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  • 1899
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She played with her fan a moment, smiling to herself in a way which he did not understand, and looking down as if considering some old memory. Then she met his glance with a look at once kind and wistful.

“It isn’t of much use to argue the matter, I suppose,” were her words. “It seems to me as if in talking to you I see my old mental self in a mirror, if you’ll pardon me for saying so. When we come out from any conviction, and most of all from a religious belief, it seems to us a profound misfortune that any man should still believe what we have decided is false. By and by I think you will see that the chief point is that a man shall believe. What he believes doesn’t so much matter. It must be the thing that best suits his temperament.”

“Then to outgrow a dogma is to weaken our power. It certainly weakens our faith in general.”

“Yes,” she assented, “that is the price we must pay for freedom; but if Philip can still believe, I have long ago passed the place where I should regret it. Perhaps he is to be envied.”

Maurice shook his head.

“We may feel like that in some moods,” he concluded with a smile, “but certainly nothing would induce you to change places with him.” “Oh, no,” she cried; “certainly not. But that is mere womanly lack of logic!”


A MINT OF PHRASES IN HIS BRAIN Love’s Labor’s Lost, i. 1.

The disappointment of Maurice at the failure of his effort to secure his aunt’s fortune was perhaps rather more than less keen because the property had never tangibly been his. The title of the fancy is that of which men are most tenacious, and the thing which has been held in fee of the imagination is precisely that which it is most grievous to lose. Maurice returned to Boston completely overcome by the result of his expedition, his mind overflowing with chagrin and anger.

It was not only the money which he had missed, but he had to his thinking lost also the hope of being in a position to press his suit with Berenice. However intangible might be his plans for winning her, they none the less filled his mind. He refused to regard her coldness as enduring. He had in his thoughts imagined so many tender scenes of reconciliation in which he magnanimously forgave her for the sharpness of the repulse of their last meeting or humbly besought pardon for his own offenses, that he came to feel as if all misunderstanding had really been done away with. It had been in his mind that if he were but in a position to meet Berenice on equal terms in regard to fortune all might be well; and to be deprived of this hope was infinitely bitter.

Meanwhile he had before him the problem of reshaping his life. It was necessary that he decide what should take the place of the profession which he had laid down. Fortunately the decision was not difficult, as former inclination had practically settled the matter. The definite shaping of his plans came one day in a talk which he had with his cousin.

“It isn’t exactly my affair, Maurice,” Mrs. Staggchase said, “but I want to know, and that always makes a thing her affair with a woman,– what are you going to do with your life now that you have pulled it out of the mouth of the church?”

“It is good of you to care to ask,” he answered. “I suppose I shall study law.”

“May I talk with you quite frankly?” she asked. “Fred does me the honor to say that for a woman I have a reasonably clear head.”

“You may say whatever you like, Cousin Diana. I shall only be grateful.”

“Well, then, in the first place, how much have you to live on?”

“I’ve about a thousand dollars a year. What was left of the estate at mother’s death amounts to about that. I wanted to give it all to the church when I went into the Clergy House.”

“Why didn’t you?”

“Father Frontford wouldn’t allow it. He said that a continual sacrifice meant more than an act that stripped me of power to decide, and which might be regretted.”

“That was a noble temper,” Mrs. Staggchase remarked thoughtfully. “A priest is a strange being. As for you, you say you have never believed, and yet you would have given up everything you possessed.”

Maurice flushed, and looked a little shamefaced.

“I never did believe, so far as I can see now; but I thought I did, if you see the difference. My wanting to give up everything wasn’t belief; it was a sort of instinctive desire to play fair. If I were to do the thing at all, my impulse was to do it thoroughly. It isn’t in my blood to do a thing half way. I’m afraid the explanation doesn’t speak very well for my common sense; but so far as I can understand myself that’s the way of it.”

“But if you didn’t believe what were you there for?”

“I was there because Phil was. I don’t pretend to understand why I, who led Phil in everything else, who did all sorts of things that he couldn’t and had to decide everything else for him, should have followed his lead so in religion; but I did. It was part of my caring for him. It would have hurt him so much if I hadn’t, that of course I had to.”

Mrs. Staggchase regarded him keenly. He turned away his eyes, thinking of his friend and of the wide gulf which had opened between them, so that he but half heard and did not understand the comment she made softly.

“The _ewigweibliche_ in masculine shape,” she murmured, smiling to herself. “When the real came, it couldn’t hold its power any longer.”

“What?” he asked.

“Nothing. I was speaking in riddles. To come back to business,–you say you’ve decided upon the law.”

“Yes. That was always my choice. I read a good deal of law while I was in college. It wasn’t till I graduated two years ago that I fell into theology. It’s two years wasted.”

“Oh, perhaps, and perhaps not. After all, experience in youth is generally worth what it costs, little as we think so when we pay the price. Well, then, you can easily live on your income if you choose. Mr. Staggchase and I will be glad to have you make this your home, and”–

“But, Cousin Diana,” he interrupted in astonishment, “there is certainly no reason why you should burden yourself with me. Not that I am not a thousand times obliged to you, but”–

“Be as obliged as you like,” interrupted she in turn, “only don’t be foolish. Fred and I are not exactly sentimentalists, and we both know what we wish. He likes to have you to talk with, and when you have learned to smoke you will find him a very clever and agreeable companion after dinner. He knows the world, and he’ll teach you a great many things that you’d be slow to find out for yourself. As for me, you amuse me, let us say. The gods have spared us the bother of children; but the gifts of the gods are always to be paid for, and we begin to feel as if there were a sort of loneliness ahead of us with nobody to be especially interested in. To have somebody younger to care for is a luxury when you are young yourself, but it’s a necessity to age. I assure you that we shouldn’t have you here if we didn’t want you, and that we shall turn you out without scruple when we are tired of you.”

“Very well, then,” he responded with a laugh, “I am rejoiced to remain to be a blessing.”

They looked into the fire a little time as if they were considering what effect upon the future this new arrangement would have; then Mrs. Staggchase glanced up with a smile.

“Just now,” she remarked, “before you are plunged in the study of the law, you may do escort duty for me. I am going to call on Berenice Morison.”

“On Miss Morison?”

“Yes. Her grandmother is staying with her. Mr. Frostwinch has gone abroad, you know, and as the old house belongs to Bee, she is staying on there.”

“But–but she won’t care to see me.”

“Very likely not,” assented his cousin coolly, “but she’ll endure you for my sake.”

“I don’t like being endured,” he retorted, between fun and earnest. “Besides, she’s so much money”–

“You are not such a cad as to be afraid of her money, I hope.”

“Not in one way, but don’t you see now that she has so much, and I have lost Aunt Hannah’s”–

“Really, Maurice,” she interrupted brusquely, “you must learn not to speak your thoughts out like that! I’m not asking you to go to propose to Bee. You have the theological habit of taking things with too dreadful seriousness. Come with me for a call, and don’t bother about consequences and possibilities.”

Maurice blushed at his own folly in betraying his secret scruples, but his cousin spared him any farther teasing, and they went on their way peacefully. It seemed to him when he entered the stately Frostwinch house that it had somehow been transformed. Everything was much as it had been in the lifetime of Mrs. Frostwinch, yet to his fancy all looked fresher and more cheerful. He smiled to himself, feeling that the change must simply be the result of his knowledge that this was now the home of Berenice; yet even so he could not persuade himself that the alteration was not actual. He felt joyously alert as he followed Mrs. Staggchase to the library, where Bee was sitting with old Mrs. Morison.

He had never been in this apartment before. It was high, and heavily made, with an open fire on the hearth, and enough books to justify its name. Berenice came forward to meet them, and Mrs. Morison remained seated near the fire.

“I am so glad to see you, Mrs. Staggchase,” Bee said cordially. “It is just one of those dreary days when it proves true courage to come out.”

“And true friendship, I hope,” the other answered, passing on to Mrs. Morison. “My dear old friend, I wish I could believe you are as glad to see me as I am to see you.”

Berenice in the mean time gave her hand to Maurice graciously, but with a certain grave courtesy which he felt to put them upon a purely ceremonious footing.

“It is kind of you to come,” she said. “Grandmother will be glad to see you.”

Maurice tried hard to look unconscious, but he could not help questioning her with his eyes. She flushed under his eager regard, and drew back a little.

“I am very glad of the chance to see–Mrs. Morison,” he answered.

Bee flushed more deeply yet. Then she turned mischievously to Mrs. Morison.

“Grandmother,” she said, “it seems that Mr. Wynne came to see you and not me.”

The old lady greeted him kindly.

“I am glad to see you looking so well, Mr. Wynne,” she said. “I hope that your arm does not trouble you at all.”

“Not at all. I was too well taken care of at Brookfield.”

Mrs. Staggchase laughed, spreading out her hands.

“There,” said she gayly, “you see! He has only been in my hands a few weeks, but I call that a very pretty speech.”

“He probably has a natural gift for pleasing speeches,” Berenice remarked meaningly.

Maurice crimsoned, but his education had not proceeded far enough for him to have any reply.

“Well, take him away, Bee, and give him tea or gossip. I want to talk to your grandmother about old friends, and you young people won’t understand.”

“He may have tea if he is tractable,” responded Bee. “We are evidently not appreciated, Mr. Wynne. Will you ring the bell over there, please.”

He did as he was directed, and then followed her to the tea-table at a little distance from the fire. He was full of a troubled joy, the mingled delight of being with her and the consciousness that he had firmly determined in his own mind that he had no right to show her his feelings. He said to himself that he could bear anything else better than that she should think of him as a fortune-hunter. Her wealth loomed between them as a wall which it were dishonorable even to attempt to scale. His brain was busy phrasing things which he longed to say to her, words seemed to seethe in his head, yet he found himself strangely tongue-tied and awkward. When most of all he desired to appear at his ease, he was most completely uncomfortable and self- conscious.

A servant came with the tea, and he was able to cover to some extent his uneasiness by serving the ladies. When this was done, and he sat nervously stirring his own cup, he found himself searching his mind in vain for those things which it would be safe to say. His brain was full of things which must not be said. He could think only of things which it was not safe to utter; and his discomfiture increased as he saw Miss Morison watching him with a half-veiled smile.

“By the way,” she said at length, when the silence was becoming too marked, “I fulfilled your request.”

“My request?” he echoed, unable to remember that he had made any.

“Yes. Have you forgotten that you came to ask me”–

He put out his hand impulsively.

“Please don’t!” he interrupted. “It is bad enough to remember what an unmitigated idiot I was without the humiliation of thinking that you remember it too.”

“I remember,” she responded, with a sparkle in her eye, “that you did not seem to relish the mission on which you were sent. However, I accepted the intention, and I have promised the men a continuance of their stipends.” Her face grew suddenly grave, and she added: “I can’t joke about it, though. I really did it because Cousin Anna would have wished it.”

They were silent now because they had come so near a solemn subject that neither of them cared to speak. The thoughts of Maurice went back to the day he had come to do the errand of Father Frontford, and his cheek grew hot.

“I hope you will believe,” he said eagerly, “that I had really no idea of how very ill your cousin was. She seemed so well when I saw her that it was all unreal to me. I wish I could tell you how sorry I have been for you. I have thought of you.”

She raised her eyes to his, and they exchanged a look in which there was more than sympathy. Maurice felt her glance so deeply that for the moment he forgot all else. Obstacles no longer existed. He was looking into the eyes of the woman he loved, and thrilling as if her heart was questioning his. It seemed to him that her very self was demanding how deep and how true had been his thought of her in her time of sorrow. He bent forward, sounding her gaze with his, trying to convey all the unspoken words which jostled in his brain. Her eyes fell before his burning look, and her head drooped. The room was darkening with the coming dusk, and they sat at some distance from the others. He laid his hand on hers.

“Berenice!” he whispered.

She rose as if she had not noted.

“Don’t you think it is time for lights, grandmother?” she said in a voice so unemotional that it sent a chill to his heart.

“It is certainly time for us to be going home,” Mrs. Staggchase interposed, rising in her turn.

And far into the night Maurice Wynne vexed his soul with vain endeavors to decide what Berenice meant by her treatment of him.


Hamlet, iv. 7.

The grief which Philip felt over the apostasy of Maurice overshadowed for a time every other feeling. He sorrowed for his friend, praying and yearning, searching his heart to discover whether his own influence or example had helped to bring about this lamentable fall; he turned over in his mind plans for bringing the wanderer back to the fold; he ceased to think about the coming election, and thought of his ill-starred love hardly otherwise than as a possible sin which had helped perhaps to lead to this catastrophe.

Affection between two men is much more likely to be mutual than that between two women. Men are more generally frank in their likes and dislikes, they are as a rule more accustomed to feel at liberty to be open and to please themselves in their familiarities; and it seems to be true that men are more constant in friendship, as women are said to be more constant in love. Affection between women, moreover, is apt to be founded upon circumstance, while that between men is more often a matter of character.

The fondness of Philip and Maurice for each other was of long standing; it had arisen out of the mutual needs of their natures, and was part of their growth. Philip was the one most dependent upon his friend, however, and now he felt as if he were torn away from his chief support. He reasoned with himself that he had been letting affection for his friend come between him and Heaven; he tried to feel that Providence had interfered to break down his idol; yet to all this he could not but answer that Maurice had been always a help, and that it was impossible to believe that Providence would accomplish his good by the hurt of his benefactor. He did assure himself that his suffering was the will of a higher power, and as such to be acquiesced in and improved to his spiritual good. If the voice of his secret heart, that inner self from which we hide our faces and whose words we so obstinately refuse to hear, cried out against the cruelty of this discipline, he but closed his ears more resolutely. To listen would be to yield to temptation. He would not see Maurice; he hardly permitted himself to read his friend’s letters. He answered these notes by fervid appeals to the wanderer to return to the fold, to be reconciled with the church, to take up again the priesthood he had discarded. Hard as it was, he still strove for what he felt to be the other’s lasting good.

Lent ended, and the gladness of Easter came upon the land; the spring showed traces of its secret presence by a thousand intangible and delicate signs in sky, and air, and earth: there was everywhere a stir and a quickening, a blitheness which belongs to the vernal season only. Philip felt all these things by the growing sharpness of the contrast between his mood and that of the world without. His melancholy and unrest seemed to him to grow every day more intense and unbearable.

That Father Frontford did not more fully realize Philip’s condition was probably due to the near approach of the election. As the time for the convention drew near, the supporters of the rival candidates redoubled their exertions; there was hurrying to and fro, writing of letters and continued consultation, all of which inevitably distracted the attention of the Father. He did perceive, however, that Philip was troubled, and nothing could have been more tender or considerate than his attitude. He did not talk to Ashe about Maurice, but he contrived to make his deacon understand that no blame was attached to him for the apostasy of Wynne. Philip found a new affection for the Father springing in his heart, so soothing, so winning was the sympathy of the Superior.

The days passed on until the convention actually assembled. Philip was feverishly anxious; yet he persistently assured himself that he had no doubt in regard to the result. He felt that the end had been accomplished by the work which had already been done; and the convention itself seemed to him somewhat unreal and unmeaning. It had in his mind not much more than the function of announcing a result which he felt to have been arrived at already in the canvassing of lists of delegates in which he had taken part at Mrs. Wilson’s. Until the thing was formally announced, however, it was impossible to be at ease.

The first day of the convention was mainly one of organization and of preparation. Business was disposed of and all made ready for the election of the morrow. Philip went into the convention in the hour of recreation. He tried to be interested in matters which he assured himself were of real importance; yet he found his memory dwelling on Maurice and the times they had talked of this convention. Even his efforts to fix his thoughts on the election itself could not drive his friend from his mind. He walked home at last, saying passionately that he had ceased to care for the church, for its welfare, its fate; that he had cared only for his own selfish desires and interests. He looked back upon the convention which he had left, and saw mentally a picture of men who seemed strange and remote, concerned with matters which he did not understand, in which he had no interest. He felt completely out of key with everything; he longed for Maurice with unspeakable pain. He had rested on Maurice. In every mental crisis he had depended upon finding his friend at hand, sympathetic, strong, responsive; he had come to be as one unable to stand alone. It seemed impossible for him to go on longer without seeing his fellow, his friend, his confidant, his support. The convention and the Clergy House alike became misty and accidental in comparison with his own desperate need of Maurice.

A couple of blocks from the House he was joined by a fellow deacon.

“I say, Ashe,” was the other’s greeting, “did you ever know anything so unfortunate as that Wilson letter?”

Philip turned upon him an uncomprehending face.

“What is the Wilson letter?” he inquired absently.

“What? Don’t you know about it? I saw you at the convention.”

“I was there a little while; but there was nothing said about a letter, that I heard.”

“Oh, there has been nothing said about it in the convention, but they say it will turn the scale.”

“But what is it?”

“It’s a letter Mrs. Wilson–Mrs. Chauncy Wilson, you know–you must know who she is?”

“Yes; I know her.”

“Well, this is a letter that she wrote to a rector in the western part of the State,–his name was Briggs or Biggs, or something of that kind. She said that if he didn’t vote for Father Frontford she could get him out of his parish.”

“What!” exclaimed Philip. “She couldn’t have written such a thing!”

“There’s a fac-simile of it in the hands of every member of the convention.”

“But how did it get out?”

“They say,” answered the other, eager to impart his information, “that a man named Rangely had it printed, and sent it around. I don’t know who he is, but he’s a newspaper man, I believe.”

“I know who he is,” Philip returned, “but I thought he was a friend of Mrs. Wilson. I’ve seen him at her house. How did he get the letter?”

“I’m sure I don’t know; but he had it. He’s written a circular to go with it. He says that that is the way the friends of Father Frontford are trying to secure the election. There is a great deal of feeling about it.”

“But will it make much difference?”

“They say that it will turn the scale. There are a number of men who were in doubt, and this is likely to be enough to insure Mr. Strathmore’s election.”

“What a disgraceful trick!” Philip cried indignantly. “Father Frontford isn’t responsible for what Mrs. Wilson did. Besides, it doesn’t change the real facts of the case. It doesn’t make Father Frontford any the less the right man.”

“Of course it doesn’t,” was the reply. “But I’ve been talking with my uncle. He’s a delegate from Springfield. He says that he’s sure it will get Mr. Strathmore elected.”

The news gave Philip a shock, but it seemed impossible that a trivial, outside trick like this could alter the conscientious vote of the candidates. He was uneasy, but he seemed to have lost all vital care about the election, and even this disconcerting event did not greatly change his feeling. He reproached himself that he cared so little; yet his personal misery so absorbed him that his thoughts wandered even from this new cause for self-reproach.

After supper that night he was summoned to the Father Superior.

“I wish you to do an errand for me,” Father Frontford said. “I presume that you have heard of the publication of Mrs. Wilson’s letter. It may do harm, and whatever happens I want her to know that I do not blame her. She acted unwisely, no doubt; but her intention was good. Besides, I really became responsible when I trusted so much to her judgment. I shall be happier if I know that she is not thinking that I feel disposed to be vexed with her.”

The tone in which this was said was too sincere for Philip to doubt that the Father uttered his true feeling. He looked into the face of the other, and was struck by the complete weariness, almost exhaustion, which marked it. He went on his way haunted by those deep-set eyes, so full of pain, of fatigue, and, it seemed to Philip, of self-reproach.

Mrs. Wilson was not at home, so that Philip had only to leave the note. He turned back, crossing the Public Garden in the soft evening. Overhead was the mysterious darkness, quivering with stars. The air was full of suggestions of advancing spring. He felt in his veins an unreasonable restlessness, a stirring as of sap in the tree, a longing for that which he could not define. He heard around him gay voices and laughter, for the night was warm, and people were sitting about on the benches or strolling along the walks. He began to examine the groups he passed, looking with a curious eye at the couples sitting side by side in friendly or in loving companionship. He felt so utterly alone, and all these about him were mated. The tones of women sounded soft and sweet in his ear. Stray verses of Canticles began to float through his mind as wisps of vapor drift across the sky before the fog comes in from the sea. He repeated the collect for the day, and through it all he was thinking that it was possible to walk past the house of Mrs. Fenton. The difference in the time of his reaching the Clergy House would not be so great as to attract notice; he might see her shadow on the curtain; it was not probable, of course, but it was possible; in any case, he should feel near to her. He walked more quickly, and as he did so he heard the notes of a guitar, and then the sound of a girl singing. It was only the hard, coarse voice of a street-singer, and the language was Italian. He did not understand the words, but the music was seductive, the night of spring, star-lit and fragrant with intangible odors, quickened his sense. Constantly recurring in the song, as if set there for his ear, he understood the magic word “_amore, amore_” strung like beads down the necklace warm on a girl’s bosom. Surely he had a right to be human. All the world had leave to love. He had given Mrs. Fenton up; she was only a memory; he should never speak to her again; it could not be wrong simply to walk past her house. He had lost even his friend; if this poor act were a comfort, it surely was not sin. “_Amore–amore_,” sang the Italian girl over there in the warm, palpitating night. He had consecrated his love as an offering on the altar; surely he need not therefore deny it.

He had gained Beacon Street, and was walking rapidly, his cheeks hot and flushed, his heart on fire. Far down a neighboring street he heard the approach of a band of the Salvation Army. They were singing shrilly, with beating of tambourines and clanging of cymbals, a vulgar, raucous tune, redolent of animal vigor and of coarse passions, a tune as unholy as the rites of a pagan festival. Ashe stood still as with flaring torches they drew nearer. The blare of the brass, the vibrant, tingling clangor of the cymbals, the high, penetrating voices of the women, the barbaric rhythm of the air, made him in his sensitive mood tremble like a tense string. He shivered with excitement, nervous tears coming into his eyes so thickly that he turned away blinded, and stumbled against a man who was passing.

“My good brother,” exclaimed a rich, Irish voice, jovial, yet not without dignity, “you don’t see where you are going.”

Philip recognized instantly the tones of the priest whom he had met at the North End; and without even apologizing he answered with an overwhelming sense of how true were the words in a figurative sense:–

“No, I cannot see.”

The other was evidently impressed by the manner in which the reply was given, for instead of passing on he stopped and examined Ashe closely.

“Can I do anything for you?” he asked.

“Providence has sent you to me, I think,” Philip returned. Then he put his hand on the arm of the stranger, bending forward in his eagerness. “Where do you live?” he asked. “May I come to see you to-morrow afternoon? It may be that you can tell me where I am going.”


Merchant of Venice, iii. 2.

However much or little the ill-starred letter of Mrs. Wilson may have had to do with it, the fact was that both houses of the convention elected Mr. Strathmore by majorities sufficiently large to satisfy even his friends. The lay delegates were more generally in his favor than the clergy, which circumstance gave for a time some shadowy hope to the high-church party that the House of Bishops might refuse to confirm the election; but whatever consolation was derived from such an expectation was of short duration. The election was ratified, and almost immediately preparations were begun for the consecration of the new bishop.

Father Frontford remarked to an interviewer at the close of the convention that “it was not the least happy of the incidents of the election that Mr. Strathmore had been chosen by a majority so decided, since it indicated clearly the wishes of the church;” and he used his influence to prevent any attempt to induce the House of Bishops to oppose the choice of the convention. As soon as the matter was settled he called upon Mr. Strathmore and offered his congratulations in person.

“It is true that I would have prevented your election had I been able,” he said frankly; “but that was entirely a question of church polity. I hardly need say how complete is my confidence in your sincerity and your ability.”

“Brother,” Mr. Strathmore replied, with that smile whose charm no man could resist, “I thank you for coming, and I thank you for your generous words. One thing we may be sure of and be grateful to God for. The church is certainly too great and too stable to be shaken by the mistakes of any one man. If we differ sometimes about the best way of showing it outwardly, we at least are one in wishing the best interests of religion and of humanity.”

Father Frontford had had some difficulty in soothing Mrs. Wilson after the election. She declared vehemently that the House of Bishops should not confirm Mr. Strathmore.

“I will go to New York myself,” she announced. “I know I can manage the Metropolitan. If he’s on our side we can prevent that infidel Strathmore from getting a majority.”

It is possible that Father Frontford, with all his decision, might have been unable to prevent some demonstration, but Dr. Wilson quietly remarked to his wife:–

“Elsie, we’ve had enough of this bishop racket. I’m devilish tired of the whole thing, and I wish you’d find a new amusement.”

“But, Chauncy,” she responded, “think how maddening it is to be beaten! And as for that Fred Rangely, I could dig out his eyes and pour in hot lead!”

Wilson chuckled gleefully.

“You played your private theatricals just a little prematurely. It was devilish clever of him to get back at you that way; but that letter has made newspaper talk enough about you, and you’d better drop church politics. Isn’t it time to get your stud into shape for the summer?”

Elsie shrugged her shoulders.

“I don’t know. I hate to give it up while there’s a fighting chance. The campaign has been a lot of fun. However, I suppose you are right. You have a dreadfully aggravating way of being. Besides, I am pretty tired of parsons, and horses wear better.”

She therefore managed to secure a visiting English duke with a characteristically shady reputation, gave the most brilliant dinner of the season in his honor, and retired to her country place in a blaze of glory; finding some consolation for all her disappointments in the purchase of a couple of new racers with pedigrees far longer than that of the duke.

Easter came that year almost at its earliest, and it was therefore found possible to have the consecration of the new bishop in June. To it were assembled all the dignitaries of the church. Boston for a couple of days overflowed with men in ecclesiastical garb; and if the general public was not deeply stirred by the importance of the event, all those connected with it were full of interest and excitement.

Mrs. Wilson surprised her friends by returning to town and reopening her house for the consecration week. She announced to her husband her intention of doing this as they sat in the library at their country place while Dr. Wilson smoked his final pipe for the night. They had been dining out, and had driven home in the moonlight, chatting of the people they had seen and the gossip they had heard. Elsie was in high spirits, amusing her husband by her satirical remarks. At last she said:–

“I hope, Chauncy, you won’t mind if I go off for a week.”

“Off for a week? Where are you going?”

“Into town to open the house for the consecration of the great Bishop Strathmore.”

“Well,” her husband said, laughing, “I like your grit. If you can’t win, you won’t show the white feather.”

She laughed in turn, as gleefully and as musically as a child.

“I’m going for revenge.”

“Oh, that’s it. Is Rangely to die?”

“Pooh, it isn’t Rangely. He’s too insignificant. I can snub him any time. It’s better fun than that.”

“Well, let’s hear.”

“You know that Marion Delegass is to end her season with a week in Boston.”

“Well? You are not going to Boston to see her, are you? You’ve seen her in Paris and New York enough to last, I should think.”

“Oh, no; I’m going to meet her.”

“Marion Delegass, the most notoriously disreputable actress even on the French stage? Well, she’ll be a change from your parsons.”

“Luckily her last week is the week of the consecration of the heathen.”

“Is she to take part?”

“Don’t be flippant. I am to give Mlle. Delegass a luncheon. I’ve arranged it by letter. By one of the most curious coincidences in the world it comes on the very day of the consecration.”

“That is amusing, but I don’t see that it’s much of a revenge.”

“No?” Elsie responded demurely, casting down her eyes. “I am so sorry that Mrs. Strathmore can’t come.”

“Mrs. Strathmore? You didn’t ask her!”

“Why, of course, Chauncy, I wanted to show that I hadn’t any ill feeling against the family of my bishop.”

“To meet Marion Delegass?”

“Of course. I thought it would liven Mrs. Strathmore up a little. She always reminded me of water-gruel with not enough salt in it.”

Dr. Wilson burst into a roar of laughter, leaning back in his chair and slapping his knee.

“Marion Delegass! Why she’s left more husbands and lovers behind her than a sailor has wives! Marion Delegass and that prig in petticoats! Well, Elsie, you do beat the devil!”

“Am I to understand that you know His Satanic Majesty well enough to speak with authority?” she laughed. “What do you think now of my revenge?”

“I don’t exactly see where the revenge comes in. She won’t come to the lunch.”

“Come? Oh, no; thank Heaven, she won’t come. She’d be like a death’s head in a punch-bowl. She won’t come, but she’ll tell that she was invited. She’ll be too furious not to tell; and everybody will know that I asked her. That’s all I care about.”

Wilson laughed again.

“Well,” he said again, “you are the cheekiest and the most amusing woman in town. You’ll shock all your relations, but they must be getting hardened to that by this time.”

Whether the relatives were on this occasion more or less shocked than upon others was not a question to which Elsie devoted any especial thought. She gave her luncheon, and all the world knew that she had invited Mrs. Strathmore to meet Marion Delegass on the day of the consecration. Mrs. Strathmore was so enraged that she talked flames and fury, even going so far as to wonder whether there were not some possibility of excommunication; so that her tormentor was enchanted with the success of her revenge.

The consecration took place on a beautiful June day, and was as imposing a function in its line as Boston had ever seen. Trinity was crowded to overflowing, and if the ceremony was less imposing than would have been the induction of a Catholic bishop, it was impressive and dignified. The sunlight filtering through the windows of stained glass splashed fantastic colors over the long surpliced train which wound through the aisles down to the chancel, singing processionals of joyous hope; the air was full of the sense of solemn meaning; the organ pealed; the noble words of the fine old ritual spoke to the hearts of the hearers, and carried their message of a faith which took hold upon the unseen. Above all the circumstance, the form, the conventions, the creeds, rose the spirit of the worshipers, uplifted by the thrilling realization of the outpouring of the soul of humanity before the unknown eternal.

Maurice had accompanied Mrs. Staggchase and Miss Morison to the ceremony. It had been his impulse not to go, but his cousin urged it, and it needed little to induce him to go to any place where Berenice was, even though it were a church. He went with some secret misgiving lest the service should move him more than he wished; but to his satisfaction he found that while he felt aesthetic pleasure, he was inclined to be critical about the doctrine of the ritual. His satisfaction, he reflected, would have been thought amusing by Mrs. Staggchase; but it at least assured him that he had not been mistaken in his mental attitude toward the creed he had discarded.

The thing which most moved him was the sight of Philip among the surpliced deacons in the procession. Philip’s face seemed to him thinner and paler than of old; he blamed himself that he had not disregarded his friend’s injunction, and insisted upon seeing him. To his repeated requests Philip had returned answer that he could not bear the meeting. Maurice had come at length to feel something almost of resentment at the wall which this prohibition put between them; but to- day, seeing the white countenance, he experienced a pang of deep self- reproach. He reflected how sharply his defection must have weighed his friend down. He should have tried to comfort him; at least he should have assured Phil that in spite of whatever might come his affection would remain unchanged.

He thought lovingly of the old days when he and Phil were together, and of the plans they had sometimes made for keeping if possible together even after they went out into the world to work. He had the impatience of one who has recently put a doctrine by for the blindness, as it seemed to him, which kept Phil still in the power of the old superstition; but with his friend’s white face, marked with mental suffering, there to soften him, he dwelt little on this, and much on his affection for his friend and fellow.

As Maurice brooded, watching Philip moving slowly down the aisle, Berenice bent forward to take a book from the rack, and her face came between him and his friend. The thought of Philip vanished as a shadow before a sun-burst. He was conscious only of Berenice, sitting there so near him, her dark eyes serious with the solemnity of the occasion, her cheeks tinged with a color so lovely that the lining of a shell or the petals of a rose were poor things with which to compare it. He forgot all else, and lost himself in a delicious, troubled dream of what might be. Surely, surely she must love him! He could not give her up; it was not possible that he should not some day win her. He fixed on her a look so ardent that it seemed to compel her glance to meet his. The flush in her cheek deepened, and he reflected with an exultant thrill that even in the absorption of a time like this he could reach and move her spirit.

The rest of the service was little to Maurice. He heard the music, listened now and then to the words which were being spoken, thought for a moment here and there upon the strangeness that these people should be consecrating Mr. Strathmore and not recognizing in the least that they were assisting at the breaking down of the church; he gave a little reflection to his own interview with the new bishop, unable completely to satisfy himself how far Mr. Strathmore was sincere and how far simply following out a policy; these and other matters floated through his mind, but they were mere trifles on the surface. His real thought was of Berenice, always of Berenice. The fluttered, troubled look which he had seen when his gaze had compelled hers, a look which seemed to him full of confession of things unutterable, full almost of appeal as if she realized that she was betraying a feeling that she feared to own even to herself, this look of a moment so fleeting clocks could hardly have measured it, filled him with a wild, unreasoning bliss. He did not again try to challenge her eyes. He sat in a dream of happiness; a vague, intangible, ecstatic sense that all was well, that the universe was in tune, and that all things were but ministers of his joy.

When the ceremonial was concluded Mrs. Staggchase went home with Berenice to lunch with Mrs. Morison. Maurice put them into their carriage, feeling that he could not let Berenice go out of his sight. He stood on the curbstone watching the carriage as if it had set out on a voyage to regions unknown and far; then smiling at himself with a realization of what he was doing he turned back to go home himself. As he did so he came face to face with Philip.


Measure for Measure, iv. I

The mind of Philip Ashe had not become more quiet as time went on, and the day of the consecration found him hesitating between his old life and a new one. Ever since the chance encounter with the Irish priest he had been going almost every afternoon to talk with this new friend, and one by one he had found his doubts about the supremacy of the Roman church fading away. Ashe was of a nature which must rely upon another, and since he was shut off from the companionship of Wynne it was inevitable that he should lean upon this great, hearty, healthy man, who with the possibility of adding a son to the church received him so warmly. Philip’s nature, moreover, inclined him strongly toward a church which exercised absolute authority, and in doctrinal points he found himself surprisingly at one with his teacher. Nothing held him back but the force of habit and a natural hesitancy to break away from the faith which he had professed. Undoubtedly his feeling for Father Frontford counted for much; but the fact, that in the months which had preceded the election the Father Superior had been so much absorbed that intimacy between him and his deacons was impossible, had greatly lessened Philip’s sense of loyalty to him. Very tenderly and wisely the priest led Ashe on, until he was in very truth a Catholic in all but name.

To his ardent, mystical mind, deeply responsive to the ritual of the older church, the ceremonies of the consecration seemed poor and thin. He craved symbolism and richly suggestive rites. He had been more than once in these latter days to the services of the Catholics, and his imagination came more and more to demand the embodiment in form of the aspirations of his soul. He tried to stifle the disappointment which assailed him as the function proceeded, but it was impossible for him not to realize that the ceremonial of his own faith left him cold and unsatisfied. He missed the warm emotional excitement of the music, the incense, the sonorous Latin, the sumptuous robes, and the romantic associations of the mass.

He felt keenly, moreover, that the man who was being to-day installed as the head of the diocese was of tendencies distinctly opposed to his desires. He mingled with disappointment that Father Frontford had not been chosen a genuine conviction that Strathmore would use his influence to carry church forms toward a worship ever simpler and more bare. He could not wholly smother an almost personal resentment against Strathmore, and a consciousness that it would be always impossible for him to regard the newly consecrated bishop with that respect and veneration due to one holding the office. He reflected that the church must itself be tending toward a dangerous liberalism if it were possible for this thing to have come about. He listened dully and confusedly to the service until the time came when the bishop elect made his vows. He heard the strong voice of Strathmore, vibrant, deliberate, penetrating, repeat with slow solemnity the promise of conformity and obedience to the doctrine and worship of the church. The words tingled through the mind of Ashe like an electric shock. To his excited feeling Strathmore was perjuring himself in the name of God, since it was impossible to feel that the new bishop followed or intended to follow either. He experienced a wild impulse to spring to his feet and protest; he wondered if he only of all the persons in this crowded church recognized the shocking irreligion of that vow. He reflected that in the Catholic communion it would have been impossible for popular suffrage to raise to the bishopric a man like this, a heretic and a perjurer.

The service went on, and Philip sat in a sort of dull stupor. He could not think clearly; he was only dreamily conscious of what was going on about him. The music, the prayers, the solemn words were to him so remote from his true self that he seemed to hear them through a veil of distance. He had ceased to have part in this rite; he ceased even to heed it.

Like one who is lost in idle musing, one who concerns himself with trifling thoughts lest he realize too poignantly a bitter actuality, Philip sat in his place, now and then glancing about the great church. Changing his position a little, he saw the face of Mrs. Fenton. He dwelt on it with mingled grief and pain. More and more he became absorbed in gazing, while love and anguish swelled in his heart. He forgot where he was; he saw her only; he felt only her presence in all the throng. His passion seemed to him greater than ever. He did not for an instant think of her as of one who could or would requite his affection; or even as one who belonged to his future life. He was filled with a sense of the completeness of his devotion to her; he felt that he had loved her more than Heaven itself; but he felt also that he was bidding her good-by. He had not definitely said to himself that a change was before him; yet looking at her he felt it. The shadow of an eternal farewell seemed to be over him. He was benumbed with suffering; he drank in her face greedily; he seemed to himself to be imprinting for the last time upon his memory that which was dearer to him than life, yet which he was to see no more.

The service ended at last, and once more the long procession of which he was a part slowly made its way out of the church. Philip found himself in the vestry in the midst of a crowd of ecclesiastics from which he extricated himself with all possible speed; and got once more into the open air. He threaded his way among the groups standing on the sidewalks chatting and hindering him. Suddenly a man turned close to him, and Maurice stood before his face.

“Phil!” he heard the joyful voice of his friend cry. “My dear old Phil, how glad I am to see you!”

The sound was like a charm which breaks a spell. For the instant all else was forgotten in the pleasure of being again with his heart- fellow. He could have flung his arms about the other’s neck and kissed him, so keen was his delight. The doubts and distractions which a moment earlier had bewildered and tortured him vanished before Wynne’s greeting as a mist before a brisk and wholesome wind. He seized the hand held out to him, and clasped it almost convulsively.

“Maurice!” was all that he could say.

“I really ought not to recognize you,” Maurice said, in a great hearty voice which sounded to Philip strangely unfamiliar. “Why in the world have you refused to see me? I assure you I’m not contagious.”

They were close to a group waiting on the sidewalk, and with instinctive shrinking Ashe led the way down the street. Soon they were walking in much the old fashion, and Philip left his friend’s question unanswered until they had gone some distance. Then he turned with a smile not a little wistful.

“Certainly it was not because I did not long to see you,” he said.

Maurice smiled, but Philip sensitively felt a veiled impatience in his tone as he replied:–

“Oh, Phil, if I could only get the ascetic nonsense out of you!”

Ashe could not answer. He could not reprove his friend after the separation–which to him had been so long and so sorrowful, and he had a secret feeling that they were to be more entirely divided. The pair walked in silence a moment, and then Wynne spoke.

“Well, I’ll not talk on forbidden subjects; but, surely, Phil, you are not going to throw me over entirely. I wouldn’t drop you, no matter what happened.”

“I’m not throwing you over,” Philip answered with a choking in his throat. “I would–Oh, Maurice,” he broke out, interrupting himself, “it isn’t for want of caring for you, but if I am ever to help you, I must keep my own faith. I have been so troubled and so–There,” he broke off again, “let us talk of something else.”

He felt that Maurice was studying him carefully.

“Phil, old fellow, you are hysterically incoherent. What’s the matter with you? It can’t be all my going off. Can’t you come home with me, and talk it out?”

Ashe shook his head. The more he was touched and moved by the affection of his friend, the more he shrank from him. This tender comradeship seemed to him the most subtile of temptations. He feared, moreover, lest he might reveal to Maurice too much of what was in his heart.

“Not now,” he said. “I must go home at once.”

“Then I’ll walk along with you,” rejoined the other. “I do wish you’d let me help you. You are evidently all played out physically, and half an eye could see that you’ve something on your mind. Is it the bishop?”

“That has troubled me a good deal,” Ashe returned, feeling a relief in being able to say this truthfully.

“Well, Phil, if you worry yourself sick over what you can’t help, what strength will you have for the things that you can do? I’m glad it isn’t all my going that has brought you to this, for you look positively ill. I wish you’d get sick-leave, and go off a while.”

Ashe shook his head again. He felt that if Maurice went on talking to him he should lose his self-command. He must get away; yet he could not bear to hurt his friend. He turned toward Maurice and held out his hand.

“Dear Maurice,” he said, “don’t be hurt; but I can’t talk with you. I must be alone. I am upset, and not myself. It is not that I don’t trust you, you know; but there are things that a man has to fight out for himself.”

The other stopped, and regarded him closely.

“All right, Phil,” he said. “I understand. If you’ve got a fight with the devil on hand nobody can help you. I only wish I could.”

He wrung the hand of Ashe, and added:

“Good-by. I’m always fond of you, old fellow; and you know that when there is a place that I can help there’s nothing I wouldn’t do for you.”

Ashe tried to answer, but he could not command his voice. He could only return the warm pressure of Wynne’s hand, and then, miserable and hopeless, go on his way to his conflict with the arch fiend.

Once in his chamber Ashe fastened the door, drew down the shades, and lighted the gas. He laid aside his cassock, and loosened his clothing so that his breast lay bare. He took from a drawer a little crucifix of iron. This he placed across the chimney of the gas-burner, and watched it until it was heated. Then he seized it with his fingers, but the stinging pain made him drop it to the floor. He bared his breast, wildly calling aloud to heaven, and flung himself down upon the crucifix, pressing the hot iron to his naked bosom. A fierce shudder convulsed him; he extended his arms in the form of a cross, and with closed eyes lay still an instant. A horrible odor filled the room; great drops of sweat dripped from his forehead; his teeth were set in his lower lip. For a moment he remained motionless; then in uncontrollable agony he writhed over upon his back and fainted.

The return to consciousness was a terrible sensation of misery and weakness. He was heart-sick and racked in body and mind. Feebly he rose, and gathered his scattered senses. Then with trembling he got to his feet. His wound gave him bitter agony, but the bodily pain made him smile. He took from the same drawer a picture of the Madonna, and knelt before it with clasped hands. His doubts, his passion, his self- reproaches, danced like demons before his distracted brain. The troubled, stormy thoughts of his distraught mind merged insensibly into prayers. He put aside the clothing and showed to the Virgin Mother his wounded breast, scarred and bleeding. He looked into her face with murmured words of contrition, of imploring, of faith. A gracious sense of her womanly pity, of her heavenly tenderness, stole soothingly over him. He seemed almost to feel cool hands on his hot forehead; it was as if in a moment more the heavens might open and grant to him the beatific vision. There came over him a wave of joy which was beyond words. The longing of his soul for the woman he loved was merged in the desire of his heart which yearned toward the blessed Virgin Mother. His prayers became more glowing, more ecstatic, until in a rapture of adoration, of bliss, of passion, he fell prostrate before the divine image, crying out with all his soul:–

“Thou ever blessed one! To thee I give myself! ‘O thou, to the arch of whose eyebrow the new moon is a slave,’ receive me, save me!”

He had no sense of incongruity to make the phrase unseemly or ludicrous. It was to him the formal transfer of his deepest allegiance from an earthly love to a heavenly. He had at last found peace.


Othello, iii. 3.

It was Mrs. Wilson who was the immediate means of bringing about an understanding between Maurice and Berenice. Mrs. Wilson was never so occupied that she was not able to attend to any new thing which might turn up, and her interest in the spring races did not prevent her from having a hand in the affairs of the lovers. While she was in town attending to the luncheon for Marion Delegass she dined with Mrs. Staggchase, and Maurice took her down.

“I understand that you are a renegade,” she remarked vivaciously as soon as they were seated. “I wonder you dare look me in the face.”

“Because you are the church?” he demanded.

“Certainly not now that that Strathmore is bishop,” she retorted, tossing her head. “However, I always said that you were too good to be wasted in a cassock.”

“Thank you. What would you say if I made such a reflection on the clergy?”

“Oh, I’ve no patience with the clergy!” she declared. “They bore me to death. There’s that solemn-faced friend of yours, Mr. Ashe–his name ought to be Ashes!–he actually lectured me on my worldliness! _My_ worldliness, if you please, and I working myself to a shadow for the election of Father Frontford!”

“He has imagination, you see,” Maurice suggested, smiling.

“Now you are sneering, Mr. Wynne. I shall talk to the man on the other side.”

She was good as her word, and left Maurice to devote himself to the lady on his right. He had the American adaptability, and a couple of months had sufficed to make him reasonably at ease at a dinner. The continuous delight he felt in his freedom, moreover, inspired him with an inclination to be frank and communicative, so that if he did not talk like the conventional man of the world, he managed not to sit silent. His neighbor to-night was Mrs. Thayer Kent, and he chatted easily with her about the West, where for a couple of years she had been living on a ranch. Something in Mrs. Kent’s talk reminded him of Berenice, and he sighed inwardly that the latter’s mourning prevented her from going out. As if the thought had been spoken aloud, Mrs. Wilson recalled herself to his attention by saying in his ear:–

“It is such a pity Berenice Morison isn’t here. Have you seen her since the Mardi Gras ball?”

“Yes,” he answered, turning quickly, and vexed to feel himself flush. “I saw her yesterday at the consecration.”

“Did you go? How immoral! I stayed at home and gave a luncheon for Marion Delegass.”

“So I heard; but everybody hadn’t such a moral thing as that to do.”

“Oh, no; very likely not. By the way, you have never apologized for deserting me in the middle of the service that night.”

“I had to take care of that girl. She fainted.”

“Oh, you did? Who was she? What did you do with her? However, I don’t care. It’s none of my business. I wonder, though, what sort of a story you’d have told Berenice if she’d been there.”

Wynne was too confused to answer this sally, although he wanted to say something about the cruelty of taking him into the ball-room. His confusion increased Mrs. Wilson’s amusement.

“I think I should like to be in at the death,” she said. “She is coming down to stay with me next week. Come down and make love to her. I won’t tell about the girl you carried out of church in your arms.”

More and more disconcerted and self-conscious, Maurice could only stammer that Mrs. Wilson flattered him if she supposed that Miss Morison would tolerate any love-making on his part.

“You are adorable when you blush like that,” was the reply which he got. “I have almost a mind to set you to make love to me. However, that wouldn’t be fair. I will take it out in seeing you and her. You must surely come down.”

Maurice regarded the invitation as merely part of Mrs. Wilson’s badinage, but in due time it was formally repeated by note. He opened the letter at the breakfast table, and was advised by his cousin to accept.

“Mrs. Wilson,” she commented, “is like a banjo, more exciting than refined, but she isn’t bad-hearted. She has the old Boston blood and traditions behind her.”

“They are sometimes rather far behind,” interpolated Mr. Staggchase dryly. “She wasn’t a Beauchester, you know. However, she has her ancestors safe in their graves so that they can’t escape her.”

Mrs. Staggchase smiled good-naturedly at the little fling at her own family pretensions.

“You are wicked this morning, Fred,” was her reply. “Elsie is something of a sport on the ancestral tree; but she is worth visiting. Berenice Morison is going down there sometime soon. Perhaps she will be there with you, Maurice.”

“I thought,” Mr. Staggchase observed, “that old Mrs. Morison didn’t approve of Mrs. Wilson.”

“Nobody approves of Elsie,” was Mrs. Staggchase’s calm reply. “I’m sure I don’t; but after all she is a sort of cousin of Berenice, and she can’t very well refuse to visit her. Really, there is nothing bad about Elsie. She is startling, and she certainly does things which are bad form. That’s half of it because she married as she did.”

Nothing more was said, and Maurice kept his own counsel in regard to the fact that he knew that Miss Morison was to be his fellow-guest. He was full of wild hopes. He reproached himself that he was wrong to forget that Berenice was rich and he was poor; yet not for all his reproaches could he keep himself from feeling Mrs. Wilson had not seemed to see any insurmountable obstacle to his wooing; that she had appeared rather to be ready to help his suit. He must not, of course, try to win Berenice; yet he was going to Mrs. Wilson’s to meet her, to be with her, to revel in the delicious pleasure of hoping, of fearing, of loving.

The house of the Wilsons at Beverly Farms was on a bluff overlooking the sea. It was reached by a long avenue winding through pines mingled with birches and rowan trees; and stood in a clearing where all the day and all the night the sound of the waves on the cliff answered the whispering of the wind in the pine-tops. The broad piazzas of the house looked out over the sea, and gave views of the islands off shore, the ever-changing water, the beautiful curves of the sea marge, now high with defiant rocks, and now falling into sandy beaches. A level lawn, velvety and green, stretched from the house to the edge of the cliff, with here and there a rustic seat or a century plant stiff and arrogant in its lonely exile from warmer climes.

On this piazza Maurice found himself, just before dinner on the evening of his arrival, walking up and down with Berenice. It was still cool enough to make the exercise grateful.

“It is so delightful to have the weather warm enough to be out of doors without being all bundled up,” she said, looking over the sea, cold green and gray in the declining light.

“The water doesn’t look very warm,” Maurice responded, following her gaze.

“No, it isn’t exactly summer yet,” she replied lightly. “Do you know,” she added, turning to meet his eyes, “I can’t help thinking how different this is from the last time we were together away from Boston.”

“When we were at Brookfield?”


“It is different; more different to me than you can have any idea of. Then I was a cog in a machine; now I am my own master.”

They walked to the end of the piazza, turned, and came down again. They were facing the light now, and her face shone with the pale glow of the declining day. In her black dress, with a soft shawl thrown about her, she was dazzling; and Maurice found it difficult not to take her in his arms then and there.

“It must have been a strange feeling,” she observed thoughtfully, “to know that you were not master of your own movements, but had to do as you were told, whether you approved of it or not.”

“Strange,” he echoed, a sense of slavery coming over him which was far stronger than anything he had felt while the bondage lasted, “it was intolerable!”

“Yet you endured it?” she returned, regarding him curiously.

“Yes, I endured it. In the first place, I thought that it was my duty; and in the second, it was not so hard until I had seen”–

“Well, until you had seen?”–

“Until I had seen you, I was going to say.”

Berenice flushed, and tossed her head.

“You have caught a pretty trick of paying compliments, Mr. Wynne.”

“No,” he answered with gravity, “I have only the mistaken temerity to say the truth.”

She regarded him with a mocking light in her deep, velvety eyes.

“And is it the truth that you have given up your religion because you have seen me?”

Maurice wondered afterward how he looked when she sped this shaft, for he saw her shrink and pale. She even stammered some sort of an apology; but he did not heed it. Although he was sure that he should sooner or later have come to the same conclusion whether he had met Berenice or not, he knew in his secret heart that there was in her words some savor at least of truth. He felt their bitterness to his heart’s core, and could only stand speechless, reproaching her with his glance. If they were true it was cruel for her to say them. He regarded her a moment, and then turned toward the long French window by which they had come out of the house. Berenice recovered herself instantly, and behaved as if nothing had occurred to mar the serenity of their talk.

“Yes,” she said in an even voice, “you are right. It is becoming too cold to stay out here.”

He held open the window for her, and she swept past him with a soft rustle and a faint breath of perfume. He did not follow, but drew the window to behind her and continued his promenade alone until he was summoned to dinner. All his glorious air-castles had fallen in ruins about his feet, and he rated himself as a fool for having come to Beverly Farms to meet this girl who evidently flouted him.

The result of this conversation was to bring Maurice to the resolution to return to town. All the doubts which had been in his mind arose like ghosts ill exorcised, more tangible and more insistent than ever. He realized that he had come here fully persuaded in his secret heart that Miss Morison must love him, and with the hope of winning some proof of it. Now he assured himself that she did not care for him and that he had been a fool to indulge in a dream so absurd. The obstacles which lay between them presented themselves to him in a dismal array. He decided that she could have no respect for him, or she could not have thrown at him the implication that he had apostatized from selfish motives. With all the awful solemnity with which a man deeply in love examines trifles, he recalled her looks and words, deciding that he was to her nothing more than the butt of her light contempt; and secretly wondering when and where he should see her again, he decided to leave her forever.

He announced his determination next morning to his hostess. As he could not well give the real reason for his decision, and had no experience in social finesse, he came off badly when asked why he had come to this sudden decision. He could not equivocate; and when Mrs. Wilson asked him point-blank if Berenice had been treating him badly, he could only take refuge in the reply that it was not for him to criticise what Miss Morison chose to do. He persisted in his resolution to return to Boston, feeling obstinately that he could not with dignity remain where he was while Berenice was there. A man of the world would at once have seen the folly of such a course, but Maurice was not a man of the world.

“Well,” Mrs. Wilson said, after she had argued with him a little, “you have retained the clerical obstinacy, whatever else you’ve given up. I am not in the habit of pressing my guests to stay if they are tired of my society. If you choose to go, of course you will go.”

“Oh, it is not that I am tired of your society,” poor Maurice put in eagerly.

“If I were a man,” his hostess went on, “I never would let a woman see that I minded how she treated me. You’d soon have her coming down from her high horse if you showed her that you didn’t care.”

Maurice flushed painfully. It was impossible for him to talk to Mrs. Wilson about his feeling for Berenice.

“I am afraid that I had better go,” he said, with eyes abased.

She regarded him with a mixture of impatience and amusement struggling in her face.

“By all means go,” she retorted. “I’ll tell Patrick to be at the door in time to take you to the three o’clock train.”

She swept away rather brusquely, leaving him disconsolate and uneasy. He felt that he had bungled matters; but before he had time to consider Berenice appeared, and joined him on the piazza.

“I am sent by Mrs. Wilson,” she announced, “to ask you to stay.”

“You take some pains to clear yourself from the suspicion of having any interest in the matter.”

“‘I am only a messenger,'” she quoted saucily, seating herself on the rail of the piazza in the sunshine, and looking so piquant that Maurice felt resolution and resentment oozing out of his mind with fatal rapidity.

He flushed at her allusion to his ill-considered interview with her, but he could not for his life be half so indignant as he wished to be.

“Apparently an indifferent messenger. You evidently do not care whether I go or I stay.”

“Why should I?”

“Why should Mrs. Wilson?” he retorted, not very well knowing what he was saying.

“Oh, Mrs. Wilson is your hostess. Besides,” Bee went on, a delightful look of mischief coming into her face, “she said that she hated to have her plans interfered with, and that you were so handsome that she liked to have you about.”

Maurice flushed with a strangely mixed sensation of pleased vanity and irritation, and was angry with himself that he could not receive her jesting unmoved. He bowed stiffly.

“I am very sorry,” he returned, “that Mrs. Wilson should be deprived of so beautiful an ornament for her place.”

“Then you will go?” Bee demanded, looking at him with mirthful eyes, a glance which so moved him that he could not face it.

“I see no reason why I should remain.”

“There certainly can be none if you see none. Well, I want to give you something of yours before you leave us.”

She drew from the folds of her handkerchief the little grotesque mask which she had pinned upon her lover’s cassock at the Mardi Gras ball. Maurice flushed hotly at the sight.

“You are determined, Miss Morison, to spare me no humiliation in your power.”

“Humiliation?” she echoed. “Why, I was humiliating myself. Seriously, Mr. Wynne, I have been ashamed of that performance ever since; and I most sincerely beg your pardon. The humiliation is mine entirely.”

“But where in the world,” demanded he, a new thought striking him, “did you get the thing? You know I threw it on the table.”

“Miss Carstair gave it to Mr. Stanford, and I got it from him.”

Maurice came a step nearer.

“Why?” he asked, his voice deepening.

“I–I didn’t like to have him keep it,” Bee murmured, with downcast face and lower tone.

“Why?” he repeated, so much in earnest that his voice was almost threatening.

She was for a moment more confused than ever, but rallying she held out the mask.

“Oh, that I might tease you with it again!” she laughed.

He took the absurd trinket in his hand.

“It is pretty badly dilapidated,” he observed.

“Yes,” she said demurely. “I crushed it in the carriage on the way home from the ball. I–I crumpled it up in my hand.”


“You keep saying ‘why’ over and over to me, Mr. Wynne, as if I were on the witness-stand.”

“Why?” he persisted.

He had forgotten all the doubts which had beset and hindered him, the scruples he had had about wooing, and the fears that she did not love him. He was conscious only that she was there before him and that he loved her; that her downcast looks seemed to encourage him, so that it was impossible to rest until he knew what was really in her mind. The unspoken message which he had somehow intangibly received from her made him forget everything else. He loved her; he loved her, and a wild hope was beating in his heart and seething in his brain. He could not turn back now; he must know. He saw her grow paler as he looked at her, standing so close that his face was bent down almost over her bent head. He felt that her secret, nay, the crown of life itself, was within his grasp if he did not fail now.

“Why?” he asked still again, hardly conscious that he said it, and yet determined that he would win an answer at whatever cost.

She raised her face slowly, shyly; her eyes were shining.

“Because,” she said, hardly above a whisper, “I was determined to convince myself that I hated you. But then”–

Her words faltered, yet he still did not dare to give way to the warm tide which he felt swelling up from his heart. His voice softened almost to the tone of hers.

“But then?”

The crimson stained her beautiful face, and faded.

“I think I–I kissed it,” she murmured, so low that the words were mere phantoms of speech.

He tried to answer, but the words choked in his throat. He sprang forward, and gathered her into his arms. It is an art which even deacons may know by nature.

When the pair came in to luncheon an hour later, Mrs. Wilson looked up at them, and then without question turned to a servant.

“You may tell Patrick that we shan’t need the carriage for the station,” that sagacious woman said coolly.

Maurice was both surprised and touched by the gratification which his engagement gave to his friends. Mrs. Wilson might be expected to take satisfaction, since any woman is likely to approve of any match which she may be allowed to have a hand in promoting; the Staggchases were delighted, and Mrs. Morison received him with a kindness which moved him more than anything else. Mrs. Morison treated him much as if he were her son. She spoke wisely to him about his future, and she had a word of warning on the subject of his attitude toward religion.

“My dear Maurice,” she said, after she had come to call him by that name, “let me give you a caution. The most fanatical belief is less evil than dogmatic denial. If you are really the agnostic you claim to be, your very confession that the truth is too great for human grasp binds you to respect the unknown.”

“But one cannot respect dogmas,” he objected.

“We were not speaking of dogmas,” she responded with sweet and dignified earnestness, “but of the mystery of life and the great unknown that incloses it. The great fault and danger of this age is that it is all for breaking down. It reforms abuses and improves away old errors; but it seems to forget the need of providing something to take the place of what it clears away. Men can no more live without a belief than without air.”

“But it is hard to have patience with what one sees to be false.”

“What one believes to be false, you mean. It isn’t easy to have patience with those who hold to theories that we’ve laid by; but surely it is impossible not to respect the spirit in which any honest soul sincerely believes.”

“Yes,” Maurice assented, somewhat doubtfully; “but it is so hard to have patience with creeds that are entirely outworn.”

The old lady smiled and shook her head.

“Again I have to say ‘which seem to you outworn.’ A creed is never really outworn so long as a single man sincerely believes in it. However, you may have as little patience as you like with them if you will only remember that after all the creed itself is nothing, while the attitude of the mind to truth is everything. If you respect conviction, that is all I ask.”

Mrs. Staggchase at another time had also an ethical word for him. Maurice was deeply moved by the fact that Philip had gone into the Catholic church and entered a monastery at Montreal. Like his friend, Ashe had left the Clergy House as soon as he had come to the decision to which his doubts led. He had seen Maurice, and had talked to him unreservedly of his faith and of his plans. It was idle to attempt to move him; and it was after bidding the proselyte good-by that Maurice was talking of him to Mrs. Staggchase, and lamenting what occurred.

“My dear fellow,” she observed in her faintly satirical manner, “I know that I’m growing old, because whereas my convictions used to be all right and my actions all wrong, now my actions are right enough, but my convictions have all evaporated. Mr. Ashe is still young enough to need convictions, and the more rigid they are the more contented he’ll be.”

“But with his training, to turn out in this way,” responded Maurice. “It’s amazing. Think of a New England Puritan turned Catholic!”

“On the contrary, it is the most natural thing in the world. His Puritan training is what has made him a Catholic.”

Maurice thought a moment in silence.

“I suppose,” he said at length, “that in this age there are only two things possible for a thinking man. One must go over to Rome and rest on authority, or choose to use his reason, and be an agnostic.”

Mrs. Staggchase regarded him with a smile which made him flush a little.

“‘No doubt but ye are the people,'” she quoted, “‘wisdom shall die with you.’ Yet I have known persons really of intellectual respectability who haven’t found it necessary to do either.”

He was too wise to answer her. He remembered that it was time to keep an appointment with Berenice, and he smiled with the air of one too happy to be ruffled.

“I suppose,” he remarked, as he rose to go, “that if I would give you the chance you would easily prove that Phil and I both are merely Puritans more or less disguised!”

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