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´╗┐Title: Phyllis of Philistia
Author: Moore, Frank Frankfort, 1855-1931
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Phyllis of Philistia" ***

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PHYLLIS OF PHILISTIA

By Frank Frankfort Moore



CHAPTER I.

AN ASTRONOMER WITHOUT A TELESCOPE.

"After all," said Mr. Ayrton, "what is marriage?"

"Ah!" sighed Phyllis. She knew that her father had become possessed of
a phrase, and that he was anxious to flutter it before her to see how it
went. He was a connoisseur in the bric-a-brac of phrases.

"Marriage means all your eggs in one basket," said he.

"Ah!" sighed Phyllis once more. She wondered if her father really
thought that she would be comforted in her great grief by a phrase. She
did not want to know how marriage might be defined. She knew that
all definitions are indefinite. She knew that in the case of marriage
everything depends upon the definer and the occasion.

"So you see there is no immediate cause to grieve, my dear," resumed her
father.

She did not quite see that this was the logical conclusion of the whole
matter; but that was possibly because she was born a woman, and felt
that marriage is to a woman what a keel is to a ship.

"I think there is a very good cause to grieve when we find a man like
George Holland turning deliberately round from truth to falsehood," said
Phyllis sternly.

"And what's worse, running a very good chance of losing his living,"
remarked the father. "Of course it will have to be proved that Moses and
Abraham and David and the rest of them were not what he says they
were; and it strikes me that all the bench of bishops, and a royal
commissioner or two thrown in, would have considerable difficulty in
doing that nowadays."

"What! You take his part, papa?" she cried, starting up. "You take his
part? You think I was wrong to tell him--what I did tell him?"

"I don't take his part, my dear," said Mr. Ayrton. "I think that he's a
bit of a fool to run his head into a hornet's nest because he has come
to the conclusion that Abraham's code of morality was a trifle shaky,
and that Samson was a shameless libertine. Great Heavens! has the man
got no notion of the perspective of history?"

"Perspective? History? It's the Bible, papa!"

Indignation was in Phyllis' eyes, but there was a reverential tone in
her voice. Her father looked at her--listened to her. In the pause he
thought:

"Good Heavens! What sort of a man is George Holland, who is ready to
relinquish the love and loveliness of that girl, simply because he
thinks poorly of the patriarchs?"

"He attacks the Bible, papa," resumed Phyllis gravely. "What horrible
things he said about Ruth!"

"Ah, yes, Ruth--the heroine of the harvest festival," said her father.
"Ah, he might have left us our Ruth. Besides, she was a woman. Heavens
above! is there no chivalry remaining among men?"

"Ah, if it was only chivalry! But--the Bible!"

"Quite so--the--yes, to be sure. But don't you think you may take the
Bible too seriously, Phyllis?"

"Oh, papa! too seriously?"

"Why not? That's George Holland's mistake, I fear. Why should he work
himself to a fury over the peccadillos of the patriarchs? The principle
of the statute of limitations should be applied to such cases. If the
world, and the colleges of theology, have dealt lightly with Samson and
David and Abraham and Jacob and the rest of them for some thousands of
years, why should George Holland rake up things against them, and that,
too, on very doubtful evidence? But I should be the last person in the
world to complain of the course which he has seen fit to adopt, since
it has left you with me a little longer, my dearest child. I did not,
of course, oppose your engagement, but I have often asked myself what I
should do without you? How should I ever work up my facts, or, what
is more important, my quotations, in your absence, Phyllis? On some
questions, my dear, you are a veritable Blue-book--yes, an _edition de
luxe_ of a Blue-book."

"And I meant to be so useful to him as well," said Phyllis, taking her
father's praises more demurely than she had taken his phrases. "I meant
to help him in his work."

"Ah, what a fool the man is! How could any man in his senses give up a
thing of flesh and blood like you, for the sake of proving or trying
to prove, that some people who lived five or six thousand years ago--if
they ever lived at all--would have rendered themselves liable to
imprisonment, without the option of a fine, if they lived in England
since the passing of certain laws--recent laws, too, we must remember!"

"Papa!"

"Anyhow, you have done with him, my dear. A man who can't see that crime
is really a question of temperament, and sin invariably a question of
geography--well, we'll say no more about it. At what hour did you say he
was coming?"

"Four. I don't think I shall break down."

"Break down? Why on earth should you break down? You have a mind to
know, and you know your own mind. That's everything. But of course
you've had no experience of matters of this sort. He was your first real
lover?"

Phyllis' face became crimson. She retained sufficient presence of mind,
however, to make a little fuss with the window-blind before letting it
down. Her father stared at her for a moment, and there was rather a long
pause before he laughed.

"I said 'real lover,' my dear," he remarked. "The real lover is the one
who talks definitely about dates and the house agent's commission. As a
rule the real lover does not make love. True love is born, not made. But
you--Heavens above! perhaps I did an injustice to you--to you and to the
men. Maybe you're not such a tyro after all, Phyllis."

Phyllis gave a very pretty little laugh--such a laugh as would have
convinced any man but a father--perhaps, indeed, some fathers--that she
was not without experience. Suddenly she became grave. Her father never
loved her so dearly as when that little laugh was flying over her
face, leaving its living footprints at the corners of her eyes, at the
exquisite curve of her mouth. It relieved her from the suspicion of
priggishness to which, now and again, her grave moods and appropriate
words laid her open. She was not so proper, after all, her father now
felt; she was a girl with the experiences of a girl who has tempted men
and seen what came of it.

She spoke:

"It is a very serious thing, giving a man your promise and then----"

"Then finding that your duty to him--to him, mind--forces you to tell
him that you cannot carry out that promise," said her father. "Yes, it
is a very serious thing, but not so serious as carrying out that promise
would be if you had even the least little feeling that at the end of
three months he was not a better man than you suspected he was at the
beginning. There's a bright side to everything, even a honeymoon; but
the reason that a honeymoon is so frequently a failure is because the
man is bound to be found out by his wife inside the month. It is better
that you found out now, than later on, that you could not possibly
be happy with a man who spoke slightingly of the patriarchs and their
wives. Now I'll leave you, with confidence that you will be able to
explain matters to Mr. Holland."

"What! you won't be here?"

Dismay was in the girl's face as she spoke. She had clearly looked for
the moral support of her father's presence while she would be making her
explanation to the man whom she had, a few months before, promised to
marry, but whom she had found it necessary to dismiss by letter, owing
to her want of sympathy in some of his recent utterances.

"You won't be here?"

"No; I have unfortunately an engagement just at that hour, Phyllis,"
replied Mr. Ayrton. "But do you really think there is any need for me
to be here? Personally, I fancy that my presence would only tend to
complicate matters. Your own feeling, your own woman's instinct, will
enable you to explain--well, all that needs explanation. I have more
confidence in your capacity to explain since you gave that pretty little
laugh just now. Experience--ah, the experience of a girl such as you
are, suggests an astronomer without a telescope. Still, there were
astronomers before there were telescopes; and so I leave you, my beloved
child--ah, my own child once again! No cold hand of a lover is now
between us."

It was not until he was some distance down Piccadilly that it occurred
to him that he should have pictured the lover with a warm hand; and
that omission on his part caused him a greater amount of irritation than
anyone who was unaware of his skill in phrase-making could have thought
possible to arise from a lapse apparently so trifling.

It was not until he had reached the Acropolis and had referred, in the
hearing of the most eminently dull of the many distinguished members
of that club, to the possibility of a girl's experiences of man being
likened to an astronomer without a telescope, that he felt himself
again.

The dull distinguished man had smiled.



CHAPTER II.

HE KNEW THAT IT WAS A TROUBLESOME PROCESS, BECOMING A GOOD CLERGYMAN, SO
HE DETERMINED TO BECOME A GOOD PREACHER INSTEAD.

Phyllis sat alone in one of the drawing rooms, waiting until the hour of
four should arrive and bring into her presence the Rev. George Holland,
to plead his cause to her--to plead to be returned to her favor. He had
written to her to say that he would make such an attempt.

She had looked on him with favor for several months--with especial
favor for three months, for three months had just passed since she had
promised to marry him, believing that to be the wife of a clergyman
who, though still young, had two curates to do the rough work for
him--clerical charwomen, so to speak--would make her the happiest of
womankind. Mr. Holland was rector of St. Chad's, Battenberg Square, and
he was thought very highly of even by his own curates, who intoned all
the commonplace, everyday prayers in the liturgy for him, leaving him
to do all the high-class ones, and to repeat the Commandments. (A
rector cannot be expected to do journeyman's work, as it were; and it
is understood that a bishop will only be asked to intone three short
prayers, those from behind a barrier, too; an archbishop refuses to do
more than pronounce the benediction.)

The Rev. George Holland was a good-looking man of perhaps a year or
two over thirty. He did not come of a very good family--a fact which
probably accounted for his cleverness at Oxford and in the world. He was
a Fellow of his college, though he had not been appointed rector of
St. Chad's for this reason. The appointment, as is well known (in the
Church, at any rate), is the gift of the Earl of Earlscourt, and it so
happened that, when at college together, George Holland had saved the
young man who a year or two afterward became Earl of Earlscourt from
a very great misfortune. The facts of the case were these: Tommy
Trebovoir, as he was then, had made up his mind to marry a lady whose
piquant style of beauty made the tobacconist's shop where she served the
most popular in town. By the exercise of a great deal of diplomacy and
the expenditure of a little money, Mr. Holland brought about a
match between her and quite another man--a man who was not even on
a subsidiary path to a peerage, and whose only connection with the
university was due to his hiring out horses to those whom he called the
"young gents." Tommy was so indignant with his friend for the part he
had played in this transaction he ceased to speak to him, and went the
length of openly insulting him. Six years afterward, when he had become
Earl of Earlscourt, and had espoused the daughter of a duke,--a lady who
was greatly interested in the advance of temperance,--he had presented
George Holland with the living at St. Chad's.

People then said that Lord Earlscourt was a lesser fool than some of his
acts suggested. Others said that the Rev. George Holland had never been
a fool, though he had been a Fellow of his college.

They were right. George Holland knew that it was a troublesome process
becoming a good clergyman, so he determined to become a good preacher
instead. In the course of a year he had become probably the best-known
preacher (legitimate, not Dissenting) in London, and that, too,
without annoying the church-wardens of St. Chad's by drawing crowds of
undesirable listeners to crush their way into the proprietary sittings,
and to join in the singing and responses, and to do other undesirable
acts. No, he only drew to the church the friends of the said holders,
whose contributions to the offertory were exemplary.

His popularity within a certain circle was great; but, as Lord
Earlscourt was heard to say, "He never played to the pit."

He was invited to speak to a resolution at a Mansion House meeting to
express indignation at the maintenance of the opium traffic in China.

He was also invited by the Countess of Earlscourt to appear on the
platform to meet the deputation of Chinese who represented the city
meeting held at Pekin in favor of local option in England; for the
great national voice of China had pronounced in favor of local option in
England.

Shortly afterward he met Phyllis Ayrton, and had asked her to marry him,
and she had consented.

And now Phyllis was awaiting his coming to her, in order that he might
learn from her own lips what he had already learned from the letter
which he had received from her the day before; namely, that she found
it necessary for her own peace of mind to break off her engagement with
him.

Phyllis Ayrton had felt for some months that it would be a great
privilege for any woman to become the wife of a clergyman. Like many
other girls who have a good deal of time for thought,--thought about
themselves, their surroundings, and the world in general,--she had
certain yearnings after a career. But she had lived all her life in
Philistia, and considered it to be very well adapted as a place of abode
for a proper-minded young woman; in fact, she could not imagine any
proper-minded young woman living under any other form of government than
that which found acceptance in Philistia. She had no yearning to
startle her neighbors. With a large number of young women, the idea that
startling one's neighbors is a career by itself seems to prevail just at
present; but Phyllis had no taste in this direction. Writing a book
and riding a bicycle were alike outside her calculations of a scheme of
life. Hospital nursing was nothing that she would shrink from; at the
same time, it did not attract her; she felt that she could dress quite
as becomingly as a hospital nurse in another way.

She wondered, if it should come to the knowledge of the heads of the
government of Philistia that she had a yearning to become the wife of
a clergyman, would they regard her as worthy to be conducted across the
frontier, and doomed to perpetual expatriation. When she began to think
out this point, she could not but feel that if she were deserving of
punishment,--she looked on expulsion from Philistia as the severest
punishment that could be dealt out to her, for she was extremely
patriotic,--there were a good many other young women, and women who were
no longer young, who were equally culpable. She had watched the faces of
quite a number of the women who crowded St. Chad's at every service, and
she had long ago come to the conclusion that the desire to become the
wife of a clergyman was an aspiration which was universally distributed
among the unmarried women of the congregation.

She knew so much, but she was not clever enough to know that it was her
observance of this fact that confirmed her in her belief that it would
be a blessed privilege for such a woman as she to become the wife of
such a clergyman as George Holland. She was not wise enough to be able
to perceive that a woman marries a man not so much because she things
highly of marriage--although she does think highly of it; not so much
because she thinks highly of the man--though she may think highly of
him, but simply because she sees that other women want to marry him.

In three months she considered herself blessed among women. She was the
one chosen out of all the flock. She did not look around her in church
in pride of conquest; but she looked demurely down to her sacred books,
feeling that all the other women were gazing at her in envy; and she
felt that there was no pride in the thought that the humility of her
attitude--downcast eyes, with long lashes shading half her cheeks,
meekly folded hands--was the right one to adopt under the circumstances.

And then she saw several of the young women who had been wearing sober
shades of dresses for some years,--though in their hearts (and she knew
it) they were passionately attached to colors,--appearing like poppies
once more, and looking very much the better for the change, too; and
she felt that it was truly sad for young women to--well, to show
their hands, so to speak. They might have waited for some weeks before
returning to the colors of the secular.

She did not know that they felt that they had wasted too much time
in sober shades already. The days are precious in a world in which no
really trustworthy hair dye may be bought for money.

And then there came to her a month of coldly inquisitive doubt. (This
was when people had ceased to congratulate her and to talk, the nice
ones, of the great cleverness of George Holland; the nasty ones, of the
great pity that so delightful a man did not come of a better family.)

Why should she begin to ask herself if she really loved George Holland;
if the feeling she had for him should be called by the name of love, or
by some other name that did not mean just the same thing? Of course she
had thought a good deal--though her father did not know it--of love. She
had seen upon other people the effect of the possession of this gift of
love, how it had caused them to forget pain and poverty, and shame, and
infamy, and God, and death, and hell. Ah! that was love--that was love!
and she had hoped that one day such a gift of love would be given to
her; for it was surely the thing that was best worth having in the
world! Once or twice she had fancied that it was at the point of being
given to her. There had been certain thrilling passages between herself
and two men,--an interval of a year between each,--and there had also
been a kiss in an alcove designed by her dearest friend, Ella Linton,
for the undoing of mankind, a place of softened lights and shadowy
palms. It was her recollection of these incidents that had caused her
to fumble with the blind cord when her father had been suggesting to
her the disadvantages of inexperience in matters of the heart. But the
incidents had led to nothing, except, perhaps, a week or two of remorse.
But she could not help feeling, when that month of curious doubt was
upon her, that the little thrill which she had felt when one man had
put his arm around her for an instant, when another man--he was very
young--had put his lips upon her mouth--it was a straightforward
kiss--suggested a nearer approach to love than she had yet been
conscious of in the presence of George Holland. (He had never done more
than kiss her hand. Is it on record that any man did more when dressed
with the severity of the cleric?)

This was a terrible impression for a young woman to retain before her
engagement to a man has passed into its third month. Then she began to
wonder if all her previous ideas--all her previous aspirations--were
mistaken. She began to wonder if this was the reality of love--this
conviction that there was nothing in the whole world that she would
welcome with more enthusiasm than an announcement on the part of her
father that he was going on a voyage to Australia, and that he meant to
take her with him.

And then----

Well, then she threw herself upon her bed and wept for an hour one
evening, and for two hours (at intervals) another evening; and then
looked up the old published speeches made by a certain cabinet
minister in his irresponsible days, on a question which he had recently
introduced. Her father was bitterly opposed to the most recent views of
the minister, and was particularly anxious to confront him with his own
phrases of thirty years back. She spent four hours copying out the words
which were now meant by Mr. Ayrton to confound the utterer.



CHAPTER III.

THE BISHOP KNEW SOMETHING OF MAN, AND HE KNEW SOMETHING OF THE CHURCH;
HE EVEN KNEW SOMETHING OF THE BIBLE.

Her father when he came in commended her diligence. He read over those
damning extracts, punctuating them with chuckles; he would make an
example of that minister who had found it convenient to adopt a course
diametrically opposed to the principle involved in his early speeches.
He chuckled, reading the extracts while he paced the room, drawing upon
his stock of telling phrases, which were calculated to turn the derision
of the whole House of Commons upon his opponent.

Thus, being very well satisfied with himself, he was satisfied with her,
and kissed her, with a sigh.

"What a treasure you are to me, dearest one!" he said. There was a pause
before he added, in a contemplative tone:

"I suppose a clergyman has no need ever to hunt up the past deliverances
of another clergyman in order to confound him out of his own mouth. Ah,
no; I should fancy not."

Regret was in his voice. He seemed to suggest to her that he believed
her powers would be wasted as the wife of a man who, of course, being a
clergyman, could have no enemies.

"Dearest papa!" she cried, throwing herself into his arms, and sobbing
on his shirt front, "dearest papa, I will not leave you. I don't want to
be anyone's wife. I want to be your daughter--only to be your daughter."

He comforted her with kisses and soothing smoothings of the hair. No,
no, he said; he would not be selfish. He would remember that a father
was the trustee of his child's happiness.

"But I know I can only be happy with you, my father!" she cried; but
it was of no avail. He, being a father and not a mother, was unable to
perceive what was in the girl's heart. He considered it quite natural
that she should be a trifle hysterical in anticipating her new
life--that strange untraveled country! Ah, is there anything more
pathetic, he thought, than a girl's anticipations of wifehood? But he
would do his duty, and he fancied that he was doing his duty when he
put aside her earnest, almost passionate protestations, and told her
how happy she would be with the man who was lucky enough to have won the
pure treasure of her love.

What could she do? The terrible doubts of that month of doubting
broadened into certainties. She knew that she did not love George
Holland; but she had not the courage to face Philistia as the girl who
did not know her own mind. Philistia was very solid on such points as
the sacredness of an engagement between a man and a woman. It was a
contract practically as abiding as marriage, in the eyes of Philistia;
and, indeed, Phyllis herself had held this belief, and had never
hesitated to express it. So nothing was left to her but to marry George
Holland. After all, he was a brilliant and distinguished man, and had
not a score of other girls wanted to marry him? Oh, she would marry him
and give up her life to the splendid duties which devolve upon the wife
of a clergyman.

But just as she had made up her mind to face her fate, Mr. Holland's
fate induced him to publish the book at which he had been working for
some time. It came out just when the girl was becoming resigned to her
future by his side, and it attracted even more attention than the author
had hoped it would achieve.

The book was titled "Revised Versions," and it was strikingly modern
in design and in tone. It purported to deal with several personages and
numerous episodes of the Old Testament, not from the standpoint of the
comparative philologist; not from the standpoint of the comparative
mythologist, but from the standpoint of the modern man of common sense
and average power of discrimination; and the result was that the breath
of a good many people, especially clergymen, was taken from them, and
that the Rev. George Holland became the best-known clergyman in England.

He dealt with the patriarchs in succession, and they fared very badly at
his hands. He showed that Abraham had not one good act recorded to his
credit, and contrasted his duplicity with the magnanimity of the ruler
of Egypt whom he visited. He dwelt upon the Hagar episode, showing that
the adulterer was also a murderer by intention, and so forth; while no
words could be too strong to apply to Sara, his wife. Isaac did not call
for elaborate notice. He could not be accused of any actual crime, but
if he was a man of strong personality, he was singularly unfortunate in
having failed to impart to his wife any of that integrity which he may
have practiced through life. Her methods of dealing with him after they
had lived together for a good many years were criminal, considering the
largeness of the issue at stake as the result of his blessing. As for
Jacob, not a single praiseworthy act of his long life was available to
his biographer. His career was that of the most sordid of hucksters. Of
eleven of his sons nothing good is told, but Joseph was undoubtedly an
able and exemplary man; the only thing to his discredit being his utter
callousness regarding the fate of his father, after he had attained to a
high position in Egypt.

The chapter on the patriarchs was followed by one that dealt with the
incidents of the Exodus. The writer said that he feared that even the
most indulgent critic must allow that the whole scheme of Moses was a
shocking one; but he was probably the greatest man that ever lived on
the face of the earth, if he was the leader and organizer of a band of
depredators who for bloodthirst and rapacity had no parallel in history.
How could it be expected that a kingdom founded upon the massacre of men
and cemented by the blood of women and children should survive? It
had survived only as example to the world of the impossibility of a
permanent success being founded upon the atrocious methods pursued by
the worst of the robber states of the East. While civilization had been
spreading on all sides of them, the people of Israel had remained the
worst of barbarians, murdering the men who had from time to time arisen
to try and rescue them from the abysses of criminality into which they
had fallen,--abysses of criminality and superstition,--until they
had filled their cup of crime by the murder of the One whom the world
worships to-day.

Incidentally, of course, the character of Samson was dealt with. Delilah
was shown to be one of the most heroic of womankind, making greater
sacrifices through her splendid patriotism than Joan of Arc. But
Samson----

Ruth was also dealt with incidentally. She was the woman who expresses
her willingness to give up her God at the bidding of another woman, and
who had entered into a plot with that same woman to entrap a man whom
they looked to support them.

Then there was David. It was not the Bath-sheba episode, but the
Abishag, that the author treated at length--one of the most revolting
transactions in history, especially as there is some reason to believe
that the unfortunate girl was, when it was perpetrated, already attached
to one of the sons of the loathsome, senile sensualist.

Perhaps, on the whole, it was not surprising that after the publication
of this book the Rev. George Holland became the best-known clergyman
in England, or that the breath of bishops should be taken from them. So
soon as some of them recovered from the first brunt of the shock, they
met together and held up their hands, saying that they awaited the
taking of immediate action by the prelate within whose see St. Chad's
was situated. But that particular prelate was a man who had never been
known to err on the side of rapidity of action. Nearly a week had passed
before he made any move in the matter, and then the move he made was
in the direction of the Engadine. He crossed the Channel with the
book under his arm. He determined to read it at his leisure. Being a
clergyman, he could not, of course, be expected to have examined, from
any standpoint but that of the clergyman, the characters of the persons
dealt with in the book, and he was naturally shocked at the freedom
shown by the rector of St. Chad's in criticising men whose names have
been held in the highest esteem for some thousands of years. He at once
perceived that the rector of St. Chad's had been very narrow-minded
in his views regarding the conduct of the men whom he had attacked. It
occurred to him, as it had to Mr. Ayrton, that the writer had drawn his
picture without any regard for perspective. That was very foolish on the
part of a man who was a Fellow of his college, the bishop thought; and
besides, there was no need for the book--its tendency was not to
help the weaker brethren. But to assume that the book would, as some
newspaper articles said it would, furnish the most powerful argument
that had yet been brought forward in favor of the Disestablishment of
Church, was, he thought, to assume a great deal too much. The Church
that had survived Wesley, Whitefield, Colenso, Darwin, and Renan would
not succumb to George Holland. The bishop recollected how the Church had
bitterly opposed all the teaching of the men of wisdom whose names came
back to him; and how it had ended by making their teaching its own.
Would anyone venture to assert that the progress of Christianity was
dependent upon what people thought of the acceptance by David of the
therapeutic course prescribed for him? Was the morality which the Church
preached likely to be jeopardized because Ruth was a tricky young woman?

The bishop knew something of man, and he knew something of the Church,
he even knew something of the Bible; and when he came to the chapter
in "Revised Versions" that dealt with the episode of Ruth and Boaz, he
flung the book into a corner of his bedroom, exclaiming, "Puppy!"

And then there came before his eyes a vision of a field of yellow corn,
ripe for the harvest. The golden sunlight gleamed upon the golden
grain through which the half-naked brown-skinned men walked with their
sickles. The half-naked brown-skinned women followed the binders,
gleaning the ears, and among the women was the one who had said,
"Entreat me not to leave thee." He had read that old pastoral when
he was a child at the knee of his mother. It was surely the loveliest
pastoral of the East, and its charm would be in no wise impaired because
a man who failed to appreciate the beauty of its simplicity, had almost
called Ruth by the worst name that can be applied to a woman.

The bishop did not mind what George Holland called Abraham, or Isaac, or
Jacob, or Samson, but Ruth--to say that Ruth----

The bishop said "Puppy!" once again. (He had trained himself only to
think the adjectives which laymen find appropriate to use in such a case
as was under his consideration.)

But he made up his mind to take no action whatever against the Rev.
George Holland on account of the book. If the Rev. George Holland
fancied that he was to be persecuted into popularity, the Rev. George
Holland was greatly mistaken, and the bishop had a shrewd idea that the
rector of St. Chad's was greatly mistaken.

(It may be mentioned that he came to this determination when he had read
the book through, and found it was so cleverly written that it included
no heretical phrase in all its pages.)

But so soon as Phyllis Ayrton had read the first review of the book that
fell into her hands, she felt inexpressibly shocked. Great Heavens! Was
it possible that she was actually at that moment engaged to marry
the man who had written such a book--a book that held up Delilah to
admiration, and that abased Ruth? (It was singular how everyone settled
upon Ruth in this connection.)

She did not pause to analyze her feelings--to try and find out if she
was really so fond of Ruth as to make Ruth's insult her own; but without
a moment's delay, without a word of consultation with her father, she
sat down at her desk and wrote a letter to George Holland, asking him to
release her from her promise to marry him; and adding that if he should
decline to do so it would make no difference to her; she would consider
the engagement between them at an end all the same.

She felt, when that letter was posted, as if a great weight were lifted
from her mind--from her heart. Then a copy of "Revised Versions" arrived
for her from the author, and with the ink still wet upon the pen with
which she had written that letter to him, she caught up the book and
covered it with kisses.

Had he seen that action her lover would have been thoroughly satisfied.
A young woman must be very deeply in love with a man when she kisses the
cover of a book which he has just published. That is what George Holland
would have thought, having but a superficial acquaintance with the
motives that sway young women.

Later in the day he had replied to her letter, and had appointed four
o'clock on the following afternoon as the hour when he trusted she would
find it convenient to see him, in order to give him an opportunity of
making an explanation which he trusted would enable her to see that
"Revised Versions," so far from being the dreadful book she seemed to
imagine it to be, was in reality written with a high purpose.

She had not shrunk from an interview with him. She had sent him a line
to let him know that she would be at home at four o'clock; and now she
sat in her drawing room and observed, without emotion, that in five
minutes that hour would strike.

The clock struck, and before the last tone had died away, the footman
announced the Rev. George Holland.



CHAPTER IV.

SHE HAD NO RIGHT TO ACCUSE HIM OF READING THE BIBLE DAILY.

Phyllis shook hands with her visitor. He sought to retain her hand, as
he had been in the habit of doing, as he stood beside her with something
of a proprietary air. He relinquished her hand with a little look of
surprise--a sort of pained surprise. She was inexorable. She would not
even allow him to maintain his proprietary air.

"Do sit down, Mr. Holland," she said.

"What! 'Mr. Holland' already? Oh, Phyllis!"

He had a good voice, full of expression--something beyond mere musical
expression. People (they were mostly women) said that his voice had soul
in it, whatever they meant by that.

She made no reply. What reply could she make? She only waited for him to
sit down.

"Your letter came as a great shock to me, Phyllis," said he, when he had
seated himself, not too close to her. He did not wish her to fancy that
he was desirous of having a subtle influence of propinquity as an ally.
"A great shock to me."

"A shock?" said she. "A shock, after you had written that book?"

"I fancied you would understand it, Phyllis--you, at least. Of course
I expected to be misrepresented by the world--the critics--the
clerics--what you will--but you----You had not read it when you wrote
that letter to me--that terrible letter. You could not have read it."

"I had only read one notice of it--that was enough."

"And you could write that letter to me solely as the evidence of one
wretched print? Oh, Phyllis!"

Pain was in his voice. It may have been in his face as well, but she did
not see it; his face was averted from her.

"Yes," she said quietly; "I wrote that letter, Mr. Holland. You see, the
paper gave large extracts from the book. I did not come to my conclusion
from what the newspaper article said, but from what you had said in your
book--from the quoted passages."

"They did not do me justice. I did not look for justice at their hands.
But you, Phyllis----"

"I have read your book now, Mr. Holland----"

"Ah, let me plead with you, Phyllis--not 'Mr. Holland,' I entreat of
you."

"And my first thought on reading it was that I had not written to you so
strongly as I should have done."

"My dear Phyllis, do not say that, I beg of you. You cannot know how you
pain me."

"To be misunderstood by you--_you_."

She got upon her feet so quickly that it might almost be said she sprang
up.

"_You_ must have misunderstood _me_ greatly, Mr. Holland, if you fancied
that you could write such a book as you wrote and not get such a letter
from me. The Bible--Ruth--and you a clergyman--reading it daily in the
church----Oh! I cannot tell you all that I thought--all that I still
think."

He did not correct the mistake she had made. She had no right to accuse
him of reading the Bible daily in his church. He was not in the habit of
doing that--it was his curates who did it. He watched her as she stood
at a window with her back turned to him. Her hands were behind her. Her
breath came audibly, for she had spoken excitedly.

Then he also rose and came beside her.

"I wrote that book, as I believed you would perceive when you had read
it, in order to remove from the minds of the people--those people
who have not given the matter a thought--the impression--I know it
prevails--that our faith--the truth of our religion--is dependent upon
the acceptance as good of such persons as our very religion itself
enables us to pronounce evil. My aim was to show that our faith is not
built upon such a foundation of impurity--of imperfection. The spirit
which prevails nowadays--the modern spirit--it is the result of
the development of science. This scientific spirit necessitates the
consideration of all the elements of our faith from the standpoint of
reason."

"Faith--reason?"

"If the Church is to appeal to all men, its method must be scientific.
It is sad to think of all that the Church has lost in the past through
the want of wisdom of those who had its best interests at heart,
and believed they were doing it good service by opposing scientific
research. They fancied that the faith would not survive the light of
truth. They professed to believe that the faith was strong enough to
work miracles--to change the heart of man, and yet that it would be
jeopardized by the calculations of astronomers. The astronomers were
prohibited from calculating; the geologists were forbidden to unearth
the mysteries of their science, lest the discovery of the truth should
be detrimental to the faith. They believed that the truth was opposed to
the faith. Warning after warning the Church received that the two were
one; that man would only accept the truth, whether it came from the lips
of the churchman or from the investigations of science. Grudgingly the
Church became tolerant of the seekers after truth--men who were not
greatly concerned in the preservation of the mummy dust of dogma. But
how many thousand persons are there not, to-day, who think that the
Church is on one side, and the truth on the other? The intolerant
attitude of the Church, still maintained in these days, when the spirit
of science pervades every form of thought, has been productive of
probably the largest body that ever existed in the country, of sensible
men and women, who never enter a church door. They want to know
whatsoever things are true; they do not want to be dredged with the
mummy dust of dogma."

"But the Bible--the Bible!"

"It is necessary for me to tell you all that I feel on this subject; all
that I have felt for several years past--ever since I left the divinity
school behind me, and went into the world of thinking men and women. It
is necessary to tell these men and women in unmistakable language that
our faith aims at a perfect type of manhood--at the perfection of
truth. It is necessary to tell them that we do not regard, except with
abhorrence, such types of men as have for centuries been held up to
admiration simply because they have for centuries been the objects of
admiration, of imitation, of veneration, on the part of the debased
people who gave us the earlier books of the Bible. The memory of
Jacob became the dominant influence among the Hebrew nation; hence the
continuous curse that rested upon them, the curse that rests upon the
cheat, the defrauder of his own household, his brother, his father,
his uncle. It is necessary to say that the world should know that our
religion is founded upon truth, purity, self-sacrifice--that it abhors
the cheat and the sensualist. It is necessary to proclaim to the world
our abhorrence of the cult whose highest development was the Pharisee.
The aim of the religion of Christ is to produce the perfect man, and to
root out the Pharisee. When the Church ceases to connive at falsehood
and sensualism; when it openly professes its abhorrence of the religion
of the Hebrews; then, and then only, will it become the power in the
earth which the exponent of Christianity should become. Humanity had
been crying out for the religion of humanity, that is, Christianity, for
centuries, but the Church tells it that true religion is an amalgamation
of the loveliness of Christianity and the barbarity of Judaism--an
impossible amalgamation, and one which millions of poor souls have
perished in a vain attempt to accomplish. Humanity wants Christ, and
Christ only, and that the Church has hitherto refused to give; hence the
millions of thinking men and women, believers in the religion of Christ,
who remain forever outside the walls of the Church; hence, also, that
terrible record of murder and massacre, perpetrated through long ages
with the sanction of the Church. Where, in the religion of Christ, can
one find the sanction for massacre? It is nowhere to be found except
in the Psalms of the senile sensualist--in the commands of Moses, the
leader of the marauders of the desert. Christ swept away the barbarities
of the teaching of Moses. He perceived how miserably it had failed; how
it had retarded all that was good in man, and sanctioned all that
was evil. He perceived how it had kept the nation in a condition of
barbarity; how it had made it the prey of the civilized nations around
it; how it had made the Hebrew nations the contempt of civilization; and
yet the Church that calls itself the Church of Christ has not yet had
the courage to offer humanity anything but that impossible task--the
amalgamation of the law that came by Moses and the grace and truth that
came by Jesus Christ."

He spoke with all the fervor of the preacher, with pale face, brilliant
eyes, and clenched hands; but in a voice adapted to a drawing room.
Phyllis of Philistia could not but admit that, in the phrase of
Philistia he had spoken in perfect taste. He had not alluded definitely
to the boldness of Ruth or to the calorific course accepted by the aged
David. He had spoken in those general terms which are adopted by the
clergymen who never err against good taste as defined by the matrons of
Philistia.

She did not know whether she admired him or detested him. But she was
certain that she did not love him. He might be right in all that he had
said, but she had freed herself from him. He might be destined to become
one of the most prominent men of the last ten years of the century, but
she would never marry him.

She stood face to face with him when he had spoken.

There was a long silence.

A gleam, a very faint gleam of triumph came to his eyes.

"Good-bye," said she, flashing out her hand to him, and with her eyes
still fixed upon his face.



CHAPTER V.

IN LOVE THERE ARE NO GOOD-BYES.

He was so startled that he took a step backward. She remained with her
hand outstretched.

Was that only the result of the eloquent expression of his views--that
outstretched hand which was offered to him for an instant only as a
symbol of its withdrawal from him forever?

"You cannot mean----"

"Good-by," said she.

"Have I not explained all that seemed to you to stand in need of
explanation?" he asked.

"The book--the book remains. I asked for no explanation," said she.

"But you are too good, too reasonable, to dismiss me in this fashion,
Phyllis. Why, even the bishop--_would sit upon a fence to see how the
book would be received by the public before taking action against the
author_," was what was in his mind, but he stopped short, and then added
a phrase that had no reference to the bishop. "Can you ever have loved
me?" was the phrase which he thought should appeal to her more forcibly
than any reference to the bishop's sense of what was opportune.

She took back her hand, and her eyes fell at the same moment that her
face flushed.

He felt that he had not been astray in his estimate of the controversial
value--in the eyes of a girl, of course--of the appeal which he made
to her. A girl understands nothing of the soundness of an argument on
a Biblical question (or any other), he thought; but she understands an
appeal made to her by a man whom she had loved, and whom she therefore
loves still, though something may have occurred to make her think
otherwise.

"Can you ever have loved me?" he said again, and his voice was now more
reproachful.

There was a pause before she said:

"That is the question which I have been asking myself for some
time--ever since I read about that book. Oh, please, Mr. Holland, do
not stay any longer! Cannot you see that if, after you have made an
explanation that should satisfy any reasonable person, I still remain
in my original way of thinking, I am not the woman who should be your
wife?"

"You would see with my eyes if you were my wife," he said, and he
believed that she would, so large an amount of confidence had he in his
own power to dominate a woman.

"Ah!" she said, "you have provided me with the strongest reason why I
should never become your wife, Mr. Holland."

"Do not say that, Phyllis!" he cried, in a low voice, almost a piteous
voice. "I must have you with me in this great work which I feel has
been given me to accomplish. I am prepared to make any sacrifice for
the cause which I have at heart--the cause to which I mean to devote the
rest of my life; but you--you--I must have you with me, Phyllis. Don't
give me an answer now. All I ask of you is to think over the whole
matter from the standpoint of one who loves the truth, and who does
not fear the result of those who are investigators. A few years ago
the geologists were regarded as the enemies of the faith. Later the
evolutionists were looked on with abhorrence. Had any clergyman ventured
to assent to that doctrine which we now know to be the everlasting truth
of the scheme of earthly life propounded by the Creator, he would have
been compelled to leave the Church. I do not know what will happen to
me, my Phyllis. No, no! do not say anything to me now. All that I ask of
you is to think--think--think."

"That is it--that is your modern scientific spirit!" she cried. "You,
and such as you, say 'think--think--think' to us--to poor women and
men who are asking for comfort, for protection against the evil of
the world. You say 'think--think--think,' when you should say
pray--pray--pray.' Where are you going to end? you have begun by taking
from us our Bible. What do you propose to give us in exchange for it?
No--no, don't answer me. I did not mean to enter into the question with
you--to enter into any question with you. I have no right to do so."

"You have every right, Phyllis. If I should cause offence to the least
of the little ones of the flock with which I have been intrusted, it
would be better that a millstone were hanged round my neck and that I
were cast into the sea. You have a right to ask and it is laid on me to
answer."

"Then I decline to avail myself of the privilege; I will ask you
nothing, except to say good-by."

"I will not say it, Phyllis, and I will not hear you say it. Three
months ago you told me that you loved me."

"And I fancied that I did, but now----"

"Ah! you think that you have the power to cease loving at a moment's
notice? You will find out your mistake, my child. In love there are no
good-bys. I take your hand now, but not to say good-by; I feel that
you are still mine--that you will be mine more than ever when you
think--think--and pray."

"Ah! You ask me to pray?"

"Pray--pray for me, child. I need the prayers of such as you, for I feel
that my hour of deepest trial is drawing nigh. Do you fancy that I am
the man to take back anything that I have written? Look at me, Phyllis;
I tell you here that I will stand by everything that I have written.
Whatever comes of it, the book remains. Even if I lose all that I have
worked for,--even if I lose you,--I will still say 'the book remains.' I
am ready to suffer for it. I say in all humility that I believe God will
give me grace to die for it."

She had given him her hand. He was still holding it when he spoke his
final sentence, looking, not into her face, but into a space beyond it.
His eyes more than suggested the eyes of a martyr waiting undaunted for
the lighting of the fagots. Suddenly he dropped her hand. He looked for
a moment into her face. He saw that the tears were upon it. He turned
and walked out of the room without a word.

No word came from her.

He knew that he had left her at exactly the right moment. She was
undoubtedly annoyed by the publication of the book; but that was
because she had read some reviews of it, and was, girl-like, under the
impression that the murmur of the reviewers was the mighty voice that
echoes round the world. He felt that she would think differently when
his real persecution began. He looked forward with great hope to the
result of his real persecution. She would never hold out against that.
If the bishop would only take action at once and attempt to deprive him
of his pastorate, there was nothing that he might not look for.

And then he reflected that on the following Sunday the church would be
crowded to the doors. She would see that. She would see the thousands
of the fashionable women--he hoped even for men--who would fill every
available seat, every available standing place in the church, and who
would all be anxious to hear his defense. That would show her that
the publication of this book had raised him far above the heads of the
ordinary clergyman who droned away, Sunday after Sunday, in half empty
churches to congregations that never became interested. Yes, for many
Sundays St. Chad's would be crowded to the doors. And then he trusted
that the bishop would take action against him, and in proportion to the
severity of his persecution on the one hand would be his popularity on
the other hand.

All this would, he felt, advance the cause which he had at heart; for he
was thoroughly sincere in his belief that the views which he advocated
in "Revised Versions" were calculated to place the Church on a firmer
basis, and to cause it to appeal to those persons who, having been
inculcated with the spirit of modern scientific inquiry, never entered a
church porch.

He had not been guilty of an empty boast when he had expressed to her
his readiness to die for the principles which he had enunciated with
considerable clearness in his book; but, at the same time, when he was
walking down Piccadilly he could not avoid the feeling that if he were
only subjected to a vigorous persecution--a high-class persecution, of
course, with the bishop at the head of it, he would be almost certain
to win back Phyllis. Her desertion of him was undoubtedly a blow to him;
but he thought that, after all, it was not unnatural that such as girl
as she should be somewhat frightened at the boldness of the book which
he had published. He had seen the day, not so very long ago, when he
would have been frightened at it himself. At any rate he felt sure that
Phyllis would be able to differentiate between the case of the author of
"Revised Versions" and the case of the mediocre clergyman who defied his
bishop on a question of--what was the question?--something concerning
the twirling of his thumbs from east to west, instead of from west to
east; yes, or an equally trivial matter. He trusted that she was too
discriminating a girl to bracket him with that wretched, shallow-minded
person who endeavored to pose as a martyr, because he would not be
permitted to do whatever he tried to insist on doing. Mr. Holland
thought it had something to say to the twirling of his thumbs at a
certain part of the service for the day, but if anyone had said that his
memory was at fault--that the contumacious curate only wanted to make
some gestures at the psychological, or, perhaps, the spiritual, moment,
he would not have been surprised. He had always thought that curate a
very silly person. He thanked his God that he was not such a man, and he
thought that he might trust Phyllis to understand the difference between
the position which he assumed and the posturing of the silly curate.

His knowledge of her powers of discrimination was not at fault. Phyllis
never for a moment thought of him as posturing. She did him more than
justice. She regarded him as terribly in earnest; no man unless one who
was terribly in earnest could have written that book--a book which she
felt was bound to alienate from him all the people who had previously
honored him and delighted to listen to his preaching. Someone had said
in her hearing that the preaching of George Holland was, compared to
the preaching of the average clergyman, as the electric light is to the
gas--the gas of a street lamp. She had flushed with pleasure,--that had
been six months ago,--when it first occurred to her that to be the wife
of a distinguished clergyman, who was also a scholar, was the highest
vocation to which a woman could aspire. She had told her father of this
testimony to the ability of the rector of St. Chad's--pride had been in
her voice and eyes.

"The man who said that was a true critic," her father had remarked.
"Electric light? Quite so. In the absence of sunlight the electric light
does extremely well for the requirements of the average man and woman.
Your critic said nothing about volts?"

That was how her father became irritating to her occasionally--leading
up to some phrase which he had in his collection of bric-a-brac.
"Volts!"

Yes, she felt that the sincerity of George Holland would alienate from
him all the people who had previously held him in high esteem. Although
she was a daughter of Philistia, it had never occurred to her that there
is such a thing as a _succes scandale_, and that the effect of such an
incident in connection with the rector of a fashionable church rarely
leads to his isolation.

She did George Holland more than justice, for she could not conceive his
looking forward to a crowded and interested attendance at his church on
the following Sunday and perhaps many successive Sundays. She could not
conceive his thinking what effect the noticing of such an attendance
would have upon her. To her, as to most girls, the heroic man is all
heroic. The picture of the Duke of Marlborough taking a list of the
linen to be sent to the wash while his troops were getting into position
for a great battle is one from which they turn away. She could not think
of George Holland's calculating upon the effect of a crowded church,
with newspaper reporters scattered throughout the building, taking down
every word that might fall from his lips. She regarded him as a man
who had been compelled, by the insidious influence of what he called
scientific thought, to write a shocking book; but one that he certainly
believed was destined to effect a great reform in the world. Her eyes
had filled with tears as he stood before her with the gleam of martyrdom
in his eyes, and for an instant she felt a woman's impulse--that was a
factor which George Holland had taken into consideration before he had
spoken--to give both her hands to him and to promise to stand by his
side in his hour of trial. But she thought of Ruth and restrained
herself. Before he had reached the door she thought of him as the man
from whom she had managed to escape before it was too late.

She wondered if any of those young women of the church, who had gone
back to their butterfly garments on hearing that Mr. Holland had asked
her to marry him, would hunt out the sober garments which they had
discarded and wear them when they would hear that she was not going to
marry Mr. Holland.

She rather thought that they would get new dresses and hats of the right
degree of sobriety. Fashions change so quickly between February and May.

And then there was the question of sleeves!

Anyhow they would, she felt, regard themselves as having another chance.
That was how they would put it.

Only for an instant did she become thoughtful. Then she sprang to her
feet from the sofa on which she had thrown herself when her tears were
threatening, and cried:

"Let them have him--let them all have him--all--all!"

That would have been absurd.



CHAPTER VI.

IF A GIRL REALLY LOVES A MAN SHE WILL MARRY HIM, EVEN THOUGH HE SHOULD
WRITE A BOOK.

Phyllis meant the half hour which would elapse before her tea was
brought to her to be a very grateful space. She meant to dwell upon the
achievement of her freedom, for the feeling that she was free was very
sweet to her. The fetters that had bound her had been flung away, and
she now only had a splendid sense of freedom. So sweet was this sense
that she made up her mind that in future it would never do for her to
run any such risk as that to which she had just subjected herself.
How could she ever have been such a fool as to promise to marry George
Holland? That was what she was asking herself as she lay back on the
pillows of the French sofa, and listened to the soft sound of the
carriage wheels of the callers at the other houses in the square.

What a singular wish that was of hers--to become the wife of a
clergyman! It seemed very singular to her just now. Just now she did not
want to become the wife of anyone, and she hoped that no one would ask
her. She did not want the worry of it. Ah, she would be very careful in
the future: she would take very good care that the fact of other girls
wanting to marry one particular man would not make her anxious to have
him all to herself.

Before her resolutions on this very important point had been fully
considered in all their bearings, her maid entered to ask if she was
at home. The butler had sent a footman to her to make that inquiry, the
fact being that her particular friend, Mrs. Linton, had called to see
her.

Phyllis jumped up, saying:

"Of course I am home to Mrs. Linton. She will have tea with me."

She went to a glass to see if the tears which had been in her eyes--they
had not fallen--had left any traces that the acuteness of Ella Linton
might detect. The result of her observation was satisfactory; she would
not even need to sit with her back to the light.

Then Mrs. Linton was announced, and flowed into the arms of her friend
Phyllis, crying:

"Of course I knew that you would be at home to me, my beloved, even
though you might be in the midst of one of those brilliant speeches
which you write out for your father to deliver in the House and cause
people to fancy that he is the wittiest man in place--so unlike that
dreadful teetotal man who grins through the horse collar and thinks that
people are imposed on. Now let me look at you, you lucky girl! You are a
lucky girl, you know."

"Yes," said Phyllis, "you have called on me. We shall have tea in a
minute. How good of you to come to me the first day you arrived in town!
How well you are looking, my Ella!"

"So glad you think so," said Ella. "I haven't aged much during the eight
months we have been apart. I have had a very good time on the whole,
and so had Stephen, though he was with me for close upon a month, poor
little man! But it is you, Phyllis, it is you who are the girl of the
hour. Heavens! you were farsighted! Who could have imagined that he
would become so famous all in a moment? I must confess that when you
wrote to me that letter telling me of your engagement, and how happy you
were, I was a little cross. I could not clearly see you the wife of a
parson, even so presentable a parson as Mr. Holland. Oh, of course I
wrote you the usual exuberant letter--what would be the good of doing
anything else? But now that he has become famous--Oh, I want you to
bring him with you to my first At Home--Tuesday week. It's very short
notice, I know, but you must come, and bring him. You are both certain
to be in great demand. Why do you shake your head that way? You need not
say that you are engaged for Tuesday week."

"I will not say that I am engaged at all, in any sense," said Phyllis,
with a very shallow laugh, at laugh that sounded like a ripple among
pebbles; her usual laugh was like a ripple upon a silver sand.

"In any sense--for Tuesday week?"

Ella raised her eyebrows to the extent of the eighth of an inch. She
lowered them in a moment, however, for the tea was being brought in.
It required two able-bodied men (in plush) to carry in a dainty
little silver tray, with a little silver tea-pot of a pattern that
silversmiths, for reasons which have never been fully explained, call
"Queen Anne." One of the men, however, devoted himself to the care of
the hot cakes of various subtle types which were inclosed in silver
covered dishes.

With the lowering of her eyebrows Mrs. Linton's voice lost its previous
inflection.

"I have been fortunate enough to hit upon something distinctly new in
that way"--she indicated the muffin dishes. "A cake that may be eaten
hot without removing one's gloves."

"What a boon!" cried Phyllis. "You got it at Vienna, of course."

"Of course. You will learn all about it when you come."

The able-bodied men withdrew, and before the door was quite closed
behind them, Ella was gazing at her friend, her face alight with
inquiry.

"Now pray explain yourself," she whispered. "Not engaged in any
sense--those were your words. What do they mean?"

"Take them literally, my Ella," said Phyllis.

"Literally? But you wrote to me that you had engaged yourself to marry
Mr. Holland?"

"And now I tell you by word of mouth that I have disengaged myself."

"Good Heavens! You, I fancied, would be the last girl in the world to
promise to marry a man and then back out of it."

"That was what I myself fancied up till Monday last."

"But how can you have changed your mind? Isn't it very unfortunate--just
when the man has become famous?"

"How could it be otherwise, Ella, when the man wrote so horrible a book
as that?"

"Horrible? Is it horrible? I had no idea. I'm no judge of what is
horrible in theology, or metaphysics, or whatever it is. But I do
profess to know when a man has made a hit, whether in theology or
anything else; and I perceive quite clearly that your Mr. Holland--well,
not your Mr. Holland, has made a distinct hit. What sort of face is that
you're making at me? Oh, I see. It's the face of the orthodox at the
mention of something not quite orthodox. Pshut! don't be a goose,
Phyllis."

"I don't intend. Have I not told you that I'm not going to marry Mr.
Holland?"

"That is like one of the phrases which you give to your father, so that
the people might think him clever. Orthodox! Who cares nowadays for what
is dully orthodox? Who ever heard of a hero in orthodoxy nowadays? The
thing is impossible. There may be, of course, thousands of orthodox
heroes, but one never hears anything of them. The planets Jupiter and
Saturn and Mercury and Mars and the rest of them come and go at their
appointed seasons, and no one ever gives them a second thought, poor old
respectable things! but the moment a comet appears in the sky everyone
rushes out to gaze at it, and the newspapers deal with it from day to
day, and the illustrated papers give its portrait. Nothing could be more
unorthodox than your comet. Oh, Phyllis, my child, don't talk nowadays
of orthodoxy or the other--what do they call it?--heterodoxy. Mr.
Holland's name will be in everyone's mouth for the next year at least,
and if his bishop or a friendly church warden prosecutes him, and the
thing is worked up properly, he ought to be before the public for the
next five years."

"Oh, Ella!"

"I'm not overstating the case, I assure you, my dear. A man was telling
me about one Colenso--he was, so far as I could gather, a first-class
man at algebra and heresy and things like that. He was Bishop
of Zanzibar or Uganda or some place, and he wrote a book about
Moses--showing that Moses couldn't have written something or other.
Well, he took a bit of prosecuting, five or six years, I believe, and
he didn't go nearly so far as Mr. Holland does in that book of his. All
this time people talked about little else but Colenso, and his books
made him a fortune. That was before our time, dear--when the newspapers
weren't worked as they are now. Block printing has made more heroes than
the longest campaign on record. Yes, Mr. Courtland said so two days
ago. I think I'll try some more of that lovely cake: it's like warm
ice, isn't it? Oh, you'll not be so foolish as to throw over your Mr.
Holland."

"It is already done," said Phyllis. "I'm so glad that you like the cake.
It is very subtle. What a delightful idea--warm ice!"

"Never mind the cake. I want to hear more of this matter of Mr.
Holland," said Ella. "Do you mean to tell me plainly that you threw
over Mr. Holland because he wrote a book that will bring him fame and
fortune?"

"I have thrown over Mr. Holland because he has written a book to make
people have contempt for the Bible," said Phyllis.

"Then all I can say is that you were never in love with the man," cried
Ella.

"You may say that if you please."

"I do say it. If a girl really loves a man, she will marry him even
though he should write a book against Darwin. If a girl really loves a
man she will stand by him all the closer when he is undergoing a course
of honorable persecution, with his portrait in every paper that one
picks up."

"I dare say that is true enough," assented Phyllis. "Perhaps I never did
really love Mr. Holland. Perhaps I only fancied I cared for him because
I saw that so many other girls--took to wearing chocolates and grays and
kept their sleeves down just when sleeves were highest."

"Of course it was only natural that you should wish to--well,
colloquially, to wipe the eyes of the other girls. How many girls, I
should like to know, begin to think of a man as a possible husband
until they perceive that the thoughts of other girls are turned in his
direction?"

"At any rate, whatever I may have done long ago--"

"Three months ago."

"Three months ago. Whatever I may have done then, I know that I don't
love him now."

"Don't be too sure, my dear Phyllis. If there is one thing more than
another about which a woman should never be positive, it is whether or
not she loves a particular man. What mistakes they make! No, I'll never
believe that you turned him adrift simply because he wrote something
disparagingly about Solomon, or was it David? And I did so want you and
him for my next day; I meant it to be such a _coup_, to have returned to
town only a week and yet to have the most outrageously unorthodox parson
at my house. Ah, that would indeed have been a _coup_! Never mind, I can
at least have the beautiful girl who, though devoted to the unorthodox
parson, threw him over on account of his unorthodoxy."

"Yes, you are certain of me--that is, if you think I should--if it
wouldn't seem a little----"

"What nonsense, Phyllis! Where have you been living for the past
twenty-three years that you should get such a funny notion into your
head? Do you think that girls nowadays absent themselves from felicity
awhile when they find it necessary to become--well, disengaged--yes, or
divorced, for that matter?"

"I really can't recollect any case of--"

"Of course you can't. They don't exist. The proper thing for a women to
do when she gets a divorce is to take a box at a theatre and give
the audience a chance of recognizing her from her portraits that have
already appeared in the illustrated papers. The block printing has done
that too. There's not a theatre manager in London who wouldn't give his
best box to a woman who has come straight from the divorce court. The
managers recognize the fact that she is in the same line as themselves.
But for you, my dear Phyllis--oh, you will never do him the injustice to
keep your throwing over of him a secret."

"Injustice? Oh, Ella!"

"I say injustice. Good gracious, child! cannot you see that if it
becomes known that the girl who had promised to marry him has broken
off her engagement to him simply because he has written that book, the
interest that attaches to him on account of his unorthodoxy will be
immeasurably increased?"

"I will not do him the injustice of fancying for a moment that he would
be gratified on this account. Whatever he may be, Ella, he is at least
sincere and single-minded in his aims."

"I have no doubt of it, my only joy. But however sincere a man may be in
his aims, he still cannot reasonably object to the distinction that is
thrust upon him when he has done something out of the common. The men
who make books know that that sort of thing pays. Someone told me the
other day--I believe it was Herbert Courtland--that it is the men
who write books embodying a great and noble aim who make the closest
bargains with their publishers. I heard of a great and good clergyman
the other day who wrote a Life of Christ, and then complained in the
papers of his publishers having only given him a miserable percentage on
the profits. That is how they talk nowadays; the profit resulting from
the Life of Christ is to be measured in pounds, shillings, and pence."

"Mr. Holland is not a man of this stamp, Ella."

"I'm sure he is not. At the same time if he isn't prosecuted for
heterodoxy no one will be more disappointed than Mr. Holland, unless,
indeed, it be Mr. Holland's publisher. Who would begrudge the martyr his
halo, dear? Even the most sincere and single-minded martyr has an eye
on that halo. The halo of the up-to-date martyr is made up of afternoon
teas provided by fair women, and full-page portraits in the illustrated
papers."

"And all this leads to--what?"

"It leads to--let me see--oh, yes, it leads to your appearance at my
little gathering. Of course, you'll come. Believe me, you'll not feel
the least uncomfortable. You will be The Girl who Sacrificed her Love
for Conscience' Sake. That's a good enough qualification for distinction
on the part of any girl in these hard times. But I might have known long
ago that you would play this part. That sweetly pathetic voice, with
that firm mouth and those lovely soft gray eyes that would seem to a
casual observer to neutralize the firmness of the mouth. Oh, yes, my
Phyllis, you have undoubtedly _la physionomie du role_."

"What _role_?"

"The _role_ of the girl who is on the side of the Bible."

"I am certainly on the side of the Bible."

"And so am I. So I will look for you to be by my side on Tuesday
week, and as often as you please in the meantime. By the way, you will
probably meet Herbert Courtland at our house. He is the New Guinea man,
you know."

"Of course I know. You talk of wanting heroes in orthodoxy at your
house, while you have Mr. Courtland, the New Guinea explorer, drinking
his tea at your elbow? Oh, go away!"

"I hope you will like him. We saw a good deal of him in Italy, and will
probably see a good deal of him here."

"I'm certain to like him: you like him."

"Ah, that's what you said to the young women who put off their colors
and took to sackcloth in the presence of Mr. Holland. Don't be too sure
that you will like any man because other women like him. Now, I have,
as usual, remained too long with you. I'm greatly impressed with the
situation of the moment. I don't say that I think you are wrong, mind
you. Girls should always be on the side of the Bible. At any rate you
have, I repeat, _la physionomie du role_, and you can't be far astray if
you act up to it. Good-bye, my dearest."



CHAPTER VII.

THE DEFENSE OF HOLLAND.

Ella Linton drove to a certain shop not far from Piccadilly,--the only
shop where the arranging of feathers is treated as a science independent
of the freaks of fashion,--and at the door she met a tall man with the
complexion of mahogany but with fair hair and mustache. People nudged
one another and whispered his name as they walked past him before
standing at the shop window, pretending to admire the feathers, but in
reality to glance furtively round at the man.

The name that they whispered to one another after the nudge was Herbert
Courtland.

He took off his hat--it was a tall silk one, but no one who knew
anything could avoid feeling that it should have been a solar
toupee--when Mrs. Linton stepped from her victoria.

"Oh, you here!" said she. "Who on earth would expect to see you here?"

"You," said he.

"What?"

"You asked me a question. I answered it."

She laughed as they walked together to the door of the feather shop.

"It appears to me that you have a very good opinion of yourself and a
very bad one of me," she remarked, smiling up to his face.

"That's just where you make a mistake," said he.

"How?"

"If I did not think well of you I should not have ordered Parkinson to
make you a fan of the tail of the meteor."

"Oh, Bertie, you have done that?"

"Why should I not do it?"

"But it is the only one in the world."

"Ah, that's just it. You are the only one in the world."

She laughed again, looking up to his face.

"Well, we'll have a look at it, anyway," said she.

They went into the shop to see the tail feathers of that wonderful
meteor-bird which Herbert Courtland had just brought back from New
Guinea with him--the most glorious thing that nature had produced and a
great explorer had risked his life to acquire, in order that Mrs. Linton
might have a unique feathered fan.



About the same time the Rev. George Holland met in the same thoroughfare
his friend and patron, the Earl of Earlscourt.

"By the Lord Harry, you've done for yourself now, my hearty!" cried the
earl. "What the blazes do you mean by attacking the Word of God in that
fashion?"

"Tommy," said the Rev. George Holland, smiling a patronizing smile at
his patron, "Tommy, my friend, if you take my advice you'll not meddle
with what doesn't concern you. You're a peer; better leave the Word of
God to me. I'm not a peer, but a parson."

"I'll not leave it with you; it isn't safe," said the peer. "Anything
more damnably atheistical than that book of yours I never read."

"And you didn't read it, Thomas; you know you only read a screeching
review of it, and you didn't even read that through," said the parson.

"Who told you that?" asked the patron. "Well, at any rate I read what
you said about Ruth. It was quite scandalous! Ruth! Good Lord! what
character is safe nowadays? One of the loveliest of the women of the
Bible--my wife says so. She knows all about them. And the best painters
in the world have shown her standing among the field of oats. By the
Lord, sir, it's sheer blasphemy! and worse than that, it's making
people--good, religious people, mind, not the ruck--it's making them ask
why the blazes I gave you the living. It's a fact."

"I'm sorry for you, Tommy--very sorry. I'm also sorry for your good
religious people, and particularly sorry for the phraseology of their
earnest inquiries on what I am sure is a matter of life and death to
them--spiritually. That's my last word, Thomas."

"And you were doing so well at the Joss-house, too." Lord Earlscourt was
shaking his head sorrowfully, as he spoke. "We were all getting on so
comfortably. That was what people said to me--they said----"

"Pardon me, I'm a parson, therefore I'm not particular; but I can't
stand the way your good religious people express themselves."

"They said, 'It's so d---- pleasant to get hold of a parson who can be
trusted in the pulpit--sermons with a good healthy moral tone, and
so forth. You might bring your youngest daughter to St. Chad's in
the certainty that she would hear nothing that would make her ask
uncomfortable questions when she got home.' It's a fact, they said that;
and now you go and spoil all. The bishop will have a word to say to you
some of these days, my lad. He ran away to the Continent, they tell
me, when your book was published, and it's perfectly well known that he
never runs away unless things look serious. When the bishop is serious,
those that can't swim had best take to the boats."

"I'll ask you for a seat in your yacht, Tommy. Meantime kindest regards
to her ladyship."

"Oh! by the way, it's not true, is it, that the girl has thrown you over
on account of the book?"

For an instant there came a little flush to the face of the Rev. George
Holland; then he shifted his umbrella from one hand to the other,
saying:

"If you mean Phyllis, all I can say in reply is that she is the best and
the truest girl alive at present. I've an engagement at a quarter-past
six."

"Well, good-by. It was my missus who said that the girl would throw you
over on account of that book."

"Ah! Good-by."

"Honestly speaking, George, old man, I think you've made a mistake this
time. People don't mind much about Jacob and Jonah and Jeremiah and the
whole job lot of Sheenies; but they do mind about Ruth. Hang it all man!
she was a woman."

"Ah! so was Jezebel, and yet--ah! good-by. I'll be late for my
appointment."

"See you on Sunday," said the earl, with a broadish smile.

And so he did.

So did the largest congregation that had ever assembled within the
venerable walls of St. Chad's. They heard him also, and so did the dozen
reporters of the morning papers who were present--some to describe,
with the subtle facetiousness of the newspaper reporter, the amusing
occurrences incidental to the church service of the day, and others to
take down his sermon to the extent of half a column to be headed "The
Rev. George Holland Defends Himself." One reporter, however, earned an
increase in his salary by making his headline, "The Defense of Holland."
It was supposed that casual readers would fancy that the kingdom of
Holland had been repelling an invader, and would not find out their
mistake until they had read half through the sermon.

George Holland had not been mistaken when he had assumed that his
appearance in the church and his sermon this day would attract a large
amount of attention. As a matter of fact the building was crowded with
notable persons: Cabinet ministers (2), judges of the superior courts
(4), company promoters (47), actors and actresses (3), music hall and
variety artists (22), Royal Academician (1). Literature was represented
by a lady who had written a high-church novel, and fashion by the
publisher who had produced it. Science appeared in the person of a
professional thought-reader (female). These were all strangers to St.
Chad's, though some of them could follow the service quite easily. The
habitues of the church included several peers, the members of a foreign
embassy, a few outside brokers, quite a number of retired officers of
both services, and some Members of Parliament and the London County
Council.

One of the chaplains of the bishop occupied a seat in the aisle;
according to the facetious newspaper he held a watching brief.

The rector was, of course, oblivious of his brilliant entourage. He
could not even tell if Phyllis or her father were present. (As a matter
of fact both were in their accustomed seats in their own pew.) He, as
usual, took but a small part in the ritual--as Lord Earlscourt once
remarked, George Holland wasn't such a fool as to keep a dog and do the
barking himself. (It has already been stated that he had a couple of
excellent curates.) But the sermon was preached by himself, as indeed it
usually was after the morning service.

It was the most brilliant of all his efforts. He took as his text the
words, "All Scripture is given by inspiration and is profitable," and he
had no difficulty in showing how vast was the profit to be derived from
a consideration of every portion of the sacred volume, it appeared to
him, than the account given of the early history of the Hebrew race.
That account appealed as an object lesson to all nations on the face of
the earth. It allowed every people to see the course which the children
of Israel had pursued at various periods of their existence and to
profit by such observation. The Hebrews were a terrible example to all
the world. If they were slaves when in the land of Egypt, that was their
own fault. Milton had magnificently expressed the origin of slavery:

"He that hath light within his own clear breast May walk i' the noontide
and enjoy bright day, But he that hides dark deeds and foul thoughts.
. . . Himself is his own dungeon."

The bondage of Egypt was, he believed, self-imposed. There is no account
available, he said, of the enslavement of the Children of Israel by the
Egyptians, but a careful consideration of the history of various peoples
shows beyond the possibility of a mistake being made, that only those
become enslaved who are best fitted for enslavement. A king arose that
knew not Joseph--a king who could not believe that at any time there was
belonging to that race of strangers a man of supreme intelligence.
The Israelites bowed their heads to the yoke of the superior race, the
Egyptians, and took their rightful place as slaves. After many days a
man of extraordinary intelligence appeared in the person of Moses. A
patriot of patriots, he gave the race their God--they seemed to have
lived in a perfectly Godless condition in Egypt; and their theology had
to be constructed for them by their leader, as well as their laws: the
laws for the desert wanderers, and a decalogue for all humanity. He was
equal to any emergency, and he had no scruples. He almost succeeded in
making a great nation out of a horde of superstitious robbers. Had he
succeeded the record would have thrown civilization back a thousand
years. Happy it was for the world that the triumph of crime was brief.
The cement of bloodshed that kept the kingdom of Israel together for a
time soon dissolved. Captivity followed captivity. For a thousand years
no improvement whatever took place in the condition of the people--they
had no arts; they lived in mud huts at a period when architecture
reached a higher level than it had ever attained to previously. When
the patriot prophets arose, endeavoring to reform them with words of
fire--the sacred fire of truth--they killed them. One chance remained
to them. They were offered a religion that would have purified them, in
place of the superstition that had demoralized them, and they cried
with one voice, as everyone who had known their history and their social
characteristics knew they would cry, "Not this Man, but Barabbas." That
was from the earliest period in the history of the race the watchword of
the Hebrews. Not the man, but the robber. All that is good and noble and
true in manhood--the mercy, the compassion, the self-sacrifice that are
comprised in true manhood--they cast beneath their feet, they spat upon,
they crucified; but all of the Barabbas in man they embraced. Thus are
they become a hissing in the earth, and properly so; for those who hiss
at the spirit which has always animated Judaism show that they abhor a
thing that is abhorrent. "All Scripture is profitable," continued the
preacher, "and practically all that is referred to in the text is an
indictment of Judaism. The more earnestly we hold to this truth the
greater will be the profit accruing to us from a consideration of the
Scripture. But what more terrible indictment of the Hebrew systems could
we have than that which is afforded us in the record that the father of
the race had twelve sons? He had. But where are ten of them now? Swept
out of existence without leaving a single record of their destruction
even to their two surviving brethren." He concluded his sermon by
stating that he hoped it would be clearly understood that he recognized
the fact that in England those members of the Hebrew community who had
adopted the methods, the principles, the truths of Christianity even
though they still maintained their ancient form of worship in their
synagogues, were on a line with civilization. They searched their
scriptures and these scriptures had been profitable to them, inasmuch as
they had been taught by those scriptures how impossible it was for that
form of superstition known as Judaism to be the guide for any people on
the face of the earth.



CHAPTER VIII.

I HOPE THAT YOU WILL NOT EVENTUALLY MARRY AN INFIDEL.

Some of the congregation were greatly disappointed. They had expected a
brilliant and startling attack upon some other Bible personages who had
hitherto been looked on with respect and admiration. But the sermon
had only attacked the Jewish system as a whole, and everyone knows that
there is nothing piquant in an attack, however eloquent it may be, upon
a religious system in the abstract. One might as well find entertainment
in an attack upon the Magnetic Pole or a denunciation of the Precession
of the Equinoxes. No one cared, they said, anything more about the
failure of the laws of Moses than one did about such abstractions as the
Earth's Axis, or the Great Glacial Epoch. It was quite different when
the characters of well-known individuals were subjected to an assault.
People could listen for hours to an attack upon celebrated persons.
If Mr. Holland's book had only dealt with the characteristics of the
religion of the Jews, it would never have attracted attention, these
critics said. It had called for notice simply because of its trenchant
remarks in regard to some of those Bible celebrities who, it was
generally understood, were considered worthy of admiration.

Why could Mr. Holland not have followed up the course indicated in his
book by showing up some of the other persons in the Bible? it was asked.
There were quite a number of characters in the Bible who were regarded
as estimable. Why could he not then have followed up his original scheme
of "showing them up?"--that was the phrase of the critics. There was
Solomon, for instance. He was usually regarded as a person of high
intellectual gifts; but there was surely a good deal in his career which
was susceptible of piquant treatment. And then someone said that Noah
should have a chapter all to himself, also Lot; and what about the spies
who had entered Jericho? Could the imagination not suggest the story
which they had told to their wives on their return to the camp, relative
to the house in which they had passed all their spare time? They
supposed that Jericho was the Paris of the high class Jews of those
days.

Then the conversation of these critics drifted on to the Paris of
to-day, and the sermon and its lessons were forgotten as easily as is
an ordinary sermon. But all the same it was plain that the clergyman had
fallen short of what was expected of him upon this occasion. His book
had gone far, and it was felt that he should have gone one better than
his book, so to speak. Instead of that his sermon had been one to which
scarcely any exception could be taken.

But the bishop's chaplain, who had watched at intervals of praying, came
to the conclusion that the rector of St. Chad's was a good deal cleverer
than the majority of youngish clergymen who endeavor to qualify
for prosecution. It may be unorthodox to cross one's arms with the
regularity of clockwork on coming to certain words in the service, and
young clergymen had been prosecuted for less; but it was not unorthodox
to speak evil of the Jews--for did not the Church pray for the Jews
daily? and can anyone insult a man more than by praying for him--unless,
of course, he is a king, in which case it is understood that no insult
is intended?

The bishop's chaplain prepared a report of the sermon for his lordship,
pointing out its general harmony, broadly speaking, with the tenets of
the Church.

Mr. Ayrton also seemed to perceive a sort of cleverness in the sermon.
There was nothing in it that was calculated to shock even the most
susceptible hearer. Indeed, it seemed to Mr. Ayrton that there was a
good deal in it that was calculated to soothe the nerves of those who
had been shocked by the book. He said something to this effect to his
daughter as they walked homeward. He was rather anxious to find out what
chance George Holland had of being restored to his daughter's favor.

But Phyllis was firm in her condemnation of the methods of Mr. Holland.

"He attacks the Jews as a race in order to ridicule the statement in
the Bible that they were God's chosen people, and they were, you know,
papa," she said.

"They took so much for granted themselves, at any rate," said her
father, with some show of acquiescence.

"But they were, and they are to be restored to their own land," said
Phyllis.

"Are they, my dear? I should like to see the prospectus of that
enterprise."

"You are mocking, papa. They are to be restored; it says so in the Bible
quite clearly."

"I am not mocking, Phyllis. If gold is discovered in Palestine, the Jews
may go there in some numbers; but, take my word for it, they won't go
otherwise. They couldn't live in their own land, assuming that it is
their own, which is going pretty far. Palestine wouldn't support all the
Jews alive at present; it's a wretched country--I know it well. Besides,
they don't want to return to it, and furthermore, we couldn't spare
them."

"I believe in the Bible, and I have faith," said Phyllis firmly.

"That's right," said her father. "I hope you may always hold to both.
I think that those girls who expect to be regarded as advanced, because
they scoff at the Bible and at faith, are quite horrid. I also hope that
you will not eventually marry an infidel."

"That would be impossible," said Phyllis firmly.

"Would it?" said her father. "There is a stronger influence at work in
most of us, at times, than religion. I wonder if it will make a
victim of you, my child, though you did send George Holland about his
business."

"I don't quite know what you mean," said Phyllis, with only the
slightest possible flush.

And she did not know what he meant until six months had passed; but then
she knew.

Seeing that she did not know what he meant, her father thanked Heaven
that Heaven had given him a daughter who was unlike other daughters. He
prayed that she might never become like other daughters. He thought that
it would be good for his daughter to remain without experience of those
overwhelming passions which make up the life of a woman and a man.



Phyllis went out a good deal during the week, and everywhere she found
herself looked at with interest; sometimes she found herself being
examined through a _pince-nez_ as if she were a curious specimen, and a
woman or two smiled derisively at her. She did not know what was meant
by their curiosity--their derision--until one day an old lady named Mrs.
Haddon went up to her and kissed her, saying:

"I made up my mind that I would kiss you, my dear, the first chance I
had. God bless you, my child! You have given your testimony as a woman
should, in these days of scoffing at the truth."

"Testimony?" said Phyllis, quite puzzled. Had not her father felt a
thrill of gratitude on reflecting that she had none of the qualities of
the prig about her? "Testimony?"

"You have testified to the truth, Miss Ayrton, and you shall have
your reward. You have shown that the truth is more to you than--than
love--the love of man--all that women hold sweet in life. You are right
Miss Ayrton; and all true women must love and respect you."

Phyllis turned a very brilliant color, and kept her eyes fixed on the
parquet pattern of the floor.

The dear old lady said a good deal more to her, all in praise of her act
of having given Mr. Holland his _conge_ on account of his having written
that shockingly unorthodox book.

By the end of the week Phyllis Ayrton was looked on as quite as much a
heroine for having given Mr. Holland his _conge_, as Mr. Holland was
a hero for having braved the bishop in writing the book. She wore her
laurels meekly, though she had been rather embarrassed when a ray of
intelligence appeared among the dark sayings of the dear old lady. She
could not help wondering how all the world had become possessed of the
knowledge that she had said good-by to her lover. She considered if
it were possible that Mr. Holland had spread abroad the account of her
ill-treatment of him--he would naturally allude to it as ill-treatment.
The quick judgment of Ella Linton had enabled her to perceive how
valuable to Mr. Holland was the incident of his rejection by Phyllis.
As a beginning of his persecution, its importance could scarcely be
overestimated. But it did not take Phyllis long to reassure herself
on this matter. It was, of course, Ella who had given the incident
publicity. She had done so for two reasons: first, in order that her
little afternoon At Home might have additional luster attached to it
by the presence of a young woman who had, in these days of a marriage
market overstocked with young women (and old women, for that matter),
thrown over an eligible man for conscience' sake; and secondly, in order
that her At Home might have additional luster attached to it from
the presence of the man who allowed himself to be thrown over by a
delightful girl rather than refrain from publishing what he believed to
be the truth.

Mrs. Linton achieved both the objects which, as a good hostess, she had
in view. Mr. Holland put in an appearance in one of Mrs. Linton's big
drawing rooms, and so did Phyllis Ayrton.

Everyone admitted that only a woman of the social capacity--some people
called it genius--of Mrs. Linton could accomplish such a feat as the
bringing into the same room two persons who had given unmistakable
evidence of possessing a conscience apiece--the woman who had sacrificed
the man for conscience' sake, and the man who had sacrificed the woman
under the same influence. It was a social triumph, beyond doubt.

People talked in whispers of conscience, the advantages and the
disadvantages of its possession, and the consensus of opinion was of its
being quite appropriate in regard to a clergyman, and that it was not
altogether out of place on the part of a spinster, provided that she had
counteracting virtues; but, on the whole, it was perhaps wiser to leave
the conscience with the Nonconformists.

Phyllis did not see George Holland until she had got halfway up the
first of Mrs. Linton's rooms. She did not hear her friend Ella say to
someone, in a low voice of apprehension:

"For Heaven's sake, keep them apart! They are just the sort of people
to greet each other quite cordially; and if they do, no one here will
believe that their engagement is off. People here don't understand how a
delicate conscience works."

That was what Ella murmured to a man who had been invited in order that
he might make himself generally useful. She gave him his instructions
too late, however. Before she had quite completed her greeting of
Phyllis, Mr. Holland was beside them.

He had not forced himself forward with any measure of persistency; no
one seemed to notice any movement on his part until he had shaken
hands with Phyllis, and was chatting with her and Mrs. Linton quite
pleasantly--much too pleasantly for a man with a conscience, someone
said later in the afternoon; but that was someone who wanted to talk to
Phyllis himself.

People watched her when she suffered herself to be gradually withdrawn
from the center of the room to a seat that chanced to be vacant, just
behind the open door of the conservatory. Could it be possible, they
asked one another, that she had indeed given his dismissal to Mr.
Holland the previous week? Why, they were chatting together as
pleasantly as they had ever chatted. Had not the people who talked so
glibly of conscience and its mysterious operations spoken a little too
soon? Or had the quarrel been patched up? If so, which of the two had
got rid of the conscience that had brought about the original rupture?

These questions were answered at divers places by divers persons, all
the time that George Holland and Phyllis Ayrton remained side by side
at the entrance to the conservatory, at the further end of which a vocal
quartette party sang delightfully--delightfully; sufficiently loud to
enable all the guests who wanted to talk to do so without inconvenience,
and at the same time not so loud as to become obtrusive. It is so seldom
that a quartette party manage to hit this happy medium, people said.
They generally sing as if they fancy that people come together to hear
them, not remembering that the legitimate object of music at an At Home
is to act as an accompaniment to the conversation.

When Phyllis was leaving the house half an hour later, a man was just
entering the first drawing room--a man with a face burnt to the color of
an old mezzotint.

He looked at her for a moment as he passed her, for her face had
suddenly lighted up, as such a face as hers does upon occasions.

The man could scarcely fail to perceive that she knew his name was
Herbert Courtland.

But then he was accustomed to be recognized by women as well as men in
every part of Europe, since he had returned from New Guinea with the
tail feathers of the meteor-bird, which were now being made into a fan
for Mrs. Linton.



CHAPTER IX.

MY FATHER HAS HIS IDEAS ON WHAT'S CALLED REALISM.

The last rumble of applause had died away at the Parthenon Theater, but
the audience were leaving very slowly; they wished to linger as long
as possible within the atmosphere of the building; though, like the
atmosphere of many sacred places, that of the Parthenon was, just at
that time, a trifle unsavory. The first performance of the drama of
"Cagliostro" had just taken place, and, as the first nights at the
Parthenon are invariably regarded as the most exclusive functions of the
year, the stalls and boxes had been crowded. And the distinction which
in Mayfair and Belgravia attaches to those who have been in the boxes
and stalls on Parthenon first night is not greater than that which,
in Bloomsbury and Camden Town, accrues to those who have occupied
places--not necessarily seats--in the other parts of the house. It is
understood, too, that the good will of Bloomsbury and Camden Town
is much more valuable to a play than the best wishes of Mayfair and
Belgravia.

The gracious manager had made his customary speech of thanks,--for
everything produced at the Parthenon was a success,--and while the
general audience were moving away very reluctantly, some distinguished
men and women followed the guidance of a strong Irish brogue as a flock
follows a bell-wether, through a door that led to the stage. Here
the great actor and the ever-charming lady who divided with him
the affections of West as well as East, received their guests'
congratulations in such a way as made the guests feel that the success
was wholly due to their good will.

Mrs. Linton, who was a personage in society,--her husband had found a
gold mine (with the assistance of Herbert Courtland) and she had herself
written a book of travels which did not sell,--had brought Phyllis with
her party to the theater, and they had gone on the stage with the other
notabilities, at the conclusion of the performance. George Holland,
having become as great a celebrity as the best of them during that
previous fortnight, had naturally received a stall and an invitation to
the stage at the conclusion of the performance. He had not been of Mrs.
Linton's party, but he lay in wait for that party as they emerged from
their box.

Another man also lay in wait for them, and people--outsiders--nudged
one another in the theater as the passers down Piccadilly had nudged one
another, whispering his name, Herbert Courtland. Others--they were not
quite such outsiders--nudged one another when Mrs. Linton laid down her
new feather fan on the ledge of the box. It was possibly the loveliest
thing that existed in the world at that moment. No artist had
ever dreamed of so wonderful a scheme of color--such miracles
of color--combinations in every feather from the quill to the
spider-web-like fluffs at the tips, each of which shone not like gold
but like glass. It was well worth all the nudging that it called forth.

But when Mrs. Linton had picked it up from the ledge, beginning to
oscillate it in front of her fair face, the nudging ceased. People
looked at the thing with eyes wide with astonishment, but with lips
mute.

A more satisfactory evening she had never spent, Mrs. Linton felt; and
now the fan was hanging down among the brocaded flowers of her dress,
making them look tawdry as she left the box, and noticed how at
least two men were lying in wait for her party. There was, however, a
frankness in Herbert Courtland's strategy which George Holland's did
not possess. Mr. Courtland was looking directly at her; Mr. Holland was
pretending to be engrossed in conversation with a man in one of the end
stalls.

She lifted a finger and Courtland went to her side. The difficulties of
the jungle along the banks of the Fly River were trifling compared with
the obstacles he had to overcome in obeying her.

"I had no idea that you would be here," she said.

"Where else should I be?" he said, in so low a tone as to be heard only
by her.

"We are so glad," said Mrs. Linton. "I want to present you to my dearest
friend, Phyllis Ayrton."

"A woman!" said he.

"Not yet. She has never met a man. She will to-night," said Ella. Then
she turned to Phyllis, who was walking beside Lord Earlscourt. "Come
here, Phyllis," she said; "you are the only person in London who doesn't
yet know Mr. Herbert Courtland. This is Mr. Courtland."

Thus it was that Phyllis went upon the stage of the Parthenon by the
side of Herbert Courtland instead of by the side of George Holland;
and the little laugh that Mrs. Linton gave was due to her careful
observation of the latter's face when he perceived, as he did in spite
of the engrossing nature of his conversation with his friend in the end
stall, how his designs had been defeated by her tactics. She would not
have minded having Herbert Courtland with her for the hour they might
remain at the theater, but she had made up her mind that it was not
to Phyllis' advantage that Mr. Holland should continue by her side in
public after she had given him his dismissal.

She also perceived, with even greater gratification, that Herbert
Courtland was looking nearly as dissatisfied with the result of her
tactics as George Holland. If he had looked pleased at being by the side
of Phyllis when he expected to be with her--Ella--what would life be
worth to her?

But if he was dissatisfied at being with Phyllis instead of Mrs. Linton,
he did not consider that any reason for neglecting the former. He
wondered if she had any choice in sandwiches--of course she had in
champagne. His curiosity was satisfied, and Phyllis was amply provided
for.

"You are Mrs. Linton's dearest friend," he remarked casually, as they
leaned up against the profile of the Church scene in "Cagliostro," for
they were standing in the "wings"--to be exact--on the O. P. side.

"She is my dearest friend, at any rate," said Phyllis.

"You were not at school together. She is four or five years older than
you."

"Only three. When she got married she seemed to me to be almost
venerable. Three years seemed a long time then."

"But now you fancy that you have formed a right idea of what is meant by
three years?"

"Well, a better idea, at any rate."

"You are still a good way off it. But if you have formed a right
estimate of a woman's friendship----"

"That's still something, you mean to say? But why did you stop short,
Mr. Courtland?"

Phyllis was looking up to his face with a smile of inquiry.

"I was afraid that you might think I was on the way to preach a sermon
on the text of woman's friendship. I pulled myself up just in time. I'm
glad that I didn't frighten you."

"Oh, no; you didn't frighten me, Mr. Courtland. I was only wondering
how you would go on--whether you would treat the topic sentimentally or
cynically."

"And what conclusion did you come to on the subject?"

"I know that you are a brave man--perhaps the bravest man alive. You
would, I think, have treated the question seriously--feelingly."

He laughed.

"The adoption of that course implies courage certainly. All the men of
sentimentality--which is something quite different from sentiment, mind
you--have taken to writing melodrama and penny novelettes. You didn't
hear much sentimentality on this stage to-night, or any other night, for
that matter."

"No; it would have sounded unreal. A Parthenon audience would resent
what they believed to be a false note in art; and a Parthenon audience
is supposed to be the concentration of the spirit of the period in
thought and art; isn't it?"

"I don't know. I'm half a savage. But I like to think the best of
a Parthenon audience; you and I formed part of that concentration
to-night--yes, I like to think the best of it. I suppose we know--we,
the Parthenon audience, I mean--what our feelings are on the art of
acting--the art of play-writing."

"I shouldn't like to have to define my feelings at a moment's notice."

"One must make a beginning, and then work up gradually to the
definition."

"For instance----"

"Well, for instance, there's something that people call realism
nowadays."

"My father has his ideas on what's called realism," Phyllis laughed.
"'Realism in painting is the ideal with a smudge.'"

"I should like to hear what you think of it?"

He also laughed sympathetically.

"Oh, I only venture to think that realism is the opposite to reality."

"And, so far as I can gather, your definition is not wanting in
breadth--no, nor in accuracy. Sentimentality is the opposite to
sentiment."

"That is a point on which we agreed a moment ago. My father says
that sentiment is a strong man's concealment of what he feels, while
sentimentality is a weak man's expression of what he doesn't feel."

"And the Parthenon audience--you and I--laugh at the latter--that is,
because we have practiced some form of athletics. The bicycle has given
its _coup de grace_ to sentimentality. That man over there with the head
and face like a lion's, and that woman whose face is nature illuminated,
have long ago recognized the shallowness of sentimentality--the depths
of sentiment. We could not imagine either of them striking a false note.
They have been the teachers of this generation--the generation to which
you belong. Great Heavens! to think that for so many years human passion
should be banished from art, though every line of Shakspere is tremulous
with passion! Why, the word was absolutely banished; it was regarded as
impure."

"I know that--I was at a boarding school. The preceptresses regarded as
impure everything that is human."

"Whereas, just the opposite is the case?"

"I didn't say that, Mr. Courtland."

"You could scarcely say it. I am only beginning to think it, and I have
lived among savages for years. That man with the lion's face has not
feared to deal with passion. All actors who have lived since Garrick
have never gone further than to illustrate passion in the hands of a
man; but that lion-man, whose stage we are now standing on, shows us
not the passion in the hands of a man, but the man in the hands of the
passion. The man who tears the passion to tatters is the robustious
periwig-pated fellow; the actor, who shows us the man torn in tatters
by the passion, is the supreme artist. I am no authority on modern
literature; but I must confess that I was astonished at the change that
a few years have brought about. I was in a proper position for noticing
it, having been practically without books for two years."

"Is it a change for the better, do you think, Mr. Courtland?"

"I feel certain that it is for the better. I refer, of course, only
to the books of those real investigators--real artists. I refer to the
fountain-heads, not to the hydrants laid down by the water companies at
the end of about ten miles of foul piping. I don't like the product of
the hydrants. I like the springs, and, however natural they may be, I
don't find anything impure in them. Why I love the Bible is because it
is so very modern."

"You don't think, then, that it is yet obsolete, Mr. Courtland?"

"No book that deals so truly with men and women can ever be obsolete,
the fact being that men and women are the same to-day as they were ten
thousand years ago, perhaps ten million years ago, though I'm not quite
so sure of that. The Bible, and Shakspere, and Rofudingding, a New
Guinea poet, who ate men for his dinner when he had a chance, and,
when he had finished, sang lyrics that stir the hearts of all his
fellow-islanders to this day,--he lived a hundred years ago,--dealt with
men and women; that is why all are as impressive to-day as they were
when originally composed. Men and women like reading about men and
women, and it is becoming understood, nowadays, that the truth about men
and women can never be contemptible."

"Ah, but how do we know that it is the truth?"

"Therein the metaphysician must minister to himself. I cannot suggest to
you any test of the truth, if you have none with you. Everyone capable
of pronouncing a judgment on any matter must feel how truthfully the
personages in the Bible have been drawn."

"Yes; the Bible is the Word of God."

"I believe that it is, most certainly. That profound wisdom; that
toleration of the weaknesses of men; that sympathy with men, who cannot
fathom the mysteries of life, and the struggle for life of all things
that love life; that spirit I call God, and I don't think that a better
name has been found for it."

"It--for _it_? You think of God as merely a force of nature?"

"Just the contrary. God is the spirit that lives in warfare with nature.
Great Heavens! isn't that the truth of which the whole Bible is the
allegory? Nature and nature's laws constitute the Devil. God is the
opposing Force. It is a law of nature to kill off the weak, to crush
that which has fallen in the struggle. It is God who helps the weak--who
helps the feeble."

"But merely a force?"

"Oh, I have no private opinion on that part of the question. I am not
like that modern philosopher who fancied he had solved the whole problem
by spelling God with a small g. But don't you think that we have gone
quite far enough in our exchange of confidence for a first meeting?
You are what the Italians call _simpatica_--that is, more than merely
sympathetic. You look at one, and lead one on to confide in you as one
does not confide in most girls. You are a thoroughly dangerous young
woman, Miss Ayrton, though you are Mrs. Linton's dearest friend. By the
way, can you make her confide in you?"

There seemed to be a measure of curiosity, not to say anxiety, in the
tone of this inquiry.

"Well, she makes me confide in her. I wonder if that is just the same
thing," said Phyllis.

"It's not exactly the same thing," said he. "But it's the proper course
for dearest friends to adopt toward each other. For the maintenance of
a firm friendship between any two persons, only one should confide; the
other should be strictly the confidante. By the way, I wonder what is
the average duration of the dearest friendship between two women."

"Why should it have any limits?" said Phyllis gravely. "What is the
duration of the friendship between two men?"

"It mostly depends on when the woman makes her appearance," said he,
with a laugh.

"Ah! So that----Ah, never mind. Ella was my dearest friend before Mr.
Linton put in an appearance."

"And he was mine before she put in an appearance," said he.

"I didn't know that," said Phyllis.

"There, you see, is my contention borne out," said he. "You are the one
who confides; she is the one who receives the confidences, and respects
them, I'm sure. I hope that you will do the same, Miss Ayrton. Don't let
anyone know that I confided in you all that I think on the subject of
the old Adam and the new Eve."

"No one except Ella Linton, and you know that I can keep nothing from
her if we are to remain dearest friends. Perhaps she knows already the
limits of your belief, Mr. Courtland."

"She does--she does."

At that moment Ella Linton came up with Lord Earlscourt.

"Has Mr. Courtland been telling you all about the bird of paradise?" she
asked of Phyllis, while she waved the tail feathers of the loveliest of
the birds of paradise before her face.

"The bird?--not the _bird_," laughed Phyllis.

"But the topic was paradise?" Ella joined in the laugh--yes, to some
extent.

"I talked of Adam--the old one of that name," said Mr. Courtland.

"And Eve--the new one of that name," said Phyllis.

"Theology is in the air!" cried Ella. "Even the stage of a theater is
not free from the taint. It must be the case of Mr. Holland. Where is
Mr. Holland, by the way, Lord Earlscourt?"

"I haven't seen him for some time. He must have gone away. I'm not Mr.
Holland's keeper, thank Heaven!" said Lord Earlscourt, with heartfelt
devoutness.

"Now you know that everyone holds you accountable for what he has done!"
said Ella.

"Then that's just where everyone makes a mistake," said he. "Great
Lord! is it your idea of British justice to persecute the wrong man? Why
doesn't the bishop do his duty? What do we pay him for?"

"We won't abandon our charity at the call of theology," said Ella.

"Theology--represented by Lord Earlscourt," said Mr. Courtland.

"You don't know how I've been abused during the past fortnight, indeed
you don't," moaned Lord Earlscourt. "Why, there's my own wife, she
abused me like a cab-driver because George Holland had been with us on
the platform when the Chinese teetotalers came here to protest against
the public houses in England; she says that his backsliding will
put back the cause a quarter of a century. Then there are the other
churchwardens; they look on me as if I had been making a suggestion to
raffle the sacred plate. George Holland has a run for his money, but
I've had no fun out of it."

"It does seem hard," said Courtland. "But it's plain that the case calls
for persecution, and why not persecute you? Someone must be persecuted,
you'll admit."

"Then why the--"

"I thought that your good old Bunyip would look in on us before long,"
said Courtland. "There's no possibility of discussing delicate points in
theology without him."

"I think we had better go home," said Ella.

"We must have some consideration for our host," said Courtland. "We
didn't all play the part of _Cagliostro_ to-night."

During the movement of her circle and the adjustment of wraps,
preparatory to the delivery of a valedictory word of congratulation to
the great actor, Ella said in a low tone to Herbert Courtland:

"Cagliostro? No; we didn't all play the part; but--well, Cagliostro was
a weaver of spells."

There was a pause before he said:

"Yes, but the art did not die with him. He had a daughter to whom he
taught his art."

"Not that I ever heard of," said she. "What do you think of Phyllis
Ayrton?"

"I think that she is the dearest friend of my dearest friend," he
replied.

"And I should like her to become the dearest friend of my dearest
friend."

"That would be impossible," he said.

Then the felicitous valedictory word was said to the great actor and
actress, and Mrs. Linton's carriage received Phyllis. Lord Earlscourt
took a seat in Mr. Courtland's hansom.

"What do you think about Mr. Courtland?" inquired Ella of her dearest
friend, as they lay back with their heads very close together.

There was a long pause before Phyllis replied:

"I really don't know what I think about him. He is, I suppose, the
bravest man alive at present."

"What? Is that the result of your half hour's chat with him?"

"Oh, dear, no! but all the same, it's pleasant for a girl to feel that
she has been talking to a brave man. It gives one a sense of--of--is it
of being quite safe?"

"Good gracious, no! just the opposite--that is----Oh, you don't
understand."

"No, I don't."

"Never mind. Tell me what he talked about?"

"Oh, everything! God."

"I know that it was in the air. He has ideas, I believe. He never
talked on that topic to me. I hope you found him to be quite sound,
theologically."

"But it seems rather funny, doesn't it?" said Phyllis; "but I really
don't think that when I was listening to him I considered for a moment
whether he was sound or the opposite in his views."

"Funny? It would have been rather funny if you had done that," laughed
Ella. "The question that a healthy girl--and you are a healthy girl,
Phyllis--asks herself after talking to such a man as Herbert Courtland
is not, Is his theology sound? What healthy girl cares the fraction of
a farthing about the theology of a man with a face like Herbert
Courtland's and arms like Herbert Courtland's? You talked with him for
half an hour, and then come to me and say that you suppose he is the
bravest man alive in the world. That was right--quite right. That is
just what every healthy girl should say. We understand a man's thews and
sinews; we likewise understand what bravery in a man is, but what do we
know, or, for that matter, care about his theology, whether it is sound
or the opposite? Nothing. We don't even care whether he has any theology
or not."

"Good gracious, Ella! one would fancy that you thought----"

"Thought what?"

"I don't quite know. You see I met Mr. Courtland quite casually, just
as I met a dozen men at various places during the week. Why should you
question me more closely about him than about the dozen other men? He
only talked a little more widely, and perhaps wildly. His bravery is no
more to me than his theology."

"Of course it isn't, Phyllis. But there was the case of George
Holland--"

"That is very different, Ella. I had engaged myself to marry George
Holland. It would be impossible for me to marry any man who had shown
his contempt for--for everything that I regard as sacred."

"I believe it would, if you didn't love that man. But if you loved
the man----Oh, when you come to know what it means to love you will
understand all. A woman before she loves is--what is she, an egg before
it is hatched? That sounds ridiculous. Better say a green chrysalis
before it breaks into a butterfly; for the transition comes at
once. Theology! Oh, my Phyllis, haven't you read in history, true
history--novels written by men who know us and how we were created, and
why--haven't you read what women do when they truly love a man? How they
fling every consideration to the winds: heaven--home--husband--God--Mrs.
Grundy? Theology! Ah, you are a healthy girl. You never cared a scrap
for George Holland. You were glad when the excuse presented itself in
order to throw him over."

"Yes; I believe that is quite true."

Ella's cry of surprise, and her laugh that followed, shocked her
companion, and feeling that this was the case, the one who laughed
hastened to make her apologies.

"Don't be annoyed with me, dear," she cried. "But I really couldn't
help that laugh when I thought of your earnestness the week before
last. Then, you will remember, you were in great pain because of the
heterodoxy of George Holland. Didn't I tell you at that time that you
had never loved him? You were ready to assure me that you had, and that
you were making a great sacrifice to your principles?"

"I remember very well," said Phyllis, with a sound that was not far
removed from a sob.

"Ah, you are a puzzle to yourself, you poor little chrysalis," said
Ella, putting the meteoric feathers playfully down upon the serious
face of Phyllis--its seriousness was apparent beneath the light of the
carriage lamp. "No, don't make the attempt to explain anything to me.
Don't try to reconcile your frankness now with your pretense then,
because you'll certainly make a muddle of it, and because no such
attempt is necessary to be made to me. I know something of the girl and
her moods--not a great deal, perhaps, but enough to prevent my doing you
an injustice. You are perfectly consistent, my Phyllis."

"Oh, consistent?"

"Perfectly consistent with your nature as a girl. It is the nature of
a girl to change with every wind that blows. It is only the female prig
who acts consistently under all circumstances. In a world the leading
of which is its men, inconsistency is the best nature of a healthy girl
made to be loved by men. One doesn't sneer at the weathercock because
one hour it points to the north and the next to the east. 'Tis its
nature to. 'Tis our nature to change with every breeze of man that bears
down on us. That's why they love us and detest the prigs. Here we are at
your house. I hope you don't keep your maid up for you. I would scorn to
keep a girl out of her bed for the sake of brushing my hair. Good-night,
dear, and dream of the paradise that awaits you--a paradise in which
there are birds to be shot, birds of paradise to make feather fans for
women who hold them to their bosoms one minute, and the next dispose of
them to Mr. and Mme. Abednego with last season's opera wrap. There's a
parable for you to sleep upon."

"And you--you?" cried Phyllis.

"Oh, as for me, I'll, I'll--well, I think I'll put my meteor fan on
the pillow beside my own to-night. I'm still newfangled with my toy
and--well, I'm a woman."

At this instant the carriage pulled up to Mr. Ayrton's hall door and the
footman jumped down from the box to run up the steps and ring the bell.

"Good-night," said Phyllis. "I enjoyed my evening greatly, and the drive
home best of all."

Ella Linton's laugh was smothered among the delicate floss of the
feathers which she held up to her face.



CHAPTER X.

IT IS THE PRICE OF BLOOD.

Phyllis had a good deal to think of after she had sat for half an
hour with her father in the room where they worked together for the
discomfiture of the opposite party, and had given him some account
of the representation of the play at the Parthenon. Her father was
delighted to find her in high spirits. So many people come back from the
theater looking glum and worn out, yawning and mumbling when asked what
they have seen and what it had all been about. Phyllis was not glum,
nor did she mumble. She was able to describe scene after scene, and more
than once she sprang from her seat, carried away by her own powers of
description, and began to act the bits that had impressed her--bits the
force of which could only be understood when described with gestures and
pretty posturing.

Her father thought he had never seen anything so pretty in his life.
(What a girl she was, to be sure, to have so easily recovered from the
effects of that terrible ordeal through which she had passed--having to
dismiss at a moment's notice the man whom she had promised to marry!)
He had certainly never seen anything so fascinating as her pretty
posturing, with the electric lights gleaming over her white neck with
its gracious curves, and her firm white arms from which her gloves had
been stripped.

It had been his intention to describe to her a scene which had taken
place in the House of Commons that night--a scene of Celt and Saxon
mingling in wild turmoil over a question of neglected duty on the part
of a Government official: not the one who was subsequently decorated
by the sovereign a few days after his neglect of duty had placed the
country in jeopardy, and had precipitated the downfall of the ministry
and the annihilation of his party as a political factor; not this
man, but another, who had referred to Trafalgar Square as the private
thoroughfare of the crown. The scene had been an animated one, and Mr.
Ayrton had hoped to derive a good deal of pleasure from describing it to
his daughter; but when he had listened to her, and watched her for a few
minutes, he came to the conclusion that it would be absurd for him to
make an effort to compete with her. What was his wretched little story
of Parliamentary squalor compared with these psychological subtleties
which had interested his daughter all the evening?

He listened to and watched that lovely thing, overflowing with the
animation that comes from a quick intelligence--a keen appreciation of
the intelligence of the great artists who had interpreted a story which
thrilled the imagination of generation after generation, and he felt
that Parliament was a paltry thing. Parliament--what was Parliament? The
wrangle of political parties over a paltry issue. It had no real life
in it; it had nothing of the fullness and breadth of the matters that
interested such people as had minds--imagination.

"You are tired," she cried at last. "It is thoughtless of me to keep you
out of your bed. You have had a weary night, I am sure. Was it the Irish
again, or the horrid teetotalers?"

"It was both, my dear," said he. "Phyllis," he added solemnly, "an Irish
teetotaler is a fearful thing."

"You shall forget all the intemperate teetotalers in a beautiful sleep,"
said she, putting her arms around his neck. "Good-night, papa! It was so
thoughtless of me to keep you up. It is one o'clock."

"It appears to me that you are the one who should be ready to succumb,"
said her father. "I had nothing to stimulate my imagination. Practical
politics has not yet discovered a good working reply to the man who
calls his fellow-man a liar, so the political outlook is not very
cheering."

"That is what is greatly needed: a satisfactory retort--verbal, of
course--to that every-day assertion."

"It has become the most potent influence in the House of Commons, during
the past year or two; and the worst of the matter is that the statement
is nearly always correct."

"Then there is all the greater need for a _modus vivendi_"--she had an
ample acquaintance with the jargon of diplomacy. "I don't despair of
Parliament being able to suggest an efficient retort."

"Parliament: two ragamuffins quarreling up an entry over a rotten
orange. Good-night, my child!"

She was at last in her own room: an apartment of gracious-tinted fabrics
and pink satin panels; of tapestried sofas made by French artists before
the lovely daughter of Maria Teresa went to her death. She switched on
the lights in the candle sconces, and threw herself down upon one of the
sofas. Her theater wrap and fan she had laid over a chair.

It was not to the drama which she had seen superbly acted at the
Parthenon that her thoughts went out; but to the words which her dearest
friend had spoken when driving back from the theater.

What words were they?

She could not recollect them now; but she was still conscious of the
impression which they had produced upon her while they were being
spoken. That impression was that up to that instant all the issues of
her life had been unworthy of a moment's consideration. She had taken
what she believed to be a deep interest in many matters during the five
years that she had been the head of her father's house. She had, she
knew, been of the greatest help to her father in his political life, not
merely turning her memory to good account in discovering the incautious
phrases in the speeches of the men who were foolish enough to be his
opponents, but actually advising him, when he asked her, on many matters
about which the newspapers had been full. Then she had taken an active
part in more than one of those "movements" which became the topic of a
London season until compelled by an invisible but all-powerful authority
to move on and make way for the next new thing. She had moved with
every movement, and had proved her capacity to control herself when the
movement became uncontrollable. And then she had thought how worthy a
position in life would be that of the wife of the rector of a church
like St. Chad's.

That idea had remained with her, as had already been said, for some
months, until, to be exact in regard to the date, the other young women,
whom she had been watching with interest, had bought their brilliant
blouses with the newest and, consequently, most abnormal sleeves,
casting aside the sober-hued bodices which they had worn in hope.

How paltry were all these aspirations, these undertakings!

That was what was dinning in her ears all the time Ella had been talking
in the carriage.

But why, why, why should all her previous interests, including the
consideration of the questions of orthodoxy and the other thing, seem so
ridiculously small while Ella was speaking?

That was the question which puzzled her. Had Ella shown her a way to
something better, something higher, something better worthy of the
aspiration of a woman? She could not say that that had been the drift of
her large discourse. What she had said had actually been puzzling in its
vagueness, its daring images--all images are vague; its allegories--all
allegories are indefinite.

And yet--and yet--and yet----

With a motion of impatience Phyllis sprang to her feet. After a pause
she went to a little satin-wood cabinet which she had turned into a
bookshelf, and took out her Bible. She had never slept a night for years
without reading a chapter; and in order to avert the possibility of her
own feelings or fancies of the moment making any invidious distinction
between the various component parts of a book which is profitable
in every line, she had accustomed herself to read the chapters in
consecutive order from The Genesis to The Revelation. Sometimes, when
she found herself face to face of a night with a purely genealogical
chapter, Phyllis of Philistia had difficulty in crushing down her
unworthy desire to turn to some chapter that seemed to her frail
judgment to contain words of wider comfort to the children of men than
a genealogical tree of the Children of Israel; but she had never yielded
to so unworthy an impulse. Who was she that she should suggest that
one part of the Sacred Book was calculated to be more profitable than
another? Was it not all the Bible?

She had plowed her way through the slough of Hebrew names upon these
occasions, and the blessing of the words had been borne to her in the
form of a sweet sleep.

Her chapter for this night was that which describes the campaign of
David, during which he and his hosts were besieged in their earthworks,
and how the three mighty men had made a sortie through the camp of the
enemy in order to obtain for their leader a cup of water.

She continued the chapter to the end, but all through it those words
were ringing in her ears:

"It is the price of blood; it is the price of blood."

And as she knelt down beside her bed, her bare white feet peeping out
from beneath the drapery of her white night-dress, in a posture
that would have made the most human atheist believe in the beauty of
devotion, those words were still in her ears: "The price of blood; the
price of blood."

Good Heavens! How could she carry that feather fan? How could Ella
Linton hold it up to her face--hold her face down to it, flutter
its fairy fluff upon her cheeks? It was the price of blood. Herbert
Courtland had run a greater risk to obtain those feathers than David's
mighty men had run to draw the water from the well. She had heard all
about the insatiable savagery of the natives of New Guinea. Paradise?
Who had named those birds the birds of paradise? She recollected how
the feathers which Ella had whirled about had held in the very center of
every wonderful disc of rich purple, edged with unequal radiating lines
of gold, a single spot of brilliant crimson, with a tiny star of silver
in the center. The effect of the sunlight glinting over this combination
on the thousand feathers that swept after the bird had caused Herbert
Courtland, the first white man who had seen this glory of glories, to
call it the meteor-bird. But those crimson drops: were they not the
blood of the men who had perished miserably while endeavoring to wrest
its marvels from the tropical forests of that great island?

Paradise?

And Ella could treat those feathers as though they had been plucked from
a tame pheasant? And now she was lying in her bed with the fan on the
pillow beside her!

How could she do it? That was what the girl asked herself while she lay
awake on her own bed. Would Ella not see, on the white pillow beside her
head, the crimson stains of the feathers that had been snatched out
of the dripping red hand of death, but the man who had not feared to
grapple with death itself in that hell which people called a paradise?

But the man, the man who had gripped death by the throat and had torn
the feathers from his grisly, fleshless fingers,--her imagination was
very vivid at night, especially after reading a thrilling chapter of
Hebrew massacre,--that man had talked with her upon such trifles
as books and plays, strange pageants enacted among paper and canvas
unrealities of life. She had actually been leaning against some of these
painted scenes while the man who had fought his way into the depths of
that forest which no white man but himself had yet penetrated,--the man
whose life had, day by day and night by night, been dependent upon the
accuracy of his rifle aim,--had talked with her.

That was really the sum of all her thoughts. She did not try to recall
the words that he had spoken; it was simply the figure of the man who
had been before her that now remained on her mind. She did not stop to
think whether or not he had spoken as a man with intellect would speak;
whether he had spoken as a man whose orthodoxy was beyond suspicion
would speak. The question of his orthodoxy, of his intellect (which may
be just the opposite), did not occur to her. All she felt was that she
had been talking face to face with a man.

So that the result of her evening's entertainment, after she had read
her inspiring chapter in the Bible and said her bedside prayer, she
might have defined in precisely the same words as she had spoken to
her friend Ella when Ella had asked her, immediately on entering the
carriage, what she thought of Herbert Courtland.

"He is the bravest man in the world at present."

She did not fall asleep for a considerable time.



CHAPTER XI.

I'M AFRAID THAT I MUST HAVE PRINCIPLE ON MY SIDE.

"It is quite ridiculous, besides being untrue," said Phyllis, when she
had read the article in the newspaper to which her father called her
attention one morning, a week after the criticism on "Cagliostro" had
appeared. The article was headed:

"DYNAMITE VERSUS EVANGELIZATION,"

and it came out in a weekly paper devoted to the interests of
Nonconformists.

"It is with the deepest regret that we have to call the attention of
our readers and the public [the article ran] to the series of charges
brought by the Revs. Joseph Capper and Evans Jones, the eminent pioneers
of the Nonconformist Eastern Mission, against a gentleman to whom
a considerable amount of honor is just now being given by the Royal
Geographical Society, the Ethnological Institute, the Ornithological
Association, and other secular organizations, on account of his
exploration in the Island of New Guinea. It is scarcely necessary to
say that we allude to Mr. Herbert Courtland. The position which has been
occupied for several years by the two distinguished ministers whose self
sacrifice in endeavoring to spread the Light through the dark places of
the tropical forests of a savage land is well known to the subscribers
to the N. E. M., precludes the possibility of a mistake being made in
this matter, and yet they declare in a letter which we publish this
morning that the manner in which Mr. Courtland pursued his so-called
explorations in the forests which line the banks of the Fly River has
practically made impossible all attempts at mission work in that region.
In several directions it is not denied that Mr. Courtland entered into
friendly relations with some native tribes; but instead of endeavoring
to make the poor benighted creatures acquainted with the Truth, he
actually purchased as slaves over a hundred of them to aid him in
penetrating the Kallolu forest, where, it will be remembered, he
succeeded in shooting the much illustrated meteor-bird, as well
as several other specimens which will delight the members of the
Ornithological Association rather than professing Christians. Our
distinguished correspondents state, and we have no room to doubt their
word, that Mr. Courtland purchased his slaves by a promise to assist
the head man of their tribe against his enemies belonging to another
tribe--a promise which he only too amply fulfilled, the result being an
indiscriminate slaughter of savages who, though avowed cannibals, might
eventually have embraced the truths of Nonconformity. The elephant
rifles of the explorer did their deadly work only too efficiently; but
we trust that, for his own sake, Mr. Courtland will be able to bring
forward trustworthy evidence to rebut the suspicion of his having upon
at least one occasion induced even the friendly natives to believe
that he possessed the power of the Deity to perform miracles, and upon
another occasion of having used dynamite against them by which hundreds
were destroyed in cold blood. It is the evil influences of such
irresponsible men as Mr. Courtland, whose ill-directed enterprise we
cannot in justice to him refrain from acknowledging, that retard the
efforts of those noble pioneers of Nonconformity who have already made
such sacrifices for the cause, and who rejoice at the difficulties with
which they find themselves beset. We understand that a question will
be put to the Minister for the Annexation Department in the House of
Commons toward the latter end of the week, on the subject of the alleged
excesses of the most recent explorer (so-called) of New Guinea--excesses
which if committed in Bulgaria or Armenia, or even Ireland, would have
called for an expression of the horror of Christian Europe; and we may
mention that subscriptions on behalf of the Revs. Joseph Capper and
Evans Jones will be received at the office of this paper to enable them
to substantiate the truth of their statements."

"It is quite ridiculous, besides being untrue, papa," cried Phyllis;
"and I hope that you will not fail to take his part and show the
falsehood of such accusations. Could anything be more absurd than that
about the slaves? Slaves! Dynamite!"

"Leading up to subscriptions--don't forget that," said her father. "If
subscriptions are to be forthcoming, they must be got up. Traffic in
human flesh, insults to aborigines, Siberia, the conversion of the
Jews--all these appeal directly to the pockets of the Great English
People. Any one of them will constitute an excellent peg on which to
hang an appeal to the pocket. Those two distinguished pioneers of--well,
shall we say civilization or Nonconformity?--understand their business,
my dear."

"It is no part of their business to try and hold a brave man up to the
execration of everyone."

"I'm not so sure of that. The technicalities of the mission field
are not so apparent all at once. The Vineyard--well, the system of
vine-culture of some of the organizations is a trifle obscure."

Phyllis became impatient.

"The House of Commons--a question is to be asked in the House. Then you
must ask another, papa, showing the nonsense of the first."

"Heavens above! Why should I be dragged into the quarrel, if it is a
quarrel, of Herbert Courtland on the one hand and the Reverends Joseph
Capper and what's the other, Smith--no, Jones--Evans Jones? I shouldn't
wonder if he is of Welsh extraction."

"You will surely not stand passively by and hear a brave man slandered.
That would be unlike you, papa. No; you are bound to protest against the
falsehood."

"Am I indeed? Why? Because the slandered man, if he is slandered, is the
friend of my daughter's friend?"

"Exactly--that's quite sufficient for you to go upon--that and the
falsehood."

"If it is a falsehood."

"If--oh, papa--if?"

"If I have your personal guarantee that the statements are
unsubstantiated----"

"Now, you are beginning to jest. I cannot jest on so serious an issue.
Think of it--slaves--dynamite!"

"Both excellent words for missionaries to send home to England--almost
equal to opium and idols from the standpoint of the mission-box."

Phyllis was solemn for a moment; then she burst into a merry laugh that
only wanted a note of merriment to be delightful. Her father did not
miss that note. He was thinking of another phrase.

"Now, why shouldn't you say that or something like that, my father?"
cried the girl. "Something to set the House laughing before the Minister
of the Annexation Department has had time to reply? You can do it, you
know."

"I believe I could," said Mr. Ayrton thoughtfully. "But why, my child;
why?"

"Why! Why! Oh, if one only said good things when there was a reason for
saying them, how dull we should all be! Any stick for a dog--any jest is
good enough for the House of Commons."

"Yes; but suppose it is inferred that I am not on the side of the
missionaries? What about Hazelborough?"

Hazelborough was the constituency which Mr. Ayrton represented in the
House of Commons.

"My dear father, where would you be if you couldn't steer through the
Hazelborough prejudices now and again? You can always say something so
good as to make people not care which way it cuts."

"What? Oh, Phyllis! I am ashamed of you. Besides, the people of
Hazelborough have got to be extremely sensitive. They have caught the
Nonconformist Conscience. The bacillus of the Nonconformist Conscience
was rampant a short time ago, and it has not yet been stamped out. I'm
afraid that I must have principle on my side--some show of principle,
at any rate--not so wide as a church door or so deep as a well, but
still----"

"And you will, too, papa. I'll see Ella and get her to find out from Mr.
Courtland what is the truth."

"Well, perhaps it mightn't be wise to rush into extremes all at once! I
wouldn't insist on the truth, if I were you. What's the House of Commons
that it should be cockered up with the truth? All that is needed is
enough to go on with. An electro-plating of veracity is in keeping with
the economic tendencies of the age."

"I am not afraid of the truth," cried Phyllis, without giving the
cynicism of her father the tribute of a smile. "Mr. Courtland would, I
know, be incapable of doing anything unworthy of--of----"

"Let us say an explorer," suggested her father. He knew that the word
which was in her mind was _Englishman_. She only checked herself when
her imagination caused her to perceive the average silk-hatted man with
his tongue in his cheek at the utterance of the phrase. "Let us say
'unworthy of an explorer,'" repeated her father; "that is an elastic
phrase."

Phyllis was irritated.

"I have talked with him," she said a trifle coldly.

"Yes," said her father, "once."

"I should have said that I know Ella."

"And yet Ella is a woman!"

"Oh, the charges are too ridiculous! Slaves! What nonsense! We all know
what slavery is. Well, where are his slaves now? If he only hired the
natives for a month or two they were only servants, not slaves. The
thing is manifestly ridiculous."

"Then why should we trouble ourselves with the attempt to rebut it?"

"Because so many people are idiots nowadays," cried Phyllis warmly.
"Because, no matter how ridiculous a charge which is brought against a
distinguished person may be, some people will be found ready to believe
in its truth. Never mind; I'll find out the truth; I'll go to Ella."

"The fountain-head indeed," said Mr. Ayrton. "When in search of the
truth, go to a woman."

"I will, at any rate," said Phyllis.

And she went thither.



CHAPTER XII.

DYNAMITE--SLAVE-DEALING--MASSACRES--ARMENIA!

Phyllis, of course, knew when to go to Ella with the certainty of
finding her at home. At the luncheon hour Mrs. Linton was always visible
to the three friends whom she had within the confines of Mayfair. She
considered herself blessed among women in the numerical strength of her
friendships; and so perhaps she was; she had three.

She was in one of her drawing rooms--the one that was decorated with
water colors set in fluted panels of yellow silk--not the one with the
pink blinds so beloved by those of her visitors who had reached an age
to regard a pink light as a woman's best friend. She was wearing a new
gown which Phyllis, in spite of her enthusiasm on behalf of a brave man
maligned, found admirable both as regards fabric, fit, and fashion.

Then followed a word or two of commendation of the artists who had been
concerned in its production. They had not been absurd about the sleeves,
and they had not vetoed the sweep of lace--it was about half a yard
wide--which the person who occupied so insignificant a position as is
usually allocated to the mere wearer of the gown had suggested for
the bodice. The gown was an unequivocal success, and had Ella seen the
disgraceful article which had appeared in the _Spiritual Aneroid_ on the
subject of Mr. Courtland's explorations?

Ella smiled a slow smile, as the question joined the congratulation
without the lapse of a breath.

"The _Spiritual Aneroid_? Who is the _Spiritual Aneroid_? What is
the _Spiritual Aneroid_?" she asked. "Oh, a newspaper. What could a
newspaper with such a funny name have to say about Mr. Courtland?"

"I have brought it with me," said Phyllis. "It is quite disgraceful. I'm
sure you'll agree with me."

"I'm certain of it."

Ella accepted the proffered paper and glanced down the article pointed
out to her by Phyllis. Phyllis' eyes were gleaming as she placed her
finger on the words, "Dynamite _versus_ Evangelization," but Ella's eyes
did not gleam while she was reading all the words printed beneath the
heading. She folded the paper and glanced carelessly at the name at the
top of the outside page and said, "Well?"

"Was there ever anything so disgraceful?" cried the girl. "Was there
every anything so false?"

"Is it false?" asked Ella.

"How can you doubt it? Do you fancy that Mr. Courtland would be a
slave-dealer?"

"I wonder how he'd look in the broad flat hat which appears in all the
pictures of the slave-dealers? Rather well, I fancy," said Mrs. Linton.

"Oh, how can you talk of his looking well or ill when you read such an
attack upon him?" said Phyllis, jumping up with a charmingly rosy face.
"Surely it is something to you when so distinguished a man--your friend
as well--is attacked!"

"If we were traveling with him across the desert in a caravan, should we
mind much if the whole caravan were attacked by Bedouins or missionaries
or people of that stamp, my dear? Of course we shouldn't. We should
feel that he would be equal to the defense of all of us, and himself as
well."

"Oh, of course; but this is quite another thing, isn't it?"

"Where is the difference? If anybody minds the nonsense printed in that
thing, Herbert Courtland will certainly be able to defend himself when
called on to do so."

Phyllis seated herself once again.

"But a question is to be asked in Parliament about him?" she suggested.

"And can you, the daughter of a member of that Parliament, honestly
tell me that you fancy that any human being minds how many questions are
asked about him in the Questionable House?"

"But the least breath of
suspicion--dynamite--slave-dealing--massacres--Armenia. Oh, the article
is certain to be copied into dozens of other papers--the public do so
like to get hold of some scandal against a man who has done something
great."

"They do indeed. Would you suggest organizing a committee of ladies for
the protection of Mr. Courtland?"

"Don't talk nonsense, Ella. I though that you were his friend, and that
you would be as indignant as I was at that disgraceful attack upon his
reputation."

"I don't think that it will place his reputation in jeopardy, unless
with the readers of that paper, and they are not worth taking into
account, are they?"

"Papa says the thing has a large circulation among a certain class. I
want him to ridicule the question which is threatened in that article;
he knows how to do that kind of thing very well."

"Is it come to that, my Phyllis? Were you really so greatly interested
in the one conversation you had with him as to constitute yourself his
champion?"

Above all things Phyllis was truthful. She had never had an experience
of love--that passion which can change the most truthful of womankind
into the least scrupulous. There was no pause between Ella's question
and Phyllis' answer.

"Certainly the one conversation that I had with him interested me--I
told you so returning in the carriage. Has he never succeeded in
interesting you, Ella? He told me that you were his friend--I believe he
said his dearest friend."

"And I believe that he told you the truth," said Ella. "But, being
his best friend and a woman, I refrain from constituting myself his
champion. You see we live in Philistia, my Phyllis, and the champions
that Philistia sends forth usually come to grief; there was the case of
one Goliath of Gath, for example. I have no desire to have stones slung
at me by the chosen people."

"I'm not quite sure that I understand you," said Phyllis, with a very
pretty pucker on her forehead. "You don't mean to say that a woman
should not do her best for a man whom she knows to be maligned? You
don't suggest that she should stand silently to one side while people
are saying what's false about him?"

"I say that it's unwise in Philistia; though I admit that it is of the
greatest advantage to the man, for people at once cease maligning him
and take to maligning her."

"If she is any sort of a woman she will not mind that, however unjust
it may be. In this case, however, I don't think there is much risk: even
the most unscrupulous person could hardly say that--that----"

"That we were becoming Herbert Courtland's champions, because we were in
love with him?"

"Well, I don't know. Wasn't that what you meant to suggest people would
say of a woman who became a man's champion?"

"Something in that way. How straightforwardly you speak out what's on
your mind!"

"Oh, I'm a girl of to-day. I have got over all those absurd affectations
of childishness which used to be thought feminine long ago. The gambols
of the kitten were once thought the most attractive thing on earth, and
they are very interesting: but for the full-grown cat to pretend that it
is perfectly happy with a ball of worsted, when all the time it has its
heart set on a real mouse, is nonsense."

"That is an allegory, a subtle parable, Phyllis. But I fancy I can
interpret it. You are quite right. Men know that we, the full-grown
cats, take no interest in the ravelings of wool as mediums of
diversion--that we have our hearts set on mice. Oh, yes! it is much
better to be straightforward in our speech--it is even sometimes
better to be quite straight in our ways as well. It usually prevents
misunderstanding. There is scarcely a subject that women may not talk
about to men in the most direct way, nowadays. But about the question of
championship----"

Here the door of the room was thrown open and Mr. Herbert Courtland was
announced.

"I quite forgot to mention that Mr. Courtland was lunching with us
to-day, Phyllis," said Ella, while shaking hands with her visitor. "Now
you will have a chance of getting the slave-dealer's account of the
whole business. Are you a slave-dealer, Bertie? If so, why don't you
wear the usual broad-leaved hat of your order?"

"It is I who am the enslaved one," said Mr. Courtland, laying his hand
to the left of the buttons of his white waistcoat and bowing the bow of
the early years of the century, with a glance at each lady.

"What a pretty reminiscence of the age of artificiality!" said Ella;
"and what an apt commentary upon the subject we were talking about,
Phyllis! We were discussing the merits of directness in speech and
straightness in every way. We were ridiculing the timid maid--all
sandals and simper--of forty years ago. Why should men and women have
ever taken the trouble to be affected? Let us go in to lunch and eat
with the appetites of men and women of the nineties, not with the
nibblings of society of the fifties. Come along, Phyllis. Mr. Courtland
will tell us all about his dreadful goings on, his slave-dealings, his
dynamitings. Have you seen that article in the--what's the name of the
paper, Phyllis?"

"The _Spiritual Aneroid_," said Phyllis.

"I haven't been so fortunate," said he.

"Then we shall take the paper into the dining room with us, and place it
before you. If you were guilty of the doings that the article details,
you would do well to--to--well, to adopt the picturesque costume
incidental to ruffianism--the linen jacket of the slave-trader, the
mangy fur collar of the dynamity man of war. Have you ever trafficked in
human beings, Mr. Courtland?"

"Well, yes," said he. "I have done a little in that way, I admit."

"And dynamite--have you ever massacred people with dynamite?" Ella
continued.

"Well, when my dynamite exploded, the people who were in the immediate
neighborhood were never just the same afterward," said he.

"Finally, did you allow yourself to be worshiped as God?" she asked.

"Yes, I got them to do that," he replied. "I have experienced all human
sensations, including those of a god in working order."

"Then I hope you will make a good lunch. We begin with white-bait."

"I am quite satisfied to begin with white-bait," said he.



CHAPTER XIII.

EVEN THE HOUSE OF COMMONS DOESN'T MATTER MUCH.

"I did not intend to stay for lunch," said Phyllis, "but your
overpowering will swept me along with it, Ella. But I hope you will
let me say that I don't think you should jest about what is--what some
people at any rate think very serious."

"Phyllis is of Philistia," said Ella, "and Philistia was always given
to ordeal by champions. She thinks the attack made upon you by two
missionaries in their newspaper organ quite disgraceful. It doesn't seem
so disgraceful after all."

"I haven't seen the attack," said he. "But I feel it to be very good of
Miss Ayrton to think it disgraceful."

"Of course I thought it disgraceful," said Phyllis, "and I came to Ella
to talk it all over. The article accuses you of atrocities, and said
that a question would shortly be put to the Minister of the Annexation
Department in the House of Commons. Now, I know that there is nothing
my father enjoys more than snubbing those detestable men who endeavor to
get up a reputation for philanthropy, and temperance, and bimetallism,
and other virtues, by putting questions on the paper; and he could,
I think, ask some counter question in this particular case that would
ridicule the original busybody."

"It was very good of you to think so, Miss Ayrton," said he. "I can't
say that, personally, I mind all the attacks that all the missionaries
who earn precarious salaries in South Seas may make upon me; but I must
confess that I have a weakness for seeing busybodies put to shame."

"You may depend upon Mr. Ayrton's satire," said Ella. "It never misses
the point in the harness. The barb of the dart is, I believe, Mr.
Ayrton's, the feather at the other end is Phyllis'."

"Only once that happened," said Phyllis. "Oh, no! papa manufactures his
own darts, from feather to tip."

"But supposing that the charges brought against me are true?" suggested
Mr. Courtland.

"Why, then, can't you see there is all the greater need for ingenuity in
your defense?" said Ella.

"It is impossible to think of the charges as true," said Phyllis
stoutly.

"For example?" said he.

"Well, the article said that you had made slaves of some of the natives
of New Guinea, purchasing them by a promise to help a native chief
against his enemies."

"There wasn't much harm in that: I did it," said he.

"And then it went on to say that you kept your promise," said Phyllis.

"What! They accused me of keeping my promise?" said he. "Well, I'm
afraid I can't deny that charge either."

"Did you really slaughter the natives?" cried Phyllis.

The interest which she felt appeared in her eyes.

"I did my best for the savages who had purchased my services," he
replied. "The campaign was not a protracted one. Two days after the
outbreak of hostilities brought things to a climax. We fought
our decisive battle--the Sedan of King Mubamayo. You see, I had a
trustworthy Winchester. I believe that about seventy of the enemy bit
the dust."

"Only seventy? That was unworthy of you, Mr. Courtland," cried Ella.
"Nothing short of thousands counts as a civilized battle. Seventy! Oh,
I'm afraid you don't do yourself justice."

"Of course a battle is a battle," said Phyllis stoutly. "If you hadn't
killed them they would have killed you. You were in the right, I'm
sure."

"I'm not so sure of that," said he, shaking his head. "To tell you the
truth, the elements of the crisis of Headman Glowabyola were somewhat
involved. The original dispute was difficult for a foreigner to
understand--it was, in fact, the Schleswig-Holstein question of
Kafalonga."

"You settled it, anyway," suggested Ella. "You were the Bismarck of
what's-its-name?"

"I doubled the parts of Bismarck and Von Moltke," said he.

"And that's why they worshiped you as their god? I don't wonder at
the heathen in his blindness doing that. Any man who was the same as
Bismarck and Von Moltke would certainly shoulder a deity out of his
way," laughed Ella.

"It so happened, however, that my deification was due neither to my
recognition as a diplomatist nor as a military strategist," said the
explorer. "No, they wanted something beyond the mere fighting man to
worship, and my knowledge of that fact combined with their paeans of
victory--to the _obbligato_ of a solid iron-wood drum beaten with the
thigh bones of the conquered--to keep me awake at night. But one morning
the headman came upon me when I was about to boil my kettle to make
myself a cup of tea. I had a small lamp that burned spirits, and he
stood by while I filled it up from the bottle that I carried with me.
He took it for granted that the spirit was water, and he was greatly
impressed when he saw it flare up as I applied a lighted match to it. He
asked me if I possessed the power to set water in a blaze, and I assured
him that that was something for which I had long been celebrated; adding
that when I had had my breakfast I meant to while away an hour or two
by setting fire to the ocean itself. He implored of me to reconsider my
decision, and when I had poured a little spirit into the hollow of my
hand and lighted it in the presence of his most eminent scientists, they
said that they also desired to associate themselves with the headman's
petition. I was, however, inexorable; I walked down to the beach and
had just struck a match on the brink of the ocean when the whole tribe
prostrated themselves around me, promising to continue worshiping me if
I would only stay my hand. Well, what could I do? I weakly yielded and
spared the multitudinous sea from being the medium of what would in all
likelihood have been the greatest conflagration on record. From that
moment, I'm happy to say, they worshiped me as their supreme deity,
and I'm bound to say that I behaved as such; I was certainly the most
superior class of god they had ever had, and they gave me a testimonial
to this effect in case I might ever be looking out for a new situation."

"That was how you managed to get such a collection of birds, including
my meteor-bird," said Ella. "But Phyllis of Philistia is shocked at the
bare recital of such a tale of idolatry. Are you not, Phyllis?"

"I think I am a little shocked," said Phyllis. She did not say that her
first thought just then was that the feather fan was not, after all, the
price of blood: it was something much worse. "It was an encouragement of
idolatry, was it not, Mr. Courtland?"

"Scarcely," said he. "On the contrary, it was an honest attempt to lead
them from their idols to something higher and better."

"You are something higher and better," suggested Ella.

"Quite so; I am a little lower than the angels, but a good deal higher
than the awful image which they worshiped before I turned up," said he.
"The whole tribe admitted in the most honorable manner that I was by far
the best god they had ever had; they had not an unlucky day so long as
they worshiped me, and I retained my Winchester and a full supply of
cartridges."

"The testimony was flattering," said Ella. "But still Phyllis is
shocked."

"I am," said Phyllis. "I believe in God. Mr. Courtland believes in a
Principle."

"Anyhow, I led some thousands of savages from idolatry and cannibalism
to something higher, and that's a better record than most gods of my
acquaintance can show. Everything must be done gradually to be done
permanently. Nothing could be more absurd than the _modus operandi_ of
your missionary. Most of them have got rid of their Christianity to make
way for their theology. They endeavor to inculcate upon the natives the
most subtle points of their theological system, immediately after
they have preached against the wickedness of economy in the matter of
clothing."

"A large missionary work might be done among husbands at home," said
Ella. "But what about the dynamite, that is the charge which still hands
over you--a charge of dynamite?"

"That was my worst hour," said Courtland. "I had gone up the Fly River
in my steam launch to a point never previously reached by a European.
I was fortunate enough to get some specimens that had never been
seen before, and I was returning to the coast. My engineer and I were
captured when ashore one night getting fuel for our furnace. They took
us into the forest a long way, binding our hands with the fiber of one
of the creepers, and I had no trouble whatever gathering that it was
their intention to make a feast of us--a sort of high tea, it was to be,
for they began brewing the herbs which I knew they used only when
they were cannibalizing. We were courteously permitted to watch these
preparations, for it was rightly assumed that they would be in some
degree interesting to us. We were, indeed, greatly interested in all
we saw, but much more so when, toward evening, a number of the natives
arrived on the scene carrying with them some of the stores which they
had found aboard the steam launch. They broke open with a stone hatchet
some tins of preserved meat, and seemed to enjoy the contents greatly.
The biscuits they didn't care for much, and the cakes of soap which
they began to eat could not honestly be said to be an entire success as
comestibles. But while we watched them at these _hors d'oeuvres_ to the
banquet at which we were expected to take a prominent part, a straggler
came up with some reserve supplies; I saw them; tins of dynamite--we
carried dynamite for blowing up the snags that obstructed the narrower
reaches of the river. We watched the thieves crowd around the bearer
of the tins, and we saw that the general impression that prevailed
in regard to them was that they had come upon some of the most highly
concentrated beef they had ever had in their hands. When they laid the
tins among the hot ashes of their fires and began to break them open
with their stone hatchets, my engineer thought with me that all the
interest there would be in the subsequent proceedings could not possibly
compensate us for the waste of precious time which would be entailed by
our remaining. We bolted in spite of our fettered hands, but before we
had got more than a couple of hundred yards from the camp, there took
place the severest earthquake, coincidental with a thunderstorm and the
salute of a battery of a thousand heavy guns. We were whirled into the
air like feathers in a breeze, but managed to cling--our bonds being
broken--to some of the boughs among which we found ourselves. Shortly
afterward, a quarter of an hour or so, there came on the heaviest shower
I had ever experienced. Such a downpour of branches of trees, gnarled
roots, broken fruits, birds' feathers, mutilated apes of many species,
and--well, anatomical specimens! It went on and on until the boughs
around us were made into splinters and we were beaten to the ground with
the force of those missiles, all the dense forest around us echoing to
the shrieks of the lories and parrots, the monkeys and the wildcats."

"And now the missionaries," said Ella, after a pause.

"And what happened after that?" whispered Phyllis.

He shook his head.

"After that we came away," he said. "We couldn't see that there was any
need for us to stay loafing about the forest when we had our business
to mind in another direction. It took us two days, however, finding our
launch."

"And that is what the missionaries call your dynamite outrage against
the natives?" said Ella.

"So it would seem," said he. "I suppose they managed to get some account
of the business; one can't hush up a dynamite outrage even in the
interior of New Guinea."

"But what a gross misrepresentation of facts it was to say that you had
massacred the natives," cried Phyllis indignantly.

He laughed with a shrug.

"Oh, we must all live," he said.

"Unless those who treat tins of dynamite as though they were tins of
brawn," said Ella. Then turning to Phyllis she smiled.

Phyllis had no difficulty interpreting the smile.

"Yes," she said, "your opinion was quite correct: Mr. Courtland doesn't
care what people say, and it doesn't matter in the least what they do
say, or what falsehoods are spread abroad."

"Not in the smallest degree," said Ella. "Herbert Courtland is still
Herbert Courtland."

"But so far as I can gather," said Mr. Courtland, "all that the
missionaries said of me was substantially correct."

"Read the paper and you will see how detestably false all the charges
are," cried Phyllis, rising,--the servants had now left the room,--and
picking up the _Spiritual Aneroid_ from where Ella had laid it on a
chair.

Herbert Courtland had not yet opened it. He took it from her, saying:

"Thank you, Miss Ayrton. But I really don't see that it concerns me very
much whether or not the charges brought against me are true or false.
The matter is certainly one for the--the--ah--_Spiritual Aneroid_ and
its special _clientele_."

"But a question is to be asked about it in the House of Commons. I said
so just now," cried Phyllis.

"And even the House of Commons doesn't matter much," said Ella.

"That is what papa thought," said Phyllis meekly. "Only I know that if
Mr. Courtland thought it worth noticing, papa would be quite pleased to
put a counter question. That is why I came here to-day."

"It was so good of you," said the man.

"My Phyllis is all that is good. Let us return to the drawing room,"
said Ella, rising.

They returned to the drawing room; but when they had been in the
apartment for perhaps four minutes, certainly not five, Phyllis said it
was necessary for her to hurry home in order that the afternoon letters
should be sent to her father at the House.

With another word of appreciation of her kindness, Mr. Courtland held
her hand a second longer than was absolutely necessary to maintain a
character for civility.

"She is the most charming girl in the world," remarked Ella to the
visitor, who remained when Phyllis had left.

"Is she?" said he.

"I know it. Don't you?" asked she.

"How do I know?" he said. "I have thought nothing about it. If you say
she is charming, I am pleased to hear it. It matters no more to me that
the world is full of charming girls than that the kraken is still at the
bottom of the sea. One woman fills all my thoughts. My heart is full of
her."

"And you want her to risk the salvation of her soul for you?"

"Yes; that is just what I want."

He remained with her for another hour.



CHAPTER XIV.

THE HONORABLE MEMBER IS CLEARLY OUT OF ORDER.

Mr. Ayrton met his daughter the next morning with the good news that
he had found among his specimen cases of phrases, one that would
effectually silence the member from Wales who had been nominated by the
Nonconformist Eastern Missionary Society to put that question to the
minister of the Annexation Department on the subject of Mr. Courtland,
the explorer. Mr. Ayrton was the better pleased at his discovery,
because of the inoffensive nature of the phrase which he had taken out
of its case, so to speak. As a rule, he did not mind being offensive if
only his phrase was apt. Only people who had no artistic appreciation
found fault with the tone of some of his most notable phrases. He did
not mind whether they were just or unjust, they said. As if a man can be
both honest and witty at the same time!

It so happened, however, that the party to which Mr. Ayrton belonged had
become greatly concerned in respect of an element that had just come to
the surface to still further complicate the course of politics. This was
the Nonconformist Conscience--hitherto a _quantite negligeable_ in the
calculations of the leaders, but now one that it appeared absolutely
necessary to take into account as a factor. To be sure, there were a
good many people who put their tongues in their cheeks when any mention
was made of the Nonconformist Conscience: they said it was no more to be
taken seriously than the Spector on the Brocken or the Athanasian Creed.
It was only the trick of an electioneering agent desirous of escaping
from an untenable position.

There were other persons, however (mostly Nonconformists), who were
found ready to declare that the Nonconformist Conscience was a Great and
Living Truth. The only point upon which statesmen of all parties were
agreed was that it was worth purchasing. The Nonconformists themselves,
upon whom the Great and Living Truth was sprung, had no notion at first
that it could be turned into a negotiable security occupying as high a
place in the market as, say, Argentine bonds. But it did not take them
very long to find out that even an abstraction such as this could be
turned to good account by discreet maneuvering. Truth sometimes is heard
on an election platform, and yet truth is but an abstract quality. Why,
then should not a Great and Living Truth become a regular gold mine to
its inventor? It was as great an invention as the art of electroplating,
which it closely resembled, and a quite as nice thing could be made out
of it by a little dexterous manipulation. If the conscience is silver,
the Nonconformist Conscience is at least electroplate of a first-class
quality, it was argued; and a political manifesto, which was practically
a financial prospectus, was issued with a view of floating the
Nonconformist Conscience Company, Limited.

English politics cannot by any possibility be regarded as an exact
science; and thus it was that all political parties were at this time
making bids for shares in the enterprise. The leaders of one party, in
fact, expressed themselves ready to buy up the whole concern, and they
actually tendered bills payable at twelve months for all the vendors'
interest, and it was only when these bills became due and were returned
dishonored that the shadowy character of the transaction was made plain,
and the country was convulsed at the disclosure of the fact that the
vendors had disposed of a perfectly worthless invention, and that the
purchasers had paid for it by promises that were equally worthless.

All this happened later, however; when the fuss was made about
the atrocities by an explorer in New Guinea, and Mr. Ayrton was
contemplating a counter question that should cast ridicule upon the
missionaries and their champion, he was given to understand by the
leaders of his party, who, it was believed, had a small parcel of
baronetcies done up in official twine, with blank spaces for the name
and address in each, awaiting distribution at the first change of
Government, that he must take no step that might jeopardize the
relations of the party with the vendors of the Nonconformists
Conscience. The _Spiritual Aneroid_ was the leading Nonconformist organ,
and it would not do to sneer at the missionaries whom it supported. It
would be better that all the explorers who had ever risked their lives
on behalf of civilization should go by the board than that a single vote
should be lost to the party, he was assured by the Senior Whip.

This was rather irritating to the artist in phrases; because it stood to
reason that the majority of his phrases were calculated to be hurtful
to his opponents. He was thus quite elated when he came upon something
which would, he felt sure, call comment in the press at the expense
of the member from Wales without casting any slight upon Nonconformist
Missionary enterprise.

He read out the thing to his daughter, and he was surprised to find that
she was not appreciative of its unique charm. This was rather too bad,
he felt, considering that it was she who had enlisted his services in
this particular matter.

"I don't think Mr. Courtland wants anybody to take his part in
Parliament or out of it," said she. "And that's why I think it would be
better to let that Mr. Apthomas ask his question without interruption.
What can the Minister of Annexation say except that he has no
information on the subject, and that if he had he could not interfere,
as he had no jurisdiction on the Fly River?"

"That is what he will reply as a matter of course," said her father.
"But that will not prevent the newspapers that are on the side of Wales
and the missionaries from saying what they please in the way of comment
on the atrocities in New Guinea."

"Mr. Courtland will not mind whatever they may say," cried Phyllis.

"That was the view I took of the matter in regard to Mr. Courtland's
attitude when you mentioned it to me at first," said he. "I didn't
suppose that he was the man to be broken down because some foolish paper
attacks him; but you were emphatic in your denunciation of the injustice
that would be liable to be done if--"

"Oh, I had only spoken for about half an hour to Mr. Courtland then,"
said Phyllis. "I think I know him better now."

"Yes, you have spoken with him for another half hour; you therefore
know him twice as well as you did," remarked her father. "I wonder if he
admitted to you having done all that he was accused of doing."

He saw in a moment from the little uneasy movement of her eyes that he
had made an excellent guess at the general result of the conversation
at Mrs. Linton's little lunch. He had not yet succeeded in obtaining any
details from his daughter regarding her visit to Ella. She had merely
told him that Ella had kept her to lunch, and that Mr. Courtland had
been there also.

"Yes. I do believe that he admitted everything," he continued, with
a laugh as he thought how clever he was. (He had frequent reasons for
laughing that laugh.)

"No," said Phyllis doubtfully; "he did not admit everything."

"There was some reservation? Perhaps it was melinite that he employed
for the massacre of the innocents of New Guinea, not dynamite."

"No; it was dynamite. But the natives had stolen it from his steam
launch and they exploded it themselves."

Mr. Ayrton lay back in his chair convulsed with laughter.

"And that is the true story of the dynamite massacre?" he cried. "That
is how it comes that, in the words of the _Aneroid_, the works of
evangelization on Nonconformist principles is likely to be retarded
for some time? The missionaries are quite right too. And what about his
miracles--they suggested a miracle, didn't they?"

"Oh, that was some foolishness about setting spirits of wine on fire,"
said Phyllis. "The natives thought that it was water, you know."

Mr. Ayrton laughed more heartily than before.

"That is the crowning infamy," he cried. "My dear Phyllis, it would be
quite impossible to allow so delicious a series of missionary muddles to
pass unnoticed. I think I see my way clearly in the matter."

She knew that he did. She knew that he regarded most incidents in the
political world merely as feeders to his phrase-making capacity. She
knew that it would be impossible to repress him now in the matter of
Courtland and the missionaries; she fully realized the feelings of
Frankenstein.

Only the weakest protest did she make against her father's intended
action; and thus when the day came for Mr. Apthomas' question,
that gentleman from Wales inquired, "If Her Majesty's Minister for
Annexations could give the House any information regarding the so-called
explorations of Mr. Herbert Courtland in the island of New Guinea,
particularly in respect of a massacre of natives by dynamite in the
region of the Fly River; and if it was true that the gentleman just
named had permitted himself to be worshiped as a god by the aborigines
of another region; and if Her Majesty's Minister for Domestic Affairs
was prepared to say that it was legal for one of Her Majesty's subjects
to assume the privileges and functions of a god, and if the First Lord
of the Treasury was prepared to communicate to the House what course,
if any, Her Majesty's government meant to adopt with a view to the
prevention of similar outrages in the same region in the future?"

Mr. Ayrton rose before the Minister of the Annexation Department had
quite concluded his yawn, and said he trusted that he was in order
(cries of "Yes, yes," from those members who knew that the honorable
member had an enlivening phrase which he wanted to get rid of) in
inquiring, in connection with the same subject, if the right honorable
gentleman could inform the House if there was any truth in the
report current in financial and other circles that the object of the
explorations of Mr. Herbert Courtland was the discovery of a small
mammal of the porcine tribe, and if one of the Law Officers of the
Crown was prepared to assure the House that it would be contrary to the
provisions of the Companies Act, and the Companies Act Amendment Act,
to permit this New Guinea pig to assume the functions of the director of
Limited Liability Companies, whose directorate was largely composed
of members of both Houses of Parliament (great laughter from honorable
gentlemen who were aware that the Mr. Apthomas had no income beyond
the remuneration he received as a director of companies); and if Her
Majesty's Minister for Agriculture was prepared to state that it was the
intention of Her Majesty's Government to prohibit the introduction of,
at any rate the males of the mammals just referred to, considering the
rapid increase in representative assemblies of the English or Welsh
bore----(Great laughter, which prevented the concluding words of the
sentence being audible in the gallery.)

THE SPEAKER: Order! order! The honorable member for Hazelborough must
confine himself strictly to the issued raised by the honorable gentleman
from Wales. The honorable member for Hazelborough is only permitted
to follow the honorable gentleman from Wales by the indulgence of the
House.

MR. AYRTON: Sir, I bow to the ruling of the chair, and will continue by
inquiring if Her Majesty's Minister for the Public Worship Department
can state to the House if it is true that a newspaper published within
the Principality of Wales recently made the announcement that the
honorable member who had just made inquiries regarding the exploration
of Mr. Herbert Courtland, was the idol of his constituents [Laughter,
and cries of "Order!"], and if the right honorable gentleman is prepared
to state that the provisions of the Idolatry Act are--

THE SPEAKER: The honorable member is clearly out of order. The question
of idolatry in Wales is not at present before the House.

MR. AYRTON: Sir, I give notice that next session I shall move a
resolution regarding idolatry in the Principality of Wales [Laughter and
cheers.]

The minister for Annexation was about to rise when

MR. MUDLARKY (Ballynamuck) asked if the introduction of the guinea pigs
would be prejudicial to the interests of the higher and nobler Irish
animal who, he would remind the Minister for Public Worship, was not to
be confounded with the herd whose example was clearly emulated by the
present government in seeking self-destruction by running down a steep
place into the sea. (Cries of "Order, order!") If there was any doubt
before, the honorable member continued, as to the influence which was at
work in that Gadarene herd, which assumed the functions of Her Majesty's
government, the sounds that now came from the Treasury Benches would
convince even the most skeptical that sacred history is sometimes
repeated by profane, but he could not compliment the devils, who had the
bad taste to--(Several honorable members here rose amid the cheers of
the Irish Members, and a scene of confusion took place.)

THE SPEAKER [sternly]: Order, Order! The honorable member from
Ballynamuck must resume his seat. He is out of order. The question
before the House is not the good taste of demoniac visitants. I call
upon the right honorable gentleman, the Minister for the Department of
Annexation.

MR. McCULLUM (Blairpukey Burghs): Mr. Speaker, one moment. To save time,
will the right honorable gentleman say if the Highland Crofters, whose
land was stolen from them in order that the members of the Upper House--

THE SPEAKER: Order! The Minister for the Department of Annexation.

MR. BLISTER (Battersea, Mid): Mr. Speaker, though I don't do any work
myself, I'm the representative of labor, only those contemptible skunks,
the workingmen, don't see that they have a man for a leader--a
man, that's me--that's Joe Blister. And as the Upper House has been
introduced, I'll run, eat, or swear with the best of that lot of
tap-room loafers; I'll do anything but fight them--except, of course, on
a labor platform, and if--

THE SPEAKER: The honorable member is out of order. The Minister for the
Department of Annexations.

THE MINISTER FOR ANNEXATIONS: No, sir; I have no information [Cheers and
laughter.]

The House then went into Committee of Supply.



CHAPTER XV.

BUT MR. COURTLAND----AH, NEVER MIND!

Mr. Ayrton entertained his daughter with a description of the scene
in the House incidental to the annihilation of Mr. Apthomas. He rather
thought himself that his counter-question had been neat. He had been
congratulated on it by quite a number of his friends in the tea room,
and six messages had been delivered to him by representatives of the
press to the effect that if he could provide them with the exact text of
his counter-question they would be greatly obliged.

"They mean to report it in full?" said Phyllis. She had an ample
experience of the decimation of his questions as well as speeches by the
members of the press gallery. They had reduced it to a science.

"I am much mistaken if they don't comment on it as well," said her
father. "Poor Apthomas! he alone sat glum and mute while everyone around
him was convulsed."

"I hope that Mr. Courtland will not feel hurt at what has occurred,"
said Phyllis doubtfully.

"Mr. Courtland? Who is Mr. Courtland? What has Mr. Courtland to say to
the matter? What business is it of his, I should like to know."

"Well, considering that he was the original subject of the questions,
though I must confess that he didn't remain long so, I don't think it
altogether unreasonable to wonder what he will think about the whole
episode," remarked Phyllis.

"Ah, you always do take an original view of such incidents," said
her father indulgently. "It is so like a woman to try and drag poor
Courtland into the business. You ought to know better than to fancy
that any interest attaches to the original subject of a question in the
House. You'll be suggesting next that some credit should be given to the
youths who pass brilliant examinations in things, and that all should
not be absorbed by their grinders."

"I'm not so silly as that, papa," said she. "No; but Mr.
Courtland----Ah, never mind."

He did not mind.

It so happened, however, that several of the newspapers which commented
on the questions and counter-questions the next day introduced the name
of Mr. Herbert Courtland and his explorations; though, of course, most
attention was directed to what Mr. Ayrton's party called the brilliant,
and the other party the flippant, methods of Mr. Ayrton. His reference
to the New Guinea pig some thought a trifle too personal to be in
good taste, but if politicians refrained from personalities and
were punctilious in matters of taste, what chance would they have of
"scoring," and where would the caricaturists be? The reputation of a
politician is steadily built up nowadays, not by consistency, certainly;
not by brilliant rhetoric; not even by the unscrupulous exercise of
a faculty for organizing impromptu "scenes," but by the wearing of a
necktie, or a boot, or a waistcoat that is susceptible of caricature.
A very ordinary young man has before now been lifted into fame by the
twists of his mustache, and another of less than mediocre ability has
been prevented from sinking in the flood of forgetfulness by the kindly
efforts of a caricaturist who supported him by a simple lock on his
scalp. Thus it was that Mr. Apthomas found himself famous before a week
had passed, through the circumstance of being represented in the leading
journal of caricature as a guinea pig, flying, with the spoil of bubble
boards of directors under his arm, from the attack of a number of
quaint-looking mammals wearing collars inscribed "ACCURACY," "CORRECT
BALANCE SHEETS," "LEGITIMATE SPECULATIONS," and other phrases that
suggested the need for the old guinea pig to give way to a new breed.
Underneath the picture was printed a portion of the counter-question of
Mr. Ayrton, and opposite to it were some verses with a jingling refrain
that everyone could remember, and which everyone quoted during the next
few days.

The firm of publishers who had been fortunate enough to secure the issue
of Mr. Courtland's new book were delighted. If Mr. Ayrton could only
have seen his way to introduce their names and their address in his
counter-question, their cup of happiness would have been complete, they
said. They managed, however, to induce the proprietors of a young
lady who was reputed to be the vulgarest and most fascinating of all
music-hall artistes, to introduce Mr. Courtland's name into one of
the movable stanzas of her most popular lyric: those stanzas which are
changed from week to week, so as to touch upon the topics which are
uppermost in the minds--well, not exactly the minds--of the public. It
is scarcely necessary to say that this form of advertisement is worth
columns of the daily papers; and if Mr. Courtland had only shown himself
appreciative of his best interests and had changed the title of his
book to "The Land of the New Guinea Pig," instead of "The Quest of
the Meteor-Bird," they would have gone to press with an extra thousand
copies.

But even as it was they knew that between the member of Parliament and
the music-hall young lady the sale of the book was a certainty.
Their calculations were not at fault. The publishers sent a liberal
subscription to the Nonconformist Eastern Mission, whose agents had
stimulated public curiosity in Mr. Courtland's new book by suggesting
that he had carried out, single-handed, one of the most atrocious
massacres of recent years; and a diamond brooch to the music-hall young
lady who had so kindly worked in the reference to the book after dancing
one of her most daring hornpipes in the uniform of a midshipman; they
doubled the lines of their announcements in the advertising columns
of the paper that had issued the cartoon of the New Guinea Pig,
and, finally, they sent a presentation copy of "The Quest of the
Meteor-Bird," to Mr. Ayrton.

Then, as everyone was humming the lines of the music-hall young lady:

    "From the land of far New Guinea
     Came a little pig-a-ninny,"

the daily papers were bound to give two-column reviews to the book on
the day of its publication; and as the rod which Moses cast down before
Pharaoh swallowed up the wriggling rods of the magicians, the interest
attaching to Mr. Courtland's book absorbed that which attached to all
the other books of the season, including "Revised Versions," though the
publishers of the latter moved heaven and earth (that is to say, the
bishop and the people's churchwarden) to get the Rev. George Holland
prosecuted. If either had been susceptible to reason, and had got up a
case against their author, the publishers declared that Mr. Courtland's
book would not have had a chance with "Revised Versions." To be sure
they admitted that the report that Mr. Holland had been thrown over by
the lady who had promised to marry him had given a jerk forward to the
sales; but when Mr. George Holland had been so idiotically blind to his
best interests and (incidentally) the best interests of his publishers,
as to contradict this suggestion of incipient martyrdom, and thus an
excellent advertisement had been lost, and everyone was, in a week or
two, talking about "The Quest of the Meteor-Bird," while only a few
continued shaking their heads over "Revised Versions."

Meantime, however, Mr. Courtland thought it well to call upon Mr. Ayrton
in order to thank him for his kindness in replying in the House of
Commons so effectively to the questions put to the various ministers by
Mr. Apthomas; and Mr. Ayrton had asked Mr. Courtland to dinner, and Mr.
Courtland had accepted the invitation, Miss Ayrton begging Mrs. Linton
to be of the party, and Mrs. Linton yielding to her petition without
demur.



CHAPTER XVI.

WOULD IT BE WELL WITH MY HUSBAND?

It was on their way back from this little dinner-party that Mr.
Courtland confessed to Ella Linton that he had come to think of her
dearest friend as a most charming and original girl; she had never once
referred to his achievements in New Guinea, nor had she asked him to
write his name in her birthday book. Yes, she was not as other girls.

"I'm so delighted to hear you say so much," said Ella. "Oh, Bertie! why
not make yourself happy with a sweet girl such as she, and give no more
thought to such absurdities as you have been indulging in? Believe me,
you don't know so well as I do in what direction your happiness lies."

"I don't know anything about happiness," said he. "I don't seem to care
much, either. When I made up my mind to find the meteor-bird, don't you
suppose that there were many people who told me that, even if it was
found, it was quite unlikely that it would be more succulent eating than
a Dorking chicken? I'm sure they were right. You see, I didn't go to New
Guinea in search of a barndoor fowl. I don't want domestic happiness, I
don't want anything but you--you are my meteor-bird. I found, after my
first visit to New Guinea, that it was impossible for me to rest until I
had found the meteor-bird. I have found that it is impossible for me to
live without you, my beloved."

"You will have to learn to live without me," said she, laying her hand
upon his. They had now reached her house, so that no immediate reply was
possible. He did not attempt to make a reply until they had gone into a
small drawing room, and she had flung off her wrap. They were alone.

Then he knelt on the rug before her and took both her hands in his
own--a hand in each of his hands--as they lay on her dress. His face was
close to hers: she was in a low chair. Each could hear the sound of the
other's breathing--the sound of the other's heart-beats. That duet went
on for some minutes--the most perfect music in life--the music which is
life itself--the music by which man becomes immortal.

"Do not hold me any longer, Bertie," said she. "Kiss me and go
away--away. Oh, why should you ever come back? I believe that, if you
loved me, you would go away and never come back. Oh, what is this farce
that is being played between us? It is unworthy of either of us!"

"A farce? A tragedy!" said he. "I want you, Ella. I told you that I
could not live without you."

"You want me? You want me, Bertie?" said she. Tears were in her eyes and
in her voice, for there was to her a passion of pathos in those words
of his. "You want me, and you know that it is only my soul that shall be
lost if I give myself to you. God has decreed that only the soul of the
woman pays the penalty of the man's longing for her."

"You soul shall be saved, not lost," said he. "At present it is your
soul that is in peril, when you give your sweetness to the man whom you
have ceased to love--ah! whom you never loved. You will save your soul
with me."

"I shall lose it for all eternity," said she. "Do you think that I
complain? Do you fancy for a moment that I grumble at the decree of God,
or that I rail against it as unjust?"

"You are a woman."

"I am a woman, and therefore you know I will one day be ready to lose my
soul for you, Bertie, my love. Oh, my dear, dear love, you say you want
me?"

"Oh, my God!"

He had sprung to his feet and was pacing the room before her.

"You say that you want me. Oh, my love, my love, do you fancy for a
moment that your longing for me is anything to be compared to my longing
for you?"

"My beloved, my beloved!"

His arms were about her. His lips were upon hers. She kissed him as he
kissed her.

Then she turned her head away so that his kisses fell upon her cheek
instead of her mouth. She turned it still farther and they fell upon her
neck--it was exquisite in its shape--and lay there like red rose-leaves
clinging to a carved marble pillar.

"Wait," she said. "Wait; let me talk to you."

She untwined his arms from about her--the tears were still in her eyes
as she tried to face him.

"Why should you still have tears?" said he. "If anything stood between
us and love, there might be room for tears, but nothing stands between
us now. I am yours, you are mine."

"That is the boast of a man who sees only the beginning of a love; mine
are the tears of a woman who sees its end, and knows that it is not far
off."

"How can you say that? The end? the end of love such as ours? Oh, Ella!"

"Oh, listen to me, my love! I am ashamed of the part I have played
during the past six months--since we were together on the Arno, and you
are ashamed, too."

"I am not ashamed. I have no reason to be ashamed."

"No; you are not ashamed of the part you have played; but you are
ashamed of me, Bertie."

"Oh you? I--ashamed of you? Oh, my darling, if you talk longer in that
strain I will be ashamed of you."

"You are ashamed of me--I have sometimes felt it. A man with a heart
such as I know yours to be, cannot but be ashamed of a woman, who,
though the wife of another man, allows him to kiss her--yes, and who
gives him kiss for kiss. Oh, go away--go away! I have had enough of your
love--enough of your kisses, enough shame! Go away! I never wish to see
you again--to kiss you again."

She had walked to the other end of the room, and stood under a Venetian
mirror--it shone like a monstrous jewel above her head--looking at him,
her hands clenched, her eyes flashing through the tears that had not yet
fallen.

He had had no experience of women and their moods, and he was
consequently amazed at her attitude. He took a step toward her.

"No--no," she cried angrily. "I will not have any more of you. I tell
you that I have had enough. I find now that what I mistook for love was
just the opposite. I believe that I hate you. No--no, Bertie, not that,
it cannot be that, only----Oh, I know now that it is not hate for you
that I feel--it is hate for myself, hate for the creature who is hateful
enough to stand between you and the happiness which you have earned by
patience, by constancy, by self-control. Yes, I hate the creature who is
idiotic enough to put honor between us, to put religion between us, to
put her soul's salvation between us."

"Ella, Ella, why will you not trust me?" he said, when she had flung
herself into a chair. He was standing over her with his hands clasped
behind him. He was beginning to understand something of her nature; of
the nature of the woman to whom love has come as a thief in the night.
He was beginning to perceive that she had, in her ignorance, been ready
to entertain love without knowing what was entailed by entertaining him.
"If you would only trust me, all would be well."

She almost leaped from her chair.

"Would it?" she cried. "Would all be well? Would it be well with my
soul? Would it be well with both of us in the future? Would it be well
with my husband?"

He laughed.

"I know your husband," he said.

"And I know him, too," said she. "He cares for me no more than I care
for him, but he has never been otherwise than kind to me. I think of
him--I think of him. I know the name that men give to the man who tries
to make his friend's wife love him. It is not my husband who has earned
that name, Mr. Courtland."

He looked into her face, but he spoke no word. Even he--the lover--was
beginning to see, as in a glass, darkly, something of the conflict that
was going on in the heart of the woman before him. She had uttered words
against him, and they had stung him, and yet he had a feeling that, if
he had put his arms about her again, she would have held him close to
her as she had done before; she would have given him kiss for kiss as
she had done before. It is the decree of nature that the lover shall
think of himself only; but had he not told Phyllis that his belief
was that Nature and Satan were the same? He was sometimes able to say,
"_Retro me, Sathana_"--not always. He said it now, but not boldly, not
loudly--in a whisper. The best way of putting Satan behind one is to run
away from him. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Yes, but, on
the whole, it is safer to show him a clean pair of heels than to enter
on an argument with him, hoping that he will be amenable to logic.
Herbert Courtland said his, "_Retro me_," in a whisper, half hoping, as
the gentlewoman with the muffins for sale hoped, that he would escape
notice. For a few moments he ceased to think of himself. He thought of
that beautiful thing before him--she was tall, and her rosy white flesh
was as a peach that has reached its one hour of ripeness--he thought of
her and pitied her.

He had not the heart to put his arms about her, though he knew that to
do so would be to give him all the happiness for which he longed. What
was he that he should stand by and see that struggle tearing her heart
asunder?

"My poor child!" said he, and then he repeated his words, "My poor
child! It would have been better if we had never come together. We are
going to part now."

She looked at him and laughed in his face.

He did not know what this meant. Had she been simply acting a part all
along? Had she been playing a comedy part all the while he was thinking
that a great tragedy was being enacted? Or was it possible that she
was mocking him? that her laugh was the laugh of the jailer who hears a
prisoner announce his intention of walking out of his cell?

"Good-by," said he.

She fixed her eyes upon his face, then she laughed again.

He now knew what she meant by her laugh.

"Perhaps you may think that you have too firm a hold upon me to give me
a chance of parting from you," said he. "You may be right; but if you
tell me to go I shall try and obey you. But think what it means before
you tell me to leave you forever."

She did think what it meant. She looked at him, and she thought of his
passing away from her forever more. She wondered what her life would be
when he should have passed out of it. A blank? Oh, worse than a blank,
for she would have ever present with her the recollection of how he had
once stood before her as he was standing now--tall, with his brown hands
clenched, and a paleness underlying the tan of his face. "The bravest
man alive"--that was what Phyllis had called him, and Phyllis had been
right. He was a man who had fought his way single-handed through such
perils as made those who merely read about them throb with anxiety.

This was the man of whom she knew that she would ever retain a
memory--this was the man whom she was ready to send back to the
uttermost ends of the earth.

And this was to be the reward of his devotion to her! What was she
that she could do this thing? What was she that she should refrain from
sacrificing herself for him? She had known women who had sacrificed
themselves to men--such men! Wretched things! Not like that man of men
who stood before her with such a look on his face as it had worn, she
knew, in the most desperate moments of his life, when the next moment
might bring death to him--death from an arrow--from a wild beast--from a
hurricane.

What could she do?

She did nothing.

She made no effort to save herself.

If he had put his arms about her and had carried her away from her
husband's house to the uttermost ends of the earth, she would not have
resisted. It was not in her power to resist.

And it was because he saw this he went away, leaving her standing with
that lovely Venetian mirror glittering in silver and ruby and emerald
just above her head.

"You have been right; I have been wrong," said he. "Don't try to speak,
Ella. Don't try to keep me. I know how you love me, and I know that if
I ask you to keep me you will keep me until you die. Forgive me for my
selfishness, my beloved. Good-by."

She felt him approach her and she felt the hands that he laid upon her
bare shoulders--one on each side of her neck. She closed her eyes as
he put his face down to hers and kissed her on the mouth--not with
rapturous, passionate lips, but still with warm and trembling lips. She
did not know where the kiss ended, she did not know when his hands were
taken off her shoulders. She kept her eyes closed and her mouth sealed.
She did not even give him a farewell kiss.

When she opened her eyes she found herself alone in the room.

And then there came to her ears the sound of the double whistle for
a hansom. She stood silently there listening to the driving up of the
vehicle--she even heard the sound of the closing of the apron and then
the tinkling of the horse's bells dwindling into the distance.

A sense of loneliness came to her that was overwhelming in its force.

"Fool! fool! fool!" she cried, through her set teeth. "What have I done?
Sent him away? Sent him away? My beloved!--my best beloved--my man of
men. Gone--gone! Oh, fool! fool!"

She threw herself on a sofa and stared at the Watteau group of
masquerading shepherds and shepherdesses on the great Sevres vase that
stood on a pedestal near her. The masks at the joining of the handles
were of grinning satyrs. They were leering at her, she thought. They
alone were aware of the good reason there was for satyrs to grin. A
woman had just sent away from her, forever, the bravest man in all the
world--those were Phyllis' words--a king of men--the one man who loved
her and whom she loved. She had pretended to him that she was subject to
the influences of religion, of honor, of duty! What hypocrisy! They
knew it, those leering creatures--they knew that she cared nothing for
religion, that she regarded honor and duty as words of no meaning when
such words as love and devotion were in the air.

She looked at the satyr masks, and had anyone been present in the room,
that one would have seen that her lovely face became gradually distorted
until the expression it wore was precisely the same as that upon the
masks--an expression that had its audible equivalent in the laugh which
broke from her.

She lay back on her broad cushions. One of the strands of her splendid
hair had become loose, and after coiling over half a yard of the
brocaded silk of a cushion, twisted its way down to the floor. She lay
back, pointing one finger at the face on the vase and laughing that
satyr-laugh.

"We know--we know--we know!" she cried, and her voice was like that of
a drunken woman. "We know all--you and I--we know the hypocrisy--the
pretense of religion--of honor--duty--a husband! Ah, a husband! that is
the funniest of all--that husband! We know how little we care for them
all."

She continued laughing until her cushion slipped from under her head.
She half rose to straighten it, and at that instant she caught a glimpse
of her face in the center silvered panel of the Venetian mirror. The cry
of horror that broke from her at that instant seemed part of her laugh.
It would not have occurred to anyone who might have heard it that it
was otherwise than consistent with the incongruity, so to speak, of
the existing elements of the scene. The hideous leer of the thing
with horns, looking down at the exquisite picture of the _fete
champetre_--the distorted features of the woman's face in the center
of the ruby and emerald and sapphire of the Venetian mirror--the cry
of horror mixed with the laugh of the woman who mocked at religion and
honor and purity--all were consistently incongruous.

In another instant she was lying on the sofa with her face down to the
cushion, trying to forget all that she had seen in the mirror. She wept
her tears on the brocaded silk for half an hour, and then she slipped
from where she was lying till her knees were on the floor. With a hand
clutching each side of the cushion she got rid of her passion in prayer.

"Oh, God! God! keep him away from me! keep him away from me!" was her
prayer; and it was possibly the best that she could have uttered. "Keep
him away from me! keep him away from me! Don't let my soul be lost! Keep
him away from me!"

When she struggled to her feet, at last, she stood in front of the
mirror once again.

She now saw a face purified of all passion by tears and prayer, where
she had seen the soulless face of a Pagan's orgy.

She went upstairs to her bed and went asleep, thanking God that she had
had the strength to send him away; that she had had strength sufficient
to stand where she had stood in the room, silent, while he had put
his arms on her bare shoulders and kissed her on the mouth, saying
"Good-by."

She felt that she had every reason to thank God for that strength, for
she knew that it had been given to her at that moment; it had not sprung
from within her own heart; her heart had been crying out to him, "Stay,
stay, stay!" her heart took no account of honor or purity or a husband.

Yes, she felt that the strength which had come to her at that moment had
been the especial gift of God, and she was thankful to God for it.

That consciousness of gratitude to God was her last sensation before
falling asleep; and, when morning came, her first sensation was that of
having a letter to write. Before she had breakfasted she had written her
letter and sent it to be posted.

This was the letter:

"MY ONE LOVE: I was a fool--oh, such a fool! How could I have done it?
How could I have sent you away in such coldness last night? Believe me,
it was not I who did it. How could I have done it? You know that my love
for you is limitless. You know that it is my life. I tell you that my
love for you laughs at such limits as are laid down by religion and
honor. Why should I protest? My love is love, and there can be no love
where there are any limits.

"Come to me on Thursday. I shall be at home after dinner, at nine, and
see if I am not now in my right mind. Come to me; come to me, Bertie, my
love."



CHAPTER XVII.

WHAT AM I THAT I SHOULD DO THIS THING?

"At last!"

He sat with the letter before him after he had breakfasted, and perhaps
for a time, say a minute or so, he caught a glimpse of the nature of
the woman who had written those lines to him. If he had not had some
appreciation of her nature he would have spent an hour or two--perhaps a
day or two--trying to reconcile her attitude of the previous night with
the tone of her letter. He did not, however, waste his time over such
an endeavor. He knew that she loved him, and that she did not love her
husband. He knew that she had allowed him to kiss her, and it had been
a puzzle to him for some months why she had not come to his arms
forever--he meant her to be his own property forever. He had been amazed
to hear her allude, as she had done on the previous night, to such
abstractions as honor, religion, her husband. He could not see what
they had to do with the matter in hand. He could not see why such
considerations should be potent to exercise a restraining influence on
the intentions of a man and a woman who love each other.

Well, now it would appear that she had cast to the winds all such
considerations as she had enumerated, and was prepared to live under the
rule of love alone, and it was at his suggestion she was doing so.

For a moment or two he saw her as she was: a woman in the midst of a
seething ocean, throwing up her hands and finding an absolute relief in
going down--down--down into very hell. For a moment or two his heart was
full of pity for her. Who could be a spectator of a woman's struggles
for life in the midst of that turbulent sea of passion which was
overwhelming her, and refrain from feeling pity? That letter which lay
before him represented the agonizing cry of a drowning creature; one
whom the long struggle has made delirious; one who looks forward to
going down with the delight born of delirium.

He recollected a picture which he had once seen--the picture of a
drowning woman. He saw it now before him with hideous vividness, and the
face of the woman was the face of Ella Linton. The agony of that
last fight with an element that was overpowering, overwhelming in its
ruthless strength, was shown upon every feature, and his soul was filled
with pity.

He sprang to his feet and crushed the letter into his pocket. He felt
none of the exultation of the huntsman--only sadness at the fate of the
hunted thing that lay at his feet. Once before the same feeling had come
over him. It was when, after the long struggle up the river, through the
forests, swamps, jungle grass that cut the body of a man as though it
were sharp wire, he fired his shot and the meteor-bird fell at his
feet. After the first few panting breaths that came to him he had stood
leaning on his gun, looking down at that beautiful thing which he had
deprived of life.

"What am I that I should have done this thing?" he had asked himself on
that evening, while the blacks had yelled around him like devils.

"What am I that I should do this thing?" was his cry now, as the voice
of many demons sounded in his ears.

What was he that he should rejoice at receiving that letter from the
woman over whose head the waters were closing?

He ordered his horse and, mounting it, rode to where he could put it
to the gallop. So men try to leave behind them the sneering demons of
conscience and self-reproach. Some of them succeed in doing so, but
find the pair waiting for them on their own doorstep. Herbert Courtland
galloped his horse intermittently for an hour or two, and then rode
leisurely back to his rooms. He felt that he had got the better of those
two enemies of his who had been irritating him. He heard their voices
no longer. He had lost them (he fancied), because there had come to him
another voice that said:

"I love her--I love her."

And whensoever that voice comes to a man as it came to Herbert Courtland
it drowns all other voices. He would love her to the end of his life.
Their life together would be the real life for which men and women have
come into the world. He would go to her, and so far from allowing her
to sink beneath the waters down to hell, his arms would be around her
to bear her up until--well, is it not generally conceded that love is
heaven and heaven is love?

He seated himself at a desk and wrote to her an impassioned line. He
would go to her, he said. If death should come to him the next day he
would still thank God for having given him an hour of life.

That was what he said--all. It expressed pretty well what he felt he
should feel. That reference to God she would, of course, understand. God
was to him a Figure of Speech. He had said as much to Phyllis Ayrton.
But then he had said that he had regarded God to mean the Power by
which men were able (sometimes) successfully to combat the influences
of nature. But had he not just then made up his mind to yield to that
passion which God, as a Principle, has the greatest difficulty in
opposing? Why, then, should he expect that Ella would understand
precisely what he meant in saying that he would thank God for his hour
of life, his hour of love?

He would have had considerable difficulty in explaining this apparent
discrepancy between his scheme of philosophy and his life as a man, had
Phyllis asked him to do so; and Phyllis would certainly have asked him
to do so had she become acquainted with the contents of his letter to
her friend Ella; though Phyllis' father, having acquired some knowledge
of men as well as of phrases, would not have asked for any explanation,
knowing that a man's philosophy is, in its relation to a man's life, a
good deal less important than the fuse is to a bomb. He would have known
that a scheme of philosophy no more brings wisdom into a man's life than
a telescope brings the moon nearer to the earth. He would have known
that for a man to build up a doctrine of philosophy around himself,
hoping that the devil will keep on the other side of the paling, is as
ridiculous as it is to raise a stockade of roses against a tiger.

Herbert Courtland, however, thought neither of philosophical consistency
nor of the advantages of having on one's side a sound Principle. He
thought of the stockade of roses, not to keep out the beast but to keep
love in. They would live together in the midst of roses forever, and
though each might possibly lose something by the transaction, yet what
they might lose was nothing compared to what they should certainly win.
Of that he was certain, and therefore he posted his impassioned line
with a light heart.

That was on Tuesday. He had still two days that he might employ thinking
over the enterprise to which he was committed; and he certainly made the
most of his time in this direction. Now and again, as he thought of
what was in store for him--for her--he felt as if he were lifted off
the earth, and at other times he felt that he was crushed into the
earth--crushed into it until he had become incapable of any thought that
was not of the earth, earthy. At such moments he felt inclined to walk
down to the docks and step aboard the first vessel that was sailing
eastward or westward or northward or southward. Then it was that he
found but the scantiest comfort in the consideration of the loveliness
of love. Glorifying life! No, corrupting life until life is more putrid
than death.

That was what love was--something to fly from. But still he did not
fly from the vision that came to him when he found himself alone after
spending the evenings in brilliant company--a vision of the lovely woman
who was waiting for him! What had she said? Her soul--her soul would be
lost forevermore?

Well, that showed that she was a woman, at any rate, and he loved her
all the better for her womanliness. He knew very well that if God is a
Figure of Speech with men, the losing of a soul is a figure of speech
with women. The expression means only that they have lost the chance of
drinking a number of cups of tea in drawing rooms whose doors are now
shut to them. That was what Ella meant, no doubt. If she were openly to
set at defiance certain of those laws by the aid of which society
was kept together with a moderate degree of consistency, she would be
treated as an outlaw.

After all, such a fate was not without its bright side. Some happiness
may remain to human beings in that world which is on the hither side of
London drawing rooms; and it would be his aim in life to see that she
had all the happiness that the world could give her.

Pah! He felt his sentiment becoming a trifle brackish. He loved her,
and she loved him. That was more than all the laws and the profits
of society to them. That was the beginning and the end of the whole
matter--the origin of the sin (people called it a sin) and the
exculpation of the sinners. There was nothing more to be said or thought
about the matter. Those who loved would understand. Those who did not
understand would condemn, and the existence of either class was of no
earthly importance to himself or to Ella.

When he awoke on the Thursday morning the feeling of exultation of which
he was conscious was not without a note of depression. So it had been
when the object of his explorations in New Guinea had been attained, and
he looked down at that exquisite thing--that dead splendor at his feet.

He wondered if the attainment of every great object which a man may have
in life brings about a feeling of sadness that almost neutralizes the
exultation. As he picked up his letters he had a fear that among them
there might be one from Ella, telling him that she had come to the
conclusion that she had written too hastily those lines which he had
received on Tuesday--that, on consideration, she was unwilling to lose
her soul for love of him.

No such letter, however, was among his correspondence. (Could it be
possible that he was disappointed on account of this?) He received
an intimation from Berlin of the conferring of an order upon him in
recognition of his exploration of a territory in which Germany was so
greatly interested. He received an intimation from Vienna that a
gold medal had been voted to him by one of the learned societies in
recognition of his contributions to biological science. He received an
intimation from his publishers that they had just gone to press with
another thousand (the twelfth) of his book, and he received thirteen
cards of invitation to various functions to take place in from three to
six weeks' time, but no line did he receive from Ella.

She was his forever and ever, whether her soul would be lost or saved in
consequence.

He rather thought that it would be lost; but that did not matter. She
was his forever and ever.



CHAPTER XVIII.

HERBERT COURTLAND IS A MAN WHO HAS LIVED WITH HONOR.

It was a long day.

Toward evening he recollected that he had to leave cards upon his host
and hostess of the Monday previous, but it was past six o'clock when he
found himself at the top of the steps of Mr. Ayrton's house. Before his
ring had been responded to a victoria drove up with Phyllis, and in a
moment she was on the step beside him.

She looked radiant in the costume which she was wearing. He thought he
had never seen a lovelier girl--he was certain that he had never seen a
better-dressed girl. (Mr. Courtland was not clever enough to know that
it is only the beautiful girls who seem well dressed in the eyes of
men.) There was a certain frankness in her face that made it very
interesting--the frankness of a child who looks into the face of the
world and wonders at its reticence. He felt her soft gray eyes resting
upon his face, as she shook hands with him and begged him to go in and
have tea with her. He felt strangely uneasy under her eyes this evening,
and his self-possession failed him so far as to make it impossible for
him to excuse himself. It did not occur to him to say that he could not
drink tea with her on account of having an appointment which he could
not break through without the most deplorable results. He felt himself
led by her into one of her drawing rooms, and sitting with his back
to the window while her frank eyes remained on his face, asking (so he
thought) for the nearest approach to their frankness in response, that a
man who has lived in the world of men dare offer to a maiden whose world
is within herself.

"Oh, yes! I got the usual notification of the Order of the Bald Eagle,"
said he, in reply to her inquiry. "I shall wear it next my heart until
I die. The newspapers announced the honor that had been done to me the
same morning."

"You cannot keep anything out of the papers," said Phyllis.

"Even if you want to--a condition which doesn't apply to my case," said
he. "My publishers admitted to me last week that they wouldn't rest easy
if any newspaper appeared during the next month without my name being in
its columns in some place."

"I'm sure they were delighted at the development of the _Spiritual
Aneroid's_ attack upon you," said Phyllis.

"They told me I was a made man," said he.

She threw back her head--it was her way--and laughed. Her laughter--all
the grace of girlhood was in its ring; it was girlhood made audible--was
lightening her fair face as she looked at him.

"How funny!" she cried. "You fight your way through the New Guinea
forests; you are in daily peril of your life; you open up a new country,
and yet you are not a made man until you are attacked by a wretched
newspaper."

"That is the standpoint of the people who sell books, so you may depend
upon its being the standpoint of the people who buy books," said he.

"I can quite believe it," said she. "Mr. Geraint, the novelist, took me
down to dinner at Mrs. Lemuel's last night, and he told me that the only
thing that will make people buy books is seeing the author's portrait in
some of the illustrated papers, or hearing from some of the interviews
which are published regarding him that he never could take sugar in his
coffee. The reviews of his books are read only by his brother authors,
and they never buy a book, Mr. Geraint says; but the interviews are read
by the genuine buyers."

"Mr. Geraint knows his public, I'm sure."

"I fancy he does. He would be very amusing if he didn't aim so
persistently at going one better than someone else in his anecdotes.
People were talking at dinner about your having massacred the natives
with dynamite--you did, you know, Mr. Courtland."

"Oh, yes; I have admitted so much long ago. There was no help for it."

"Well, of course everyone was laughing when papa told how the massacre
came about, and this annoyed Mr. Geraint and induced him to tell a story
about a poor woman who fancied that melinite was a sort of food for
children that caused their portraits to appear in the advertisements; so
she bought a tin of it and gave it all to her little boy at one meal. It
so happened, however, that he became restless during the night and fell
out of his cradle. That happened a year ago, Mr. Geraint said, and yet
the street isn't quite ready for traffic yet."

"That little anecdote of Mr. Geraint makes me feel very meek. If at any
time I am tempted to think with pride upon my dynamite massacre, I shall
remember Mr. Geraint's story, and hang my head."

"We were all amused at Mr. Geraint's lively imagination, but much more
so when Mr. Topham, the under-secretary, shook his head gravely,
and said in his most dignified manner, that he thought the reported
occurrence--the melinite incident--quite improbable. He was going on
to explain that the composition of the explosive differed so materially
from that of the food that it would be almost impossible for any mother
to take the one for the other, when our hostess rose."

"Mr. Topham must have been disappointed. As a demonstrator of the
obvious he has probably no equal even among the under-secretaries. You
discussed him pretty freely in the drawing room afterward, I may venture
to suggest."

"No; we discussed you, Mr. Courtland."

"A most unprofitable topic. From what standpoint--dynamite massacres?"

"From the standpoint of heredity, of course. Can you imagine any topic
being discussed in a drawing room, nowadays, from any other standpoint?
There was a dear old lady present, Mrs. Haddon, and she said she had
been a friend of your mother's."

"So she was; I recollect her very well. I should like to go see her."

"She told us a great deal about your mother, and your sister--a sister
to whom you were greatly attached."

Phyllis' voice had become low and serious; every tone suggested
sympathy.

"I had such a sister," said he slowly. His eyes were not turned toward
her. They were fixed upon a little model of St. Catherine of Siena,--a
virgin among the clouds,--which was set in the panel of an old cabinet
beside him. "I had such a sister--Rosamund; she is dead."

"Mrs. Haddon told us so," said Phyllis. "She talked about your mother,
and your sister, and of the influence which they had had upon your
life--your career."

"They are both dead," said he.

"They did not live to see your triumph; that is what your tone
suggests," said she. "That is what Mrs. Haddon said--the tears were in
her eyes--last night, Mr. Courtland. I wish you could have heard her. I
wish you could have heard what she said when someone made a commonplace
remark as to how sad it was they were dead."

"What did she say, Miss Ayrton?"

"She said, 'No, no; please do not talk about death overtaking such as
they. The mother, who transmits her nature to the son, renews her life
in him; it is not he, but his mother, who lives.' And then she asked,
'Do you suppose that Herbert Courtland ever sets out on any of his great
enterprises without thinking of his mother and sister, without feeling
that he must do something worthy of them, something for their sake?
And you talk of them as if they were dead--as if they had passed
away forever from the concerns of earth!' That is what she said, Mr.
Courtland."

He had bent forward on his low seat, and was leaning his head on one
of his hands. He had his eyes fixed on the parquet of the floor. He was
motionless. He did not speak a word.

"Mrs. Haddon said something more," Phyllis continued, after a pause. Her
voice had fallen still another tone. "'Yes,' she said, as if musing,
'dead--dead! A man is as his mother has made him. He is with her from
the moment she loves his father. She is evermore thinking of him; he is
precious to her before the mystery of his birth is revealed to her.
He grows up by her side, and loves her because he knows that she
understands him. She does understand him, and she understands his father
better by understanding her son.' She said that, Mr. Courtland, and I
felt that she had spoken one of the greatest truths of this mysterious
life of ours. Then she said, 'Herbert Courtland is a man who has lived
with honor to himself, with honor to the memory of his mother, and of
his sister, whom he loved. He is a man, and he has not merely attained
distinction in the world; if he is without fear, he is also without
reproach; and ask him if he has not been strengthened in his fight with
whatever of base may have risen up within him, being a man, from day to
day, by the thought that his sister is one with him; that his purity of
heart and of act is the purity of his mother and his sister, upon which
no stain must ever come.' That was all she said, Mr. Courtland."

There was a long pause after she had spoken. He sat there with his head
bent, his fingers interlaced. He had his eyes fixed upon the floor. His
cup of tea stood untasted beside him on a little Algerian table.

And she--as she looked at him her soft eyes became dim with tears.
She knew that the words which she had spoken, the words which she had
repeated as they were spoken by the lady whom she had met the previous
night, had awakened many memories within him. She too had her memories.
She knew that there was a certain gratefulness in the midst of the
bitterness of such memories.

That was all she knew.

And the tears continued to well up to her eyes until she was aware that
he had risen from his seat and was standing in front of her. She drew
her hand across her eyes. She saw a movement in his lips. They were
trembling, but no sound came from them. The hand that he stretched out
to her was trembling also. She put her own into it. He held her hand
tightly for a moment, then dropped it suddenly and almost fled from the
room, without uttering a word.

For a few moments she stood where he had left her, and then she went to
a sofa and seated herself upon it. The tears that had come to her eyes
before, now began to fall; she thought, girl that she was, that she
could understand what were the feelings of the man who had just parted
from her. She thought that he was overcome at the reflection that the
distinction which he had won in the world could not be shared by those
whom he loved, those who would have valued far more than he did the
honor that was being done to him.

The pity of it! Oh, the pity of it!

Ella had told her one day when they had talked together about Herbert
Courtland, that he had no relation alive, that he stood alone in the
world. The information had not meant much to her then; but when she had
heard Mrs. Haddon speak on the previous evening about his attachment to
his mother and his sister, she remembered what Ella has said, and her
heart was full of pity for him. She had made up her mind to tell him all
that Mrs. Haddon had said, for surely more sympathetic words had never
been spoken; and her opportunity had come sooner than she expected.
Their chat together had led naturally up to Mrs. Haddon, and she had
been able to repeat to him almost word for word all that his mother's
friend had said.

Her heart felt for him. Surely the sweetest reward that can come to a
man who has toiled and fought and conquered was denied to the man who
had just parted from her. He had toiled and conquered; but not for him
was the joy of seeing pride on the face of those who claimed him as
their kin. His father had been killed when he had charged with a brigade
through the lines of a stubborn enemy--everyone knew the story. His
mother and sister had died when he was beginning to make a name for
himself. He had gone forth from the loneliness of his home to the
loneliness of the tropical forest; and he had returned to the loneliness
of London.

She felt that she had done well to repeat to him the words of his
mother's friend. Those words had affected him deeply. They could not but
be a source of comfort to him when he was overwhelmed with the thought
of his loneliness. They would make him feel that his position was
understood by some people who were able to think of him apart from the
great work which he had accomplished.

Thus the maiden sat musing in the silent room after she had dried her
tears of pity for the man who an hour before had sauntered up to her
door thinking, not of the melancholy isolation of his position in the
world, but simply that two hours of the longest day of his life must
pass before he could kiss the lips of the woman who had given herself up
to him.

Her maid found her still seated on the sofa, and ventured to remind
her that time was fugitive, and that if mademoiselle still retained her
intention of going to Lady Earlscourt's dinner party,--Lady Earlscourt
was giving a dinner party apparently for the purpose of celebrating her
husband's departure for a cruise in Norwegian fjords in his yacht,--it
would be absolutely necessary for mademoiselle to permit herself to be
dressed without delay.

Phyllis sprang up with a little laugh that sounded like a large sigh,
and said if Fidele would have the kindness to switch on the lights in
the dressing room, she would not be kept waiting a moment.

The maid hurried upstairs, and mademoiselle repaired to an apartment
where she could remove, so far as was possible, the footmarks left
by those tears which she had shed when she had reflected upon the
loneliness to which Mr. Herbert Courtland was doomed for (probably) the
remainder of his life.

Mademoiselle had a dread of the acuteness of vision with which her maid
was endowed. She was not altogether sure that Fidele would be capable of
understanding the emotion that had forced those tears to her eyes.

But that was just where she was wrong. Fidele was capable of
understanding that particular emotion a good deal better than
mademoiselle understood it.



CHAPTER XIX.

THEY HAVE SOULS TO BE SAVED.

When Lord Earlscourt was at home the only two topics that were debarred
from the dinner table were religion and politics; but when Lord
Earlscourt was absent these were the only two topics admitted at the
dinner table. Lady Earlscourt had views, well-defined, clearly outlined,
on both religion and politics, and she greatly regretted that there
still remained some people in the world who held other views on both
subjects; it was very sad--for them; and she felt that it was clearly
her duty to endeavor by all the legitimate means in her power--say,
dinner parties for eight--to reduce the number of these persons. It was
rumored that in the country she had shown herself ready to effect
her excellent object by illegitimate means--say, jelly and flannel
petticoats--as well.

She wore distinctly evangelical boots, though, in the absence of her
husband, she had expressed her willingness to discuss the advantages
of the confessional. She had, however, declined, in the presence of her
husband, to entertain the dogma of infallibility: though she admitted
that the cardinals were showy; she would have liked one about her house,
say, as a footman. She thought there was a great deal in Buddhism (she
had read "The Light of Asia" nearly through), and she believed that
the Rev. George Holland had been badly treated by Phyllis Ayrton.
She admitted having been young once--only once; but no one seemed to
remember it against her, so she was obliged to talk about it herself,
which she did with the lightness of a serious woman of thirty-two. When
a man had assured her that she was still handsome, she had shaken her
head deprecatingly, and had ignored his existence ever after. She had
her doubts regarding the justice of eternal punishment for temporary
lapses in the West End, but she sympathized with the missionary who
said: "Thank God we have still got our hell in the East End." She knew
that all men are alike in the sight of Heaven, but she thought that the
licensing justices should be more particular.

She believed that there were some good men.

She had more than once talked seriously to Phyllis on the subject of
George Holland. Of course, George Holland had been indiscreet; the views
expressed in his book had shocked his best friends, but think how famous
that book had made him, in spite of the publication of Mr. Courtland's
"Quest of the Meteor-Bird." Was Phyllis not acting unkindly, not to say
indiscreetly, in throwing over a man who, it was rumored, was about to
start a new religion? She herself, Lady Earlscourt admitted, had been
very angry with George Holland for writing something that the newspapers
found it to their advantage to abuse so heartily; and Lord Earlscourt,
being a singularly sensitive man, had been greatly worried by the
comments which had been passed upon his discrimination in intrusting to
a clergyman who could bring himself to write "Revised Versions" a cure
of such important souls as were to be found at St. Chad's. He had, in
fact, been so harassed--he was a singularly sensitive man--that he had
found it absolutely necessary to run across to Paris from time to time
for a change of scene. (This was perfectly true. Lord Earlscourt had
gone more than once to Paris for a change of scene, and had found it;
Lady Earlscourt was thirty-two, and wore evangelical boots.) But,
of course, since George Holland's enterprise had turned out so well
socially, people who entertained could not be hard on him. There was the
new religion to be counted upon. It was just as likely as not that he
would actually start a new religion, and you can't be hard upon a man
who starts a new religion. There was Buddha, for instance,--that was a
long time ago, to be sure; but still there he was, the most important
factor to be considered in attempting to solve the great question of
the reconcilement of the religions of the East,--Buddha, and Wesley, and
Edward Irving, and Confucius, and General Booth; if you took them all
seriously where would you be?

"Oh, no, my dear Phyllis!" continued Lady Earlscourt; "you must not
persist in your ill-treatment of Mr. Holland. If you do he may marry
someone else."

Phyllis shook her head.

"I hope he will, indeed," said she. "He certainly will never marry me."

"Do not be obdurate," said Lady Earlscourt. "He may not really believe
in all that he put into that book."

"Then there is no excuse for his publishing it," said Phyllis promptly.

"But if he doesn't actually hold the views which he has formulated in
that book, you cannot consistently reject him on the plea that he is not
quite--well, not quite what you and I call orthodox."

This contention was too plain to be combated by the girl. She did not
for a moment see her way out of the amazing logic of the lady. Quite a
minute had passed before she said:

"If he propounds such views without having a firm conviction that they
are true, he has acted a contemptible part, Lady Earlscourt. I think far
too highly of him to entertain for a single moment the idea that he is
not sincere."

"But if you believe that he is sincere, why should you say that you will
not marry him?"

"I would not marry an atheist, however sincere he might be."

"An atheist! But Mr. Holland is not an atheist; on the contrary, he
actually believes that there are two Gods; one worshiped of the Jews
long ago, the other by us nowadays. An atheist! Oh, no!"

"I'm afraid that I can't explain to you, dear Lady Earlscourt."

Once more Phyllis shook her head with some degree of sadness. She felt
that it would indeed be impossible for her to explain to this lady of
logic that she believed the truth to be a horizon line, and that any
opinion which was a little above this line was as abhorrent as any that
was a little below it.

"If you are stubborn, God may marry you to a Dissenter yet," said Lady
Earlscourt solemnly.

Phyllis smiled and shook her head again.

"Oh, you needn't shake your head, my dear," resumed Lady Earlscourt.
"I've known of such judgments falling on girls before now--yes, when the
Dissenters were well off. But no Dissenter rides straight to hounds."

Phyllis laughed.

"More logic," she said, and shook hands with her friend.

"That girl has another man in her eye," said her friend sagaciously,
when Phyllis had left her opposite her own tea-table. "But I don't
despair; if we can only persuade our bishop to prosecute George Holland,
she may return to him all right."

She invariably referred to the bishop as if he were a member of the
Earlscourt household; but it was understood that the bishop had never
actually accepted the responsibilities incidental to such a position;
though he had his views on the subject of Lady Earlscourt's cook.

This interview had taken place a week before the dinner party for which
Phyllis was carefully dressed by her maid Fidele while Herbert Courtland
was walking away from the house. In spite of her logic, Lady Earlscourt
now and again stumbled across the truth. When it occurred to her that
Phyllis had another man in her eye,--the phrase was Lady Earlscourt's
and it served very well to express her meaning,--she had made some
careful inquiries on the subject of the girl's male visitors, and she
had, of course, found out that no other man occupied that enviable
position; no social oculist would be required to remove the element
which, in Lady Earlscourt's estimation, caused Phyllis' vision to be
distorted.

George Holland was at the dinner. Phyllis had been asked very quietly by
the hostess if she would mind being taken in by George Holland; if she
had the least feeling on the matter, Sir Lionel Greatorex would not mind
taking her instead of Mrs. Vernon-Brooke. But Phyllis had said that of
course she would be delighted to sit beside Mr. Holland. Mr. Holland was
one of her best friends.

"Is his case so hopeless as that?" said Lady Earlscourt, in a low voice,
and Phyllis smiled in response--the smile of the guest when the hostess
had made a point.

When Lady Earlscourt had indiscreetly, but confidentially, explained to
some of her guests the previous week that she meant her little dinner
party to be the means of reuniting Mr. Holland and Miss Ayrton, one of
them--he was a man--smiled and said, when she had gone away, that she
was a singularly unobservant woman, or she would have known that the
best way of bringing two people together is to keep them as much apart
as possible. There was wisdom in the paradox, he declared; for everyone
should know that it was only when a man and a woman were far apart that
they came to appreciate each other.

It seemed, indeed, that there was some truth in what that man said, for
Phyllis, before the ice pudding appeared, had come to the conclusion
that George Holland was a very uninteresting sort of man. To be sure, he
had not talked about himself,--he was not such a fool as to do that: he
had talked about her to the exclusion of almost every other topic--he
had been wise enough to do that,--but in spite of all, he had not
succeeded in arousing her interest. He had not succeeded in making
her think of the present when her thoughts had been dwelling on the
past--not the distant past, not the past of two months ago, when they
had been lovers, but the past of two hours ago, when she had watched the
effect of her words upon Herbert Courtland.

She chatted away to George Holland very pleasantly--as pleasantly as
usual--so pleasantly as to cause some of her fellow-guests to smile and
whisper significantly to one another, suggesting the impossibility of
two persons who got on so well together as Mr. Holland and Miss Ayrton
being separated by a barrier so paltry as an engagement broken off by
the young woman for conscience' sake.

But when the significant smiles of these persons were forced upon the
notice of their hostess, she did not smile; she was a lady with a really
remarkable lack of knowledge; but she knew better than to accept the
pleasant chat of George Holland and Phyllis Ayrton as an indication that
the _status quo ante bellum_--to make use of the expressive phrase of
diplomacy--had been re-established between them.

Only when George Holland ventured to express his admiration of Mr.
Ayrton's adroitness in dealing with the foolish question of the
gentleman from Wales did he succeed in interesting Miss Ayrton.

"What a very foolish letter those missionaries sent home regarding the
explorations of Mr. Courtland!" said he. "Did they hope to jeopardize
the popularity of Mr. Courtland by suggesting that he had massacred a
number of cannibals?"

"I suppose that was their object," said Phyllis.

"They must be singularly foolish persons, even for missionaries," said
the Rev. George Holland.

"Even for missionaries?" Phyllis repeated. "Oh, I forgot that you are
no believer in the advantages of missions to the people whom we call
heathen. But I have not been able to bring myself to agree with you
there. They have souls to be saved."

"That is quite likely," said he. "But the methods of the missionaries,
generally speaking, have not tended in that direction. Hence the
missionary as a comestible is more highly esteemed by the natives
than the missionary as a reformer. They rarely understand the natives
themselves, and they nearly always fail to make themselves intelligible
to the natives. It would appear that the two foolish persons who wrote
that letter about Mr. Courtland made but a poor attempt at understanding
even their own countrymen, if they fancied that any rumor of a
massacre of cannibals--nay, any proof of such a massacre--would have an
appreciable effect upon the popularity of the man who brought home the
meteor-bird."

"You don't think that the public generally would believe the story?"
said Phyllis.

"I think it extremely unlikely that they would believe it," he replied.
"But even if they believed every word of it they would not cease to
believe in Mr. Courtland's bravery. What is a hecatomb of cannibals
compared to the discovery of the meteor-bird,--that is, in the eyes of
the general public, or for that matter, the Nonconformist public who
turn up their eyes at the suggestion of a massacre of natives of an
island that is almost as unknown to them as Ireland itself? The people
of this country of ours respect bravery more than any other virtue, and
I'm not altogether sure that they are generally astray in this matter.
The Christian faith is founded upon bravery, and the same faith has
inspired countless acts of brave men and women. Oh, no! Mr. Courtland
will not suffer from the attacks of these foolish persons."

"I saw him this--a short time ago," said Phyllis, "and he told me that
his publishers were delighted at the result of the agitation which that
newspaper tried to get up against him: they said it was selling his
book."

"I saw you talking with Mr. Courtland after the first production of
'Cagliostro.' I envied you--and him," said Mr. Holland. "I wonder if he
was really placed in the unfortunate position of having to massacre a
horde of cannibals."

Phyllis laughed, and forthwith told him the truth as it had been
communicated to her regarding the dynamite outrage upon the unsuspecting
natives, and George Holland was greatly amused at the story--much more
highly amused, it would have occurred to some persons, than a clergyman
should be at such a recital. But then George Holland was not as other
clergymen. He was quite devoid of the affectations of his cloth. He did
not consider it necessary to put the tips of his fingers together
and show more of the white portion of the pupil of his eye than a
straight-forward gaze entailed, when people talked of the overflowing of
a river in China and the consequent drowning of a quarter of a million
of men--that is to say, Chinamen. He was no more affected by such
tidings than the Emperor of China. He was infinitely more affected when
he read of the cold-blooded massacre by David, sometime King of Israel,
in order to purchase for himself a woman for whom he had conceived a
liking. He knew that the majority of clergymen considered it to be their
duty to preach funeral service over the drowned Chinamen, and to impress
upon their hearers that David was a man after God's own heart. He also
knew that the majority of clergymen preached annual sermons in aid
of the missionaries who did some yachting in the South Seas, and had
brought into existence the sin of nakedness among the natives, in order
that they might be the more easily swindled by those Christians who sold
them shoddy for calico, to purge them of their sin. George Holland could
not see his way to follow the example of his brethren in this respect.
He did not think that the Day of Judgment would witness the inauguration
of any great scheme of eternal punishment for the heathen in his
blindness who had been naked all his life without knowing it. He knew
that the heathen in his blindness had curiosity enough at his command to
inquire of the missionaries if the white beachcomber and his bottle of
square-face represented the product of centuries of Christianity, and
if they did not, why the missionaries did not evangelize the beachcomber
and his bottle off the face of the earth.

Phyllis, being well aware of George Holland's views, was not shocked at
the sound of his laughter at the true story of Mr. Courtland's dynamite
outrage at New Guinea; but all the same, she was glad that she was not
going to marry him.

He had not, however, been altogether uninteresting in her eyes while
sitting beside her, and that was something to record in his favor.

She drove home early, and running upstairs found herself face to face
with Ella Linton.



CHAPTER XX.

I HAVE HEARD THE PASSIONATE GALLOP OF THOSE FIERY-FOOTED STEEDS.

Ella was standing waiting for her outside the open door of a drawing
room. She was wearing a lovely evening dress with a corsage of white
lace covered with diamonds and sapphires. Her hair--it was of the
darkest brown and was very plentiful--was also glittering with gems
under the light that flowed through the open door. The same light showed
Phyllis how deathly white Ella's face and neck were--how tumultuously
her bosom was heaving. She had one hand pressed to her side, and the
other on the handle of the door when Phyllis met her; and in that
attitude, even though the expanse of white flesh, with its gracious
curves that forced out her bodice, had no roseate tint upon it, she
looked lovely--intoxicating to the eyes of men.

Phyllis was certainly surprised. The hour was scarcely eleven, but Ella
had given no notice of her intention to pay a visit to her friend that
night. When the girl raised her hands with a laugh of admiration, of
pleasure, Ella grasped her hands with both of her own and drew her into
the drawing room without a word. Then with a cry,--a laugh and a cry
mingled,--she literally flung herself into the girl's arms and kissed
her convulsively a dozen times, on the throat, on the neck, on the
shoulder whereon her head lay.

"My darling, my darling!" she cried,--and now and again her voice was
broken with a sob,--"my darling Phyllis! I have come to you--I want to
be with you--to be near you--to keep my arms about you, so tightly that
no one can pluck us asunder. Oh, you don't know what men are--they
would pluck us asunder if they could; but they can't now. With you I
am safe--that is why I have come to you, my Phyllis. I want to be
safe--indeed I do!"

She had now raised her head from Phyllis' shoulder, but was still
holding her tightly--a hand on each of her arms, and her face within an
inch of the girl's face.

Phyllis kissed her softly on each cheek.

"My poor dear!" she said, "what can have happened to you?"

"Nothing--nothing! I tell you that nothing has happened to me," cried
Ella, with a vehemence that almost amounted to fierceness in her voice.
"Would I be here with you now if anything had happened to me? tell me
that. I came to you--ah! women have no guardian angels, but they
have sisters who are equally good and pure, and you are my sister--my
sister--better than all the angels that ever sang a dirge over a lost
soul that they put forth no hand to save. You will not let me go,
darling Phyllis, you will not let me go even if I tell you that I want
to go. Don't believe me, Phyllis; I don't want to go--I don't want to
be lost, and if I leave you I am lost. You will keep me, dear, will you
not?"

"Until the end of the world," said Phyllis. "Come, dearest Ella, tell me
what is the matter--why you have come to me in that lovely costume. You
look as if you were dressed for a bridal."

"A bridal--a bridal? What do you mean by that?" said Ella, with curious
eagerness--a suggestion of suspicion was in her tone. She had loosed her
hold upon the girl's arms.

Phyllis laughed. She put a hand round Ella's waist and led her to a
sofa, saying:

"Let us sit down and talk it all over. That is the lace you told me you
picked up at Munich. What a design--lilies!"

"The Virgin's flower--the Virgin's flower! I never thought of that,"
laughed Ella. "It is for you--not me, this lace. I shall tear it off
and--"

"You shall do nothing of the kind," cried Phyllis. "I have heaps
of lace--more than I shall ever wear. What a lovely idea that is of
yours,--I'm sure it is yours,--sewing the diamonds around the cup of the
lilies, like dewdrops. I always did like diamonds on lace. Some people
would have us believe that diamonds should only be worn with blue
velvet. How commonplace! Where have you been to-night?"

"Where have I been? I have been at home. Where should a good woman be in
the absence of her husband, but at home--his home and her home?"

Ella laughed loud and long with her head thrown back on the cushion of
the sofa, and the diamonds in her hair giving back flash for flash to
the electric candles above her head. "Yes; I was at home--I dined at
home, and, God knows why, I conceived a sudden desire to go to the
opera,--Melba is the _Juliet_,--and forgetting that you were engaged
to the Earlscourts--you told me last week that you were going, but I
stupidly forgot, I drove across here to ask you to be my companion. Oh,
yes, I have been here since--since nine, mind that! nine--nine--ask the
servants. When I heard that you were dining out I thought that I was
lost--one cannot drive about the streets all night, can one? Ah! I
thought that God was against me now, as he ever has been; and as for my
guardian angel--ah! our guardian angels are worse than the servants of
nowadays who have no sense of responsibility. Thompson, your butler, is
worth a whole heavenful of angels, for it was he who asked me if I would
come in and wait for your return--ask him, if you doubt my word."

"Good Heavens, Ella, what do you say? Doubt your word--I doubt your
word? You wound me deeply."

"Forgive me, my Phyllis. I don't quite know what I said. Ah, let me
nestle here--here." She had put her head down to Phyllis' bare neck
and was looking up to her face as a child might have done. "There is
no danger here. Now pet me, and say that you forgive me for having said
whatever I did say."

Phyllis laughed and put her lips down among the myriad diamonds that
glowed amid the other's hair, like stars seen among the thick foliage of
a copper beech.

"I forgive you for whatever you said," she cried. "I, too, have
forgotten what it was; but you must never say so again. But had you
really no engagement for to-night that you took that fancy for going to
'Romeo'?"

"No engagement? Had I no engagement, do you ask me?" cried Ella. "Oh,
yes, yes! I had an engagement, but I broke it--I broke it--I broke it,
and that is why I am here. Whatever may come of it, I am here, and here
I mean to stay. I am safe here. At home I am in danger."

Phyllis wondered greatly what had come to her friend to make her talk in
this wild strain.

"Where were you engaged?" she inquired casually. She had come to the
conclusion that there was safety in the commonplace: she would not
travel out of the region of commonplaces with Ella in her present state.

"Where was I engaged? Surely I told you. Didn't I say something about
the opera--'Romeo and Juliet'?--that was to be the place, but I came to
you instead. Ah, what have we missed! Was there ever such a poem written
as 'Romeo and Juliet'? Was there ever such music as Gounod's? I
thought the first time that I went to the opera that it would spoil
Shakspere--how could it do otherwise? I asked. Could supreme perfection
be improved upon? Before the balcony scene had come to an end I found
that I had never before understood the glory of the poem. Ah, if you
could understand what love means, my Phyllis, you would appreciate the
poem and the music; the note of doom runs through it; that--that is
wherein its greatness lies--passion and doom--passion and doom--that is
my own life--the life of us women. We live in a whirlwind of passion,
and fancy that we can step out of the whirlwind into a calm at any
moment. We marry our husbands and we fancy that all the tragedy of human
passion is over so far as we are concerned. 'The haven entered and the
tempest passed.' Philip Marston's terrible poem,--you have read it,--'A
Christmas Vigil'? 'The haven entered,'--the whirlwind of passion has
been left far away, we fancy. Oh, we are fools! It sweeps down upon us
and then--doom--doom!"

"My poor dear, you are talking wildly."

"If you only understood--perhaps you will some day understand, and then
you will know what seems wild in my speech is but the incoherence of a
poor creature who has been beaten to the ground by the whirlwind, and
only saved from destruction by a miracle."

She had sprung from her place on the sofa and was pacing the room, her
diamonds quivering, luminous as a shower of meteors--that was the fancy
that flashed from her to Phyllis. Meteors--meteors--what a splendid
picture she made flashing from place to place! Meteors--ah, surely there
was the meteor-bird flashing across the drawing room!

"Come and sit down, my dear Ella," said Phyllis. "You are, as you know,
quite unintelligible to me."

"Unintelligible to you? I am unintelligible to myself," cried Ella. "Why
should I be tramping up and down your room when I might be at this very
moment----" She clutched Phyllis' arm. "I want to stay with you all
night," she whispered. "I want to sleep in your bed with you, Phyllis. I
want to feel your arms around me as I used to feel my mother's long ago.
Whatever I may say, you will not let me go, Phyllis?"

"I will load you with chains," said Phyllis, patting her lovely hair--it
was no longer smooth. "Why should you want to go away from me? Cannot we
be happy together once again as we used to be long ago?"

"How long ago that was! And we read 'Romeo and Juliet' together, and
fancied that we had gone down to the very depths of its meaning. We
fancied that we had sounded the very depths of its passion and pathos.
We were only girls. Ah, Phyllis, I tell you--I, who know--I, who have
found it out,--I tell you that the tragedy is the tragedy of all lovers
who have ever lived in the world. I tell you that it is the tragedy of
love itself. 'Gallop apace, ye fiery-footed steeds!' That is the poem
that the heart of the lover sings all day--all day! I have heard
it--my heart has sung it. I have heard the passionate gallop of those
fiery-footed steeds. I have listened to them while my heart beat in
unison with their frantic career--all day counting the moments with
fiery face, and then--then--something that was not passion forced me to
fly from it for the salvation of my soul. I was a fool! Why am I here,
when I should be where he----What is the hour? Why, it is scarcely
twelve o'clock! Did I say nine in my letter? What does it matter? I
wonder if on that wonderful night--Gounod translated its glory into
music--Juliet kept her lover waiting for three hours."

"What are you doing?" cried Phyllis, rising.

Ella had picked up her theatre wrap--it was a summer cloud brocaded with
golden threads of quivering sunlight, and had flung it around her.

She held out a hand to Phyllis. Phyllis grasped her round the waist.

"Where are you going?" she said.

"To hell!"

She had whispered the words, and at their utterance Phyllis gave a cry
of horror and covered her face with her hands.

Had she seen a suggestion of the satyr in the expression of that lovely
face before her?

In the pause that followed the sound of footsteps upon the stairs
outside was heard; the sound of footsteps and of men's friendly
laughter. Some persons were in the act of ascending.

"My God!" whispered Ella. "He has followed me here!"

"Hush!" said Phyllis. "Papa is bringing someone to us."

"Whom--whom?"

They were both standing together in the middle of the room, both having
their eyes fixed on the door, when the door opened and Mr. Ayrton
appeared, having by his side a man with iron-gray hair and a curiously
pallid face.

At the sight of that man Ella's hands, that had been holding her wrap
close to her throat, feeling for its silver clasp, fell limp, and the
splendid mass of white brocade slipped to the floor and lay in folds
about her feet, revealing her lovely figure sparkling from the hem of
her dress to the top of her shapely head.



CHAPTER XXI.

THAT TOILET SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN WASTED.

For several seconds the tableau remained unchanged: the two women
standing side by side, the two men motionless at the half-open door.

Ella was staring at the man who had entered with Mr. Ayrton. There was
some apprehension in her eyes.

The man had his eyes fixed upon her. But his face was wholly devoid of
expression.

Phyllis was the first to break the silence that made a frame, so to
speak, for the picture.

"How do you do, Mr. Linton?" she said, taking a step toward the door.

"I am very well, thank you, Miss Ayrton," the man replied, shaking hands
with her. "Rather a singular hour for a visit, is it not?"

"Oh, no! only Ella didn't tell me that you----"

She turned to Ella, and noticed that the expression of apprehension on
her face had increased. She was still gazing at her husband as one shut
up in a room with a snake might gaze at it, waiting for it to strike.

"Ella didn't tell you that I was coming?" said he. "She had the best of
reasons for her reticence."

"Ah!"

The sound came from Ella. There was a little scornful smile on her face.

"The best of reasons?" said Phyllis interrogatively.

"The very best; she had no idea that I was coming. I wonder if she is
glad to see me. She has not spoken a word to me yet."

"You have startled her by your sudden appearance," said Phyllis. "She is
not certain whether you are flesh and blood or a ghost."

Then Ella gave a laugh.

"Oh, yes!" she said. "He is my husband. Go on with what you have to say,
Stephen. I will not run away."

"Run away? What nonsense is this, my dear? Run away? Who said anything
about your running away?"

Her husband had advanced to her as he spoke. He put a hand caressingly
on one of her bare arms and the other at the back of her head. She
suffered him to press her head forward until he put his lips upon her
forehead.

When he had released her, and had taken a step back from her,--he seemed
abut to address Phyllis,--a little cry forced itself from her. She
called his name twice,--the second time louder,--and threw herself into
his arms, burying her face on his shoulder, as she had buried it on
Phyllis' shoulder.

In a few moments, however, she looked up. Her husband was patting her on
the arm. She had acquired two new gems since she had bent her head. They
were shining in her eyes.

"Don't go away, Phyllis dear," she said. Phyllis and her father were
standing at the _portiere_ between the drawing rooms. Mr. Ayrton had a
hand at the embroidered edge in the act of raising it. "Don't go away.
I am all right now. I was quite dazed at Stephen's sudden appearance. I
thought that perhaps he had--had----Ah, I scarcely know what I thought.
How did you come here--why did you come here?"

She had turned to her husband. In spite of her manifestation of
affection,--the result of a certain relief which she experienced at that
moment,--there was a note of something akin to indignation in her voice.

"It is very simple, my dear," replied her husband. His curiously sallow
face had resumed its usual expressionless appearance. "Nothing could be
more simple. I got a telegram at Paris regarding the mine, and I had to
start at a moment's notice. I wrote out a telegram to send to you, and
that idiotic courier put it into the pocket of my overcoat instead
of sending it. I found it in my pocket when we had come as far as
Canterbury. I am not one of those foolish husbands who keep these
pleasant surprises for their wives--it is usually the husband who
receives the surprise in such cases."

"And the coachman told you that he had driven me here?" said Ella.

"Quite so," replied the husband. "But, you see, I had some little
hesitation in coming here at half-past ten o'clock to make inquiries
about my wife--you might have gone to some place else, you know, in
which case I should have looked a trifle foolish; so I though that, on
the whole, my best plan would be to drop in upon Mr. Ayrton at the
House of Commons and drive here with him when he was coming home for the
night. I took it for granted that even so earnest a legislator as Mr.
Ayrton allows himself his nights--after twelve, of course--at home. I'm
very sorry I startled you, Ella. It shall not occur again."

"What time did you reach home?" inquired Ella casually--so casually that
her husband, who had a very discriminating ear, gave a little glance in
her direction. She was disengaging a corner of her lace trimming that
had become entangled with a large sapphire in a pendant.

"I reached home at nine," he replied.

"At nine?" She spoke the words after him in a little gasp. Then she
said, walking across the room to a sofa, "I could not have left many
minutes before you arrived. I intended going to the opera."

"That toilet should not have been wasted," said he. "It is
exquisite--_ravissante_!"

"It was an inspiration, your putting it on," said Phyllis. "I wonder if
she really had no subtle suggestion from her own heart that you were on
your way to her, Mr. Linton," she added, turning to the husband.

"I dare say it was some inward prompting of that mysterious nature, Miss
Ayrton," he replied. "A woman's heart is barometric in its nature, it
is not? Its sensitiveness is so great that it moves responsive to a
suggestion of what is to come. Is a woman's heart prophetic, I wonder?"

"It would be a rank heresy to doubt it, after the example we have
had to-night," said Mr. Ayrton. "Yes, a woman's heart is a barometer
suggesting what is coming to her, and her toilet is a thermometer
indicating the degree of expectancy."

"A charming phrase," said Mr. Linton; "a charming principle, only one
that demands some years of close study to be rendered practical. For
instance, look at my wife's toilet: it is bridal, and yet we have been
married three years."

"Quite so; and that toilet means that you are the luckiest fellow in the
world," said Mr. Ayrton.

"I admit the interpretation," said her husband. "I told the hansom to
wait for me. He is at the door now. You have had no opera to-night, my
dear?"

"You would not expect me to go alone? Phyllis was dining at the
Earlscourts'," said the wife.

"You are the soul of discretion, my beloved," said the husband. "Is your
stock of phrases equal to a suggestion as to what instrument is the soul
of a woman, Ayrton?" he added. "Her heart is a barometer, her toilet a
thermometer, and her soul----"

"The soul of a woman is not an instrument, but a flower--a lily," said
Mr. Ayrton.

"And my wife wears her soul upon her sleeve," said Mr. Linton, touching
the design on the lace that fell from her shoulders.

"But not for daws to peck at--that is the heart," laughed Mr. Ayrton.
"Talking of woman's soul, how is Lady Earlscourt?" he added, to his
daughter.

"I was so sorry that I was at that stupid dinner," said Phyllis. "I
might have enjoyed the music of 'Romeo and Juliet.' But I had engaged
myself to Lady Earlscourt a fortnight ago."

"You did not see Lord Earlscourt, at any rate," said her father.

"No; he left us in the evening for Southampton," said Phyllis.

"And, curiously enough, I dined with him at the club," said her father.
"Yes, he came in with Herbert Courtland at half-past seven; he had met
Courtland and persuaded him to join him in his cruise to Norway. They
dined at my table, and by the time we had finished Courtland's man had
arrived with his bag. He had sent the man a message from the club to
pack. They left by the eight-forty train, and I expect they are well
under way by this time."

"That's quite too bad of Courtland," said Mr. Linton. "I wanted to have
a talk with him--a rather serious talk."

Ella had listened to Mr. Ayrton's account of that little dinner party at
the club with white cheeks--a moment before they had been red--and with
her lips tightly closed. Her hands were clenched until the tips of the
nails were biting into each of her palms, before he had come to the end
of his story--a story of one incident. But when her husband had spoken
her hands relaxed. The blaze that had come to her eyes for a second went
out without a flicker.

"A serious talk?" she murmured.

"A serious talk--about the mine," replied her husband.

"About the mine," she repeated, and a moment after burst into a laugh
that was almost startling in its insincerity. "It is so amusing, this
chapter of cross-purposes," she cried. "What a sight it has been! a
night of thrilling surprises to all of us! I miss Phyllis by half an
hour and my husband misses me by less than half an hour. He comes
at express speed from Paris to have a talk, a serious talk, with Mr.
Courtland about the mine, and while he is driving from Victoria, Mr.
Courtland is driving to the same station with Lord Earlscourt!"

"What a series of fatalities!" said Mr. Ayrton. "But what seemed to me
most amusing was the persuasiveness of Earlscourt. He has only to speak
half a dozen words to Courtland, and off he goes to Norway at a moment's
notice with probably the most uncongenial boat's load that Courtland
ever sailed with, and he must have done a good deal in that way in New
Guinea waters. Now, why should Courtland take such a turn?"

"Ah, why, indeed!" cried Mrs. Linton. "Yes, that is, as you say, the
most amusing part of the whole evening of cross-purposes. Why should he
run away just at this time--to-night--to-night?"

"What is there particular about to-night that Courtland's running away
should seem doubly erratic?" asked Mr. Linton, after a little pause. He
had his eyes fixed coldly upon his wife's face.

She turned to him and laughed quite merrily.

"What is there particular about to-night?" she repeated. "Why, have you
not arrived from Paris to-night to have that serious talk with him about
the mine? Doesn't it seem to you doubly provoking that he didn't stay
until to-morrow or that you didn't arrive yesterday? Why, why, why did
he run away to-night before nine?"

"Why before nine?" said her husband.

"Heavens! Was not that the hour when you arrived home? You said so just
now," she cried. Then she picked up her wrap. Phyllis had thrown it over
a chair when it had lain in a heap on the floor as Cleopatra's wrap may
have lain when she was carried into the presence of her lover. "My dear
Stephen, don't you think that as it is past nine, and Mr. Courtland
is probably some miles out at sea with his head reposing on something
hard,--there is nothing soft about a yacht,--we should make a move
in the direction of home? It seems pretty clear that you will have no
serious talk with him to-night. Alas! my Phyllis, our dream of happiness
is over. We are to be separated by the cruelty of man, as usual.
Good-night, my dear! Good-night, Mr. Ayrton! Pray forgive us for keeping
you out of bed so long; and receive my thanks for restoring my long-lost
husband to my arms. Didn't you say that the hansom was waiting,
Stephen?"

"I expect the man has been asleep for the last half-hour," said her
husband.

"I hope nothing has gone astray with the gold mine," said she. "Hasn't
someone made a calculation regarding the accumulation of a shilling
hansom fare at compound interest when the driver is kept waiting? It is
like the sum about the nails in the horse's shoe. We shall be ruined if
we remain here much longer."

"Ah, my dear," said Mr. Ayrton, when he had kissed her hand, and
straightened the sable collar of her wrap; "ah, my dear, a husband is a
husband."

"Even when he stays away from his wife for three months at a time?" said
Ella.

"Not in spite of that, but on account of it," said Mr. Ayrton. "Have you
been married all these years without finding that out?"

"Good-night!" said she.



CHAPTER XXII.

HE HAD EXPLAINED TO PHYLLIS ONCE THAT HE THOUGHT OF GOD ONLY AS A
PRINCIPLE.

The sound of the hansom wheels died away before the father and daughter
exchanged a word. Mr. Ayrton was the first to speak.

"It seems to have been a night of mischance," said he.

"I am very glad that Mr. Linton has returned," said she.

"What? Now, why should you be glad of that very ordinary incident?"

"Why? Oh, papa, I am so fond of her!"

"She may be fond of him, after all."

Mr. Ayrton spoke musingly.

"Of course she is," said Phyllis, with a positiveness that was designed
to convince herself that she believed her own statement.

"And he may be fond of her--yes, at times," resumed Mr. Ayrton. "That
toilet of hers seems to have been the only happy element in the game of
cross-purposes which was played to-night."

"Ah," whispered the girl.

"Yes; it was in inspiration. She could not have expected her husband
to-night. What a dress! Even a husband would be compelled to admit its
fascination. And she said she meant to wear it at the opera to-night. It
was scarcely an opera toilet, was it?"

"Ella's taste is never at fault, papa."

"I suppose not. I wonder if he is capable of appreciating the--the--let
us say, the inspiration of that toilet. Is that, I wonder, the sort of
dress that a man likes his wife to wear when she welcomes him home after
an absence of some months? No matter it was exquisite in every detail.
Curious, her coming here and waiting after she had learned that you were
out, was it not; from nine o'clock--that fateful hour!--to-night."

"I think she must have felt--lonely," said Phyllis. "She seemed so glad
to see me--so relieved. She meant to stay with me all night, poor thing!
Oh, why should her husband stay away from her for months at a time? It
is quite disgraceful!"

"I think that we had better go to bed," said her father. "If we begin
to discuss abstract questions of temperament we may abandon all hope
of sleep tonight. We might as well try to fathom Herbert Courtland's
reasons for going to yacht with so uncongenial a party as Lord
Earlscourt's. Good-night, my dear!"

He kissed her and went upstairs. She did not follow him immediately.
She stood in the center of the room, and over her sweet face a puzzled
expression crept, as a single breath of wind passes over the smooth
surface of a lake on a day when no wind stirs a leaf.

She thought first of Herbert Courtland, which of itself was a curious
incident. How did it come that he had yielded so easily to the
invitation of Lord Earlscourt to accompany him on his cruise in the
yacht _Water Nymph_? (Lord Earlscourt's imagination in the direction of
the nomenclature of his boats as well as his horses was not unlimited.)

But this was just the question which her father had suggested as an
example of a subject of profitless discussion. She remembered this, and
asked herself if it was likely that she, having at her command fewer
data than her father bearing upon this case, should make a better
attempt than he made at its solution. Her father had seen Herbert
Courtland since he had agreed to go on the cruise, and was therefore in
the better position to arrive at a reasonable conclusion in regard to
the source of the impulse upon which Mr. Courtland had acted; so much
she thought certain. And yet her father had suggested the profitless
nature of such an investigation, and her father was certainly right.

Only for a single moment did it occur to her that something she had
said to Herbert Courtland when he was sitting there, there in that chair
beside her, might have had its influence upon him--only for a single
moment, however; then she shook her head.

No, no! that supposition was too, too ridiculous to be entertained for
a moment. He had, to be sure, shown that he felt deeply the words which
she had quoted as they came from Mrs. Haddon; but what could those words
have to do with his sudden acceptance of Lord Earlscourt's invitation to
go to Norway?

She made up her mind that it was nothing to her what course Herbert
Courtland had pursued, consequently the endeavors to fathom his reason
for adopting such a course would be wholly profitless. But the question
of the singular moods suggested by the conduct and the words of her
friend Ella Linton stood on a very different basis. Ella was her dearest
friend, and nothing that she had said or done should be dismissed as
profitless.

What on earth had Ella meant by appearing in that wonderful costume that
night? It was not a toilet for the opera, even on a Melba night; even on
a "Romeo and Juliet" night, unless, indeed, the wearer meant to appear
on the stage as _Juliet_, was the thought which occurred to the girl.
Her fantastic thought--she thought it was a fantastic thought--made her
smile. Unless----

And then another thought came to her which, not being fantastic,
banished her smile.

_Unless_----

She got to her feet--very slowly--and walked very slowly--across
the room. She seated herself on the sofa where Ella had sat, and she
remained motionless for some minutes. Then she made a motion with one
of her hands as if sweeping from before her eyes some flimsy
repulsiveness--the web of an unclean thing flashing in the air. In
another instant she had buried her face in the pillow that still bore
the impress of Ella's face.

"Oh, God--my God, forgive me--forgive me--forgive me!" was her silent,
passionate prayer as she lay there sobbing. "How could I ever have such
a thought, so terrible a thought. She is my friend--my sister--and she
put herself into her husband's arms and kissed him! Oh, God, forgive
me!"

That was her prayer for the greater part of the night as she lay in her
white bed.

She felt that she had sinned grievously in thought against her friend,
when she recalled the way in which her friend had thrown herself into
the arms of her husband. That was the one action which the girl felt
should entitle Ella Linton to be the subject of no such horrid thought
as had been for a shocking instant forced upon her mind, when she
reflected upon the strange passion which had tingled through Ella's
repetition of the fiery words of _Juliet_.

She recalled every strange element in the incident of Ella's appearance
in the drawing room: the way in which Ella had kissed her and clung to
her as a child might have done on finding someone to protect it; she
recalled the wild words which Ella had uttered, and, finally, the
terrible expression which had appeared on her face as she whispered that
reckless answer to Phyllis' question, when she had picked up her wrap
and flung it around her just before the sound of footsteps had come to
their ears. All that she recalled in connection with that extraordinary
visit of Ella's was quite intelligible to her; but the mystery of all
was more than neutralized by her recollection of the way Ella had
thrown herself into her husband's arms. That action should, she felt, be
regarded as the one important factor, as it were, in the solution of the
problem of Ella's mood--Ella's series of moods. Nothing else that she
had done, nothing that she had said, was worthy of being taken account
of, alongside that dominant act of the true wife.

The little whisper which suggested to her that there was a good deal
that was mysterious in the incident of her friend's visit she refused to
regard as rendering it less obligatory on her--Phyllis--to pray that she
might be forgiven that horrid suspicion which, for an instant, had come
to her; and so she fell asleep praying to God to forgive her for her sin
(in thought) against her friend.

And while Phyllis was praying her prayer, her friend, the True Wife, was
praying with her face down upon her pillow, and her bare arms stretched
out over the white lace of the bed:

"Forgive me, O God; forgive me! and keep him away from me--forever and
ever and ever. Amen."

And while both these prayers were being prayed, Herbert Courtland was
sitting on one of the deck stools of the yacht _Water Nymph_, looking
back at the many lights that gleamed in clusters along the southern
coast of England, now far astern; for a light breeze was sending the
boat along with a creaming, quivering wake. In the bows a youth was
making the night hideous through the agency of a banjo and a sham negro
melody. Amidships, Lord Earlscourt and two other men were playing, by
the light of a lantern slung from the backstay, a game called poker;
Lord Earlscourt, at every fresh deal, trying to make the rest understand
how greatly the worry of being held responsible, as the patron of the
living of St. Chad's, for the eccentricities of his rector, had affected
his nerves--a matter upon which his friends assured him, with varied
degrees of emphasis, they were in no way interested.

Within a few feet of these congenial shipmates Herbert Courtland sat
looking across the shining ripples to the shining lights of the coast;
wondering how he came to be on the sea instead of on the shore. Was this
indeed the night over which his imagination had gloated for months?
Was it indeed possible that this was the very night following the
day--Thursday--for which he had engaged himself in accordance with the
letter that he still carried in his pocket?

How on earth did it come that he was sitting with his arm over the
bulwarks of a yacht instead of----Oh, the thing was a miracle--a
miracle! He could think of it in no other light than that of a miracle.

Well, if it were a miracle, it had been the work of God, and God had to
be thanked for it. He had explained to Phyllis once that he thought of
God only as a Principle--as the Principle which worked in opposition
to the principle of nature. That was certainly the God which had been
evolved out of modern civilization. The pagan gods had been just the
opposite. They had been founded on natural principles. The Hebrew
tradition that God had made man in his own image was the reverse of the
scheme of the pagan man who had made God after his own image; in the
image of man created he God.

But holding the theory that he held--that God was the sometimes
successful opponent to the principles of nature (which he called the
Devil)--Herbert Courtland felt that this was the very God to whom his
thanks were due for the miracle that had been performed on his behalf.

"Thank God--thank God--thank God!" he murmured, looking out over the
rippling waters, steel gray in the soft shadow of the summer's night.

But then he held that "thank God" was but a figure of speech.

"Tinky-tink, tinky-tink, tinky-tinky-tinky-tinky-tinky-tinky-tink," went
the youth with the banjo in the bows.



CHAPTER XXIII.

ITS MOUTHINGS OF THE PAST HAD BECOME ITS MUMBLINGS OF THE PRESENT.

It was very distressing--very disappointing! The bishop would neither
institute proceedings against the rector of St. Chad's nor state plainly
if it was his intention to proceed against that clergyman. When some
people suggested very delicately--the way ordinary people would suggest
anything to a bishop--that it was surely not in sympathy with the
organization of the Church for any clergyman to take advantage of his
position and his pulpit to cast sometimes ridicule, sometimes abuse,
upon certain "scriptural characters"--that was their phrase--who had
hitherto always been regarded as sacred, comparatively sacred, the
bishop had brought the tips of the fingers of one hand in immediate,
or almost immediate, contact with the tips of the fingers of his
other hand, and had shaken his head--mournfully, sadly. These signs of
acquiescence, trifling though they were, had encouraged the deputation
that once waited on his lordship--two military men (retired on the
age clause), an officer of engineers (on the active list), a solicitor
(retired), and a member of the London County Council (by occupation an
ironmonger), to express the direct opinion that the scandal which had
been created by the dissemination--the unrebuked dissemination--of the
doctrines held by the rector of St. Chad's was affording the friends
of Disestablishment an additional argument in favor of their policy of
spoliation. At this statement his lordship had nodded his head three
times with a gravity that deeply impressed the spokesman of the
deputation. He wondered if his lordship had ever before heard that
phrase about the furnishing of an additional argument to the friends
of Disestablishment. (As a matter of fact his lordship had heard it
before.)

After an expression of the deputation's opinion that immediate steps
should be taken to make the rector of St. Chad's amenable to the laws of
the Church,

His lordship replied.

(It was his facility in making conciliatory replies that had brought
about his elevation in the Church):

He referred to (1) his deep appreciation of the sincerity of the
deputation; (2) his own sense of responsibility in regard to the
feelings of the weaker brethren; (3) his appreciation of the value of
the counsel of practical men in many affairs of the Church; (4) the
existing position of the Church in regard to the laity; (5) the friendly
relations that had always existed between himself personally and the
clergy of his extensive diocese; (6) his earnest and prayerful desire
that these relations might be strengthened; (7) the insecurity of a
house divided against itself; (8) the progress of socialism; (9) the
impossibility of socialism commending itself to Englishmen; (10) the
recent anarchist outrages; (11) the purity of the Court of her
Majesty the Queen; (12) the union of all Christian Churches; (13) the
impossibility of such union ever becoming permanent; (14) the value of
Holy Scripture in daily life; (15) his firm belief in the achievement
of England's greatness by means of the open Bible; (16) the note of
pessimism in modern life; (17) the necessity for the Church's combating
modern pessimism; (18) the Church's position as a purveyor of healthy
literature for the young; (19) his reluctance to take up any more of
their valuable time, and (20) his assurance that the remarks of their
spokesman would have his earnest and prayerful attention.

The deputation then thanked his lordship and withdrew.

But still the bishop made no move in the matter, and the friends of the
Rev. George Holland felt grievously disappointed. They had counted on
the bishop's at least writing a letter of remonstrance to the rector of
St. Chad's, and upon the publication of the letter, with the rector's
reply in the newspapers; but now quite two months had passed since
the appearance of "Revised Versions," the bishop had returned from the
Engadine, and still there were no indications of his intention to make
the Rev. George Holland responsible to the right tribunal--whatever that
was--for his doctrines. They counted on his martyrdom within six months;
and, consequently, upon his election to a position of distinction in the
eyes of his fellow-country-men--or, at least, of his country-women. But
the bishop they found to be a poor thing after all. They felt sure that
what the people said about his being quite humble in the presence of his
wife was not without some foundation; and they thought that, after all,
there was a great deal to be said in favor of the celibacy of priests
compulsory in the Church of Rome. If the bishops of the Church of
England were not very careful, they might be the means of such a going
over to Rome as had never previously been witnessed in England.

George Holland may have been disappointed, or he may have been pleased
at the inactivity of the bishop. He made no sign one way or the other.
Of course he was no more than human: he would have regarded a letter of
remonstrance from the bishop as a personal compliment; he had certainly
expected such a letter, for he had already put together the heads of
the reply he would make--and publish--to any official remonstrance that
might be offered to him. Still he made no sign. He preached at least
one sermon every Sunday morning, and whenever it was known that he would
preach, St. Chad's was crowded and the offertory was all that could be
desired. The bishop's chaplain no longer held a watching brief in regard
in regard to those sermons. He did not think it worth while to do so
much, George Holland's friends said, shaking their heads and pursing out
their lips. Oh, yes! there could be no doubt that the bishop was a very
weak sort of man.

But then suddenly there appeared in the new number of the _Zeit Geist
Review_ an article above the signature of George Holland, entitled "The
Enemy to Christianity," and in a moment it became pretty plain that
George Holland had not in his "Revised Versions," said the last word
that he had to say regarding the attitude of the Church of England in
respect of the non-church-goers of the day. When people read the article
they asked "Who is the Enemy to Christianity referred to by the writer?"
and they were forced to conclude that the answer which was made to such
an inquiry by the article itself was, "The Church."

He pointed out the infatuation which possessed the heads of the Church
of England in expecting to appeal with success to the educated people
of the present day, while still declining to move with the course of
thought of the people. Already the braying of a trombone out of tune,
and the barbarous jingle of a tambourine, had absorbed some hundred
thousand of possible church-goers; and though, of course, it was
impossible for sensible men and women--the people whom the Church should
endeavor to grapple to its soul with hooks of steel--to look, except
with amused sadness, at the ludicrous methods and vulgar ineptitude of
the Salvation Army, still the Church was making no effort to provide
the sensible, thinking, educated people of England with an equivalent
as suitable to their requirements as the Salvation Army was to the
requirements of the foolish, the hysterical, the unthinking people who
played the tambourines and brayed on the tuneless trombones. Thus it is
that one man says to another nowadays, when he has got nothing better to
talk about, "Are you a man of intelligence, or do you go to church?"

Men of intelligence do not go to church nowadays, Mr. Holland announced
in that article of his in the _Zeit Geist_; many women of intelligence
refrain from going, he added, though many beautifully dressed women were
still frequent attenders. There was no blinking the fact that the
crass stupidity of the Church had made church-going unpopular--almost
impossible--with intelligent men and women. The Church insulted the
intelligence by trying to reconcile the teachings of Judaism with the
teachings of Christianity, when the two were absolutely irreconcilable.
It was the crass stupidity of the Church that had caused it--for its
self-protection, it fancied--to bitterly oppose every truth that was
revealed to man. The Church had tortured and burned at the stake
the great men to whom God had revealed the great facts of nature's
workings--the motion of the earth and the other planets. But these
facts, being Divine Truth, became accepted by the world in spite of the
thumb-screws and the fagots--the arguments of the Church against Divine
Truth. The list of the Divine Truths which the Church had bitterly
opposed was a sickening document. Geography, Geology, Biology--the
progress of all had, even within recent years, been bitterly opposed
by the Church, and yet the self-constituted arbiters between Truth and
falsehood had been compelled to eat their own words--to devour their
own denunciations when they found that the Truth was accepted by the
intelligence of the people in spite of the anathemas of the Church.

The intelligence of the Church was equal only to the duty of burning
witches. It burned them by the thousand, simply because ancient Judaism
had a profound belief in the witch and because a blood-thirsty Jewish
murderer-monarch had organized a witch hunt.

And yet with such a record against it--a record of the murder of
innocent men and women who endeavored to promulgate the Divine Truths
of nature--the Church still arrogated to itself the right to lay down
a rule of life for intelligent people--a rule of life founded upon that
impossible amalgamation of Judaism and Christianity. The science of
the Church was not equal to the task of amalgamating two such deadly
opponents.

Was it any wonder, then, that church-going had become practically
obsolete among intelligent men and women? the writer asked.

He then went on to refer to the nature of the existing services of
the Church of England. He dealt only casually with the mockery of
the response of the congregation to the reading out of the Fourth
Commandment by the priest, when no one in the Church paid the least
respect to the Seventh Day. This was additional proof of the absurdity
of the attempted amalgamation of Judaism and Christianity. But what he
dealt most fully with was the indiscriminate selection of what were very
properly termed the "Lessons" from the Hebrew Bible. It was, he said,
far from edifying to hear some chapters read out from the lectern
without comment; though fortunately the readers were as a rule so
imperfectly trained that the most objectionable passages had their
potentiality of mischief minimized. He concluded his indictment by a
reference to a sermon preached by the average clergyman of the Church of
England. This was, usually, he said, either a theological essay founded
upon an obsolete system of theology, or a series of platitudes of
morality delivered by an unpractical man. The first was an insult to
the intelligence of an average man; the second was an insult to the
intelligence of an average schoolgirl.

His summing up of the whole case against the Church was as logical as
it was trenchant. The Church had surely become, he said, like unto the
Giant Pagan in "The Pilgrim's Progress," who, when incapable of doing
mischief, sat mumbling at the mouth of his cave on the roadside. The
Church had become toothless, decrepit either for evil or for good. Its
mouthings of the past had become its mumblings of the present. The
cave at the mouth of which this toothless giant sat was very dark; and
intelligent people went by with a good-natured and tolerant laugh.

This article was published in the _Review_ on Tuesday. Phyllis read it
on the evening of that day. On Wednesday the newspapers were full of
this further development of the theories of the writer, and on Thursday
afternoon the writer paid a visit to Phyllis.

As he entered the drawing room he found himself face to face with
Herbert Courtland, who was in the act of leaving.



CHAPTER XXIV.

SHE WAS A WIFE, AND SHE HAD A LOVER WHO DISAPPOINTED HER.

The prayer of Ella Linton had not been answered. She had prayed,
not that her heart wherewith she loved Herbert Courtland might be
changed--that she knew would be difficult; not that her love for Herbert
Courtland might cease--that she believed to be impossible; but simply
that Herbert Courtland might be kept away from her--that she knew to be
the most sensible course her scheme of imploration could take.

She was well aware of the fact that God had given her strength to run
away from Herbert Courtland, and for that she was sincerely thankful;
she did not pause to analyze her feelings, to ask herself if her thanks
were due to her reflection upon the circumstance of her husband's
return, at the very hour when she had appointed to meet Herbert
Courtland; she only felt that God had been good to her in giving her
sufficient strength to run away from that appointment. Then it was that
she had prayed that he might be kept away from her. Surely God would
find it easy to do that, she thought. Surely she might assume that God
was on her side, and that he would not leave his work half done.

But when she began to think of the thorough manner in which God does
his work she began to wish that she had not prayed quite so earnestly.
Supposing that God should think it fit to keep him away from her by
sending a blast from heaven to capsize that yacht in the deep sea, what
would she think of the fervency of her prayer then?

The terror of her reflection upon the possibility of this occurrence
flung her from her bed and sent her pacing, with bare feet and flying
lace, the floor of her bedroom in the first pearly light of dawn, just
as she had paced the floor of Phyllis' drawing room beneath the glow of
the electric lights.

She wished that she had not prayed quite so earnestly that he might be
kept apart from her. But one cannot pray hot and cold; she felt that she
had no right now to lay down any conditions to Heaven in the matter
of keeping Herbert Courtland away from her. She had prayed her prayer;
only, if he were drowned before she saw him again, she would never say
another prayer.

This feeling that she would be even with Heaven, so to speak, had the
effect of soothing her. She threw herself upon her bed once more and was
able to fall asleep; she had a considerable amount of confidence in the
discrimination of Heaven.

But before she had come down to the breakfast room where her husband
was reading a newspaper in the morning, she had thought a good deal
upon another matter that disquieted her in some degree. She had been
exuberant (she thought) at having had sufficient strength given to her
to run away from her lover; but then she had not dwelt upon the rather
important circumstance that all the running away had not been on her
side. What were the facts as revealed by the narrative of Mr. Ayrton?
Why, simply, that while she was putting on that supreme toilet which she
had prepared for the delight of the eyes of her lover (feeling herself
to be a modern Cleopatra), that lover of hers was sitting on the
cushions of a first-class carriage, flying along to Southampton; and
while she had been lying among the cushions of her drawing room, waiting
tremulously, nervously, ecstatically, for the dreary minutes to crawl on
until the clock should chime the hour of nine, he was probably lighting
his first pipe aboard the yacht _Water Nymph_. What did it matter that
she had lifted her hot face from her cushions and had fled in wild haste
to the arms of Phyllis Ayrton? The fact remained the same; it was he who
had run away from her.

That was a terrible reflection. Hitherto she had never felt humiliated.
She had not felt that he had insulted her by his kisses; she had given
him kiss for kiss. She had but to hold up her finger and he was ready
to obey her. But now--what was she to think of him? Had ever man so
humiliated woman? She had offered him, not her heart but her soul--had
he not told her a few days before that he meant her to give him her
soul? and when she had laid heart and soul at his feet--that was how she
put it to herself--he had not considered it worth his while to take the
priceless gift that she offered to him.

"He will answer to me for that," she said, as she thought over her
humiliation, in front of her dressing-glass that morning, while her maid
was absent from the room.

Her wish was now not that her prayer had been less earnest, but that it
had not been uttered at all. It was necessary for her to meet him again
in order that he might explain to her how it came that he had preferred
the attractions incidental to a cruise with Lord Earlscourt and his
friends to all that she had written to offer him.

And yet when her husband, after having quite finished with his paper,
said:

"It's very awkward that Herbert Courtland is not in town."

She merely raised her shoulders an inch, saying:

"I suppose that he has a right to take a holiday now and then. If you
didn't telegraph to him from Paris, you cannot complain."

"I felt certain that I should find him here," said the husband.

"Here?" said the wife, raising her eyebrows and casting an offended
glance at her husband. "Here?"

He smiled in the face of her offended glance.

"Here--in London, I mean, of course. Heavens, Ella! did you fancy for a
moment that I meant----Ah, by the way, you have seen him recently?"

"Oh, yes; quite recently--on Tuesday, I think it was, we met at the
Ayrton's dinner party--yes, it was Tuesday. There was some fuss, or
attempted fuss, about his adventures in New Guinea, and a question was
being asked about the matter in the House of Commons. Mr. Ayrton got rid
of some of his superfluous cleverness in putting a counter question--you
know the way."

"Oh, perfectly well! And that is how you met on Tuesday--if it was
Tuesday?"

"Yes; he went to thank Mr. Ayrton, and Mr. Ayrton asked him to dinner.
It was a small party, and not very brilliant. Herbert came here with me
afterward--for five minutes."

"Ah! To get the taste of the party off his mouth, I suppose? He didn't
say anything to you then about being tired of his London season?"

"Not a word. He seemed tired of the dinner party. He yawned."

"And I'm sure that you yawned in sympathy. When a man so far forgets
himself as to yawn in the presence of a woman, she never fails to
respond with one of more ample circumference. When a woman so far
remembers herself as to yawn in the presence of a man, he tries to say
something witty."

"Yes, when the woman is not his wife. If she is his wife, he asks her if
she doesn't think it's about time she was in bed."

"I dare say you're right; you have observed men--and women, for that
matter--much more closely than I have had time to do. It's very awkward
that he isn't here. I must bring him back at once."

She felt a little movement at her heart; but she only said:

"I wouldn't do that, if I were you. Why shouldn't he be allowed to enjoy
his holiday in peace?"

"It's a matter of business; the mine, I told you."

"What's wrong with the mine that could be set right by his coming back
at once? Are you not making enough out of it?"

"We're making quite as much as is good for us out of it. But if we can
get a hundred and fifty thousand pounds for a few yards of our claim
further east, without damaging the prospects of the mine itself, I don't
think we should refuse it--at any rate, I don't think that we should
refuse to consider the offer."

"What is a hundred and fifty thousand pounds?" said she.

"I wonder why you dressed yourself as you did last night?" said he.

The suddenness of the words did not cause her to quail as the guilty
wife quails--yes, under a properly managed lime-light. She did not even
color. But then, of course, she was not a guilty wife.

She lay back on her chair and laughed.

He watched her--not eagerly, but pleasantly, admiringly.

"My dear Stephen, if you could understand why I dressed myself that way
you would be able to give me a valuable hint as to where the connection
lies between your mine and my toilet--I need such a hint, now, I can
assure you."

She was sitting up now looking at him with lovely laughing eyes. (After
all, she was no guilty wife.)

"What, you can't see the connection?" he said slowly. "You can sew over
your dress about fifty thousand pounds' worth of diamonds, and yet
you don't see the connection between the wearing of that dress and the
development of a gold mine by your husband?"

"I think I see it now--something of a connection. But I don't want any
more diamonds; I don't care if you take all that are sewed about the
dress and throw them into the river. That's how I feel this morning."

"I heard some time ago of a woman who had something of your mood upon
her one day. She had some excellent diamonds, and in one of her moods,
she flung them into the river. She was a wife and she had a lover who
disappointed her. The story reads very smoothly in verse."

She laughed.

"I have no lover," she said--was it mournfully? "I have a husband, it is
true; but he is not exactly of the type of King Arthur--nor Sir Galahad,
for that matter. I hope you found Paris as enjoyable as ever?"

"Quite. I never saw at Paris a more enrapturing toilet than yours of
last night. You are, I know, the handsomest woman of my acquaintance,
and you looked handsomer than I had ever before seen you in that
costume. I wonder why you put it on."

"Didn't someone--was it Phyllis?--suggest that it was an act of
inspiration; that I had a secret, mysterious prompting to put it on to
achieve the object which--well, which I did achieve."

"Object? What object?"

"To make my husband fall in love with me again."

"Ah! In love there is no again. I wonder where a telegram would find
Herbert."

"Don't worry yourself about him. Let him enjoy his holiday."

"Do you fancy he is enjoying himself with Earlscourt and his boon
companions? They'll be playing poker from morning till night--certainly
from night till morning."

"Why should he go on the cruise if he was not certain to enjoy himself?"

"Ah, that question is too much for me. Think over it yourself and let me
know if you come to a solution, my dear."

He rose and left the room before she could make any answer--before
she could make an attempt to find out in what direction his thoughts
regarding the departure of Herbert Courtland were moving.

She wondered if he had any suspicion in regard to Herbert and herself.
He was not a man given to suspicion, or at any rate, given to allowing
whatever suspicion he may have felt, to be apparent. He had allowed her
to drive and to ride with Herbert Courtland during the four months they
had been together, first at Egypt, then at Florence, Vienna, Munich, and
Paris, and he could not have but seen that Herbert and she had a good
many sympathies in common. Not a word had been breathed, however, of a
suspicion that they were more than good friends to each other.

(As a matter of fact, they had not been more than good friends to each
other; but then some husbands are given to unworthy suspicions.)

Could it be possible, she asked herself, that some people with nasty
minds had suggested to him in Paris that she and Herbert were together
a great deal in London, and that he had been led to make this sudden
visit, this surprise visit to London, with a view of satisfying himself
as to the truth of the nasty reports--the disgraceful calumnies which
had reached his ears?

If he had done so, all that could be said was that he had been
singularly unfortunate in regard to his visit. "Unfortunate" was the
word which was in her mind, though, of course _"fortunate"_ was the word
which should have occurred to her. It was certainly a fortunate result
of his visit--that tableau in the drawing room of Mr. Ayrton: Ella and
her dearest friend standing side by side, hand in hand, as he entered.
A surprise visit, it may have been, but assuredly the surprise was
a pleasant one for the husband, if he had listened to the voice of
calumny.

And then, after pondering upon this with a smiling face, her smile
suddenly vanished. She was overwhelmed with the thought of what might
have been the result of that surprise visit--yes, if she had not had the
strength to run away to the side of Phyllis; yes, if Herbert had not had
the weakness to join that party of poker-players aboard the yacht.

She began to wonder what her husband would have done if he had entered
the house by the aid of his latch-key, and had found her sitting in that
lovely costume by the side of Herbert Courtland? Would he have thought
her a guilty woman? Would he have thought Herbert a false friend? Would
he have killed her, or would he have killed Herbert? Herbert would, she
thought, take a good deal of killing from a man of the caliber of her
husband; but what could she have done?

Well, what she did, as the force of that thought crushed her back upon
her chair, was to bring her hands together in a passionate clasp, and to
cry in a passionate gasp:

"Thank God--thank God--thank God!"

She dined alone with her husband that night, and thought it well to
appear in another evening toilet--one that was quite as lovely, though
scarcely so striking, as that which her husband had so admired the
previous night. He clearly appreciated her efforts to maintain her
loveliness in his eyes, and their little dinner was a very pleasant one.

He told her that he had learned that the yacht _Water Nymph_ would put
in to Leith before crossing the North Sea, and that he had written to
Herbert Courtland at that port to return without delay.

"You did wrong," said she; and she felt that she was speaking the truth.

"I don't think so," he replied. "At any rate, you may rest perfectly
certain that Herbert will receive my letter with gratitude."

And Mr. Linton's judgment on this point was not in error. Herbert
Courtland received, on the evening of the third day after leaving
Southampton, the letter which called him back to London, and he
contrived to conceal whatever emotion he may have felt at the
prospect of parting from his shipmates. They accompanied him ashore,
however--they had worn out six packs of cards already, and were about
to buy another dozen or two, to see them safely through the imposing
scenery of the Hardanger Fjord.

The next day he was in London, and it was on the evening of that same
day that he came face to face with the Rev. George Holland outside Miss
Ayrton's drawing room.



CHAPTER XXV.

LIES! LIES! LIES!

"You should have come a little sooner," said Phyllis quite pleasantly.
"Mr. Courtland was giving me such an amusing account of his latest
voyage. Will you have tea or iced coffee?"

"Tea, if you please," said George Holland, also quite pleasantly. "Has
Mr. Courtland been on another voyage of discovery? What has he left
himself to discover in the world of waters?"

"I think that what he discovered on his latest voyage was the effect
of a banjo on the human mind," laughed Phyllis. "He was aboard Lord
Earlscourt's yacht, the _Water Nymph_. Some other men were there also.
One of them had an idea that he could play upon the banjo. He was wrong,
Mr. Courtland thinks."

"A good many people are subject to curious notions of the same type.
They usually take an optimistic view of the susceptibilities of
enjoyment of their neighbors--not that there is any connection between
enjoyment and a banjo."

"Mr. Courtland said just now that when Dr. Johnson gave it as his
opinion that music was, of all noises, the least disagreeable, the banjo
had not been invented."

"That assumes that there is some connection between music and the banjo,
and that's going just a little too far, don't you think?"

"I should like to hear Dr. Johnson's criticism of Paderewski."

"His criticism of Signor Piozzi is extant: a fine piece of eighteenth
century directness."

"I sometimes long for an hour or two of the eighteenth century. You
remember Fanny Burney's reference to the gentleman who thought it
preposterous that Reynolds should have increased his price for a
portrait to thirty guineas, though he admitted that Reynolds was a good
enough sort of man for a painter. I think I should like to have an hour
with that man."

"I long for more than that. I should like to have seen David Garrick's
reproduction, for the benefit of his schoolfellows, of Dr. Johnson's
love passages with his very mature wife. I should also like to have
heard the complete story of old Grouse in the gun room."

"Told by Squire Hardcastle, of course?"

"Of course. I question if there was anything very much better aboard
the _Water Nymph_. By the way, Lady Earlscourt invited me to join the
yachting party. She did not mention it to her husband, however. She
thought that there should be a chaplain aboard. Now, considering that
Lord Earlscourt had told me the previous day that he was compelled to
take to the sea solely on account of the way people were worrying him
about me, I think that I did the right thing when I told her that I
should be compelled to stay at home until the appearance of a certain
paper of mine in the _Zeit Geist Review_."

"I'm sure that you did the right thing when you stayed at home."

"And in writing the paper in the _Zeit Geist_? You have read it?"

"Oh, yes! I have read it."

"You don't like it?"

"How could I like it? You have known me now for sometime. How could you
fancy that I should like it--that is, if you thought of me at all in
connection with it? I don't myself see why you should think of me at
all."

He rose and stood before her. She had risen to take his empty cup from
him.

"Don't you know that I think of you always, Phyllis?" he said, in that
low tone of his which flowed around the hearts of his hearers, and made
their hearts as one with his heart. "Don't you know that I think of you
always--that all my hopes are centered in you?"

"I am so sorry if that is the case, Mr. Holland," said she. "I don't
want to give you pain, but I must tell you again what I told you long
ago: you have passed completely out of my life. If you had not done so
before, the publication of that article in the _Zeit Geist_ would force
me to tell you that you had done so now. To me my religion has always
been a living thing; my Bible has been my guide. You trampled upon the
one some months ago, you have trampled on the other now. You shocked me,
Mr. Holland."

"I have always loved you, Phyllis. I think I love you better than I ever
did, if that were possible," said he. "I am overwhelmed with grief at
the thought of the barrier which your fancy has built up between us."

"Fancy?"

"Your fancy, dear child. I feel that the barrier which you fancy is now
between us is unworthy of you."

"What? Do you mean to say that you think that my detestation--my--my
horror of your sneers at the Bible, which I believe to be the Word of
God--of the contempt you have heaped upon the Church which I believe to
be God's agent on earth for the salvation of men's souls--do you think
that my detestation of these is a mere girlish fancy?"

"I don't think that, Phyllis. What I think is, that if you had ever
loved me you would be ready to stand by my side now--to be guided by me
in a matter which I have made the study of my life."

"In such matters as these--the value or the worthlessness of the Bible;
the value or the worthlessness of the Church--I require no guide, Mr.
Holland. I do not need to go to a priest to ask if it is wrong to steal,
to covet another's goods, to honor my father----Oh, I cannot discuss
what is so very obvious. The Bible I regard as precious; you think that
you are in a position to edit it as if it were an ordinary book. The
Church I regard as the Temple of God upon the earth; you think that
it exists only to be sneered at? and yet you talk of fanciful barriers
between us!"

"I consider it the greatest privilege of a man on earth to be a minister
of the Church of Christ."

"Why, then, do you take every opportunity of pointing to it as the
greatest enemy to Christianity?"

"The Church of to-day represents some results of the great Reformation.
That Reformation was due to the intelligence of those men who perceived
that it had become the enemy to freedom; the enemy to the development
of thought; the enemy to the aspirations of a great nation. The nation
rejoiced in the freedom of thought of which the great charter was the
Reformation. But during the hundreds of years that have elapsed since
that Reformation, some enormous changes have been brought about in the
daily life of the people of this great nation. The people are being
educated, and the Church must sooner or later face the fact that as
education spreads church-going decreases. Why is that, I ask you?"

"Because men are growing more wicked every day."

"But they are not. Crime is steadily decreasing as education is
spreading, and yet people will not go to church. They will go to
lectures, to bands of music, to political demonstrations, but they will
not go to church. The reason they will not go is because they know that
they will hear within the church the arguments of men whose minds
are stunted by a narrow theological course against every discovery of
science or result of investigation. You know how the best minds in the
Church ridiculed the discoveries of geology, of biology, ending, of
course, by reluctantly accepting the teachings of the men whom they
reviled."

"You said all that in your paper, Mr. Holland, and yet I tell you that I
abhor your paper--that I shuddered when I read what you wrote about the
Bible. The words that are in the Bible have given to millions of poor
souls a consolation that science could never bring to them."

"And those consoling words are what I would read to the people every
day of the week, not the words which may have a certain historical
signification, but which breathe a very different spirit from the spirit
of Christianity. Phyllis, it is to be the aim of my life to help on the
great work of making the Church once more the Church of the people--of
making it in reality the exponent of Christianity and Judaism. That is
my aim, and I want you to be my helper in this work."

"And I tell you that I shall oppose you by all the means in my power,
paltry though my power may be."

Her eyes were flashing and she made a little automatic motion with her
hands, as if sweeping something away from before her. He had become pale
and there was a light in his eyes. He felt angry at this girl who had
shown herself ready to argue with him,--in her girlish fashion, of
course,--and who, after listening to his incontrovertible arguments,
fell back resolutely upon a platitude, and considered that she had got
the better of him.

She had got the better of him, too; that was the worst of it; his object
in going to her, in arguing with her, was to induce her to promise to
marry him, and he had failed.

It was on this account he was angry. He might have had a certain
consciousness of succeeding as a theologian, but he had undoubtedly
failed as a lover. He was angry. He was as little accustomed as other
clergymen to be withstood by a girl.

"I am disappointed in you," said he. "I fancied that when I--when I----"
It was in his mind to say that he had selected her out of a large number
of candidates to be his helpmeet, but he pulled himself up in time, and
the pause that he made seemed purely emotional. "When I loved you and
got your promise to love me in return, you would share with me all the
glory, the persecution, the work incidental to this crusade on behalf of
the truth, but now----Ah! you can never have loved me."

"Perhaps you are right, indeed," said she meekly. She was ready to cede
him this point if he set any store by it.

"Take care," said he, with some measure of sternness. "Take care, if you
fancy you love another man, that he may be worthy of you."

"I do not love another man, Mr. Holland," said she gently; scarcely
regretfully.

"Do you not?" said he, with equal gentleness. "Then I will hope."

"You will do very wrong."

"You cannot say that without loving someone else. I would not like to
hear of your loving such a man as Herbert Courtland."

She started at that piece of impertinence, and then, without the
slightest further warning, she felt her body blaze from head to foot.
She was speechless with indignation.

"Perhaps I should have said a word of warning to you before." He had
now assumed the calm dignity of a clergyman who knows what is due to
himself. "I am not one to place credence in vulgar gossip; I thought
that your father, perhaps, might have given you a hint. Mrs. Linton is
undoubtedly a very silly woman. God forbid that I should ever hear rumor
play with your name as I have heard it deal with hers."

His assumption of the clergyman's solemn dignity did not make his remark
less impertinent, considering that Ella Linton was her dearest friend.
And yet people were in the habit of giving George Holland praise for
his tact. Such persons had never seen him angry, wounded, and anxious to
wound.

There was a pause after he had spoken his tactless words. It was broken
by a thrice-repeated cry from Phyllis.

"Lies! Lies! Lies!" she cried, facing him, the light of scorn in her
eyes. "I tell you that you have listened to lies; you, a clergyman, have
listened to lying gossip, and have repeated that lying gossip to me.
You have listened like a wicked man, and you should be ashamed of your
behavior, of your words, your wicked words. If Ella Linton were wicked,
you would be responsible for it in the sight of God. You, a clergyman,
whose duty it is to help the weak ones, to give counsel to those who
stand on the brink of danger; you speak your own condemnation if you
speak Ella Linton's. You have spent your time not in that practical work
of the Church--that work which is done silently by those of her priests
who are desirous of doing their duty; you have spent your time, not in
this work, but in theorizing, in inventing vain sophistries to put in a
book, and so cause people to talk about you; whether they talk well or
ill of you, you care not so long as they talk; you have been doing this
to gratify your own vanity, instead of doing your duty as a clergyman
on behalf of the souls which have been intrusted to your keeping. Go
away--go away! I am ashamed of you; I am ashamed of myself that I was
ever foolish enough to allow my name to be associated with yours even
for a single day. I shall never, never again enter the church where you
preach. Go away! Go away!"

He stood before her with his hands by his sides as a man suddenly
paralyzed might stand. He had never recovered from the shock produced by
her crying of the word "lies! lies! lies!" He was dazed. He was barely
conscious of the injustice which she was doing him, for he felt that he
was not actuated by vanity, but sincerity in all that he had hitherto
preached and written regarding the Church. Still he had not the power to
interrupt her in her accusation; he had not the power to tell her that
she was falsely accusing him.

When her impassioned denunciation of him had come to an end, and she
stood with flaming face, one outstretched hand pointing to the door, he
recovered himself--partially; and curiously enough, his first thought
was that he had never seen a more beautiful girl in a more graceful
attitude. She had insulted him grossly; she had behaved as none of the
daughters of Philistia would behave in regard to him--him, a clergyman
of the Church of England; but he forgot her insults, her injustice, and
his only thought was that she was surely the most beautiful woman in the
world.

"I am amazed!" he found words to say at last. "I am amazed! I felt
certain that you at least would do me justice. I thought--"

"I will not listen to you," she cried. "Every word you utter increases
my self-contempt at having heard you say so much as you have said. Go
away, please. No, I will go--I will go."

And she did go.

He found himself standing in the middle of an empty room.

Never before had he been so treated by man or woman; and the worst of
the matter was that he had an uneasy feeling that he had deserved the
scorn which she had heaped upon him. He knew perfectly well that he had
no right to speak to her as he had spoken regarding her friend, Ella
Linton. Rumor--what right had he to suggest to her, as he had certainly
done, that the evil rumors regarding her friend were believed by him at
least?

Yes, he felt that she had treated him as he deserved; and when he
tried to get up a case for himself, so to speak, by dwelling upon the
injustice which she had done him in saying that he had been actuated by
vanity, whereas he knew that he had been sincere, he completely failed.

But his greatest humiliation was due to a consciousness of his own want
of tact. Any man may forget himself so far as to lose his temper upon
occasions; but no man need hope to get on in the world who so far
forgets himself as to allow other people to perceive that he has lost
his temper.

What was he to do?

What was left for him to do but to leave the house with as little delay
as possible?

He went down the stairs, and a footman opened the hall door for him.
He felt a good deal better in the open air. Even the large drawing room
which he had left was beginning to feel stuffy. (He was a singularly
sensitive man.)

On reaching the rectory he found two letters waiting for him. One from
the bishop requesting an early interview with him. The other was almost
identical but it was signed "Stephen Linton."



CHAPTER XXVI.

DID HE SAY SOMETHING MORE ABOUT RUTH?

Herbert Courtland had found his way to her drawing room on the afternoon
of his return to London; and it was upon this circumstance rather than
upon her own unusual behavior in the presence of George Holland that
Phyllis was dwelling so soon as she had recovered from her tearful
outburst on her bed. (She had, of course, run into her bedroom and
thrown herself upon the bed the moment that she had left the presence of
the man whom she had once promised to marry.) She had wept in the sheer
excitement of the scene in which she had played the part of leading
lady; it had been a very exciting scene, and it had overwhelmed her; she
had not accustomed herself to the use of such vehement language as
she had found necessary to employ in order to adequately deal with Mr.
Holland and that was how it came about that she was overwhelmed.

But so soon as she had partially recovered from her excitement, and had
dried her eyes, she began to think of the visit which had been paid
to her, not by George Holland, but by Herbert Courtland. She dwelt,
moreover, less upon his amusing account of the cruise of the _Water
Nymph_ than upon the words which he had said to her in regard to his
last visit. She had expressed her surprise at seeing him. Had he not
gone on a yachting cruise to Norway? Surely five days was under rather
than over the space of time necessary to thoroughly enjoy the fine
scenery of the fjords.

He had then laughed and said that he had received a letter at Leith
making his immediate return absolutely necessary.

"How disappointed you must have felt!" she suggested, with something
like a smile upon her face.

His smile was broader as he said:

"Well, I'm not so sure that my disappointment was such as would tend
to make me take a gloomy view of life for an indefinite time. Lord
Earlscourt is a very good sort of fellow; but----"

"Yes; I quite agree with you," said she, still smiling. "Knowing what
follows that 'but' in everyone's mind, we all thought it rather strange
on your part to start on that cruise. And so suddenly you seemed to make
up your mind, too. You never hinted to me that afternoon that you
were anxious to see Norway under the personal conductorship of Lord
Earlscourt."

"It would have been impossible for me to give you such a hint," said he.
"I had no idea myself that I wanted greatly to go to Norway, until I met
Earlscourt."

"So we gathered from what papa told us when he came in about midnight,
bringing Mr. Linton with him," said Phyllis. "Ella had come across to
me before nine, to ask me to go with her to 'Romeo and Juliet' at Covent
Garden, forgetting that I was dining with Lady Earlscourt."

"But you had not returned from the dinner party at nine," he suggested.
She had certainly succeeded in arousing his interest, even in such
ordinary details as those she was describing.

"Of course not; but Ella waited for me; I suppose she did not want to
return to her lonely house. She seemed so glad when I came in that she
made up her mind to stay with me all night."

"Oh! But she didn't stay with you?"

"Of course not, when her husband appeared. It was so funny--so
startling."

"So funny--so startling! Yes, it must have been--funny."

"Ella was wearing such a lovely frock--covered with diamonds. I wish
that you had seen her."

"Ah!"

"I never saw anything so lovely. I told her that it was a bridal
toilet."

"A bridal toilet?"

"We thought it such a pity that it should be wasted. She didn't go to
the opera, of course."

"And it was wasted--wasted?"

"Oh, no! When her husband came in with papa, about midnight, we laughed
and said that her dressing herself in that way was an inspiration; that
something told her that he was returning."

"Probably a telegram from Paris had told her; that was the source of her
inspiration."

"Oh, no! what was so funny about the matter was that Mr. Linton's
servant bungled sending the telegram, so that Ella knew nothing of his
coming."

"Great Heavens!"

"You have not seen Ella since your return?"

"No; I have been with her husband on business all day, however."

"And of course he would not have occasion to refer to so casual an
incident as his wife's wearing a new toilet."

"Of course not. The word inspiration has no place in a commercial
vocabulary, Miss Ayrton."

"But it is a good word elsewhere, Mr. Courtland.

"Yes, it has its meaning. You think that it may be safely applied to the
wearing of an effective toilet. I wonder if you would think of applying
it to the words you said to me on the last evening I was here?"

It was in a very low tone, and after a long pause, that she said:

"I hope if what I told you Mrs. Haddon said was an inspiration, it was a
good one. I felt that I must tell you, Mr. Courtland, though I fear that
I gave you some pain--great pain. I know what it is to be reminded of an
irreparable loss."

"Pain--pain?" said he. Then he raised his eyes to hers. "I wonder if
you will ever know what effect your words had upon me, Miss Ayrton?" he
added. "I don't suppose that you will ever know; but I tell you that
it would be impossible for me ever to cease to think of you as my good
angel."

She flushed slightly, very slightly, before saying:

"How odd that Ella should call me her good angel, too, on that same
night!"

"And she spoke the truth, if ever truth was spoken," he cried.

Her face was very serious as she said:

"Of course I don't understand anything of this, Mr. Courtland."

"No," he said; "it would be impossible for you to understand anything
of it. It would be impossible for you to understand how I feel toward
you--how I have felt toward you since you spoke those words in this
room; those words that came to me as the light from heaven came to Saul
of Tarsus; words of salvation. Believe me, I shall never forget them."

"I am so glad," said she. "I am glad, though, as I say, I understand
nothing."

Then there had been a long interval of silence before she had asked him
something further regarding the yachting party.

And now she was lying on her bed trying to recall every word that he had
spoken, and with a dread over her that what he had said would bear out
that terrible suspicion which she had prayed to God to forgive her for
entertaining on that night when Ella had gone home with her husband.

No rumor had reached her ears regarding the closeness of the intimacy
existing between Mr. Courtland and Mrs. Linton; and thus it was that
when that suspicion had come upon her, after Ella had left her, she felt
that she was guilty of something akin to a crime--a horrible breach of
friendship, only to be expiated by tears and prayers.

That terrible thought had been borne upon her as a suggestion to account
for much that she could not understand in the words and the behavior of
Ella during that remarkable evening; and, in spite of her remorse and
her prayers, she could not rid herself of it. It left its impression
upon her mind, upon her heart. Hitherto she had only heard about the way
an unlawful passion sweeps over two people, causing them to fling to the
winds all considerations of home, of husband, of religion, of honor; and
she felt it to be very terrible to be brought face to face with such a
power; it seemed to her as terrible as to be brought face to face with
that personal Satan in whom she believed.

It only required such a hint as that which had come from George Holland
to set her smoldering suspicion--suspicion of a suspicion--in a flame.
It had flamed up before him in those words which she had spoken to him.
If Ella were guilty, he, George Holland, was to be held responsible for
her guilt.

But Ella was not guilty; Herbert Courtland was not guilty.

"No, no, no!" she cried, in the solitude of her chamber. "She did not
talk as a guilty woman would talk; and he--he went straight out of the
room where I had told him what Mrs. Haddon said about his mother, his
sister--straight aboard the yacht; and she----"

All at once the truth flashed upon her; the truth--she felt that it was
the truth; and both of them were guiltless. It was for Herbert Courtland
that Ella had put on that lovely dress; but she was guiltless, he was
guiltless. (Curiously enough, she felt quite as happy in the thought
that he was guiltless.) Yes, Ella had come to her wearing that dress
instead of waiting for him, and he----Ah, she now knew what he had meant
when he had called her his good angel. She had saved him.

She flung herself on her knees in a passion of thanksgiving to God for
having made her the means of saving a soul from hell--yes, for the time
being.

And then she began to think what she should do in order that that soul
should be saved forever.

It was time for her to dress for dinner before she had finished working
out that great question, possibly the greatest question that ever
engrossed the attention of a young woman: how to save the soul of a man,
not temporarily, but eternally.

And all the time that she was in her room alone she had not a single
thought regarding the scene through which she had passed with the Rev.
George Holland. She had utterly forgotten him and his wickedness--his
vain sophistries. She had forgotten all that he had said to her--his
monstrous calumny leveled against her dearest friend; she even
forgot her unjust treatment of George Holland and her rudeness--her
unparalleled rudeness toward him. She was thinking over something very
much more important. What was a question of mere etiquette compared to
the question of saving a man's soul alive?

But when she dined opposite to her father it was to the visit of George
Holland she referred rather than to the visit of Herbert Courtland.

"What had George Holland got to say that was calculated to interest
you?" her father inquired. The peaches were on the table and the servant
had, of course, left the room.

"He had nothing to say of interest to me," she replied.

"Nothing, except, of course, that his respectful aspiration to marry
you----" suggested Mr. Ayrton.

"You need not put the 'except' before that, my papa," said she.

"And yet I have for some years been under the impression that even when
a man whom she recoils from marrying talks to a young woman about his
aspirations in the direction of marriage, she is more interested than
she would be when the man whom she wishes to marry talks on some other
topic."

"At any rate, George Holland didn't interest me so long as he talked
of his aspirations. Then he talked of--well, of something else, and
I'm afraid that I was rude to him. I don't think that he will come here
again. I know that I shall never go to St. Chad's again."

"Heavens above! This is a pretty story to tell a father. How were you
rude to him? I should like to have a story of your rudeness, merely to
hold up against you for a future emergency."

"I pointed to the door in the attitude of the heroine of one of the old
plays, and when he didn't leave at once, I left the room."

"You mean to say that you left him standing in the middle of the room
while you went away?"

"I told you that I was rude."

"Rude, yes; but it's one thing to omit to leave cards upon a hostess,
and quite another to stare her in the face when she bows to you in the
street. It's one thing to omit sending a man a piece of your bridescake,
and quite another to knock off his hat in the street. Rude, oh, my dear
Phyllis!"

"If you knew what he said about--about someone whom I love--if you knew
how angry I was, you would not say that I acted so atrociously, after
all."

"Oh! Did he say something more about Ruth?"

"He said too much--far too much; I cannot tell you. If any other man
said so much I would treat him in the same way. You must not ask me
anything further, please."

"Rude and unrepentant, shocking and not ashamed. This is terrible.
But perhaps it's better that you should be rude when you're young
and beautiful; later on, when you're no longer young, it will not be
permitted in you. I'll question you no further. Only how about Sunday?"

"I have promised Ella to go with her party to The Mooring for a week."

"That will get over the matter of the church, but only for one Sunday.
How about the next Sundays--until the prorogation? Now, don't say the
obvious 'sufficient unto the Sunday is the sermon thereof.'"

"I certainly will not. I have done forever with St. Chad's, unless the
bishop interferes and we get a new rector."

"Then that's settled. And so we can drink our coffee in the drawing room
with easy minds. Rude! Great Heavens!"



CHAPTER XXVII.

THAT'S WHY WOMEN DO NOT MAKE GOOD PHILOSOPHERS.

She had prayed to God that he might be kept away from her; but
immediately afterward, as has already been stated, when she began to
think over the situation of the hour, she came to the conclusion that
she had been a little too precipitate in her petition. She felt that
she would like to ask him how it had come about that he had played
that contemptible part. Such a contemptible part! Was it on record, she
wondered, that any man had ever played that contemptible part? To run
away! And she had designed and worn that wonderful toilet; such a toilet
as Helen might have worn (she thought); such a toilet as Cleopatra might
have worn (she fancied); such a toilet as--as Sarah Bernhardt (she was
certain) would wear when impersonating a woman who had lost her soul for
the love of a man. Oh, had ever woman been so humiliated! She thought of
the way Sarah Bernhardt would act the part of one of those women if her
lover had run away from her outstretched arms,--and such a toilet,--only
it was not on record that the lover of any one of them had ever run
away. The lovers had been only too faithful; they had remained to be
hacked to pieces with a mediaeval knife sparkling with jewels, or to
swallow some curious poison out of a Byzantine goblet. She would have
a word or two to say to Herbert Courtland when he returned. She would
create the part of the woman whose lover has humiliated her.

This was her thought until her husband told her that he had sent that
letter to Herbert Courtland, and he would most likely dine with them on
the evening of his return.

Then it was it occurred to her that Herbert Courtland might by some
curious mischance--mischances occurred in many of Sarah Bernhardt's
plays--have come to hear that she had paid that rather singular visit to
Phyllis Ayrton, just at the hour that she had named in that letter which
she had written to him. What difference did that make in regard to his
unparalleled flight? He was actually aboard the yacht _Water Nymph_
before she had rung for her brougham to take her to Phyllis'. He had
been the first to fly.

Then she began to think, as she had thought once before, of her
husband's sudden return,--the return of a husband at the exact hour
named in the letter to a lover was by no means an unknown incident in
a play of Sarah Bernhardt's,--and before she had continued upon this
course of thought for many minutes, she had come to the conclusion that
she would not be too hard on Herbert Courtland.

She was not too hard on him.

He had an interview with Mr. Linton at the city offices of the great
Taragonda Creek Mine. (The mine had, as has already been stated,
been discovered by Herbert Courtland during his early explorations in
Australia, and he had acquired out of his somewhat slender resources--he
had been poor in those days--about a square mile of the wretched country
where it was situated, and had then communicated his discovery to
Stephen Linton, who understood the science and arts necessary for
utilizing such a discovery, the result being that in two years everyone
connected with the Taragonda Mine was rich. The sweepings of the
crushing rooms were worth twenty thousand pounds a year: and Herbert
Courtland had spent about ten thousand pounds--a fourth of his year's
income--in the quest of the meteor-bird to make a feather fan for Ella
Linton.) And when the business for which he had been summoned to London
had been set _en train_, he had paid a visit to his publishers. (They
wondered could he give them a novel on New Guinea. If he introduced
plenty of dialect and it was sufficiently unintelligible it might thrust
the kail yard out of the market; but the novel must be in dialect, they
assured him.) After promising to give the matter his attention, he paid
his visit to Phyllis, and then went to his rooms to dress; for when
Stephen Linton had said:

"Of course you'll dine with us to-night: I told Ella you would come."

He had said, "Thanks; I shall be very pleased."

"Come early; eight sharp," Mr. Linton had added.

And thus it was that at five minutes to eight o'clock Herbert found
himself face to face alone with the woman whom he had so grossly
humiliated.

Perhaps she was hard on him after all: she addressed him as Mr.
Courtland. She felt that she, at any rate, had returned to the straight
path of duty when she had done that. (It was Herbert Courtland who had
talked to Phyllis of the modern philosopher--a political philosopher or
a philosophical politician--who, writing against compromise, became the
leading exponent of that science, and had hoped to solve the question of
a Deity by using a small g in spelling God. On the same principle Ella
had called Herbert "Mr. Courtland.")

He felt uneasy. Was he ashamed of himself, she wondered?

"Stephen will be down in a moment, Mr. Courtland," she said.

He was glad to hear it.

"How warm it has been all day!" she added. "I thought of you toiling
away over figures in the city, when you might have been breathing the
lovely air of the sea. It was too bad of Stephen to bring you back."

"I assure you I was glad to get his letter at Leith," said he. "I was
thinking for the two days previous how I could best concoct a telegram
to myself at Leith in order that I might have some excuse for running
away."

"That is assuming that running away needs some excuse," said she.

There was a considerable pause before he said, in a low tone:

"Ella, Ella, I know everything--that night. We were saved."

At this moment Mr. Linton entered the room. He was, after all, not late,
he said: it wanted a minute still of being eight o'clock. He had just
been at the telephone to receive a reply regarding a box at Covent
Garden. In the earlier part of the day none had been vacant, he had been
told; but the people at the box office promised to telephone to him if
any became vacant in the course of the afternoon. He had just come from
the telephone, and had secured a good enough box on the first tier. He
hoped that Ella would not mind "Carmen"; there was to be a new _Carmen_.

Ella assured him that she could not fail to be interested in any
_Carmen_, new or old. It was so good of him to take all that trouble for
her, knowing how devoted she was to opera. She hoped that Herbert--she
called him Herbert in the presence of her husband--was in a _Carmen_
mood.

"I'm always in a mood to study anything that's unreservedly savage,"
said he.

"There's not much reservation about our little friend _Carmen_," said
Mr. Linton. "She tells you her philosophy in her first moment before
you."

He hummed the habanera.

"There you are: _Misteroso e l'amore_--that's the philosophy of your
pretty savage, Herbert."

"Yes," said Herbert; "it's that philosophy which consists in an absence
of philosophy--not the worst kind, either, it seems to me. It's the
philosophy of impulse."

"I thought that the aim of all philosophy was to check every impulse,"
said Ella.

"So it is; that's why women do not make good philosophers," said her
husband.

"Or, for that matter, good mothers of philosophers," said Herbert.

"That's rather a hard saying, isn't it?" said the other man.

"No," said his wife; "it's as transparent as air."

"London air in November?" suggested her husband.

"He means that there's no such thing."

"As air in London in November? I'm with him there."

"He means that there's no such thing as a good philosopher."

"Then I hope he has an appetite for dinner. The man without philosophy
usually has."

The butler had just announced dinner.

There was not much talk among them of philosophy so long as the footmen
were floating round them like mighty tropical birds. They talked of the
House of Commons instead. A new measure was to be introduced the next
night: something that threatened beer and satisfied no party; not even
the teetotalers--only the wives of the teetotalers. Then they had a few
words regarding George Holland's article in the _Zeit Geist_. Mr. Linton
seemed to some extent interested in the contentions of the rector of St.
Chad's; and Herbert agreed with him when he expressed the opinion that
the two greatest problems that the Church had to face were: How to get
people with intelligence to go to church, and what to do with them when
they were there.

In an hour they were in their box at Covent Garden listening to the
sensuous music of "Carmen," and comparing the sauciness of the charming
little devil who sang the habanera, with the piquancy of the last
_Carmen_ but three, and with the refinement of the one who had made so
great a success at Munich. They agreed that the savagery of the newest
was very fascinating,--Stephen Linton called it womanly,--but they
thought they should like to hear her in the third act before pronouncing
a definite opinion regarding her capacity.

Then the husband left the box to talk to some people who were seated
opposite.

"You know everything?" she said.

"Everything," said Herbert. "Can you ever forgive me?"

"For running away? Oh, Bertie, you cannot have heard all."

"For forcing you to write me that letter--can you ever forgive me?"

"Oh, the letter? Oh, Bertie, we were both wrong--terribly wrong. But we
were saved."

"Yes, we were saved. Thank God--thank God!"

"That was my first cry, Bertie, when I felt that I was safe--that we
both had been saved: Thank God! It seemed as if a miracle had been done
to save us."

"So it was--a miracle."

"I spent the night praying that you might be kept away from me,
Bertie--away for ever and ever. I felt that I was miserably weak; I felt
that I could not trust myself; but now that you are here beside me again
I feel strong. Oh, Bertie, we know ourselves better now than we did a
week ago--is it only a week ago? It seems months--years--a lifetime!"

"Yes, I think that we know each other better now, Ella. That night
aboard the yacht all the history of the past six months seemed to come
before me. I saw what a wretch I had been, and I was overwhelmed with
self-contempt."

"It was all my fault, dear Bertie. I was foolish--vain--a mere woman!
Do not say that I did not take pride in what I called, in my secret
moments, my conquest. Oh, Bertie! I had sunk into the depths. And then
that letter! But we were saved, and I feel that we have been saved
forevermore. I feel strong by your side now. And you, I know, feel
strong, Bertie?"

"I have awakened from my dream, Ella. You called her your good angel
too. Surely it was my good angel that sent me to her that evening!"

Ella was staring at him. He said that he knew everything. It appeared
that she was the one who was not in the fortunate position of knowing
all.

She stared.

"Phyllis Ayrton--you were with her?"

"For half an hour. She was unconscious of the effect her words had upon
me,--the words of another woman,--leading me back to the side of those
who have gone forever. I listened to her, and then it was that I awoke.
She did not know. How could she tell that the light of heaven was
breaking in upon a soul that was on the brink of hell? She saved me."

"She told me nothing of that." There was a curious eagerness in her
voice. "She told me nothing. Oh, how could she tell me anything? She
knew nothing of it herself. She looked on you as an ordinary visitor.
She told you that I fled to her. Oh, Bertie, Bertie! those hours that I
passed--the terrible conflict. But when I felt her arms about me I knew
that I was safe. Then Stephen entered. I thought that we were lost--you
and I; that he had returned to find you waiting. I don't know if he had
a suspicion. At any rate we were saved, and by her--dear Phyllis. Oh,
will she ever know, I wonder, what it is to be a woman? Bertie, she is
my dearest friend--I told you so. I thought of her and you--long ago.
Oh, why should you not think of her now that you have awakened and are
capable of thought--the thought of a sane man?"

He sat with an elbow resting on the front of the opera box, his head
upon his hand. He was not looking at her, but beyond her. He seemed to
be lost in thought.

Was he considering that curious doctrine which she had propounded, that
if a man really loves a woman he will marry her dearest friend? He made
no reply to her. The point required a good deal of thought, apparently.

"You hear me, Bertie--dear Bertie?" she said.

He only nodded.

She remembered that, upon a previous occasion, when she had made
the same suggestion to him, he had put it aside as unworthy of
comment--unworthy of a moment's thought. How could it be possible
for him, loving her as he did, to admit the possibility of another's
attractiveness in his eyes? The idea had seemed ludicrous to him.

But now he made no such protest. He seemed to consider her suggestion
and to think it--well, worthy of consideration; and this should have
been very pleasing to her; for did it not mean that she had gained her
point?

"You will think over it, Bertie?" she said. Her voice was now scarcely
so full of eagerness as it had been before. Was that because she did not
want to weary him by her persistence? Even the suggestion to a man that
he should love a certain woman should, she knew, be made with tact.

"I have been thinking over it," he said at last; but only after a long
pause.

"Oh, I am so glad!"

And she actually believed that she was glad.

"I thought about her aboard the yacht."

"Did you? I fancied that you would think of----But I am so glad!"

"I thought of her as my good angel. Those words which she said to me--"

"She has been your good angel, and I--"

"Ella, Ella, she has been our good angel--you said so."

"And don't you think that I meant it? Some women--she is one of
them--are born to lead men upward; others----Ah, there, it is on the
stage: _Carmen_, the enchantress, _Michaela_, the good angel. But I am
so glad! She is coming to stay with us up the river; you must be with us
too. You cannot possibly know her yet. But a week by her side--you will,
I know, come to perceive what she is--the sweetest--the most perfect!"

Still he made no reply. He was looking earnestly at the conductor, who
was pulling his musicians together for the second act.

"You will come to us, Bertie?" she whispered.

He shook his head.

"I dare not promise," said he. "I feel just now like a man who is still
dazed, on being suddenly awakened. I have not yet begun to see things as
they are. I am not sure of myself. I will let you know later on."

Then the conductor tapped his desk, and those of the audience who had
left their places returned. Stephen Linton slipped into his chair; his
wife took up her lorgnette as the first jingle of the tambourines was
heard, and the curtain rose upon the picturesque tawdriness of the
company assembled at the _Senor Lois Pastia's_ place of entertainment.

Ella gave all her attention to the opera--to that tragedy of the
weakness of the flesh, albeit the spirit may be willing to listen to
good. Alas! that the flesh should be so full of color and charm and
seduction, while the spirit is pale, colorless, and set to music in a
minor key!

_Carmen_ flashed about the stage under the brilliant lights, looking
like a lovely purple butterfly--a lovely purple oriole endowed with the
double glory of plumage and song, and men whose hearts beat in unison
with the heart-beats of that sensuous music through which she expressed
herself, loved her; watched her with ravished eyes; heard her with
ravished ears--yes, as men love such women; until the senses recover
from the intoxication of her eyes and her limbs and her voice. And in
the third act the sweet _Michaela_ came on with her song of the delight
of purity, and peace, and home. She sang it charmingly, everyone
allowed, and hoped that _Carmen_ would sing as well in the last act as
she had sung in the others.

Ella Linton kept her eyes fixed upon the stage to the very end of all.



CHAPTER XXVIII.

THE CHURCH IS NOT NEUROTIC.

When George Holland received his two letters and read them he laid them
side by side and asked himself what each of them meant.

Well, he could make a pretty good guess as to what the bishop's meant.
The bishop meant business. But what did Mr. Linton want with him? Mr.
Linton was a business man, perhaps he meant business too. Business men
occasionally mean business; they more frequently only pretend to do
so, in order to put off their guard the men they are trying to get the
better of.

He would have an interview with the bishop; so much was certain; and
that interview was bound to be a difficult one--for the bishop. It was
with some degree of pride that he anticipated the conflict. He would
withdraw nothing that he had written. Let all the forces of the earth be
leagued against him, he would abate not a jot--not a jot. (By the forces
of the earth he meant the Bench of Bishops, which was scarcely doing
justice to the bishops--or to the forces of the earth.)

Yes, they might deprive him of his living, but that would make no
difference to him. Not a jot--not a jot! They might persecute him to the
death. He would be faithful unto death to the truths he had endeavored
to spread abroad. He felt that they were truths.

But that other letter, which also asked for an interview at his earliest
convenience the next day, was rather more puzzling to George Holland. He
had never had any but the most casual acquaintance with Mr. Linton--such
an acquaintance as one has with one's host at a house where one has
occasionally dined. He had dined at Mr. Linton's house more than
once; but then he had been seated in such proximity to Mrs. Linton as
necessitated his remoteness from Mr. Linton. Therefore he had never had
a chance of becoming intimate with that gentleman. Why, then, should
that gentleman desire an early interview with him?

It was certainly curious that within a few minutes of his having
referred to Mrs. Linton, in the presence of Phyllis Ayrton, in a way
that had had a very unhappy result so far as he was concerned, he
should receive a letter from Mrs. Linton's husband asking for an early
interview.

He seated himself in his study chair and began to think what the writer
of that letter might have to say to him.

He had not to ask himself if it was possible that Mr. Linton might have
a word or two to say to him, respecting the word or two which he, George
Holland, had just said about Mrs. Linton; for George knew very well
that, though during the previous week or two he had heard some persons
speaking lightly of Mrs. Linton, coupling her name with the name of
Herbert Courtland, yet he had never had occasion to couple their names
together except during the previous half hour, so that it could not
be Mr. Linton's intention to take him to task, so to speak, for his
indiscretion--his slander, Phyllis might be disposed to term it.

Upon that point he was entirely satisfied. But he was not certain that
Mr. Linton did not want to consult him on some matter having more or
less direct bearing upon the coupling together of the names of Mrs.
Linton and Mr. Courtland. People even in town are fond of consulting
clergymen upon curious personal matters--matters upon which a lawyer
or a doctor should rather be consulted. He himself had never encouraged
such confidences. What did he keep curates for? His curates had saved
him many a long hour of talk with inconsequent men and illogical women
who had come to him with their stories. What were to him the stories of
men whose wives were giving them trouble? What were to him the stories
of wives who had difficulties with their housemaids or who could not
keep their boys from reading pirate literature? His curates managed the
domestic department of his church for him. They could give any earnest
inquirer at a moment's notice the addresses of several civil-spoken
women (elderly) who went out as mother's helps by the day. They were
very useful young men and professed to like this work. He would not
do them the injustice to believe that they spoke the truth in that
particular way.

He could not fancy for what purpose Mr. Linton wished to see him. But he
made up his mind that, if Mr. Linton was anxious that his wife should be
remonstrated with, he, George Holland, would decline to accept the duty
of remonstrating with her. He was wise enough to know that he did not
know very much about womankind; but he knew too much to suppose that
there is any more thankless employment than remonstrating with an
extremely pretty woman on any subject, but particularly on the subject
of a very distinguished man to whom she considers herself bound by ties
of the truest friendship.

But then there came upon him with the force of a great shock the
recollection of what Phyllis had said to him on this very point:

"_If Ella Linton were wicked, you should be held responsible for it in
the sight of God_."

Those were her words, and those words cut asunder the last strand of
whatever tie there had been between him and Phyllis.

His duty as a clergyman intrusted with the care of the souls of the
people, he had neglected that, she declared with startling vehemence. He
had been actuated by vanity in publishing his book--his article in the
_Zeit Geist Review_--she had said so; but there she had been wrong.
He felt that she had done him a great injustice in that particular
statement, and he tried to make his sense of this injustice take the
place of the uneasy feeling of which he was conscious, when he thought
over her other words. He knew that he was not actuated by vanity in
adopting the bold course that was represented by his writings. He
honestly believed that his efforts were calculated to work a great
reform in the Church. If not in the Church, outside it.

But his duty in regard to the souls of the people----Oh! it was the
merest sophistry to assume that such responsibility on the part of a
clergyman is susceptible of being particularized. It should, he felt,
be touched upon, if at all, in a very general way. Did that young woman
expect that he should preach a sermon to suit the special case of
every individual soul intrusted (according to her absurd theory) to his
keeping?

The idea was preposterous; it could not be seriously considered for a
moment. She had allowed herself to be carried away by her affection for
her friend to make accusations against him, in which even she herself
would not persist in her quieter moments.

He found it quite easy to prove that Phyllis had been in the wrong and
that he was in the right; but this fact did not prevent an intermittent
recurrence during the evening of that feeling of uneasiness, as those
words of the girl, "_If Ella Linton were wicked, you would be held
responsible for it in the sight of God_," buzzed in his ears.

"Would she have me become an ordinary clergyman of the Church of
England?" he cried indignantly, as he switched on the light in his
bedroom shortly before midnight--for the rushlight in the cell of the
modern man of God is supplied at a strength of so many volts. "Would
she have me become the model country parson, preaching to the squire and
other yokels on Sunday, and chatting about their souls to wheezy Granfer
this, and Gammer that?" He had read the works of Mr. Thomas Hardy. "Does
she suppose that I was made for such a life as that? Poor Phyllis! When
will she awake from this dream of hers?"

Did he fancy that he loved her still? or was the pain that he felt, when
he reflected that he had lost her, the result of his wounded vanity--the
result of his feeling that people would say he had not had sufficient
skill, with all his cleverness, to retain the love of the girl who had
promised to be his wife?

Before going to bed he had written replies to the two letters. The
bishop had suggested an early hour for their interview--he had named
eleven o'clock as convenient to himself, if it would also suit Mr.
Holland. Two o'clock was the hour suggested by Mr. Linton, if that hour
would not interfere with the other engagements of Mr. Holland; so he had
written agreements to the suggestions of both his correspondents.

At eleven o'clock exactly he drove through the gates of the Palace
of the bishop, and with no faltering hand pulled the bell. (So, he
reflected for an instant,--only an instant,--Luther had gone, somewhere
or other, he forgot at the moment what was the exact locality; but the
occasion had been a momentous one in the history of the Church.)

He was cordially greeted by the bishop, who said:

"How do you do, Holland? I took it for granted that you were an early
riser--that's why I ventured to name eleven."

"No hour could suit me better to-day," said George, accepting the
seat--he perceived at once that it was a genuine Chippendale chair
upholstered in old red morocco--to which his lordship made a motion
with his hand. He did not, however, seat himself until the bishop had
occupied, which he did very comfortably, the corresponding chair at the
side of the study desk.

"I was anxious to have a chat with you about that book, and that article
of yours in the _Zeit Geist_, Holland," said the bishop. "I wish you had
written neither."

"_Litera scripta manet_," said George, with a smile.

One may quote Latin in conversation with a bishop without being thought
a prig. In a letter to the _Times_ and in conversation with a bishop
are the only two occasions in these unclassical days when one may safely
quote Latin or Greek.

"That's the worst of it," said the prelate, with a shake of his head
that was Early Norman. "Yes, you see a book isn't like a sermon. People
don't remember a man's sermons against him nowadays; they do his books,
however."

"I am quite ready to accept the conditions of modern life, my lord,"
said George.

"I was anxious to give you my opinion as early as possible," resumed the
bishop, "and that is, that what you have just published--the book
and the _Zeit Geist_ article--reflect--yes, in no inconsiderable
measure--what I have long thought."

"I am flattered, indeed, my lord."

"You need not be, Holland. I believe that there are a large number of
thinking men in the Church who are trying to solve the problem with
which you have so daringly grappled--the problem of how to induce
intellectual men and women to attend the services of the church. I'm
afraid that there is a great deal of truth in what you say about
the Church herself bearing responsibility for the existence of this
problem."

"There is no setting aside that fact, my lord."

"Alas! that short-sighted policy has been the Church's greatest enemy
from the earliest period. You remember what St. Augustine says? Ah,
never mind just now. About your book--that's the matter before us just
now. I must say that I don't consider the present time the most suitable
for the issue of that book, or that article in the _Zeit Geist_. You
meant them to be startling. Well, they are startling. There are some
complaints--nervous complaints--that require to be startled out of the
system; that's a phrase of Sir Richard's. He made use of it in regard to
my neuralgia. 'We must surprise it out of the system,' said he, 'with
a large dose of quinine.' The phrase seemed to me to be a very striking
one. But the Church is not neurotic. You cannot apply the surprise
method to her system with any chance of success. That is wherein
the publication of your article seems to me to be--shall we call it
premature? It is calculated to startle; but you cannot startle people
into going to church, my dear Holland, and that is, of course, the only
object you hope to achieve. Your book and your article were written with
the sole object of bringing intelligent people to church. But it occurs
to me, and I think it will occur to you also, that if the article be
taken seriously,--and it is meant to be taken seriously,--it may be the
means of keeping people away from the Church rather than bringing them
to church. It may even be the means of alienating from that fond,
if somewhat foolish old mother of ours, many of her children who are
already attached to her. I trust I don't speak harshly."

"Your lordship speaks most kindly; but the truth--"

"Should be spoken as gently as possible when it is calculated to wound,
Holland; that is why I trust I am speaking gently now. Ah, Holland!
there are the little children to be considered as well as the Scribes
and Pharisees. There are weaker brethren. You have heard of the
necessity for considering the weaker brethren."

"I seem to have heard of nothing else since I entered the Church; all
the brethren are the weaker brethren."

"They are; I am one of the weaker brethren myself. It is all a question
of comparison. I don't say that your article is likely to have the
effect of causing me to join the band of non-church-goers. I don't at
this moment believe that it will drive me to golf instead of Gospel; but
I honestly do believe that it is calculated to do that to hundreds of
persons who just now require but the smallest grain of argument to turn
the balance of their minds in favor of golf. Your aim was not in that
direction, I'm sure, Holland."

"My aim was to speak the truth, my lord."

"In order to achieve a noble object--the gathering of the stragglers
into the fold."

"That was my motive, my lord."

"You announce boldly that this old mother of ours is in a moribund
condition, in order that you may gather in as many of her scattered
children as possible to stand at her bedside? Ah, my dear Holland! the
moribund brings together the wolves and the vultures and all unclean,
hungry things to try and get a mouthful off those prostrate limbs of
hers--a mouthful while her flesh is still warm. I tell you this--I who
have from time to time during the last fifty years heard the howl of the
hyena, seen the talons of the vulture at the door of her chamber. They
fancied that the end could not be far off, that no more strength was
left in that aged body that lay prone for the moment. But I have heard
the howling wane into the distance and get lost in the outer darkness
when the old Church roused herself and went forth to face the snarling
teeth--the eager talons. There is life in this mighty old mother of ours
still. New life comes to her, not as it did to the fabled hero of old,
by contact with the earth, but by communing with heaven. The bark of
the wolf, the snarl of the hyena, may be heard in the debate which
the Government have encouraged in the House of Commons on the Church.
Philistia rejoices. Let the movers in this obscene tumult look to
themselves. Have they the confidence of the people even as the Church
has that confidence? Let them put it to the test. I tell you, George
Holland, the desert and the ditch, whose vomit those men are who now
move against us in Parliament, shall receive them once more before many
months have passed. The Church on whom they hoped to prey shall witness
their dispersal, never again to return. I know the signs. I know what
the present silence throughout the country means. The champion of God
and the Church has drawn his breath for the conflict. His teeth are
set--his weapon is in his hand--you will see the result within a year.
We shall have a government in power, a government whose power will not
be dependent on the faddists and the self-seekers--the ignorant, the
blatant bellowers of pitiful platitudes, the platform loafers who call
themselves labor-leaders, but whom the real laborers repudiate. Mark my
words, their doom is sealed; back to the desert and the ditch! My dear
Holland, pardon this digression. I feel that I need say nothing more to
you than I have already said. The surprise system of therapeutics is not
suited to the existing ailments of the Church. Caution is what is needed
if you would not defeat your own worthy object, which, I know, is to
give fresh vitality to the Church."

"That is certainly my object, my lord; only let me say that--"

"My dear Holland, I will not let you say anything. I asked you to come
here this morning in order that you might hear me. That is all that is
necessary for the present. Perhaps, upon some future occasion, I may
have the privilege of hearing you in a discourse of some greater length
than that which I have just inflicted upon you. I have given you my
candid opinion of your writings, and you know that is the opinion of a
man who has but one object in life--you know that it is the opinion of
an old man who has seen the beginning and the end of many movements in
society and in the Church, and who has learned that the Church, for all
her decrepitude, is yet the most stable thing that the world has seen. I
have to thank you for coming to me, Holland."

"Your lordship has spoken to me with the greatest kindness," said George
Holland, as his spiritual father offered him his hand.

In a few minutes he was in his hansom once more.



CHAPTER XXIX.

I KNOW THAT IT DOESN'T MATTER MUCH TO GOD WHAT A MAN THINKS ABOUT
HIMSELF OR HIS SOUL.

For the next hour and a half the Rev. George Holland had an opportunity
of considering his position as a clergyman of the Church of England, and
as one whose chief desire was to advance the interests of the Church.
His bishop had assumed that he had been single-minded in his aims--that
his sole object in writing that book and that paper had been to cure the
complaint from which the old Church was suffering. His lordship had done
him justice where Phyllis had done him a gross injustice. What would
Phyllis have said he wondered, if she had heard that concession, made
not under pressure, but voluntarily by probably the highest authority in
the world, to his, George Holland's, singleness of aim?

But it was so like a girl to jump at conclusions--to assume that he
had been actuated by vanity in all that he had just done; that he was
desirous only of getting people to talk about him--being regardless
whether they spoke well of him or ill. He only wished that she could
have heard the bishop. He felt as a man feels whose character has just
been cleared in a court of law from an aspersion that has rested on
it for some time. He wondered if that truly noble man whom he was
privileged to call his Father in God, would have any objection to give
him a testimonial to the effect that in his opinion,--the opinion of his
Father in God,--there was no foundation for the accusation against him
and his singleness of aim.

But the bishop knew that it was not vanity which had urged him to write
what he had written. The bishop understood men.

He was right; the bishop understood men so well as to be able to
produce in a few words upon the man who had just visited the palace, the
impression that he believed that that man had been impelled by a strong
sense of duty without a touch of vanity. He understood man so well as
to cause that same visitor of his to make a resolution never again to
publish anything in the same strain as the _Zeit Geist_ article, without
first consulting with the bishop. George Holland had pulled the bell at
the palace gates with the hand of a Luther; but he had left the presence
of the bishop with the step of a Francis of Assisi. He felt that anyone
who would voluntarily give pain to so gentle a man as the bishop could
only be a brute. He even felt that the bishop had shown himself to be
his, George Holland's superior in judgment and in the methods which he
employed. The bishop was not an overrated man.

For a full hour in the silence and solitude of the reading room of his
club he reflected upon the excellence of the bishop, and it was with a
sign of regret that he rose to keep his other appointment. He would have
liked to continue for another hour or two doing justice to that good man
out of whose presence he had come.

Mr. Linton's office was not quite in the City. Twenty minutes drive
brought George Holland into the private room of Ella Linton's husband.

"It is very good of you to come to me, Mr. Holland," said Stephen.
"There seems to be a general idea that a clergyman should be at the
beck and call of everyone who has a whim to--what do they call it in
Ireland--to make his soul? That has never been my opinion; I have never
given any trouble to a clergyman since I was at school."

"It is the privilege of a minister to be a servant," said the Rev.
George Holland.

"We were taught that at school--in connection with the Latin verb
_ministro_," said Mr. Linton. "Well, Mr. Holland, I am glad that you
take such a view of your calling, for I am anxious that you should do me
a great service."

He paused.

George Holland bent his head. He wondered if Mr. Linton wished to
intrust him with the duty of observing his wife.

"The fact is, Mr. Holland," resumed Stephen Linton, "I have read your
book and your paper in that review. The way you deal with a difficult
question has filled me with admiration. You will, I need scarcely say,
be outside the Church before long."

"I cannot allow you to assume that, Mr. Linton," said George gravely. "I
should be sorry to leave the Church. I cannot see that my leaving it is
the logical sequence of anything that I have yet written. My aim is, as
doubtless you have perceived, to bring about such reasonable and, after
all, not radical changes in the Church system as shall make her in
the future a more potent agency for good than she has ever yet been,
splendid though her services to humanity have been."

"Still you will find yourself outside the walls of your Church, Mr.
Holland. And you will probably adopt the course which other sons of
the Church have thought necessary to pursue when the stubborn old thing
refused to be reformed."

"If you suggest that I shall become a Dissenter, Mr. Linton--"

"I suggest nothing of the sort, though you dissent already from a good
many of the fundamental practices of the Church, if I may be permitted
the expression. Now, I should like to make a provision for your future,
Mr. Holland."

"My dear sir, such a proposition seems to me to be a most extraordinary
one. I hope you will not think me rude in saying so much. I have not
suggested, Mr. Linton, as other clergymen might, that you mean an
affront to me, but I don't think that anything would be gained by
prolonging--"

"Permit me to continue, and perhaps you may get a glimmer of gain. Mr.
Holland, I am what people usually term a doomed man. So far as I can
gather I have only about six months longer to live."

"Merciful Heaven!"

"Perhaps it is merciful on the part of Heaven to destroy a man when he
has reached the age of forty. We'll not go into that question just now.
I was warned by a doctor two years ago that I had not long to live. It
appears that my heart was never really a heart--that is to say, it may
have had its affections, its emotions, its passions, but pneumatically
it is a failure; it was never a blood-pump. Six months ago I was
examined by the greatest authority in Europe, and he pronounced my doom.
Three days ago I went to the leading specialist in London, and he told
me I might with care live six months longer."

"My dear Mr. Linton, with what words can I express to you my deep
feeling for you?"

George Holland spoke after a prolonged pause, during which he stared at
the white-faced man before him. A smile was upon that white face.
George was deeply affected. He seemed to have stepped out of a world
of visions--a world that had a visionary Church, visionary preachers,
visionary doctrines--all unsubstantial as words, which are but
breath--into a world of realities--such realities as life and death
and----Ah, there were no other realities in existence but the two: life
and death.

And Mr. Linton continued smiling.

"You may gather that I wrote to you in order that you may help me to
make my soul. What a capital phrase! I didn't do that, Mr. Holland. I
have never been sanguine about man and his soul. I know that it doesn't
matter much to God what a man thinks about himself or his soul. It
really doesn't matter much whether he believes or not that he has a
soul: God is the Principle of Right--the Fountain of Justice, and I'm
willing to trust myself to God."

"That is true religion, Mr. Linton," said the clergyman.

"But I agree with those people who think that the world cannot get on
without a Church. Now, I am sanguine enough to believe that a Church
founded on your ideas of what is orthodox would be the means of doing
a great deal of good. It would do a great deal of good to my wife, to
start with. She does not know that she is so soon to be a widow. Were
she to know, the last months of my life would be miserable to both of
us. I have noticed with some pain, or should I say amusement? perhaps
that word would be the better--I have noticed, I say, that her life
is one of complete aimlessness, and that, therefore, she is tempted
to think too much about herself. She is also tempted to have longings
for--well, for temptation. Ah, she is a woman and temptation is in the
way of women. _Qui parle d'amour, fait l'amour_: temptation comes to the
woman who thinks about being tempted. Now, I want to give her something
to think about that shall lead her out of the thoughts of temptation
which I suppose come naturally to a daughter of Eve--the first woman
who thought about temptation and was therefore tempted. My wife is a
perfectly good woman, and you will be surprised to find out when I am
dead how fond of me she was--she will be the most surprised of all. But
she is a woman. If she were not so much of a woman I don't suppose I
should ever have cared so much for her as I do. I cared so much for her,
Mr. Holland, that I remained away from her in Paris for three months so
that I might school myself to my fate, making no sign that would lead
her to suspect the truth. Why should she have six months' additional
misery? I have strayed. The Church. I want to give my wife an aim in
life; to make her feel that she is doing something worthy--to keep her
from thinking of less worthy things. Now, I think you will agree with
me that there is nothing women are really so fond of as a Church of
some sort. To be devout is as much a part of a woman's disposition as to
love--the passion of devoutness sometimes takes the place of the passion
of love in her nature. Now, I want to give her this idea of a Church to
work out when I am dead. I want you to carry out as joint trustee with
her your theories in regard to the ritual, the art, the sermon; and for
this purpose I should of course provide an ample endowment--say three
or four thousand a year; anything you may suggest: I shall leave a great
deal of money behind me."

"Your project startles me, Mr. Linton," said George Holland. "It
startles me as greatly as the first revelation you made to me did.
They may be mistaken--the doctors; I have known cases where the highest
authorities were ludicrously in error. Let us hope that."

"Well, we may hope; I may live long enough to lay the foundation stone
of the Church myself. But I am most anxious that you should give the
whole matter your earnest attention."

"I am quite dazed. Do you suggest that I should leave the Church of
England?"

"By no means. That is a question which I leave entirely to your own
decision. My own idea is that you would like a free hand. You will have
to leave the Church sooner or later. A man with your advanced ideas
cannot regulate your pace to that of an old woman. In twenty years the
Church will think precisely as you think to-day. That is the way with
the Church. It opposes everything in the way of an innovation. You
stated the case very fairly in your paper. The Church opposes every
discovery and every new thing as long as possible. It then only accepts
grudgingly what all civilization has accepted cordially. Oh, yes, you'll
find it impossible to remain in the Church, Mr. Holland. 'Crabbed age
and youth,' you know."

"I should part from the Church with the greatest reluctance, Mr.
Linton."

"Then don't part from it, only don't place yourself in its power. Don't
be beholden to it for your income. Don't go to the heads of the Church
for orders. Be your own master and in plain words, run the concern on
your own lines. The widow of the founder will have no power to interfere
with you in the matter of such arrangements."

"I shall have to give the matter a good deal of thought. I should
naturally have to reform a good deal of the ritual."

"Naturally. The existing ritual is only a compromise. And as for the
hymns which are sung, why is it necessary for them to be doggerel before
they are devotional?"

"The hymns are for the most part doggerel. We should have a first-rate
choir and anthems--not necessarily taken from the Bible. Why should not
Shakspere be sung in churches--Shakspere's divine poetry instead of the
nonsense-rhymes that people call hymns? Shakspere and Milton; Shelley
I would not debar; Wordsworth's sonnets. But the scheme will require a
great deal of thought."

"A great deal; that is why I leave it in your hands. You are a thinking
man--you are not afraid of tradition."

"Tradition--tradition! the ruts made in the road by the vehicles that
have passed over it in years gone by!"

"The road to the Church is sadly in need of macadamizing, Mr.
Holland--or, better still, asphalting. Make a bicycle road of it, and
you are all right. Now, come with me to my club and have lunch. We'll
talk no more just now about this matter."

They went out together.



CHAPTER XXX.

THERE IS NO ONE I LIKE BETTER THAN PHYLLIS.

Phyllis Ayrton had spent a considerable time pondering over that problem
of how best to save a man and a woman from destruction--social, perhaps;
eternal, for certain. She felt that it had been laid upon her to save
them both, and she remembered the case of one Jonah, a prophet, who, in
endeavoring to escape from the disagreeable duty with which he had been
intrusted, had had an experience that was practically unique, even among
prophets. She would not try to evade her responsibility in this matter.

A few days after Herbert Courtland had witnessed by the side of Ella
the representation of "Carmen," he had met Phyllis at an At Home. He
had seen her in the distance through a vista of crowded rooms, and had
crushed his way to her side. He could scarcely fail to see the little
light that came to her face as she put out her hand to him, nor could
her companion of the moment--he was one of the coming men in science,
consequently like most coming men, he had been forced into a prominent
place in the drawing room--fail to perceive that his farewell moment
with that pretty Miss Ayrton had come. She practically turned her back
upon him when Herbert Courtland came up.

For some moments they chatted together, and then it occurred to him
that she might like some iced coffee. His surmise proved correct, and
as there was at that moment a stream of people endeavoring to avoid the
entertainment of the high-class pianoforte player which was threatened
in a neighboring apartment, Phyllis and her companion had no trouble in
slipping aside from the panic-stricken people into the tea room.

It was a sultry day, and the French windows of the room were open.
It was Phyllis who discovered that there was a narrow veranda, with
iron-work covered with creepers, running halfway round the house from
window to window; and when he suggested to her that they might drink
their coffee on this veranda, she hailed the suggestion as a very happy
one. How did it come that none of the rest of the people had thought of
that? she wondered.

In another instant they were standing together at the space between the
windows outside, the long-leaved creepers mingling with the decorations
of her hat, and making a very effective background for his well-shaped
head.

For the next half-hour people were intermittently coming to one of the
windows, putting their heads out and then turning away, the girls with
gentle little pursings of the mouth and other forms that the sneer
feminine assumes; the men with winks and an occasional chuckle,
suggestive of an exchange of confidence too deep for words.

One woman had poked her head out--it was gray at the roots and golden
at the tips--and asked her companion in a voice that had a large
circumference where was Mrs. Linton.

Now, Herbert Courtland had not lived so long far from the busy haunts
of men (white) as to be utterly ignorant of the fact that no young woman
but one who is disposed to be quite friendly with a man, would adopt
such a suggestion as he had made to her, and spend half an hour drinking
half a cup of iced coffee by his side in that particular place. The
particular place might have accommodated six persons; but he knew, and
he knew that she knew also, that it was one of the unwritten laws of
good society that such particular places are overcrowded if occupied by
three persons. It was on this account the old men and maidens and the
young men and matrons--that is how they pair themselves nowadays--had
avoided the veranda so carefully, refusing to contribute to its
congestion as a place of resort.

Herbert Courtland could not but feel that Phyllis intended to be
friendly with him--even at the risk of being within audible distance of
the strong man who was fighting a duel _a outrance_ with a grand piano;
and as he desired to be on friendly terms with a girl in whom he was
greatly interested, he was very much pleased to find her showing no
disposition to return to the tea room, or any other room, until quite
half an hour had gone by very pleasantly. And then she did so with a
start: the start of a girl who suddenly remembers a duty--and regrets
it.

That had pleased him greatly; he felt it to be rather a triumph for him
that by his side she had not only forgotten her duty but was glad she
had forgotten it.

"Oh, yes!" she said, in answer to his question, "I have two other places
to go to. I'm so sorry."

"Sorry that you remembered them?" he had suggested.

She shook her head smiling.

"What would happen if--I had continued forgetting them?" she asked.

"That is the most interesting question I have heard in some time. Why
not try to continue forgetting them?"

"I'm too great a coward," she replied, putting out her hand to him, for
now her victoria had drawn up and the footman was standing ready to open
the door.

"Good-by," said he.

"Oh, no! only _au revoir_," she murmured.

"With all my heart--_au revoir_ at The Mooring," said he.

That _au revoir_ had reference to the circumstance that they were to be
fellow-guests at Mrs. Linton's house at Hurley-on-Thames, known as The
Mooring. Phyllis had told him that she was about to pay that visit, and
when he said:

"Why, I am going as well," she had raised her eyes to his face, an
unmistakable look of pleasure on her own, as she cried:

"I am so glad! When do you go?"

"On Thursday."

"I go on Tuesday--two days sooner."

The tone in which she spoke made him feel that she had said:

"What on earth shall I do during those dreary two days?" or else he had
become singularly conceited.

But even if she had actually said those words they would not have made
him feel unduly vain. He reflected upon the fact which he had more than
once previously noticed--namely, that the girl, though wise as became
a daughter of a Member of Parliament to be (considering that she had
to prevent, or do her best to prevent, her father from making a fool
of himself), was in many respects as innocent and as natural as a girl
should be. She had only spoken naturally when she had said that she was
glad he was to be of the riverside party--when she had implied by her
tone that she was sorry that two whole days were bound to pass before he
should arrive.

What was there in all that she had said, to make such a man as he
vain--in all that she had implied? If she had been six years old instead
of twenty-three, she would probably have told him that she loved him.
The innocence of the child would have made her outspoken; but would
his vanity have been fostered by the confession? It was the charming
naturalness of the girl that had caused her to speak out what it was but
natural she should feel. She and he had liked each other from the first,
and it was quite natural that she should be glad to see him at Hurley.

That was what he thought as he strolled to his rooms preparatory to
dressing for some function of the night. He flattered himself that he
was able to look at any situation straight in the face, so to speak.
He flattered himself that he was not a man to be led away by vanity.
He was, as a rule, on very good terms with himself, but he was rather
inclined to undervalue than overestimate the distinction which he
enjoyed among his fellow-men. And the result of his due consideration of
his last meeting with Phyllis was to make him feel that he had never
met a girl who was quite so nice; but he also felt that, if he were to
assume from the gladness which she had manifested not merely at being
with him that day, but at the prospect of meeting him up the river, that
he had made an impression upon her heart, he would be assuming too much.

But all the same, he could not help wishing that Ella had asked him
to go to The Mooring on Tuesday rather than Thursday; and he felt when
Tuesday arrived that the hot and dusty town with its ceaseless roll of
gloomy festivities contained nothing for him that he would not willingly
part withal in exchange for an hour or two beside the still waters of
the Thames in the neighborhood of Hurley.

Stephen Linton had bought The Mooring when his wife had taken a fancy
to it the previous year, when she had had an attack of that river fever
which sooner or later takes hold upon Londoners, making them ready to
sell all their possessions and encamp on the banks of the Thames. It had
been a great delight to her to furnish that lovely old house according
to her taste, making each room a picture of consistency in decoration
and furniture, and it had been a great delight to her to watch the
garden being laid out after the most perfect eighteenth-century pattern,
with its green terraces and clipped hedges. She had gone so far as to
live in the house for close upon a whole fortnight the previous autumn.
Since that time the caretaker had found it a trifle too cold in the
winter and too hot in the summer, he had complained to Mrs. Linton. But
she knew that there is no pleasing caretakers; she had not been put out
of favor with the place; she hoped to spend at least a week under its
roof before the end of the season, and perhaps another week before
starting for Scotland in the autumn.

She suddenly came to the conclusion one day that her husband was
not looking well--a conclusion which was certainly well founded. She
declared that a few days up the river was precisely what would restore
him to robust health. (But here it is to be feared her judgment was in
error.) He had been thinking too much about the new development of the
mine and the property surrounding it at Taragonda Creek. What did his
receiving a couple of hundred thousand pounds matter if his health were
jeopardized, she inquired of him one day, wearing the anxious face of
the Good Wife.

He had smiled that curious smile of his,--it was becoming more curious
every day,--and had said:

"What, indeed!"

"Up the river we shall go, and I'll get Phyllis to come with us to amuse
you--you know that you like Phyllis," his wife cried.

"There is no one I like better than Phyllis," he had said.

And so the matter had been settled.

But during the day or two that followed this settlement, Ella came
upon several of her friends who she found were looking a trifle fagged
through the pressure of the season, and she promptly invited them to The
Mooring, so that she had a party of close upon a dozen persons coming
to her house--some for a day, some for as long as three days, commencing
with the Tuesday when she and Phyllis went off together. Mr. Linton had
promised to join the party toward the end of the week.

And that was how it came about that Herbert Courtland found himself
daily admiring the cleverness of Phyllis Ayrton when she had the punt
pole in her hands. He also admired the gradual tinting of her fair face,
through the becoming exertion of taking the punt up the lovely backwater
or on to the placid reaches beyond. Sometimes the punt contained three
or four of the party in addition to Herbert, but twice he was alone with
her, and shared his admiration of her with no one.



CHAPTER XXXI.

YOU MAY TRUST MR. COURTLAND.

Mrs. Linton was greatly amused--she certainly was surprised. The
surprises were natural, but the amusement was not quite logical. It was,
however, quite natural that her guests--two of them excepted--should be
amused when they observed her surprise.

Could anything be funnier, one of these guests asked another in a
whisper, than Mrs. Linton's chagrin on finding that her own particular
Sir Lancelot had discovered an Elaine for himself?

Of course the guest who was so questioned agreed that nothing could
possibly be funnier; and they both laughed in unison. If people cannot
derive innocent fun from watching the disappointment of their hostess,
in what direction may the elements of mirth be found?

It was agreed that Mrs. Linton had invited Herbert Courtland up the
river for her own special entertainment--that she had expected him to
punt her up the river highways and the backwater by-ways, while Phyllis
Ayrton and the rest of her guests looked after themselves, or looked
after Mrs. Linton's husband; but it appeared that Herbert Courtland had
not been consulted on this subject, the result being that Mrs. Linton's
arrangements had been thrown into confusion.

The consensus of opinion among the guests was to the effect that Mrs.
Linton's arrangements had been thrown very much awry indeed. But then
the guests were amused, and as it is getting more and more difficult
every year to amuse one's guests, especially those forming a house-party
at a season when nothing lends itself to laughter, Mrs. Linton would
have had every reason to congratulate herself upon the success of her
party, had she been made aware of the innocent mirth which prevailed for
some days among her guests.

She would possibly have been greatly diverted also at the overshrewdness
of her guests, who were, of course, quite ignorant of the conversation
regarding Phyllis Ayrton which had immediately preceded her invitation
to Herbert to spend a few days on the river.

But though Ella had undoubtedly given Herbert to understand that she
was anxious to have him at The Mooring while Phyllis was there, in order
that he might have an opportunity of seeing more of her, and to obtain
his agreement that her theory that the man who truly loves a woman
should be ready to marry that woman's dearest friend, still it must be
confessed that she was surprised to observe the course adopted by both
Phyllis and Herbert. She had expected that all her tact and diplomacy
would be required in order to bring the young people--with all the
arrogance of the wife of twenty-six years of age she alluded to a girl
of twenty-three and a man of thirty-two as the young people--together.

She had had visions of sitting in the stern of an out-rigger built for
two, remonstrating with Herbert--he would of course be at the oars--for
choosing to paddle her up the river while he allowed some of the other
men to carry off Phyllis in, say, the Canadian canoe. A picture had come
before her of the aggrieved expression upon the face of Herbert when
she would insist on his going out by the side of Phyllis to feed the
peacocks on the terraces in the twilight; and she had more than once
seemed to hear his sigh of resignation as she, with a firmness which she
would take pains to develop, pleaded a headache so that he and Phyllis
might play a game of billiards together.

She soon found out that her imagination had not been prophetic.
Immediately after drinking tea--it was a few minutes past six--on the
evening of the arrival of Herbert, she went out of doors to find him and
give him a lecture on the need there was for him to refrain from waiting
about the garden far from the other guests until she, Ella, could go
on the river with him for a quiet drift before dinner; the other guests
would certainly think him worse than rude, she was ready to explain.
The explanation was not needed; she learned that Mr. Courtland had just
taken Miss Ayrton out in one of the punts.

Of course she was pleased--after an hour by the side of her husband to
perceive that Herbert had lost no time in making an effort to prove to
her how amply he recognized her object in asking him to The Mooring. But
at the same time, if pleased, she was also surprised. At any rate, she
would take good care that he did not lapse in his attentions to Phyllis;
as she knew lovers are but too apt to lapse, especially when they begin
well. She would, for instance, send him from her side in the garden
after dinner, to walk with Phyllis up to the woods where a nightingale
was said to be in the habit of singing when the lovely summer twilight
had waned into the lovely summer night. With the nightingale's song in
their ears, two ordinary young persons with no preconceived theories
on the subject of love, have been known, she was well aware, to become
lovers of the most aggressive type. Yes, she had great hopes of the
nightingale.

So, apparently, had Herbert Courtland.

After dinner there was smoking in the garden, some feeding of the
peacocks on the terraces, while the blackbirds uttered protests against
such an absorption by foreign immigrants of the bread that was baked for
native consumption. Then there was some talk of the nightingale. One man
suggested that it was a nightingale attached to a music box which the
enterprise of a local inn had hired for the summer months, sending a man
to wind it up every night for the attraction of visitors. Then it was
that Mr. Courtland said he knew a spot where a nightingale had been in
the habit of singing long ago, when his explorations of the Thames
River had preceded those of the Fly River. He found three persons who
expressed their willingness to accept his guidance on the spot, if it
were not too far away. One of these was Phyllis, the other two were
notorious lovers. Off they started without hats or caps.

This Ella heard when she returned to the garden, whence she had been
called away for ten minutes to interview a man who had an electric
launch for sale.

The news, communicated to her by her husband in answer to her inquiry,
had surprised her. That was why she had given a little laugh with a tone
of derision in it when she had said:

"A nightingale! How lovely! I hope they may find it. It shouldn't
prove so arduous as the quest of the meteor-bird. I do hope that those
children will not catch cold. It is a trifle imprudent."

"Imprudent?"

"Going off that way with nothing on their heads."

"Or in them. Happy children!" cried a moralizing novelist, who
was smoking an extremely good cigar--it had not come from his own
tobacconist.

"We can't all be novel-writers," said one of the women.

"Thank the Lord!" said one of the men, with genuine piety.

In three-quarters of an hour the members of the quest party returned.
They had been fully rewarded for their trouble; they had been listening
to the nightingale for nearly twenty minutes, they said; it had been
very lovely, they agreed, without a single dissentient voice. It
probably was; at any rate they were very silent for the rest of the
night.

"You have begun well," said Ella to Herbert, when they found themselves
together in the drawing room, later on, shortly before midnight. Someone
was playing on the piano, so that the general conversation and yawning
were not interfered with. "You have begun well. You will soon get to
know her if your others days here are like to-day. That nightingale! Oh,
yes, you will soon get to know her."

He shook his head.

"I doubt it," said he, in a low tone. His eyes were turned in the
direction of Phyllis. She was on a seat at an open window, the twilight
of moonlight and lamplight glimmering about her hair. "I doubt it. It
takes a man such as I am a long time to know such a girl as Phyllis
Ayrton."

That was a saying which had a certain amount of irritation for Ella. He
had never said anything in the past about her, Ella, being beyond the
knowledge of ordinary men.

"That's a very good beginning," said she, with a little laugh that meant
much. "But don't despair. After all, girls are pretty much alike. I
was a girl once--it seems a long time ago. I thought then that I knew a
great deal about men. Alas! all that I have learned since is simply
that they know a great deal about me. Am I different from other women,
I wonder? Am I more shallow--more transparent? Was I ever an enigma to
you, Bertie?"

"You were always a woman," he said. "That is why----"

"That is why----"

"That is why I am here to-night. If you were not a true woman I should
be far away."

"You are far away--from me, Bertie."

"No, no! I am only beginning to appreciate you--to understand you."

"I am to be understood through the medium of Phyllis Ayrton? Isn't that
like looking at happiness through another's eyes?"

He did not appear to catch her meaning at once. He looked at her and
then his eyes went across the room to Phyllis. At the same instant the
performance on the piano ceased. Everyone said "Thanks, awfully good,"
and there were some audible yawns.

There was a brandy and soda yearning in the men's eyes.

"We'll get off to bed; someone may begin to play something else,"
whispered the hostess to one of her lady guests.

The men looked as if they had heard the suggestion and heartily approved
of it.

The next evening Ella was fortunate enough to get beside Herbert once
again--she had scarcely had an opportunity of exchanging a word with him
all day. He had been with Phyllis alone in the Canadian canoe. It only
held two comfortably, otherwise----But no one had volunteered to put
its capacity to the test. Ella had gone in one of the punts with four or
five of her guests; but the punt never overtook the canoe. It was those
of the guests who had been in the punt that afterward said it was very
funny to observe the chagrin of Queen Guinevere when she found that her
Sir Lancelot had discovered an Elaine.

"You have had a delightful day, I'm sure," said Ella. She had found him
at the bottom of the garden just before dinner. It was not for her he
was loitering there.

"Delightful? Perhaps. I shall know more about it ten years hence," he
replied.

"You are almost gruff as well as unintelligible," said she.

"I beg your pardon," he cried. "Pray forgive me, Ella."

"I'll forgive your gruffness if you make yourself intelligible," said
she. "You frighten me. Ten years hence? What has happened to-day?"

"Oh, nothing whatever has happened! and as for ten years hence--well, in
ten years hence I shall be looking back to this day either as one of
the happiest of my life, or as Francesca looked back upon her _tempo
felice_."

"Oh, now that you get into a foreign language you are quite
intelligible. You have not spoken?"

"Spoken? I? To her--to her? I have not spoken. I don't believe that I
shall ever have the courage to speak to her in the sense you mean."

Ella smiled as she settled a rose on the bodice of her evening
dress--its red petals were reposing in that little interspace that
dimpled the soft shell-pink of her bosom. The man before her had once
kissed her.

She smiled, as she knew that he was watching her. She wondered if he had
forgotten that kiss.

"Why should you lose courage at this juncture?" she asked. "She hasn't,
up to the present, shown any very marked antipathy to you, so far as I
can see. She is certainly not wanting in courage, if you are."

"Ella," he cried, but in a low voice, "Ella, when I look at her, when I
think of her, I feel inclined to throw my bag into a trap and get back
to town--get back to New Guinea with as little delay as possible."

"You would run away?" said she, still smiling. She had begun to work
with the rose in her bosom once more. "You would run away? Well, you ran
away once before, you know."

She could not altogether keep the sneer out of her voice; she could not
quite deprive her words of their sting. They sounded to her own ears
like the hiss of a lash in the air. She was amazed at the amount of
bitterness in her voice--amazed and ashamed.

He stood before her, silently looking at her. There was no reproach in
his eyes.

"Oh, Bertie, Bertie, forgive me!" she said, laying her hand on his arm.
"Forgive me; I don't know what I am saying."

There was some piteousness in her voice and eyes. She was appealing to
him for pity, but he did not know it. Every man thinks that the world
was made for himself alone, and he goes tramping about it, quite
careless as to where he plants his heavy feet. When occasionally he gets
a thorn in one of his feet, he feels quite aggrieved. He never stops to
think of all the things his foot crushes quite casually.

Herbert Courtland had no capacity for knowing how the woman before him
was suffering. He should have known, from the words he had just heard
her speak. He should have known that they had been wrung from her. He
did not know, however; he was not thinking of her.

"Bertie," she said again, "Bertie, you are not angry? I did not know
what I was saying."

"You are a woman," he said gently, and it was just by reason of
this gentleness that there seemed to be a reproach in his voice. He
reproached her for being a woman.

"I am a woman--just as other women, just as other women." Her voice
sounded like a moan. "I thought myself different, stronger--perhaps
worse than other women. I was wrong. Oh, Bertie! cannot you see that she
loves you as I loved you long ago--oh, so long ago? And someone has said
that there is no past tense in love! No, no! she does not love you as
I loved you--guiltily; no, her love is the love that purifies, that
exalts. She loves you, and she waits for you to tell her that you love
her. You love her, Bertie?"

There was a long pause before he said:

"Do I?"

"Do you not?"

"God knows."

And it was at this point that Phyllis came up. Was there no expression
of suspicion on her face as she looked at them standing together?

If there was, they failed to notice it.

"I came out to get a rose," she said. "How quickly you dressed, Ella!
Ah, you have got your rose--a beauty! Your gardener is generous; he
actually allows you to pluck your own roses."

"Mr. Courtland will choose one for you," said Ella. "You may trust Mr.
Courtland."

"To choose me a rose? Well, on that recommendation, Mr. Courtland, I
think I may safely place myself in your hands. I will accept a rose of
your choosing."

And she did.



CHAPTER XXXII.

LET THEM BOTH GO TOGETHER TO PERDITION.

There could be no doubt whatever that, after all, he had not proposed to
her.

That was what Herbert Courtland's fellow-guests said when they learned
that he had left for London by an early train on Monday morning.

And the way she had thrown herself at his head, too!

Of course she pretended not to feel his departure any more than the rest
of the party; and equally as a matter of course, Mrs. Linton protested
that Mr. Courtland had disappointed her.

And perhaps he had, too, some of the guests whispered to one another.

Mr. Linton shrugged his shoulders and remarked that business was
business.

Everyone agreed with the general accuracy of this assertion, but it was
not one that required much boldness to make, and what it had to do with
Mr. Courtland's hurried departure no one seemed quite able to perceive.

The general idea that had prevailed at The Mooring on the subject of
Mr. Courtland was that he would remain at the house after all the other
guests--Miss Ayrton only excepted--had left.

During Monday several were to return to town, and the remainder on
Tuesday, including Miss Ayrton. She required to do so to be in time for
a grand function at which Royalty was to be present on that night. Mrs.
Linton herself meant to return on Wednesday afternoon.

It was late on Sunday night when Herbert had gone to Ella's side and
told her that he found it necessary to leave for town early in the
morning instead of waiting until Tuesday evening.

"Good Heavens!" she cried; "what is the meaning of this? What will
people say? You do not mean to tell me that she--she----Oh, no; that
would be impossible!"

"Nothing is impossible," said he. "Nothing--not even my running away."

"You have told her----"

"I have told her nothing. I am not sure that I have anything to tell
her. I am going away to make sure."

"Oh! very well. But I must say that I think you are wrong--quite wrong.
There is that Mr. Holland; he is coming into greater prominence than
ever since that article of his appeared in the _Zeit Geist_. Stephen
says he will certainly have to leave the Church."

"What has Mr. Holland got to say to----"

"More than meets the eye. You must remember that three months ago she
was engaged to marry him. Now, though I don't mean to say that she ever
truly loved him, yet there is no smoke without fire; it is very often
that two persons who have become engaged to be married love each other.
Now, if Phyllis ever had a tender feeling for Mr. Holland, and only
threw him over because his theories are not those of Philistia, in the
midst of which she had always lived, that feeling is certain to become
tenderer if he is about to be made a martyr of. Would you like to see
her thrown away upon George Holland?"

Herbert looked at the woman who could thus plead the cause--if that was
not too strong a phrase--of the girl whom he had come to love. He felt
that he was only beginning to know something about woman and her nature.

"I must go," he said. "I must go. I am not sure of myself."

"You had best make sure of her, and then you will become sure of
yourself," said Ella.

"That would be to do her an injustice. No. I feel that I must go," he
cried.

And go he did.

Those of the guests who remained during Monday did their best to find
out how Phyllis was disposed to regard his departure; and there was
a consensus of opinion among them that she seemed greatly mortified,
though she made a splendid fight, trying to appear utterly indifferent.

There was, however, no ignoring the circumstance that Ella was elated
at his departure; some of her guests even went so far as to suggest
that she had accelerated his departure, giving him to understand that,
however a young woman might throw herself at his head,--and didn't
Phyllis just throw herself at his head?--he had no right to give her all
his attention; a hostess has a right to claim some of his spare moments.

It was not until Tuesday, when Mr. Linton had left for London, and
Phyllis was alone with Ella for an hour before lunch, that the latter
endeavored to find out what she thought of Herbert Courtland.

"Has Stephen been speaking to you about George Holland?" she inquired.
She thought that the best way to lead Phyllis to talk about Herbert
would be by beginning to talk about George Holland.

"Oh, yes!" said Phyllis. "He appears to be greatly interested in Mr.
Holland. He thinks that he must leave the Church."

"That would be very sad," remarked Ella. "It would seem very like
persecution, would it not?"

"I cannot see that there would be any injustice in the matter," said
Phyllis. "If a man chooses to write such things as he has written, he
must take the consequences. I, for my part, intend keeping away from the
church as long as Mr. Holland remains in the pulpit."

She did not think it necessary to refer to the remarks made by Mr.
Holland upon the occasion of his last visit to her, though these words
might not be without interest to Ella.

"But it seems hard, doesn't it, to deprive a man of his profession
simply because he holds certain views on what is, after all, an abstract
subject--the patriarchs, or the prophets and things of that sort?" said
Ella.

"Lady Earlscourt said that he should be forgiven, because he really
didn't hold the views which he had preached," laughed Phyllis. "She also
said that he should not be regarded as an atheist, because he believed
not only in one God, but in two."

"I wonder how many Herbert Courtland believes in," said Ella. "You told
me he talked to you on that topic the first night you met. Was it about
God you and he have been talking lately?"

"I'm afraid it was not."

"Oh! you found a more interesting topic, and one of more importance to
two people in the bloom of youth?"

"Ella!"

"Oh, my dear, I don't mean anything dreadful. Only, you know as well as
I do that a healthy man and a healthy woman will never talk, when they
are alone together, about God, when they can talk about each other. I
think Herbert Courtland is about the healthiest man I know, and I'm
sure that you are the healthiest girl. You and he are most sympathetic
companions. You are not at all stupidly coy, my sweet maiden."

"I like Mr. Courtland, and why should I be coy?"

"Why, indeed? I wonder what the people who have just left us will say
about it?"

"About it? About what!"

"You coyness--or absence of coyness. Will they say that you threw
yourself at his head?"

(As a matter of fact, as is already known, that is just what the
majority of the guests did say about her.)

Phyllis reddened and seemed--for a moment or two--almost angry. Then she
made a little gesture, expressive of indifference, as she cried:

"After all, what does it matter what they said? I don't care about them.
It is for you I care, Ella--you, only you."

"Heavens! how seriously you say that!" cried Ella. "There's no cause for
seriousness, I hope, even if you do care a great deal for me, which I
know you do. If you said so much to a man,--say, Herbert Courtland,--it
would be quite another matter. There would be sufficient cause for
seriousness then. But you didn't say so much to him. He ran away before
you could say it."

"Oh, Ella! please don't talk in that way. It is not like yourself to
talk in that way."

"How do you know what is like myself and what is not? You have only seen
one side of me, and I don't think that you have understood even what you
have seen. Great Heavens! how could I expect that you should. Not until
within a few months ago had I myself any idea that my nature was made
up of more than one element. Do you fancy now that you will always be in
the future as you have been in the past? The same placid, sweet English
girl, with serious thoughts at times about your own soul and other
people's souls? a maiden living with her feet only touching the common
clay of this earth? Wait until your hour comes--your hour of love; your
hour of fate; your hour of self-abandonment, and pray to your God that
you may come through it as well as I came through mine."

"Ella, dearest Ella!"

"You know nothing of that hour--that terrible hour! Wait until it comes
to you before you think a word of evil against any woman that lives in
the world. Wait until your hour of jealousy comes--wait until you find
that your hair is turning gray. The most tragical moment in a woman's
life is when she finds that the gray hairs will not be kept back. That
is the time when she thinks of Heaven most seriously. I have not yet
found a single gray hair in my head, but I have suffered all else; and
I have been an astonishment to myself--as I have been to you more than
once before now, and as I certainly am to you at the present moment."

She had spoken at first with quivering lips, her fingers interlaced, her
eyes flashing. She had sprung from her seat and had begun to pace the
room just as she had paced Phyllis' drawing room on that night when she
had missed the performance of "Romeo and Juliet," but she ended with
a laugh, which was meant to make a mock of the seriousness of her
impassioned words, but which only had the effect of emphasizing her
passion in the ears of the girl.

While she was still lying back, laughing, in the chair into which she
had thrown herself once more, Phyllis went to her and knelt at her feet,
taking her hands just as Herbert had taken her hands in the evening when
he had knelt at her feet in her own house after the little dinner at Mr.
Ayrton's.

"Ella, Ella," she whispered, "I also am a woman. Oh, my dearest! I think
that I can understand something of your heart. I know a little.
Oh, Ella, Ella! I would do anything in the world to help
you--anything--anything!"

"Would you?" cried the woman. "Would you do anything? Would you give up
Herbert Courtland in order to help me?"

She had grasped Phyllis by the wrists and had bent her own head forward
until her face was within an inch of Phyllis'. Their breaths mingled.
Their faces were too close to admit of either of them seeing the
expression that was in the eyes of the other.

"Dearest Ella, you will not break my heart!" said the girl piteously.

"Will you give him up for your love of me?" the woman cried again, and
Phyllis felt her hands tighten upon her wrists.

"I will forget that you have said such words," said the girl.

The woman flung away her hands after retaining them for a few moments in
silence, and then throwing herself back in her chair, laughed loud and
long.

Phyllis rose to her feet.

"You poor dear!" cried Ella. "It was a shame--a shame to play such a
jest upon you! But I felt in a tragic mood, and the line between comedy
and tragedy is a very fine one. Forgive my little freak, dear; and let
us be human beings once more, living in a world that cannot be taken so
seriously. Don't go by the evening train, Phyllis; stay all night with
me. I have so much to say to you. I want to talk to you. How can you
leave me here all alone?"

Phyllis could have told her that how she could leave her all alone was
because Herbert Courtland had left for London on the previous day. She
did not make an explanation to her on this basis, however; she merely
said that it would interfere with her plans to remain longer at The
Moorings. She had to attend that great function with her father that
night.

Ella called her very unkind, but showed no desire to revert to the topic
upon which they had been conversing, when she had thought fit to ask her
that jocular question which Phyllis had said she would forget.

But Phyllis did not keep her word. On the contrary she thought of
nothing else but that question all the time she was in the railway
carriage going to Paddington.

It was a terrible question in Phyllis' eyes for a woman with a husband
to put to her girl-friend.

More than once during the week Phyllis had been led to ask herself if
she was quite certain that her terrible surmise regarding the influence
which dominated Ella's recent actions was true. Now and again she felt
an impulse to fall upon her knees and pray, as she had once before
prayed, that the sin of that horrible suspicion might be forgiven her.
How could it be possible, she thought, that Ella should forget all that
a true woman should ever remember!

But now--now, as she sat in the train on her way back to London, there
was no room left in her mind for doubt on this matter. The tragic
earnestness with which Ella had asked her that question, tightening her
fingers upon her wrists? "_Will you give up Herbert Courtland in order
to help me?_"--the passionate whisper, the quivering lips--all told her
with overwhelming force that what she had surmised was the truth.

She felt that Ella had confessed to her that her infatuation--Phyllis
called it infatuation--had not passed away, though she had been strong
enough upon that night, when her husband had so suddenly returned, to
fly from its consequences. No, her infatuation had not died.

But Herbert Courtland--what of him? He had also had strength--once.
Would he have strength again? He had told her, while they were together
in one of the boats drifting down the placid river, that he believed
in the influence which a woman could exercise upon a man's life being
capable of changing his nature so completely as if a miracle had been
formed upon him. She had not had the courage to ask him if he had any
particular instance in his mind that impressed this belief upon him.

Had he been led to cast that infatuation--if he had ever been subjected
to it--behind him, by reason of her influence over him since she had
repeated to him the pathetic words of Mrs. Haddon, and he had gone
straight aboard the yacht on that strange cruise?

She could scarcely doubt that he was ready to acknowledge how great had
been her influence upon his life. He had shown her in countless ways
that she had accomplished all that she had sought to achieve. She
had had no need to throw herself at his head--the phrase which Ella
suggested her fellow-guests would probably employ in referring to the
relative positions of Phyllis and Herbert. No, she had ever found him
by her side, and it did not need her to exercise much cleverness to keep
him there.

But then, why had he so suddenly hurried away from that pleasant life
beside the still waters?

This was the question which was on her mind as the train ran into the
station at Paddington. She got out of the carriage, and while her maid
went to look after the luggage, she glanced down the platform for the
footman. He came up to her in a moment and took her dressing-bag and
jewel-case.

"The brougham is here, I suppose?" she said, as she walked down the
platform.

It was at the entrance to the station, he told her.

She paused for a moment, and glanced back to see if there had been much
luggage in the train which she had left--if her maid would be likely to
be kept waiting for long. At that instant a porter, with a portmanteau
on his shoulder and a Gladstone bag in his hand, hurrying up by the side
of the train which was ready to depart from the next platform, shouted
to a group of Eton boys who were blocking the way:

"By your leave, gents!"

She started and took a step to one side, and that instant was sufficient
to make her aware of the fact that the portmanteau carried by the
porter to the train which was about to leave for Maidenhead was Herbert
Courtland's. There was no mistaking it. It bore on one end his initials
and his private sign.

She took a few steps nearer the train by which she had come, and
followed the porter with her eyes.

He put the portmanteau into the luggage van, and then returned with the
Gladstone bag to the side of a compartment. She saw him place it in
the network, and touch his cap as he received his _douceur_ from the
passenger who sat at the door with an evening paper in his hand.

She saw that that passenger was Herbert Courtland.

She told the footman who stood beside her to take her bag and case
to the brougham and then return to help her maid with the rest of the
luggage. He followed her down the platform.

In a short time she was being driven home, her maid following with the
luggage in another vehicle.

She did not begin to change her traveling dress immediately on retiring
to her room. She did not even take off her hat. She stood at the window
looking out over a scene very different from that which had been before
her eyes every day during the previous week. After a quarter of an
hour's listlessness at the window, she spent another quarter of an hour
sitting motionless in a chair. Then she rose and looked at herself in a
mirror that showed her herself from head to foot. She examined her feet
with curious deliberation, and then looked with a critical side glance
at the reflection of her face. (She could not fail to have noticed that
it was unusually pale.) She removed her hat, surveyed herself once more,
then, turning away with an exclamation of impatience, she crumpled up
her hat with both her hands and flung it, just as a wicked child would
have flung it, across the room.

"Let them both go together to perdition--to perdition--to perdition!"
she said with a bitterness that had never previously been in her voice.
"Let them go together. I have done my best for them--for her--for her. I
give them up now for evermore."

After a minute or two of statuesque passion she went across the room
and picked up her bruised hat. She looked at it, turning it round in her
hands. Then she dropped it suddenly, and flung herself upon the sofa,
crying out in a whirlwind of tears:

"Oh, Ella, Ella, I would have saved you--I meant to save you, indeed! I
would have done everything to save you--everything!"



CHAPTER XXXIII.

I WONDER IF I EVER LOVED YOU UNTIL THIS MOMENT.

It was a rather tedious evening for Ella Linton after Phyllis had taken
her departure. Why on earth, she asked herself, had she been such a fool
as to lay out her plans to have this lonely evening? Then she remembered
that two of her guests had meant to stay until Wednesday morning, but
had received a letter necessitating their departure for town on Monday
night. But this fact should not have condemned her to a solitary
evening, Ella reflected. She should have been thoughtful enough to
change her own plans to correspond with the change in the plans of her
guests. A nice, quiet, contemplative evening beside the still waters
may suit the requirements of some temperaments, but it was not just what
Ella regarded as most satisfying to her mood of the hour. It was a long
time since she had spent a lonely evening, and although she had now
rather more food for contemplation than at any other period of her life,
she did not feel contemplative.

Then it suddenly occurred to her to ask herself why, after all, should
she be condemned to a contemplative evening? What was there to hinder
her taking a train to town after she had dined? Once in town she knew
that all prospect of contemplation would be at an end.

She rang her bell and told her maid that she had changed her mind in
regard to staying another night at The Mooring; she would leave after
dinner; wasn't there a train about nine from Maidenhead?

It was when she was about to go down to dinner that she heard the sound
of wheels upon the gravel walk. Was it possible that her newly made
plans might also be deranged? Was this a fresh visitor arriving by a fly
from Maidenhead--she saw that the vehicle was a fly.

There was no one in the room to hear the cry of delight that she gave
when she saw Herbert at the porch of the house, the driver having
deposited his portmanteau and Gladstone bag at his feet.

He had returned to her--he, whom she fancied to be far away; he who had
forsaken her, as she thought, as she feared, as she (at times) hoped,
forever. He had returned to her. There was no one now to stand between
them. He was all her own.

She flung off the dress which she was wearing,--it was her plainest
evening gown,--and had actually got on another, a lovely one that she
had never yet worn, before her maid arrived at her dressing room.

"Louise," she said, "send a message downstairs to show Mr. Courtland to
his room, and mention that he will dine with me. Come back at once. I
have got so far in my dressing without you; I can't go much further,
however."

In a quarter of an hour she was surveying herself in her mirror just
as Phyllis had been doing an hour sooner; only on her face was a very
different expression from that which Phyllis had worn. Her eyes were
brilliant as they never had been before, except once; her face was not
pale, but full of soft color, as if she were standing beneath the shadow
of a mighty rose-leaf with the sunlight above. Her neck and arms were of
the same delicate tinge. Her smile she gave as she surveyed herself was
a smile of triumph, very different from the expression on poor Phyllis'
features as she flung her hat across the room.

"Mine, mine, mine!" she whispered, nodding with a smile at the lovely
thing so full of warm life that faced her with a smile. "He is mine--he
has come back to me, I will keep him. I shall be able to keep him, I
think."

She had scarcely entered the drawing room before he was beside her,
and he had scarcely entered before a servant announced that dinner was
served. They were seated at the dinner table before they had exchanged
half a dozen words--before she had time to ask him why he had returned.

And at the table, with a servant at each end, what could they say?

Well, she gave in detail, with the accuracy of a railway time-table, the
hours of the departure of the various guests, down to the last departed
guest, who chanced to be Miss Ayrton. Yes, she was obliged to go up to
town to be present at that important function which was to be given in
the presence of Royalty, though, she, Mrs. Linton, was convinced that
Phyllis would much prefer remaining in the midst of that exquisite
quietude which seemed to be found only up the river. She had wanted her
dear Phyllis to stay until the morrow, but poor Phyllis' sense of duty
had been, as unfortunately it always was, too great for her inclination.

"Unfortunately?" said Herbert.

"Did I say unfortunately?" she cried. "How funny! I meant of course,
unfortunately for her friends--for myself in this particular case.
But, after all, we had a delightful week together. It has done us all
good--even you."

"Why the 'even'?" he asked, with a laugh.

"Oh, well, because you are not expected to feel the fatigues of a London
season. And then you must remember that you had a yachting cruise which
must have done you a world of good," she added, with a smile born of the
mood which was on her--a mood of joy and laughter and daring. She felt
that she could say anything she pleased to say to him now; she could
have referred with a laugh to his running away on that strange cruise of
his.

"Yes," he said, "it did me a great deal of good."

He spoke slowly, and her quick ear detected a tone of gravity in his
voice. What could he mean? Oh, yes.

"I hope that that last phase of the mine will soon be settled," said
she. "It was that which curtailed your cruise, you will remember."

"I certainly do remember."

"I hope the business will soon be settled one way or another. I don't
think this running to Paris so frequently is good for Stephen. Haven't
you noticed how poorly he has been looking of late?"

"He didn't seem to me to be particularly robust. But I think that he
pulled himself together while he was here. Oh, yes! another week will
see us free from this business."

"And with an extra million or so in your pockets."

"Well, something in that way."

That was how they talked while the servants were present--about business
and money and matters that may be discussed in the presence of servants.

Then they went together into the drawing room. It was not yet dark
enough for the candles to be lighted. The exquisite summer twilight was
hanging over the river and the banks opposite, wooded from the water's
edge to the summit. It was the hour of delicate blue touched with pink
about the borders. The hour of purple and silver stars had not yet come.

She threw open one of the windows on its hinges, and in a moment the
room was flooded with the perfume of the roses of the garden. She stood
in the opening of the window and seemed to drink in the garden scents
before they floated into the room. Then from some secret nestling place
in the dark depths of the clipped hedge there came the even-song of a
blackbird. It was replied to from the distance; and the silence that
followed only seemed to be silence. It was a silence made vocal by the
bending of a thousand notes--all musical. The blackbirds, the thrushes,
the robins made up a chorus of harmony as soothing to the soul as
silence. Then came the cooings of the wood pigeons. The occasional
shriek of a peacock was the only note out of harmony with the feeling
breathed by the twilight.

She stood at the open window, her back turned to him, for some time.
He felt slightly embarrassed. Her attitude somehow suggested to him an
imprisonment; he was captured; she was standing between him and the open
air; she was barring his passage.

Suddenly she turned. With her movement there seemed to float into the
room a great breath of rose-scent. It was only that the light showed
him more clearly at that moment the glowing whiteness of her neck and
shoulders and arms.

"Why have you come back?" she cried, almost piteously.

"Surely you know why, Ella," said he.

"I know nothing: a man is one thing one day and quite the opposite the
next day. How can I know anything of what is in your mind to-day--in
your heart to-day?"

"I came back thinking to find her here still--I fancied that you said
she would stay until you were returning to-morrow."

"You came back for her?"

"I came back to see her--I find that I cannot live without seeing her."

"You have only found that out since you left here yesterday morning?"

"Only since I left here. I told you that I was not sure of myself. That
is why I went away."

"You went away to make sure of yourself, and now you return to make sure
of her?"

"Ah, if I could but think that! If I could only be as sure of her as I
am of myself. But what am I that I should dare to hope? Oh, she is above
all womankind--a crown of girlhood! What am I that I should ask to wear
this crown of girlhood?"

"You are a king of men, Bertie. Only for the king of men is such a
crown."

She laughed as she stood looking at him as she leaned against the half
open door of the window, one hand being on the framework above her head.

"Ella, you know her!" he cried, facing her. She began to swing gently
to the extent of an inch or two, still leaning on the edge of the hinged
window. She was looking at him through half-closed, curious eyes. "Ella,
you know her--she has always been your friend; tell me if I should
speak to her or if I should go back to the work that I have begun in New
Guinea."

"Would you be guided by me, Bertie?" she asked, suddenly ceasing her
movement with the window and going very close to him indeed--so close
that he could feel the gracious warmth of her face and bare neck and
shoulders. "Would you be guided by me, I wonder?"

"Have I not been guided by you up to the present, Ella?" said he.
"Should I be here to-night if it were not for your goodness? I laughed
some time ago--how long ago it seems!--when you told me--you said it was
your dearest wish--I did not then believe it possible----"

"And do you fancy that I believed it possible?" she asked, with some
sadness in her voice.

"Great Heavens! Ella, do you mean to tell me that you----Oh, no, it is
impossible! You knew me."

"I fancied that I knew you, Bertie. I fancied that I knew myself."

"Ella, Ella, for God's sake don't let us drift again. Have you no
recollection of that terrible time through which we both passed--that
ordeal by fire. Ella, we were plucked from the fire--she plucked us from
the very fire of hell itself--oh, don't let us drift in that direction
again!"

He had walked away from her. He was beginning to recall too vividly
the old days, under the influence of her gracious presence so close to
him--not so close as it had been, but still close enough to bring back
old memories.

"Come here and stand beside me, Bertie," said she.

After a moment's hesitation he went to her, slowly, not with the rapture
of a lover--not with the old passion trembling in his hands, on his
lips.

He went to her.

She put her hands behind her and looked at him in the face for a long
time. The even-songs of the birds mixed with the scent of the roses; the
blue shadow of the twilight was darkening over the trees at the foot of
her garden.

"Do you remember the oleanders?" she said. "I never breathe in such a
twilight as this without seeing before me the oleanders outlined against
its blue. It was very sweet at that old place on the Arno."

"Ella, Ella--for God's sake----"

"You told me that terrible secret of your life--that you loved me. I
wonder if I knew what it meant, Bertie? I told you that I loved you:
that was more terrible still. I wonder if you knew what that meant,
Bertie?"

He did not speak.

The bird's songs outside were becoming softer and more intermittent.

She gave a sudden cry as if stung with pain, and started away from the
window. She threw herself down on the couch, burying her face in the
pillows--he could see through the dim room the whiteness of her arms.
She was breathing convulsively; but she was not sobbing.

He remained beside the open window. He, too, was not breathing so
regularly as he had breathed a short time before.

He heard the sigh that came from her as she raised her head from the
pillow.

Then she said:

"I wonder if you ever really loved me, Bertie."

"Oh, my God!"

"I wonder if you ever loved me; and I wonder if I ever loved you until
this moment."

There was a silence. Outside there was a little whisper of moving wings,
but no voice of bird.

There was a silence, and out of it a low voice cried softly, softly:

"Bertie, Bertie, my love, come to me."

He took a step toward her, a second step--and then he stood, rigid,
breathless, for he heard another soft voice that said:

"_His honor is the honor of his mother and his sister, upon which no
stain must come._"

He heard that voice, and with a cry he covered his face with his hands,
and turning, fled through the open window into the garden.



She lay there on her couch, that lovely white creature who had been
saved so as by fire. There are two fires: the one is the fire that
consumes the heart until all that is left of it is the dust of ashes;
the other is the fire that purifies the soul even unto its salvation;
and yet both fires burn alike, so that men and women know not which is
burning within them.

Did she know that she was saved so as by fire?

She laughed as though he could still hear her; but after her laugh there
came a few moments of overwhelming bitterness that sent her on her knees
by the side of the couch in self-abasement.

"Kill me--kill me, O God!" she wailed. "Kill me, for I am not fit to
live!"

But she was spared.

After a time she found strength to rise. She seemed surprised to find
that the room was in darkness. She struck a light, and in a few
minutes a dozen candles were flaring round the walls; and then she went
mechanically to close the window. One side she had just fastened when
it seemed to her that she heard the sound of voices approaching. She
listened, her head bent forward through the side of the window that
remained unclosed.

Yes, their voices were sounding clearly through the still night--his
voice and--what trick was being played upon her by her hearing? Phyllis'
voice? How could it be Phyllis' voice? Phyllis had returned to London.
Oh, it was some trick! Her nerves were playing some trick upon her--they
were out of order, they were beyond her control. Phyllis' voice----Great
Heavens! it was Phyllis herself who was walking through the garden by
his side!

Ella stood at the open side of the window staring out at them. They
stood at the foot of the half dozen steps that lead up to the window.
Phyllis laughed,--was there a trace of mockery in her laugh?--but he was
silent.

"I don't wonder at your fancying that I am a ghost, Ella," cried the
girl. "I feel that I deserve to be treated as discourteously as most
poor ghosts are treated when they visit their friends. You never yet
heard of a ghost being asked to stay to dinner, did you, Mr. Courtland?
But a ghost may fairly claim to be asked to enter the house of her
dearest friend, especially after a double railway journey."

Ella had not moved from her place at the open space of the window while
Phyllis was speaking, but the moment that the girl's laugh sounded,
she too laughed. She ran down the steps and put her arms about Phyllis,
kissing her on the face.

"This is more than the most exacting of ghosts could reasonable look
for," cried Phyllis. "Oh, Ella! I'm so glad that I followed my own
impulse and came back to you. I thought you were here all alone--how
could I know that Mr. Courtland would return in the meantime to complete
his visit?--and when I looked out on the dust and the smoke of the town
and thought of this--this--this exquisite stillness,--you can just hear
the water of the weir,--this garden, this scent of roses, but chiefly
when I thought of you sitting in your loneliness----Well, is it any
wonder that I am here now?--you implored of me to stay, you know, Ella."

"It is no wonder indeed, being what you are--a good angel, my good
angel, Phyllis," cried the woman. "Oh, dearest, you are welcome! Why
did you leave me Phyllis? Why did you leave me? Oh, the good angels can
never be trusted. You should not have left me to myself, dear. I am only
a woman. Ah, you don't yet know what a woman is. That is the worst of
angels and men; they don't know what a woman is. Come into the house,
Phyllis. Come in, Herbert. How did you manage to meet?"

"You know I went out to the garden----" said the man.

"Yes; I knew that--you left me alone," said the woman, and she gave a
laugh.

"I strolled from the garden to the road--I had to ask the people at the
Old Bell to keep a room for me, of course."

"Of course."

"And just outside the inn I came face to face with Miss Ayrton's fly.
Miss Ayrton was good enough to get out and walk with me, sending the fly
on with her maid. I told the man to wait in order to take my portmanteau
to the inn. It must be at the hall door now. We entered by the garden
gate."

"Nothing could be simpler," said Ella. They had by this time walked up
the steps into the drawing room. "Nothing could be simpler." Then she
turned to Phyllis. "But how did you contrive to evade the great function
to-night?"

"Papa did not feel very well," said Phyllis, "and I know that he was
only too glad of an excuse to stay at home."

"And you forsook your sick father to come to me? Oh, my dear Phyllis,
what have you done?"

"If you ask me in confidence I should say that papa is not quite so ill
as to stand in need of a nurse," she whispered. "Oh, no! Make your mind
easy. I have neglected no duty in coming to you."

"Except your duty to yourself; you could not have had time to take
any dinner at home. I shall have you a servants' hall supper in ten
minutes."

"Please get nothing for me. I had a capital sort of dinner at home. But
I should dearly like a cup of tea."

"It will be ready for you the moment you return from taking off your
hat. I'll go up with you to your room; Mr. Courtland knows that even I
make myself at home in this house. He will pardon us."

"I mustn't keep the fly waiting for my portmanteau," said Mr. Courtland.
"If you will allow me, I shall look to it now, and say good-night."

"What! Oh, you mustn't think of running off in this way," said Ella.
"What reason had you for returning at all if you run off at this hour?"

"It is getting quite late. I mustn't keep the good people of the Old
Bell up on my account," said he. "Besides, a man represents a certain
inharmonious element upon such an occasion as this. Miss Ayrton returned
expecting to be with you alone. I know the disabilities of a man quite
well. Yes, I must say good-night."

"Nonsense! Pray talk to him, Phyllis," cried Ella. "You may make him
amenable to reason."

But Phyllis stood mute with her hand on the handle of the door; she only
smiled, and there is neither reason nor argument in a smile.

"Good-night!" said he.

"Oh, well, if you really have nothing to say to either of us,--to either
Phyllis or me,--you had better go, I suppose," said Ella, giving him
her hand, but she did not look at him in the face while his hand was
touching hers.

Curiously enough, neither did Phyllis look at him as was her wont.

And so he left them that night.



CHAPTER XXXIV.

GIVE HIM BACK TO ME--GIVE HIM BACK TO ME!

They seemed to have been parted for months instead of hours, so much
had they to say to each other, and so rapidly did they say it.
Rapidly?--feverishly rather. Phyllis had only to remove her hat and
smooth her hair at places, disordering it at others, in order to be all
right; but half an hour had gone by before they went downstairs, arm
in arm, after the manner of girls who have been talking feverishly and
kissing every now and again.

It was madness for Phyllis to think of tea at that hour of the night,
Ella declared; but she knew Phyllis' fancies in the past--she knew that
what would set other girls' nerves in motion, would only have the effect
of soothing hers. So Phyllis drank her tea and ate her cake in the
drawing room, and Ella lay back on the sofa and watched her with a
curious interest in her eyes.

"I am so glad that we are spending together in this way the last night
of our delightful week," said Phyllis. "What a lovely week it has been!
and the charm of it is, of course, to be found in the fact that it has
been stolen from the best part of the season. In another month it would
not be nearly so delightful--everyone will be hurrying off to the river
or elsewhere."

"Such a week is one of the incidents that a person plans but that rarely
comes off according to one's views," said Ella. "I told you when I set
my heart upon Hurley what my idea was."

"And you have certainly realized it during this week. What a pity it is
that this is our last night together!"

"Do you know, Phyllis, the way you said that suggested to me that you
meant 'What a pity it is that Herbert Courtland is not one of our party
to-night'!"

Ella was still lying on the broad pillows of the couch, her hands
clasped at the back of her head. She was still watching Phyllis through
her half-closed eyes.

"I was not thinking about Mr. Courtland in the least when I spoke. How
can you fancy that I should be so insincere? I say it is delightful for
us, you and me only, mind, to be together to-night, because we can say
just whatever occurs to us--I thought we could, you know; but since you
made that horrid suggestion I think I must take back all that I said.
It is, after all, not nearly so nice to be alone with you as one would
imagine."

"That was, I'm afraid, the conclusion that Herbert Courtland came to
some time ago," said Ella. "He was alone with me here--yes, for some
minutes; but he left me--he left me and found you."

"It was so funny!" cried Phyllis. "Who would have thought of seeing such
a figure--bareheaded and in evening dress--on the road? I knew him at
once, however. And he was walking so quickly too--walking as if--as
if----"

"As if the devil were behind him--that's how men put it," said Ella.
"It would never do for us to say that, of course, but in this particular
case we might venture on it for the sake of strict accuracy; the devil
was behind him. He escaped from it by the aid of his good angel. Didn't
he call you his good angel once, my Phyllis?"

"Yes, he called me so once," said Phyllis. "But why should we talk about
Mr. Courtland? Why should we talk about anybody to-night? Dearest Ella,
let us talk about ourselves. You are of more interest to me than anyone
in the world, and I know that I am of more interest to you than to
anyone else. Let us talk about ourselves."

"Certainly we shall talk about ourselves," said Ella. "To begin,
I should like very much to know if you were aware that Herbert had
returned to this house after his day or two in town."

Phyllis undoubtedly colored before she said, with a laugh:

"Didn't you promise to talk solely about ourselves? I decline to talk on
any other topic."

She arose from where she had been sitting before a cup of tea at a
little table that also held cake, and threw herself back in a fanciful
seat shaped like a shell.

"That being so, I should like very much to know how you learned that he
meant to return," pursued Ella.

"You are becoming quite horrid, and I expected you to be so nice," said
Phyllis, pouting very prettily.

"And I expected you to confide in me," said Ella reproachfully. "I have
been watching you for some time--not merely during the past week, but
long before; and I have seen--what I have seen. He could not have told
you that he meant to return--you must have crossed each other in the
trains. How did you know, my dear girl? Let me coax it out of you."

Phyllis made no answer for some time; she was examining, with a newly
acquired, but very intense interest, the texture of the sheen of the
blouse which she was wearing. At last she raised her eyes, and saw how
Ella was looking at her. Then she said slowly:

"I saw him in the train that was leaving when our train arrived."

"Heavens! that is a confession!" cried Ella quite merrily.

"You forced it from me," said Phyllis. "But why should there be any
mystery between us? I'm sure I may tell you all the secrets of my life.
Such as they are, you know them already."

"They are safe in my keeping. My dear Phyllis, don't you know that it
has always been my dearest hope to see you and Herbert Courtland--well,
interested in each other? I saw that he was interested in you long ago;
but I wasn't sure of you. That is just why I was so anxious for you to
come down here for the week we have just passed. I wanted to bring you
both together. I wanted to see you in love with each other; I wanted to
see you both married."

"Ella--Ella!"

"I wanted it, I tell you, not because I loved you, though you know that
I love you better than anyone in the world."

"Dearest Ella!"

"Not because I knew that you and he would be happy, but because I wished
to snatch my own soul from perdition. I think it is safe now--but oh,
my God! it is like the souls of many other mortals--saved in spite of
myself! Phyllis, you have been my salvation. You are a girl; you cannot
understand how near a woman may go to the bottomless pit through the
love of a man. You fancy that love lifts one to the heaven of heavens;
that it means purity--self-sacrifice. Well, there is a love that means
purity; and there is a love that means self-sacrifice. Self-sacrifice:
that is, that a woman is ready to sacrifice herself--her life--her
soul--for the man whom she loves. I tell you--I, who know the truth--I,
who have been at the brink. It is not that the pit is dear to us; it
is that the man is dear to us, and we must go with him,--wherever he
goes,--even down into hell itself with him."

"Oh, Ella, Ella! this is the love of the satyr. It is not the love of
the one who is made in the image of God."

"Let it be what it is; it is a power that has to be reckoned upon so
long as we remain creatures of the earth, earthy."

"It is a thing that we should beat into the earth from which it came."
The girl had sprung to her feet, and was speaking with white face and
clenched hands. "Down into the earth"--she stamped upon the floor--"even
if we have to throw our bodies into the grave into which we trample it.
Woman, I tell you that the other love,--the love which is the truth,--is
stronger than the love of the satyr."

"Is it? is it, Phyllis? Yes, sometimes. Yes; it was a word that you
spoke in his hearing that saved him--him--Herbert--and that saved me
that night when I came to you--when I waited for you--you did not know
anything of why I came. I will tell you now--"

"No, no, no! Oh, Ella! for God's sake, tell me nothing! I think I know
all that I want to know; and I know that you had strength given to you
by God to come to me that night. I had not to go to you. But I have come
to you to-night. We are together, you and I; and we are the same as when
we were girls together--oh, just the same! Who shall come between us,
Ella?"

"Who? Who? You came here to save me. I knew it. But you had saved me
before you came. Phyllis, in this very room I was alone with him. I was
mad--mad with jealousy at the thought of losing him--though I knew that
I had lost him--I was mad! The passion breathed from the roses--the
twilight full of the memories of the spring we spent together in
Italy--all took possession of my heart--my soul. I whispered to him to
come to me--to come to me. And he came."

The cry the girl gave, as she covered her face with her hands and
dropped back into her chair, was very pitiful.

"He came to me--but only one step--one little step, Phyllis; then there
came before his eyes a vision of your face--he felt your hand--cool as
a lily--upon his wrist--he heard your voice speaking into his ear; he
turned and fled--fled through that window--fled from the demon that had
taken possession of this room--I said so to you."

"Thank God--oh, Ella, thank God!"

"That is my cry--thank God--thank God; and yet--and yet--God help me!
I feel ready to throw myself at your feet and say 'Give him back to me!
Give him back to me!'"

She had stood with her hands clasped above her head at her first
utterance of that imploration--"Give him back to me!" Then she threw
herself on her knees and passionately caught both the girl's hands in
her own, crying, "Give him back to me!"

Phyllis flung her arms about her neck, and bowed her own head down to
the shoulder of the woman whom she loved and pitied.

And then----

Then through the silence of the house--the hour was almost
midnight--there sounded the loud and continuous ringing of a bell.

It was only the usual visitors' bell of the house; but its effect at
that hour was startling--shocking!

The two women were on their feet, waiting in silence, but with wildly
beating hearts, for what was coming--they felt that something terrible
was coming. The bell had an ominous jangle. They heard the footsteps of
the one servant who remained up to put out the lights, going to answer
the summons of the bell--they heard a man's voice speaking in a low tone
in the hall--they heard a man's steps approach the door of their room.
The door opened, and Mr. Ayrton appeared before them.

He closed the door slowly, and stood there staring not at his daughter,
but at Ella Linton. On his face was an expression that Phyllis had never
seen on it before. It frightened her. She could not speak.

He stood there, with his eyes fixed upon Ella Linton--rigid--silent as a
figure that symbolizes Death.

The silence became appalling.

"For God's sake speak, if you are living!" cried Ella in a whisper
tremulous with terror.

He did not speak--he stood there, staring at her.

"What does he mean? What does he mean?" said the woman, after another
dreadful pause. "Why does he stand there, Phyllis, staring at
me? Why----Oh, my God! I see it--I see it on his face--my
husband--Stephen--dead--he is dead--you came to bring the news to
me. Look, Phyllis, he cannot say 'No'--he would say 'No' unless I had
guessed the truth--he would say it--he would have some pity. Is it the
truth? Man--speak--say yes, or no--for God's sake! for God's sake!"

She had taken half a dozen rapid steps to him and grasped him by the
arm, gazing into his face.

He bowed his head.

She flung his arm from her, and burst into a laugh.

"Ah, Phyllis! I see it all now. He was the man I loved--I know it
now--he was the man I loved. It was for him I cried out just now--'Give
him back to me--give him back to me!'"

The wild shriek with which she cried the words the second time rang
through the house. She fell upon her knees, clutching at Phyllis' hand
as before, and then, making a motion as if about to rise, she fell
back and lay with her white face turned to the ceiling, her white arms
stretched limply out on each side of her like the arms of a crucified
woman.

Servants came with restoratives.



CHAPTER XXXV.

IF GOD WOULD ONLY GIVE ME ANOTHER CHANCE!

"Poor creature! Poor creature!" said Mr. Ayrton. He had just returned
from the room to which they had carried Ella. Phyllis was lying on the
sofa with her face down to the pillow. "Poor creature! No one could have
had any idea that she was so attached to him! She will be one of the
richest women in England. He fell down in the club between nine and ten.
His heart. Sir Joseph was not surprised. He said he had told him a short
time ago that he had not six months to live. He cannot have let his wife
know. Well, well, perhaps it was for the best. His man came to me in a
terrible state. How was it to be broken to her? I just managed to catch
the last train. He must have been worth over a million. She will be
one of the richest women in England. Even in America a woman with
three-quarters of a million is reckoned moderately well off. Poor
creature! Ah! the shorn lamb!--the wind is tempered. 'In the midst of
life--' Dear Phyllis! you must not allow yourself to break down. Your
sympathetic nature is hard to control, I know, but still--oh, my child!"

But Phyllis refused to be comforted. She lay sobbing on the pillow, and
when her father put his arm about her and raised her, she put her head
on his shoulder, crying:

"He is gone from me forever--he is gone from me forever! Oh, I am the
cruelest woman on earth! It is not for her terrible blow that I am
crying, it is because I have lost him--I see it--I have lost him!"

Her father became frightened. What in the world could she mean by
talking about the man being gone from her? He had never heard of a
woman's sympathy extending to such limits as caused her to feel a
personal deprivation when death had taken another woman's husband.

"Oh, I am selfish--cruel--heartless!" sobbed Phyllis. "I thought of
myself, not of her. He is hers; he will be given back to her as she
prayed--she prayed so to me before you appeared at the door, papa. 'Give
him back to me! Give him back to me!' that was her prayer."

"My dearest child, you must not talk that way," said the father. "Come,
Phyllis, your strength has been overtaxed. You must go to bed and try to
sleep."

She still moaned about her cruelty--her selfishness, until the doctor
who had been sent for and had been with Ella in her room, appeared in
order to let them know that Mrs. Linton had regained consciousness. The
blow had, of course, been a terrible one: but she was young, and Nature
would soon reassert herself, he declared, whatever he meant by that. He
thought it strange, he said, that Mrs. Linton had not been aware of
her husband's weakness. To him, the physician, the condition of the
unfortunate gentleman had been apparent from the first moment he had
seen him. He had expected to hear of his death any day. He concluded by
advising Phyllis to go to bed and have as long a sleep as possible.
He would return in the morning and see if Mrs. Linton might travel to
London.

Phyllis went to her room, and her father went to the one which had been
prepared for him. For a minute or two he remained thoughtful. What could
his daughter have meant by those self-accusations? After a short time,
however, he smiled. The poor thing had been upset by the shocking news
of the death of the husband of her dearest friend. She was sympathetic
to quite a phenomenal degree. That sympathy which felt her friend's loss
as though it were wholly her own was certainly not to be met with every
day.

In the morning Phyllis showed traces of having spent a bad night. But
she spoke rationally and not in the wild way in which she had spoken
before retiring, and her father felt that there was no need for him to
be uneasy in regard to her condition. He allowed her to go to the side
of her friend, Ella, and as he was leaving them together in each other's
arms, he heard Ella say:

"Ah, Phyllis, I know it now. He was the man who had all my
love--all--all! Ah, if God would only give me another chance--one more
chance!"

Mr. Ayrton had heard that passionate appeal for another chance upon more
than one previous occasion. He had heard the husband who had tortured
his wife to death make a passionate appeal to God to give him another
chance. He knew that God had never given him another chance with the
same wife; but God had given him another wife in the course of time--a
wife who was not made on the spiritual lines of those who die by
torture; a wife who was able to formulate a list of her own rights, and
the rights of her sisters, and who possessed a Will.

The man who wanted another chance had no chance with such a woman.

He had heard the wife, who had deserted her husband in favor of the
teetotal platform, cry out for another chance, when her husband had died
away from her. But God had compassion upon the husband. She did not get
him back.

He pitied with all his heart the poor woman who would be one of the
richest women in England in the course of a day or two, and he said so
to Mr. Courtland when he called early in the morning. Mr. Courtland did
not remain for long in the house. It might have been assumed that
so intimate a friend of Mr. and Mrs. Linton's would be an acceptable
visitor to the widow; but Mr. Courtland knew better. He hurried away to
town without even asking to see her. He only begged of Mr. Ayrton to let
him know if he could be of any use in town--there were details--ghastly;
but he would take care that there was no inquest.

Phyllis went up to town with poor Ella, and remained by her side in that
darkened house through all the terrible days that followed. Mr. Linton's
death had an appreciable influence upon the quarter's revenue of the
country. The probate duty paid by the executors was a large fortune in
itself, and Ella was, as Mr. Ayrton had predicted she would be, one of
the richest women in England. The hundred thousand pounds bequeathed to
some unostentatious charities--charities that existed for the cause of
charity, not for the benefit of the official staff--made no difference
worth speaking of in the position of Mrs. Linton as one of the richest
women in England.

But the codicil to the will which surprised most people was that which
placed in the hands of Mrs. Linton and the Rev. George Holland as
joint trustees the sum of sixty thousand pounds, for the building and
endowment of a church, the character and aims of which would be in
sympathy with the principles recently formulated by the Rev. George
Holland in his book entitled "Revised Versions," and in his magazine
article entitled "The Enemy to Christianity," the details to be decided
by the Rev. George Holland and Mrs. Linton as joint trustees.

The codicil was, of course, a very recent one; but it was executed in
proper form; it required two pages of engrossing to make the testator's
desires plain to every intelligence that had received a thorough
training in legal technicalities. It was susceptible of a good deal of
interpretation to an ordinary intelligence.

When it was explained to Mrs. Linton, she also was at first a good deal
surprised. It read very like a jest of some subtlety: for she had no
idea that her husband had the slightest feeling one way or another on
the subject of the development of one Church or another; and as for the
establishment of an entirely new Church--yes, it struck her at first
that her solicitor was making a bold and certainly quite an unusual
attempt to cheer her up in her bereavement by bringing under her notice
a jest of the order _pachydermato_.

But soon it dawned upon her that her husband meant a good deal by this
codicil of his.

"I am getting to understand him better every day," she said to Phyllis.
"He knew that I loved him and him only. He has given me this work to do,
and with God's help I will do it thoroughly. You did not believe in
the value of George Holland's doctrines. Neither did I: I never thought
about them. I will accept my husband's judgment regarding them, and
perhaps I may think about them later on. Our Church will be the most
potent influence for good that the century has yet seen. Yes, I will
throw myself heart and soul into the work. After all, it must be
admitted that the Church has never done its duty as a Church."

Phyllis said nothing.

But the Rev. George Holland had a good deal to say on the subject of the
codicil, when he was alone with Mrs. Linton, a few days later. He had
by no means made up his mind to sever his connection with the dear old
mother Church, he said. He could not see that there was any need for
his taking so serious a step--an irrevocable step. It was his feeling at
that moment, he declared, that he might be able to effect the object
of his life--which was, of course, the reform of the Church--better by
remaining within its walls than by severing himself from it. He must
take time to consider his position.

He left Mrs. Linton greatly disappointed. It had been her belief that
Mr. Holland would jump at the chance--that was the phrase which she
employed in expressing her disappointment to Phyllis--of becoming the
founder of a brand-new religion.

She was greatly disappointed in Mr. Holland. If Buddha or Edward Irving,
or some of the other founders of new religions had had such a chance
offered to them in early life, would they not have embraced it eagerly?
she asked.

And it was to be such a striking Church! She had made up her mind to
that. It was to be a lasting memorial to the largeness of soul of her
husband--to his appreciation of the requirements of the thinking men and
women of the age. She had made up her mind already as to the character
of the painted windows. The church would itself, of course, be the
purest Gothic. As for the services, she rather thought that the
simplicity of the Early Church might be effectively combined with some
of the most striking elements of Modern Ritualism. However, that would
have to be decided later on.

But when the bishop heard of the codicil he had another interview with
George Holland, and imparted to that young cleric his opinion that he
should avail himself of the opportunity offered to him of trying what
would undoubtedly be a most interesting experiment, and one to the
carrying out of which all true churchmen would look forward most
hopefully. Who could say, he inquired, if the larger freedom which would
be enjoyed by an earnest, sincere, and highly intellectual clergyman,
not in immediate contact with the Establishment, might not avail him to
perfect such a scheme of reform as would eventually be adopted by the
Church?

That interview was very helpful to George Holland in making up his mind
on the subject of the new Church. He resigned his pastorate, greatly to
the regret of the churchwardens; though no expression of such regret was
ever heard from the bishop.

But then a bishop is supposed to have his feeling thoroughly under
control.

This happened three weeks after the death of Stephen Linton, and during
these weeks Herbert Courtland had never once asked to see Ella Linton.



CHAPTER XXXVI.

MARRIAGE IS THE PICTURESQUE GATEWAY LEADING TO A COMMONPLACE ESTATE.

So soon as Phyllis Ayrton had returned home, she got a letter from
Herbert Courtland, asking her if she would be good enough to grant him
an interview. She replied at once that it would please her very much to
see him on the following afternoon--she was going to Scotland with her
father in a week, if Parliament had risen by that time.

He came to her. She was alone in the drawing room where she had always
received him previously.

The servant had scarcely left the room before he had told her he had
come to tell her that he loved her--to ask her if he might hope to have
some of her love in return.

He had not seated himself, nor had she. They remained standing together
in the middle of the room. He had not even retained her hand.

"Why have you come to me--to _me_?" she asked him. Her face was pale and
her lips, when he had been speaking to her, were firmly set.

"I have come to you, not because I am worthy of the priceless gift of
your love," said he, "but because you have taught me not merely to love
you--you have taught me what love itself is. You have saved my soul."

"No, no! do not say that; it pains me," she cried.

"I cannot but say it; it is the truth. You have saved me from a
degradation such as you could not understand. Great God! how should I
feel to-day if you had not come forward to save me?"

He walked away from her. He stood with his back turned to her, looking
out of the window.

She remained where he had left her. She did not speak. Why should she
speak?

He suddenly faced her once again. The expression upon his face
astonished her. She had never before seen a man so completely in the
power of a strong emotion. She saw him making the attempt to speak, but
not succeeding for some time. Her heart was full of pity for him.

"You--you cannot understand," he managed to say. "You cannot understand,
and I cannot, I dare not, try to explain anything of the peril from
which you snatched me. You know nothing of the baseness, the cruelty, of
a man who allows himself to be swayed by his own passions. But you saved
me--you saved me!"

"I thank God for that," she said slowly. "But you must not come to me to
ask me for my love. It is not to me you should come. It is for her who
was ready to sacrifice everything for you. You must go to her when the
time comes, not now--she has not recovered from her shock."

"You know--she has told you?"

"I knew all that terrible story--that pitiful story--before I heard it
from her lips."

"And yet--yet--you could speak to me--you could be with me day after
day?"

"Oh, I know what you would say! You would say that I led you on--that I
gave you to believe that I loved you. That is what you would say, and
it would be the truth. I made up my mind to lead you on; I gave you to
understand that I cared for you. But I confess to you now that I did so
because I hoped to save her. You see it was a plot on my part--the plot
of one woman anxious to save her sister from destruction. I succeeded.
Thank God for that--thank God for that!"

"You succeeded--you succeeded indeed." He spoke slowly and in a low
tone, his eyes fixed upon her burning face. "Yes, you led me on--you led
me from earth to heaven. You saved her--you saved me. That is why I am
here to-day."

"Oh, it is not here you should be, Mr. Courtland." She had turned
quickly away from him with a gesture of impatience and had walked to the
other end of the room. There was more than a suspicion of indignation in
her voice. "You should be with the woman whom you loved; the woman
who showed you how she loved you; the woman who was ready to give up
everything--honor--husband--God--for you. Go to her--to her--when the
numbness has passed away from her, and there is no barrier between you
and her. That is all I have to say to you, Mr. Courtland."

"Is it indeed all, Phyllis?" he said. "But you will let me speak to you.
You will let me ask if Ella alone was ready to sacrifice herself? You
say that you led me to love you in order to save her. How did you lead
me on? By giving me to understand that you were not indifferent to
me--that you had some love for me. Let me ask you if you were acting a
lie at that time?"

"I wanted to save her."

"And you succeeded. Were you acting a lie?"

She was silent.

"You were willing to save her?" he continued. "How did you mean to save
her? Were you prepared to go to the length of marrying me when I had
been led on to that point by you? Answer me, Phyllis."

"I will not answer you, Mr. Courtland--you have no right to ask me to
answer you. One terrible moment had changed all the conditions under
which we were living. If she had been free,--as she is now,--do you
fancy for a moment that I should have come between you--that I should
have tried to lead you away from her? Well, then, surely you must see
as clearly as I do at the present moment that now our relative positions
are the same as they would have been some months ago, if Ella had been
free--if she could have loved you without being guilty of a crime? Oh,
Mr. Courtland do not ask me to humiliate myself further. Please go away.
Ah, cannot you see that it would be impossible for me to act now as I
might have acted before? Cannot you see that I am not a woman who would
be ready to steal happiness for myself from my dearest friend?"

"I think I am beginning to see what sort of woman you are--what sort of
a being a woman may be. You love me, Phyllis, and yet you will send me
away from you lest you should do Ella a wrong?"

"I implore of you to go away from me, because if Ella had been free a
month ago as she is to-day, she would have married you."

"But she fancied that she loved me a month ago. She knows that she does
not love me now. You love me--you, Phyllis, my love, my beloved;
you dare not say that when you led me to love you, you were not led
unthinkingly to love me yourself. Will you deny that, my darling?"

He had strode passionately up to her, and before she could resist he
had put his arms about her and was kissing her on the face. For a moment
only she resisted, then she submitted to his kisses.

"You are mine--mine--mine!" he whispered, and she knew that she was. She
now knew how to account for the brilliant successes of the man in places
where every other civilized man had perished. He was a master of men.
"You love me, darling, and I love you. What shall separate us?"

With a little cry she freed herself.

"You have said the truth!" she cried; "the bitter truth. I love you! I
love you! I love you! You are my love, my darling, my king forever. But
I tell you to go from me. I tell you that I shall never steal from any
sister what is hers by right. I would have sacrificed myself--I did
not love you then--to keep you from her; I am now ready to sacrifice
myself--now that I love you--to give you to her. Ah, my love, my own
dear love, you know me, and you know that I should hate myself--that I
should hate you, too, if I were to marry you, now that she is free. Go,
my beloved--go!"

He looked at her face made beautiful with tears. "Let me plead with you,
Phyllis. Let me say--"

"Oh, go! go! go!"

He put out his hand to her.

"I am going!" he said. "I am leaving England, but from day to day I
shall let you know where I am, so that you can send to me when you want
me to return to you. Write on a paper, 'Come to me,' and I will come,
though years should pass before I read those words. I deserve to suffer,
as I know I shall suffer."

He held out his hand. She took it. Her tears fell upon it. She did not
speak as he went to the door. Then she gave a cry like the cry of a
wounded animal. She held out her hands to him.

"Not yet! Not yet!" she said.

She flung herself into his arms, kissing him and kissing him, holding
him to her with her arms about his neck.

"Good-by! Good-by, my darling, my best beloved. Oh, go! Go, Herbert,
before I die in your arms. Go!"

She was lying along the floor with her head on the sofa.

He was gone.

She looked wildly around the room, wiping the tears from her eyes. She
sprang to her feet, crying:

"Come back! Come back to me, my beloved! Oh, I was a fool! Such a fool
as women are when they think of such things as heaven and truth and
right! A fool! A fool!"

An hour afterward Ella called to say good-by to her. She was going to
Switzerland first, she said, to a quiet spot that she knew, where she
might think out some of the details of the Church. Mr. Holland would
meet her in Italy in the winter to consider some of the architectural
details.

When the hour of her departure was at hand she referred to another
matter--a matter on which she spoke much more seriously than she had yet
spoken on the subject of the Church.

"I could not go, my dear Phyllis," said she, "without telling you that I
know Herbert Courtland will come to you."

"No!" said Phyllis. "He will not come to me. He has been with me. He is
now gone."

"Gone? That would be impossible!" cried Ella. "You would not send him
away. He told you that he loved you."

"Yes, he told me that."

"And yet you sent him away? Oh, Phyllis, you would not break my heart. I
know that you love him."

"Do I?"

"You do love him. Oh, my Phyllis, I told him months ago that it was
the dearest wish of my heart to see you married to him. At that time he
laughed. Oh, it is horrible to me to recall now how he laughed. Shall I
ever forget that terrible dream? But now he loves you. I know it. What!
you think him unworthy of you because of--of that dream which was upon
us? Phyllis, don't forget that he fought with the sin and overcame it.
How? Ah! you know how. He overcame the passion that is of earth by the
love that is of heaven. It was his pure love for you that gave him the
victory. Why should you send him away?"

"He knows. He understands. He is gone."

"But I do not understand."

She held Phyllis' hand and looked into her face. She gave a sudden
start--a little start.

"Oh, surely, my Phyllis, you don't think that I--I----Oh, no! you cannot
think that of me. Oh, my darling, if you should be so foolish as to
think that I--that I still----Ah, I cannot speak about it. Listen to me,
Phyllis: I tell you that as he conquered himself by the love which is of
heaven, so have I conquered by the same Divine Power. The love which is
in heaven--the love which is mine--has given me the victory also.
Dear Phyllis, that man is nothing to me to-day. I tell you he is
nothing--nothing! Ah, I don't even hate him. If I should ever speak to
him again it would be to send him back to you."

Phyllis said nothing, and just then her father came into the room, and
after a few minutes' conventional chat Ella went away.

Mr. Ayrton remarked to Phyllis that her dearest friend was looking
better than she had looked for many months, and then he laughed. Phyllis
did not like his laugh. She looked at him--gravely--reproachfully.

"Pardon me, my dear," said he; "but I was only thinking that--well--that
she----Ah, after all, what is marriage?"

Phyllis did not reply. She saw by his eyes that he had found another
phrase. What were phrases to her?

"Marriage is the most honorable preliminary to an effective widowhood,"
said he.

She went out of the room.


During the next eight months Phyllis received many letters from
Ella--some from Switzerland, some from Italy, and one from Calcutta.
Ella had gone to India to make further inquiries on the subject of
Buddhism. At any rate, no one whose heart was set upon building up a New
Church could afford, she said, to ignore Buddhism as a power.

Mr. Holland agreed with her, she said. He had gone through India with
her.

She returned to England in April, and of course went to see Phyllis
without delay. Some men had wanted to marry Phyllis during the winter,
as everybody knew, but she had been pleasantly irresponsive. Some of
her closest friends (female) laughed and said that she had found out how
silly she had been in throwing over Mr. Holland.

It was not, however, of these suitors that Ella talked to her. It was of
Herbert Courtland.

Had she heard from him? she asked.

Yes; he occasionally sent her his address, Phyllis said--that was all.

"You will write to him to come back to you, Phyllis?" said Ella
entreatingly.

Phyllis shook her head.

"Dearest child," continued Ella, "I know the goodness of your heart. I
know the high ideal of honor and faith which you have set before you.
I saw Herbert when our steamer stopped at Port Said. He had been in
Abyssinia--you know that?"

"I knew that."

"I talked with him for an hour," said Ella. "He told me a great deal
about you--about your parting from him. You will write those words to
him before I leave this room."

Phyllis shook her head.

"Oh, yes, you will, when I tell you what I did not tell him--when I tell
you that George Holland and I have agreed that our positions as joint
trustees of the New Church will be immeasurably strengthened if we are
married."

"What?"

Phyllis had risen.

"We are to be married in three months. The matter is, of course, to
remain a secret--people are so given to talk."

Phyllis fell into her arms and kissed her tearfully--but the tears were
not all her own.

"Now you will write those words," said Ella.

Phyllis ran to a little French escritoire and snatched up a sheet of
paper.

"Come to me, my beloved," she wrote upon it; then she leaned her face
upon her arm, weeping happily.

Ella came behind her. She picked up the paper and folded it up. She
pressed the bell.

"Please give that to Mr. Courtland in the study," she said to the
servant.

Phyllis sprang up with a cry.

"I forgot to tell you, my dearest, that I brought back Herbert Courtland
in that steamer with me, and that he came with me to-day. He is coming
to you--listen--three steps at a time."

And that was just how he did come to her.


"Bless my soul!" cried Mr. Ayrton, ten minutes later. "Bless my soul! I
always fancied that----Ah, after all, what is marriage?"

"Oh!" cried Phyllis.

"The last word that can be said regarding it is that marriage is the
picturesque gateway leading to the commonplace estate."

"Oh!" cried Phyllis





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