite distressed. I told Mrs. Pewtap last night in the night that I couldn’t feel comfortable till I’d seen you and explained.”

“It is most kind of you,” Strathmore put in, his face inscrutable, but his eyes still kindly.

“I wanted to explain that under the circumstances I had no choice.”

“I understand. It is not necessary to say any more about it. Of course in a case of this sort a man has only to follow his conscience, and let the consequences take care of themselves.”

“That is what I said to Mrs. Pewtap,” was the enthusiastic reply. “I said to her that you would understand that this is a matter to be decided by conscience and not by individual preferences. Otherwise I should have been very glad to vote for you. I am sure you understand that I personally wish you all success.”

He rose as he spoke, his face lighted with an expression of relief.

“I am very much obliged to you, I’m sure,” he ran on. “I knew you wouldn’t blame me, but these things are always so hard to state properly so that there sha’n’t be any misunderstanding. You have taken a great weight off of my mind. Of course, as you say, in such a case there is nothing to do but to act according to one’s conscience, and let the consequences be cared for by a higher power. Only personally, you know, personally I shall be delighted if you are successful.”

When Mr. Pewtap was gone Mr. Strathmore stood a moment in thought, his forehead wrinkled as if with doubt. Then his face melted into a smile, as if he were amused at the peculiarities of his visitor. He shrugged his shoulders, and sat down to write a note. At that moment there was a tap at the door, and his colleague came into the room.

“Good morning, Thurston,” Mr. Strathmore greeted him. “I shall be ready to go with you in a moment. I am writing a note to Mrs. Gore.”

The Rev. Philander Thurston was a short, brisk, worldly-looking divine, with shrewd glance. Nature had evidently been somewhat too hasty or careless in the making of his face, for she had cut his nostrils unpleasantly high and set his eyes much too near together.

“I saw Mrs. Gore yesterday,” Thurston responded. “She thinks that she can answer for those votes of which we were speaking. She says that the vote of Mr. Pewtap will depend upon Mrs. Frostwinch.”

“He has just been here,” Strathmore said smiling. “He told me in so many words that he is to vote for Frontford. His conscience will not allow him to run the risk of depriving his children of the annuity Mrs. Frostwinch gives his wife. I’m sure I’m not inclined to blame him.”

“It is outrageous that he should fail you after all you’ve done for him,” Thurston declared with some heat. “I never had any confidence in him.”

“Oh, he acts according to his nature,” was the good-humored response, “and I’m afraid there isn’t substance enough to him for grace to get a very strong hold to change him. If Mrs. Frostwinch is taking an active part in this matter there are others she can influence.”

“Yes,” the colleague said. “I thought that she was too much taken up with that mind-healing business; but she evidently wants to help bring the church back to the formalities of the Middle Ages. Frontford would have the whole diocese going to confession if he had his way.”

“He could do nothing of the kind if he did wish to do it,” Mr. Strathmore answered quietly. “The worst that he could bring about would be to give the impression to the world that the church was retrograding instead of progressing. He would be entirely opposed to individual liberty of conscience everywhere, and that seems to me to be in opposition to the spirit of the age.”

“It undoubtedly is,” assented the young man eagerly.

“The gravest harm that he could do in the church,” pursued the other, “would be to encourage the substitution of form for spirit. The more religious faith is shaken, the greater is the temptation to supply its place by a ritual, and this temptation seems to me the most imminent and deadly peril of the church to-day.”

“It certainly is,” confirmed the colleague.

“Besides,” Strathmore added emphatically, rising as he spoke, “the deepest need of any time can be met only by a church which is in sympathy with the tendencies of the time.”

“You put it admirably,” the other murmured.

Strathmore regarded him keenly, almost as if he suspected some hidden thought behind the words.

“It is time for us to go,” he said in his usual genial tone.

The two clergymen left the house and went down the street together, talking of parish business, until they came to the street-corner where they were to take a car. As they stood waiting for this conveyance, a lady came quickly forward and spoke to Mr. Strathmore, who greeted her cordially, expressing much pleasure in seeing her.

“You were so kind to me,” she said. “I have been thinking of all you said to me last week, and it seems to me that I can bear my burden better. I want to thank you with all my heart.”

“There is nothing to thank me for,” he answered with grave tenderness. “The blessing is mine if I have been able to help you.”

“But there was no one else,” she said, tears springing in her eyes, “that I could have talked to so freely. You understood and sympathized. It was like talking to a brother.”

He took her hand with an air perfectly unaffected and unobtrusive, yet which was almost paternal in its benignity. Her look was one almost of reverence as she hurried on her way with bowed head.

“Thurston,” Mr. Strathmore asked, as they took the car together, “do you know the name of that lady who spoke to me on the corner?”

“I didn’t notice, sir. I was watching for the car.”

“She seemed to know me perfectly,” Strathmore said rather absently, “and yet I can’t place her. By the way, did you bring that letter from the church committee in New York? There is a passage in it that I may want to read at the meeting.”

“I brought it, sir. There is likely to be a good deal of difference of opinion at the committee meeting to-day,” Mr. Thurston said with an air of craftiness which was like an explanatory foot-note to his character, “so I judged that it was well to be provided with documents.”

The other made no reply, but fell into deep thought, making no further remark until they left the car near the place where they were to attend a meeting of the Charity Board.

“I think,” he observed dispassionately, “that there are four clergymen whose votes Mrs. Frostwinch may be able to control.”

XIV

HE SPEAKS THE MERE CONTRARY
Love’s Labor’s Lost, i. 1.

Ashe had in these days been dallying with temptation. He contrived not to confess it to himself, but by a variety of ingenious devices to cheat his conscience into the belief that he was serving the church by his consultations with Mrs. Fenton, his services to her charity work, and his continual thought of her views in regard to the election. It is amazing how clever even a dull man may be when it comes to inventing excuses for his own beguiling; and Philip struggled with such desperation to convince himself that he was acting disinterestedly that he all but succeeded. He could not, however, achieve what is impossible; and there was a pain in the heart of the young man which testified that his sense of right was sore despite all his cunning.

At the meeting of the Charity Board to which Mr. Strathmore had been going, Ashe sat beside Mrs. Fenton. His obvious excuse was that she was to make a report, and that he, as a visitor in her district, was able to support her in case there were any discussion. The session had been looked forward to with much interest, from the general feeling that there would probably be something like a conflict between the Frontford and Strathmore factions. There had for a long time been a growing division on the subject of the method of conducting church charities; and it was expected that at this meeting the feeling would break out openly. It would not be easy to say how it was known that anything of the sort was to occur. There was no announcement of business which differed materially from that of the ordinary sessions of the board. The time did not seem propitious for a discussion, and there were evident reasons why the followers of either candidate might be supposed to wish to avoid arousing antagonism; yet it was certain that the meeting would not close without some sort of a demonstration. There are times when public feeling seems to demand and force declarations of principle or of purpose which policy would gladly suppress; and such a time had arrived in the Charity Board. Ashe was so strongly moved by the possibilities of the situation that even the proximity of Mrs. Fenton did not absorb his attention; although he was not for a moment unconscious of being beside her.

The business routine was gone through, and after that half an hour passed in the ordinary fashion. At the end of that time Mr. Thurston, with apparent unconsciousness, threw a spark into the combustibles.

“The fact seems to be,” he said, “that there has been too much the air of proselyting in our charity work, and that has brought it into discredit with the class which we most wish to reach.”

He sat down with a face admirably controlled. Mr. Strathmore showed in his benignant countenance nothing save charity for all and general approval of the remarks of his subordinate. The audience stirred nervously, realizing that the critical moment had come. Father Frontford, pale, ascetic, austere, rose with grave deliberation.

“What has just been said,” he began, “brings up a subject which has been in the minds of many for some months,–the question whether there is or should be any difference between the charity work of the church, and that of the city or the world in general. As far as I understand the position of the last speaker, I take it to be his opinion that there is, or at least that there should be, no such difference. He believes in alleviating misery, and he would have religion kept in the background, lest the poor should feel that they are being fed for the sake of being led to a better life. I do not myself see the objection to their thinking so. I am by no means sure that they do; but I am convinced that they look for a motive, and it seems to me better that they should believe the object of missionary work to be proselyting–I think that that was the word–than that they should embrace the too prevalent and most dangerous idea that charity is a bribe from the rich to keep the poor quiet. There is not a little feeling nowadays that philanthropy is encouraging socialism. The poor echo incendiary orators in saying that the rich dole out a little of what they know to belong to the poor so that they may be allowed to keep the rest unmolested. I believe that this feeling is a menace to the State, and that philanthropy which nourishes such a belief is working hand in hand with treason.”

He paused a moment, and there arose a faint murmur. Ashe looked at his companion, and encountered a glance which seemed to express something of his own surprise at the boldness of Father Frontford’s words. That the speaker should be uncompromising was to be supposed, but this was an attitude unexpected and astonishing. One or two men started up as if to reply, but the Father went on again. His voice was thin and incisive, with a vibrating quality when it was raised which affected the nerves. It was easy to dislike his tones, but it was not easy to resist their influence. He passed to another point, and his words had a keener emphasis.

“Neither have we escaped the accusation that we use the poor simply as a means of self-improvement. An old Irish woman in a tumble-down tenement house once said to me: ‘Ye’ll have no chance to work out your salvation doing for me.’ I believe that there are many of the poor who more or less consciously have the same idea. They think that we make visiting them a sort of penance, and they resent it. I am not sure that I can find it in my heart to blame them.”

“He is either sacrificing himself completely, or making one of those bold strokes that are irresistible,” Ashe whispered to Mrs. Fenton; and she nodded assent.

“What should be,” the speaker proceeded, amid a deep hush which showed the keen interest which his words had aroused, “is that we should dare to be consistent. As individuals and as churchmen we should exercise the virtue of charity, but both as individuals and as churchmen we are bound to see to it that we make our charity effective for the glory of God and the salvation of men. There is no stronger instrument in our hands than philanthropy, and not to utilize it for the good of the church is to be culpably negligent. I believe that charity should be the instrument of evangelization. The poor will have a reason for our interest in them. Let them have this. Let them believe, if they will, that we purchase their spiritual acquiescence by ministering to their bodily needs. Certainly I believe that we should limit our work to those who can be spiritually influenced. There are more of these than we can at present attend to, and I am in favor of boldly and consistently taking the position that as administrators of the bounties of the church we feel bound to use them for the advancement of the church. To aid the corrupt, the evil, the hardened without any attempt to draw them into the fold and without any pledge that they will be influenced, is simply to aid the avowed enemies of religion and to strengthen their hands against righteousness.”

The air of the room was becoming electric. Philip could see the exchange of glances all around him, some of surprise, some of consternation, some–or he was deceived–of triumph and scornful satisfaction. He fancied that he saw Mr. Thurston shoot toward Mr. Strathmore a flash of gratification, but the face of the latter remained unmoved and inscrutable. Ashe, full of uneasiness as to the result of the speech, was greatly excited, but at the same time moved to profound admiration for its boldness and its consistency. He was in sympathy with the views expressed, and he was more than ever convinced that Father Frontford was the only man for the sacred office of bishop.

“Even our Lord,” Father Frontford went on, his thin cheeks burning and his slender frame swayed by the strength of his emotion, “did not many works in places where he found unbelief. There was no limit to his power; there was no limit to his mercy. It was out of love for the whole of mankind that He refused to benefit individuals who would have hindered the work He came to do. The example is one which we shall do well to follow. We have more work than we can do in aiding the faithful and in building up the church. Let us accept the name of proselyters which has been contemptuously flung at us, and wear it as our glory. We are proselyters. We must be proselyters. It is the highest joy and honor of our lives that we are allowed of heaven to take this work upon us. God will require it at our hands if we fail in our private charities, and still more if we fail in the administration of the revenues of the church to be always ardent, consistent, unwearied proselyters!”

There was a good deal of applause when the speaker sat down. The profound earnestness of the man carried the hearers away, at least for the moment. Ashe saw Thurston look inquiringly at Strathmore, as if to ask if the latter was not intending to reply, but Strathmore sat silent.

“Don’t you suppose Mr. Strathmore means to speak?” Mrs. Fenton whispered. “He almost always does speak after Father Frontford, and he has expressed very strong views about the charities.”

“I cannot understand why he doesn’t speak,” Ashe responded. “It may be he feels that the meeting is not with him, and does not wish to take the unpopular side.”

Several men did speak, however, among them Mr. Candish. Their remarks were in accord with the views expressed by the Father, yet they somehow lessened the effect of his words. Put into their plain and sometimes even awkward language his position seemed unpractical and hopelessly far from daily life; so that even Ashe, warm partisan as he was, could not but feel his enthusiasm somewhat chilled. Again he intercepted a glance between Thurston and his superior. Philip sat with the two men directly in his range of vision, and could not keep his eyes from watching them. He recognized that there was danger in the keen, crafty face of the colleague, thin-lipped and narrow-eyed; he wondered in troubled fashion how far it was possible that Mr. Strathmore was of the same nature as his assistant. Ashe was confident that Thurston was a born intriguer, and he instinctively watched for signs of understanding between Mr. Strathmore and the other. He could detect nothing of the sort. The Rev. Rutherford Strathmore bore a countenance as beneficent, as kindly, as guileless as ever; responding to the challenge of his colleague’s eyes by no evidence of understanding or connivance. It was not until the talkers ceased and there fell a silence which indicated that the first force of admiration and enthusiasm had spent itself, that Strathmore rose.

“No one can possibly disagree with the sentiments which have just been expressed,” he began in his cordial, frank manner. “There is no truth which we need in these days to keep more constantly before us than the duty of being always eager for the advancement of the church, and of employing all means to this end. The question which is of vital interest is how best to do this. When the caution was given that to the harmlessness of doves be added the guile of serpents, it might almost seem as if it was especially intended for our own day and case. There has certainly never been a time when wisdom was more needed than it is to-day. The growth of doubt, the overthrow of old traditions, old beliefs, old forms, in short of all that has been sanctioned by custom and by time, have gone on in every department of human knowledge and endeavor. The spirit of the time is restless, progressive, liberal, even irreverent. The beautiful serenity of the church, its reverent conservatism, its hallowed enthusiasm, for old ideals, are at variance with the temper of the century. Since the church is the shrine of truth it is impossible that it should alter with every shifting of scientific thought, every alteration in the fashions of human opinion; and we stand face to face with the trying fact that the age is not in sympathy with the church.”

He paused, looking down as if in thought. Ashe regarded him closely, much impressed by the apparent spontaneity and candor with which this was said. The hearers were closely attentive. “The only thing upon which we seem to have some possible disagreement,” continued Mr. Strathmore, “is in regard to the best method of meeting this want of sympathy, this feeling which often seems to amount almost to general indifference. Is it to arouse all the suspicion and opposition possible? Is it to seem to justify the charges brought against us of narrowness, of formalism, of repression, and of obstructing the progress of the race? It does not seem to me that this is the wisest course. I agree that it is our duty to forward the interests of the church, and to make our administration of charity a means to this end. It is certainly a question whether open and avowed proselyting is the best means. Religion is no more to be bought with a price than is love. The person who conforms for a soup-ticket or a blanket has simply added hypocrisy to his other failings, and has moreover gained for the church that contempt which men always feel for those they have overreached. The child that goes to Sunday-school for the Christmas tree and the summer week has learned a lesson in deception which can never be blotted out. It is of course proper that these means should be used; but unless it is understood fully and frankly that they are employed not as a bribe but as a persuasion, not as a price but as a kindness, the evil that they do is more than any good that it is possible to bring about through their means. I do not believe that our charities should be conducted on the basis of bargain and sale; nor do I believe that they should be put on a sectarian basis at all.”

He sat down quietly, with an unimpassioned air which seemed to rebuke the emotional close of the remarks of Father Frontford. Strathmore could be emotional and impassioned upon occasion, and this deliberate, matter-of-fact mien affected Ashe as a calculated stroke of policy. Philip felt that his leader had suffered a defeat; and he was profoundly moved by the thought. Other speakers took up the question, but he paid little heed. He was occupied in speculating how the meeting would affect the chances of the election. When he was walking home with Mrs. Fenton after the session was over, he was so absorbed that she rallied him on his absent-mindedness.

“I was thinking of the discussion,” he said. “I am afraid that Father Frontford injured himself this morning.”

“But how noble it was of him to say what he believed in spite of the chances,” she responded. “I was delighted with Mr. Candish for seconding him as he did.”

“Yes,” Ashe said, a pang of jealousy piercing him at the mention of Mr. Candish. “It was fine. What I cannot make out,” he added, “is whether Mr. Strathmore is as simple and candid as he looks. He always seems to speak sincerely and freely, and yet he somehow contrives never to say anything that might not have been thought out with the most clever policy.”

“I cannot make out either,” returned she. “Mr. Fenton used rather paradoxically to say that Mr. Strathmore was too frank by half to be honest.”

She sighed as she spoke, and instantly all thought of bishops and church matters vanished from the mind of Ashe. He became entirely absorbed in wondering how warm was Mrs. Fenton’s affection for her dead husband and in hating himself for the thought.

XV

HEARTSICK WITH THOUGHT
Two Gentlemen of Verona, i. I

Instead of returning to Boston next morning, Maurice remained at Brookfield for ten days. Mrs. Morison decided the matter, and it is not to be supposed that he was entirely unwilling to be constrained.

He naturally saw much of Berenice, and he passed hours in brooding over thoughts of her. He was convinced that she was not engaged. She had spoken of Stanford’s visit, and it had seemed to Wynne that she had conveyed the impression that her relations to the visitor were less intimate than might at first sight appear. If she were free–the thought made his heart beat, and he wondered if, had the circumstances been different, he might himself have won her. He tormented himself with all her ways and words; the smiles she gave him, the trifling attentions which were addressed to the guest, but which seemed to have a touch of something deeper, that might be due to her thinking of him as her preserver, but which might even go beyond that. There was a delicious torture in all this reverie, in these continual self- reproaches which involved the thought of her, the remembrance of how she had looked, how she had spoken, how she had moved. He became every day more hopelessly her slave, yet every day insisting more strongly to himself that he felt nothing more than warm friend. Once for a moment he tried to believe that his feeling was merely a desire for her spiritual good, that his attitude was that which it was proper for a priest to feel toward a beautiful and frivolous worldling; but the pretense was too ghastly, and he abandoned it with a shudder of disgust. He had moments, too, when he said to himself frankly, in defiance or in sorrow as the mood might be, that he loved her; but for the most part he tried to keep the assumption of simple friendship between him and bitter thought.

He found great pleasure in Mrs. Morison. She was to him a revelation of possibilities of which he had never dreamed. It was a continual surprise to him to find himself so impressed by the wit, the wisdom, and the sanity of this fine old lady. He not only felt himself an ignorant and inexperienced boy beside her, but found himself shrinking from comparing with her the men whom he had followed as leaders. The ease of her manner, the completeness of her self-poise, her frank simplicity, high-bred and winning, delighted him, while the extent of her mental resources filled him with amazement.

Mrs. Morison opened to Wynne a new world in her conversation. At first she gave herself up chiefly to entertaining him, telling him delightful stories of famous folk she had known, of her life abroad and in Washington. She was full of charming little tales which she had the art of relating as if she were not thinking of how she was telling them, but as if they came to her mind and bubbled into talk spontaneously. She had a way, too, of putting in unobtrusive observations on character and events which impressed Maurice. The art of saying things trenchantly he had found in Mrs. Staggchase, but his cousin had the air of being aware of her cleverness, while Mrs. Morison said these things as if they were of the natural and habitual current of her thoughts. Mrs. Morison said clever things as if she thought them; Mrs. Staggchase as if she thought of them.

It did not take the young man long to discover that Mrs. Morison was not in sympathy with his creed. She was too well-bred to bring the matter forward, but he could not resist the temptation now and then to touch upon it. She was of principles at once so broad and so deep that he found himself as often surprised by her devoutness as he felt it his duty to be shocked by her liberality. One day when Maurice had made some allusion to a discussion over the doctrine of predestination which was agitating the English church, Mrs. Morison said:–

“It always seems to me a pity that those who believe in that dreadful doctrine do not remember that if one were not one of the elect, he could at least carry through eternity the realization that he was lost through no fault of his own. God could not take from him that consolation.”

He was silent in mingled amazement and disapproval; yet he found his mind following out with obstinate persistence the train of thought which her words suggested. In this or in many another remark it could hardly be said that her words convinced him, but they awoke a swarm of doubts in his mind. He found himself following speculations that were lawless, wild, dangerous, and intoxicating. However convinced he might be that the reasoning of Mrs. Morison was fallacious, he did not find it easy to tell just wherein the fallacy lay. He felt that as a priest he should be able to refute her, and he was filled with dismay to discover that he was rather himself falling into the attitude of a doubter.

One subject which was constantly in his mind he did not touch upon until the day before he left Brookfield. He longed to sound Mrs. Morison on the subject of a celibate priesthood. He was well enough aware that she would not approve of it, and he was irritated by the

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