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Title: The Missionary
Author: Griffith, George Chetwynd, 1857-1906
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
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 "The Missionary" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



  _The Missionary_

  BY

  George Griffith

  AUTHOR OF

  "_The Angel of the Revolution_,"
  "_The Rose of Judah_,"
  "_The Destined Maid_,"
  "_The Justice of Revenge_,"
  "_Brothers of the Chain_,"
  "_Captain Ishmael_," _etc., etc._


  _London_
  F. V. WHITE & CO., LTD.
  14, Bedford Street, Strand, W.C.
  1902

  PRINTED BY KELLY'S DIRECTORIES LIMITED,
  LONDON AND KINGSTON.



CONTENTS

                  PAGE

  PROLOGUE           1

  CHAPTER I.         4

  CHAPTER II.       22

  CHAPTER III.      31

  CHAPTER IV.       48

  CHAPTER V.        67

  CHAPTER VI.       86

  CHAPTER VII.      96

  CHAPTER VIII.    106

  CHAPTER IX.      115

  CHAPTER X.       125

  CHAPTER XI.      134

  CHAPTER XII.     144

  CHAPTER XIII.    156

  CHAPTER XIV.     167

  CHAPTER XV.      177

  CHAPTER XVI.     188

  CHAPTER XVII.    202

  CHAPTER XVIII.   214

  CHAPTER XIX.     222

  CHAPTER XX.      230

  CHAPTER XXI.     238

  CHAPTER XXII.    249

  CHAPTER XXIII.   260

  CHAPTER XXIV.    276

  CHAPTER XXV.     289

  EPILOGUE.        302



THE MISSIONARY.



PROLOGUE.


"Oh--Eny!"

"Well, you needn't be angry, Vane. I kissed _you_ this morning, you
know."

"That's no reason why you should kiss that chap, too! You're _my_
sweetheart."

"Is she? Well, she won't be much longer, because I'm going to have her."

"Are you? Shut up, or I'll punch your head."

"You can't--and, anyhow, you daren't."

Smack!

It was a good swinging blow with the open hand across the cheek, and it
left a vivid flush behind it on the somewhat sallow skin.

"Oh, if you're going to fight I shall go away, and I shan't be friends
with either of you."

But as the two lads closed, the blue-eyed, golden-haired little beauty
only shrank back a little nearer to the after-wheelhouse of the homeward
bound P. and O. liner whose deck was the scene of this first act of the
tragedy of three lives. A bright flush came into her cheeks, and a new
light began to dance in her eyes as the first look of fright died out of
them. The breath came and went more quickly between the half-opened
lips with a low sibilant sound. They were pretty, well-cut lips, the
upper short and exquisitely curved, and the lower full with the promise
of a sensuous maturity.

She was only seven, but she was woman enough already to know that these
two lads were fighting for _her_--for the favour of her smiles and the
right to her kisses--and so she stayed.

She had heard in India how the tigers fought for their mates, and, with
the precocity of the Anglo-Indian child, she recognised now the likeness
between tigers and men--and boys. She was being fought for. These two
lads, albeit they had neither of them seen their eleventh birthday, were
using all their strength against each other, hammering each other's
faces with their fists, wrestling and writhing, now upstanding and now
on the deck at her feet, were not unlike the tigers she had heard her
father tell her mother about.

She saw the hatred in their eyes, red and swollen by the impact of
well-planted blows. She watched the gleam of their teeth between their
cut and bleeding lips. They hated each other because they loved her--or,
in their boyish way, most firmly believed they did. Their lips were cut
and bleeding because she had kissed them.

The fascination of the fight grew upon her. The hot young blood began to
dance in her veins. She found herself encouraging now one and then the
other--always the one who was getting the worst of it for the time
being--and when at last the younger and slighter but more wiry and
active of them, the one who had caught the other kissing her, took
adroit advantage of a roll of the ship and pitched his antagonist
backwards so heavily against the wheelhouse that he dropped
half-stunned to the deck, she looked proudly at the panting, bleeding
victor, and gasped:

"Oh, Vane, I'm so glad you've won. You haven't quite killed him, have
you? I suppose the captain would hang you if you did. I'm _so_ sorry it
was all about me. I'll never let any one else but you kiss me again.
Really I won't. You may kiss me now if you like. Take my handkerchief.
Oh, I don't mind the cuts. You did it for me. There! It was brave of
you, for he's bigger than you. Poor Reggie, let's help him up. I suppose
you'll both have to go to the doctor."

"We shall both get a jolly good licking more likely. Still, I don't care
as long as you won't let him kiss you again."

"No, Vane, indeed I won't, nor anyone else for ever and ever if you'll
only forgive me this time."

And then, for the first time since the fight began, her big bright blue
eyes filled and grew dim with tears.



CHAPTER I.


It was the evening of Boat-race day, and as usual that province of
Vanity Fair whose centre is Piccadilly Circus was more or less
completely given over to joyously boisterous troops of undergraduates
and 'Varsity men of all academic ranks whom the great event of the year
had brought together from all parts of the kingdom, and even from lands
beyond the sea.

The mild saturnalia which London annually permits in honour of the
historic struggle between the rival blues was at its height. The music
halls were crowded to their utmost capacity, and lusty-voiced
undergraduates joined enthusiastically, if not altogether tunefully, in
the choruses of the songs; but the enthusiasm was perhaps highest and
the crowd the greatest at the Palace, where start and race and the
magnificent finish with which the struggle had ended were being shown by
the American Biograph.

As the series of pictures followed each other on the screen, the cries
which a few hours before had been roaring along the two banks of the
river from Putney to Mortlake burst out anew from pit and gallery,
circles and stalls and boxes. Cambridge had won for once after a long
series of defeats, but the Oxford boys and men were cheering just as
lustily and yelling themselves just as hoarse as the others, for they
were all Englishmen and therefore good sportsmen.

The crush in the First Circle was terrific, but for the moment Vane
Maxwell was conscious neither of the heat nor the crowding. His whole
soul was in his eyes as he watched the weirdly silent and yet life-like
phantoms flitting across the screen. It was only when the finish had
faded into swift darkness and the thunders of applause had begun to die
down that he became aware of the fact that someone was standing on one
of his feet, and that just behind him someone else had got hold of his
arm and was holding it with a convulsive sort of clutch.

Just then there was a lull in the applause, and he caught a faintly
murmured "Oh, dear" in a feminine voice. He wrenched his foot free, and
turned round just in time to slip his arm round the waist of a fainting
girl and save her from falling.

The crush was loosening now, for the great attraction of the evening had
passed, and a general move was being made towards the bars.

"If you please there, this young lady's fainting. Give her as much room
as you can, please," he said loudly enough to be heard for some little
distance round.

A number of undergraduates of both Universities managed to immediately
clear a space about them, and one of his own college chums at Balliol
who had come in with him said, "Take her to the bar, Maxwell, and give
her a drop of brandy. Now, move up there, you fellows. Room for beauty
in distress--come along!"

A couple of the stalwart attendants had also arrived on the scene by
this time, and so a lane was easily made to the nearest bar. The girl
opened her eyes again, looked about her for a moment, and then
murmured:

"Oh, thank you so much, I think I can walk. I am getting all right now.
It was the crowd and the heat. Please don't trouble. It's very good of
you."

"It's no trouble at all," said Maxwell. "Come and let me give you a drop
of brandy. That'll put you all right."

As they went into the bar they were followed by not a few curious
glances. Men and lads looked at each other and smiled, and women looked
at them and each other, also smiling, but with plainer meaning, and one
or two expressed themselves openly as to the neatness with which the
whole affair had been managed.

Crowded as the bar was, Maxwell had no difficulty in getting a couple of
brandies and a split soda for himself and his companion. Two men sitting
at one of the tables had got up to let her sit down. One of them held
out his hand to Maxwell and said:

"Why, Vane, old man, is it you? In luck, as usual, I see." He said this
with a glance towards the girl which brought the blood to Maxwell's
cheeks. Still, he took the other's hand, and said good-humouredly:

"Good evening, Garthorne. Up for the race, I suppose? Fine fight, wasn't
it? I'm glad you won, it was getting a bit monotonous. Thanks for
letting us have the table. This young lady is not very well, felt a bit
faint in the crowd."

"I see," said Garthorne, with another look at her which Maxwell did not
altogether like. "Well, good night, old man. Be as good as you can."

As the two moved away Maxwell's memory went back to a scene which had
occurred behind the wheelhouse of a P. and O. liner about ten years
before, and, without exactly knowing why, he felt as if it would give
him a certain amount of satisfaction to repeat it. Then he turned to the
girl and said:

"I beg your pardon; I hope you haven't been waiting. You should have
taken a drink at once."

"Oh, thanks, that's all right. I'm a lot better now," she said, taking
up the tumbler and smiling over it at him. "Well, here's luck! It was
awfully good of you to get me out of that crowd. I believe I should have
fallen down if it hadn't been for you."

"Oh, please don't mention that," he said; "only too happy--I mean I was
very glad I was there to do it. Here's to your complete recovery."

As he drank their eyes met over the glasses. Until now he had not really
looked at her; things had been happening rather too rapidly for that.
But now, as he put his glass down and began to scrutinize the
half-saucy, half-demure, and altogether charming face on the other side
of the table, it suddenly dawned upon him that it was exceedingly like
his own.

The nut-brown hair was almost the same shade as his, but it had a gleam
of gold in it which his lacked. The dark hazel eyes were bigger and
softer, and were shaded by longer and darker lashes than his, but their
colour and expression were very similar. The rest of the face, too, was
very similar, only while his nose was almost perfectly straight, nearly
pure Greek in fact, hers was just the merest trifle _retroussé_.

The mouths and chins were almost identical save for the fact that
firmness and strength in his were replaced by softness and sweetness in
hers. Not that hers were lacking in firmness, for a skilled
physiognomist would have put her down at the first glance as a young
lady of very decided character; but the outlines were softer, the lips
were more delicate and more mobile, and, young as he was, there was a
gravity in his smile which was replaced in hers by a suspicion of
defiant recklessness which was not without its mournful meaning for
those who had eyes to see.

"That's done me a lot of good," she said, as she finished her brandy and
soda. "Now, I mustn't keep you from your friends any longer. I'm very
much obliged to you indeed. Good night!"

He rose as she did, and took the neatly-gloved little hand that she held
out to him over the table.

"I don't see why we should say good night just yet unless you
particularly wish it," he said. "I only came here with a lot of our
fellows to see the Biograph, and I shan't stop now that's over. I'm
getting jolly hungry, too. If you have no other engagement suppose we
were to go and have a bit of supper somewhere?"

For some reason or other which she was quite unable to define, these
words, although they were spoken with perfect politeness, and although
she had heard them scores of times before without offence, now almost
offended her. And yet there was no real reason why they should.

She had been out to supper with pretty nearly all sorts and conditions
of men. Why should she not go with this well-groomed, athletic-looking
young fellow who had already done her a considerable service, who was
obviously a gentleman, and whose face and expression had now begun to
strike her as so curiously like her own?

She really had no other engagement for the evening, and to refuse would
be, to say the least of it, ungracious; so, after a moment's
hesitation, she took her hand away and said with a quick upward glance
of her eyes:

"Very well, I was just beginning to think about supper myself when I
turned up out there in that absurd way, so we may as well have it
together. Where were you thinking of going? Suppose we were to try the
grill-room at the Troc. Of course everywhere will be pretty crowded
to-night, but we have as good a chance of getting a table there as
anywhere else. Besides, I know one or two of the waiters. I often go
there to lunch."

"Very well," he said; "come along." And in a few minutes more they were
rolling along in a hansom down Shaftesbury Avenue.

Vane Maxwell was in very good humour that night with himself and all the
world. He had taken a double first in Mods., in History and Classics,
after crowning a brilliant career at Eton with a Balliol Scholarship. He
was stroke of his college boat, and had worked her four places up the
river. In another year he might be in the 'Varsity Eight itself, and
help to avenge the defeat which the Dark Blues had just suffered. The
sweetheart he had won in that Homeric little battle behind the
wheelhouse had been faithful to him ever since. He had an abundance of
pocket money and the prospect of a fair fortune, and altogether the
world appeared to be a very pleasant place indeed to live in.

When they got into the cab the girl half expected that he would slip his
arm round her as others were wont to do when they had the chance, but he
didn't, and she liked him all the better for it. He did, however, put
his hand through her arm and draw her just a little closer to him. Then
he leant back in the cab, and, as the light from a big gin palace lamp
flashed on to her face, he said:

"Well, this _is_ jolly. I'm so glad you came. I feel just in the humour
for a good supper in pleasant society."

"Thank you," she said, with a little toss of her head; "but how do you
know my society is going to be pleasant?"

"Oh, it couldn't be anything else," he laughed. "You are far too pretty
not to be nice."

"Thanks," she said gravely. "Are all the pretty girls you know nice?
Don't you find some of them horribly conceited and dull? Lots of fellows
I know say so."

"Lots of fellows!" he echoed. "Then you have a pretty extensive
acquaintance----"

"Why, of course I have," she interrupted, cutting him short almost
roughly. Then she went on with a swift change of tone, "Don't you see
that a--a girl like me has _got_ to know plenty of fellows? It's--well,
it's business, and that's the brutal truth of it."

She turned her head away and looked out of the cab window as though she
didn't want him to see the expression that came over her face as she
said the last few words.

But though he did not see the change in her face, the change in her
voice struck him like a jarring note in a harmony that he was beginning
to find very pleasant. He felt a sort of momentary resentment. He knew,
of course, that it was the "brutal truth," but just then he disliked
being reminded of it--especially by her. She seemed a great deal too
nice for _that_ to be true of her. There was a little pause, rather an
awkward one, during which he tried to think of the proper thing to say.
Of course he didn't succeed, so he just blurted out:

"Oh, never mind about brutal truths just now, little girl."

There was another pause, during which she still kept her head turned
away. Then he went on with a happy inconsequence:

"By the way, has it struck you yet that we're rather like each other?"

"Is that a compliment to me or to yourself?" she said, half gravely, and
yet with a belying gleam of mischief in her eyes.

"Oh, a likeness like that could only be a compliment to me, of course,"
he replied, and before the conversation could proceed any farther the
cab stopped at the entrance to the Trocadero.

By great good luck they procured one of the little side tables in the
inner room just as another couple were leaving it. One of the waiters
had recognised her as she came in, and, with the astute alacrity of his
kind, had taken possession of them and pre-empted the table before
anyone else could get near it. There were, in fact, others waiting who
had a prior right, but the gentleman in the plum coat and gold buttons
made it impossible for the superintendent of the room to interfere by
saying to Maxwell in his blandest tone:

"Good evening, sir; it's all right, sir. This is the table you engaged."

"He's a smart youth, that Fritz," said the girl as they sat down. "These
fellows here know which side their bread's buttered on, and they look
after their own customers."

"Yes, he seems to know his business," said Maxwell, "and now I suppose
the question is, what are we going to have?"

Fritz had come back, and was swiftly and rapidly removing the débris
left behind by their predecessors. The girl looked up at him with an air
of familiarity which Maxwell didn't altogether like, and said:

"What's good for supper, Fritz? I am hungry."

"A few oysters, miss, grilled sole, and a nice little porterhouse steak
between two. How's that, miss?"

She looked across at Maxwell and nodded, and he said, "Yes, I think that
will do very nicely. Let's have the oysters at once, and some brown
bread and butter."

"Yes, sir, certainly. Any wine, sir?"

The list was presented, opened, of course, at the champagne page.

"You'll have something fizzy, won't you?" he said, looking up from the
list.

"I suppose we may as well," she said, "only I don't want you to think me
too extravagant."

"Nonsense," he laughed, and then he told the waiter to bring a bottle of
Kock Fils '89.

When the man had gone on his errand Maxwell said somewhat diffidently:

"By the way, we seem to be getting to know each other pretty well, but
we've not exactly been introduced. I mean we don't know each other's
names yet."

"Oh, introductions are not much in fashion in the world that I live in,"
she said with a little flush. "Of course you don't need telling which
half of the world that is."

For the moment he felt an unreasonable resentment, either at the words
or the half defiant way in which she spoke them. He was quite old enough
both in years and the ways of the world to know exactly what she meant,
and he was perfectly well aware that she would not have accepted his
invitation to supper any more than she would have been in the promenade
of a music hall unescorted if she had been what is conventionally
termed respectable. Yet somehow he wanted to forget the fact and treat
her with the respect he would have paid to any ordinary acquaintance in
his own social sphere.

This feeling was probably due both to an innate chivalry and to the fact
that one of his father's favourite precepts was, "My boy, whatever
company you're in, never forget that you're a gentleman." Mingled with
it there may also have been a dash of masculine vanity. The more he
looked at the girl the more striking did her likeness to himself appear.
Really, if he had had a sister she could not have been more like him,
but he knew that he was an only child, and, besides, that thought was
altogether unthinkable.

After a little pause, during which their eyes met and their cheeks
flushed in a somewhat boy-and-girlish fashion, he laughed a trifle
awkwardly and said:

"Well, then, we shall have to introduce ourselves, I suppose. My name is
Maxwell--Vane Maxwell."

"Vane!" she echoed, "how funny! My name is Vane too--Carol Vane. It's
not a sham one either, such as a lot of girls like me take. It's my
own--at least, I have always been called Carol, and Vane was my mother's
name."

"I see," said Maxwell, after another little pause, during which the
oysters came and the waiter opened the wine. When he had filled the two
glasses and vanished, Maxwell lifted his and said:

"Well, Miss Carol, it is rather curious that we should both have the
same names, and also, if I may say so without flattering myself too much,
be so much like each other. At any rate I shall venture to hope that
your little accident at the Palace has enabled me to make a very
charming acquaintance."

"That's very prettily put, Mr. Vane Maxwell," she said, nodding and
smiling at him over her glass. "And now that we've been introduced in a
sort of way, as we haven't got any more interesting subject to talk
about, suppose we talk about ourselves. Which are you, Oxford or
Cambridge?"

The conversation thus started rattled merrily along for over an hour.
Without thinking any disloyalty to his own Enid, who was now a fair and
stately maiden of eighteen, he found it quite impossible to resist the
strange charm of Miss Carol's manner. She was obviously a lady by
instinct, and she had also been educated after a sort. She had read
widely if not altogether wisely, and she seemed just as familiar with
the literature, or, at any rate, with the fiction of France and Italy as
she was with that of England.

This she explained was due to the fact that until she was about twelve,
that is to say some seven years ago, she had been constantly living and
wandering about in these two countries with her mother and sometimes
also with a gentleman who, as she put it, was pretty probably her
father. She explained further that at the mature age of thirteen she had
run away from a French school in which she had been placed by some
unknown agency and joined a wandering English circus-troop with which
she had travelled half over Europe, leading a more or less miserable
existence for some five years. She had then terminated her connection
with the Ring by going into housekeeping with an English art-student in
Paris. Meanwhile she had lost all trace of her mother, and had come to
the conclusion that she had by this time drunk herself to death.

"I scarcely ever knew her to be quite sober," she said pathetically,
and then she changed the subject.

It was not a very cheerful story, as story, but Miss Carol told it with
such a quaint humour and such a vivacity of expression and gesture that,
despite the under-note of tragedy, Maxwell thought it the most
interesting story he had ever heard in his life.

As the courses disappeared and the empty bottle of wine was succeeded by
a half bottle "just for the last," as Maxwell said, the conversation
grew gayer and perhaps also a trifle freer, although Miss Carol never
permitted herself any of those freedoms of expression with which too
many of the so-called Daughters of Delight vulgarise themselves so
hopelessly. When the half bottle was finished Maxwell wanted another,
and to this Miss Carol promptly and firmly objected.

"If you will excuse me saying so to a new acquaintance," she said, "I
wouldn't if I were you. We have both of us had enough of this stuff,
nice and all as it is--at least, I have, and I think I'm more used to it
than you. A coffee and liqueur if you like. That won't hurt us--in fact,
it'll do us good; but I can see something in your eyes that shouldn't be
there."

"What do you mean?" said Maxwell, a trifle offended. "Surely you're not
going to accuse me of the unpardonable crime of getting drunk in the
company of a lady."

"Thank you!" she said simply, and yet with a decided dignity. "No, I
don't mean that. It's a funny thing, you know," she went on, leaning her
elbows on the table and staring straight into his eyes, "but there's a
queer kind of light coming into your eyes, a sort of dancing, jumping
yellow flame that makes them look almost red. Well, your eyes are
almost exactly like mine, and mine are like my mother's, and whenever
she'd got so far on with drink that she couldn't stop I used to see that
light in her eyes. Of course I don't say that it means anything; still,
there it is. I used to call it the danger signal, and keep away from her
as much as I could till it was over, and I had to nurse her back to
something like life."

"That's rather approaching the creepy," said Maxwell, with an almost
imperceptible shrug of his shoulders. He had no feeling of offence now.
She looked so pretty and she spoke so earnestly that it was impossible
to be offended with her. Moreover, although he was far from even getting
drunk, he felt a dreamy sensation stealing over him which seemed to be
sapping his self-restraint and making him utterly careless of what he
did or what happened to him so long as it was only pleasant.

"Really, it is decidedly curious," he went on. "I hope I haven't got the
makings of a dipsomaniac in me. But I feel quite curiously happy, and I
believe I could just go on drinking and getting happier and happier
until I landed in Paradise with you standing just inside the gates to
welcome me."

"Don't!" she said almost sharply. "For goodness sake don't begin to talk
like that. That's just how my mother used to feel, just how she used to
talk, and she did go on--of course, there was no one to stop her. You
should have seen her a couple of days after--a savage, an animal, a wild
beast, only wild beasts don't get drunk. It's not a nice thing to say of
your mother, even such a mother as mine was, but it's true, and I'm
telling you because I like you, and it may do you some good."

"Thank you, Miss Carol! After that I shall certainly take your advice,"
he said, pouring his cognac into his coffee. "This is the last drink
to-night, and that reminds me; it's getting rather late. How about going
home?"

"I think it's about time," she said. "They close at twelve to-night, you
know. Which way do you go?"

"Which way do _you_ go?" he said, as he beckoned to the waiter for the
bill. "By the way, I was going to ask you--I hope you have never seen
that light, that danger signal, in your own eyes?"

She ignored his first question _in toto_, and replied:

"Yes, I saw it once when I got home after a pretty wild supper. It
frightened me so that I went 'T.T.' for nearly a month, and just now I
wouldn't drink another glass of that champagne if you gave me a thousand
pounds to drink it."

"Well, I'm sure I shan't ask you after what you've said," he laughed, as
he threw a couple of shillings on the plate which the waiter presented,
and took up his bill. Then he got up and helped her on with her cloak,
and as she shook her shapely shoulders into it he went on:

"But you haven't answered my question yet."

"Which question?" she said, turning sharply round.

"Which way do you go--or do you intend to stop out a bit later?" he
replied rather haltingly. "I thought perhaps I might have the
pleasure----"

"Of seeing me home?" she said, raising her eyes to his and flushing
hotly. "I'm afraid that's impossible. But go and get your coat and hat,
and let's go outside. It's horribly close in here."

He paid his bill at the pay-box near the door, and when they got out
into the street he took her by the arm and said, as they turned down
towards the Circus:

"And may I ask why it is impossible, Miss Carol. I thought just now you
said that you liked me a bit."

"So I do," she replied, with a little thrill in her voice; "and that's
just why, or partly why--and besides, we're too much alike. Why, we
might be brother and sister----"

"That is quite out of the question," he interrupted quickly; "I never
had a sister. I am an only child, and my mother died soon after I was
born. She died in India nearly twenty years ago."

"I can't help it," she said, almost passionately. "Of course we can't
possibly be any relation, the idea's absurd; but still, it's no use--I
couldn't, I daren't. Besides, have you forgotten what you were telling
me about your fight on the steamer with that man we met at the Palace?
Aren't you in love with the girl still? I quite understood you were
engaged to her."

"Yes," said Maxwell frankly, "I am, and perhaps I ought to be ashamed of
myself. That is two lessons you've taught me to-night, Miss Carol, and I
shan't forget either them or you. Still, I don't see why we shouldn't be
friends. Honestly, I like you very much, and you've said you like
me--why shouldn't we?"

"Yes, that's true; I like you all right," she replied with almost
embarrassing frankness; "but for all that it's something very different
from love at first sight. It's funny, but do you know, Vane--I suppose
if we're going to be friends I may call you Vane--although I think I
could get to like you very much in one way, however different things
were, I don't believe I could ever fall in love with you. But if you
only mean friends, just real pals, as we say in my half of the world, I
am there, always supposing that the friendship of such an entirely
improper young person as I am doesn't do you any harm."

"Harm, nonsense!" he said. "Why should it? Well, that's a bargain, and
now perhaps you won't object to tell me where you live."

"Oh, no, not now," she said. "I live at 15, Melville Gardens, Brook
Green, with a very nice girl that you may also be friends with if you're
good."

"Brook Green! Why, that's off the Hammersmith Road. We, that is to say
dad and myself, live in Warwick Gardens, a bit this side of Addison
Bridge, so if you really mean to go home we may as well get a hansom,
and you can drop me at Warwick Gardens and go on."

"Of course I mean to go home, and I think that would be a very good
arrangement."

They had crossed over to the pavement in front of the Criterion as she
said this. It was on the tip of Maxwell's tongue to ask her to come in
and have another drink. He certainly felt a greater craving for alcohol
than he had ever done in his life before, and if he had been alone he
might have yielded to it; but he was ashamed to do so after what he had
just said to her, so he hailed an empty cab that was just coming up to
the kerb. As he was handing his companion in, the door of the buffet
swung open, and Reginald Garthorne came out with two other Cambridge
men. They were all a trifle fresh, and as Garthorne recognised him he
called out:

"By-by, Maxwell. Don't forget to say your prayers."

Maxwell turned round angrily with his foot on the step. If he had had
that other drink that he wanted there would have been a row, but, as it
was, a word and a gesture from Miss Carol brought him into the cab.
There was an angry flush on her cheeks and a wicked light in her eyes,
but she said very quietly, "Do you know, I am glad you thrashed that
fellow once. He ought to be ashamed of himself shouting a thing like
that out here. I suppose he thinks himself a gentleman, too."

"Oh, that's all right," said Vane. "Garthorne's a bit screwed, that's
all. Everyone is to-night. But he's not at all a bad fellow. His father
was a soldier in India, and did some very good service. He has a staff
appointment at home. He's a baronet too--one of the old ones. His mother
comes of a good stock as well. We've been very good chums since that
first row. Fellows who fight as boys generally are."

"Oh, I daresay he's all right, but I didn't like it," said Miss Carol,
leaning back in the cab. "And now suppose you tell me something more
about yourself."

When the cab pulled up at the corner of Warwick Gardens and he said
good-night, he asked her for a kiss. She blushed like a
fourteen-year-old school girl as she replied:

"That's a great compliment, Vane, for I know how you mean it. But if you
don't mind I really think I'd rather not, at least not just yet. You
see, after all we've only known each other two or three hours. Wait
until you know me at least a little better before you ask again, and
then perhaps we'll see."

"Well, I daresay you're right, Miss Modesty," he laughed, as he got out.
"In fact, you always seem to be right. Good-night, Carol."

"Good-night, Vane." As he stepped backwards from the cab she leant
forward and smiled and waved her hand. A gentleman walking quickly from
the direction of the bridge looked up and saw her pretty laughing face
as the light of a lamp fell upon it. He stopped almost as suddenly as
though he had run up against some invisible obstacle, and passed his
hand across his eyes. Then the cab doors closed, the face vanished back
into the shadow of the interior, and, to his utter amazement, Maxwell
heard his father's voice say:

"God bless my soul. What a marvellous likeness!"



CHAPTER II.


"Well, Vane!"

"Well, dad!"

"May I ask who that young lady in the cab with you was?"

Vane saw at once that he was in for it, and even if he had wished for
any concealment, it was impossible under the circumstances. As a matter
of fact, however, he had already made up his mind to tell his father the
whole story of his little adventure, and so he said very gravely and
deliberately:

"That, dad, is a young lady whose acquaintance I made to-night at the
Palace. She nearly fainted in the crush just after the Biograph was
over. She happened to be close behind me, and so of course she held on
to me. I took her into one of the bars and gave her a brandy and soda.
Then we noticed mutually how curiously like each other we were, and
then--well, then I asked her to supper and she came. We have just driven
here from the Trocadero. She has gone on to where she lives in Melville
Gardens, Brook Green. I can tell you a lot more about her afterwards, if
you like."

Sir Arthur Maxwell, Bart., K.C.B., K.C.S.I., looked keenly into his
son's face while he was giving this rapid summary of his evening's
adventure. There was and always had been the most absolute confidence
between them. Ever since Vane had been old enough they had been
companions and chums, rather than father and son, and so Sir Arthur had
not the slightest doubt but that Vane was telling the absolute truth. He
was only looking to see whether the telling of the truth embarrassed him
or not, and he was well pleased to see that it did not.

"Quite an interesting experience, I must say," he said, a little
gruffly. "Well, I'm glad to see, at any rate, that you didn't accompany
the young lady home. I presume you were invited."

"On the contrary, dad," replied Vane, this time with a little hesitation
in his tone, "to tell you the honest truth----"

"That was a needless opening, Vane. My son could not tell anything else.
Go on."

"Well, the fact is, dad, it was the other way about. I suggested it, and
she refused point blank. I'm afraid I'd had rather too much fizz on top
of too many brandies and sodas before supper."

"That will do, Vane," said his father, a little stiffly. "At any rate,
thank God you are not drunk or anything like it. But this is hardly the
sort of thing to discuss in the street. We'll go into the Den and have a
chat and a smoke before we go to bed. You know I'm not squeamish about
these things. I know that a lad of twenty is made of flesh and blood
just as a man of thirty or forty is, and although I consider what is
called sowing wild oats foolish as well as a most ungentlemanly pastime,
still, I equally don't believe in the innocence of ignorance, at least
not for a man."

"You seem to forget, dad," replied Vane, answering him in something very
like his own tone, "just as I'm sorry to say I forgot for a minute or
two to-night that I am engaged to Enid."

"Quite right, boy," said his father as they went in at the gate. "I
didn't forget it though, and I'm glad you remembered it."

"Only I ought to have said that it was the girl who reminded me of it,"
said Vane, as he put his latch-key into the door.

When they got into the Den, which was a sort of combination room, partly
a library and partly study and smoking-room with a quaint suggestion of
Oriental fantasy about it, Sir Arthur, according to his wont at that
time of night, unlocked the spirit case, and mixed himself a whiskey and
soda. As he did so, Vane found his eyes fixed on one of the bright
cut-glass bottles which contained brandy. He would have given anything
to be able to mix a brandy and soda for himself and drink it without
believing, or at any rate fearing, that after all there might be
something in Miss Carol's warning.

As Sir Arthur lit his cigar, he said in a rather forced tone:

"I suppose after what you've said it's no use asking you to have a
nightcap, Vane?"

There was a little pause, during which Vane looked hard at the
spirit-case. Then, with the gesture of one under strong emotion, he got
up from his chair and said in a voice whose tone made his father look
quickly towards him:

"I don't think I've ever knowingly disobeyed you in my life, dad, but if
you were to order me to drink a drop of spirit to-night, I shouldn't do
it."

"Why not, Vane?"

"Just look into my eyes, dad, and tell me if you see anything strange
about them."

"What on earth do you mean, boy--there's nothing the matter with your
eyes, is there?" said Sir Arthur, looking up with a visible start, "what
has put that idea into your head?"

"I'll tell you afterwards, dad, meanwhile, just have a look," replied
Vane, coming and standing under the light.

He felt his father's hands tremble as he laid them on his shoulder, and
as he looked into his eyes a tinge of greyness seemed to steal
underneath the sun-bronze of his skin. In the clear depths of the lad's
hazel eyes he saw a faint, nickering, wavering light, which gave a
yellow tinge to them.

A reflection from the flames of hell itself could not have had a more
awful meaning for him than that faint little yellow glimmer, but Arthur
Maxwell was a strong man, a man who had fought plague and famine, storm
and flood, treachery and revolt in the service of his Queen, and after a
moment or two he was able to say quite quietly:

"Well, what's the matter, Vane? They look, perhaps, a little brighter
than usual; but I don't suppose that's anything more than the excitement
of the evening."

"Don't you see something like a little yellow flame in them?"

"Well, yes, I do," said Sir Arthur, looking away, "a reflection from the
gaslight, probably. But come, Vane, what is all this about? Sit down and
tell me. And, by the way, I want to hear the story of this new
acquaintance of yours. Take a cigar; that won't hurt you."

Vane took a cheroot and lit it and sat down in an easy chair opposite
his father, his eyes still wandering as though of their own accord
towards the spirit-case. Then he began somewhat inconsequentially:

"Dad, what do you think that girl's name is?"

"Naturally, I haven't the remotest notion," replied his father. "I only
know that she is exceedingly good looking, and I must say that from the
glimpse I had of her, she seems very like yourself."

"Is that what you meant, dad, when you said, 'Bless my soul what a
likeness,' or something like that when the cab stopped?"

Sir Arthur did not reply at once. His eyes were gazing vacantly up at a
wreath of blue smoke from his cigar, then he replied suddenly:

"Eh? Oh, well, probably. You see, my boy, I was just a bit startled at
seeing you get out, and when I saw your two faces in the lamplight, I
confess that I was decidedly struck by the likeness."

Vane did not find this reply entirely convincing, for he remembered that
as he got out of the cab his back was towards his father, and that
Carol's face was no longer visible when he turned round and faced him.
Still, he was far too well bred to put his father through anything like
a cross-examination, and so he went on.

"Well, as I told you, I met this young lady--for although she is what
respectable Society in its mercy call 'an unfortunate'--I am certain she
_is_ a lady--at the Palace, and we went and had supper in the Grill Room
at the Trocadero, and there, as we had no one to introduce us, we
introduced ourselves."

"The usual thing under such circumstances, I believe," said Sir Arthur,
taking a sip at his whiskey. "Well?"

"I told her that my name was Vane Maxwell, and she said, 'Now that's
curious, my name's Vane, too.'"

"What is that--her name!" said Sir Arthur with a start that nearly made
him drop his glass. "Vane is not a girl's name."

"No, that's her surname. Her whole name is Carol Vane. Pretty, isn't it?
Vane, she says, was her mother's name, and a nice sort of person she
seems to have been. Poor Carol herself must have had a terrible time of
it. There was no possibility of doubting a word of her story, she told
it all so simply and so naturally, and yet it was tragedy all through.

"Well, we'd had a large bottle of fizz and a small one between us, and
I'm afraid I was getting a bit on, for I wanted another. I wasn't drunk,
you know, or anything like it. It didn't seem as though I could get
drunk; only more and more gorgeously happy, and when I told Miss Carol,
she put her elbows on the table and stared into my eyes and told me that
they were just like her mother's, and that there was a light coming into
them which she always used to see in hers when she was starting on one
of her drinking bouts.

"Then she told me point blank that I'd had enough and said that she
wouldn't drink another glass of fizz for a thousand pounds. We wound up
with a coffee and liqueur, and afterwards when we came out I felt an
almost irresistible craving for a brandy and soda, but I also felt
convinced that if I took one I should go on all night.

"Still, somehow, what Miss Carol had been saying, although it hadn't
exactly frightened me, certainly stopped me going into the Criterion and
having one; besides, she was with me still, and I knew if I asked her
she'd say 'No,' and somehow I daren't leave her and go in by myself. So
as she lives out Brook Green way, we got into a cab and drove home.
And, would you believe it, she wouldn't even give me a kiss when we said
good-night. She is a most extraordinary girl, I can quite imagine any
fellow falling really and honestly in love with her."

While Vane was telling his story, his father had sat motionless, staring
hard into the fireplace. He had apparently taken not the slightest
interest in what he was saying. He had never once looked up, but as the
story went on his face had grown greyer and greyer, and the lines in it
harder and deeper, and every now and then the hand on which his cheek
was leaning had trembled a little.

When Vane stopped speaking he looked up with a start, like a man waking
out of an evil dream, and said in a husky, unsteady voice, which was
quite strange to Vane:

"It is quite possible, my boy, that this girl, whatever else she may be,
was really your guardian angel to-night. At your age, a craving for
drink is a very terrible thing, and you must exert the whole strength of
your nature to conquer it. You must fight against it and pray against it
as you would against the worst of sins. You have a splendid career
before you, but drink would ruin it and you. Still, we won't talk any
more about this to-night. I am not feeling particularly well. I went
round to dine with Raleigh, in Addison Gardens, to-night--by the way,
Enid's coming back in a few days--and perhaps I caught a little chill
walking home. I think I'd better turn in."

As he said this he took up the whiskey and soda and drained it, and Vane
heard his teeth clink against the edge of the glass.

"And I think it's time I went, too," said Vane. "You certainly don't
look very fit to-night, dad. Hope I haven't made you uncomfortable by
what I've been saying. You needn't be afraid though. I don't think I
shall forget the lesson I've had to-night."

"No, no, I don't think you will, Vane. Well, good-night. Put the spirits
and cigars away, will you?"

"Good-night, dad! I hope you'll be all right in the morning."

As the door closed behind his father, Vane went to the table on which
the open spirit-stand stood. His father had forgotten to replace the
stopper in the whiskey decanter, and the aroma of the ripe old spirit
rose to his nostrils. Instantly a subtle fire seemed to spread through
his veins and mount up to his brain. The mad craving that he had felt
outside the Criterion came back upon him with tenfold force. He raised
the decanter to his nostrils and inhaled a long breath of the subtle,
vaporous poison. He looked around the room with burning eyes.

He was alone. There was no guardian angel near him now. Moved by some
impulse other than his own will, he took his father's glass and poured
out half a tumblerful of whiskey, filled it with soda water from the
syphon, and drank it down with quick feverish gulps. Then he set the
glass on the table and went and looked at himself in an Indian mirror
over the mantel-piece. The pupils of his eyes seemed twice their size,
and in each a yellow flame was leaping and dancing.

His face seemed transfigured. It was rather that of a handsome satyr
than of an English lad of twenty. The lips were curled in a scornful
sneer, the nostrils were dilated and the eyebrows arched. He laughed at
himself--a laugh that startled him, even then. He went back to the
table and poured out more whiskey, smelt it and drank it down raw.

His blood was liquid flame by this time. He was no longer in the room.
The walls and ceiling had vanished, and all round him vivid pictures
were flitting, pictures of things that he had seen during the day,
flickering and flashing like those of the Biograph; but Carol's face and
soft brown eyes seemed somehow to be in the middle of all of them.

He dropped into a chair and felt about half blindly for the decanter.
When he got hold of it he emptied it partly into the glass and partly
over the table-cloth. He lifted the glass to his lips with both hands,
drained it half chokingly, and then the pictures stopped moving and grew
dim. A black pall of darkness seemed to come down and crush him to the
earth. He lurched out of the chair on to the hearth-rug, rolled on to
his back, and lay there motionless with arms outstretched.

An hour later the door opened and Sir Arthur came in in his dressing
gown. A glance at the empty decanter and the prostrate figure on the
hearth-rug, showed him the calamity that had fallen upon his house. He
staggered forward and dropped on his knees beside Vane, crying in a
weak, broken voice:

"My boy, my boy! Good God! what have I done? Why didn't I tell him at
once?"



CHAPTER III.


Vane was utterly insensible either to voice or touch. His father knelt
over him and loosened his tie and collar, for his breath was coming hard
and irregularly. Then he rose to his feet, looked down at him for a few
moments, and went away to summon Koda Bux, his old Pathan bearer, to
help him to take him up to bed. He knew that he could trust him not to
gossip, and he would not for worlds have had it said about the house the
next day that Master Vane had been carried to bed drunk.

Koda Bux was awake the moment his master touched his shoulder. He rose
at once and followed him. When they reached the library Sir Arthur
pointed without a word to where Vane lay. He looked at him and then at
the decanters, and said, without moving a feature save his lips:

"Truly, Huzur, the young sahib is exceeding drunk, and he must sleep.
To-morrow the fires of hell will be burning in his brain and in his
blood. It is a thing that no others should know of. He shall sleep in
his bed, and thy servant shall watch by him until he is well, and
neither man nor woman shall come near him."

"That is my wish, Koda," said Sir Arthur. "Now I will help you to take
him upstairs."

"There is no need that thou, O protector of the poor, shouldst trouble
thyself. This is but one man's work."

With that he stooped down, got his arms under Vane's knees and
shoulders, and lifted him up as easily as if he had been a lad of ten.
Sir Arthur took up the candle which he had brought down with him, and
went in front to his son's room.

Koda laid him on the bed, and at once went to work with the deft
rapidity of a practised hand to remove his clothes. He saw that he could
do no more good, so, after laying his hand for a moment on Vane's wet,
cold brow, he turned away towards the door with a deep sigh, which was
not lost on Koda.

"Trust him to me and sleep in peace, Huzur," he said. "I know how to
fight the devil that is in him and throw him out. To-morrow Vane Sahib
shall be as well as ever."

"Do your best for him, Koda. This is the first time, and I hope the
last. Good-night."

"Good-night, friend of the friendless," replied the Pathan, standing up
and stretching out his hands palms downwards. "Fear nothing. May your
sleep be as the repose of Nirvana."

But there was neither rest nor sleep for Sir Arthur Maxwell that night.
That vision of the girl's face looking out of the cab had been to him a
vision half of heaven and half of hell. It was the face of the girl he
had wooed and worked for and won nearly thirty years before--a girl
whose hands for a brief space had opened the gates of Paradise to him.
But it was also the face of a woman who had brought into his life
something worse than the bitterness of death.

As he paced up and down his bedroom through the still, lonely hours of
the night, he asked himself again and again what inscrutable fate had
brought this girl, the fresh, bright, living image of the woman who was
worse than dead, and his son Vane, the idol of his heart, and the hope
of his life, together.

Why had this girl, this outcast bearing the name which he both loved and
hated, been the first to see in his son's eyes that fatal sign which he
knew so well, a sign which he had himself seen in eyes into which he had
once looked as a lad of twenty-four with anxious adoration to read his
fate in them. For years that flickering, wavering light had been to him
like the reflected glare from the flames of hell, and now this girl had
seen it as he had seen it, mocking and devilish in the eyes of his only
son.

It would have been better--he saw that now--to have braced himself to
the task of telling Vane the whole of the miserable, pitiful story at
once, as soon, indeed, as Vane's own story had convinced him that he had
not escaped the curse which some dead and gone ancestor of his mother's
had transmitted to his unborn posterity.

But it was a hard thing for a father to tell his son of his mother's
shame. As hard, surely, as it had been for Jephtha to keep his rash vow
and drive the steel into his daughter's breast. He had hoped that the
resolves which Vane had taken, enforced by a serious and friendly talk
the next day, would have been enough to avert the danger.

He did not know, as he knew now, that the demon of inherited alcoholism
laughs at such poor precautions as this. Measures infinitely more
drastic would be needed, and they must be employed at no matter what
cost either to himself or Vane.

And yet it was an awful thing to do. Year after year he had shrunk from
it, hoping that it would never be necessary; but now the necessity had
come at last. There could be no doubt of that. He had left his son sane
and strong, with brave, wise words on his lips. An hour after he had
gone back and found him a senseless thing, human only in shape. There
could be no hesitation after that. It must be done.

Like many men of his kind, men whose lives have been passed in wrestling
with the barbarisms, the ignorance and the superstitions of lower races,
as well as with the blind forces of nature and the scourges of
pestilence and famine in distant lands, Arthur Maxwell was a man of deep
though mostly silent religious convictions, and if ever there was a time
when such a man could find strength and guidance in prayer surely this
was such a time, and yet he had walked up and down his room, which since
he had entered it had been his Gethsemane, for hours before he knelt
down by his bedside and lifted up his heart, if not his voice, in
prayer.

He rose from his knees with clearer sight and greater strength to see
and face the terrible task which lay before him. It was quite plain to
him now that the task must be faced and carried through, and he was more
strongly determined than ever that before the next day was over Vane
should know everything that he could tell him. Still, there was no rest
for him yet, and for hours longer he walked up and down the room
thinking of the past and the future; but most of the past.

About seven sheer physical fatigue compelled him to lie down on his bed,
and in a few minutes he fell off into an uneasy sleep. Just about this
time Vane woke--his mouth parched, his brain burning and throbbing, and
every nerve in his body tingling. As soon as he opened his eyes he saw
Koda Bux standing by his bedside.

"What on earth's the matter, Koda?" he said in a voice that was half a
groan. "Great Scott, what a head I've got! Ah, I remember now. It was
that infernal whiskey. What the devil made me drink it?"

"You are right, Vane Sahib," said Koda sententiously; "it was the
whiskey, which surely is distilled from fruits that grow only on the
shores of the Sea of Sorrow. Now your head is wracked with the torments
of hell, and your mouth is like a cave in the desert; but you shall be
cured and sleep, and when you wake you shall be as though you had never
tasted the drink that is both fire and water."

He went away to the dressing-table, shook some pink powder out of a
little bottle into a glass, and came back to the bedside with the glass
in one hand and the water-bottle in the other. Then he poured the water
on to the powder and said:

"Drink, sahib, and sleep! When you wake you will be well."

The water seemed to turn into something like pink champagne as the
powder dissolved. Vane seized the glass eagerly, and took a long,
delicious drink. He had scarcely time to hand the glass back to Koda and
thank him before his burning brain grew cool, his nerves ceased to
thrill, a delightful languor stole over him, and he sank back on the
pillow and was asleep in a moment. The Pathan looked at him half sternly
and half sorrowfully for a few moments, then he laid his brown hand upon
his brow. It was already moist and cool.

He turned away, and set to work to put the room in order and get out
Vane's clothes and clean linen for the day. Then he went downstairs and
brewed Sir Arthur's morning coffee as usual. This was always the first
of his daily tasks. When he took it up he found Sir Arthur still fully
dressed, lying on the bed, moving uneasily in his sleep.

"The follies of the young are the sorrows of the old!" he murmured. "He
has not slept all night; still, this is a sleep which rests not nor
refreshes. His coffee will do him more good, and then he can bathe and
rest."

He laid his hand lightly on Sir Arthur's shoulder. He woke at once and
drank his coffee. Then he asked how Vane was, and when he knew that he
was sleeping again, and would not wake for some hours, he got up,
undressed, and had a bath and dressed again.

Then, after a not very successful attempt at breakfast, he went out and
turned into the Hammersmith Road in the direction of Brook Green. He
remembered the address that Miss Carol had given Vane just as he
remembered every other word of the conversation. He had determined to
call upon her, and to make as sure as possible that his dreadful
suspicions were correct before he told Vane the truth.

He found No. 15, Melville Gardens, one of a row of neat little detached
houses; not much more than cottages, but cosy and comfortable-looking,
each with a tiny little plot of ground in front and behind, and with a
row of trees down each side of the road which seemed to stand in
apologetic justification of the title of gardens.

The door was opened by a neatly-dressed, motherly-looking woman of about
forty instead of by the dishevelled, smutty-faced maid-of-all-work that
he half expected to find.

"Does Miss Carol Vane live here?" he asked, with a curious feeling of
nervousness.

"Yes, sir, she and Miss Murray are just finishing breakfast. Will you
come in and sit down, sir? Miss Vane won't be long."

"Thank you, yes," he said, going in. "I wish to see her rather
particularly."

"What name shall I say, sir?" said the woman, as she showed him into a
prettily-furnished little sitting-room opening out into the back garden
with French windows.

"Sir Arthur Maxwell," he replied. "If you will give my compliments to
Miss Vane, and tell her that she will do me a great service by giving me
about half-an-hour's conversation, I shall be much obliged to you."

The housekeeper made something like a little curtsey as she left the
room. She was distinctly impressed by the stately presence and old-world
courtesy of this bronzed, white-haired gentleman. He was so very
different from the general run of visitors at No. 15; but she had half
guessed his errand before she knocked at the door of the front room in
which Miss Carol and her friend and house-mate, Dora Murray, were
finishing their last cup of tea.

"Well, Mrs. Ford," said Miss Carol, looking up from the letter she was
reading, "who might that be? This is pretty early for a morning call."

"The gentleman's name is Sir Arthur Maxwell, Miss."

"What!" said Miss Carol, colouring up and rising quickly from her chair.
"Sir Arthur Maxwell. What on earth does _he_ want?"

"He said, miss, that he'd be very much obliged to you if you could give
him the pleasure of half-an-hour's conversation."

"Oh, dear, I suppose he was the gentleman who stopped at the corner last
night just when my new acquaintance got out. His father, of course. I
suppose he's come to row me about making friends with his son and heir
last night."

"One of the penalties of your fascinations, dear," said Dora, with a
smile which parted a pair of eminently kissable lips and showed a very
pretty set of teeth behind them.

Dora was nearly a couple of inches taller than Miss Carol, and some
three years older. She had soft, lightish-brown hair, brown eyebrows, a
trifle browner, perhaps, than nature had painted them, and dark blue
eyes, which made a very pretty contrast.

"Well," she went on, "I suppose there's nothing for you but to go and
interview the irate papa. But whatever did young hopeful want to go and
tell him all about it for, and even give him your address!"

"If you'll excuse me, Miss," said the housekeeper, "I don't think that's
it. The gentleman isn't at all angry. He was as polite and nice to me as
ever could be. Such a _nice_ gentleman."

"Dear me, Mrs. Ford, you seem quite impressed," said Miss Carol,
gathering up her correspondence. "Well, I'd better go and have it over,
whatever it is. I don't suppose I shall be very long. Meanwhile, Dora,
you may as well make yourself useful and dust the bikes. The old
gentleman won't eat me, I suppose. In fact, if Master Vane told him
everything, he ought to be very much obliged to me for my virtuous
reserve."

And then, with a saucy smile at her own reflection in the glass as she
passed the mantelpiece, she walked towards the door.

Carol, being a young lady of many and various experiences, did not often
find herself in a situation, however awkward it might be, which gave her
much cause for embarrassment. There were not many circumstances under
which she did not feel capable of taking perfect care of herself. Still,
she confessed to Dora afterwards that when she went into the little
sitting-room and faced the stately old gentleman who was waiting for her
she felt distinctly nervous--in short, "in something very like a
tremble," as she put it later on.

The moment she looked at his face she could see his likeness to Vane,
and therefore in a measure to herself. She had, of course, nothing to be
afraid of, and therefore there was no cause for fear, but for some
reason or other she felt less at ease than she had done in many more
difficult situations.

The same was almost equally true of Sir Arthur. In fact, when the door
opened and Miss Carol, looking exquisitely neat and pretty in a dainty,
grey, tailor-made cycling costume, walked into the room, he was unable
to restrain a very visible start. It was, indeed, as much as he could do
to keep himself from uttering an exclamation of astonishment.

As he looked at her, more than thirty years vanished in a second, and he
saw himself a lad of twenty-four with his brand new Oxford degree, and
his first place on the Indian Civil Service list only just published,
walking down a country lane by the side of a girl, who, but for the
difference in costume, might have been this very girl standing before
him.

"Good morning! Our housekeeper tells me that you wish to speak to me."

Yes, the voice was the same, too, and so were the expression, the
intonation, the attitude, everything. But the words brought him back to
the present, and to the recollection of all that had happened since that
walk in the country lane.

"Yes, Miss Vane," he heard himself saying, "I have taken the liberty of
calling to ask you if you would have any objection to a little
conversation with me. I won't detain you more than half an hour."

"With pleasure," she said; "but won't you sit down?" she went on,
seating herself on the sofa. "I suppose I am right in thinking that you
are Mr. Vane Maxwell's father, and I suppose, too, you are the gentleman
who was at the corner of Warwick Gardens when he got out of the cab? I'm
afraid you were a good bit shocked," she continued, smiling rather
faintly.

"I was not by any means so much shocked as astonished," Sir Arthur
replied gravely, "and, to avoid any misunderstanding, I had better say
at once that, though I was naturally a little bit startled, I was
infinitely more astonished, by the marvellous likeness----"

"What, to him!" said Miss Carol, interrupting him with a pretty little
gesture of deprecation. "Yes, of course, I can quite understand that a
gentleman like you would be a bit disgusted to find a likeness between
your son and a girl like me, for I suppose he told you all about me? I
mean, you know the sort of disreputable person that I am?"

Miss Carol said this with a distinct note of defiance in her voice. A
note which seemed to say, "I know what I am, and so do you, and if you
don't want to talk to me any longer you needn't." But she was
considerably astonished when Sir Arthur, leaning forward in his chair
and speaking very gravely, said:

"My dear child--you are younger than Vane, you know, and I may call you
that without offence--I do know what you are, or perhaps it would be
more just to say what circumstances have made you. I don't want you to
think that I have come here to preach at you. That is no business of
mine. Still, I am deeply grieved, though I daresay you have no notion
why--I mean no notion of the real reason. I am afraid I am expressing
myself very awkwardly, but just now I don't quite seem to be able to
keep my thoughts in order."

There was something in the gentle gravity of his tone and manner which
inspired Miss Carol with an unaccountable desire to go away and cry. She
didn't exactly know why, but she was certainly experiencing a very
uncomfortable feeling which was more like apprehension than anything
else. She couldn't think of anything else to say at the moment, and so
she said simply:

"I don't know why you should be grieved, I mean in particular about me.
There are plenty of others like me, you know, a good many thousands in
London alone, I believe, and I suppose you would feel sorry for any of
them. There are lots worse off than I am, I can tell you. But why should
you be sorry for me particularly?"

As she said this she crossed her legs and folded her hands over her
knee, leaning forward slightly and looking keenly at him.

"Because," he replied, with a little quaver in his voice, but looking
steadily into her eyes, "because you are the living image of the woman
who was once my wife. A little over thirty years ago--by the way, may I
ask how old you are?"

"I was eighteen last September," she said, "that is to say, I am getting
on for nineteen."

"And your birthday?" he said. "You will forgive me asking you so many
questions, I know, when I tell you why I ask them; but of course, you
needn't answer them unless you choose."

"There is no reason why I shouldn't," she said, "as far as I know. I was
born on the twentieth of September. What were you going to say?"

"I was going to say that if my wife, I mean I should rather say the
woman who was my wife, could be put beside you now as she was thirty
years ago, dressed as you are now, it would be almost impossible to tell
the difference between you. You told my son, I think, that you take your
name Vane from your mother."

"Yes," replied Miss Carol, "she told me that that was her name. I don't
know whether I was ever really christened or not, but an English
musician in Dresden, one of my mother's friends, called me Carol when I
was quite a little mite of a thing because I was always singing, and as
that was as good a name as any other, I suppose it stuck to me."

"Do you know whether your mother was ever married?"

"She had been, because she used to talk about it and about all she had
lost and all that sort of thing, you know, when she was drunk," replied
Miss Carol with a simple directness which went straight to Sir Arthur's
heart. "Of course, that was when I was quite a little thing, about eight
or nine. Then I was sent to a sort of boarding-school, half a school and
half a convent, and I didn't like that, so I ran away from it, as I told
your son last night."

"I went home and found the house shut up. The concierge told me that my
mother had gone away in a carriage with two gentlemen--he said one
looked like a police agent--nearly a month before. He didn't know where
she'd gone to, and from that day to this I've never heard anything more
of her. I told your son the rest of it and I daresay he has told you,
so there's no need for me to go over it again."

"Yes," said Sir Arthur, nodding slowly, "Vane told me, so if you please
I will ask you one or two more questions, and then I won't detain you
any longer."

"I am in no hurry," she replied. "Please ask me any number you like."

Her manner was now one of deep interest, for a suspicion was already
forming in her mind that this bronzed, grave-faced man had once been her
own mother's husband.

"Thank you," he said. "I should like to ask you first whether you happen
to have any photograph of your mother?"

Miss Carol shook her head decisively, and said:

"No. I had one once in a locket, but when I went home and found she'd
gone away and left me all alone in Paris--that's where we were then--I
was so angry that I took it out and tore it up. I daresay it was very
wrong of me, but I couldn't help it, and to tell you the honest truth, I
can't say that I ever was as fond of her as a daughter should have
been."

"I don't wonder at it," said Sir Arthur, with a sigh.

Miss Carol looked up wonderingly as he said this, but he took no notice
and said:

"But I suppose you would recognise a photograph of her if you saw one?"

"Yes, if it was taken anywhere about the time that I knew her."

"Quite so," said Sir Arthur, taking a leather letter-case out of his
pocket. "This was taken quite twenty years ago, a year or two after we
were married, in short. It is, or was, my wife."

As he took out the photograph he got up, crossed the room, and held it
out to her. Miss Carol got up too, and as she took it she saw that his
hand was trembling. She took the old-fashioned, faded photograph and
looked at it. He saw that her face flushed as she did so. She gave it
back to him and said simply:

"Yes, that is my mother."

As he took the photograph from her he looked at her with sad, grave eyes
across the gulf of sin and shame in which the one great love of his life
had been lost. She was the daughter of his wife, and yet she was not his
daughter--and she was an outcast. The sting of the old shame came back
very keenly. The old wound was already open and bleeding again. All the
pride and hope and love of his life were centred now on his brilliant
son. A few hours before he had learnt that his mother had transmitted to
him the terrible, perhaps the fatal taint of inherited alcoholism; and
now he had just proved beyond doubt that Vane's half-sister--for she was
that in blood if not in law--was what she had just so frankly, so
defiantly even, admitted herself to be.

And yet, how sweet and dainty she looked as she stood there before him,
a bright flush on her cheeks and a soft, regretful expression in those
big hazel eyes which were so wonderfully like _hers_! No one seeing her
and Vane together could possibly take them for anything but brother and
sister--and but for this marvellous likeness; but for the subtle
instinct of kindred blood which had spoken in this outcast's heart the
night before, would not a still deeper depth have opened in the hell of
that old infamy? There was at least that to be thankful for.

"I suppose you don't know where she is now--and don't care, most
likely?" Carol added, raising her eyes almost timidly to his.

"I do," he replied, slowly, "To tell you the truth, I was one of the men
who took her away from the house in the Rue St. Jean----"

"You were!" she exclaimed, recoiling a little from him. "Then it was
really you who turned me out homeless into the streets of Paris?"

"Yes, it was, I regret to say," he replied, almost humbly, "but I need
hardly tell you that I did it in complete ignorance. My ---- your mother
was making my name, my son's name, a scandal throughout Europe. She was
a hopeless dipsomaniac. I had, believe me, I had suffered for years all
that an honourable man could endure rather than blast my son's prospects
in life by taking proceedings for divorce, and so proclaiming to the
world that he was the son of such a woman."

"Yes," said Carol, quietly, with a little catch in her voice, "I
understand--such a woman as I suppose I shall be some day. Of course, it
was very hard on you and your son. And I don't suppose it made much
difference to me after all. She'd have sold me to someone as soon as I
was old enough; and instead of that I had to sell myself. When women
take to drink like that they don't care about anything. What did you do
with her?"

"The man with me," replied Sir Arthur, "was an officer of the French
Courts. He had a warrant authorising her detention in a home for chronic
inebriates. She is there still, little better than an imbecile, I regret
to say, and with no hope of recovery. The physicians I consulted told me
that she must have had the germs of alcoholic insanity in her blood from
her very birth. She told us that she had a daughter, and we traced you
to the school, though she obstinately refused to tell us anything that
would help us to find you. But we were too late; you had run away. We
hunted all Paris over for you, but you were utterly lost."

"Well," said Carol, gently, "I wish I'd stopped now, or that you'd found
me. Things might have been different; but, of course, it can't be helped
now."

"It was a terrible pity," he began, "but still, even now perhaps,
something may be done----"

"We won't talk about that now, if you please, sir," she interrupted, so
decisively that he saw at once that there was no discussion of the
subject possible.

"Pardon me," he said, quickly, "I fear I have annoyed you. Nothing, I
assure you, could be farther from my intention. Now I have troubled you
enough, and more than enough, and I am afraid I have recalled some very
unpleasant memories----"

"Not anything like as bad for me as for you, sir," she said, as he
paused for a moment. "If I have been of any service to you, I'm very
glad, though it's a miserable business altogether."

"Yes, and worse than miserable," he replied, with a slow shake of his
head. Then, glancing through the French windows he saw Dora rubbing one
of two bicycles down with a cloth in the little back garden, and he went
on: "But I see you are getting ready to go for a ride. I must not keep
you any longer, I am deeply grateful to you, believe me, and I hope our
acquaintance may not end here. And now, good-morning."

He held out his hand with the same grave courtesy with which he would
have offered it to the noblest dame of his acquaintance. She looked up
sharply as though to say, "Do you really mean to shake hands with _me_?"
Then her eyes dropped, and the next moment her hand was lying, trembling
a little, in his.



CHAPTER IV.


When he left Melville Gardens, Sir Arthur did not go straight home. He
knew that Vane would not be awake for two or three hours yet, and after
a few moments' hesitation he decided to go and call on his old friend,
Godfrey Raleigh, with whom he had been dining the night before, and, if
he found him at home, put the whole case frankly before him and ask his
advice.

He had just retired with a well-earned K.C.S.I. from the Bench of the
Supreme Court of Bengal, but he was one of those men on whom neither
years nor climate seem to take any effect, and at sixty-five his body
was as vigorous and his brain as active and clear as they had been at
thirty-five. He had married rather late, and Enid, the Helen of that
Iliad of the Wheelhouse, was his only child--and therefore naturally the
very apple of his eye and the idol of his heart.

Her engagement to Vane had seemed to both the fathers and to her mother
the most natural and the most desirable arrangement that could have been
made. Vane would take a brilliant degree, he would enter the Diplomatic
Service under the best of auspices, and when Enid had completed her
education with a couple of years on the Continent they were to be
married on her twentieth birthday. That was the promise of these two
bright young lives. What would the fulfilment be?

Sir Godfrey was, as he believed, the only one of his acquaintance in
England who knew the truth of the tragedy of his life. They had been
chums at Eton and Oxford. They had gone out to India together, Sir
Godfrey with a judicial appointment, and Sir Arthur as Political Agent
to one of the minor Independent States, both of them juniors with many
things to learn and many steps to climb before they took a really active
and responsible part in the propulsion of that huge and complicated
machine which is called the Indian Government.

The Fates had thrown them a good deal together, and they had got to know
each other well, not quickly, because men who are men need a great deal
of knowing; but as the months had grown into years, and the years into a
decade or more, they had really learnt to know each other. They had gone
home together on the same ship to marry the girls who had been waiting
for them since their troths had been plighted during their university
days. They had come back with their brides on the same ship to India;
Godfrey Raleigh had been godfather to his friend's first-born son. Three
years later, after the shadow had fallen upon his own life, he had
performed the same office for his friend's daughter, the successor of a
baby girl who had died during the Rains.

These two children were now the youth and maiden who, within the next
two or three years were to be man and wife. But after the events of the
last twelve hours or so, Sir Arthur felt that it would not be either
loyal to his old friend, or just to him and his daughter not to go and
tell him frankly what he had learnt, and to take, not only his opinion,
but also his advice on the subject.

He found Sir Godfrey at home, and the judge quickly saw that he had not
called upon any ordinary concern, so he asked him to come and smoke a
pipe in his den, and there Sir Arthur, taking up the thread where it had
been dropped years before, told him in a few straight, short sentences
the rest of the story to the end of his interview with Miss Carol.

"Of course, you will understand, Raleigh," he said, when he had
finished, "I have told you this because I thought it was only right to
do so. My boy is engaged to marry your girl. It is quite plain, I am
sorry to say, that this alcoholic taint is in him, and as I have told
you this Miss Carol Vane, charming and all as I must confess her to be
from what I have seen of her, is after all Vane's half-sister, and she
is also what I told you she was."

"Well, my dear Maxwell, I must confess that that is a very difficult
problem indeed for us to decide. Very difficult indeed," Sir Godfrey had
replied.

"You see, to put it quite plainly, and, if as an old lawyer I may say
so, from the judicial point of view, there are two courses open to us.
First, we may or, I would rather say, we _might_ adopt the strictly
scientific view of the matter and say that, since the unfortunate woman
who was once your wife has apparently transmitted the taint of
alcoholism to your son, it would therefore be improper for him to marry
Enid for fear that he should further transmit this taint to his own
offspring.

"That, I suppose, is the way in which a coldblooded scientist would put
it; but on the other hand I think the matter should also be considered
from the purely human point of view, and here, I speak again as an old
judge. When you married your wife you had no notion that she had
inherited this taint of insanity, as we may well call it, from some
unknown ancestor. Now the same thing might have happened with my wife,
or in fact, with any other woman.

"It is perfectly well known that this poison, as one is obliged to call
it, may lie latent for generations; may, in fact, die out altogether. On
the other hand, what might have been only a vice in the grandfather or
the father may develop as insanity in the grandson or the son. It is not
for us to decide these things, at least, that is my view.

"You and I have more experience, more judgment; but I think that your
son and my daughter will have more accurate instincts and keener
intuitions. My own judgment I reserve entirely, and I advise you to do
the same.

"Go home and tell Vane everything. Don't spare yourself or him, for in a
case like this truth, the whole truth, is, after all, the greatest
mercy. I will tell my wife the whole story this afternoon, and she will
tell Enid when she gets back from Paris. Then I think the best that we
can do will be to leave them to find a solution of the problem between
them. Depend upon it that, whatever solution they do arrive at, it will
be more accurate and will stand the test of time better than any
arbitrary action which you or I might take."

And so ended the only false--utterly and hopelessly false--judgment
which Sir Godfrey Raleigh had ever delivered.

Sir Arthur took it as gospel, it all seemed so clear and so logical, so
fair to everybody; just the sort of judgment, in fact, which might have
been expected from a man of such vast and varied experience. Both of
them had the best of intentions, for were not the happiness, the
earthly fates of their two only children bound up in it?

Under such circumstances, though the advice might be mistaken, it was
absolutely impossible that it could be anything else but honest and
sincere. It was not for them to see into the future, nor yet to solve
those impossibly intricate problems of human passion, of human strength
and weakness, which, in defiance of all laws human and divine, break
through the traditions of ages, make a mockery of all commonplace laws,
and finally solve themselves with an accuracy as pitiless as it is
precise.

Sir Arthur left his friend's house with the firm conviction that the
only thing to be done under the circumstances was to follow his advice.
When he got back to his house in Warwick Gardens, the door was opened by
Koda Bux, and the first thing he said to him was:

"Is Mr. Vane awake?"

"Sahib, he is, and well. He is even as though he had never drunk of the
liquor of fire. He is in the library awaiting your return."

It was then getting on for one o'clock, the lunch-time of Sir Arthur's
household, and the table was already laid in what was called the
breakfast-room, that is to say a room looking out upon one of the long,
back gardens which are attached to the houses in Warwick Gardens.

Vane was sitting in the library waiting, something in shame and
something in fear, for his father's return. He more than half-expected
that his father would come in and begin at once to haul him over the
coals on account of what had happened the night before. He did not feel
altogether satisfied about his adventure with Miss Carol, and he was
very much ashamed of himself, indeed, for what had happened afterwards.
But as yet, he had no suspicion of the terrible secret which in the
almost immediate future was to decide his destiny in life. The dreadful
fact of inherited alcoholism was yet to be revealed to him. He thought
that his father was simply going to rate him for having exceeded the
bounds of prudence during his night out, for coming home in a cab with
such a person as Miss Carol, and then, worse than all, to tell him that
he had made a beast of himself by beginning to drink whiskey when he was
alone after having refused to take anything while his father was in the
room. It was that that he was really afraid of.

He had no idea of what had happened since the time that he had fallen
from his chair on to the hearth-rug, saving only the brief awakening in
his bed with Koda Bux standing beside him, the drinking of the
crimson-coloured effervescing liquid, and then the long, calm sleep
which had spread itself like a gulf between the agony of the one
awakening and the peace of the next.

He was sitting in one of the big arm-chairs in the library when his
father came in. He got up and stood before him, something as a criminal
might do before his judge, expecting to hear something like a sentence
from his lips. He was very much ashamed of himself, and being so was
perfectly prepared to take his punishment which would probably come in
the shape of a few cold words of reproof, and a hard look in his
father's eyes which he had seen before. But, instead of that, when he
got up out of the arm-chair, and began somewhat falteringly:

"Dad, I'm awfully sorry----" his father stopped him, and said with a
look at the clock on the mantel-piece: "I think it is about lunch time,
isn't it? Yes, there is the gong. How's your appetite?"

"Well, better than I thought it would be," said Vane, "better, in fact,
than it deserves to be. That stuff that Koda gave me this morning has
worked wonders----"

"Very well, then," said Sir Arthur, cutting him short, "I think we may
as well go and have some lunch."

The meal was eaten in a somewhat awkward silence, broken by odds and
ends of talk which were obviously spoken and replied to, not for the
purpose of conversation, but to fill up time. Both father and son were
as unhappy as men could very well be, and yet the ancient custom which
forbids the Anglo-Saxon race to talk about unpleasant things at
meal-times, prevented Sir Arthur from saying what he had to say, and
Vane from asking what he wanted to ask.

At last, when Koda came in and said that coffee was served in the Den
they got up, both of them feeling a certain sense of relief, although
both knew that the worst was yet to come.

When they got into the Den, Sir Arthur said to Koda in Urdu:

"The house is empty. There is no one here. The door is bolted. No one
must enter, till I say so."

He opened the door, spread the palms of his hands outwards, inclined his
head, and said in the same language: "Thou art obeyed, Huzur. It is
already done." Then he backed out of the door and shut it.

Sir Arthur got up out of his chair, turned the key in the lock, and said
to Vane in a tone whose calmness astonished him almost as much as the
words did:

"Vane, why did you drink that whiskey last night? You know I asked you
to have some, and you said that although you had never disobeyed me
before, if I had ordered you to have some you would not have done it.
And yet, after I had left the room you emptied the decanter. Why was
that?"

Vane had expected anything but this, for his father had spoken as
quietly as if he had been asking him about the most ordinary concern of
their daily life. He remembered dimly those few dreadful minutes after
the subtle aroma from the whiskey decanter had reached his nostrils, the
swift intoxication, the brilliant series of visions which had passed
before his eyes, and then the dead, black night which had fallen over
his senses, and after that nothing more until he had awakened with
parched mouth and burning brain, and Koda standing by his bedside.

"I'm afraid, dad, I was very drunk last night, but why, I don't know. I
was sober enough when I came in, you know that yourself. But somehow,
just when you had gone out of the room and told me to put the spirit
case away, I took up the whiskey decanter and smelt it. There seemed to
be some infernal influence in it which made me simply long to drink. I
did not want to in the ordinary way, and as I had been having brandy and
soda and champagne before, of course, whiskey was the very worst thing I
could possibly have drunk. Yet it seemed somehow to get hold of me. I
felt as though I _had_ to drink. It didn't matter what it was so long as
it was alcohol. It was the smell of it that intoxicated me first, and
when I had once smelt it I went on, till I was dead drunk, and I suppose
that is the way that you found me. That is all that I know about it. I
am horribly ashamed of myself, and I can only promise you that, if I
can help it, it will never occur again."

"Sit down, Vane, and let us talk this over," said Sir Arthur, seating
himself in the arm-chair on the other side of the fire-place. "I suppose
you thought when I came back that I was going to give you the usual sort
of lecture that a father would give his son under the circumstances.
Well, I am not going to do that. I am sorry to say that it is a great
deal more serious than that."

"What do you mean, dad?" said Vane, getting up out of the arm-chair into
which he had thrown himself, as though resigned to receive his sentence.
"More serious than that? Surely it is bad enough for a fellow to come
home as I did last night, and then get drunk on whiskey and have to be
carried to bed. There can't be anything very much worse than that."

"There might have been," said Sir Arthur, "if you had not stopped the
cab where you did. What would you say if I told you that that girl--you
remember what you said to me about her likeness to yourself--what would
you say if I were to tell you that that girl is your sister?"

"Good God! Dad, you don't mean that, do you? It can't be. I never had a
sister. You have always told me that I am the only child. Mother died
twenty years ago, didn't she? And that girl was only about nineteen. No,
you can't mean it!"

"Yes," said Sir Arthur, in a tone which seemed very strange to his son.
"I do mean it. When I told you that your mother had died a few months
after you were born, I did not tell you the truth. She died to me and to
you, but that was all. She is alive still. That girl that you drove up
in the cab with last night was her daughter, but not mine."

No more terrible words than these could have Vane turned white to his
lips as he heard them, and for a moment he looked into his father's grey
stern face with a glance that had something of hate in it. His fists
even clenched and his shoulders squared as though the impulse was on him
to raise his hands against him. But there was such an infinite sadness
in Sir Arthur's eyes and such an expression of unspeakable suffering on
his hard-set features, that as he looked at him the anger died out of
Vane's eyes and his hands fell limp and open by his side.

It was some time before he was able to command his voice sufficiently to
shape coherent words, but at length he managed to say in a hard,
half-choking tone:

"Of course it is impossible that you could tell me anything but the
truth, dad. And so I am the son of a disgraced woman, am I? Poor Eny,
what will she think of me now? Of course it will be all over between
us?"

His instinct had spoken, as Sir Godfrey Raleigh had said it would, and
spoken truly. But Sir Arthur said quickly:

"No; my boy. It is bad enough, God knows, but it may not be as bad as
that. I have been to see Miss Vane this morning, and when I had
satisfied myself of the relationship between you, I went on to Raleigh
and told him the whole story, as I thought it was only right to do. He
said, very properly I think, that it was a matter for you and Enid to
decide between yourselves, for after all it is the happiness of your
lives which is in question, and therefore the decision ought to rest
with you."

"I don't see how there can be any decision but one," said Vane, who had
sat down again, and, with his elbows on his knees and his face between
his hands, was staring with blank eyes down at the carpet. "And so I am
the son of that girl's mother, am I? Well, it couldn't be very much
worse than that, and yet, God help us, she is my mother after all."

Then he threw himself back in his chair, let his hands fall limply over
the arms and stared up at the ceiling.

"You may as well tell me the whole of the story, now dad," he went on,
in a broken, miserable voice. "You had better tell me, and then I shall
know where I am."

His father looked at him for a moment or two in silence, and then he
said, with a note of reproof in his tone:

"That is a hasty judgment, Vane, but a natural one, I admit. When I have
told you the story you will see what I mean. The mother who bore you was
as good and pure a woman as ever lived when she became your mother, and
this girl, from what I have seen of her this morning, I am perfectly
certain is thoroughly good and honest in herself. I am satisfied that it
is her fate that has made her what she is; not her fault."

"Yes," said Vane, "I was wrong. After all I have no right to judge my
mother. I remember nothing about her, and as for Carol, she is a good
girl whatever else she may be. Can't something be done for her, dad? I
mean something to get her out of that horrible life. It is too awful to
think of, isn't it? We must do something."

"That's just what I should have expected you to say, Vane," said his
father, "and anything that I can do shall be done. But I'm afraid it
won't be very easy. I did suggest something of the sort, of course, but
she cut me short very quickly. She simply said that she could not
discuss the subject then, and there was an end of it. I am quite certain
that anything which had even a suggestion of charity about it would be
quite out of the question."

"Of course it would," said Vane, almost angrily. "After all, she is my
sister. However, that can wait. Now tell me what you were going to tell
me. How did all this begin? Do you know who the man was, because if so I
want to go and see him?"

"No, I don't, Vane," his father replied, slowly. "To tell you the truth,
I never even attempted to find out. We were living at Simla at the time,
and Simla is, as perhaps you know, not the most moral of places. You
were nearly three years old, and for about a year your mother had shown
signs of what doctors call now Alcoholic Insanity. I shall never forget
the first time that I found her drunk----"

"Never mind that, dad," Vane interrupted, with a sharp catch in his
voice, "I don't want to hear about it, it's bad enough already. Was
Carol right about that light which she used to see in her eyes and which
I suppose you saw in mine last night?"

"Yes, perfectly," replied Sir Arthur. "I used to think it beautiful
once, before I knew what a dreadful meaning it had. When she had had a
glass or so of champagne, her eyes--and they were just like yours and
Carol's--used to light up marvellously. People used to speak of them as
the most beautiful eyes in the East; but afterwards, that light in them
began to burn brighter, and when at last she gave way completely, it
became something horrible, although, somehow, it was still
beautiful--damnably beautiful."

"Well, one night," Sir Arthur went on, leaning back in his chair and
staring into vacancy, "she went out to spend the evening, as she told
me, with a friend; as a matter of fact it was Raleigh's sister. She had
been drinking a little during the afternoon, but I felt that she would
be safe there, for both Raleigh and his sister knew of this miserable
failing of hers. Unfortunately, I had a lot of work to do that evening,
and I was unable to go with her. I went about eleven o'clock to bring
her home. I found she had not been there at all. I went back and sat up
the whole night, I needn't tell you Vane what my thoughts were. She
didn't come. She never came.

"A month afterwards I got a letter from her written from Bombay. She
confessed that for over a year she had been deceiving me; that another
man had stolen her love from me; that she could never face me or look
upon you again, and that was all. She gave no address, no sign that I
could trace her by. If she had done I would have forgiven her and asked
her to come back for your sake. But it was over ten years before I saw
her again, and then it was in a house in a wretched street in Paris.

"Then she was a drunkard, a hopeless drunkard, lost to all sense and
shame. She had taken my name again and was making it infamous, and for
your sake I was forced to take some decided steps. I took proceedings in
the French Courts, and got authority to confine her in an asylum for
inebriates, and she is there now, almost an imbecile."

"And what about Carol?" said Vane, in a hard, strained voice, "doesn't
she know who her father is, and couldn't you have got a divorce?"

"Carol does not know for certain who her father is," said Sir Arthur.
"There was someone who went about the Continent a good deal with her
mother when she was very young, and she thinks that he was. It is quite
possible that he may have been the scoundrel, whoever he was, who took
her away from Simla. As for the divorce, of course I could have got one,
but I had no desire to marry again, and I preferred to let the thing
rest as it was, rather than drag our name through the cesspool of the
Divorce Court and the newspapers. Everybody was very good to me, and in
time I lived it down and it was forgotten. In fact, I suppose if it
hadn't been for that chance meeting of yours last night, it might never
have been heard of again."

"Then that," said Vane, "is, I suppose, the secret of my drinking the
whiskey last night, and the explanation of the light which Carol saw in
my eyes when I had drunk too much champagne. My blood is poisoned, and
so, when I've drunk a certain amount, the smell of alcohol is
irresistible. There's one thing perfectly certain, I don't like whiskey
and I never have liked it, and I'm quite sure I never wanted it less
than I did last night; and yet when I smelt it, the smell somehow seemed
to get up into my brain and force me to drink it.

"I tried my best to resist it. Honestly I did, dad, but it was no use. I
tasted it, and then I took a long drink of it, and then I took another.
I didn't seem to get drunk, I went mad. I saw some magnificent visions,
they seemed to be all round the room, nickering like the Biograph, then,
all of a sudden, they vanished, and I don't remember anything more
until I woke and found Koda standing beside me. Now was that the sort of
thing that used to happen to my mother?"

"It was," replied his father, "exactly, and when she came to her senses
after one of her bouts, she used to implore me to keep the smell, even
the sight, of liquor away from her. Of course I did. I gave up drinking
myself, and what I had in the house for friends I kept constantly under
lock and key. It seemed to be successful for a time, and then she began
to get liquor from somewhere else. I never could find out how or where
she did it. I had her watched, but it was no use. Weeks would pass and
she would be perfectly sober. Then, without the slightest warning, she
would go out for a walk or to pay some calls and come back, not drunk,
but getting drunk.

"We used to have some terrible scenes then, as you may believe. I
dismissed four butlers because she had either bribed or frightened them
into giving her the keys of the wine cellar. I had the best medical men
in India for her, and at last I got her to consent to go into a
Sanitorium. That, however, was merely a blind to keep my suspicions
quiet. It was only a few days before she was to have gone there that she
disappeared."

"And you never had any suspicion about the scoundrel that she went away
with? I expect if the truth was known, she got the liquor secretly
through him after you had stopped it. I am beginning already to have a
presentiment that I shall meet that man some day, and if I do, may God
have mercy on him, for I won't!"

"No, no, Vane, don't say that, my boy! Remember what is
written--'Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord.' Whoever he is his sin will
find him out, if it has not done so already."

Sir Arthur spoke with the absolute conviction of a deeply religious man.
He believed his own words honestly; and yet, if he could have seen how
his own prophecy was to be fulfilled, he would have given his right
hand, nay, he would even have shaken hands with the man who had so
deeply wronged him, rather than that they should have had so terrible a
fulfilment.

Indeed, even while he was speaking the wheels of Fate had already begun
to revolve.

When Carol and Dora returned from their ride Dora found a letter waiting
for her. She opened it, glanced quickly over the page and then said:

"Carol, how will this suit you for this evening? I think a night out
would do you good after your little shake-up this morning. Listen--

     "DEAR DORA,

     "Yesterday I became a happy bachelor for a fortnight. Encumbrances
     gone to Folkestone. If you have nothing better to do, meet me at
     the 'West End' at 7.30 this evening, and, if possible, bring Miss
     Vane, as I am bringing a friend, who, after my description of
     her--don't be jealous!--is quite anxious to meet her. He is good
     looking and very well off, and I think she will like him.

     "Hoping you will both be able to come,

     "Yours ever,
     "BERNARD."

"That sounds promising," said Miss Carol. "If he's that sort, and nice
as well, and has plenty of the necessary, I shouldn't mind if he took me
on as a sort of permanence. Somehow, after last night and this morning,
I've got sick of this general knocking-about. Besides, it's no class.
All right, I'll come. A bit of a kick-up will do me good, I think. That
talk with the old gentleman this morning gave me quite a number 25 hump,
though the ride has worked a good bit of it off. Now let's feed, I'm
hungry enough to dine off cold boiled block ornaments."

Mr. Bernard Falcon, the writer of the letter to Dora, was principal
partner in the somewhat incongruously named firm of solicitors, Messrs.
Falcon and Lambe, of Mansion House Chambers, E.C. The firm did all sorts
of work, provided only that it paid; the highest class under their
style, and the other sorts--the money-lending and "speculative
business"--through their own "jackals," that is to say seedy and
broken-down solicitors who had made a failure of their own business, but
had managed to keep on the Rolls and were not above doing "commission
work" for more prosperous firms.

Mr. Lambe, away from his business, was a most excellent person; a good
husband and father, a regular church-goer, and a generous supporter of
all good works in and about Denmark Hill, where he lived. He was one of
those strangely constituted men--of whom there are multitudes in the
world--who will earn money by the most questionable, if not absolutely
dishonest, methods, without a qualm of conscience, and give liberally of
that same money without recognising for a moment that what they honestly
believe they are giving to God, is a portion of the Wages of Sin--which,
as good Christians, they ought never to have earned.

Mr. Bernard Falcon, on the other hand, in his private life, aimed at
nothing more than respectability in the worst sense of the word. His
wife and his two little girls went to church. He himself went on Sunday
mornings when he had no more pressing engagements. His name appeared
regularly on the subscription lists published in connection with St.
Michael's, Brondesbury, his parish church, and he also paid the rent of
No. 15, Melville Gardens, Brook Green, in addition to one hundred and
fifty pounds a year as what he would have called "a retainer" to Miss
Dora Russell--to say nothing of certain milliner's and jeweller's bills
which he liquidated, sometimes cheerfully and sometimes grudgingly,
according to his humour and their amount.

When Carol and Dora got out of their cab at the door of the "West End"
and went into the little vestibule-bar to the left, they found two men
in evening dress waiting for them. One of them--a man of about forty,
bald on the temples, of medium height, well-fed and well-groomed, and
not by any means bad-looking, though of an entirely mediocre type--Carol
greeted with the easy familiarity of old acquaintance, for she had known
him for nearly a year as Dora's 'particular friend.' The other, tall,
well-built, handsome, and with that unmistakable stamp of breeding on
him which Mr. Bernard Falcon totally lacked, she instantly recognised as
Reginald Garthorne, her intended companion for the evening.

The first thing he did when they had been introduced by Bernard Falcon,
was to apologise for what he had said in front of the Criterion the
night before. He did it with admirably calculated deference, and in such
perfectly chosen words, that it was quite impossible for her not to
accept his apology and "make friends."

During the evening he became completely fascinated, not only by her
beauty, but far more so by the extraordinary charm of her manner. He
was a man who, apart from his physical qualities and good looks, could,
when he chose, make himself very pleasing to women, and, without showing
a trace of effort, he did his very best to please Miss Carol, and
succeeded so completely, that when, a few days later, he made a proposal
of a partly domestic nature to her, she, after a brief consultation with
Dora, accepted it.

At the end of the month the house in Melville Gardens was to let, and
Carol and Dora were installed in a flat in Densmore Gardens, South
Kensington, for the rent of which Reginald Garthorne and Mr. Bernard
Falcon were jointly responsible--of course, under other names. The only
condition that Carol had made with Garthorne, was that, whatever
happened, he would not tell Vane of her change of address, and he, for
very good reasons of his own, had promised unconditionally.



CHAPTER V.


The next day Enid Raleigh came home.

Almost the first thing she said to her mother, who had met her at the
station with the carriage, was:

"Well, and where is Master Vane, please? He is in town, isn't he? Why
didn't he come to meet me? I shall have to make him do penance for
this."

The words were lightly spoken, spoken in utter unconsciousness of the
deep meaning which Fate had put into them. So far as Enid herself was
concerned, and as, in fact, she was just thinking at the moment, all
they meant was that at their next meeting she would refuse Vane his
long-accustomed lover's kiss, and then, after an explanation occupying
some three or four minutes at most, surrender at discretion, after which
would come the luxury of playing at being offended and standing on her
dignity for a few minutes more, and then enjoying the further luxury of
making it up.

"Yes, dear," said her mother, "Vane is in town still. I think he doesn't
go back to Oxford until the end of the week, but he hasn't been very
well lately----"

"Not well!" exclaimed Enid, sitting up out of the corner of the carriage
into which she had leaned back with that easy abandon which comes so
naturally to people accustomed to comfort all their lives. "Ill! Why,
Vane's never been ill in his life. What's the matter? It isn't anything
serious, is it? You don't mean that he's really ill, mother, do you?"

There was no mistaking the reality of the anxiety in her tone. Her
mother recognised it instantly, but she also saw that a brougham
rattling over the streets of London was not exactly the place to enter
upon such explanations as it was her destiny and her duty to make to
this brilliant, beautiful, spoilt darling of a daughter who was sitting
beside her.

So far as she knew, every hope, every prospect of Enid's life, that
bright young life which, in the fuller acceptation of the term, was only
just going to begin, was connected more or less intimately with Vane
Maxwell.

Ever since they had come home together from Bombay on that memorable
voyage, she and Vane had been sweethearts. They were very much in love
with each other, and so far their love had been a striking exception to
that old proverb which comes true only too often. Saving only those
lovers' quarrels which don't count because they end so much more
pleasantly than they begin, there had never been a cloud in that
morning-sky of life towards which they had so far walked hand in hand.
It seemed as though the Fates themselves had conspired to make
everything pleasant and easy for them; and of course it had never struck
either of them that when the Fates do this kind of thing, they always
have a more or less heavy account on the other side--to be presented in
due course.

Lady Raleigh knew this, and her daughter did not. She knew that the
terrible explanation had to come, but she very naturally shrank from
the inevitable--and so, woman-like, she temporised.

"Really, dear," she said, "I can't talk with all this jolting and
rattle. When we get home I will tell you all about it. Vane himself is
not ill at all. He is just as well as ever he was. It isn't that."

"Then I suppose," said Miss Enid, looking round sharply, "my lord has
been getting himself into some scrape or other--something that has to be
explained or talked away before he likes to meet me. Is that it?"

"No, Enid, that is not it," replied her mother gravely, "but really,
dear, I must ask you to say nothing more about it just now. When we get
home we'll have a cup of tea, and then I'll tell you all about it."

"Oh, very well," said Enid, a trifle petulantly. "I suppose there's some
mystery about it. Of course there must be, or else he'd have come here
himself, so we may as well change the subject. How do you like the new
flat, and what's it like?"

As she said this she threw herself back again into the corner and stared
out of the opposite window of the brougham with a look in her eyes which
seemed to say that for the time being she had no further interest in any
earthly affairs.

Lady Raleigh, glad of the relief even for the moment, at once began a
voluble and minute description of the new flat in Addison Gardens into
which they had moved during her daughter's last sojourn in Paris, and
this, with certain interjections and questions from Enid, lasted until
the brougham turned into the courtyard and drew up in front of the
arched doorway out of which the tall, uniformed porter came with the
fingers of his left hand raised to the peak of his cap, to open the
carriage door.

Sir Godfrey was out, and would not be back until dinner time; so, as
soon as they had taken their things off, Lady Raleigh ordered tea in her
own room, and there, as briefly as was consistent with the gravity of
the news she had to tell, she told Enid everything that her husband had
heard from Sir Arthur.

Enid, although she flushed slightly at certain portions of the
narrative, listened to the story with a calmness which somewhat
surprised her mother.

The little damsel for whose kisses those two boys had fought ten or
eleven years ago, had now grown into a fair and stately maiden of
eighteen, very dainty and desirable to look upon, and withal possessing
a dignity which only comes by birth and breeding and that larger
training and closer contact with the world which modern girls of her
class enjoy. Young as she was, hers was not the innocence of ignorance.
She had lived too late in the century, and had already been too far
afield in the world for that.

"It comes to this, then," she said quietly, almost hardly, "instead of
being dead, as we have believed all along, Vane's mother is alive; an
imbecile who has become so through drink, and who seems to have
misbehaved herself very badly when Vane was a baby. She is in an asylum,
and will probably remain there till she dies. No one but ourselves and
this interesting young person, Miss Carol Vane, appears to know anything
about it, and I really don't see why Vane is to be held responsible for
his mother's insanity--for I suppose that's what it comes to.

"And then there is Miss Carol herself. Of course she's not a
particularly desirable family connection; but I don't suppose Vane would
expect me to meet her, much less fall upon her neck and greet her as his
long-lost sister. I suppose, too, that between us we could manage to do
something for her, and put her in a more respectable way of living and
induce her to hold her tongue.

"As for Vane getting drunk that night, of course it's very improper and
all that sort of thing from the Sunday School point of view; but I don't
suppose he was the only undergraduate who took too much to drink that
night. Probably several hundreds of them did, and I daresay a good many
of them were either engaged or going to be. Would they consider that a
reason why they should go and break off their engagements? I'm afraid
there wouldn't be many marriages nowadays if engagements were broken off
on that account.

"Of course, mam, dear, what you've told me is not exactly pleasant to
hear, but still, after all, I really can't see anything so very dreadful
in it. Most families have a skeleton of some sort, I suppose, and this
is ours, or will be when Vane and I are married. We must simply keep the
cupboard door shut as closely as possible. It's only what lots of other
people have to do."

"Well, my dear," said her mother, "I must say I'm very glad to see you
take it so reasonably. I'm afraid I could not have done so at your age,
but then girls are so different now, and, besides, you always had more
of your father's way of looking at things than mine. Then, I suppose,
Vane may come and see you. I think it was very nice of him not to come
until you had been told everything."

"May come!" said Enid. "I should think so. If he doesn't I shall be
distinctly offended. I shall expect him to come round and make his
explanations in person before long, and when he does we will have a few
minutes chat _à deux_--and I don't think I shall have very much
difficulty in convincing him of the error of his ways, or, at any rate,
of his opinions."

"What an extremely conceited speech to make, dear!" said her ladyship
mildly, and yet with a glance of motherly pride at the beauty which went
so far towards justifying it. "Well, perhaps you are right. Certainly,
if anyone can, you can, and I sincerely hope you will. It would be
dreadful if anything were to happen to break it off after all these
years."

The colour went out of Enid's cheeks in an instant, and she said in
quite an altered voice:

"Oh, for goodness sake, mamma, don't say anything about that! You know
how fond I am of Vane. I simply couldn't give him up, whatever sort of a
mother he had, and if he had a dozen half-sisters as disreputable as
this Miss Carol Vane--the very idea of her having the impudence to use
his name! No, I shan't think of that--I couldn't. If Vane did that it
would just break my heart--it really would. It would be like taking half
my life away, and it would simply kill me. I couldn't bear it."

She honestly meant what she said, not knowing that she said it in utter
ignorance of the self that said it.

It was in Enid's mind, as it also was in her mother's, to send a note
round to Warwick Gardens to ask both Vane and his father to come round
to an informal dinner, and to discuss the matter there and then; but
neither of them gave utterance to the thought. Lady Raleigh, knowing her
daughter's proud and somewhat impetuous temperament, instinctively
shrank from making a suggestion which she would have had very good
grounds for rejecting, more especially as she had already given such a
very decided opinion as to Vane's scruples.

As for Enid herself, she honestly thought so little of these same
scruples that she felt inclined to accuse Vane of a Quixotism which,
from her point of view at least, was entirely unwarrantable. It was,
therefore, quite impossible for her to first suggest that they should
meet after a parting during which they might have unconsciously reached
what was to be the crisis of both their lives.

The result was that the thought remained unspoken, and Enid, after
spending the evening in vexed and anxious uncertainty, went to bed; and
then, as soon as she felt that she was absolutely safe in her solitude,
discussed the whole matter over again with herself, and wound the
discussion up with a good hearty cry, after which she fell into the
dreamless slumber of the healthy and innocent.

When she woke very early the next morning, or, rather, while she was on
that borderland between sleeping and waking where the mind works with
such strange rapidity, she reviewed the whole of the circumstances, and
came to the conclusion that she was being very badly treated. Vane knew
perfectly well that she was coming back yesterday afternoon, and
therefore he had no right to let these absurd scruples of his prevent
him from performing the duties of a lover and meeting her at the
station. But, even granted that something else had made it impossible
for him to do so, there was absolutely no excuse for his remaining away
the whole afternoon and evening when he must have known how welcome a
visit would have been.

Meanwhile Vane had been doing the very last thing that she would have
imagined him doing.

After his fateful conversation with his father he had left the house in
Warwick Gardens to wander he knew and cared not whither. His thoughts
were more than sufficient companionship for him, and, heeding neither
time nor distance, he walked as he might have walked in a dream, along
the main road through Hammersmith and Turnham Green and Kew, and so
through Richmond Hill till he had climbed the hill and stopped for a
brief moment of desperate debate before the door of the saloon bar of
the "Star and Garter." The better impulse conquered the worse, and he
entered the park, and, seating himself on one of the chairs under the
trees, he made an effort to calmly survey the question in all its
bearings.

It was the most momentous of all human tasks--the choosing of his own
future life-path at the parting of the ways. One of them,
flower-bordered and green with the new-grown grass of life's
spring-time, and the other dry, rugged and rock-strewn--the paths of
inclination and duty: the one leading up to the golden gates of the
Paradise of wedded love, and the other slanting down to the wide
wilderness which he must cross alone, until he passed alone into the
shadows which lay beyond it.

A few days before he had seen himself well on the way to everything that
can make a man's life full and bright and worthy to be lived. He was,
thanks to his father's industry, relieved from all care on the score of
money, and, better still, he had that within him which made him
independent of fortune, perfect health and great abilities, already
well-proved, although he had yet to wait nearly a year for his
twenty-first birthday.

He had great ambitions and the high hopes which go with them. The path
to honour and distinction, even to fame itself, had lain plainly open
before him--and now everything was so different. The sun which he had
thought was only rising was already setting. He knew now that the fruit
which looked so sweet and luscious had the canker-worm feeding on the
core; that the flesh which seemed so healthy was really tainted and
leprous; and that, worse than all, the brightest and sweetest promise of
his life, a promise infinitely sweeter and dearer than even the
fulfilment of his highest material ambition, was now no longer a promise
but a denial, a life-sacrifice demanded, not only by his honour as a
man, but by his love as a lover.

He sat thus thinking until the buzzing of a motor-car woke him from his
day-dream. He looked at his watch, and found that he had about time to
get across the park to Sheen Gate; but he fell to dreaming again on the
way, and when he reached the gate it was closed.

He turned back with the idea of asking a keeper to unlock the gate and
let him out, but after a few strides he halted and sat down again on a
seat. After all, were he to go home, he could not sleep, and it better
suited his mood to keep vigil in the open air than within the four walls
of his room.

And so he passed the night, walking half awake, and then sitting, half
asleep, dimly reviewing this sudden crisis of his fate again and again
from all possible aspects. And again and again the determination to
adhere to the decision which duty had marked out so clearly seemed to
beat itself deeper and deeper into his brain.

The taint of alcoholism was in his blood, and matrimony and parentage
were not for him. In the morning he would go straight to Enid's father
and admit that, although ties reaching back into her childhood and his
had to be broken, yet it was impossible for the engagement between him
and Enid to be continued.

The night passed, and the park gates were again opened, but still Vane
sat on, until, noticing the suspicious glances of some of the early
pedestrians, he decided to get home, have a tub, and pay his fateful
visit to Sir Godfrey Raleigh.

As it happened, however, that visit was never to be paid. Enid had found
her waking thoughts unpleasant, if not almost intolerable, and, being
too perfectly healthy to indulge in anything of the nature of moping or
sulks, she came to the conclusion that a good sharp spin on her bicycle
would be the best mental tonic she could have; so she got a cup of
coffee and a biscuit, took out her machine, and started away to work
off, as she hoped, the presentiment of coming trouble which seemed to
have fastened itself upon her.

Thus it happened that she entered Richmond Park by Sheen Gate just as
Vane, physically weary yet still mentally sleepless, was coming out of
it.

During his night's vigil he had nerved himself, as he thought, to meet
every imaginable trial but this one--this vision of his well-beloved,
not waiting for him, but coming to him fresh and radiant in her young
beauty, delightful and desirable, tempting almost beyond the powers of
human resistance, and his, too, his own sweetheart, pledged to him ever
since that memorable afternoon when he had fought for her and won her
behind the wheelhouse in the midst of the Indian Ocean.

When her wonder had given way to complete recognition Enid dismounted
and waited, naturally expecting that he would greet her; but he stood
silent, looking at her as though he were trying to find some words of
salutation.

"Well, Vane," she said at last, "I suppose we may shake hands. I did not
expect to see you here. Cannot you look a little more cheerful? What is
the matter? You look as if you hadn't been home all night."

He took her hand mechanically, and, as he held it and looked down into
the sweet upturned face with a bright flush on the cheeks and the
dawning of an angry light in the gentle eyes, he felt an almost
irresistible desire to take her in his arms just as he had done at their
last meeting and kiss into silence the tempting lips which had just
shaped those almost scornfully spoken words.

It dawned upon her in the same moment that he was looking as she had
never seen him look before. His face was perfectly bloodless. The
features were hard-set and deep-lined. There were furrows in his
forehead and shadows under his eyes. When she had last seen his face it
was that of a boy of twenty, full of health and strength, and without a
care on his mind. Now it was the face of a man of thirty, a man who had
lived and sinned and sorrowed.

In that instant her mood and her voice changed, and she said:

"Vane, dear, what is it? Why don't you speak to me? Are you ill?"

He took her bicycle from her, and, turning, walked with her back into
the park. After a few moments' silence he replied in a voice which
seemed horribly strange to her:

"Yes, Enid, I am. I am ill, and I am afraid there is no cure for the
disease. I have not been home. In fact, I have been in the park all
night. I was shut in by accident, and I remained from choice, trying to
think out my duty to you."

"Oh, nonsense!" she replied. "I know what you mean. It's about you
getting drunk the other night--and--and your unfortunate mother and this
newly-found half-sister of yours. Well, of course, I suppose it was
exceedingly wrong of you to get so very drunk. And the rest--I mean
about your mother--that is very sad and terrible. But, bad as it is, I
think you are taking it a great deal too seriously. I've talked it all
over with mamma, and she thinks just as I do about it."

When she had said this Enid felt that she had gone quite as far as her
self-respect and maidenly pride would permit her to go. As she looked up
at him she saw the pallor of his face change almost to grey. His hand
was resting lightly on her arm, and she felt it tremble. Then he drew it
gently away and said:

"I know what you mean, Enid, and it is altogether too good and generous
of you; but I don't think you quite understand--I mean, you don't seem
to realise how serious it all is."

"Really, Vane, I must say that you are acting very strangely. What is
the good of going all over it again? You can't tell me anything more, I
suppose, than I have heard already from mamma. Surely you don't mean
that you intend that everything is to be over between us--that we are
only to be friends, as they say, in future?"

"I quite see what _you_ mean," he said, his lips perceptibly tightening;
"and that, too, in a certain sense, is what I mean also."

"What!" she exclaimed. "Do you really mean that I am not to be any more
what I have been to you, and that if we meet again it must only be as
ordinary acquaintances, just friends who have known each other a certain
number of years? Surely, Vane, you don't mean that--dear?"

The last word escaped her lips almost involuntarily. She tried to keep
it back, but it got out in spite of herself. It was only the fact that
they were walking on the public highway that prevented her from giving
way altogether to the sense of despair that had come over her. As his
face had changed a few moments before so did hers now, and as she
looked at him he stopped momentarily in his walk.

But the lessons which he had learnt during the last few days, and most
of all during this last night of lonely wandering and desperate
questioning with himself, had ground the moral into his soul so deeply
that not even the sight of her so anxiously longing for just one word
from him to bring them together again, and make them once more as they
had always been--almost since either of them could remember
anything--was strong enough to force him to speak it.

He involuntarily wheeled the bicycle towards the middle of the road, as
though he was afraid to trust himself too near her, and said, speaking
as a man might speak when pronouncing his own death sentence:

"Yes, Enid, that is what I do mean. I mean that there is a great deal
more, something infinitely more serious in what has happened during the
last few days, in what I have learnt and you have been told, than you
seem to have any idea of."

Enid made a gesture as though she would interrupt him, but he went on
almost hotly:

"Listen to me, Enid, and then judge me as you please--only listen to me.
Four days ago, after I had seen the Boat Race, I did as a good many
other fellows from the 'Varsity do--I went West. By sheer accident I met
a girl so like myself that--well, I didn't know then that I had a
sister. Yesterday I learnt, then, that I have one--not my father's
daughter, only my mother's--and you know what that means. We had supper
together at the Trocadero----"

"Really, Vane, I do think you might spare me these little details," said
Enid, with a sort of weary impatience. "I have heard of this
half-sister of yours already. Suppose we leave her out for the present?"

"Yes," he said, again stopping momentarily in his walk. "We _will_ leave
her out for the present. In fact, as far as you are concerned, Enid, she
may be left out for ever."

"Why--what do you mean, Vane?" she exclaimed, stopping short.

"I mean," he said, beginning quickly and then halting for a moment. "I
mean that, considering everything that has happened during the last few
days, I have no intention of asking you to become her half-sister--even
in law."

The real meaning of his utterance forced itself swiftly enough upon her
now, and for a minute rendered her incapable of speech. She, however,
like others of her blood and breed, had learned how to seem most
careless when she cared most, and so she managed to reply not only
steadily but even stiffly:

"Of course, after that there is very little to be said, Mr. Maxwell. I'm
afraid I have not properly understood what has happened. Perhaps,
though, it would have been better for you to have seen my father and
talked this over with him first."

The "Mr. Maxwell" cut him to the quick. It was the first time he had
ever heard it from her lips. Yet it did not affect the decision which
was, as he had for the time being, at least, convinced himself,
inevitable, and so miserable was he that even her scornful indignation
was something like a help to him.

He was even grateful that this interview, which he had looked forward to
with dread, had taken place in the open air rather than in the
drawing-room of Sir Godfrey Raleigh's house, for if she had simply sat
down and cried, as, perhaps, nine out of ten girls in her position would
have done, his task would have been infinitely more difficult, perhaps
even impossible of accomplishment. Her present attitude, however, seemed
to appeal to his masculine pride and stimulate it. He turned slightly
towards her, and said, with a sudden change in his voice which she felt
almost like a blow:

"Yes, Miss Raleigh, you are quite right. I will spare you the details;
at least, those which are not essential. But there are some which are.
For instance," he went on, with a note of vehemence in his tone which
made it impossible for her to interrupt him, "four nights ago I was
lying on the floor of the Den at home, blind, dead drunk--drunk, mind
you, after this sister of mine had seen in my eyes the sign of
drunkenness which she had seen in her mother's--that was my mother, too,
an imbecile dipsomaniac, remember--who had sunk to unspeakable
degradation before she became what she is. I was as sober as I am now
when I told my father this--I mean what Carol had told me. I noticed
that there was something strange about him while I was telling him, but
I thought that was just a matter of circumstances, you know----"

"Yes, I think I know, or at any rate I can guess," said Miss Enid, with
angry eyes and tightened lips.

"Very well, then," he went on, "and after that--after my father had
asked me to have a glass of whiskey with him--after I had refused and he
had gone to bed and I was putting the spirit-case away without any idea
of drinking again, one smell of the whiskey seemed to paralyse my whole
mental force. It turned me from a sane man who had had a solemn warning
into a madman who had only one feeling--the craving for alcohol in some
shape. I smelt again, and the smell of it went like fire through my
veins. I tasted it, and then I drank. I drank again and again, until, as
I suppose your mother has told you, I fell on the rug, no longer a man,
but simply a helpless, intoxicated beast. I was utterly insensible to
everything about me, I didn't care whether I lived or died. When I woke
and thought about it I would a thousand times rather have been dead.

"It wasn't that I wanted the liquor. I didn't get drunk because I wanted
to. I got drunk, Enid, because I _had_ to; because there was a lurking
devil in my blood which forced me to drink that whiskey just because it
was alcohol, because it was drink, because it was the element ready to
respond to that craving which I have inherited from this unhappy mother
of mine.

"Do you know what that means, Enid? I don't think you do. It means that
my blood has been poisoned from my very birth. Of course, you don't know
this. Your parents don't know it, any more than they know that it is too
late to redeem the ruin which has fallen upon me. That, at least, I can
say with a clear conscience is no fault or sin of mine. Since then I
have thrashed this miserable thing out in every way that I can think of.
I have talked it over with my father, and he has talked it over with
yours. I have been wandering about the park all night trying to find out
what I ought to do--and I think I have found it."

"From which I suppose I am to understand," she replied, in a voice which
was nothing like as firm as she intended it to be, "you mean, Vane--or
perhaps I ought to say Mr. Maxwell now--that henceforth--I mean that we
are not going to be married after all."

"What I mean is this, Enid," he replied, "that dearly as I love you, and
just because I love you so dearly, because I would give all the world if
I had it to have you for my wife, I would _not_ make you the wife of a
man who could become the thing that was lying on the hearthrug of the
Den four nights ago--a man drunk against his own will, a slave to one of
the vilest of habits--no, something much worse than a habit, a disease
inherited with tainted, poisoned blood!

"What would you think of your parents and my father if they allowed you
to marry a lunatic? Well, with that taint in my blood I am worse, a
thousand times worse, than a lunatic, and I should be a criminal as well
if I asked you or any other girl for whom I had the slightest feeling of
love or respect to marry me.

"Think what the punishment of such a crime might be!" he went on even
more vehemently. "Every hour of our married life I should be haunted by
this horrible fear. Tempted by a devil lurking in every glass of wine or
spirits that I drank, or even looked at--the same devil which had me in
its grip the other night. Enid, if you could have seen me then, I think
you would have understood better; but if, which God forbid, you could
have gone through what I went through after I swallowed that first drink
of whiskey, you would as soon think of marrying a criminal out of jail
or a madman out of a lunatic asylum as you would of marrying me. I
daresay all this may seem unreasonable, perhaps even heartless, to you;
but, dear, if you only knew what it costs to say it----"

He broke off abruptly, for as he said this a note of tenderness stole
for the first time into his voice, and found an instant echo in Enid's
heart. So far she had borne herself bravely through a bitterly trying
ordeal, but as she noticed a change in his tone a swift conviction came
to her that if she remained many more minutes in his company she would
certainly break down and there would be "a scene," which, under the
circumstances, was not to be thought of. So she stopped him by holding
out her hand and saying in a voice which cost her a terrible effort to
keep steady:

"No, Vane, we have talked quite enough. I see your mind is made up, and
so there is, of course, nothing more to be said except 'good-bye.' I
think we had better not meet again until we both have had more time to
think about it all."

This was as far as she could get. They had by this time reached Sheen
Gate again, and Enid took her bicycle from him. She did not look at him,
and, indeed, could not even trust herself to say "thank you." She
mounted and rode through the comparatively lonely roads in a sort of
dream until the traffic at Hammersmith Bridge and Broadway mercifully
compelled her to give her whole attention to the steering of her
machine.

When she got home she gave her bicycle to the porter, went straight to
her own room, took off her hat and gloves and jacket, and then dropped
quietly on the bed and laid there, staring with tearless eyes up at the
ceiling, wondering vaguely what it all meant, and if it was really true.

Vane stood and watched her until she swept round a bend in the road, and
then walked on with the one thought echoing and re-echoing in the
emptiness of his soul--the thought of the course which he was bound to
follow by the dictates of both love and duty. He had reached the Surrey
end of Hammersmith Bridge when the strong smell of alcoholic liquor
coming through the open door of a public-house caused him to stop for a
moment. Would a drink do him any harm after what had happened? He had
passed a sleepless night in the open air, and felt almost
fainting--surely a drop of brandy would do him no harm under the
circumstances? Then he remembered the hearthrug in the Den, and turned
towards the bridge with something between a sneer and a curse on his
lips.

Was he always to be beset by temptation in this way--and would he always
have strength to successfully combat the evil influence? If Fate had
really marked him out for a dipsomaniac, was it any use his fighting
against what must inevitably be his destiny? His thoughts were
interrupted by the rumbling of a 'bus which was coming towards him, and,
seeing that it was one which went through Kensington, he jumped on it
and went home.

He alighted at Warwick Gardens, and on reaching the house found that his
father had just come in for lunch.

"It's all right, dad," he said, anticipating his inevitable question. "I
got shut in Richmond Park by accident, and did a night in the open. But
I'll tell you all about it at lunch. I'm going to have a tub now."

Lunch was ready by the time Vane came downstairs, re-clothed and
refreshed, and when they were alone he repeated to his father almost
verbatim the conversation he had had with Enid.

"Well, my boy," he said when he had concluded. "I cannot but think that
as far as you can see now you have acted rightly. It is terribly hard on
you, but I will help you all I can. And perhaps, after all, the future
may prove brighter than it looks now for all of us."



CHAPTER VI.


It was the end of Term, nearly two years after that interview in
Richmond Park which, as both Vane and Enid had then believed, was for
them the parting of the ways. Vane was sitting in a deep-seated, Russian
wicker-chair in his cosy study, and opposite him, in a similar chair,
was another man with whom he had been talking somewhat earnestly for
about an hour.

To-morrow would be Commemoration Day--"Commem," to use the
undergraduate's abbreviation. There would be meetings from far and wide
of people gathered together, not only from all over the kingdom, but
from the ends of the earth as well; men and women glorying, for their
own sakes and their sons', in the long traditions of the grand old
University, the dearly-loved Alma Mater, nursing-mother of their fathers
and fathers' fathers. Here a man who had been a tutor and then a Fellow,
and was now one of His Majesty's judges; there another, who walked with
sober mien in the leggings and tunic of a Bishop, and who, in his time,
had dodged the Proctor and his bull-dogs as nimbly as the most
irresponsible undergraduate of the moment--and so on through the whole
hierarchy of the University.

The Lists were just out. Vane had fulfilled the promise of his earlier
career and had taken a brilliant double-first. He had read for Classics
and History, but he had also taken up incidentally Mental Science and
Moral Philosophy, and he had scored a first in all. If it had then been
possible for him to have had a Treble-First, it would have been his. As
it was he had won the most brilliant degree of his year--and there he
was, sitting back in his chair, blowing cloud after cloud of smoke out
of his mouth, and every now and then taking a sip out of a big cup of
tea and looking with something more than admiration at the man opposite;
a man who had only achieved a first, and who, if he had been some other
kind of man, would have been very well contented with it.

It would not, however, have needed a particularly keen student of human
nature to discover that this was not the kind of man who could rest
contented with anything like a formal success; and, after all, even a
double-first, to say nothing of a single, although a great achievement
as the final triumph of an educational course, is still only the end of
the beginning. That done, the student, armed _cap-à-pie_ in his
intellectual armour, goes forth to face something infinitely sterner and
more pitiless than tutors or proctors, ay, even than Masters and
Chancellors themselves--the presiding genius of that infinitely greater
University called the World, where taking your degree means anything
that human fortune can give you, and where being plucked may mean
anything from a clerkship in an office to selling matches in the gutter.

"I _am_ sorry you missed your double, old man!" said Vane, continuing
the conversation after a pause that had lasted for two or three minutes.
"Still, at any rate, you've got your first, and, after all, a first in
Classics and a second in History is not to be sneezed at, and I don't
suppose it would have mattered a hang to you whether you had come out
anywhere or not."

As he said this there was a sudden contraction of his companion's jaw,
which resulted in the clean biting through of the vulcanite mouthpiece
of his pipe. He spat the pieces out into the fireplace, and said in a
perfectly smooth voice:

"I wonder what I did that for! I suppose that is one of the
circumstances in which people say that it does a man good to swear."

"I should certainly have sworn under the circumstances," said Vane, "or
at least, I should have said something that one would not say in the
presence of one's maiden aunt, but then, of course, you Ernshaw--you're
above all that sort of thing. You have your feelings so well under
control that you don't even need to swear to relieve them. However,
that's not quite the subject. What am I to do? Am I to go back to her,
repenting of the evil of my ways, ask her to pardon a passing madness,
and lay my academic honours at her feet--as God knows I would be only
too glad to do----"

"Wait a moment, Maxwell. Don't say anything more just now, and let me
think a bit. We have been over this subject a good many times already,
but now we have come to the crisis, to the cross-ways, in fact. You have
made me your confidant in this matter. The future of your life and hers
depends upon what you decide to do now, and, not only that, but there is
your father and her father and mother--the completion, that is to say,
of three other lives. It is very, very serious. It is more than serious,
it is solemn. Wait a moment, let me think."

Vane leant back in his chair, dropped his pipe quietly on the floor, and
waited. He knew that Mark Ernshaw, his chum at Eton and his friend at
Balliol--this tall, sparely-built man, with dark hair, high, somewhat
narrow forehead, and big, deep-set, brown eyes, delicate features, and
the somewhat too finely-moulded chin which, taken together, showed him
to the eye that sees to be the enthusiast as well as the man of
intellect, perhaps of genius--was not thinking in the ordinary meaning
of the word. He was praying, and when he saw that this was so he folded
his hands over his eyes, and for nearly ten minutes there was absolute
silence, Vane was thinking and his friend was praying. Perhaps, in
another sense, Vane was praying too, for the strong religious bias which
he had inherited from his father had, since the great crisis of his life
had been passed, and during his close intimacy with Mark Ernshaw, grown
stronger than ever.

He had told him everything. They had gone over the whole of the dismal
history again and again. They had thrashed out the problem in all its
bearings, now arguing with and now against each other, and here was the
last day. To-morrow in the Theatre they would receive the formal
acknowledgment which would crown their academic careers. Vane's
self-imposed probation would then be over, the crisis would be passed,
and his life's course fixed for good and all.

"Well, old man," said Vane, at length, "have you settled it? Upon my
word I feel almost like a man under sentence of death waiting for a
reprieve. But, after all, why should I? I haven't touched a drop of
alcohol for over a year. I needn't say anything about the work I have
done, for you know as much about that as I do myself. I am as sane and
healthy as any man of my age need want to be. Of course, as I have told
you, it was mutually agreed between us, or rather, between her parents
and my father, that we should not meet or correspond until after I had
taken my degree. I've kept the bargain both ways. I haven't written to
her or had a word from her all the time. And now, what is the future to
be? Shall I take up the threads of the old life and marry and live
happily ever afterwards, as they say in the story-books--or shall I----?
No, I don't think I could do that. Don't you think I've shown strength
of mind enough to counteract the weakness of that one night? For the
sake of all you've ever loved, old man, don't look so serious. You're
not going to tell me that it really is all over, and that I shall have
to give her up after all?"

"Yes, you must," said Ernshaw. "If you have any faith worthy of the name
in God or man, it is your duty, not only as a man but as a Christian, to
say good-bye to her as man to woman. It is your duty, and you must."

"No, by God, I can't!" cried Maxwell, springing to his feet and facing
him with clenched teeth, set features, and hands gripped up into fists
as though he were facing an enemy rather than a friend.

Ernshaw rose slowly from his seat. His face seemed to Vane to be
transfigured. He looked him straight in the eyes, and said, in a voice
only a little above a whisper, and yet thrilling with an intense
emotion:

"Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain! You have
asked for my advice and my guidance, Maxwell. I have given them to you,
but not before I have sought for advice and counsel from an infinitely
higher Source. I believe I have had my answer. As I have had it so I
have given it to you. I have spent a good many hours thinking over this
problem of yours--and a harder problem few men have ever had to
solve--but my fixed and settled conviction is that during this last
conversation of yours with Miss Raleigh you bore yourself like a man;
you did your duty; you put your hand to the plough. You are not going to
look back now, are you?"

Vane dropped back into his seat and folded his hands over his eyes
again, and said with a note of weariness in his voice:

"Well, yes, old man, I suppose you're right, and yet, Ernshaw, it's very
hard, so hard that it seems almost impossible. They're coming up to
'Commem' to-morrow--I was obliged to ask them, you know. I should only
have to hold out my hand and feel hers in it and say that--well, that
I'd thought better of it, and everything would be just as it was before.
We could begin again just as if _that_ had never happened.

"You know it's all I've thought about, all I've worked for, ever since
we came back from India together. Honestly, old man, she really is--of
course, with the exception of the Governor--everything there is in the
world for me now. If I have to give her up, what else is there? You know
what I was going to do. Now that I've got my degree I should have a
splendid opening in the Foreign Office. The way would be absolutely
clear before me--a mere matter of brains and interest--and I know I've
got the interest--and I should be an Ambassador, perhaps a Prime
Minister some day, and she would be my wife--and yet without her it
wouldn't be worth anything to me. Ernshaw, isn't it a bit too much to
ask a man on the threshold of his real life to give up all that for the
sake of an idea--well, a scientific conviction if you like."

"Strait is the Gate, and Narrow is the Way!" exclaimed Ernshaw. He
seemed to tower above him as he stood over his chair; Vane looked up and
saw that his eyes were glowing and his features set. His lips and voice
trembled as he spoke. His whole being seemed irradiated by the light of
an almost divine enthusiasm.

"Maxwell, will you be one of the few that find it, or one of the many
that miss it, and take the other way? As a good Christian, as the son of
a Christian man, you know where _that_ one leads to.

"After all, Maxwell," he continued, more quietly, "the trials of life
are like lessons in school. You needed this experience or you would not
have got it. In every fight you must win or lose. In this one you can
and must be the victor. I think, nay, I know, that I am pointing out to
you the way to victory, the way to final triumph over all the evils that
have forced you to a choice between following your own most worthy
inclinations, and what you now think an intolerable misery and an
impossible sacrifice."

He held out his hand as he spoke. Vane did not know it at the time, but
in reality it was a hand held out to save a drowning man. It was a
moment in which the fate of two lives was to be decided for right or
wrong, for good or ill, and for all time--perhaps, even for more than
Time. Vane gripped Ernshaw's hand, and, as the two grips closed, he
looked straight into the deep-brown eyes, and said:

"Ernshaw, that will do. By some means you have made me feel to-night
just as I did that day when I was talking with her the last time. Yes,
you are right. You have shewn me the right way, and, God helping me,
I'll take it. I suppose if she doesn't marry me she'll marry Garthorne;
but still, I see she mustn't marry me. They are coming down for 'Commem'
to-morrow. I shall see her then, and I'll tell her that I have decided
that there must be an end of everything except friendship between us.
Yes, that is the only way after all--and, now, one other word, old man."

"And that is?" said Ernshaw, smiling, almost laughing, in the sheer joy
of his great triumph, as he so honestly believed it to be, over the
Powers of Evil.

"Well, it's this," said Vane, "my own life is settled now. I can't marry
Enid and, of course, I'll marry no one else. I shall do as you have
often advised me to do--take Orders and do the work that God puts
nearest to my hand. I know that the governor will agree with me when I
put it to him in that way. But then there's some one else."

"Your sister, you mean," said Ernshaw.

"My half----"

"Your sister, I said," Ernshaw interrupted, quickly. "Well, what about
her?"

"It's this way," continued Vane, somewhat awkwardly, "you see--of
course, as you say, she is my sister in a way, but she has absolutely
refused everything that the governor and I have offered her. We even
asked her to come and live with us, we offered, in short, to acknowledge
her as one of the family."

"And what did she say to that?"

"She simply refused. She said that she had not made her life, but that
she was ready to take it as it is. She said that she wasn't responsible
for the world as it's made, she'd never owed anyone a shilling since
she left her mother--and mine--and she never intended to. We tried
everything with her, really we did, and, of course, the governor did a
great deal more than I did, but it wasn't a bit of use. It's a horrible
business altogether, isn't it?"

"On the contrary, it is anything but that," replied Ernshaw, slowly and
deliberately as though he were considering each word as he uttered it.
"Maxwell, you have just decided to take Orders. I made up my mind to do
that long ago. We are both of us fairly well off. I have eight or nine
hundred a year of my own, and I daresay you have more, so we can go and
do our work without troubling about the loaves and fishes."

"Yes," replied Vane, "certainly, but that's not quite answering my
question, old fellow:--I mean about Carol."

"Quite so," he replied, "because I am going to ask you another. Do you
think you know me and like me well enough to have me for a
brother-in-law?"

"Good Heavens, you don't mean _that_, Ernshaw, do you?"

"I do," he said, "that is if she likes me well enough. Of course, I
haven't seen her yet, and she might refuse me; but from all that you've
told me about her, I'm half in love with her already, and--well, we
needn't say anything more about that just now. Take me up to Town with
you after Commem., introduce me to her and leave the rest to me and her.
If ever a girl was made for the wife of such a man as I hope to be some
day, that girl, Maxwell, is your sister."

"But, Ernshaw, that is impossible. It may be only your good nature that
prompted you to say this, or it may be that, without intention, I have
somehow led you to look upon her as part of my destiny; but you forget,
or perhaps, I have not told you that we have lost her utterly for the
time being at least, she disappeared quite suddenly. My father and I
have made every effort to trace her, but without the slightest success."

"Then try again," replied Ernshaw, "and I will help in the search. At
any rate, when we do find her, as I am sure we shall some day, if she
will have me, I will ask her to be my wife."



CHAPTER VII.


It was the morning of Commemoration Day and Vane was dressing for the
great ceremony in the Sheldonian Theatre, the conferring of honours and
degrees, the placing of the Hall-mark of the University upon those who
had passed its tests and proved themselves to be worthy metal. Over the
end of the bed hung the brand-new bachelor's gown and silken hood,
which, to-day, for the first time, he would be entitled to wear. They
were the outward material symbols of the victory which he had won
against all competitors.

He was looking far back into his school-boy days and recalling the
dreams he had dreamt of the time when, if the Fates were very kind to
him, he would have taken his degree and would be able to walk about in
all the glory of cap and gown and hood as the masters did on Sundays and
Saints' days.

And now it had come to pass. He had taken as good a degree as the best
of them. In an hour or two he would appear capped and gowned and hooded
on the closing scene of his University career. On one side of him would
be the Chancellor and all the great dignitaries of the University; on
the other the great audience--the undergraduates in the upper galleries;
graduates, tutors and fellows, proud fathers and mothers, delighted
sisters and other feminine relatives, including cousins and others,
together with desperately envious younger brothers making the most
earnest resolves to henceforth eschew all youthful dissipations, to
foreswear idleness for ever, and to 'swat' day and night until they too
had achieved this glorious consummation--vows, alas! to be broken ere
the next school term was many days old, and yet, with not a few of them,
to be renewed later on and honestly kept.

He knew that, to use a not altogether inappropriate theatrical simile,
he would be playing a principal part that day. The cheers and the
plaudits which would burst out from the throats of his fellow-students,
and, indeed, from the whole audience, when he came on to doff his cap
and kneel before the Chancellor to take from his hands the honours he
had won, would be given in recognition of the most brilliant degree of
the year.

And _she_, too, would be there with her father and mother, and his
father, all sharing in his triumph, all glorying in his success, in this
splendid fruition of the labours, which, for so many years, they had
watched with such intensely sympathetic interest.

Under any other circumstances this would have meant to him even more
than the mere formal triumph; for though he had worked honestly and
single-heartedly for the prizes of his academic career, he had also
worked for them as an athlete might have striven for his laurels in the
Olympian Games, or a knight of the Age of Chivalry might have fought for
his laurels to lay them at the feet of his lady-love.

Now he had won them--and after all what were they worth? This was not
only to be a day of triumph for him. It was to be a day of hardest
trial and most bitter sacrifice as well; a trial which, as he knew even
now, would strain his moral fibre very nearly to the breaking point. It
was a struggle for which he had been bracing himself ever since that
last conversation which he had had with Enid. From that day to this he
had never clasped her hand or looked into her eyes.

That had been the agreement between them, and also between his father
and her parents. They were not to meet again until he had finished his
university career and taken his degree. That, as they thought, would
give them both time enough to think--to remain faithful, or to think
better of it, as the case might be--and, most important of all for Vane,
to determine by the help of more deliberate thought and added
experience, and by converse with minds older and more deeply versed in
the laws of human nature than his own, whether or not that resolve,
which he had taken when he first discovered that there was a taint of
poison in his blood, should be kept or not.

But now it was all over--although it ought only to have been just
beginning. This day, which ought to have been the brightest of his life,
was, in reality, to be the darkest. The golden gates of the Eden of Love
lay open before him, but, instead of entering them, he must pass by with
eyes averted, and enter instead the sombre portals of his life's
Gethsemane; there to take up his cross and to bear it until the time
came to lay it down by the side of the grave.

He had thought it all out long and earnestly in solitary communion with
his own soul, and during many long and closely-reasoned conversations
with Ernshaw, and the one of the night before had decided him--or it
might be more correct to say that it had completed the sum of the
convictions which had been accumulating in his soul for the last two
years.

The path of duty--duty to her, to himself and to Humanity--lay straight
and plain before him. He had nothing to do with the world now. He had
come to look upon that taint in his blood as a taint akin to that of
leprosy; an inherited curse which forbade him to mix with his kind as
other men did. He must stand aloof, crying "unclean" in his soul if not
with his voice. Henceforth he must be in the world and not of it--and
this, as he thought, he had already proved by his resolve to renounce
definitely and for ever the greatest treasure which the world could give
him, a treasure which had been his so long, that giving it up was like
tearing a part of his own being away with his own hands.

Still, it was all very hard and very bitter. Despite his two years'
preparation, the stress of that last struggle all through the long hours
of the night which should have been filled with brightest dreams of the
morrow, had left him, not only mentally worn out, but even physically
sick. He felt as though the scene which would mark the culminating
triumph of his academic career, the end of his youth and the beginning
of his manhood, was really an ordeal too great, too agonising, to be
faced.

His scout had brought up an ample breakfast, with, of course, many
congratulations on the coming honours of the day; but he had only drunk
some of the coffee and left the food untouched. As he stood in front of
the glass, putting on his collar, his face looked to him more like that
of a man going to execution, than to take the public reward of many a
silent hour of hard study. His hands trembled so that he could hardly
get his necktie into decent shape.

His coffee on the dressing-table. Would a teaspoonful of brandy in it do
him any harm? For two years he had not tasted alcohol in any shape,
though he had kept it in his rooms for his friends. He and Ernshaw, who
was also a rigid teetotaler, had sat with them and seen them drink. He
had smelt the fumes of it in the atmosphere of the room, first with
temptation which he had fought against and overcome in the strength of
the memory of that terrible night in Warwick Gardens. Then the subtle
aroma had become merely a matter of interest to him, a thing to be
studied as a physician might study the symptoms of a disease for which
he has found the cure.

He had seen his friends leave his rooms somewhat the worse for liquor,
and he had reasoned with them afterwards, not priggishly or
sanctimoniously, but just as a man who had had the same weakness and had
overcome it because he thought it necessary to do so, and they had taken
it all very good-humoredly and gone away and done the same thing again a
few nights afterwards, seeming none the worst for it.

But surely now he had conquered the deadly craving. Surely two years of
hard mental study and healthy physical exercise--two years, during which
not a drop of alcohol had passed his lips--must have worked the poison
out of his blood. Henceforth he was entitled to look upon alcohol as a
servant, as a minister to his wants, and not as a master of his
weaknesses.

His mental struggle had so exhausted him that his physical nature craved
for a stimulant, cried out for some support, some new life, new energy,
if even for an hour or so, so imperiously, that his enfeebled mental
stamina had not strength enough left to say "no."

He had got his collar on and his tie tied, and his hands and fingers
were trembling as though he were just recovering from an attack of
malarial fever.

"It can't possibly do me any harm now," he said, as he moved away from
the glass towards the door of his sitting-room. "I've conquered all
that. I haven't the slightest desire for it as drink--I haven't had for
over a year now--I only want it as medicine, as a patient has it from a
doctor. I can't go on without it, I must have something or I shall faint
in the Theatre or do something ridiculous of that sort, and as for
meeting Enid--good heavens, how am I to do that at all! Yes, I think a
couple of teaspoonsful in that coffee will do me far more good than
harm."

He went towards the sideboard on which stood his spirit-case. He
unlocked it and took out the brandy decanter. As he did so the memory of
that other night came back to him, and he smiled. He had conquered now,
and he could afford to smile at those old fears. He took the stopper out
of the decanter and deliberately raised it to his nostrils. No, it was
powerless. The aroma had no more effect upon him than the scent of, say,
_eau de Cologne_ would have had. That night in Warwick Gardens, it had
been like the touch of some evil magician's wand. Then, in an instant,
it had transformed his whole nature; but now his brain remained cool and
calm, and his senses absolutely unmoved. Yes, he had conquered. He
needed a stimulant, merely as an invalid might need a tonic, and he
could take it with just as much safety.

He took the decanter into his bedroom and poured a couple of
teaspoonsful into his coffee, stirred it, lifted the cup, and, after one
single priceless moment's hesitation, put it to his lips and drank it
off.

"Ah, that's better!" he said, as he put the cup down and felt the subtle
glow run like lightning through his veins. "Hallo, who's that? Confound
it, I hope it isn't Ernshaw. I don't want to begin the day with a
lecture on backsliding."

He put the stopper back, went into the sitting-room, and replaced the
decanter in the stand before he said in answer to a knock at his door:

"Come in! Is that you Ernshaw?"

The door opened, and Reginald Garthorne came in.

"No, it's me. That's not quite grammatical, I believe, but it's usual.
Good-morning, Maxwell," he went on, holding out his hand. "I've come
round early for two reasons. In the first place I want to be the first
to congratulate you, and in the second place I want you to give me a
brandy and soda. I got here rather late last night with one or two other
Cambridge men, and one of them took us to a man's rooms in Brazenose,
and we had a rather wet night of it. Not the proper thing, of course,
but excusable just now."

"As for the congratulations, old man," said Maxwell, "thanks for yours
and accept mine for what you've done in the Tripos, and as for the
brandy and soda, well, here you are. Open that cupboard, and you'll find
some soda and glasses."

As he said this, he unlocked the spirit case again, and put the brandy
decanter on the table.

"I've just been having a spoonful myself in my coffee," he went on, with
just a little flash of wonder why he should have said this. "The fact
is, I suppose, I've been overdoing it a bit lately, and that, and the
anxiety of the thing, has rather knocked me up. I felt as nervous as a
freshman going in for his first _viva voce_, when I got up this
morning."

"I don't wonder at it," said Garthorne, helping himself. "You must have
been grinding infernally hard. So have I, for the matter of that,
although, I didn't aspire to a double first. You really do look quite
knocked up. By the way," he continued, looking at Vane with a smile
whose significance he might have seen had it not been for those two
spoonsful of brandy, "I suppose you've quite got over that--well, if
you'll excuse me saying so--that foolishness about inherited alcoholism
and that sort of stuff, and therefore you'll lay all your laurels at the
feet of the fair Enid without a scruple? Of course, you remember that
juvenile hiding you gave me on the "Orient"? Quite romantic, wasn't it?
Well, I must admit that you proved yourself the better boy then, and as
you've taken a double first and I have only got a single, you've proved
yourself the better man as well. Here's to you, Maxwell, won't you join
me? You know you have quite an ordeal to go through to-day, and just one
won't hurt you--do you good, in fact. You look as if you wanted a
bracer."

Vane listened to the tempting words, so kindly and frankly spoken, as he
might have listened to words heard in a dream. All the high resolves
which had shaped themselves with such infinite labour during the past
two years, seemed already to have been made by someone else--a someone
else who was yet himself. He had made them and he was proud of them,
and, of course, he meant to hold to them; but he had conquered that
deadly fear which had held him in chains so long. He was a free man
now, and could do as he liked with his destiny.

His long probation was over, and he had come through it triumphant. He
was to see Enid again that day for the first time for two years. He
would hear her voice offering him the sweetest of all congratulations,
and when it was all over, there would be a little family gathering in
his rooms, just their fathers and themselves, and he would tell them
everything frankly, and they should help him to choose--for after all,
it was only their right, and she, surely, had the best right of all to
be consulted. Meanwhile, now that he had fought and conquered that old
craving for alcohol, there would be no harm, especially on such a
morning as this, in joining Garthorne in just one brandy and soda.

It never struck him how strangely inverted these thoughts were; what an
utter negation of his waking thoughts, as they flashed through his mind
while Garthorne was speaking. They seemed perfectly reasonable to him,
and--so subtle was the miracle wrought by those two spoonsful of
brandy--perfectly honest.

"Well, really, I don't see why I shouldn't," he said, taking up the
decanter and pulling one of the two glasses which Garthorne had put on
the table towards him. "I think I have got over that little weakness
now. At any rate, for the last two years I haven't touched a drop of
anything stronger than coffee, and I've sat here and in other men's
rooms with fellows drinking in an atmosphere, as one might say, full of
drink and tobacco smoke; and except for the smoking--of course I haven't
dropped that--I've never felt the slightest inclination to join them, at
least, after the first month or so--so I think I'm pretty safe now."

"Oh, of course you are!" said Garthorne. "As a matter of fact, you know,
I never thought that there was anything serious in that idea of yours
that you'd inherited the taint from some ancestor of yours. You got
screwed one night for the first time in your life, and it gave you a
fright. But the fact that you've been able to swear off absolutely for
two years, is perfectly clear proof that the craving really existed only
in your own imagination. If it had been real, you couldn't possibly have
done it. Well, here's to us, old man, and to someone else who shall be
nameless just now!"

Vane, in the recklessness of his new confidence, had mixed himself a
pretty stiff dose. As he raised his glass with Garthorne's, something
seemed to drag upon his arm, and something in his soul rose in revolt;
but the old lurking poison was already aflame in his blood. He nodded to
Garthorne and said:

"Thanks, old man. Here's to us and her!"

A few minutes before the words would have seemed blasphemy to him, now
they sounded like an ordinary commonplace. He put the glass to his lips
and emptied it in quick, hungry gulps.



CHAPTER VIII.


"By Jove, that's good," he said, as he put the empty glass down and drew
a long, deep breath. "You only really appreciate that sort of thing
after a long abstinence like mine."

"I should think so," laughed Garthorne, putting down his own empty
glass; "although good and all as a brandy and soda is, especially after
a rather hot night, I should hardly think it was worth while to be T.T.
for two years just to get the full flavour of it. If you don't mind I'll
have another."

"Certainly, old fellow, help yourself," said Vane, pushing the decanter
towards him. "That's made a new man of me. When I got up this morning I
couldn't eat a scrap of breakfast, but that's made me absolutely hungry.
The bacon's cold, of course, but there's a nice bit of tongue and some
brawn, and there's some toast and brown bread and butter. Sit down and
have a bite. The coffee's cold, but I can soon get up some hot if you'd
like it."

"Oh, never mind about that," said Garthorne. "I'm getting a bit peckish
myself, and I'll have a bite with you with pleasure; but I'm afraid hot
coffee on the top of brandy and soda at this time of the morning would
produce something of a conflict in the lower regions. I think another B.
and S. would go ever so much better with it."

As he said this he helped himself and pushed the decanter back towards
Vane, saying, "and if you'll take my advice you'll do the same. It can't
hurt you, especially if you're eating."

"Still, I think I'd better eat something first," said Vane, as he set
out the breakfast things and began to carve. "The hot plates are cold,
so there will be enough for both. By Jove, that stuff has given me an
appetite!"

"Yes, I thought it would do you good," said Garthorne. "Get something
solid inside you and have another drink, and you'll be able to face your
most reverend Chancellor with as much confidence as though you were his
father-in-law. I'll mix you another if you'll allow me while you're
carving. Give me about half and half, please."

"But don't give _me_ half and half," said Vane, with a laugh that
sounded rather strangely in his own ears, and then, without looking
round, he went on carving.

Garthorne poured a much more liberal quantity of brandy into Vane's
glass than he had done into his own, and at once filled it up with
soda-water from the syphon.

"I think you'll find that about right," he said, putting it down beside
him.

"Thanks, old fellow," said Vane; "much obliged!" He put the knife and
fork down, lifted the glass and took a sip. "Yes, that's about right, I
think," he said, without even noticing the strength of the mixture. And
then, with the unnatural appetite which the unaccustomed spirit had
roused in him, he took up his knife and fork and began to eat
ravenously, taking a gulp of the brandy and soda almost between each
mouthful.

They laughed and chatted merrily over the old days as they went on
eating and drinking; and as glass succeeded glass Vane became more and
more communicative and Garthorne more and more cordial. He quickly
learnt the truth of many things which so far he had only suspected, and
at last he managed to lead the conversation adroitly up to a point at
which Vane said in a somewhat thick, unsteady voice:

"By the way, Garthorne, yes, that reminds me. You remember that night at
the Empire when we had a bit of a row, Boat-race night, you know--that
girl that I got out of the crowd--pretty girl, wasn't she?"

"Yes," replied Garthorne, repressing a desire to laugh out openly. "I
remember her quite well; a very pretty girl, and, if I may say so
without paying you a compliment, very like your noble self. In fact, if
such a thing hadn't been utterly impossible, she might almost have
been----"

"My sister!" said Vane, as he drank off the remains of his fourth brandy
and soda and put the glass down with a thump on the table. "Yes, that's
it, my sister, or at least not quite my sister, but--at least--well,
half-sister, you understand--my mother's daughter, but not my
father's--see?"

"I see, I see," said Garthorne, and then, before he could get any
farther, there was a quick knock at the door. Vane looked dreamily
round, and said:

"Come in."

The door opened, and Ernshaw entered, followed by Sir Arthur Maxwell.

"Good heavens, Maxwell! what on earth does this mean?" exclaimed
Ernshaw, with something like a gasp in his voice, as he saw Vane sitting
at the table in his shirt-sleeves--the friend with whom he had sat in
this same room the night before and had that long solemn talk--the
friend who had given him such solemn pledges.

The table was littered and disordered, the coffee pot had got knocked
over; there was a cup lying on its side in the saucer; a dish of bacon
containing a couple of rashers and two eggs congealed in fat, and scraps
of meat and broken bits of bread and butter lay about on the cloth.

This was like anything but one of the many orderly breakfasts which he
had shared with Maxwell at the same table; but what startled Ernshaw
more than anything else was the sight of the empty glass beside his
friend's plate, the brandy decanter with less than a wine-glassful in
it, and the two empty soda syphons on the table.

"Good morning, Ernshaw! Morning, dad! Jolly glad to see you. Come in and
sit down and have a drink--I mean, a bit of breakfast. The coffee's
cold, but I can get you some more if you wouldn't rather have brandy and
soda--plenty more brandy in the cupboard, soda too. Get it out and help
yourselves. Dad, you know Garthorne, of course. Ernshaw, you don't; let
me introduce you--very good fellow--old rival of mine in love--you know
who with, the fellow I had a fight with on the steamer--both kids--first
man to come and congratulate me this morning. Admits that I licked him
then as a boy, and have licked him since as a man--took better degree
than he did. Still, nice of him to come, wasn't it? Come on, Ernshaw;
don't stand there staring. Come on and have a drink, too, and
congratulate, you old stick. Never mind about last night, I've got that
all under now; fought it for two years and beaten it. Can take a drink
now without fear of consequences. Taken lots this morning, and look at
me, sober as the Chancellor. Why, dad, what's the matter?"

Sir Arthur Maxwell had come up to Oxford to see his own old academic
triumphs repeated with added brilliance by his son. He had fully
approved of all that Vane had done during the two years' probation which
he had set himself, and he had firmly believed that the end of it all
would be, as he had many a time said to Enid's father, that the hard
study, the strenuous mental discipline, and the stress of healthy
emulation, would utterly destroy the germs of that morbid feeling which,
for a time at least, had poisoned the promise of his son's youth. He had
only arrived from Town, bringing Enid and her father, that morning, as
they had found it impossible to get rooms in Oxford over night. He had
met Ernshaw in the High, and they had come together to Vane's rooms to
find _this_!

Like a flash that other scene in Warwick Gardens came back to him. While
his son was speaking he had looked into his eyes and seen that mocking,
dancing flame which he had now a doubly terrible reason to remember, and
to see it there in his eyes now on the morning of the crowning day of
his youth, shining like a bale-fire of ruin through the morning sky of
his new life. It was like looking down into hell itself.

As Vane came towards him he staggered back as though he hardly
recognised him. Then, for the first time for nearly thirty years since a
well-remembered night among the Indian Hills, the room swam round him
and the light grew dark. He made a couple of staggering steps towards
the sofa, tripped over the edge of a rug, and rolled over, half on and
half off the sofa.

The sight sobered Vane instantaneously, though only for an instant.

"Dad, what's the matter?" he cried again. "My God, Ernshaw, what is it?
Tell me, what is it--what have I done? Let me go and see what's wrong
with him."

Then with stumbling steps he tried to get round the table. The corner of
it caught his thigh. He lurched sideways and dropped to the floor like a
man shot through the brain.

Garthorne was already kneeling by the sofa on to which he had lifted Sir
Arthur's head and shoulders, and had loosened his tie and collar.

"Poor Vane," he said, looking round. "I'm afraid the excitement of this
morning has been a bit too much for him. If we're going to get them
round in time, perhaps you'd better ring up his scout and send him for a
doctor."

"Yes," said Ernshaw, looking up from where he was kneeling by Vane. "I
suppose that's about the best thing to do, since the crime which you
have committed is unfortunately not one which warrants me in sending for
a policeman as well."

"Crime, sir, what the devil do you mean?" cried Garthorne, springing to
his feet.

"I mean," said Ernshaw slowly and without moving, "exactly what I say. I
feel perfectly certain from what I know of Maxwell that this could not
possibly have occurred unless he had been deliberately tempted to drink.
Your motives, of course, are best known to yourself and to Him who will
judge them."

"So that's it, is it?" said Garthorne, with a harsh laugh. "You think I
made him drunk for some purpose of my own, a man that I've been friends
with ever since we punched each other's heads as boys. Well, you've been
a good chum to Maxwell, so for his sake I'll pass over that idiotic
remark of yours, and tell you for your information that he had been
drinking before I came into the room at all."

"It's a lie!" exclaimed Ernshaw, springing to his feet and going towards
the bell. "Nothing on earth could make me believe that." And then he
rang the bell.

"I'm not accustomed to being called a liar," said Garthorne very
quietly, "without resenting it in practical form; but as you don't seem
to be quite yourself, and as there is so much physical difference in my
favour, I'll take the trouble to convince you that I am speaking the
truth."

He went into the bedroom and brought out Vane's coffee-cup.

"Smell that," he said.

Ernshaw took the cup and raised it to his nose. The strong smell of
brandy rising from the dregs was unmistakable. Then there came a knock
at the door, and Vane's servant came in.

"Oh, good Lord, gentlemen, whatever is the matter?" he exclaimed,
looking at Sir Arthur's prostrate form on the sofa and Vane's on the
floor.

"Never mind about that just now," said Garthorne curtly; "help us to
carry Mr. Maxwell to his room. Then you'd better undress him and get him
to bed. I suppose you can see what's the matter, and I hope also that
you've learnt to hold your tongue."

"Yes, sir," said the scout. "No man ever served a better master than Mr.
Maxwell, and I hope I know my duty to him."

Then the three of them picked up Vane's limp, loose-jointed form from
the floor and carried him into his bedroom and laid him on the bed.

"Now," Garthorne continued, "I want you to tell Mr. Ernshaw whether I
came here after or before Mr. Maxwell had his coffee."

"A good half-hour after, I should say, sir," said the scout, looking a
little mystified. "You see, I brought it up about a quarter past eight,
and he was up then and half dressed. He must have drunk it soon after,
because he never will drink coffee unless it's hot. If it had got cold
he'd have had some more up, and you came a bit before nine, sir. He must
have drunk it before then."

"Very well," said Garthorne. "Now, can you remember whether the
decanters in the spirit-case were filled up last night?"

"No, sir," said the scout. "I filled them up the first thing this
morning myself, thinking that Mr. Maxwell would have some friends come
to see him on a day like this."

"Thank you," said Garthorne; "that'll do, I think. Now you'd better get
Mr. Maxwell undressed."

"Yes," said Ernshaw. "But what about Sir Arthur? Surely we ought to get
a doctor for him as soon as possible."

"I am going for a doctor at once," said Garthorne, "if you will tell me
where I can find one. I have given him a spoonful of brandy, and I'm
going to give him another. Just come in here for a moment, please. You
can't do anything for Maxwell yet."

Ernshaw followed him into the sitting-room, and as he took up the
decanter Garthorne went on, holding up the brandy decanter, which had
only a few spoonfuls left in it:

"Look at that. You heard what his man said. Do you mean to tell me that
I could have drunk even half of that since nine o'clock and be as sober
as I certainly am? The idea is absurd."

Then he poured out a little into a wine-glass, put his hand under Sir
Arthur's head, and let a few drops trickle between his lips. Sir Arthur,
who had been gradually regaining consciousness, drew a deep breath
which ended in a cough. Then he opened his eyes and said:

"What's the matter? Where am I? Where's Vane?"

"You have had a great shock, Sir Arthur," said Garthorne, in a tone so
gentle and kindly that Ernshaw started at it. "Vane has been taken ill,
too, and we are putting him to bed. I'm just going for a doctor."

Then he laid Sir Arthur's head back on the cushion and said, rising to
his feet:

"Now, Mr. Ernshaw, I think that's about all I can do for the present. If
you will tell me where I can find Maxwell's doctor I'll go and send him,
and then I'll go on and tell Sir Godfrey, not what has really taken
place, but that something has happened which may prevent Maxwell leaving
his rooms to-day."

Ernshaw scribbled the name and address of the doctor on the back of an
envelope and gave it to Garthorne, saying, rather hesitatingly:

"There it is, Mr. Garthorne. I'm afraid I've been too hasty in what I
said to you, and I must confess that you've taken it as very few men
would have done. But if you only knew all that Vane has been to me
during the last two years, and how awful this seems to me----"

"My dear sir, don't say any more about it," Garthorne interrupted
good-humouredly. "I know enough of poor Vane's story to see exactly what
you mean. We'll consider it all unsaid, and now I must be off."



CHAPTER IX.


Ernshaw's first care, after Garthorne had left the room, was to see to
the comfort of Sir Arthur, who had now quite recovered consciousness,
but was still feeling faint and ill. He told him as much of the truth
about Vane as he knew, and while he was doing so, Jepson, the scout,
came in from the bedroom, and said with an air of deferential
confidence:

"If you please, sir, I don't think there'll be any need for a doctor to
Mr. Maxwell. He's come round a bit, and I think I know what his
complaint is. Being excited, as he might well be on a morning like this,
he's taken a drop too much on an empty stomach, and that led him to
drink brandy and soda with his breakfast instead of sending for some
more coffee. I've often seen this sort of thing before, sir, you see,
and I've found the physic that will cure him on the mantelpiece. It's
this."

He held up a little stoppered bottle full of strong ammonia, which Vane
had got for cleaning up the bindings of some old books.

"Twenty drops of this," he went on, "in a wine-glassful of water, and
he'll be as sober as ever he was in half an hour. Then I'll make him
some strong coffee, and he'll be as right as a trivet. Only you mustn't
let him take any more drink afterwards, or he'll just bring his boots
up. I suppose I may try, sir? At any rate it won't do him any harm."

"Certainly," said Ernshaw, "I've heard of it before. Do the best you can
for him, Jepson."

Jepson shut the door with a "Thank you, sir," and proceeded to treat his
patient.

Before the doctor arrived Sir Arthur had almost entirely recovered, and
Vane was sitting up in bed, supported by the faithful Jepson's arm,
gasping and coughing, but perfectly sober, and wondering dimly what had
happened during the last hour or two--or was it weeks, or months, or
what? He felt horribly sick and ill, and he was trembling in every limb,
but the clouds of intoxication had cleared away from his mind; memory
was returning to him, and he was asking Jepson disjointed questions as
to what had happened.

"Never you mind about that, sir," said Jepson. "Everything's all right
now. Sir Arthur is coming round nicely, and now you've got that down,
you just lay back and keep quiet, and I'll go and make your coffee, and
before an hour's over you'll be ready and fit to go to the Sheldonian
and face the Chancellor as though you hadn't tasted a drop."

Vane, still wondering at his apparently miraculous recovery, did as he
was told and lay back upon the pillows, and Jepson went off to brew him
an "extra special" pot of coffee.

"It's very unfortunate for Mr. Maxwell," he said, when he got into his
own den, "very unfortunate, and on Degree Day too, but if I know
anything about him and Sir Arthur, and I can get him to the Theatre
dressed and _compos mentis_ and all that sort of thing--well, it's a
fiver at least in my pocket, so it's an ill wind that blows nobody
good."

The doctor arrived while he was making the coffee. Ernshaw explained
quickly what had happened. He went in and looked at Vane, felt his
pulse, asked him in a kindly tone why he had made such a fool of himself
on such a day, then he said that he couldn't improve on Jepson's
treatment under the circumstances, and went in to look at Sir Arthur,
who now, thanks to Ernshaw's care, was almost himself again.

"Curious business this," he said, after he had felt Sir Arthur's pulse
and found that he was practically all right. "Your son's case, I mean.
I've known him nearly all the time that he's been up, and I've always
considered that he was a teetotaller from principle. Of course it would
be simply absurd to attempt to conceal from you what has been the matter
with him this morning. He's been drunk, dead drunk, by about half-past
nine in the morning. At the same time we must remember that when a man
has been in hard training for a boat race, or anything of that sort, or
if he has been reading hard on tea, which is almost as vicious a habit
as alcoholism, he can get drunk on very little alcohol when the strain
is taken off. In fact, I have known a man get drunk on a pint of bitter
and a beef-steak; but there doesn't seem any reason of that sort for
what happened this morning. Still, fortunately, that man of his knew
what to do, and he's done it--a rather heroic remedy certainly, but one
can risk that with a good constitution.

"Still, I can't quite understand it, I must confess. If there was any
taint of what we now call alcoholic insanity in his blood, it would, of
course, be perfectly plain. However, we needn't go into that now. There
can't be any idea of that, and I think when he's had his coffee, and
you've had a mild brandy and soda, Sir Arthur, and kept quiet for half
an hour or so, I think you will be able to go and see your son take the
honours which he has won, and won very well, too. I suppose no idea of
this has gone beyond these rooms?"

"I'm afraid they have," said Ernshaw. "Garthorne, a Cambridge man, the
man, you know, Sir Arthur, who was here with Vane when you came in, the
same man who went for you, Doctor, said that he would go on and tell Sir
Godfrey that Vane had been taken ill and wouldn't be able to come out of
his rooms to-day. In short, that he would have to receive his degree by
proxy."

"The devil he did," said Sir Arthur, getting up from the sofa with the
strength of a sudden access of anger and moving towards the bedroom
door. "Look here, doctor, you have just said that Vane is getting round.
Well, if he is, the old blood in him will tell, and he'll take his place
and play his part with the rest of them. Mr. Ernshaw, I know your
friendship for my son; I know what you have done for him, and how you
have helped him. Now, will you do me another favour and take my
compliments to Sir Godfrey Raleigh, and say that the matter is not
anything like as serious as we thought it was, and that both Vane and
myself will be ready to go through the day's programme as arranged. If
you will be good enough to do that, the doctor and I will be able to
arrange the rest, I think."

"I shall be only too glad," said Ernshaw, taking up his hat. "I shall
just have about time to do it, and then get to my rooms and dress. _Au
revoir_, then, until after the ceremony," and with that, he opened the
door just as Jepson knocked at it, bringing in the coffee.

Ernshaw found Garthorne already at Sir Godfrey's rooms in close
conversation with Enid. He had, of course, heard much about her from
Vane, but this was the first time he had seen her. She had more than
fulfilled the promise of two years before, and Ernshaw, ascetic as he
was, had still too strong an artistic vein in his temperament to be
insensible to her beauty. In fact, as she rose to greet the closest
friend of the man who had been her lover, and who, as she fondly hoped,
would be so once more after to-day, he started and coloured ever so
slightly. He had never seen anything like her before as she stood there
with outstretched hand, gently-smiling lips, and big, soft, deep eyes,
in all the pride and glory of her dawning womanhood.

It was this, then, that Vane had to give up. This was the priceless
treasure which, if he kept his vow, he would have to surrender to
another man. As the thought crossed his mind, he looked at Garthorne,
and he saw the possibility that, after all, he might be the victor in
that struggle which had begun years ago on the deck of the steamer.

Certainly, as far as physical conditions went, there could hardly be a
better match; but as he looked back to Enid, a darker thought stole into
his mind. Garthorne had, superficially at least, rebutted the charges he
had made against him in Vane's rooms; but though he had apologised for
what he had said, the conviction that he had deliberately tempted Vane
to drink came back to him, now that he saw how great a temptation
Garthorne had to commit such an infamy.

No doubt he knew perfectly well that Enid herself would overlook Vane's
second lapse as she had done his first, and would be quite content to
marry him on the strength of his promise that he would never get drunk
again; but he also knew that, after what had happened that morning,
Vane's determination to give her up would be tenfold strengthened, and
that, when once he had definitely done so, the psychological moment
would have arrived for him to begin his own suit--at first, of course,
from a deferential distance, from which he might hope to approach her
heart through the avenue of her injured pride.

"Good morning, Mrs. Ernshaw!" she said, "I am glad to meet such an old
and good friend of Vane's. I have heard a great deal about you, and, I
need hardly say, nothing but good. I hope you have come to tell me that
Vane is better and also that you will tell me what has really been the
matter with him. Mr. Garthorne, here, has been very rude; he has
absolutely refused to say anything about it, and I am quite offended
with him. I really can't see why there should be any mystery about it.
What is it?"

Ralph Ernshaw was one of those men who can no more tell a direct lie, or
even prevaricate, than they can get outside their own skins. He held
even the white lies of conventionality to be unworthy of anyone who held
the truth as sacred, and yet for the life of him he could not look this
lovely girl in the face and tell her that the man whom she had loved
ever since she knew what love was, had been lying drunk on the floor of
his room less than an hour before, and that the sight of him had shocked
his father into a fainting fit.

"I think, Miss Raleigh," he said, after a little hesitation, "that Vane
would rather tell you that himself. In fact, to be quite candid with
you, it is not a subject upon which I should care to touch even at your
request, simply because I think that it is a matter which could be very
much better discussed and explained between Vane and yourself; and I
think Mr. Garthorne will agree with me in that view."

"Certainly I do," said Garthorne, "I think that is the most sensible way
of putting it. Enid, if you'll take my advice you'll take Ernshaw's, and
let Vane do his own explaining after Commem."

"Really, I think it's very horrid of both of you," said Enid. "I
certainly can't see why there should be all this mystery. If it's
anything really serious, surely I have a right to know. However, I
suppose I must control my feminine impatience, at any rate it can't be
anything very bad if he'll be able to be at the Theatre and Sir Arthur
can come with him. I suppose I shall hear all about it at dinner
to-night."

"I have no doubt that you will, Miss Raleigh," said Ernshaw, "and now,
if you will excuse me, I must be off to my rooms to get ready for my own
share of the proceedings. Good morning."

"Good morning, Mr. Ernshaw," replied Enid, a trifle stiffly. "That
reminds me how rude I have been, I've not congratulated you yet."

"Oh, I haven't done anything," said Ernshaw, "at least, not in
comparison with what Vane has done. You'll see the difference in the
Theatre. Good morning again. Good morning, Mr. Garthorne."

"Good morning--we shall see you later, I suppose?" replied Garthorne, as
the door closed, and then he turned to Enid and went on: "He's a
thundering good fellow that Ernshaw. Quite a character, I believe,
enthusiast, and all that sort of thing, but everyone here seems to think
he'll be a shining light some day."

"Yes, he seems very nice," said Enid, "but, as a matter of fact, I can't
say that I'm particularly fond of shining lights or people who are too
good, and from what papa tells me, this Mr. Ernshaw has been making or
trying to make Vane a great deal too good for me. I even hear that he
has been trying to make Vane become a parson. Fancy Vane, with all his
talents and prospects, a curate! The idea is absurd, even more absurd
than this two years' probation idea."

"I quite agree with you," said Garthorne, "but still, think of the test
of constancy and the delight of knowing that you have both stood it so
well."

At this moment the door opened, and Sir Godfrey came in, not altogether
to Garthorne's satisfaction, and so put an end to further developments
of the conversation.

A couple of hours later Enid was sitting with her father, a unit of the
vast audience which filled the Sheldonian Theatre. After Ernshaw's
visit, neither she nor her father had received any message either from
Vane or Sir Arthur. She had expected that Vane, at least, would have
come to her before the beginning of the ceremonies, or that, at least,
Sir Arthur would have come and told her something about him, but no, not
a word; and there she sat between Garthorne and her father, angry and
yet expectant, waiting for the moment of his appearance.

"Ah, here he is at last," whispered Garthorne, as his name and honours
were called out in Latin.

Enid held her breath as the familiar figure, clad in the unfamiliar
academic garb, walked towards the Chancellor's throne. She could see
that he was deadly pale, and that his eyes were shining with an
unnatural brightness. He never even once looked towards her. The wild
outburst of cheering which greeted his appearance seemed as utterly
lost upon him as if he had been stone deaf and blind. He listened to the
Chancellor's address with as little emotion as though it concerned some
one else. Then he knelt down, the hood, the outward and visible sign of
his intellectual triumph, was put over his shoulders; the Chancellor
spoke the magic words without his hearing them. He never felt the three
taps given with the New Testament on his head, and he rose from his
knees and moved away from the scene of the crowning triumph of his youth
as mechanically as though the proceedings had no more interest for him
than if they had been taking place a thousand miles away.

All through the afternoon Enid and her father waited for them to come,
but there was no sign from either of them until just before tea-time
Jepson presented himself with two letters, one addressed to Sir Godfrey
and one to Enid. Both were very short. Sir Godfrey's was from Sir
Arthur, and ran as follows:

     "MY DEAR RALEIGH,

     "I hope that you and your daughter will forgive the apparent
     discourtesy of our absence from you this afternoon and evening. I
     find it necessary to take Vane to London at once. His letter to
     Enid will explain the reason.

     "Faithfully yours,
     "ARTHUR MAXWELL."

"There is evidently something very serious the matter," said Sir
Godfrey, as he handed the note to Enid. "Maxwell wouldn't write like
that without good reason. That's from Vane, I suppose. What does he
say?"

"Say," exclaimed Enid, with a flash of anger through her fast gathering
tears. "That's what he says. It's too bad, too cruel--and after leaving
me alone for two years--it's miserable!" And with that, she made a swift
escape out of the room and shut the door behind her with an emphatic
bang.

Sir Godfrey picked the note up from the table where she had flung it.
There was no form of address. It simply began:


"I was drunk this morning. Drunk without meaning to be so, after being
two years without touching alcohol and without experiencing the
slightest craving for it. Last night I had finally come to the
conclusion that it would be a sin to ask you to keep your promise to me.
Now I am convinced that it would be absolute infamy to do so. I dare not
even face you to tell you this, so utterly unworthy and contemptible am
I in my own sight. Whatever you hear to the contrary, remember that what
has happened this morning is no fault of anyone but myself. If ever we
meet again I hope I shall find you the wife of a man more worthy of you
than I am now, or, with this accursed taint in my blood, ever could be.
Perhaps in those days we may be friends again; but for the present we
must be strangers.

"Vane."



CHAPTER X.


Yet another twelve months had passed since Vane had taken his degree;
since Enid had seen him vanish like a spectre out of her life, and had
waited vainly for his coming, only to receive instead that letter of
farewell which, the instant she had read it, she knew to be final and
irrevocable.

In such a nature as hers the tenderest spot was her pride. She had been
his sweetheart since they were boy and girl together, and when the time
came they had become formally engaged. For nearly four years now she had
considered herself as half married to him. Other men attracted by her
physical beauty and her mental charm had approached her, as they had a
perfect right to do, in open and honest rivalry of Vane, but she had
given them one and all very clearly to understand that she had
definitely plighted her troth, and had no intention of breaking it. In
other words she had been absolutely faithful even in thought.

She had never considered his feelings as to what he called his inherited
alcoholism as anything else than the somewhat fine-drawn scruples of a
highly-strung, and rather romantic nature. She had not troubled herself
about the deadly scientific aspect of the matter. She knew perfectly
well that men got drunk sometimes and still made excellent husbands,
and, more than all, she firmly believed that, once Vane's wife, she
would speedily acquire sufficient influence over him to make anything
like a recurrence of what had happened quite impossible.

Even after his second and worst breakdown on the morning of
Commemoration Day she would still have received him as her lover and,
after a little friendly lecture which would, of course, have ended in
the usual way, she would have been perfect friends with him again on the
old footing.

But that letter had ended everything between them. Moreover, it had been
followed by one from Sir Arthur to her father expressing great regret at
the turn which matters had taken, but saying that, after repeated
conversations with Vane, he had been forced to the conclusion that his
resolve to enter the Church and devote himself to a life of celibacy and
mission work at home was really fixed and unalterable.

After that there was, of course, nothing more to be said or done. Enid,
being a natural, simple-hearted, healthy English girl, who enjoyed life
a great deal too well to worry about looking under the surface of
things, therefore came to the conclusion that she had been jilted for
the sake of a fine-drawn Quixotic idea. If she had been jilted for the
sake of another woman it would have been quite a different matter. Then
there would have been something tangible to hate bitterly for a season,
and then to get revenged on by making a much more brilliant marriage, as
she could easily have done. But it was infinitely worse, and more
humiliating to be thrown over like this by the man whom she had looked
upon as her future husband nearly all her life, whom she had played at
housekeeping with while they were children, and whom she had never
looked upon as anything else but a sweetheart or a lover--and yet it was
true, miserably true, and now, for the sake of a mere idea, she found
herself cast off, loverless and alone.

Then, after a few weeks of secret, but exceeding bitterness, she did
what nineteen out of every twenty girls would have done under the
circumstances. The twentieth girl would probably have considered her
life blighted for ever, and vowed the remainder of it to
single-blessedness, charity and good works as a Sister of something or
other. But Enid belonged to the practical majority, and so when the
breaking off of the engagement became an actual social fact, and
Reginald Garthorne came just at the psychological moment to tell her
that never since he had earned that boyish licking on the steamer by
kissing her, had he been able to look with love into the eyes of any
other woman, she had told him with perfect frankness that, as it was
quite impossible for her to marry Vane, and as she certainly liked him
next best, and had not the slightest intention of remaining single, she
was perfectly content to marry him. If he chose to take her on those
terms he might go and talk the matter over with Sir Godfrey, and if he
and her mother said "yes," she would say "yes," too.

It was a somewhat prosaic wooing, perhaps, but Reginald Garthorne had
been hungering for her in his heart for years. Outwardly he had been
friends with Vane, but in his soul he had hated him consistently as boy
and man ever since that scene behind the wheelhouse of the _Orient_. He
was, therefore, perfectly content. He had longed for her, and he didn't
care how he got her. The rest would come afterwards.

He was rich, far richer than Vane ever would be. He had inherited a
fortune of nearly two hundred thousand pounds from his mother's side of
the family when he came of age. On his father's death he would succeed
to the title and a fine old country house in the Midlands, with a
rent-roll and mining royalties worth over thirty thousand a year. He
would be able to make her life a continuous dream of pleasure, amidst
which she would very soon forget the visionary who was throwing away his
manhood and all the best years of his life just because he had learnt
that he was the son of a drunken and abandoned woman, and had himself
got drunk twice in his life.

The interview with Sir Godfrey and Lady Raleigh had been entirely
satisfactory. They both considered in their hearts that their daughter
had been very badly treated. From every social point of view this was a
match which left nothing to be desired, and so they said "yes," and
Garthorne went back to Enid, and said, triumphantly, as he kissed her
for the first time since that memorable kiss on the steamer:

"And so, you see, darling, I've won, after all!"

It was thus that it came about that, on the same day, as the Fates would
have it, two ceremonies were being performed at the same hour, one in
St. George's, Hanover Square, and one before the altar at Worcester
Cathedral.

The Bishop, in full canonicals, surrounded by his attendant clergy, sat
inside the altar rails in front of the Communion Table, and on the
topmost step before the rails knelt two young men wearing surplices and
the hoods of Bachelors of Arts of Oxford.

It was the Feast of St. James the Apostle, and in his exhortation the
Archdeacon, who was preacher for the day, had taken for his text the
collect:

     "Grant, O merciful God, that, as Thine holy Apostle St. James,
     leaving his father and all that he had without delay, was obedient
     unto the call of Thy Son Jesus Christ and followed Him, so we,
     forsaking all worldly and carnal affections, may be evermore ready
     to follow Thy holy commandments, through Jesus Christ our Lord!"

One of the men kneeling at the altar rails was Mark Ernshaw, and the
other was Vane Maxwell.

Among the somewhat scanty congregation which had remained after the
usual morning service, sat Sir Arthur Maxwell. A year ago he would have
been inclined to laugh at the idea of his son sacrificing all his
brilliant worldly prospects to enter the Church. He was, as has already
been said, a deeply religious man himself, but still, he was a man of
the world, a man who had made his own way through the world, and won by
sheer hard work some of the prizes which it has to give, and, like many
others of his class, he had come to look upon the clerical profession
somewhat as the refuge of the intellectually destitute.

But as the time had gone on since that scene in his son's rooms at
Oxford, he had come to believe that with Vane it was not a mere
question, as it is with too many other men, of taking Orders to secure a
profession and a position. He was entering the Church as the men of more
earnest and more faithful ages had done; because he believed that he had
a duty to do, a mission to perform, a sacrifice to make, and, above all,
an enemy to fight which was God's enemy as well as his own.

Therefore the words "leaving his father and all that he had," awakened
no bitter echoes in his soul. True it was a sacrifice for him as well as
for Vane; but for Vane's sake he had made it willingly and cheerfully,
and he was able now to look forward with perfect contentment to the
triumphs which, in his father's pride, he could not help believing his
son would win in that higher and holier sphere of life which he had
chosen.

The presentation being made and the questions as to "crime or
impediment" being duly asked and answered, the Litany and Suffrages
began, and every note and word of the solemn intonation, ringing through
the silence of the great Cathedral, found an echo which rang true in
three souls at least among the congregation:

     "O God the Father of Heaven: have mercy upon us, miserable sinners.

     "O God the Son, Redeemer of the world: have mercy upon us,
     miserable sinners.

     "O God the Holy Ghost, proceeding from the Father and the Son: have
     mercy upon us, miserable sinners.

     "O Holy blessed and glorious Trinity, three Persons and one God:
     have mercy upon us, miserable sinners.

     "Remember not, Lord, our offences, nor the offences of our
     forefathers: neither take thou vengeance on our sins: spare us,
     good Lord, spare thy people whom thou hast redeemed with Thy most
     precious blood, and be not angry with us for ever.

     "From all evil and mischief: from sin, from the crafts and assaults
     of the devil: from Thy wrath and from everlasting damnation.

     "From all blindness of heart: from pride, vain-glory and
     hypocrisy: from envy, hatred and malice, and all uncharitableness.

     "From fornication, and all other deadly sin: and from all the
     deceits of the world, the flesh and the devil.

     "Good Lord deliver us!"

"Remember not, Lord, our offences, nor the offences of our forefathers:
neither take thou vengeance on our sins."

These, of all the words which he heard spoken on that fateful day, the
day which marked for him the passing of the line which divides the World
of the Flesh from the World of the Spirit--the frontier of the kingdom
of this world separating it from that other Kingdom which, though
worldwide, yet owns but a single Lord--seemed to fall with greater
weight into Vane's soul than any others of the service. As he heard them
he raised his bent head, threw it back and, with wide open eyes, looked
up over the Bishop's head and the reredos behind the altar to the
central section of the great stained glass window containing the figure
of the Godhead crucified in the flesh, with the two Marys, Mary the
Mother and Mary Magdalene, kneeling at the foot of the Cross.

Like a quiver of summer lightning across the horizon of an August sky,
there came to him the thought of that mother of his whom he had never
known, and of that girl who was almost his sister, long ago lost in the
great wilderness of London. They were not likenesses, only the faintest
of suggestions, and yet the mere recollection seemed to lend an added
solemnity to the vows which he was about to take.

     "I will do so, the Lord being my helper!"

As he uttered the words there was not the faintest doubt in his soul
that for the rest of his life he would be able to keep both the letter
and the spirit of the oath unbroken to the end of his days. Many a man
and woman has rashly wished that it were possible to look into the
future. Such a thought had more than once crossed Vane Maxwell's mind,
but could he, in that solemn moment, have looked into the future and
seen what lay before him, he would have been well content with the high
destiny to which his great renunciation was to lead him.

       *       *       *       *       *

And now the scene changes from Gloucester Cathedral, to St. George's,
Hanover Square.

It was the smartest wedding of the year, and, apart from all its social
brilliance, even the most rigid critics admitted that London had not
seen a lovelier bride or a handsomer bridegroom than Enid Raleigh and
Reginald Garthorne. The church was thronged by an audience made up of
the friendly, the sympathetic, the sentimental, and the merely curious,
as is usual on such occasions.

Carol Vane and Dora Russel, who had come provided with tickets
indirectly supplied by the bridegroom himself, occupied seats in the
left-hand gallery at the front. In consequence of the crowd, they only
got into their places just as the bridal procession was moving up the
central aisle. There was the bride with her attendant bridesmaids, six
little maidens dressed in pure white, the bridegroom with his pages, six
counterparts dressed in the style of Charles I. Then Sir Godfrey and
Lady Raleigh, and then a tall, grizzled, soldierly-looking man, and
beside him a white-haired old lady, who might have stepped straight out
of one of Gainsborough's pictures.

As Carol caught sight of the man beside her, she leant half her body
over the front of the gallery, and stared with straining eyes down at
the slowly moving procession. Dora caught her by the arm and pulled her
back, saying, in a whisper:

"Don't do that; you might fall over."

Carol turned a white face and a pair of blankly staring eyes upon her,
caught her by the arm with one hand and pointing downwards with the
other, said in a whisper that seemed to rattle in her throat:

"See that man, there--that tall one with the old lady on his arm? That's
the man who did all the ruin! That's my father--and my mother was Vane's
mother, and that's his son, going to marry Vane's sweetheart. No, by
God, he shan't! I'll tell the whole church full, first."

She tore herself free from Dora's hold and struggled to her feet, her
lips were opened to utter words which would have instantly turned the
wedding into a tragedy; but the rush of thoughts which came surging into
her brain was too much for her. The swift revelation of an almost
unbelievable life-tragedy struck her like a lightning-stroke; she
uttered a few incoherent sounds, and then dropped back fainting into
Dora's arms.

"Another of life's little tragedies, I suppose," whispered a
well-dressed matron just behind her, to a companion at her side, "a
_petite maitresse_, no doubt. It's a curious thing; they always come to
see their lovers married."



CHAPTER XI.


The fainting of Carol in the gallery of the church and her being carried
out just before the commencement of the ceremony, was looked upon by
some of the more superstitious of the immediate spectators as a sign of
evil omen to the happiness of those who, in the phrase which is so often
only the echo of devils' laughter, were about "to be joined together in
holy matrimony."

Still, only a few had heard the broken words which the horror-stricken
girl had uttered before she fell down insensible, and those only thought
what the good lady behind her had said. To the rest of the congregation
it was merely an incident, due to the crowd and the heat. The little
flutter of excitement which it caused soon passed away, and the ceremony
began and went on without any of the bridal party even knowing what had
happened.

She was carried to the gallery stairs, and there Dora sat her down,
supporting her with her arm, while one sympathetic young lady held a
bottle of salts to her nostrils, and an older lady emptied a
scent-bottle on to her handkerchief and held it to her forehead.

In a very few minutes she came round. She looked about her, and,
recognising Dora, said:

"Oh, dear, what's happened? Where am I? Yes, I remember--at a
wedding--and he----"

Then she checked herself, and Dora said:

"Do you think you're well enough to come down and get into a cab, and
then we'll get home? It was the heat and the crush that did it, I
suppose."

"Yes, I think I can," said Carol. "I'm all right now. Thank you very
much for being so kind," she went on to the other two with a faint smile
of gratitude.

"Oh, don't mention it," they said almost together, and then the younger
one put her hand under her arm and helped her up. "Let me help you
down," she said. "I daresay you'll be all right when you get into the
open air."

Carol looked round at her and saw that, without being exactly pretty,
she had a very sweet and sympathetic expression, and big, soft brown
eyes which looked out very kindly under dark level brows. It was a face
which women perhaps admire more than men; but her voice was one which
would have gone just as quickly to a man's heart as to a woman's. At any
rate, it went straight to Carol's, and when they had got into the cab
and she leant back against the cushions she said to Dora:

"I wonder who that girl was? Did you notice what a sweet face and what a
lovely voice she had? I'm not very loving towards my own sex, but as
soon as I got round I felt that I wanted to hug her--and I suppose if
she knew the sort of person I am she wouldn't have touched me. What a
difference clothes make, don't they? Now, if I'd been dressed as some of
the girls are----"

"I think you're quite wrong there, Carol," said Dora, interrupting her.
"I don't believe she's that sort at all, she was much too nice, I'm
certain. She had the face of a really good woman, and you know good
women don't think that of us. It's only the goody-goody ones who do
that, and there's a lot of difference between good and goody-goody."

"Well, yes," said Miss Carol, "I daresay you're right, after all. She
had a sweet face, hadn't she? But look here, Dora," she went on with a
sudden change of tone, "did you ever know anything so awful? No--I can't
talk about it yet. Tell him to pull up at the Monico, and we'll have a
brandy and soda. I never wanted a drink so badly in my life."

The cab had meanwhile been rolling down Regent Street, and had almost
reached the Circus. Dora put her hand up through the trap and told the
cabman--whose opinion of his fares underwent an instantaneous change. He
nodded and said, "Yes, miss," and the next minute pulled up in front of
the square entrance to the cafe. Dora got out first and helped Carol
out; then she gave the cabman a shilling and they went in.

"Goes to a wedding, does a faint, comes out, and stops 'ere when they
ought to have been driven 'ome. Not much class there!" the cabman
soliloquised as he flicked his whip over his horse's ears and turned
across towards Piccadilly. He was, perhaps, naturally disgusted at the
meagre results of a job for which he had expected three or four
shillings at the very least.

The big café was almost deserted, as it usually is in the morning, and
the two girls found a secluded seat at one of the corner tables.

"Dora, you must pay for these," said Carol when they had given their
order, "and what's more you'll have to lend me some money to go on with,
for if I was starving I wouldn't spend another shilling of that man's
money."

"But, my dear child, I don't suppose he knew it," said Dora. "Of course
you can have anything I've got if you want it, and I quite understand
how you feel. It's very dreadful, horrible, in fact, but you couldn't
help it. You're not to blame, and I don't see that he is, after all's
said and done."

"No, I don't say that he is," said Carol, "and of course I couldn't
know, for he isn't a bit like his father. He was dark once, so I suppose
the--the other one takes after his mother. At least, he would do if she
was a fair woman. But just fancy me having that feeling about Vane that
night--feeling that I couldn't--and yet this one is just as near. God
forgive me, Dora, isn't it awful?"

"Well, never mind, dear," said Dora, as the waiter brought the drinks.
"I don't see that that matters one way or the other now. What's done
_is_ done, and there's an end of it. Well, here's fun, and better luck
next time!"

"Hope so!" said Carol somewhat bitterly, as she took a rather long pull
at her brandy and soda. "Ah, that's better," she went on, as she put her
glass down. "At any rate, it couldn't be much worse luck, could it?"

"But are you perfectly certain," said Dora, "that he really was the man?
You know, after all, you only saw him for quite a moment or so."

"I'm as certain as I am that I'm sitting here," said Carol, "that that
was the man who lived with my mother in Paris and Vienna and Nice and a
lot of other places ever since I can remember. It isn't likely that I'm
going to forget when I have such good reason as I have for remembering.
He's the man, right enough, and if I was face to face with him for five
minutes I'd prove it. The question is whether I ought to prove it or
not."

"That's a thing that wants thinking about," said Dora. "But how can you
prove it?"

"Easy enough," replied Carol, "if he'd just take his coat off and turn
his shirt-sleeve up. He's got two marks just above his right elbow, two
white marks, and the one on the front is bigger than the one behind.
I've seen them many a time when he's been sculling or playing tennis. He
told me he got them from a spear thrust when he was fighting in the Zulu
war. The spear went right in in front and the point came out behind, and
if I had a thousand pounds I'd bet it that that man has got those marks
on his arm.

"Besides, I know lots of other things about him. You know I'm not a bad
mimic, for one thing, and I could imitate his voice and his way of
talking before I heard him speak, and I know a photographer in Paris
where I could get his photograph--one taken while he was with us. We
went with him to have it taken; and, besides, I don't care whether that
unfortunate mother of mine's mad or not, she'd recognise him. I'd bet
any money he daren't go to the place where she is and face her. Well,
now I'm better. Let's go home to lunch and think it over. It certainly
isn't a thing to do anything hastily about."

"That's just what I think, dear," said Dora, finishing her brandy and
soda.

"All right; we won't take another cab just yet. Let's walk along the
'Dilly for a bit; it'll do me good, I think; and besides, I may as well
get familiar with the old place again," said Carol, rising from her
seat.

"What nonsense!" said Dora. "The very idea of _you_ having to go in for
that sort of thing, when there are half a dozen fellows a good deal more
than ready to take this man Garthorne's place."

"Well, well," said Carol, with a light laugh and a toss of her pretty
head, "I don't suppose the change would be for the worse. But there's
one thing certain, I shall have to snare the oof bird very shortly, for
the first thing I'm going to do when we get to the flat is to send back
every penny of the money that Reginald gave me when we said good-bye. Of
course I didn't know anything about it, but it seems worse a good deal
than if I had stolen it. Then to-night we'll go to the Empire, and you,
being rather more married than I am, can chaperone me."

"All right," said Dora. "I'll send a wire to Bernard, and perhaps he'll
come too and escort us."

Reginald Garthorne had behaved, as both the world and the half-world
would have said, very honourably to Carol when they had said the usual
good-bye before his marriage. He had paid his share of the rent of the
flat for her for six months ahead, and had given her a couple of hundred
pounds to go on with. Of this considerably over a hundred pounds
remained. She changed the gold into notes, and even the silver into
postal orders, and put the whole sum into a packet, which she registered
and posted to his town address.

She gave no explanation or reason for what she was doing. In the first
place she could not bring herself to tell him the dreadful truth that
she had discovered; and then, again, it would only after all be a piece
of needless cruelty. During her connection with him he had always
treated her with kindness and courtesy, and often with generosity. She
had nothing whatever against him, so why should she wreck the happiness
of his honeymoon, and perhaps of his whole married life, by disclosing
the secret that had been so strangely revealed to her? So she simply
wrote:

     "DEAR MR. GARTHORNE,

     "You have been very kind to me, and I thoroughly appreciate your
     kindness. But something has happened to-day--I daresay you can
     guess what it is--which makes it unnecessary to me, and, as you
     know I have rather curious ideas about money matters, I hope you
     will understand my reasons, and not be offended by my returning it
     to you with many thanks.

     "Yours very sincerely,
     "CAROL VANE."

Under the circumstances the white lie was one which the Recording Angel
might well have blotted out. Probably he did. But, as the Fates would
have it, the words proved prophetic.

They went to the Empire that night under the escort of Mr. Bernard
Falcon, and while they were having a stroll round the promenade during
the interval he nodded and smiled a little awkwardly to a tall,
good-looking young fellow in evening dress, whose bronzed skin, square
shoulders and easy stride gave one the idea that he was a good deal more
accustomed to the free and easy costume of the Bush or the Veld or the
Mining Camp than to the swallow-tails and starched linen of after-dinner
Civilisation.

"What a splendid-looking fellow!" said Dora, turning her head slightly
as he passed; "the sort of man, I should say, who really _is_ a man. Who
is he, Bernard? You seem to know him!"

"That man?" said Mr. Falcon. "Well, come down into the lower bar, and
we'll have a drink, and I'll tell you."

"That looks a little bit as if you didn't want to meet him again!" said
Dora, a trifle maliciously. "Does he happen to be one of your clients,
or someone who only knows you as a perfectly respectable person?"

Mr. Falcon did not reply immediately, but he frowned a little, as if he
didn't find the remark very palatable. But when they reached the
seclusion of the bar and sat down at one of the tables he said:

"Well, yes, it is something like that. The fact is we have done a little
business for him, and we hope to do more. Lucky beggar, he's one of
Fortune's darlings."

"That sounds interesting," said Carol. "May I ask what the good lady has
done for him?"

"Well," said Mr. Falcon, folding his hands on the table and dropping his
voice to a discreet monotone, "in the first place she made him the
younger son of a very good family. Nothing much to begin with, of
course, but then she also gave him a maiden aunt who left him five
thousand pounds just after he left Cambridge in disgust after failing
three times to get a pass degree. He had no special turn for anything in
particular except riding and shooting and athletics of all sorts. So,
like a sensible fellow, instead of stopping in England and fooling his
money away, as too many younger sons do, he put four thousand pounds
into my partner's hands--Lambe, I should tell you, was his aunt's
solicitor--to be invested in good securities, put the other thousand
into his pocket, and started out to seek his fortune.

"That's a little over five years ago, which makes him about thirty now.
Of course, I suppose he went everywhere and did everything, as such
fellows do, but we heard very little of him, and he never drew a penny
of the four thousand pounds, and he turned up in London a week or two
ago something more than a millionaire. It seems that he was one of the
first to hear of the West Australian goldfields--he was out there
prospecting in the desert, and a few months later he was one of the
pioneers of Kalgoorlie, and pegged out a lot of the most valuable
claims. He put in nearly three years there, and now he's come back to
enjoy himself. He's a very fine fellow, but I must say I'd rather not
have met him here to-night."

"Oh, nonsense," laughed Dora, "he'll understand. Being a man he knows
perfectly well that scarcely any of you respectable married men are half
as respectable as you'd like to be thought. However, why not compromise
him too? Go and fetch him and introduce him."

Mr. Falcon knew Dora well enough to take this request as something like
an order. So he rose, saying:

"Well, that's not a bad idea, after all, and I daresay he won't have the
slightest objection to make the acquaintance of two such entirely
charming young ladies."

Mr. Falcon rather prided himself upon his way of turning a compliment,
albeit his action, as they say in stable parlance, was a trifle heavy.
When he had gone Dora nodded to Carol and said:

"There, dear. If I'm not very much mistaken this is the reward of
virtue."

"Which is its own reward, and generally doesn't get it," laughed Carol,
colouring slightly. "What do you mean?"

"I mean," said Dora, "that only to-day you made yourself penniless from
the most laudable of motives, and here, this very night, comes Prince
Charming from the Fortunate Isles, with all his pockets and both hands
full of money, and a splendid-looking fellow as well. I think that's a
bit mixed, but still it's somewhere about the fact. Ah, here they come."

"Mr. Cecil Rayburn, Miss Dora Murray; Mr. Rayburn, Miss Carol Vane. Now
we know each other," said Mr. Falcon. "Rayburn, what will you have?"

Rayburn had a brandy and soda, and before it was finished the
conversation was running easily and even merrily. With the quick
perception of the travelled man he speedily discovered that Dora was
Falconer's particular friend; she always addressed him as "Bernie,"
while Carol always said "Mr. Falcon" or "Mr. F."

When they got up, all thoroughly well pleased with each other, Falcon
said:

"Are you alone, Rayburn?"

"Yes," he replied. "I hadn't anything particular to do to-night, and as
I was sick of playing billiards and swopping lies with the other fellows
at the Carlton, I just put on a hard-boiled shirt and the other things
and came over here to seek my fortune."

As he said this he looked straight at Carol, their eyes met for a
moment, and then she coloured up swiftly and looked away.

The four wound up the evening with a sumptuous supper at Prince's, at
which Rayburn played host to perfection, and within a week Carol and he
had left Charing Cross by the eleven o'clock boat-train on a trip which
had no particular objective, but which, as a matter of fact, extended
round the world before Carol again saw her beloved London. In addition
to her other rings she wore a new thick wedding ring, a compromise with
conventionality which the etiquette of hotels and steamer saloons had
rendered imperative, and thus it came to pass that Miss Carol,
travelling as Mrs. Charles Redfern, vanished utterly for more than a
year, and this, too, was why all the efforts of Vane and Ernshaw and Sir
Arthur to find her had proved for the present unavailing.



CHAPTER XII.


Enid Garthorne came back from a somewhat extended honeymoon trip to the
Riviera and thence on through Northern Italy to Venice, whence she
returned viâ Vienna and Paris, a very different woman from the Enid
Raleigh who had cried so bitterly over that farewell letter of Vane's in
her bedroom at Oxford.

She had already schooled herself to look upon her long love for Vane as,
after all, only the sustained infatuation of a romantic school-girl, and
upon him as a high-hearted, clean-souled but utterly impossible
visionary who had sacrificed the substance for the shadow, and who,
having chosen irrevocably, could only be left to work out his own
destiny as he had shaped it.

Garthorne, in the first flush of his gratified love and triumph, had
proved an almost ideal combination of lover and husband, and of all the
brides who were honeymooning in the most luxurious resorts of the
Continent that Autumn and Winter, she, with her youth and beauty, her
handsome, devoted husband, and splendid fortunes, was accounted the most
to be envied. As week after week went by, and the intoxication of her
new life grew upon her, she gradually came to believe this herself. At
the same time, something very like true affection for this man, whose
love was very real and who seemed to find his only happiness in making
the world the most delightful of dreamlands for her, began to grow up in
her heart.

Of course, she often thought of Vane; that was inevitable. It was
inevitable, too, that she should look back now and then to some of the
many tender scenes that had passed between them; but as time went on,
these memory-pictures grew more faint. The fast-succeeding events and
the new experiences of her married life crowded swiftly and thickly upon
her, until she began to look upon the past more as a dream than as a
reality. Vane's figure receded rapidly into the background of her life,
and, as it did so, it seemed in some way to become spiritualised, lifted
above and beyond the world-sphere in which it was now her destiny to
move.

They got back to England a few weeks before the season began, and, after
a day or two in London for some necessary shopping, they went down to
Garthorne Abbey, one of the finest old seats in the Midland counties,
standing on a wooded slope in the green border which fringes the Black
Country, and facing the meadows and woodlands which stretch away down to
the banks of the Severn, beyond which rise the broken, picturesque
outlines of the Herefordshire Hills.

Here Enid Garthorne spent an entirely delightful week exploring the
stately home and the splendid domain of which she would one day be
mistress. Day after day in the early clear Spring morning, she would go
up alone on to a sort of terrace-walk which had been made round the roof
behind the stone balustrade which ran all round the house, and look out
over the green, well-wooded, softly undulating country, her heart filled
with a delighted pride and the consciousness, or, at any rate, the
belief, that after all the cloud which had come between her and Vane had
had a silver, nay, a golden lining, and that, so far, at least,
everything had been for the best.

As she looked to the eastward, she could see stretched along the horizon
a low, dun-coloured line which was not cloud. It was the smoke of the
Black Country, and underneath it hundreds and hundreds of men, aye, and
if she had known it, women, too, were toiling in forge and mine and
factory, earning the thousands which made life so easy and so pleasant
for her. To the westward were the low-lying meadows, the rolling
corn-lands, and the dark strips and patches of wood and coppice which
lay for miles on three sides of the Home Park, and beyond these she
caught bright gleams of the silver Severn rippling away to the distant
Bristol Channel; then, beyond this again, the rising uplands which
culminated in the irregular terraces of the Abberley Hills.

She knew nothing of it at the time, but far away, perched up in a leafy
nook among them was a little cluster of old grey buildings; just a
chapel, a guest-house, a refectory, and half a dozen cells forming a
tiny quadrangle which was still called St. Mary's Chapel of Ease, but
which in the old days when all the lands that Enid could see from her
roof-walk had belonged to the ancient Abbey of Ganthony--of which her
husband's name was perhaps a corruption--had been known as the House of
Our Lady of Rest.

Before the dissolution of the Monasteries it had been a place of rest
and retreat for servants of the Church who had exhausted themselves in
her service or had found reason to withdraw themselves a while from the
world and its temptations; and such, though creeds have changed, it has
practically remained until now.

The little church was nominally St. Augustine's, the Parish Church of a
little scattered hamlet which was sprinkled over the hillside beneath
it. The living had been in the gift of the Garthorne family, but Sir
Reginald's father had sold the advowson to one of the earliest pioneers
of the High Church movement in England, and through this purchase it had
passed into the keeping of a small Anglican Order calling itself the
Fraternity of St. Augustine.

This little Brotherhood had not only maintained the traditions of the
ancient Order of St. Augustine, Preacher, Saint and Martyr, but had done
all that was possible to revive them in their ancient purity. The little
monastery among the hills, though it had passed under another
ecclesiastical rule, was still a place where priests and deacons might
come either to rest from the labours which they had endured in the
service of their Master, or to separate themselves from the din and
turmoil of the world, and, amidst the peace and silence of nature,
wrestle with the doubts or temptations that had beset them. The Vicar of
the parish and Father Superior of the Retreat was an aged priest who had
welcomed three generations of his younger brothers in Christ as
temporary sojourners in this little sanctuary, and had sent them away
comforted and strengthened to take their place again in the ranks of the
army which wages that battle which began when the first prophecy was
uttered in Eden, and which will only end when the sound of the Last
Trump marshalls the hosts of men before the bar of the Last Tribunal.

Vane had been the occupant of one of the tiny little rooms, which had
once been the monks' cells, for a little over three months when Enid
came to her future home. The rooms were on the side of the quadrangle
facing the valley, and from his little window he could distinctly see
the great white house, with its broad terraces standing out against the
dark background formed by the trees which crowned the ridge behind it.
He, of course, knew perfectly well to whom it belonged and who would one
day be mistress of it, and one day he saw from the _Times_, the only
secular newspaper admitted into St. Augustine's, that Mr. and Mrs.
Reginald Garthorne had returned from their wedding trip on the
Continent, and, after a day or two in London, would proceed for a few
weeks to Garthorne Abbey to recuperate before the fatigues of the
season, of which it was generally expected Mrs. Garthorne would be one
of the most brilliant ornaments.

The sight of it, the knowledge of all the splendours that it contained,
of all the worldly wealth of which it was the material sign, had not
affected him in the least. He had already lifted himself beyond the
possibility of envying anyone the possession of such things as these. He
could see over and beyond them as a man on a mountain top might look
over a little spot on the plain beneath, which to those who dwelt in it
was a great and splendid city.

Even the knowledge that Enid was coming to the Abbey as the wife of its
future master only drew just a single quiet sigh from his lips, only
caused him to give one swift look back into the world that he had left,
for after all this was only what he had expected, what he knew to be
almost inevitable when he had first made up his mind to sacrifice his
love to what he believed to be his duty.

She had passed out of his existence and he had passed out of hers.
Henceforth their life-circles might touch, but they could never
intersect each other. Of course, they would meet again in the world, but
only as friends, with perhaps a warmer hand-clasp for the sake of the
days that were past and gone for ever, but that was all. He had but one
mistress now, the Church. He was hers body and soul to the end, for he
had sworn an allegiance which could not be broken save at the risk of
his own soul.

One morning, about a week after he had read the paragraph in the
_Times_, he was out on the hillside, going from cottage to cottage of
the hundred or so sprinkled round the high road across the hills, for it
was his day to carry out the parochial duties of the fraternity. Every
day one of the Fathers, as the villagers called them, made his rounds,
starting soon after sunrise and sometimes not getting back till after
dark, for Father Philip had no belief in the efficacy of fasting and
meditation and prayer unless they were supplemented by a literal
obedience to the commands of Him who went about doing good. When priest
or deacon entered the Retreat, no matter what he was, rich or poor,
wedded or single, he had to take the vows of poverty, obedience and
chastity. When he left to go back into the world he was absolved from
them, and was free to do what seemed best to his own soul.

Vane had just left a little farmhouse upon which a great shame and
sorrow had fallen. As too often happens in this district, the only
daughter of the house, discontented with the quiet monotony of the farm
life, had gone away to Kidderminster to work in a carpet factory. That
was nearly eighteen months ago, and the night before she had come back
ragged, hungry, and penniless, with a nameless baby in her arms.

As he was walking along the road which led from this farmhouse to the
next hamlet thinking of that vanished sister of his and of the poor
imbecile in the French asylum, he turned a bend and saw a figure such as
was very seldom seen among the villages approaching him about two
hundred yards away. He stopped, almost as though he had received a blow
on the chest. It was impossible for his eyes to mistake it, and with a
swift sense, half of anger and half of disgust, he felt his heart begin
to beat harder and quicker. It was Enid, Enid in the flesh.

He had read of her marriage, and of her return with her husband with
hardly an emotion. Day after day he had looked upon her future home, the
home in which she would live as the wife of another man and the mother
of his children, without a single pang of envy or regret--and now, at
the first sight of her, his heart was beating, his pulses throbbing, and
his nerves thrilling.

True, every heart-beat, every pulse-throb, was a sin now, for she was a
wedded wife--and meanwhile she was still coming towards him. In a few
minutes more, since it was impossible for him to pass her as a stranger,
her hand would be clasped in his, and he would be once more looking into
those eyes which had so often looked up into his, hearing words of
greeting from those lips which he had so often kissed, and whose kisses
were now vowed to another man.

There was a little lane, turning off to the left a few yards away. She
had never seen him in his clerical dress, so she could not have
recognised him yet. She would only take him for one of the clergy at
the Retreat, he had only to turn down the lane--

But no, his old manhood rose in revolt at the idea. That would be a
flight, a mean, unworthy flight, unworthy alike of himself and the high
resolves that he had taken. It was hard, almost impossible even to think
of _her_ as a temptation, as an enemy to his soul, and yet, even if she
were, as the leaping blood in his veins told him she might be, was it
for him, the young soldier of the Cross, just buckling on his armour, to
turn his back upon the first foe he met, even though that foe had once
been his best beloved? He set his teeth and clenched his hands, and
walked on past the entrance to the lane.

A minute or two later their eyes met. A look of astonished recognition
instantly leapt into hers. She shifted the silver handled walking stick
into her left hand, and held out the other, daintily gauntleted in tan.

"Why Vane!" she exclaimed, in a voice which was still as sweet and soft
as ever, but which seemed to him to have a strange and somewhat
discordant note in it, "you don't mean to say that it's you. I suppose,
as a matter of fact, I ought to say Mr. Maxwell now--I mean now that
you're a clergyman--but after all, those little things don't matter
between such very old friends as we are, and I'm sure Reggie won't mind,
in fact, I shan't let him if he does. Just fancy meeting you here! I
suppose you're one of the Fathers--is that it?--at the little monastery
up there. I've only been home a week, and last night I heard about this
place, so I drove over to see it. But you haven't told me how you are
yet, and how you like your--your new life."

As a matter of fact, she had rattled all this off so quickly that Vane
had not had time to reply to her greeting. He had taken her hand and,
somewhat tremblingly, returned the frank, firm pressure. While she was
speaking, he looked into her face and saw that she had already assumed
the invisible but impenetrable mask in which the society woman plays her
part in the tragic comedy of Vanity Fair. It was the same face and yet
not the same, the same voice and yet a different one, and the sight and
sound acted upon him like a powerful tonic. This was not the Enid he had
loved, after all, at least, so it seemed to him. He had forgotten, or
had never known that every woman is a born actress, and that even the
brief training which Enid had already had was quite enough to enable her
to say one thing, while thinking and feeling something entirely
different.

He smiled for the first time as their hands parted, and said, in a voice
whose calm frankness surprised himself:

"Good morning, Mrs. Garthorne!"--he absolutely couldn't trust himself to
pronounce the word "Enid"--"Thanks, I'm very well, and, as you have
guessed, I am located for the present up in the Retreat yonder. I
confess I was a little startled to see you coming up the road, although
I saw from the _Times_ the other day that you had come back from the
Continent and were coming down here to the Abbey. Of course, you would
hear of the Retreat sooner or later, and as it's a bit of a show place
in its humble way, I had an idea that you would come over some time to
see it."

"Oh, but I suppose you don't allow anything so unholy as a woman to
enter the sacred precincts, do you?"

The artificial flippancy of her tone annoyed him perhaps even more than
it shocked him. There was a sort of scoff in it which rightly or wrongly
he took to himself. It seemed to say "You, of course, have done with
women now and for ever; henceforth, you must only look upon us as
temptations to sin, and so I can say what I like to you."

"On the contrary," he replied, forcing a smile, "the Retreat is as open
for visiting purposes to women as it is to men. It is nothing at all
like a monastery, you know, although report says it is. It is simply a
place where clergymen who have need of it can go and rest and think and
pray in peace, and act as curates to the Superior who is also vicar of
the parish. In fact, it has been known for mothers and sisters of the
men to take rooms in the villages, and they are even invited to lunch."

"Dear me," she said, "how very charming! Of course, you will come over
to the Abbey and have dinner some evening, and sleep, and the next
morning I shall expect you to let me drive you over here and invite me
to lunch."

"Of course, I shall be delighted," he said, purposely using the most
conventional terms, "but I ought to tell you that there is a condition
attached to our hospitality."

"Oh, indeed, and what is that?" she said, glancing up at him with one of
her old saucy looks. "I hope it isn't very stringent. Won't you turn and
walk a little way with me and tell me all about it? There is my pony
carriage coming up the hill after me. It will overtake us soon, and then
I won't take up your time any longer, for I daresay you are going on
some good work."

Again the half-veiled flippancy of her tone jarred upon him and made him
clench his teeth for an instant.

"With the greatest pleasure," he replied, turning and walking with long,
slow strides beside her. His blood was quite cool now, and a great
weight had been lifted from his shoulders.

"It is this way," he went on, speaking as calmly as though he were
addressing an utter stranger. "You know, or perhaps you do not know yet,
that, beautiful and almost arcadian as this place is, there is, I regret
to say, a great deal of poverty and sorrow, and, I am afraid, sin too,
and it is part of our duty at the Retreat to seek this out and do what
we can to relieve it; but there is much of that kind of work which women
can do infinitely better than men, and therefore, when a woman enters
our gates as our guest, we ask her to do what she can to help us."

"I see," she said, more softly and more naturally than she had spoken
before. "It is a very just and a very good condition, and I shall do my
best to fulfil it; indeed, as I suppose I shall some day be Lady of the
Manor here, it will be my duty to do it."

"I am very glad to hear you say so," he said, with a touch of warmth in
his tone, "very glad. And if you like you can begin at once. You see
that little farmhouse up the road yonder. Well, there is not only
sorrow, but sin and shame as well in that house. The old people are most
respectable, and they were once fairly comfortably off before the
agricultural depression ruined them. They are wretchedly poor now, but
they struggle on somehow. About eighteen months ago their daughter went
off to Kidderminster to work in the mills. She said she would get good
wages and send some of them home every week. For some months she did
send them a few shillings, and then what is unfortunately only too
common about here happened. For a long time they lost sight of her, and
last night she came back, starving, with a baby and no husband."

He said this in a perfectly passionless and impersonal tone, just as a
doctor might describe the symptoms of a disease. "If you care to, you
can do a great deal of good there," he went on. "I have just been there.
If you like I will take you in and introduce you."

She stopped and hesitated for a moment. It struck her as such an utter
reversal of their former relationships, that it seemed almost to
obliterate the line which lies between the sublime and the ridiculous.
Then she moved forward again, saying, in her own old natural voice:

"Thank you, Vane. I have often wondered since what sort of circumstances
we should meet under again, but I never thought of anything like this.
Yes, I will come, and if there is anything I can do I will do it."

"I thought you would," he said quietly, as he strode along beside her
towards the farmhouse.



CHAPTER XIII.


After introducing Enid to the sorrow-stricken family, Vane took his
leave of her to go about his work. He met the pony-cart coming up the
hill, and told the footman to wait for his mistress outside the
farmhouse. Then he went on to the other hamlet, doing his work just as
well and conscientiously as ever, and yet all the while thinking many
thoughts which had very little connection with it.

He got back to the Retreat just in time for supper, and when the meal
was over he asked Father Philip for the favour of half an hour's
conversation. The request was, of course, immediately granted, and as
soon as he was alone with the old man, who was wise alike in the things
of the world and in those of the spirit, he told him, not as penitent to
confessor, but rather as pupil to teacher, the whole story of his
meeting and conversation with Enid, not omitting the slightest detail
that his memory held, from the first thrill of emotion that he had
experienced on seeing her to the last word he had spoken to her on
leaving the farmhouse.

Father Philip was silent for some time after he had finished his story,
then, leaning back in his deep armchair, he looked at Vane, who was
still walking slowly up and down the little room, and said in a quiet,
matter-of-fact voice:

"I'm very glad, Maxwell, that you've told me this. As I have told you
before, I have listened to a good many life-histories in this room, but
I must admit that yours is one of the strangest and most difficult of
them. The fact of Miss Raleigh having married the son of the lord of the
manor here, and having come down while you are here, naturally makes it
more difficult still. But then, you know, my dear fellow, the greater
the difficulty and the danger of the strife the greater the honour and
the reward of victory.

"For my own part I think that your meeting with her in the road down
yonder, if not ordered by Providence, may, with all reverence, be called
providential. Those emotions which you experienced on first seeing her,
and for which you were inclined to reproach yourself, were after all
perfectly human, and therefore natural and pardonable. I needn't tell
you now that I entirely disagree with those who consider that a man
should cease to be a man when he becomes a clergyman. You are young, and
you are made of flesh and blood. You were once very much in love with
this young lady"--there was a slight, almost imperceptible emphasis upon
the "once" which somehow made Vane wince--"you might have married her,
but you forewent that happiness in obedience to a conviction which would
have done honour to the best of us. You would have been either more or
less than human if your heart had not beaten a little harder and your
blood had not flowed a little faster when you met her unexpectedly like
that in a country road.

"But," he went on, sitting up in his chair and speaking with a little
more emphasis, "the very fact that you so quickly discovered such a
decided change in her, and that that change, moreover, struck you as
being one for the worse, is to my mind a distinct proof that your paths
in life have already diverged very widely."

"And yet, Father Philip," said Vane, as the old man paused and looked up
at him, "you can hardly say, surely, that it was a good thing for me to
discover that change. I can tell you honestly that it was a very sad one
for me."

"Possibly," said Father Philip, "and, without intending the slightest
disrespect to Mrs. Garthorne, I still say that it was a good thing for
you to discover it."

"But why, Father Philip? How can it be a good thing for a man to
discover a change for the worse in a woman whom he has grown up with
from boy and girl, whom he has loved, and who has been to him the ideal
of all that was good and lovable on earth?"

"My dear Maxwell, what you have just said convinces me that you have
learnt or are in course of learning one of the most valuable lessons
that experience can teach you. Remember that a man can only see with his
own eyes, that he can only judge from his own perceptions. I do not
agree with you in thinking that the Mrs. Garthorne of the present
differs so greatly from the Miss Raleigh of the past. Different in a
certain degree, of course, she must be. She was a girl then, living
under the protection of her father's roof. She is a wife now, with a
home of her own, with new cares, new responsibilities, new prospects. In
fact, the whole world has changed for her, and therefore it would be
very strange if she had not changed too. But that was not the change you
saw. I would rather believe that that was in yourself, that you are a
different man, not that she is a different woman."

"I think I see what you mean," said Vane, seating himself on the edge
of an old oak table in the middle of the room. "You mean that while she
has remained the same or nearly so my point of view has altered. I see
her in a different perspective, and through a different atmosphere."

"Exactly," replied Father Philip. "It is both more reasonable and more
charitable to believe that you have changed for the better, and not she
for the worse."

"God grant that it may be so," said Vane, slipping off the table and
beginning his walk again. "If it is so, then at least my work has not
been without some result, and some of my prayers have been granted. But
now, Father Philip, I want your advice. What shall I do? Shall I stay
here and meet her just as an old friend? Shall I accept her invitation
over to the Abbey? Shall I bring her here and introduce her to you, so
that you may tell her what she can do for our people? Shall I trust
myself to this sort of intercourse with her, or, as my time here is
nearly up, shall I go away?"

"As for trusting yourself, Maxwell," said Father Philip slowly, "that is
a question I cannot answer. You must ask that of your own soul, and I
will pray and you must pray that it shall answer you with an honest
'Yes.' I don't believe that the answer will be anything else. But if it
is, then by all means go, go to the first work that your hand finds to
do. Go and join your friend Ernshaw in his mission under Southey. But if
it is 'Yes,' as I hope and believe it will be, then stop until it is
time for you to take your priest's orders. Visit the Abbey, bring Mrs.
Garthorne here, interest her in the good work that you have already, I
hope, made her begin by taking her to the Clellens. Prove to her and her
husband, and, most important of all, to yourself, that you did not take
that resolve of yours lightly or in vain, that, in short, you are one
of those who can, as Tennyson says, 'rise on stepping-stones of their
dead selves to higher things.'

"That, Maxwell, is the best advice I can give you. When you go to your
room you will, of course, ask for guidance from the Source which cannot
err, and I will add my prayers to yours that it may be given you."

The next day a mounted footman brought a note from Garthorne to Vane
saying that his wife had told him of her meeting with him, and also
expressing his pleasure at finding that he was in the neighbourhood, and
asking him to come over to dine and sleep at the Abbey the next evening.
If that evening would suit him he had only to tell the messenger, and a
dog-cart would be sent for him, as the distance by road over the Bewdley
Bridge was considerably over seven miles.

He had been awake nearly all night. In fact, he had spent the greater
part of it on his knees questioning his own soul and seeking that advice
which Father Philip had advised him to seek, and when the early morning
service in the little chapel was over he honestly believed that he had
found it. He went back into his room, after telling the man to put his
horse in the stable, and go to what was stilled called the buttery and
get a glass of beer, and wrote a note thanking Garthorne for his
invitation, and accepting it for the following night.

If Vane had been told a couple of years before that he would visit Enid
and her husband as an ordinary guest, that he would sit opposite to her
at table and hear her address another man as "dear" in the commonplace
of marital conversation, that he would see her exchange with another man
those little half-endearments which are not the least of the charms of
the first few married years, and that he would be able to look upon all
this at least with grave eyes and unmoved features, he would simply have
laughed at the idea as something too ridiculous ever to come within the
bounds of possibility.

Yet, to the outward view, that was exactly what happened during his stay
at Garthorne Abbey. He seemed to see Enid through some impalpable and
yet impenetrable medium. He could see her as he always had seen her; but
to touch her, to put his hand upon her, even to dream of one of those
caresses which such a short time ago had been as common as hand-shakes
between them, was every whit as impossible as the present condition of
things would have seemed to him then.

There were a few other people to dinner. None of them knew anything of
his previous relationship to Enid, and their presence naturally, and
perhaps fortunately, kept the conversation away from the things of the
past; but the Fates had put him in full view of Enid at the table, and,
do what he would, he could not keep his eyes from straying back again
and again to that perfect and once well-beloved face, any more than he
could keep his ears from listening to that voice which had once been the
sweetest of music for him, rather than to the general conversation in
which it was his social duty to take a part.

It was a sore trial to the fortitude and self-control of a man who had
loved as long and as dearly as he had done, but the strength which his
long vigils away among the hills had given him did not desert him, and
he came through it outwardly calm and triumphant, however deeply the
iron was entering into his soul the while. It was one of those occasions
on which such a man as he would take refuge from spiritual torment in
intellectual activity, and neither Enid nor her husband had ever heard
him talk so brilliantly and withal so lightly and good-humouredly as he
did that night.

One of the guests was the vicar of Bedminster; and a Canon of Worcester,
an old friend of Sir Reginald's, happened to be staying in the house.
They were both High Churchmen, the Canon perhaps a trifle "higher" than
the Vicar, and they were both delighted with him. The Canon remembered
his ordination at Worcester, and during the conversation, which had now
turned upon the relationship between the Church and the People, he said:

"Well, Maxwell, I will say frankly if you can preach as well as you can
talk, and if your doctrine is as sound as your opinion on things in
general seems to be, the Church will be none the poorer when you are
priested. I think I shall ask the Bishop to let you preach the Sunday
after you take full orders. I suppose your Father Superior up there
would let you come, wouldn't he?

"A grand man, that Father Philip, by the way," he went on, looking round
the table. "In his quiet, unostentatious way, in his little room up
there in the old house of Our Lady of Rest, as they used to call it, he
has done more real work for the Church than, I am afraid, a good many of
us have done with all our preaching in churches and cathedrals."

"That," said Enid, "would be altogether delightful. Of course, we should
all come and hear your Reverence," she went on, with a half ironical nod
towards Vane. "You know, Canon, Mr. Maxwell and I are quite old friends.
In fact, we came home from India as children in the same ship, didn't
we, Reggie?" she added, with another laughing nod, this time at her
husband, "and I am sure your Reverence would have no more interested
listener than I should be."

"It is quite possible, Mrs. Garthorne," Vane replied in something like
the same tone, "that you might be more interested than pleased."

"Indeed," said Enid, "and may I ask why?"

There was an immediate silence round the table, everybody wondering what
his answer would be.

"Because," he replied, with a change of tone so swift as to be almost
startling, "as soon as I take full Orders, it is my purpose, with God's
help and under Father Philip's advice, to become a missionary, not a
missionary to the heathen, as we are pleased to call them, or to the
infinitely more degraded heathen of our own country, but to such people
as you, you who are really living in sin without knowing it. Has it ever
struck you, Canon, how great a work the Church has left undone in what
are called the upper ranks of Society? You know the vast majority of
them really and honestly believe themselves to be good Christians, and
yet, as far as practical obedience to the teaching of Christ goes, they
are no more Christians than an unconverted Hottentot is."

"Oh--er--ah--yes," replied the Canon rather awkwardly, and in the midst
of a long silence. "Of course, I quite understand you and--er--by the
way, do you intend to apply for any preferment?"

"I shall get a curacy with Ernshaw if I can in the East End to begin
with, or, perhaps, with Father Baldwin in Kensington," said Vane,
unable, like Enid and her husband and one or two others, to repress a
faint smile at the Canon's not very skilful change of subject. "But I
shall not attempt to get a living or anything of that sort. You see, I
have some private means, and so I shall be in the happy position of
being able to do my work without pay. Besides, while there is such an
amount of poverty in the lower ranks of the Church, I think it is little
less than sinful for a man who can live without it to take a stipend
which, at least, might be bread and butter to a man who has nothing."

There was a rather awkward pause after this speech, as everyone at the
table save Vane knew perfectly well that both the Vicar and the Canon
had considerable private means in addition to the substantial stipends
they drew from their clerical offices. At length Enid looked across at
her husband with a wicked twinkle in her eye, and put an end to the
situation by rising. As soon as the ladies were gone, Garthorne sent the
wine round and adroitly turned the conversation back again to general
subjects. When they went into the drawing-room, a discussion on the
prospects of the season was in full swing, and from motives of prudence,
this, varied with a little music and singing, was kept up till the
ladies retired for the night.

When Enid shook hands with Vane they happened to be out of earshot of
the others, and as she returned his clasp with the same old frank
pressure, she said in a low tone:

"You were splendid to-night, Vane, and you will be more splendid still
in the pulpit, only they'll never let you preach in the Cathedral after
that. Well, good-night. After all, I was wrong and you were right. You
have chosen the better part. God bless you and be with you, Vane.
Good-night!"

As their eyes met he fancied that he saw a faint mist in hers. Then her
long lashes fell; she turned her head away and the next moment she was
gone.

When the good-nights had been said, Garthorne took his male guests into
the smoking-room for whisky and soda and cigars. Vane laughingly
declined, and asked permission to light a pipe.

"No, thanks," he said, with perfect good temper, although the offer was
not in the best of taste. "I've not forgotten the last brandy and soda I
had with you at Oxford."

When bed-time came, Garthorne took Vane up to his room. As his host said
"good-night," Vane followed him to the door and watched him as he went
along the panelled corridor and down the great staircase to next floor,
on which the Bride-chamber of the Abbey was situated. Then he went in
and locked his door.

He sat down in an easy chair in the corner of the room and covered his
face with his hands. After all, had he done the right thing in accepting
Garthorne's invitation? Had he not over-estimated his strength? As he
sat there, he felt that he had thrown himself unnecessarily into a life
and death conflict. He encountered temptations every day of his life,
although to the ordinary individual it might seem that the life which he
and his companions led must be singularly devoid of temptation, yet here
he was confronted with a trial which he could have avoided. Ought he to
have avoided it?

Then there came to his mind the remembrance of a passage in one of the
sermons which Father Philip had once preached to the little community in
the Retreat. The words seemed particularly appropriate to Vane at the
time, and he made a note of them in a little memorandum book which he
always carried with him for the purpose of writing down any sentences
which he heard or read which might strengthen him in the life which he
had chosen for himself. He took the book from his pocket and read:

"The ideal life is never one of rigid asceticism any more than it is one
of voluptuous self-indulgence; it is an equilibrium of forces, a vital
harmony, a constant symphony, in the performance of which all
capabilities in all phases of expression are called into vital but never
into hysterical activity. The true peace is so heroic that it only
follows crucifixion of all that was once regarded as essential to human
happiness."

He sat for a moment after he had read and re-read this passage. Then he
went to the mirror over the mantel-piece, and drew back shocked and
terrified at the sudden change which had come over his features. They
reminded him strongly of the features he had seen in the glass that
other night in Warwick Gardens. Then he turned away and threw himself on
his knees by the bed and groaned aloud in the bitterness of his soul:

"Oh, God! it is too heavy for me! Not by my strength but by Thine alone
can I bear it."

It was the only prayer he uttered. In fact, they were the only words he
could speak; but when he rose from the bedside he felt relieved, so far
relieved that he took from his pocket a well-worn copy of Thomas à
Kempis's "Imitation," and sat and read until almost daybreak.



CHAPTER XIV.


It was the morning of Trinity Sunday, and Worcester Cathedral was
crowded by a congregation which, if it had been an audience in an
unconsecrated building, could have been justly described as brilliant.

Trinity Sunday is usually what may, without irreverence, be called more
or less of a show Sunday in all churches. To-day all the clerical light
and learning of the diocese was gathered together in the grand old
Cathedral. The various portions of the service were to be conducted by
clergy of high rank and notable social position. No one under the rank
of a Canon, at least, would take any part in the proceedings.

The first lesson would be read by the Vicar of Bedminster, who was also
a Canon of the Cathedral, and the second by Canon Thornton-Moore, whose
acquaintance the reader has already made at Garthorne Abbey. Both of
them were men of dignified presence, and both possessed good voices and
a careful elocutionary training.

The Epistle and Gospel would be read by the Archdeacon and the Dean.
Organ and choir were tuned to a perfection of harmony. And finally the
Bishop would preach. After that would come the administration of the
Sacrament to those who had not received it at the early service, for
Trinity Sunday is accredited one of those three days on which, at least,
the faithful member of the Anglican Church shall communicate. Then, the
communion over, the Bishop would hold an Ordination, in consideration of
which he had thoughtfully and thankfully curtailed his eloquence in the
pulpit.

At this ordination Mark Ernshaw, who had already won fame both as an
earnest and utterly self-sacrificing missionary, in the moral and
spiritual wilds of East and South London, and also as a preacher who
could fill any West End Church to suffocation, was to be admitted to
full orders in company with his friend, Vane Maxwell, who was so far
unknown to fame save for the fact that he was locally known as one of
the dwellers in the Retreat among the hills, and, therefore, as one who
had sat at the feet of the far-famed Father Philip, who himself had
to-day made one of his rare appearances in the world, and was occupying
one of the Canons' stalls in the chancel.

All the Clergy at the Retreat were popularly supposed to have "a past"
of some sort, and as Vane had come from there and was also credited with
being young and exceedingly good-looking--some of the lady visitors to
the Retreat had described him as possessing "an almost saintlike beauty,
my dear"--he also was a focus of interest. Moreover, he was known to
have taken a brilliant degree at Oxford, and to have had equally
brilliant worldly prospects which he had suddenly and unaccountably
relinquished to go into the Church.

Thus it came to pass that a very different and much more numerous
congregation witnessed this ceremonial than the one which had taken
place at the same altar rails a little more than a twelvemonth before.

Of course, all the party from the Abbey were present, including Sir
Reginald, who had come down for a few days from town. Enid and her
husband had communicated. It was their first communion since their
marriage. Then they had gone back to their places to await the
ordination.

In one of the front rows of the transept seats there was a tall,
well-dressed girl, very pretty, with dark, deep, serious eyes which, in
the intervals of the service she had several times raised and turned on
Enid and her husband, who were sitting on the same side towards the
front, in the body of the Cathedral. She was the very last person in the
world, saving only, perhaps, Carol herself, whom Garthorne would have
wished to see just then and there, and as soon as he had made sure that
Dora Murray really was sitting within a few yards of him he began to be
haunted by ugly fears of blackmail and exposure--which showed how very
little he had learnt of Dora's character during the time that Carol had
shared the flat with her.

But Dora's thoughts were very different, for they were all of fear,
mingled with something like horror. She looked at the sweet-faced girl
sitting beside Reginald Garthorne, and thought of the ruin and
desolation that would fall upon her young life, with all its brilliant
outward promise, if she only knew what she could have told her. She
looked at her husband and wondered what all these good people--most of
whom would have given almost anything for an invitation to his
home--what these grave-faced, decorous clergy, too, would think if they
could see him as she had seen him only a few months before. There was
Sir Arthur Maxwell, too, sitting a little farther on, and beside him Sir
Godfrey and Lady Raleigh, though, of course, she did not know them, but
she guessed who they were, and close to Sir Arthur sat Sir Reginald, his
host for the time being.

The whole of the Abbey party had communicated together. What would
happen if she were to go to Sir Arthur after the service, and tell him
what Carol had told her, if he were to learn that he had been kneeling
at the altar rails beside the betrayer of his wife and the dishonourer
of his name?

When she had seen Sir Reginald rise from his seat and go with the rest
of the party across the centre transept to the chancel, she needed all
her self-control to shut her teeth and clench her hands and prevent
herself from leaving her seat and accusing him of his infamy before
clergy and congregation. She thought thankfully how good a thing it was
that Carol, with her fierce impetuosity and sense of bitter wrong, was
not there too. There was no telling what disaster might have happened,
how many lives might have been wrecked by the words which she might have
flung out at him, red-hot from her angry heart.

In her way Dora was a really religious girl, as many of her class are.
So religious, indeed, that she would not have dared to have approached
the altar herself; because she knew that for her, wedded as she was to
the pleasant careless life she led, repentance and reform were quite out
of the question.

She saw no incongruity at all in this. She went to church regularly in
London, offered up as simple and as earnest prayers as anyone; lifted up
her beautiful voice in the hymns and psalms and responses in honest
forgetfulness of the things of yesterday and to-morrow, and, for the
time being at least, took the lessons of the sermon to heart with a
simple faith which many of her respectable sisters in the congregation
were far from feeling.

In short, though the circumstances were different, she was very much in
the position of the average respectable, well-to-do church-going
Christian who will strive all the week, often by quite questionable
methods, to lay up for himself and his wife and family treasures upon
earth, and then on Sunday go to church and listen with the most perfect
honesty and the most undisturbed equanimity to the reading of the Sermon
on the Mount.

But when she saw Sir Reginald go with his son and his daughter-in-law,
with her parents and Vane's father up through the chancel where Vane was
sitting, her heart turned sick in her breast. The sacrilege, the
blasphemy of it all seemed horrible beyond belief. Again and again the
words rose to her lips. Again and again an almost irresistible impulse
impelled her to get up, and she was only saved from doing what all that
was best in her nature urged her to do, by the knowledge that, after
all, she might only be expelled from the Cathedral by the Vergers, and
perhaps prosecuted afterwards for brawling. Then her real story would
come out.

She was visiting her parents who lived in Worcester, and who believed
that she was conducting a little millinery business in London. She had
great natural skill in designing head-gear--her own hat, for instance,
had been gazed on by many an envious eye since the service began--and
she would have bitten her tongue through, rather than say a word which
would have undeceived them. And so for this reason as well she held her
peace.

Then she had heard the sonorous voice of the officiating priest rolling
down the chancel:

     "Ye that do truly and earnestly repent you of your sins, and are in
     love and charity with your neighbours and intend to lead a new
     life, following the commandments of God and walking from henceforth
     in His holy way, draw near with faith and take this Holy Sacrament
     to your comfort."

Then came the general confession, and as she followed it in her
prayer-book she thought of that unconfessed, though, perhaps, not
unrepented sin of which she alone, save Sir Reginald, in all that great
congregation knew. How could this man kneel there and say these solemn
words, before he had confessed his sin to the man he had wronged, to the
husband from whom he had stolen a wife, to the son he had deprived of a
mother? What horrible mockery and blasphemy it all was! Surely some day
some terrible retribution must fall on him for this.

After the Eucharist followed, as usual on such occasions, the Ordination
Service. She had never seen Vane before, but when some of the
congregation had left after the Communion Service, she left her seat and
took a vacant one in front of the chancel, and then, even at some
distance, she recognised him immediately by his likeness to Carol. It
seemed to her that she had never seen anything so beautiful in human
shape when he rose in his surplice and stole and hood to take his place
before the Bishop at the altar-rail. And yet how different must her
thoughts have been from Enid's, as they both looked upon the kneeling
figure and listened to the words which were the actual fulfilment of the
vow that he had taken to take up his cross and follow Him who said:
"Whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot
be my disciple."

Then, in due course, came the fateful words, more full of fate, so far
as they concerned Vane, than any who knew him in the congregation had
any idea of.

"Receive the Holy Ghost for the office and work of a priest in the
Church of God, now committed unto thee by the Imposition of our hands
from God. Whose sins thou dost forgive they are forgiven, and whose sins
thou dost retain they are retained. And be thou a faithful dispenser of
the word of God and of his Holy Sacraments; in the name of the Father
and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen!"

"Whose sins thou dost forgive they are forgiven, and whose sins thou
dost retain, they are retained!"

Saving only Vane himself, these words had a deeper meaning for Dora, the
Magdalen, the sinner, and the outcast, than they had for anyone else in
the congregation, and in one sense they meant even more to her than they
could do to him. When he rose from his knees before the altar rails, he
would rise invested, as she believed, by the authority of God through
the Church, with a power infinitely greater than that of any earthly
judge. It was his to forgive or retain, his to pardon or to damn. That,
to her simple reasoning, was the absolute meaning of the words as the
Bishop had spoken them.

Some day it might happen that Carol would be confronted with the man
whom she believed to be her father. What if she were to bring Vane face
to face with him and he knew him for what he was, what would he do, not
as man, but as priest--forgive or retain, absolve or damn?

When the ordination service was over and the congregation was moving out
of the Cathedral, Sir Arthur caught sight of Dora for the first time.
They were only a few feet apart, and recognition was inevitable. She
looked at him as though she had never seen him before, although she had
been present at more than one interview between him and Carol at
Melville Gardens, but Sir Arthur at once edged his way towards her,
shook hands in that decorous fashion which is usual among departing
congregations, and said, in an equally decorous whisper:

"Good morning, Miss Murray! I hope you have not come here by accident,
and that you will be able to give me some news of Carol. We have looked
for you everywhere."

"Except perhaps in the right place," she murmured, putting her hand into
his, "and if you had found us I don't think it would have been of any
use. Carol's mind was quite made up. My address is 15, Stonebridge
Street, if you wish to write to me. Good morning."

And then they parted, he to go his way and she to go hers, and each with
an infinite pity for the other, and yet with what different reasons? It
was only a chance meeting, the accidental crossing of two widely
diverging life-paths; only one of those instances in which romance
delights to mock the commonplace, and yet how much it meant--and how
much might it mean when the future had become the present.

Fortunately, Garthorne and Enid had been pressing on in front, and so he
had not noticed the meeting between Sir Arthur and Dora, whereby the
second possible catastrophe of the day was averted.

Sir Arthur was one of the house-party at the Abbey, for he and Sir
Reginald had been to a certain extent colleagues in India, and had kept
up their acquaintance, and now that Sir Reginald's son had married the
girl whom Sir Arthur had always looked upon as a prospective
daughter-in-law, the intimacy had become somewhat closer. Sir Arthur had
said frankly at the first that he thought Vane had done an exceedingly
foolish thing; but since he had done it and meant to stick to it, there
was an end of the matter, and if Vane couldn't or wouldn't marry Enid,
he would, after all, rather see her the wife of his old friend's son
than anybody else's. He had, therefore, willingly accepted Sir
Reginald's invitation to spend a few days at the Abbey and witness his
son's admission to the full orders of the priesthood.

Vane and Ernshaw, after exchanging greetings and receiving
congratulations, declined Sir Reginald's invitation to dine and sleep at
the Abbey, and went straight back to the Retreat with Father Philip.

It happened that, somewhat late that night after their guests had gone
to bed, Reginald Garthorne had a couple of rather important letters to
write, and sat up to get them finished. When he had sealed and stamped
them, he took them to the post-box in the hall. The postman's lock-up
bag was standing on the hall table, and, as he knew there wouldn't be
any more letters that night, he thought he might as well put what there
were there into the bag and lock it with his own key. He took them out
in a handful, but before he could put them into the bag they slipped and
scattered on to the table. He bent down to gather them up, and there,
right under his eyes, was an envelope addressed in Sir Arthur Maxwell's
handwriting to Miss Dora Murray, 15 Stonebridge Street, Worcester. He
would have given a thousand pounds to know what that thin paper cover
concealed. The thought half entered his mind to take it away and steam
it, read the letter, and then put it back again; but he was not without
his own notions of honour, and he dismissed the thought before it was
fully formed. He contented himself with taking out his pencil and
copying the address, and as he put the letters into the bag and locked
it he said to himself:

"Well, I was wondering at service what in the name of all that's unlucky
brought that girl down here just now, and I suppose I shall have to find
out. But what the deuce does the old man want writing to her? A nice
thing if they were to discover the lost Miss Carol and present her to
the world as Vane's half-sister, and then the rest of the story came
out. What an almighty fool I was to do that. If I'd only known that Enid
really would have me--but it's no use grizzling over that. I shall have
to find out what that young woman wants down in this part of the world,
and why Sir Arthur should be writing to her, that's quite certain."



CHAPTER XV.


Among Garthorne's letters the next morning there chanced to be one from
his solicitor in Worcester, and so this made an excellent excuse for him
to get away for the day. Enid was going to drive Sir Arthur and Sir
Reginald over to the Retreat, so he ordered the dogcart to take him to
Kidderminster, whence he took train for Worcester.

He knew enough of Dora's circumstances with regard to her parents to
recognise the imprudence of calling upon her without notice, and so he
lunched at the Mitre Hotel, and sent a messenger with a note asking her
to meet him at three o'clock on the River Walk. The messenger was
instructed to wait for an answer if Miss Murray was in.

Miss Murray was in, and when she read the note her first notion was that
Garthorne had by some means got an inkling of the truth, or, at the
least, had discovered that she was in communication with Sir Arthur
Maxwell and wished to know the reason. She made up her mind at once to
hold her tongue on both subjects, but at the same time, she felt that it
would hardly be wise to refuse to meet him. It must also be admitted
that she also was possessed by a pardonable, because feminine, curiosity
as to what he wanted with her. She felt, however, that in such a place
as Worcester it would be most imprudent for her to meet a man so well
known in the County as Reginald Garthorne on one of the public
thoroughfares, and so she wrote her answer as follows:--

     "DEAR MR. GARTHORNE,

     "I have no idea why you should wish to see me, and I do not think
     that it would be prudent to meet you as you suggest. You know how I
     am situated here, and so I think it would be best, if you really
     must speak to me, as you say, for you to come and see me here, not
     under your own name, of course, as that is much too well known. I
     would therefore suggest that you should call yourself Mr. Johnson,
     and I will say that you are a representative of one of the big
     millinery houses in London, and that you have come to see me on
     business. I shall wait in for you till three.

     "Yours sincerely,
     "DORA MURRAY."

Garthorne saw the wisdom of this suggestion, and "Mr. Johnson" announced
himself at half past two. Dora received him alone in a little back
sitting-room, but his reception was not altogether encouraging, for when
he held out his hand and said "Good afternoon, Dora!" she flushed a
little, and affecting not to see his hand, she said:

"Miss Murray, if you please, Mr. Garthorne, now and for the future. You
seem to have forgotten that, for me, at least, Worcester is not London."

He was so completely taken aback by this utterly unexpected speech, as
well as by the unwonted tone in which it was spoken, that his
outstretched hand dropped to his side somewhat limply, and he felt
himself straightening up and staring at her in blank astonishment.

"I beg your pardon, Miss Murray," he said, in a tone which sounded a
great deal more awkward than he meant it to do. "Of course, I was quite
wrong; I ought not to have forgotten."

"There is no necessity for an apology," she said, more distantly than
before. "Will you sit down? You want to see me about something, I
suppose?"

"Yes," he said, sitting down and fingering the brim of his hat somewhat
nervously. "Yes, that is what I have come over to Worcester for. In
fact, I have been wanting to see you for some time. In the first place,
I had a rather extraordinary letter from Carol some time ago, sending
back some money which I, of course, can't accept, so I've brought it
with me to ask you to take it and use it in any way that you think fit."

"You mean, of course, in charity?" said Dora, looking him straight in
the eyes. "You wouldn't insult me by meaning it in any other way."

"Oh, no, certainly not," he said, more awkwardly than before, and
wondering what on earth had produced this extraordinary change in her
manner. "I hope you know me well enough to believe me quite incapable of
such a thing."

"If you only knew how well I know you!" thought Dora, "I wonder what
you'd think?"

But she said aloud, and rather more kindly than before:

"You must forgive me, Mr. Garthorne, I spoke rather hastily then. I
quite see what you mean. It's very good of you, and I'm sure that if
Carol were here she would tell me to take the money and use it that
way--so I will."

"Thank you very much, Miss Murray," he replied, taking an envelope out
of his pocket-book. "There are the notes and postal orders exactly as
she sent them to me. And now, may I ask where she is?"

"I can't answer that, Mr. Garthorne, because I don't know. The night
that she sent you that money back she made the acquaintance of a very
nice fellow who is something more than a millionaire, and since then
they've been taking a sort of irregular honeymoon round the world. The
last letter I had from her was from Sydney. She seems very jolly and
enjoying herself immensely."

"Glad to hear it," said Garthorne, speaking the thing which was not
altogether true. "She's a jolly girl, and deserves the best of
luck--which she seems to have got. And the millionaire----?"

Dora shook her head, and said quietly but decisively.

"No, Mr. Garthorne, I'm afraid I can't tell you anything about him. It
would be a breach of confidence if I did, and so I'm sure you won't ask
for it. Do you want to ask me about anything else?"

"Yes," he said, hesitatingly, "I do." There was a little pause, during
which they looked at each other, he enquiringly and she absolutely
impassive. Then he went on: "Of course, you saw us in the Cathedral
yesterday, and I think you know Sir Arthur Maxwell personally. You met
him once or twice when he went to call on Carol at Melville Gardens."

"Yes."

Then there was another pause, and, as Garthorne didn't seem able to find
anything to say, Dora went on speaking very quietly, but with a curious
note of restraint in her voice which puzzled him considerably.

"I do know Sir Arthur, and I tried hard to persuade Carol to do what he
wanted her to do, although, all the same, I think I should have done as
she did if I had been her. I don't know whether you saw Sir Arthur speak
to me in the Cathedral as we were coming out, but he did. I have had a
letter from him this morning, and he is coming to see me."

"Of course, you are not going to say anything----"

"No, sir, I am not," said Dora, rising from her chair white to the lips
and with an ominous glitter in her eyes. She took up the envelope which
Garthorne had laid on the table, and tossed it at him. "You know me for
what I am in London, and it seems that you only look upon me as an
animal to be hired for the amusement of people like you, not as a woman
who still has her notions of honour. That is an insult which I cannot
pardon. You behaved well, as things go, to Carol, but you have now shown
me that, whatever you are in name and family, you are in yourself an
unspeakable cad. You came here thinking that I was going to blackmail
you because I happened to know something about you which you would not
like your wife to know. If you only knew what I could tell you----"

And then she checked herself, and after a little pause, she pointed to
the door and said:

"You have got your money, Mr. Garthorne, and there is the door. You will
oblige me by leaving the house as soon as possible."

"But really, Miss Murray----" he began, as he rose, not a little
bewildered, from his chair.

"Stop!" she said. "In mercy to yourself and your wife, stop! There is
the door; go, and remember that from now we are strangers, and if ever
you meet Carol again--no, I won't say that. God grant that you never
may see her again, for if you do----"

"Well, and suppose I do, Miss Murray, what then?" he interrupted, with
his hand on the handle of the door. He had never heard such words from
the lips of either man or woman before, and that personal vanity which
is a characteristic even of the worst of men was grievously outraged.

"Never mind what I mean," she said, cutting him short again. "I have
said all that I am going to say except this--if ever you meet Carol
again, for her sake and yours, for your wife's and your children's when
they come, _don't see her_. Now go!"

There was a something in her voice and in her manner which said even
more than her lips had done. Something which not only struck him dumb
for the time being, but which also drove home into his soul a conviction
that this girl, outcast and social pariah as she was, not only held his
fate in her hands, but that she possessed some unknown power over his
destiny, that she knew something which, if spoken, might blast the
bright promise of his life and overwhelm him in irretrievable ruin.

She had called him a cad, and as his thoughts flew back to that morning
in Vane Maxwell's rooms at Oxford, a pang of self-conviction told him
that she had spoken justly. He felt, too, that he was hopelessly in the
wrong, that by his suggestion he had sorely insulted her, and that in
exchange for his insult she had given him mercy. He would have given
anything to know the real meaning of her words, and yet he dare not even
ask her.

He looked round at her once and saw her, standing rigid and impassive
waiting to be relieved of his presence. His thoughts went back a few
months to the times when those little dinners of four had been so
pleasant, and when this girl, who was now looking at him like an
accusing angel, had matched even Carol herself in the gaiety of her
conversation and the careless use she made of her mother-wit, and he
tried hard to say something which should in some way cover his retreat,
but the words wouldn't come, and so he just opened the door and walked
out.

Dora heard the street door bang behind him, and then her tensely-strung
nerves relaxed. She dropped into an easy chair, clasped her hands over
her temples, and whispered:

"Oh dear, oh dear, how is all this going to end, and what would happen
if they only knew! And now I've got to see Sir Arthur. Shall I tell him
everything or not? No, I daren't, I daren't. It's too awful. Was there
ever anything like it in the world before?"

And then her body swayed forward, her elbows dropped on to her knees,
her hands clasped her temples tighter, and the next moment she had burst
into a passion of tears.

Tears are a torture to men and a relief to women, so in a few minutes
she lifted her head again, the storm was over and she began to look the
situation over calmly. The more she thought of it the more certain it
seemed that she could do nothing but irretrievable mischief by even
hinting to Sir Arthur anything of what she knew. At any rate she decided
that until Carol came back she would keep her knowledge absolutely to
herself.

Then the train of her thoughts was suddenly broken by the postman's
knock at the door. There was a London letter addressed to herself in the
familiar handwriting of Mr. Bernard Falcon. As she opened it she
experienced a singular mixture of relief and vexation, tinged by a
suggestion of shame.

The letter began with an inquiry as to when she was coming back to
Town, and ended with an invitation to spend a week end in the round trip
from London to Dover, Calais, Boulogne and Folkestone.

She had been nearly a fortnight in Worcester, and, truth to tell, she
was getting a little tired of it. Falcon's letter offered her a double
relief. It would save her from the ordeal of meeting Sir Arthur, and,
combined with the visit of "Mr. Johnson," it would give her a good
excuse to her parents for going back to Town at once; so she sat down
and wrote two letters, one to Falcon telling him that he could meet her
at Paddington the next evening, and the other to Sir Arthur telling him
all she knew about Carol, saving only the name of her companion, and
regretting that she would not be able to meet him, as she was starting
for the Continent that day. For obvious reasons she, of course, said
nothing of Garthorne's visit to her.

Sir Arthur was as much disappointed with his letter as Mr. Falcon was
pleased by his. Dora left Worcester the day that he received it, and
while she was dining with Mr. Falcon at the Globe Restaurant, Sir Arthur
was telling Vane and Mark Ernshaw, who had come over to dine and sleep
at the Abbey, all that he knew of Miss Carol's latest escapade.

"I'm very, very sorry," said Ernshaw when he had finished. "We've never
told you before, Sir Arthur, but I may as well tell you now that, if
Miss Vane had not disappeared as mysteriously as she did, Vane was to
have introduced me to her, and I was going to marry her if she would
have me."

Sir Arthur looked at him in silence for a few moments, and then he took
his hand and said:

"I know that is true, Ernshaw, because you have said it; though I would
not have believed it from anyone else except Vane. I would willingly
give everything that I possess and go back to work to make such a thing
possible, but I'm afraid it isn't, and now, of course, it is more
impossible than ever. Frankly, I don't believe she'd have you. It sounds
a very curious thing to say, but from what I have seen of her, granted
even that she fell in love with you, the more she loved you the more
absolutely she would refuse to marry you. You know we offered her
everything we could. Vane and I both agreed to acknowledge her and have
her to live with us, but it was no use. She refused in such a way that
she made me long all the more to take her for my own daughter before the
world; but there was no mistaking the refusal, and the day after our
last interview she clinched it by vanishing, I suppose with this young
millionaire who is with her now. It's very terrible, of course, but
there it is. It's done, and I'm afraid there's no mending it. Perhaps,
after all, it is better for you that it should be so."

"Yes, Ernshaw," said Vane. "It's not a nice thing to say under the
circumstances, but I think the governor's right."

"Possibly, but I don't agree with you," he replied. "You know I am what
a good many people would call an enthusiast on the subject of this
so-called social evil, for which, as I believe, Society itself is almost
entirely to blame, and I am quite prepared to put my views into
practice."

"Then," said Sir Arthur, smiling gravely, "I think when we get back to
Town I'd better introduce you to Miss Murray, who was living with Carol
in Melville Gardens, where I first saw her. She was in the Cathedral on
Sunday. Her parents live in Worcester, and they believe, poor people,
that she has a little millinery business in London. She says she's
going on the Continent, I suppose with this friend of hers. But she has
given me an address in London where she can be found.

"Now there, Ernshaw," he went on, "there I believe you would find a far
better subject for your social experiment, if you are determined to make
it, than poor Carol could ever be. I don't know her history, but she is
evidently a lady born and educated. She is quite as good-looking as
Carol, only an entirely different type, taller, darker, and with deep,
mysterious brown eyes which evidently have a soul behind them. At any
rate, I'm quite convinced that she would make a much better social
missionary's wife than poor Carol would.

"She, I sadly fear, is 'a daughter of delight,' as the French call them,
pure and simple. She told me point blank that she preferred her present
mode of life to respectability, and that she considered that taking even
my money or Vane's, when she had no real claim upon us, was more
degrading and would hurt her self-respect a great deal more than doing
what she is doing. In other respects she's as good a girl as ever
walked, and as honest as the daylight, but I'm afraid there is no hope
of social regeneration for her."

"Hope was once found for one a thousand times worse than she!" said
Ernshaw quietly. "But as I have seen neither of them yet, no harm can be
done by my making the acquaintance of Miss Murray to begin with."

"Very well," said Sir Arthur, not at all sorry to change the subject.
"And now, talking about social missionaries, Vane, have you quite made
up your mind to carry out this scheme of yours, this crusade against
money-making and the pomps and vanities of Society? Do you really mean
to show that your own father has been living in sin all these years;
that he is not, in fact, a Christian at all, because it is impossible
for anyone to be decently well off and a Christian at the same time? A
nice sort of thing that, Ernshaw, isn't it?"

"If Vane honestly believes, as he does, that his is the only true
definition of a Christian, it is not only his right but his duty to
preach it," was the young priest's reply.

"It is my belief," said Vane quietly, "and, God helping me, I will do
what I believe to be my duty."

The party at the Abbey broke up a few days after this, and in another
week or so Enid and her husband were in the full swing of the great
merry-go-round which is called the London season. She was unquestionably
the most beautiful of the brides of the year, and she was the undisputed
belle of the Drawing Room at which she was presented.

Garthorne was, of course, very proud of her, and received plenty of that
second-hand sort of admiration which is accorded alike to the owner of a
distinguished race-horse, a prize bull-dog, or a pretty wife.

Under the circumstances, therefore, it was perfectly natural that they
should enjoy themselves very thoroughly, and though towards the end
Garthorne began to get a little bored, and to think rather longingly of
his yacht on the Solent and his grouse moor in Scotland, Enid, with her
youth and beauty and perfect constitution, enjoyed every hour and every
minute of her waking life. Society had no very distinguished lion to
fall down and worship that season, and so, towards the end, things were
getting a little slow, and people were thinking seriously of escaping
from the heat and dust of London, when the world of wealth and fashion
was suddenly thrilled into fresh life by an absolutely new sensation.



CHAPTER XVI.


One Sunday morning, about the middle of June, the large and fashionable
congregation which filled the church of St. Chrysostom, South
Kensington, a church which will be recognised as one of the very
"highest" in London, and which, to use a not altogether unsuitable term,
"draws" all the year round by reason of the splendour of its ritual, as
well as the simple earnest eloquence of its clergy, was startled by the
preaching of such a sermon as no member of it had ever heard before.

The preacher for the morning was announced to be the Rev. Father Vane, a
name which meant nothing to more than about half a dozen members of the
congregation, but which every man and woman in the church had some cause
to remember by the time the service was over.

Father Baldwin, as the vicar of St. Chrysostom's was familiarly known,
was a very old friend of Father Philip's, and Vane's appearance as
preacher that morning was the result of certain correspondence which had
taken place between them, and of several long and earnest conversations
which he had had with Vane himself.

The moment that Vane appeared in the pulpit, that strange rustling sound
which always betokens an access of sensation in a church, became
distinctly audible from the side where the women sat. As he stood there
in cassock, cotta and white, gold-embroidered stole, he looked, as many
a maid, and matron too, said afterwards, almost too beautiful to be
human. Both as boy and man he had always been strikingly handsome, but
the long weeks and months of prayer and fasting, and the constant
struggle of the soul against the flesh, had refined and spiritualised
him. To speak of an everyday man of the world, however good-looking he
may be, as beautiful is rather to ridicule him than otherwise, but when
such a man as Vane passes through such an ordeal as his had been, the
word beauty may be justly used in the sense in which the feminine
portion of the congregation of St. Chrysostom's unanimously used it that
morning.

There was a hush of expectation as he opened a small Bible lying on the
desk in front of him. Then he raised his right hand and made the sign of
the Cross.

     "In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost,
     Amen!"

The words were not hastily and inaudibly muttered as they too often are
by the clergy of the High Anglican persuasion. They rang out as clearly
as the notes of a bell through the silence of the crowded church, and
the congregation recognised instantly that he possessed, at least, the
first qualification of a great preacher.

Then he took up his Bible, and said in a quite ordinary conversational
tone:

"It will be well if those who wish to follow what I am about to say will
take their Bibles and turn to the fifth chapter of the Gospel according
to St. Matthew."

The opening was as unpromising as it was unconventional, but more than
half the congregation obeyed, and when the rustling of leaves had
subsided, he began to read the Sermon on the Mount.

When the first thrill of astonishment had passed, it was noticed that,
after the first few verses, he ceased to look at the Bible. Every member
of the congregation had heard the words over and over again, but they
had never heard them as they heard them now. It was nothing like the
formal reading of the lessons to which they had been accustomed, and as
the clear, pure tones of his voice rang through the church, and, as his
eyes and face lighted up with the radiance of an almost divine
enthusiasm, there were some in his audience who began to think that he
might well have been a re-incarnation of one of those disciples of the
Master who heard the words as they came from His lips that day on the
Judean hillside.

He went on verse after verse, never missing a word, and unconsciously
emphasising each passage with gestures, slight in themselves, but
eloquent and forcible in their exact suitability to the words, and very
soon every man and woman in the church was listening to him, not only
with rapt attention, but with a growing feeling of uneasiness and
apprehension as to what was to follow.

At length he came to the twenty-third verse of the seventh chapter:

     "And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you; depart from
     me, ye that work iniquity."

There was an emphasis upon the last few words which sent a thrill of
emotion, and, in many cases, one of angry expectation, through the
crowded congregation. It was one of the wealthiest, and most
fashionable in London, but, saving a comparatively few really earnest
souls, it was composed for the most part of idlers and loungers, who
came to St. Chrysostom's partly because it was one of the most
fashionable churches in the West End, partly because it was the proper
thing to attend Church on Sunday, and partly because the music, and
singing and preaching were all so good, and the elaborate ceremonial was
so perfectly performed, that it afforded the means of spending a few
hours on Sunday in a very pleasant way.

The young preacher looked at the crowd of well-dressed men and women for
a few moments in silence, as though he would give them time to realise
the tremendous solemnity of the words they had just heard. There was
dead, breathless silence at first, and then came a rustling sound,
mingled with one of deep breathing. Then he began again in the same
direct, conversational tone in which he had asked them to take their
Bibles.

"I am addressing," he said, in a low, clear tone which could be heard as
distinctly at the church doors as it could by those immediately under
the pulpit, "an audience which is composed of men and women who are,
nominally, at least, Christians, and now I am going to ask you, every
man and woman of you, to ask your own souls the simple question, whether
you really are Christians, or not.

"A good many of you, I daresay, will be a little startled, perhaps some
of you may even be offended by the suggestion of such a question. With
every regard for your feelings as brother men and sister women, I
sincerely hope you will be. My reason for hoping that is very simple.
The vast majority of people in Christian countries are Christians
simply because they have been born of Christian parents, just as they
are Protestants or Catholics because their parents were such before
them, and their early training has strongly predisposed their minds to
the acceptance--too often the blind acceptance--of a certain set of
doctrines which, with all reverence, are by themselves of no more use
for the purpose of saving a human soul from eternal damnation than the
multiplication table would be. These doctrines, these creeds, are aids
to salvation, most potent aids, but they are not essentials, since of
themselves they cannot save.

"It is far too often taken for granted that, because a man has been
brought up in a Christian family, has been baptised into the Church of
Christ, and has later on been admitted into the communion of that
Church, that, therefore, he is justified in believing himself to be a
Christian. He has, as we of the Church Catholic and Universal fervently
believe, been placed in the path which leads to salvation. His vision
has been cleared from the mists of error. The Church, in the fulfilment
of her holy mission, has caused the white light of heaven to shine upon
his eyes. His feet have been set in the strait gate and on the narrow
way which leads to eternal life, but not all the priests from Abraham
down to our own day, nor all the Churches that ever were founded can do
any more. The way must be travelled by the man himself, his own eyes
must see the light, his own feet must tread the way, no matter how steep
or difficult it may be--or that man has no more right to call himself a
Christian than any worshipper of any of the false gods whose reign has
vanished from the earth.

"It was for the purpose of bringing this most solemn truth, this most
solemn and momentous of all truth home to you that I began by repeating
the words which the Greatest of all Preachers pronounced for the
guidance of those who should come after Him."

He paused, and took up his Bible again. Meanwhile, a few people, both
men and women, whose dress and appearance bore unmistakable signs of
worldly wealth, got up and walked out of the church.

Vane watched them go, and as he did so the rest saw a complete change of
expression come over his countenance. His eyes grew sombre and
sorrowful, his lips tightened, and something like a frown gathered upon
his brow. He not only waited in the midst of an almost unnatural silence
until they had gone, but he went on waiting for some moments longer as
though he would give anyone else an opportunity of leaving the church if
they desired to do so. No one stirred. The look which he turned upon
them from the pulpit seemed like a spell which held them to their seats.
Then his lips opened, and they heard his voice, tinged with an infinite
sadness, saying:

     "'The young man saith unto him: All these things have I kept from
     my youth up. What lack I yet?

     "'Jesus saith unto him: If thou wouldst be perfect go and sell that
     thou hast and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in
     heaven, and come and follow me.

     "'But when the young man heard that saying he went away sorrowful,
     for he had great possessions.

     "'Then said Jesus unto his disciples: Verily I say unto you that a
     rich man shall hardly enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.'"

Then there came another pause, during which his listeners seemed almost
afraid to breathe, so strong was the spell of apprehension and
expectancy which he had laid upon them, and he went on:

"You have, everyone of you, heard those words read and spoken scores and
hundreds of times. Has it ever struck you that they are words which, if
you are a Christian man or woman, you must believe to be the words of
God himself, spoken by the lips of Infallible Wisdom, and inspired by
that Omniscience which sees you sitting here in this London church as
plainly as It saw that other congregation which was assembled that day
on the slope of the Mount of Olives, and which reads your hearts at this
moment as It read theirs then? If you do not believe that, then it
follows that you do not believe in the mission or the teaching of
Christ. You do not believe that He spoke the truth when He told the
young man that it was not only necessary to keep the commandments, as he
had done from his youth up; but that it was also necessary for him to
cease to be a rich man, and to distribute his wealth in relieving the
necessities of the poor.

"If you believe that Christ is very God of very God, as you say every
Sunday of your lives, you cannot escape the obligation which those words
put upon you except at the peril of your immortal souls. Remember that
it is not by your faiths and beliefs, or by the doctrines you have held
that you will be judged when you stand before the Last Tribunal. These
are but instruments to be used well or ill, but the final appeal will
come to your works. The last question that will be asked of you will not
be 'What creed have you believed?' or 'What Church have you belonged
to?' but 'What have you done?' and on the answer to that, as recorded
in the books of God, will depend your fate for all eternity.

"Remember the words, 'Not everyone that saith unto me Lord, Lord, shall
enter into the Kingdom of Heaven, but he that doeth the will of my
Father which is in Heaven.'

"Remember, too, that when you join in the services of the Church, and
when you partake of her Sacraments, you are simply saying 'Lord,
Lord'--a very good and righteous thing to say; but of no more use or
benefit to your souls than an echo from a blank wall, unless you also do
the will of Him who is in Heaven.

"I know that there are many specious sayings invented by those who have
reasons of their own for trying to prove that when the Son of God spoke
these words He didn't mean what He said; and those who have invented
these things are amongst the worst enemies of God and His Church on
earth, no matter whether they say these lying words in the drawing-room
or from the pulpit. They seek to comfort their consciences and the
consciences of such as you by saying that times have changed since these
words were uttered; that it would be quite impossible to put a literal
interpretation upon them now.

"Now the man who tells his fellow men that, no matter what his position
in the world, is a liar and a hypocrite, and, what is worse, he is a
maker of hypocrites, for it is my duty to tell you that every man and
woman who professes Christianity before the world on Sunday and during
the week disobeys the command of Christ as set forth here in His own
words, is, consciously or unconsciously, a liar and a hypocrite also.

"Let us see what these sayings look like when tested by ordinary logic,
by that faculty of distinguishing the right from the wrong, the true
from the false, which is perhaps the greatest of all God's gifts to men.

"'Times have changed since the Son of God delivered the Sermon on the
Mount.' That is one of those half-truths which are infinitely worse than
a lie. Times _have_ changed. That is to say mortal men and mortal
manners have changed; but does that warrant us in believing that the
mind and will of the Immutable God have changed too; that what Christ
himself declared to be fatal to salvation two thousand years ago, is
compatible with salvation now? That what was unlawful then is lawful
now--in short, that the Omniscient God, in whose eyes a thousand years
are as one day and one day as a thousand years, who read the minds of
men then as He reads them now, has altered the decrees of Eternal
Justice and changed Eternal Truth into a lie?

"If you believe these people, then you must believe that too. That
Christ himself foresaw, as He must have done, that such false teachers
as these would arise both in His Church and outside it is clearly proved
by His own words:

"'Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in
Thy name and in Thy name have cast out devils, and in Thy name done many
wonderful works?

"'And then I will profess unto them: I never knew you, depart from me ye
that work iniquity.'

"Remember that in that day when these words will be spoken hypocrisy and
self-deceit will have become impossibilities. It will not be possible
then for you to persuade yourselves, as no doubt you do now, that you
are good Christians, or that you are Christians at all, because you
believe certain doctrines and carry out certain ecclesiastical
observances. You will see your own souls naked then, and the eye of
Eternal and Immutable Justice will see them too--and unless you have
proved that you have obedience as well as faith; that you have not only
believed but also obeyed, you will most assuredly hear those words 'I
never knew you; depart from me ye that work iniquity!'

"But," he went on again, after another little pause during which some of
his audience began to look round at each other with something like fear
in their eyes, "do not forget that there is another course open to you.
It may be that the things of this world, the conventions of society, the
fear of poverty and the love of wealth, have taken such a hold upon you,
that, although you dare not even confess it to yourselves, you prefer
these things to obedience to the Divine command and all that it may
bring.

"You have it in perfectly plain language and on the highest possible
authority that you cannot serve God and Mammon. Those are no empty
words, they are one of the most solemn pronouncements ever made, and
they affect you here and to all eternity. So long as you go on striving
to increase your wealth by those means which must nowadays be employed
to make money, you are not and you cannot be Christians. Those are harsh
words, and yet if they are not true, the words of Christ himself are
false. There is no escape from this dilemma, and if you think that
devoting one day a week to the nominal service of God and six to the
real, practical service of Mammon, you earn the right to call yourselves
Christians, that is to say, followers of Christ, you are merely
practising a pitiful piece of self-deception which would be ludicrous
were its consequences not so solemn.

"But, as I have said, there is another course open to you, a course
which, terrible as it is, is better than the one that you are now
following, because it is more honest. Be honest with yourselves and each
other, and, what is of more consequence, be honest with God too. A
well-known agnostic lecturer once said that no god could afford to damn
an honest man, and I am not sure that he was not right; but if the words
of Christ were not the empty mouthings of a charlatan or a dreamer,
there cannot be the slightest doubt about the fate of the hypocrite.
Remember that on the only occasion on which the gentle nature of our
Lord was roused to anger he denounced in the most terrible language that
human ears have ever heard those whom He called hypocrites, and,
therefore, I say to you, at whatever cost, either to your pockets or to
your souls, for you can take your choice which, cease to be hypocrites.

"Cease this pitiful pretence which, though it may deceive yourselves,
certainly does not deceive Him from whom no secrets are hid. If you
cannot forsake the service of Mammon, if you really are so tightly bound
by his golden chains to the things of this world that you cannot or will
not break loose from the entrancing bondage, then, in the name of
honesty, say so, say to yourselves and to your fellow men: 'I cannot do
this thing. If I must give up the service of Mammon before I can call
myself the servant of God, then I cannot become the servant of God, and
I will make a hypocrite and a liar of myself no longer.' Then at least
you would be honest and truthful, honest with yourselves and with your
brother men and with your sister women and with God. You would, as I
believe, and as you are now trying to make yourselves believe, have made
the wrong choice, a choice whose consequences must inevitably face you
on the other side of the grave, but you would, at least, be able to face
the tribunal of Eternal Justice without shame, and, with all reverence I
say it, I, as a Christian man, believe that for this reason the infinite
mercy of God would find a means of salvation for you.

"Be honest. For God's sake and your own, be honest, even though in
becoming so, you cease to be what is commonly called respectable. If you
really cannot serve God with a whole soul and without reservation, give
up the attempt to serve Him and say so before all men. It would be a
terrible thing to do, and yet, awful as such a step would be, it might
be the first one towards your ultimate salvation. The angels might weep,
but I hardly think that the devils would laugh, for the worst enemy of
the Father of Lies is an honest man or woman. The gentle heart of Jesus
might bleed for you, but Eternal Justice would respect you and give you
your due. Once more, speaking not only as a priest of God, but as your
fellow man, let me as man implore you to be honest, and as priest, warn
you that the penalty of hypocrisy is eternal damnation. You have no
choice in the matter. One or the other you must be, and you cannot
possibly be both. Wherefore I tell you that whether you elect to be the
servant of God or the servant of Mammon, you must let all men know
plainly which you are. If you are reasonable beings you cannot believe
in yourselves or in each other, unless you do this. Remember that,
however fondly you may be deceiving yourselves, you cannot blind the
eyes of Omniscience. It is a hard thing to say, and yet it is only the
plain truth given to us by the lips of Christ himself, that you cannot
believe in God unless you do the things which He says. Living your
present lives you do not do them, and therefore you are not only
infidels and atheists living without God, but you are worse--you are
hypocrites, and woe unto you!

"I tell you, speaking as solemnly as a priest of God can do in His house
and in His presence that I would rather see this and every church in
Christendom attended by a score of people--of real Christians whose
daily lives throughout the week were really guided and sanctified by
obedience to the teachings of the Master, than I would see them crowded
with throngs of men and women like you, whose acts from Monday morning
to Saturday night consistently belie every word that your lips utter
here in the house of God and in the presence of the Holy Trinity.

"No doubt, there is already anger against me in many of your hearts on
account of what I have believed it my duty to say to you. I would not
willingly incur the hatred of any man or woman, and yet I shall not
altogether regret that anger, because it will be proof that my words
have reached, not only your ears, but your hearts. I have spoken plainly
and without regard to the conventionalities either of the world or of
the pulpit, and I have done so because I believe that conventionality is
the foe of truth, and therefore the enemy of religion. This, remember,
is a subject of such awful solemnity, laden as it is with the eternal
fate of every human soul that is baptised into the Church of God, that I
have found it my duty to make it plain to you at any cost.

"When you leave this church, send your horses and your carriages away
and walk home, for you are deliberately breaking the law of God by using
them on the Sabbath, and, remember, that he who breaks one jot or
tittle of the law, shall be guilty of the whole, and, instead of going
to church parade in the park, you women, to excite the admiration of the
men and the envy of other women by the beauty of your dress, or the
splendour of your equipage, and you men, to begin the sordid work of
to-morrow before you have finished the holy task of to-day, go home and
take your bibles into the solitude of your own chamber. Spend the rest
of God's day with God Himself. And that you may do this good thing well
and truly, and find help to choose that way of life which leadeth to
eternal salvation, May the peace of God which passeth all understanding
be with you now henceforth and for ever, Amen."

He raised his right hand in benediction, turned towards the altar and
made the sign of the Cross, and as he came down the pulpit steps and
walked up the chancel to his place, some of those who saw him, said
afterwards, that there was a light on his face which they had never seen
on a human face before.



CHAPTER XVII.


There was no communion after that service, and so the choir and priests
formed for the recessional hymn. Father Baldwin, as the procession
formed behind him, came to the front of the chancel and said:

"Instead of the hymn appointed, it will be better if we end the service
with number 274."

     "Through the night of doubt and sorrow."

The organ pealed out, the congregation rose, and the hymn began. It so
happened that as Vane was passing the chairs on which Enid and her
husband were sitting with several friends, the last verse but one was
reached.

     "Onward therefore, pilgrim brothers,
       Onward, with the Cross our aid!
     Bear its shame, and fight its battle,
       Till we rest beneath its shade."

At the words "Bear its shame and fight its battle," she looked up. Her
eyes met Vane's for a moment; but there was no look of recognition in
them. A sudden dart of pain seemed to shoot into her heart. This man,
this prophet-priest, as he seemed to her now, had once been hers, her
promised husband. How far away from her, how far above her was he now!

She had listened to the sermon with a double interest, interest in the
man as well as in the wonderful words he had just spoken--words so
simple in themselves, and yet spoken with such terrible force, a force
so terrible that within the space of a few minutes it had shattered all
her worldly ideals and destroyed the faith that she had been brought up
in, changing her whole outlook upon the world.

She had been educated on the ordinary lines of conventional
Christianity, and, until now, she had, like thousands of others,
honestly believed herself to be a good Christian woman, just as she
believed her mother to be. But, as it happened, there was that within
her soul which instantly responded to the truth which she had heard
to-day for the first time; and she saw that Vane was right, hopelessly,
piteously right.

And then as the procession passed she looked at her husband. He had
already sat down, and was getting his hat from under the seat. The
procession streamed slowly out of sight into the vestry, and the
congregation moved out into the aisles with much soft rustling and
swishing of skirts and a subdued, buzzing hum of eager conversation.

As the three streams of well-dressed men and women converged towards the
great doorway which led out into the street many began to ask themselves
and each other if any one would obey the preacher's exhortation and send
their carriages away. The carriages were lined up in the street just as
they would be outside a theatre. Some of their owners got in and drove
away, making very pointed remarks on the impropriety of bringing such
subjects as carriages and horses into sermons and the length that young
curates would go now-a-days to obtain notoriety. Others dismissed
theirs and went away trying to look unconcerned; while other people
stared after them, some smiling and others looking serious.

The Garthornes' victoria, drawn by a pair of beautiful light bays, drew
up, and Garthorne put out his hand to help Enid in, but she drew back
and said:

"No, thanks, I think I'll walk."

"Oh, nonsense, Enid!" he said impatiently. "Time is getting on, and we
must have our turn in the Park. Everybody will be there, and this is
about the last Sunday in the season. We haven't over much time either."

"I am not going into the Park, Reginald," she said decidedly. "I am
going to walk straight home. You can go and do Church Parade if you
like."

"All right, Tomkins, you can go home," he said to the coachman. "Mrs.
Garthorne prefers to walk."

The coachman and footman touched their hats, and the victoria drove
away.

"Surely to goodness, Enid," said Garthorne almost angrily, as they
walked away together, "you are not doing this because Maxwell said it
was wrong to use carriages on a Sunday! Good heavens, if we were to
translate sermons into everyday life it would be rather a funny world to
live in."

"Then what is the use of going to hear them, if they are not to be taken
seriously?" she said, looking up quickly at him. "Why should they be
preached, or why should we go to church at all?"

"Because it is the proper thing to do, I suppose, and because Society,
whose slaves we are, makes it one of the social functions of the week,"
replied Garthorne, who had as much real religion in his composition as
a South African Bushman. "We men go because you women do, and you women
go to show others how nicely you can dress, and to see what they have
got on."

"My dear Reginald, that is about as true as it is original, and that is
not saying very much for it. If we don't go to church for any other
reasons than those it is merely mockery and wickedness to go at all. I
was very glad to see that a great many people did send their carriages
away. Next Sunday I hope they will have the decency to walk."

"Especially if the British climate, as it probably will, ends up the
season with a pouring wet Sunday!" laughed Garthorne. "No, dear, those
godly precepts are all very well when you read them in Sunday School
books or hear them from the pulpit, and I am sure Vane put them most
admirably to-day, although I confess I was slightly surprised to hear a
really clever fellow like him preaching such hopelessly impossible
nonsense. Of course I don't mean any offence to him--far from it, but
really, you know, if theories like those could be put into practice they
would simply turn the world upside down."

"I think you might have found a better word than nonsense," she replied
a trifle sharply; "but the world of to-day certainly would have to be
turned upside down or inside out to make it anything like Christian.
That, at least, Vane--I mean Mr. Maxwell--taught us this morning."

"Christian according to the Reverend Vane Maxwell," he said, with the
suspicion of a sneer. "Fortunately the Churches have agreed that such a
violent operation is not necessary. By the way, though, won't Maxwell
get himself into a howling row with the ecclesiastical powers that be!
Just imagine the bench of Bishops standing anything like that!"

"Yes," she said quietly, "the preaching of the Sermon on the Mount in a
fashionable London church! It does sound very terrible, doesn't it? And
yet, after all, I suppose they can't take his orders away from him even
for that. I wonder what would happen? It is sure to be in the papers
to-morrow, and of course everybody will be talking about it."

"Yes," said Garthorne; "but if Master Vane thinks he is going to play
Savanarola to this generation he will find that he has taken on a pretty
large order. Are you quite sure you won't take a turn in the Park, even
on foot?"

"No, I'd rather not, but don't let me keep you if you would like a
stroll. I can get home all right."

"Well, if you don't mind, Enid, I think I will. There are one or two
fellows I want to see particularly about something, so bye-bye for the
present."

He raised his hat and turned back, and she went on towards the house in
Queen's Gate with many strange thoughts in her heart.

Enid and her husband were by no means the only members of the
congregation of St. Chrysostom who discussed Vane's sermon on their way
home. In fact, whether people walked or rode home, it was the universal
topic. Some discussed it with timorous sympathy; others, perhaps with
more worldly wisdom, talked of it quietly and cynically as the outburst
of a half-fledged clerical enthusiast who would very soon find out that
his superiors, on whom he depended for preferment, regarded the
doctrines of Christianity as one thing and the practises of the Church
as something entirely different.

"He's a clever fellow, a very clever fellow and very earnest," said Lord
Canore, who was a patron of several fat livings, to her ladyship and his
two daughters as they drove home, "but he'll soon get those rough
corners knocked off him. If they are wise they will give him a good
living, and then make him a canon as soon as possible. There's nothing
like preferment to sober a man down in the Church."

"Yes," sighed Lady Caroline Rosse, the elder daughter, who was getting
somewhat _passée_, and was deeply interested in Church work; "what a
beautiful voice he has, and such a wonderful face! Really, he looked
almost inspired at times. He would make quite an ideal bishop, and, you
know, some quite young men are being made bishops now-a-days."

"Yes," chuckled his lordship, as he lay back against the cushions, "that
is the sort of thing I mean. You don't catch bishops preaching the
Sermon on the Mount and sub-editing it as they go on."

"My dear Canore," said her ladyship frigidly, "I think we had better
change the subject; that last remark of yours was almost blasphemous."

"Never heard such rubbish preached from a respectable pulpit in my
life," said Mr. Horace Faustmann, a member of the Stock Exchange,
director of several limited companies and a most liberal contributor to
the offertories, and all Church effort in the parish of St. Chrysostom,
to his wife as they rolled smoothly in their cee-spring, rubber-tyred
victoria towards Hyde Park Corner.

"Why, if you can't make plenty of money and still be a Christian, where
are subscriptions coming from, and what price the Church endowments? It
seems absolutely absurd to me. I wonder what on earth Baldwin was
thinking about to let him preach a sermon like that in the smartest
church in the West End. If he goes on in that style he will just ruin
the show. Anyhow, he gets no more of my money if he is going to insult
rich people in the pulpit. Any more of that sort of thing, my dear, and
we'll go somewhere else, won't we?"

"I should think so," said the beautiful Mrs. Faustmann. She was the
daughter of a poor aristocrat, and had made a very good social and
financial bargain. She was one of the smartest women and most successful
entertainers in London. There was another man eating his heart out on
her account in the Burmese jungle, and sometimes, in her tenderest
moment, she gave him a thought and a little sigh--about as much thought
and sigh as her engagements permitted.

"Yes, Father Baldwin will really ruin the Church if he allows that sort
of thing. Of course all the good people will give it up. In fact, you
saw the Steinways, the Northwicks, the Athertons and several more leave
the church before he was half way through his harangue, for really you
could hardly call it a sermon. All the same, the church will be thronged
to-night and next Sunday, because people will go there just for the
sensation of the thing, and to see if anything else is going to happen;
but poor Father Baldwin will simply be inundated with letters from the
best of his people, and I don't think he'll find them very pleasant
reading. I am going to write, and, although I respect the dear man very
much, I shall tell him exactly what I think."

"Quite right," said her husband, as they turned into the Park. "You give
it to him straight. If you don't, I shall drop him a line myself and
tell him that if he wants any more of my money, and he has had a good
bit, he will have to keep his half-broken clerical colts a bit better in
hand; I'm not going to support a church to be insulted in it."

Many other similar conversations were going on just then in the Park, in
fact, Vane and his sermon were already being discussed by half
fashionable London, so fast does the news of so startling an event
travel from lip to lip when a crowd of somewhat _blasé_ people, who have
nothing in particular to talk about, get together. Most of the comments
were quite similar to those just quoted, for Society felt generally by
dinner time that night that it had been deliberately insulted, outraged,
in fact, through its representatives in the congregation of St.
Chrysostom.

Nevertheless the church was packed to its utmost capacity at evening
service. It was known that Father Baldwin was to preach, but it was
hoped that Vane would take some part in the service, and of course
everyone wanted to see him; still, the audience went away disappointed.
Vane was far away, helping Ernshaw at his mission in Bethnal Green, and
was telling his congregation truths just as uncompromising and perhaps
as unpalatable as those he had told to his wealthy and aristocratic
hearers in the morning.

Father Baldwin preached, but his sermon was rather a homily on the
duties of the rich towards the poor, especially at a time when the rich
were about to migrate like gay-plumaged birds of passage to other lands
and climes in search of pleasure, leaving behind the millions of their
fellow mortals and fellow Christians, whose ceaseless life-struggle left
no leisure for the delights which they had come to look upon as the
commonplaces of their existence.

He only made one brief allusion to Vane's sermon. He knew perfectly
well that these thronging hundreds of people had not come to hear him.
He felt, not without sorrow, that quite half of them had come to hear,
or at least see, the man whose name was already the talk of fashionable
London.

"Some of you," he said, "who are present now heard this morning from
this pulpit words which must have sunk deep into the heart of every man
and woman who feels an earnest desire to follow in the footsteps of the
Master as closely as imperfect human nature will permit you. It is not
for me to tell you to what extent those words must be taken literally.
They were spoken earnestly and from the inmost depths of the preacher's
own soul--may they sink into the inmost depths of yours! They put the
most vital interest of human life plainly, nay, uncompromisingly before
you; how far you can or will follow them in your daily lives is a matter
which rests between yourselves and your Redeemer."

The next morning nearly all the papers contained more or less lengthy
reports of a sermon of which half London was already talking. Ernest
Reed, a smart young reporter with strong freethought tendencies, who
made a Sunday speciality of reporting sermons of all sorts, especially
the extreme ones, and who wrote caustically impartial comments on them
in the rationalist papers, had instantly grasped the true significance
of such a sermon being preached to such a congregation, and, moreover,
he had himself been deeply affected by the solemn earnestness with which
the momentous words had been spoken.

"A Daniel come to judgment! A parson who believes in his own creed at
last!" was his mental comment, as he closed his note-book. "That chap's
worth following. I wonder where he is going to preach to-night. I'll
find out."

Of course he did find out and followed Vane to Bethnal Green, with the
result that he made what is professionally termed "a scoop," since he
was the only reporter who was able to give both sermons verbatim. The
_Daily Chronicle_ was the only morning paper smart enough to print them
word for word in parallel columns under the title:

     WEIGHTY WORDS TO RICH AND POOR.
     The Rev. Vane Maxwell
     Asks Mayfair and Bethnal Green
     If they are Christian?

The consequence was, that all London and a very considerable part of
England too, stared wonderingly over its breakfast table and asked
itself whether there was really anything in these plain, almost homely,
and yet terribly pregnant words. Certainly there was no getting away
from the pitiless logic of them. If Vane Maxwell was right, England was
_not_ a Christian country, save in name, and its citizens were
Christians only because they had been baptized into one or other of the
churches and so called themselves Christians by a sort of courtesy
title. For the moment at least, Christianity assumed a shape as tangible
and a meaning almost as serious as party politics. In other words Vane's
sermon, even when read in cold print, put the question: Are you really a
Christian? so plainly, so uncompromisingly, and so unavoidably to every
man or woman calling himself or herself a Christian, that hundreds of
thousands of people all over the country, to say nothing of a million
or two in London, felt a sudden, and, as it seemed to them, somewhat
unaccountable obligation to give an equally plain answer to it. What was
the answer to be?

"Yes or no?"

It certainly was a very serious matter to millions who had never thought
of asking the question for themselves, and whose pastors and spiritual
masters had mostly contented themselves with lecturing and teaching in
soul-soothing, instead of soul-searching, words.

They, good folk, had really never troubled themselves very much about
the matter. They had their business affairs to attend to, their wives
and families to keep out of the workhouse or to maintain in comfort or
luxury, as the case might be, and a good many of them had certain social
duties to perform; and so they had got into the way of letting the
churches and chapels, the bishops, priests, deacons and so forth, look
after these things.

They were paid to do so. That was rather an ugly thought. At least, it
seemed to be so, after reading the words of Jesus Christ, and His
servant Vane Maxwell; but still it _was_ a fact; and some of them were
very highly paid. They were living in charming houses and had very
comfortable investments in companies which made money anyhow, so long as
they made it. Others were wretchedly paid, it was true, mostly
half-starved and inevitably in debt; but still, neither of these facts
affected the main question, which, of course, was the personal one: Are
you--rich man or poor man--you who read these words, a Christian? Are
you, as the preacher had asked in those five terrible words, honest
before God and man?

Then to the scores and hundreds of thousands of people who read this,
came, in a whispering terror, the further question:

"Do you think you can cheat God, even if you are cheating yourself and
other people like you--the God Whom you have been taught to believe in
as knowing all things, the God to whom all secrets are known?"

It was a distinctly ugly question to answer, and more Bibles were
searched throughout the United Kingdom than had been for many a long
year past; but no searcher found any answer that satisfied his own soul,
if he had one, save the one that was given from the Mount of Olives:

"Ye cannot serve God and Mammon."

As the young preacher had said, there was no compromise. There was
certainly the alternative of being honest one way or the other; but that
sort of honesty had a very appalling prospect to the respectable British
citizen, especially those, who, in any way, resembled the young man who
came to Christ and asked Him what he should do to be saved. It was, in
short, a case of becoming comparative paupers, and only having the bare
necessaries of life, or keeping what they had, and saying honestly to
themselves, the world, and God:

"I can't be a Christian at that price, and so, instead of remaining a
Christian humbug, I will be an honest atheist."

A very terrible dilemma, certainly, and yet, if the Gospels were true,
and if the Son of God had really preached the Sermon on the Mount, it
was one from which there was no escape but this. It was a plain matter
of belief or disbelief, honesty or dishonesty, and, if they believed in
God, dishonesty was impossible, save under the penalty of eternal
damnation.



CHAPTER XVIII.


That day the clergy-house of St. Chrysostom was, of course, deluged with
newspapers and cuttings, and the flood continued for two or three days,
during which Vane, unconscious or careless of the fact that he was
already the clerical lion of London, and, perhaps, the most discussed
man for the time being in England and the sister kingdoms, was working
hard helping his friend, Ernshaw, to organize an entirely unsectarian
twentieth century crusade throughout the poorer districts of London. He
seldom read newspapers, for he preferred the living fact to the written
word, and, besides, such work as his left little time for reading. He
had seen his name on the placards of the morning and evening papers, and
he had bought some which he had not found time to do more than glance
over.

He was, of course, glad that his sermon had attracted so much attention,
but he knew enough of newspapers and their readers not to hope for too
much on this account, and so he was not a little surprised when Father
Baldwin said to him on his return to the clergy-house on the Friday
evening:

"Well, Maxwell! glad to see you back, although you have brought a nice
hornet's nest about our ears, and started something like a social and
religious earthquake in Kensington and the adjacent lands of Mayfair and
Belgravia, to say nothing of a distinct fluttering in what I may,
perhaps, without irreverence call the upper and more spacious dove-cotes
of the Church."

"Have I really?" said Vane, quietly, "I didn't know I had, but if I have
done so, I am very glad. It was exactly what I intended to do, though I
confess I had little hope of doing so. What is the matter? I hope I
haven't got _you_ into any unpleasantness, Father Baldwin."

"It doesn't very much matter if you have," replied the older priest,
leaning back in his chair and looking at him keenly from under his
thick, iron-grey eyebrows. "You only said what has been in the hearts
and souls of a good many of us for a long time, but it was given to you
to say it and, let us hope, also the inspiration to say it in the proper
way."

"Please God!" said Vane. "And now what have I done; I mean as regards
yourself and St. Chrysostom?"

"To begin with," replied Father Baldwin, "about half the wealthiest
members of the congregation, men and women, but mostly men, have written
to say that if they are to be publicly insulted from the pulpit, and
told that they are liars and hypocrites, and not Christians, save in
name, they will leave the church and withdraw all their
subscriptions--which, of course, from quite a worldly point of view,
would be somewhat a serious matter for the church."

"That simply proves that they are not Christians," said Vane, "and the
church is better without their money. They practically confess that
they never have been giving their money honestly for the service of God,
but merely for self-advertisement or as a social obligation. It would be
no loss to us, and little gain to anybody else they gave it to."

"Yes, I believe you are right," replied Father Baldwin. "It seems rather
a hard thing to say, but people who would leave a church because the
Sermon on the Mount was preached from its pulpit, must be a strange sort
of Christians."

"They are not Christians at all!" exclaimed Vane, with a burst of
righteous wrath, "they are the bane and curse of Christianity, and have
been ever since Constantine made it official and fashionable. They are
responsible for every corruption that has crept into the Church, for
every blot that defiles the purity of the Creed. They are not
Christians, and they never have been, for they cannot be what they are
and followers of Christ at the same time. They and the wealthy clergy of
all the churches are responsible for the unfaith, tacit and avowed, of
what we are pleased to call the lower classes; the classes who compose
the majority of Christ's Congregation; and they are responsible for all
the cynicism of the open and active enemies of our faith. It is they who
make it possible for the infidel and the atheist to point the finger of
scorn at us and say, 'See how these Christians love to do the Will of
their Master.'"

"I fully appreciate everything you say, Maxwell," replied Father
Baldwin, with some little hesitation in his tone; for, although he was
as good a Christian as ever gave up everything to serve his Master, and
as earnest a priest as ever stood before the altar, yet he was getting
on in years and found it hard to break away from the traditions amidst
which he had grown up, and which he had accepted as a young man with
little or no inquiry. "At the same time, I must candidly admit that I
was a trifle startled by your absolutely uncompromising rendering of our
Lord's words. Did you really intend that they should be taken
literally?"

"It is not what I intended, Father Baldwin," replied Vane, rising from
his seat and beginning to walk up and down the plainly furnished,
book-lined common-room, "the question is what _He_ intended, and surely
no Christian in his senses could believe for a moment that our Lord
intended to quibble with words and to play with double meanings. If He
did not mean what He said, and intend those who followed Him to do what
He said, what becomes of our faith? If that is not so, surely there is
nothing left for us but to give up the doctrine of the Trinity
altogether, and go back to the old Hebrew creed--which certainly did not
forbid the accumulation of riches."

"May I come in?" said Sir Arthur Maxwell's voice through the open door,
"they told me you were here, Vane. Good evening, Father Baldwin. Well,
this is a nice sort of commotion that this son of mine has been kicking
up. Do you know, Sir," he went on, turning to Vane, "that you have
suddenly made yourself one of the most famous, or, perhaps, I should say
notorious, persons in London by that sermon of yours? It was very fine I
admit, and most desperately to the point, but I suppose you know that
all the world and the newspapers are asking where does that point point
to?"

"That is just what I was asking your son, Sir Arthur," said Father
Baldwin. "Granted that he is right in his contention that the Sermon on
the Mount is to be taken literally, it means nothing short of a
religious as well as a social revolution."

"That is exactly what the papers and everybody are saying," said Sir
Arthur. "In fact, people are beginning to look at one another and ask
some very awkward questions. For instance, here am I, that boy's father,
I am not a rich man, but I have worked hard and my old age is
comfortably provided for, and when I die what I have would naturally go
to Vane, who, on his own showing, couldn't have it; in fact, as you
know, he has given up about a thousand a year as it is that he had from
my brother Alfred."

"You will not get much sympathy from Father Baldwin on that score,
father," laughed Vane, "you know he gave up nearly twice as much."

"There is nothing in that," said Father Baldwin, hastily, as though he
would stop them saying any more, "that is a point on which I entirely
agree with you. When a man has money of his own, and devotes himself to
the service of the Church, he should devote his money to it also. As a
Christian and a priest he can have no lawful use for it, save in the
work of the Church."

"Unless he happens to be married and have a family," said Sir Arthur.
"What ought he to do then, Father Baldwin?"

"In that case, Sir Arthur," he replied, "I think he would do better to
keep out of the ministry and devote himself honestly to the affairs of
his own household. You remember, of course, what the Apostle Paul tells
us, that the man who neglects those is worse than an infidel. Of course,
it is not a good translation, and it reads very badly now that infidel
has come to mean one who does not believe in creeds. It should, of
course, read unfaithful, I mean, unfaithful to the solemn
responsibilities he has taken upon himself; and, although I may be
wrong, I find it difficult to see how a man can faithfully discharge
those obligations and those of a priest of the Church, but that opens a
very wide question, and there is a very great deal to be said on both
sides of it."

"There I quite agree with you," said Sir Arthur, "you know, of course,
better than I do, that there are hundreds of hard-worked parsons in this
country--especially in poor parishes--who can't afford curates, who
simply couldn't get on without their wives, and I know one or two myself
who say that their wives are worth a couple of curates. I'm fairly
certain that in most poor country parishes the parson's wife is the good
angel of the place."

"There is not the slightest doubt about it," replied Father Baldwin, "I
have seen quite enough of church work to convince me of that, and this
is, of course, the very strongest argument, and a very convincing one,
too, in a certain degree, against the celibacy of the clergy. But,
still, Sir Arthur," he went on, with a change of tone, "I suppose you
didn't come here to discuss theology and church matters. Of course, you
want to see your son. My study is quite at your service, if you want to
have a talk."

"Thanks, very much, Father," said Sir Arthur, "what I really came for
was to ask Vane to come round and have a bit of dinner with me. I have a
good many things to talk over with him, and I have a guest or two coming
whom I am anxious for him to meet. What do you say, Vane, can you come?"

"Of course I can, dad," replied Vane. "I am taking a holiday till
Sunday, and I couldn't spend it much better than at the old place. On
Sunday I am going to deliver two lectures at the Hall of Science, Old
Street, the head-quarters of the National Secular Society."

"The _what_, Maxwell?" exclaimed Father Baldwin, with a note of
something more than astonishment in his voice, "the Hall of
Science--why, that was Bradlaugh's place--the head-centre of London
infidelity."

"Excuse me, Father," said Vane, gravely, "do you not think that is a
word we are accustomed to use too vaguely? Is it quite fair or logical
to call these people infidels? Are they not rather faithful to their
convictions, however wrong they may be? Surely we must, at least, give
them the credit of believing in their disbelief. Last night I heard an
informal confession--one of the strangest, perhaps, that a priest ever
heard--from a young fellow, of about twenty-two, who reported my sermon
here, and then followed me to Bethnal Green and sent in both accounts to
the papers.

"He is well educated, very clever, and the son of a clergyman. He is
also what people call an infidel, and yet he made a confession of faith
to me that would have melted the soul of a financier, if he had one.
After that I shall never hear these people called infidels without a
protest. And, besides, is it not a good thing that a priest of God
should speak the truth that is in him in the temple of the unbelievers?
How many of our churches would permit one of their lecturers to speak
from the pulpit, or even from the platform of one of our schoolrooms."

"You are quite right, Maxwell," said Father Baldwin, "I used the word
unthinkingly, therefore conventionally. I am very glad you are going,
but I am afraid if your friends advertise it at all, half Kensington
and Mayfair will be off to Old Street, and crowd them out of their own
place. As I tell you, they didn't like what you said, but for all that,
they are dying to hear what you are going to say next."

"Exactly," said Sir Arthur, "that is the worst of becoming suddenly
notorious, Vane. You have made yourself, in a most righteous manner, the
talk of London, and London will follow you now wherever you go. However,
that can't be helped, it is one of the penalties of fame, and now if you
have nothing more to say to Father Baldwin, you might put on your hat,
and come, I have got a hansom at the door."



CHAPTER XIX.


On the way from the Clergy-House to Warwick Gardens Vane tried more than
once to get his father to tell him something about the evening's
entertainment which he had invited him for, but Sir Arthur only laughed,
albeit somewhat seriously, and said:

"My dear boy, I am not going to let you spoil a pleasant little
surprise. I don't say that it will be altogether a pleasant one, yet I
know that it will not be an entirely unpleasant one. To a certain
extent, as you will find afterwards, it is one of the many results of
that precious sermon of yours, and, as certain things had to be done, I
thought they would be better done at home than elsewhere."

And in reply to Vane's second attempt his father said simply:

"No, Vane, this is a surprise party, as they say in the States, and I am
not going to give the names of my guests away. You really must possess
your soul in patience for the present. Meanwhile tell me what Father
Baldwin thinks of the position you have taken up?"

"You mean, of course, about this new heresy of mine?" replied Vane with
a laugh--"a heresy, by the way, which is as old as Christianity. Well,
dad, to tell you the truth I think the dear old Father is a little bit
frightened, but he is too strong a man to go back from the position, and
too good a Christian to want to do so. He sees that I am right, or, I
should say of course, that this is after all the only possible doctrine
and belief for a Christian. He gave me permission to preach that sermon
from his pulpit, but I don't think he quite realised, as a matter of
fact I didn't myself, what an effect it would have, and perhaps the
consequences have worried him a little; but he is perfectly staunch, and
so are Moran and Webley."

"And so, I suppose," replied Sir Arthur, "St. Chrysostom's will not be a
pleasant Sunday morning and evening resort for rich people any longer.
That is, perhaps, a somewhat flippant way of putting it, but of course
you know what I mean."

"Yes, I quite see what you mean, dad," said Vane rather more seriously.
"I don't think it will be, but I do think that before very long we shall
have a better congregation of Christians than we have ever had before,
people who, I mean, will have lost their delusions about fashionable
Christianity--just as if there could be such a thing!--and who come to
hear the Word of God as it is, and not as most people would like it to
be. By the way, have you heard that the Canon, I mean Canon
Thornton-Moore, of Worcester, a man that I met at dinner at the Abbey,
has accepted the presentation of All Saints, Densmore Square? It is
supposed to be a little higher even than St. Chrysostom, and if possible
the congregation is even more disgustingly rich and fashionable and
everything that is not Christian."

"I must say, Vane, that you have all the uncompromising severity of the
true enthusiast, and the way in which you include your old father with
these hopeless sinners is really almost unfilial. I think I can tell
you this much, that to-night you are going to meet a very much greater
sinner than I am, a sinner to the extent of millions, and yet, from what
I have learned of him on the best possible authority, as honest a man,
as good-hearted a fellow, as ever fought the world single-handed and
beat it."

"Just as you did, dad," said Vane in a tone which reminded his father of
the old days. "I suppose there is nothing to be said of the other two
persons of the Infernal Trinity."

"Not at present," said Sir Arthur, with a sudden change in his voice
which made Vane look round at him. His face had changed with his tone.
He was leaning with his arms on the door of the cab, staring up at the
sky over the roofs of the houses. Vane noticed a little twitching of the
lip under the long grey moustache, and thought it well to hold his
peace.

Fortunately, perhaps, for both, the cab at that moment swung round out
of the main road into Warwick Gardens. Vane looked at the familiar
corner at which he had stopped that other hansom cab on that memorable
Boat Race night and got out, after Carol had denied him the kiss he
asked for, to meet his father on the pavement. Sir Arthur remembered it
too, and he had good reasons to, for he said as the cab swung round:

"Vane, when my lease is up I am going to leave this place. I never can
pass that corner without thinking of what no man ought to be obliged to
think of."

"I know what you mean, dad," cried Vane. "It was horrible enough, or at
least it might have been and yet it wasn't, and because it wasn't----"

"Well, at any rate," interrupted Sir Arthur as the cab pulled up, "let
us thank God that it wasn't."

As they got out another cab drove up just behind theirs, and somewhat to
his astonishment Vane saw Ernshaw get out.

"My dear Ernshaw," he said, as they shook hands, "isn't this great
extravagance?"

"Only a shilling's worth," laughed Ernshaw in reply, "and I think
justifiable; a little kiddy was knocked down in Addison Road there by a
butcher's cart, and I picked her up and took her to the hospital in
Hammersmith Road, and this good fellow won't charge me more than a
shilling for both journeys, although it is out of the radius."

"Oh, he won't, won't he?" said Sir Arthur, putting his hand into his
pocket and pulling out a couple of half-crowns.

"You take that, my man, not for yourself if you won't have it, but for
your wife and your children if you have got any; you can't say no for
them."

"No, sir, thankee, I won't say no to them," said the cabby, taking the
half-crowns and touching his hat. "It's the best fare I've earned
to-day. Good-night, sir, and thank you, sir. Come up, old girl."

The whip flicked, and the old mare went round to begin another of those
endless journeys through London streets which horses, if they reason at
all, must find so utterly incomprehensible and aimless.

"Is this the beginning of the surprises, dad?" said Vane, as the two
cabs drove away. "This is certainly one of the last places in London
that I should have expected to meet Ernshaw in, after seeing him up to
his neck in work at Bethnal Green yesterday. It must have been a pretty
strong attraction, Ernshaw, that got you as far west as this."

"My dear Maxwell," said Ernshaw, "surely the worst of us are entitled to
a holiday now and then. Why, even Father Philip goes to Norway for a
fortnight every year, to say nothing of an occasional run up to Town
now and then, and he confessed to me not very long ago that he enjoys no
earthly pleasure better than a good 'Varsity match at Lord's."

"There is nothing better," said Sir Arthur, "except a good Indian polo
match. Well, come in. I have just got time for a wash and a change
before our other guests arrive. You clerics don't want a change, so you
can have a wash and a cigarette if you want one in the Den."

As the door opened Koda Bux came along the hall and made his salaam; his
grave, deep eyes made no sign as he recognised Vane in his clerical
garb; he only salaamed again and welcomed Vane back to the house of his
father and his mother. That was Koda Bux's way of putting it in his
Indian fashion. He would have put it otherwise if he had known what such
a welcome meant to him.

"This is the place of the _debacle_," said Vane to Ernshaw when they met
in the Den after they had had their wash; "there's the hearthrug--yes,
and there's the same spirit-case. It is a curious thing, Ernshaw, but
since then, or rather, since that other ghastly collapse at Oxford, I've
lectured in club rooms reeking with alcohol; I've gone with you as you
know where everyone was sodden with the gin and stank of it, and even
into bars where you could smell nothing but liquor and unwashed
humanity, and yet that intoxication has never come back to me."

"Of course not," said Ernshaw; "you have prayed and fought since then,
and as you have won your battles your prayers have been answered."

"Yes," said Vane, "I hope you are right; in fact, I am sure you are. I
don't suppose a sniff at that whiskey decanter would affect me any more
than a few drops of eau de cologne on my handkerchief."

As he said this he went towards the spirit-case on the little old oak
sideboard and took out the whiskey decanter.

"Take care, Vane!" said Ernshaw. "I hope you are not forgetting the old
doctrine of association. Remember what you were saying just now about
this room. There is a sense, you know, in which places are really
haunted."

"My dear Ernshaw, I believe you are even more ideal than I am," laughed
Vane, as he took the stopper out and raised the decanter to his
nostrils. As he did so the front door bell tinkled, and the hand of a
practised footman played a brief fantasia on the knocker. In the middle
of an inhalation Vane stopped and put the bottle down; but even as he
did so the mysterious force of association against which Ernshaw had
warned him had begun to work upon his imagination. The familiar room,
with its pictures and furniture and simple ornaments, the feel of the
cut-glass decanter, which was the same one that he had held in his hand
that fatal night, the smell of the whiskey--all these elements were
rapidly combining in those few moments to produce an effect partly
mental and partly physical which might have more than justified
Ernshaw's sudden fear.

"Ah, there are the mysterious guests, I suppose!" he said, putting the
decanter back into the case. "I suppose you don't happen to know who
they really are, Ernshaw?"

"My dear fellow, if I did I shouldn't tell you," was the distinctly
non-committal reply. "I think it will be very much more interesting for
you to find out yourself."

By this time Koda Bux, in his capacity of major-domo and general
factotum to Sir Arthur, had opened the door, and at the same moment Sir
Arthur himself came downstairs. Vane heard him say:

"Good evening, ladies; I am sorry that I have no hostess to receive you,
but Mrs. Saunders, who helps Koda Bux to take care of me, will take you
upstairs."

Then there was a low murmur of a woman's voice, a rustle of skirts up
the stairs, and Sir Arthur went on:

"Now, Mr. Rayburn, if you will come with me I will show you where to put
your hat and coat and have a rinse if you like."

"Thanks, Sir Arthur," replied a voice which was strange to Vane.

"And who might Mr. Rayburn be?" he said to Ernshaw. "I didn't know the
governor knew anyone of that name. Still, from the sound of his voice he
is a gentleman, and, I should say, a man."

"I think when you meet him you will find him both," said Ernshaw.

"Ah," laughed Vane, "I think I caught you out there. So you are in this
conspiracy of mystery, are you? Now, look here, Ernshaw, what is it all
about?"

"Guilty, but shan't tell," replied his friend. "Now here comes Sir
Arthur; perhaps he will tell."

"Vane," said Sir Arthur as the door opened, "this is Mr. Cecil Rayburn,
and I want you to be very good friends; you will soon find out why."

Vane looked up and saw a man apparently a year or two older than
himself, about the same height and build, but harder and stronger, and
possessing that peculiar erectness of carriage and alertness of movement
that is owned only by those who have worked or fought, or done both, in
the outlands of the earth. But a glance at his face confirmed Vane in
the opinion he had formed when he heard his voice; he was undeniably
both a gentleman and a man. He held out his hand and said:

"Good evening, Mr. Rayburn. Of course a friend of my father's has to be
my friend also."

To his astonishment Cecil Rayburn made no movement to take his hand; on
the contrary he drew back half a pace and said with a note of something
like nervousness in his voice--a note which sounded strangely in the
speech of a man who had never known what fear was:

"Thank you, Mr. Maxwell; I hope we shall be friends, but I am afraid I
can't shake hands with you yet--I mean, I shouldn't like you to regret
it afterwards."

Before Vane had found any words to shape a reply, Sir Arthur said:

"Mr. Ernshaw, suppose we go into the drawing-room to receive the ladies,
and leave these two to have it out. We shan't have dinner for half an
hour, and I think they will manage to understand each other before
then."



CHAPTER XX.


"Well, Mr. Rayburn," said Vane, "this is a rather curious sort of
introduction, but I see that you are--I mean that I am quite satisfied
that you must have some very good reason for refusing to shake hands
with me. You are the first man who has ever done so, and as you have
come here as my father's guest, I may presume that it is not a personal
objection."

Vane could not help speaking formally; there was a strangeness about the
situation which forced him to do so.

"That would be impossible, Mr. Maxwell," replied the other, in a low,
hesitating tone. "I knew that I should meet you here when I accepted Sir
Arthur's invitation; in fact, we--I mean I came here on purpose to meet
you, and, to shorten matters, the reason why your father has left us
alone, is that I have a very serious and I am afraid a very difficult
confession to make to you."

"A confession!" said Vane, drawing himself up and looking Rayburn
straight in the eyes. "Do you wish me to hear it as a man, or a priest,
because if I am to hear it as a priest, it would be better kept for a
more suitable time and place?"

"I want you to hear it both as man and priest," replied Rayburn,
returning his look with perfect steadiness, "and I want you to hear
it--and, in fact, unless we are to go away at once, you must hear it
now."

"Very well," said Vane, a dim suspicion of the truth beginning to steal
into his soul, "it is a little mysterious to me, but I daresay we shall
soon understand each other."

He paused for a moment, and then, with a visible effort which made
Rayburn love and honour him from that moment forth, he went on:

"And perhaps it would simplify matters for both of us if you began by
telling me who _we_ are?"

"Your sister, or rather your half-sister," Rayburn began falteringly,
and then stopped.

He saw Vane wince and heard his teeth come together with a snap, and he
saw his hands clench up into fists and his face pale, already turned
ashen grey white that denotes utter bloodlessness. It was the face of a
corpse with living eyes that looked at him with an expression which
could not be translated into human words. Rayburn had looked death in
the face many a time and laughed at it, but he didn't laugh now. As he
said afterwards, he would have given anything to be a couple of miles
away from Vane just then. He didn't speak because he had nothing to say,
his thoughts would not be translated into language, and so there was
nothing for it but to wait for Vane to speak.

For a few moments more the two men faced each other in silence, yet each
reading the other's thoughts as accurately as though they had been
talking with perfect frankness. Then Vane spoke in a slow, hard, grating
voice which none of the congregation of St. Chrysostom would have
recognised as that of the eloquent preacher of the Sermon on the Mount,
to which Rayburn, who had heard that sermon, listened with a shock,
which, as he told Carol later, sent a shiver through him from head to
foot.

"Yes, Mr. Rayburn, I think I understand more fully now. My sister
Carol--she has come here with you to-night, and I suppose I am right in
thinking that you were to some extent responsible, quite innocently no
doubt, for her disappearance about a year ago. Is that so?"

"Yes," said Rayburn, "that's so, and that's why I wouldn't shake hands
with you. I did take her away. She has been round the world with me,
travelling with me as my wife, and she isn't my wife, and--well, that is
about all there is."

"And why isn't she your wife?" exclaimed Vane, with an unreasoning burst
of anger. Then, after a little pause, he went on in a tone that was
almost humble.

"I beg your pardon, Mr. Rayburn, that was a foolish thing to say, as
most things said in haste and anger are. You only did what any other man
with no ties and plenty of money would have done under the
circumstances. Forgive me! Only the hand of Providence itself saved me
from committing, without knowledge, an infinitely greater sin than
yours. I suppose Carol has told you how I met her and what happened,
and, of course, my father has told you about my getting out of the cab
that night at the top of the Gardens? No, no, I have nothing to forgive,
nothing to say except, as Carol's brother, to ask you why you have
brought her here? That, at least, I think I am entitled to ask."

"Maxwell," replied Rayburn, pulling himself together as a man might do
after being badly beaten in a fight, "I have been in a good many bad
places in my lifetime, but this has been about the worst, and I'd a
damned sight sooner--I beg your pardon, you know what I mean--I would
very much rather been talking to a South American Dago with a pistol at
my head, than having this talk with you, but it's got to be done.

"You know, I suppose, or at any rate your father knows, how I met Carol
and how we fixed it up to go away together. I admit, without any
reserve, that I did take her just as any man like myself, who had had a
pretty hard time for a few years and had come back with a ridiculous
superfluity of money, would have taken such a girl under such
circumstances; that is brutal, but at any rate, it is honest. Well, we
went round the world together, and it was only a fortnight ago--we've
been back three weeks now--that I found out who she was."

"Not from her?" exclaimed Vane, with almost pitiful eagerness.

"No," replied Rayburn, "she would have died first. Over and over again I
tried to get her to tell me who and what she was, because of course it
was perfectly easy to see--well, you know what I mean--but she wouldn't.
It was the one confidence that she never gave me; in fact, when I was
trying to insist upon it, she told me if I opened the subject again, she
would leave me there and then, whatever happened to her."

"Then how did you find out?" asked Vane, in the same dry, hard voice. "I
more than believe you when you say she would never have told you."

"Through the merest accident," replied Rayburn. "A day or two after we
landed, we went to dinner at Verrey's, and we had hardly sat down before
a friend of hers, Miss Russell, came in--well--with a friend, as they
say. She came and spoke to Carol, and the four of us dined together.
The next day Miss Russell came to see Carol, and you know, or perhaps
you don't know, that it was Miss Russell's friend who introduced me to
Carol. I got hold of Miss Russell afterwards--she's as clean-hearted a
girl as ever the Fates--however, you won't agree with me there perhaps,
you don't believe in Fate, I do. But that's neither here nor there. I
told her what I am going to tell you, and she told me Carol's story, and
that is why I am here to-night."

There was a good deal of meaning in the words, but for Vane there was
infinitely more in Rayburn's voice and the half-shamed manner in which
he spoke. Vane felt that if this talk went on much longer, the strain
would be too much for him to bear, for it was his sister, or at least
the daughter of his own mother that this man was talking about. He put
out his hand again and said:

"I think I know now, Mr. Rayburn, what you were going to say, and if I
am right, let me, her brother, say it for you and for her, you won't
refuse my hand this time, will you?"

"No," said Rayburn, "I won't, and for the matter of that," he went on as
their hands met, "I don't think there is much more for either of us to
say, except just for me to ask you one question."

"Yes," said Vane, "and what is that?"

"You are her brother and a priest. Will you take me for your
brother-in-law and marry us?"

Their hands were still clasped; each was looking straight into the
other's eyes, and the two faces, so different individually, and yet for
the moment so strangely alike, fronted each other in silence. Then Vane
dropped Rayburn's hand, put his hands on his shoulders, and said:

"You cannot be lying, you haven't the mouth or the eyes of a man who
tells lies. You have sinned, sinned deeply, for you have bought with
your money what should have no other price than lawful love; but love
has come to you, and love has made lawful and right what was sinful
before. You told me at first that you wanted to confess to me both as
man and priest. Very well, as man, as Carol's brother I forgive you, if
you have done anything that I have to forgive, and as a priest of God I
will marry you, and when you have taken the Sacrament of Matrimony from
my hands, as a priest, I will absolve you from your sin. It is a
miracle----"

"Yes," said Rayburn, "it is. I am not altogether of your way of
thinking, you know, but there, I am with you; it is a miracle in more
ways than one. I know I am expressing myself horribly badly, but, to put
it as shortly as I can, it is the sort of miracle that only a good,
clean-souled, pure-hearted girl like Carol, could have worked upon a
fellow like myself. I tell you, Maxwell, honestly, that if she wouldn't
have me now, I'm damned if I know what I should do. She is everything
that is good to me. I am worth nearly a couple of millions, and not a
cent of it would be worth anything to me if I lost her. And so you
really will marry us?"

"I will," said Vane. "Thank God and you into whose heart He has put this
saving thought of righteousness."

"Yes," said Rayburn, "I see what you mean, but really, the credit isn't
mine at all, it is all Carol's. Do you know, Maxwell, that I am going to
have one of the most delightful wives man ever won? If I could only tell
you just exactly how I fell in love with her--but of course a man could
never tell another man that, and after all it doesn't matter. I've got
the one girl in the world I want----"

There was another little pause, and then Rayburn went on, speaking as
shyly and hesitatingly as a schoolboy confessing a peccadillo:

"There's one other thing I should like to say, Maxwell, but I hardly
know how to say it."

He stopped again, and Vane said, smiling for the first time during the
interview:

"Then say it, as one man would say it to another. I think we understand
each other now. What is it?"

"Well, it's this," replied Rayburn, flushing like a girl under the tan
of his skin, "you know Carol and I met quite by chance, and I took her
away just as what she seemed to be. Then, after a month or two--you'll
hardly believe me, but it is the Lord's own truth--I began to fall in
love with her, honestly I mean, and in quite a different way. One
evening, it was in Japan, and we were coming back from a trip to Fuji. I
couldn't stand it any longer, I felt such a hopeless sweep, and I told
her. It was a queer sort of courtship, and it took me about six weeks to
bring her round--and then at last--we were in the Rockies then--she gave
in and confessed that she loved me in the same way that I loved her. I
kissed her. I could never tell you how different that kiss was from all
the others."

"Of course it was," said Vane, gently. "It was a pure one, a holy one,
and God was very near you, Rayburn, in that moment."

"I believe He was," replied Rayburn, simply, "for from that moment, we
were both absolutely changed. Since that kiss, Carol has been as sacred
to me as my own sister would be if I had one. That is what I wanted to
tell you."

"And God bless you for telling me!" said Vane, solemnly. "If I had any
doubts before, I have none now. After that, knowing all I do, I would
give you the blessed Sacrament to-morrow."

"On Sunday I hope you will give it to us both," replied Rayburn.

At that moment the door opened, and Sir Arthur came in.

"Dinner is nearly ready," he said. "Are you about ready for it? Ah, yes,
I see, you understand each other, don't you?"

"Yes, Sir Arthur," said Rayburn, swinging round with an almost military
precision of movement. "I've made my confession, and I am to receive
absolution when the happiest moment of my life comes, and you know when
that will be."

"I think I do," said Sir Arthur, with a look at Vane, who was staring
vacantly down into the flower-filled fireplace. "Then you have settled
it all between you, is that so, Vane?"

"Yes, with God's help, we have," he replied, and then, with a swift
change of tone and manner he went on: "and now as we have got our family
affairs settled to a certain extent, I suppose we can go and join the
ladies. I am longing to see Carol again."

"And so am I," said Rayburn, "let us go."



CHAPTER XXI.


Rayburn went out first and Vane followed him, feeling, as he said to
himself afterwards, as though he was walking across the boundary between
one world and another. He knew that Carol and Dora were in the
drawing-room. Dora he had never seen before. Carol he had not seen since
the night of the University Boat Race. Ernshaw, with the memory of what
he had said in Vane's room at Oxford fresh in his mind, caught him by
the arm and said:

"Maxwell, I believe I am going to meet my fate to-night as you met yours
in another way. Was there ever such a complication in the life-affairs
of little mortals like ourselves?"

"I don't know," said Vane, "and I don't care," gripping his arm hard as
they crossed the hall. "Wait, it may be the Providence that shapes our
ends."

"Rough-hew them as we will," said Rayburn, looking backward.

"Ah, well, since we understand each other, as I think we do now, _Vogue
la galère!_ And, Mr. Ernshaw," he went on, "I have heard things and
things. I am not giving any confidences away, but by the same token you
and I will soon be sailing in the same boat or something very like
it----"

"Oh, yes," said Ernshaw, "I see what you mean!" Then he gripped his arm
a little harder before they went into the drawing-room. Vane went on
with his father, and Ernshaw said:

"Look here, Maxwell, you have passed your crisis, you and Rayburn, I'm
only getting near mine. What am I to do, what can I do?"

"That I can't tell you. You see, to put it into the twentieth-century
language, the Eternal Feminine is here, and you have got to reckon with
her just as Rayburn has done. Come now, if you've made your mind up, go
and meet your fate."

As he said this Vane pushed the door of the drawing-room open. Sir
Arthur and Rayburn had gone in just before him.

"Carol!"

"Vane! and is it really you--you?"

"Yes," he said, taking a few swift strides towards her and for the first
time putting his arms round her. "Yes, dear, your brother."

"Really brother, Vane? Do you truly mean it--will you really take me for
your sister now that you know everything--I mean all about Cecil and
myself?"

"Yes, Carol, and because I do know, because he as a man has told me
everything. I am going to marry you soon, and no man, no priest could
marry his sister to his friend with more hope for happiness than I shall
marry you and Rayburn."

He took hold of her left hand, and stretched out his hand to Rayburn and
said:

"Come now, sister and brother, as you are going to be!"

He took their two hands and joined them. Over the two hands he clasped
his own, and looking swiftly from one to the other he said:

"Afterwards I will say the words that I cannot speak here." And then,
with a sudden change of tone and manner which came as a quick surprise
to both Carol and Rayburn, he went on:

"Rayburn, this is my sister. Carol, Rayburn tells me that he wants to
marry you, and I suppose----"

"You needn't suppose anything at all, Vane. I've said yes already. If
you and Sir Arthur will only say yes too----"

Vane drew back from her, and looked round toward Sir Arthur and Dora.
Rayburn, having gone through the formalities of introduction which
Vane's tact had made necessary, held out his hand and they shook hands.

"It is rather unceremonious, Miss Maxwell," he said, addressing her for
the first time by a name that was not her own, "but----"

"But, my dear Carol, you are forgetting that you are hostess to-night,"
said Sir Arthur, "and I think there are two of our guests who have not
been, as one would say in Society, properly introduced."

"Oh, of course; I'm so sorry," said Carol. "Dora, forgive me. I know you
will. I was too happy just now to think of anything else. Mr. Ernshaw,
this is Dora. Dora, this is Mr. Ernshaw. I hope you will be very good
friends. That's a rather unconventional way of introduction, I must
say."

As the last words left her laughing lips, and she was looking
exquisitely dainty and desirable in a quietly magnificent costume which
had cost as much as many much advertised wedding dresses, Dora and
Ernshaw faced each other for the first time. She had seen him with Vane
at the ordination service in Worcester Cathedral, but they had never met
before under the sanction of social acquaintance.

She looked at him and he looked at her, and as their eyes met some
impulse in the soul of both made them hold out their hands as people do
not usually do when they are introduced in ordinary drawing-room style.
Ernshaw's went out straight.

"Miss Russell," he said, even while her hand was moving slowly towards
his.

"My dear Mr. Ernshaw, whatever you have to say, I'm afraid I will have
to ask you to keep it just for a little," said Sir Arthur, as the door
swung open. "Here is Koda Bux, and he does not allow me to be late for
dinner; he has many virtues, but that is the best of them. Mr. Rayburn,
you will take Carol in? Mr. Ernshaw, will you give your arm to Miss
Russell, and Vane and I will bring up the rear."

"Dad," said Vane, as he gripped his father's arm, "you have helped to do
God's work to-night; look at them!"

"You did more when you got out of the cab at the top of the gardens
here," he whispered in reply.

"I didn't do that, dad; she did. She knew, and I didn't. God bless her."

"Amen," said his father. "And now we will return to earth and go and
eat."

There were not many more delightful dinners eaten in London that night
than what Cecil Rayburn called his betrothal feast. He and Carol now
understood each other thoroughly. Vane and his father also knew the
circumstances so far as they were concerned, and a little more. Ernshaw
and Dora, each knowing just a little more than the others did, began to
make friends fast, and therefore rapidly, but Dora was still
_declassée_. Carol had already been lifted beyond the confines of that
half-sphere which is inhabited by so many thousands of women who are
neither maiden, wife, nor widow. Dora was still a dweller in it, knowing
all its infamy and shame, and knowing, too, that awful necessity which
is so often at once the equivalent and the excuse for sin.

Everyone took Sir Arthur's hint, and the conversation rattled on around
the table as lightly as it might have around any other dinner table in
London. Carol and Sir Arthur and Rayburn had it mostly to themselves at
first, but after a little the conversation grew more general. Dora and
Carol engaged in a really brilliant discussion on the subject of Mrs.
Lynn Linton's last book, with the result that Carol said that she
wouldn't live for ever at any price, to which Dora replied with just a
suspicion of a note of sadness in her voice.

"Yes, Carol, I quite agree with you, or at least if I were you I should
do."

"Which," said Ernshaw, "is, I think, as nearly as possible the same
thing. Surely if one cannot agree with one's self----"

"No, Mr. Ernshaw," said Dora, putting her elbows on the table and her
chin between her hands. "No, I'm afraid I can hardly agree with you
there. After all, our worst enemies are those of our own household, by
which of course I mean our immediate surroundings. It is this awful
necessity to live, to eat and to have a place to sleep in. Of course you
are thinking of what Talleyrand said to the young aristocrat who wanted
to live for nothing."

"Yes," said Ernshaw, "I know that. He said he didn't see the necessity,
and I am not altogether certain that he was wrong, but you----"

"Yes, I," she replied in a tone that had a thrill of angry reproach
running through it, "I, as you know, am--well--a superfluous woman, one
who isn't wanted, a sort of waste product of the factory that we call
civilisation."

"I am afraid you people are getting far too serious in your
conversation," said Carol from her end of the table opposite Sir Arthur.
"No, Dora, I really can't allow it; social problems are not in the menu
to-night, and you and Mr. Ernshaw will have to keep them for some other
time. Meanwhile, suppose we leave the rest for their smokes, and you
come with me and run through that song you are going to sing; we haven't
tried it together for quite a long time, as Mr. Rayburn said when we
were on the other side of the Atlantic. Come along."

As she rose from her chair, Koda Bux, who had been standing immovable
behind his master, opened the door, and as Carol, daintily and yet most
plainly dressed, passed through, his sombre eyes lit up as though by an
inspiration of long past days, and his teeth came together and he said
in his soul:

"It is the daughter of the Mem Sahib; what marvel is this! If there is
vengeance to be done, may mine be the hand. Inshallah! I should die
content, even if it was only a minute afterwards. He has his kismet, and
I have mine. Allah will give it to me; but they may be the same. Once
the roomal round his neck, and his breath would be already in his mouth.
Dog and son of a dog, he would be better dead!"

It had been arranged that Carol and Dora should take up their abode with
Sir Arthur, so that Carol might be married from her father's house.
Under the circumstances it was only natural that the wedding was to be
absolutely private, and it was already decided that immediately after
the wedding Rayburn and Carol should leave for a month in Paris, and
then go on to Western Australia, where most of Rayburn's mining
properties were. He also owned one side of a street in Perth and a
country estate with a big bungalow-built house on the eastern hills
overlooking the Swan River.

The only difficulty appeared ahead to Sir Arthur was some mysterious
connection with the Raleighs and the Garthornes. It was, of course,
impossible that the wedding could take place without their knowledge, if
Sir Arthur was to give Carol away as he intended to do, and yet the
moment that Garthorne's name was mentioned Carol had turned white to the
lips and a look of deadly fear had come into her eyes.

"No, no," she said, "not them, I can't tell you why, and you mustn't ask
me. You have been very good to me, and you are going to do more for me
than ever was done to a girl like me before, but sooner than meet them I
would run away again as I did from Melville Gardens. I would, really,
but you must not ask me why; there are some things that cannot be told."

After this Sir Arthur, finding it impossible to get any inkling of the
mystery from Carol, asked Dora if she could tell him the meaning of it,
and she too turned white. She did not reply for a few moments, and then
she said:

"No, Sir Arthur, I cannot tell you. All I can say is that Carol is
perfectly right. It would be utterly impossible for her to meet either
Sir Reginald Garthorne or his son, and of course she could not meet Mrs.
Garthorne without meeting her husband. There is a reason, and a very
solemn one, too, for this, but I can assure you, Sir Arthur----"

"That is enough, Miss Russell," said Sir Arthur gravely. "I am perfectly
satisfied, and I have no right to ask for an explanation. The wedding
shall be absolutely private; no one shall be asked except ourselves.
Vane shall marry them early in the morning, we will come back here for
lunch, and then they will go straight off to Paris. I will tell the
Garthornes about it afterwards."

"Yes," said Dora, "I think that would be best."

That night Carol and Dora had a talk in Carol's room. It was rather a
discussion perhaps than a conversation, and the question was whether Sir
Arthur and Vane should be told the dreadful secret which Carol had
discovered at Reginald Garthorne's wedding. Carol, clean-hearted and
straightforward as she was naturally, shrank in horror from such a
revelation as this; but Dora, whose nature was deeper, and who had a
stronger religious bias, felt that at all hazards the truth should be
told, horrible as it was.

"That man Garthorne," she said, "is a brute. I am perfectly certain that
he deliberately made your brother drunk that day at Oxford--I mean that
he took advantage of the weakness that you discovered to tempt him to go
on drinking, so that he might get drunk on the most important morning of
his life. He knew very well what he was doing. He knew if he could only
make him drunk that morning, everything would be at an end between him
and Miss Raleigh."

"But, my dear Dora, suppose that is so, and I hope it isn't," replied
Carol, "how on earth can you have found that out? Of course, if it
really is so, Vane and Sir Arthur ought to know of it, and, well, I
suppose of the other thing too, dreadful and all as it is, but----"

"I see what you mean," said Dora, "and I will tell you why. In the first
place, when we were at the flat, Bernard--I mean Mr. Falcon--told me one
or two things Mr. Garthorne had said to him when they were getting
confidential over their whiskies, and I had a few minutes' talk with
Mr. Ernshaw this evening which--well, what Mr. Falcon told me and what
he said were the two and two that made four. I am afraid that is not
very grammatical, but it is true. Of course he wouldn't have told me if
I had not said something about it; but the moment he told me about your
brother's collapse that morning the truth came to me like a flash.
Reginald Garthorne is a scoundrel, and his father is worse, for he is a
hypocrite as well as a scoundrel. He pretends to be Sir Arthur's
friend--he has done so for years. He has allowed his son to steal Vane's
life-long love from him, knowing all that he himself did--and, well,
no--I can't say the rest."

"You mean," said Carol quietly, and with a note of hardness in her
voice, "you mean that he is my father. It is very dreadful, isn't it?"

"Yes, Dora, it is, but you are not to blame after all; you didn't know,
and of course we must admit that Mr. Garthorne didn't know so morally.
You are both quite innocent there, but there is someone else just now.
We've been friends and comrades now for a long time, tell me, dear, does
Mr. Rayburn know?"

"I have told him everything," replied Carol, with an effort which she
could not conceal, even from Dora.

"Yes, everything, even the very worst. You know when, as he says, he
fell in love with me and, as I told you, began to treat me altogether
differently, and then asked me to marry him, I said 'No.' I felt that I
couldn't say 'Yes' honestly unless he knew everything. I had got very
fond of him, and I suppose that was the reason why. I felt that I had to
tell him the truth, and so I told him. Of course it wouldn't have been
the straight thing to do anything else. If he had been like other
men----"

"But he isn't," said Dora; "all men are not men, you know, and he's a
man, and you are just about as lucky a girl as ever got a real man for
her husband. Now I see what you mean. Yes, of course, it would be wicked
to tell the truth just now. In a week you will be married and away to
Australia to live a new life in a new world. Then no one will know Mrs.
Rayburn, the wife of the millionaire, except as Mrs. Rayburn, but after
that vengeance must be done."

"But why, Dora--why not let things stop just as they are? What is the
use of bringing all these things up again and making misery for
everybody?"

"Simply because the truth should be known, because a man who has done
another the greatest possible injury should not be allowed to remain his
friend even in appearance. The truth ought to be told, and it must be
told."

"Very well," said Carol, "tell it, Dora, after I am gone. I have told
him all the truth, but you know I am like a girl coming out of hell into
heaven."

"And do you think that I would spoil your heaven?" said Dora. "No, you
are too good for that."

"I am not half so good as you," said Carol. "I have only had infinitely
more good fortune than I deserve."

"I don't think that," replied Dora. "I have known you too long and too
well. I believe, after all, that everyone does get in this world just
about what they deserve if everything was understood, which of course it
isn't; but I am quite certain about you. Good-night, Carol, and pleasant
dreams--as of course they will be if you have any."

"Good-night, Dora!" laughed Carol, with one of her swift changes of
manner. "By the way, I have quite forgotten to ask you how you like Mr.
Ernshaw?"

Dora looked at her straight in the eyes for a moment, her cheeks flushed
ever so slightly, and she said almost stiffly:

"I am afraid, Carol, you have begun to dream already."

As the door closed Carol went and stood in front of the long mirror in
the wardrobe, and still smiling at herself, as well she might, she said:

"Well, it is all very wonderful, and part of it very terrible, and I
certainly have got a great deal more than I deserve. If Dora only gets
what she deserves it will make things a little more equal.
Good-night--Mrs. Rayburn!"



CHAPTER XXII.


On the following Sunday evening London had another theological
sensation. The National Secular Society had advertised far and wide that
the preacher of the famous sermon at St. Chrysostom had consented to
deliver an address at the Hall of Science, and that the chair was to be
taken by the President of the Society, who was one of the most eloquent
and uncompromising exponents of free-thought and rationalism in the
world.

Not only in the Anglican churches but also among Catholics and
Nonconformists a perfect tempest of indignation had burst forth during
the past few days. A hurriedly summoned but crowded meeting was held at
Exeter Hall on the same night that Vane had welcomed Carol and her lover
into the family circle. It was mainly expressive of evangelical opinion,
and was addressed with indignant eloquence by several of the principal
Low Church and Nonconformist divines in London. Their principal theme
was ritualism and atheism, with special reference to the connection that
appeared to exist between them in the person of the Rev. Vane Maxwell.

To begin with, he had joined a confraternity of Anglican priests whose
practises were notoriously and admittedly illegal, and he had taken
advantage of his position in the pulpit to preach a sermon which had
sent a thrill of indignation through the hearts of all the most generous
supporters of Church and mission work throughout the United Kingdom and
abroad.

He had taken upon himself to put a brutally literal construction on the
words of Christ which it would be absolutely impossible to carry out in
practice unless the whole of Christendom were pauperised--and what,
then, would become of the work of the churches, and, particularly, of
those vast missionary movements which had spread the light of
Christianity in so many dark places of the earth? How would they
continue to exist without the vast sums which Christians of wealth so
generously contributed? What was to happen, even to the churches of all
denominations in England itself, if they accepted the preposterous
doctrine that a man could not enjoy the fruit of his own labour, or
inherit that of his ancestors, and at the same time remain a Christian?
It was totally out of the question, far beyond the bounds of all
practical common sense, and therefore it could not be Christian, since,
if such a doctrine were true, Christianity would be impossible.

And now, not content with preaching from a Christian pulpit a heresy
which, if accepted by Christians, would make Christianity a practical
impossibility, this headstrong, unthinking visionary, reckless of all
the best traditions of his Church and his cloth, was going to address an
assembly of infidels and atheists, and, as a minister of the Gospel,
make friends with those who blasphemed the name of God every time they
used it, and did their utmost to destroy the edifice of Christianity
and to uproot the foundations of the Christian faith.

It was monstrous, it was horrible, and the general sense of the
speeches, and of the resolutions which were unanimously and
enthusiastically carried at the end of the meeting, was that the man who
could preach heresy in a Christian pulpit, then, the next Sunday,
associate himself deliberately with infidels and atheists, was not
worthy to remain within the fold of the Christian Ministry.

Of course, the speeches were duly reported in the papers the next
morning with, in some cases, a considerable amount of editorial
embroidery, and nowhere were they read with greater interest than at the
breakfast-table of Sir Arthur's house in Warwick Gardens, especially as,
side by side with them, came the announcement that another meeting of
protest was to be held at St. James's Hall on the Saturday evening,
under the auspices of a committee of members of the English Church
Union. The chair was to be taken by Canon Thornton-Moore, and several of
the leading lights of High Anglicanism were to speak.

"What a very wicked person you must be, Vane," said Carol, who had
swiftly skimmed through some of the speeches and the comments on them.
"The Low Church people seem to have excommunicated you altogether, and
now the High Church are going to do it. Why don't you go to this meeting
to-night and give them a bit of your mind? I believe they are all
frightened of you and your new doctrines, and that is why they are
making such a fuss about it."

"My doctrines are not new, Carol," replied Vane, with a smile which
seemed to her very gentle and sweet. "They are just as old as
Christianity itself, and they are not mine, but the Master's. No, I
don't think I shall go to the meeting. I am afraid there will be quite
trouble enough without me, and, besides, personal controversy seldom
does any good at all. I only hope, indeed, that these good people will
keep away from the Hall of Science on Sunday night. It is the greatest
of pities that it was made public. I simply wanted to have a quiet talk
with the usual audience."

"I am afraid you won't have many more quiet talks with any audiences
now, Vane," laughed Sir Arthur. "This sudden jump that you have made
into fame has made it impossible. You will have to pay the usual penalty
of greatness."

"It appears," said Carol, "in this case, to be mostly abuse and
misunderstanding."

"I don't think there is much misunderstanding, Carol," said Dora. "It
seems to me to be quite the other way about. These people understand Mr.
Maxwell only too well for their own comfort. They see quite plainly that
if he is right, as, of course, he is, wealth and real Christianity
cannot go together; therefore, equally, of course, fat livings and
bishoprics and archbishoprics at ten and fifteen thousand a year will
also be impossible. It may be very wicked to say so, but I think a lot
of these good people are worrying themselves much more about salaries
and endowments and that sort of thing than real Christianity."

"Of course they are," said Carol. "I wonder how many of them will do
what Vane has done, give up everything he had----"

"My dear Carol," interrupted Vane, gently, "that is not quite the point.
You must remember that these men have their opinions just as I have
mine, and they may not think it their duty to do that. I do not believe
that it is right for a man to be a priest of the Church and possess more
than the actual necessaries of life. They believe that it is right."

"And a very convenient belief, too!" said Carol, with a look of
admiration. "Well, I am not as charitable as you are, and I don't
believe that they do believe it. Now, there's Cecil and the carriage.
Dear me! how very punctual he is."

"There's not much to wonder at in that," said Sir Arthur. "Well, now, I
suppose you young ladies are going to have a morning in Paradise--the
one that is bounded by Oxford Street on the north and Piccadilly on the
south. Vane, we will go and have a cigar with Mr. Rayburn while they are
getting ready."

The meeting at St. James's Hall was much less crowded, and, as some
thought, much more decorous than the one at Exeter Hall. Canon
Thornton-Moore, a man of stately presence, high social standing and very
considerable wealth--he had married the daughter of one of the most
successful operators in the Kaffir Circus--made an ideal chairman. He
was a High Churchman and the son of a Bishop. He was the incarnation of
the most aristocratic section of the Anglican Church. He was supported
by the presence of a Duke and two High Church peers on the platform, and
half a dozen vicars and curates, all eloquent preachers and fashionable
exponents of ritualistic doctrine, were announced to speak in advocacy
of the protest which the meeting had been called to make.

The proceedings were very quiet and dignified--and very churchy. It was
the Church from beginning to end; it never seemed to strike either the
speakers or the audience that there was anything that might fairly be
called Christianity outside the Church. In fact, the words Christ and
Christianity were not used at all from the platform.

The only approach to unseemliness occurred when, in response to a formal
intimation that "discussion within reasonable limits" would be
permitted, one of the Kilburn Sisters, a woman who had given up a
fortune and relinquished a title, got up and asked the chairman
point-blank what _his_ interpretation of the Sermon on the Mount was,
and further, if any of the noble and reverend gentlemen on the platform
could give a better exposition of it as a rule of Christian life than
Vane Maxwell had done?

She had hardly uttered her question before murmurs of angry protest
began to run from lip to lip through the hall; but when she went on to
ask why the preacher of the now famous sermon should be denounced by his
fellow priests for giving an address to free-thinkers in a free-thought
hall, when Christ himself, for his own good purposes, associated himself
with publicans and sinners and thought none too low or too utterly lost
to take by the hand, her voice was at once drowned by a chorus of "Oh!
Oh's!" amidst which the chairman rose and said in his most dignified
manner:

"I hope that I have the sense and feeling of the meeting with me when I
say that the questions asked by our most respected sister seem to have
been asked under a total misconception of the circumstances. It is
obvious that they raise issues which could not possibly be discussed in
such a place, and on such an occasion as this. I would remind our dear
friend that this edifice is not a church, and this platform not a
pulpit; and that, therefore, I do not feel myself justified, even if
time and other circumstances permitted, to enter upon a doctrinal
subject which involves so many far-reaching considerations as this one
does."

The Canon sat down amidst a many-voiced murmur of approval, and the Duke
said audibly to him:

"A very proper way, my dear Canon, of dealing with a most improper
question. The dear lady seems to think that we are not capable of
reading our Bibles for ourselves."

After that the chairman put to the meeting the resolution of protest to
the effect that if the Reverend Vane Maxwell persisted in carrying out
his intention to proceed from a pulpit of the church to the platform of
an infidel lecture hall, he would make it the painful duty of his
canonical superiors to take his conduct into most serious consideration,
and, further, should he persist in this deplorable resolution, he would
arouse the gravest suspicions in the minds of all loyal churchmen as to
his fitness for dispensing the sacred functions of his office.

The Kilburn Sister and a few others walked out amidst a chilling
silence, and under a silent fire of glances which ought to have made
them feel very uncomfortable. Perhaps it did.

The resolution was put and passed without a dissentient voice, and when
the proceedings were over and Lady Canore, who had been one of the most
energetic organisers of the meeting, got back into her carriage, she
said to her husband:

"I think the dear Canon's reply was most dignified and proper. That
woman ought to be ashamed of herself--and a Kilburn Sister, too! Donald,
I shall certainly go and hear what this Mr. Maxwell has to say to
these--ah--these people at, where is it? the Hall of what? Oh, yes!
Science, and you must manage to get a seat. I believe you pay for them
just as you do in a theatre. It is, of course, very shocking, but I
think it will be most interesting."

A good many other members of the audience said practically the same
thing in other ways, and so it came about that the Hall in Old Street
was packed as it had not been since the most famous days of Charles
Bradlaugh, and packed, too, with a most strangely assorted audience of
democrats and aristocrats, socialists and landowners, freethinkers of
the deistic, the atheistic, and the agnostic persuasions, and Christians
of even more varying shades of opinion, from the most rigidly
Calvinistic evangelical, to the most artistically emotional of the High
Anglican cult.

The President rose amidst the usual applause, but it hushed the moment
he began to speak, in clear incisive tones which sent every syllable
distinctly from end to end of the hall:

"Friends, I intend to say very little, because we are going to hear
to-night what we very seldom hear in a secular lecture-hall. We are
going to hear an address which you are waiting for as eagerly as I am,
an address delivered by a man who, as a Priest of the Church of England,
last Sunday sent a thrill of astonishment, of amazement, I might almost
say of horror, through Christian England."

A burst of applause, coming chiefly from the back of the hall,
interrupted the speaker, but he put his hand up, and went on:

"No, please! I must ask you not to applaud. For one thing, there is not
time for it. Just let me get my say said, and then, when Mr. Maxwell
gives us the message he has brought us from what we are, perhaps, too
ready to believe the enemy's camp, applaud him as much as you like. What
I want to do now is to say as far as possible without offence, and
without hurting the feelings of the many members of Christian churches
who have come amongst us to-night, that it is to be our privilege to
listen here in what has been recently called the head-quarters of
infidelity--an insulting epithet which I, with you and all true
rationalists indignantly repudiate--a man, a Christian clergyman, a
priest of the Church of England who has, as you already know, raised a
hurricane of criticism throughout this Christian country by daring to
tell Christians just what Jesus of Nazareth meant--if plain words mean
anything--when he preached the Sermon on the Mount. He has dared to say
from a Christian pulpit what we have been saying from these platforms of
ours ever since we had them--that Christendom is not Christian, and that
it cannot be so until it is prepared to be honest with itself and its
God.

"Mr. Maxwell has come amongst us to-night with other thoughts, other
faiths, other beliefs than ours, but from what I see of the audience he
will not speak to freethinkers only. I believe that there are more
professing Christians in this hall to-night than there ever have been
before. Let us remember that. It may be that Mr. Maxwell will teach us
some lessons as unpalatable as those which he taught from the pulpit of
St. Chrysostom; but do not let us forget this that we shall be listening
to a man who is a missionary in the best sense of the word, a man who
has justified his faith by the sacrifice of his worldly prospects, and
who has taken upon himself a task infinitely more difficult, infinitely
more thankless than that of the missionary who, as we believe, carries
at an immense expense of money which could be better spent in the
charity that begins at home, a message of salvation, as he no doubt
honestly believes it to be, to savages who cannot understand it, or to
the people who were civilized when we were savages, and who don't want
it and won't have it.

"Mr. Maxwell has taken upon himself, if I may say so without offence, a
far nobler mission than this, a greater task, if possible, than that of
the noble men and women of all creeds, and no creed, who minister to the
wants of our own savages, by which I mean those who have been kept in a
state of savagery infinitely worse than that of the negro slave of
seventy years ago, by the necessities of the civilization which is no
more Christian than it is humane.

"Mr. Maxwell, by preaching that one famous sermon of his, has
constituted himself a missionary to the rich, to those who profess and
call themselves Christians, and yet are content to live utterly and
hopelessly unchristian lives. Friends, the man beside me has begun to
make himself the Savonarola of the twentieth century. Whether his creed
is ours or not, we must all agree that that sermon of his is the
beginning of a great and noble work. He told his wealthy and fashionable
hearers last Sunday that they could not be Christians unless they were
honest with God and their fellow men. As regards the first part, some of
us have different beliefs to his, but as regards the second, we are with
him heart and soul. If he can teach us to be honest with ourselves and
each other, he will have done more to conquer sin and vice, more to make
earth that human paradise that the poets and dreamers and prophets of
all ages have longed for and foretold, than all the churches and all the
creeds have done for the last two thousand years. It is a godly because
it is a goodly work, and--if there is a God--that God will bless him and
help him in it."



CHAPTER XXIII.


As the President sat down and Vane rose to his feet, quite a tumult of
mingled applause, "hear, hears," hissings and hootings rose up from the
strangely assorted audience.

Vane faced the half-delighted, half-angry throng with the perfect
steadiness of a man who has decided upon a certain course and means to
pursue it at all hazards. Curiosity reduced one portion of the audience
to silence, and a respectful anticipation the other. In the sea of faces
before him, Vane recognised several that were familiar to him. His
father, Carol, Dora, Ernshaw and Rayburn were there as a matter of
course. Several clerics, high and low, Anglican and Nonconformist, were
dotted about the audience, some with folded arms and frowning brows as
though they were expecting the worst of heresies, others smiling in
bland and undisguised contempt, believing that they had come to see one
of their own cloth, who had already made himself an even more
disagreeable subject of reflection to them than even the infidels in
whose house the magic of Vane's sudden fame had brought them together,
do that which would make it impossible for him to again commit such an
offence in the pulpit of an English church.

For a moment or two there was a hush of intense silence of mental
suspense and expectation as Vane faced his audience and looked steadily
about him before he began to speak, and when he did begin, the silence
changed to an almost inaudible murmur and movement which is always the
sign of relaxed tension among a large body of human beings.

His first words were as unconventional as they were unexpected.

"Brother men and sister women; some of you, like myself, believe in God,
in the existence of an all-wise, over-ruling Providence, which shapes
the destinies of mankind, and yet at the same time allows each man and
woman to work out his or her own earthly destinies for good or ill, as
he or she chooses--by reason or desire, by inclination or passion--and
we also believe in the efficacy of the sacrifice which was consummated
on Calvary. There are others listening to me now to whom these beliefs
are merely idle dreams, the inventions of enthusiasts, or the deliberate
frauds of those who brought them into being and imposed them by physical
force upon those who had no means of resistance, for their own personal
and political ends.

"I have not come here to make any attempt to settle these differences
between us. As a priest of the Church, I wish, with all my soul, that I
could. As a man, I know that I can't. But there is one ground at least
upon which we can meet as friends, whatever our opinions may be as
regards religion and theology--two terms which, I think every one here
will agree with me, are very far from meaning the same thing."

"As a priest of the Church, I cannot hear that without protest!" cried a
tall, high-browed, thin-featured, deep-eyed clergyman, springing to his
feet in the middle of the hall. "If theology, the Science of God, does
not mean the same thing as religion, the word religion has no meaning.
More dangerous, I had almost said more disgraceful, words never fell
from the lips of a man calling himself a priest of the Church of God."

The last sentence was spoken in a high, shrill voice, which rose above
the angry murmurs which came from all parts of the hall, but these Vane
silenced in a moment, by holding up his hand and smiling as some of the
audience had never seen a man smile before.

"I am glad," he went on, in slow, very distinct tones, "that such an
objection has been raised so early by a brother priest. It will help us
to understand each other more clearly, and so I will try to answer him
at once. The difference between religion and theology is the difference
between the whole and the part; but theology is not a science, for there
is no science of the Infinite. It is only the study of the many
different conceptions which men of all nations and races have formed as
to the nature of the over-ruling Power of the universes--of all the
attempts to solve the insoluble and to answer the unanswerable.

"There are two sayings, one Arabian and one Italian, which I hope I may
quote without offence. One is, 'God gives us the outline of the picture,
we fill it in. We cannot change the outline, but we are responsible for
every stroke of the brush. In the end God judges the picture.'

"The other was the saying of a famous Italian artist, 'Children and
fools should not see work half done.'

"Now let us grant for the sake of argument that there is a Creator, and
therefore a scheme of creation. How much can we, dwellers upon a world
which is but as a grain of sand washed hither and thither by the
tide-flow of the ocean of Infinity, know about the workings of the Will
in obedience to which, as some of us believe, that tide ebbs and flows
through the uncounted ages of Eternity, and over the measureless expanse
of Infinity? Faced with such a colossal problem as this, must we not all
confess ourselves to be but as children and fools, since we do not and
cannot see even half of the work, but only an immeasurably tiny fragment
of it? For this reason I feel justified in saying that those who deny
the existence of the Divine Architect of the universe and those who
claim to know all about His plans, are, at least, equally mistaken.

"But that, although I have been glad of the opportunity of saying it, is
not quite what I came here to say, and, therefore, we will drop that
part of the subject. Last Sunday I preached a sermon which--I say it
both with wonder and gladness--has produced a very much wider and deeper
effect than I could have hoped it would do. That was a sermon preached
in a Christian church to a congregation, which, at least, professed and
called itself Christian. To-night I am going to ask you to listen to a
secular sermon preached from the same text. It will be very brief,
because I know that you have a custom, and a very good one, of following
discourses with discussion, and as I am going to raise a few distinctly
controversial subjects, I want to leave plenty of our available time
over for the discussion.

"The theme of my sermon last Sunday at St. Chrysostom's may be summed up
in one word--Honesty. The essence of the Sermon on the Mount is just
honesty. I suppose everyone here has read it, and therefore you will
remember that from beginning to end there is not a word of dogma in it.
In other words it is absolutely untheological. Perhaps this fact, a very
important one, has never struck some of you before. When the Master
preached that sermon, he, as I believe, deliberately left out every
reference to dogma or doctrine, creed or church, so that men, whatever
their belief, their nation or their race, could equally accept it as a
universal rule of life and conduct.

"Some of us here believe in miracles, some do not. I do, and, so
believing, I think that the Sermon on the Mount is the greatest of all
miracles. It is a greater thing to preach a doctrine to which all honest
men, coming whithersoever they may from the ends of the earth, will and
must subscribe if they _are_ honest--a doctrine which is true for all
time and for all men, than to cleanse the leper or to raise the dead to
life.

"I will ask you to let me put this point in another way, and in a
certainly more attractive form. Let me read you the expression of this
universal truth in the words of two English poets separated from each
other by more than two hundred years of time and many mountain ridges
and deep valleys of changing thought and opinion:

     "Father of all! in every age,
       In every clime adored,
     By saint, by savage, and by sage,
       Jehovah, Jove, or Lord!

     "Thou great First Cause, least understood,
       Who all my sense confined
     To know but this, that Thou art good,
       And that myself am blind.

     "Yet gave me, in this dark estate,
       To see the good from ill;
     And, binding nature fast in fate,
       Left free the human will.

"Those lines are from Pope's immortal poem 'The Universal Prayer'; these
are from Rudyard Kipling's 'Hymn Before Action.'

     "High lust and froward bearing,
       Proud heart, rebellious brow--
     Deaf ear and soul uncaring,
       We seek Thy mercy now!
     The sinner that forswore Thee,
       The fool that passed Thee by,
     Our times are known before Thee--
       Lord, grant us strength to die!

     "For those who kneel beside us
       At altars not Thine own,
     Who lack the lights that guide us,
       Lord, let their faith atone!
     If wrong we did to call them,
       By honour bound they came;
     Let not Thy wrath befall them,
       But deal to us the blame!

"Those, perhaps, are the most solemn and deep-meaning words that have
been written or spoken since Jesus of Nazareth preached the Sermon on
the Mount, and the inner sense, as I read it, is the same. In life, in
death, be honest with yourself, with your brother-man and your
sister-woman, and with your God if you believe in one.

"Last Sunday in the pulpit I quoted the words of Colonel Ingersoll, 'God
cannot afford to damn an honest man.' That phrase has always seemed to
me a marvellous mixture of blasphemy, ignorance, and sound common sense.
From my point of view it is blasphemous, because it is the utterance of
the atom trying to understand the universe. It is ignorant, because it
is impossible for that human atom who uttered it to form any adequate
conception of the infinitely great whole of which he was an infinitely
small part. And yet, humanly speaking, it is the soundest and hardest of
common sense. If God is honest He must respect honesty, no matter
whether it is the honesty of belief, or of disbelief, always supposing
that the belief and the disbelief _are_ honest.

"The man who calls himself a Christian and does not conduct his daily
life in accordance with the precepts of the Sermon on the Mount, is one
of two things--a fool who cannot understand the meaning of plain words,
or a knave, who, for many reasons, which most of my hearers will
understand, pretends to be that which he is not. I may remind you here
that knavery is not by any means confined to the limits of what is
conventionally termed criminality. For every crime that puts a man or a
woman into prison, there are a hundred others committed in every-day
life with absolute impunity, and yet they are just as serious, and they
merit a similar if not a heavier punishment than those which the law
punishes with social degradation and the miseries of penal servitude.

"I wonder whether it has occurred to any of you who are listening to me
now--whether you are Christians, professed or real, atheists or
agnostics--to ask yourselves if, under the present conditions of what we
are pleased to call civilization, an honest world would be possible, and
that, I may say, is just the same thing as asking whether Christians can
or cannot live their lives in accordance with the teachings of Him who
went about doing good? Of course we all call ourselves honest, and some
of us really believe that we are. At any rate, most of us would feel
very much insulted if any one else told us that we were not. But are
we? Let us put our pride in our pockets for a moment and try to answer
that pregnant question. Honesty, like many other terms, of which
immorality is one, has, through its conventional use, acquired a very
restricted and therefore a quite unreal meaning. We have, by some
vicious process of thought, got accustomed to call a man or a woman who
transgresses the social law in a certain direction immoral, and in the
same way we have come to apply the word dishonesty to practices which
mean stealing or the attempt to steal property of a concrete form.

"But I think you will all agree with me that both these words have come
to be used in a sense which is so narrow, that it destroys their
original meaning. For every man or woman who transgresses the social law
and is therefore called immoral--of course after being found out--there
are a hundred or more who break the moral law every hour of their waking
lives. All of you, no doubt, possess bibles. Read the 27th and 28th
verses of the fifth chapter of the Gospel according to Matthew, and you
will understand what I mean.

"But there is another immorality than this, and, as I believe, a greater
immorality, for this, so far as it concerns our sister women, is often
not immorality at all. It is the surrender of a feeble nature to a
pitiless necessity, the necessity to live, the only alternative, in too
many cases, to self-murder. There is another immorality infinitely worse
than this, which when, as we Christians believe, the hosts of men are
ranged before the Bar of Eternal Justice will spell damnation, hopeless
and irrevocable, and that is the immorality which means a dishonesty
that deliberately deceives--not always for the purpose of gain, for this
kind of dishonesty is generally practised by those whom, to put it
plainly, it would not pay to steal.

"A French philosopher once said that there is that within the heart of
every man which, if known, would make his dearest friend hate him. That,
I am afraid, is true, not only of men but of women. It is not the fault
of the men or the women; it is due simply to artificial conditions of
life and to the individual ignorance and stupidity which make reform
impossible. Until what we call civilised and Christian Society can make
up its mind to conduct its personal, its national, and its international
affairs on the broad and simple lines laid down in the Sermon on the
Mount, no man can afford to be quite honest. In other words, if
Christendom would be really Christian, it would also be honest; honest
with itself and with its God, with the God whom it now only pretends to
worship, saying loudly, 'Lord, Lord,' and doing not the things which He
saith!

"It would not matter--and this I say with all reverence and with a full
sense of my responsibilities as a Priest of the Church--it would not
matter whether Society called itself Christian or not, as long as it was
honest."

"That is absolute atheism and blasphemy!" exclaimed a well-known
Nonconformist preacher, springing up and holding his hands out towards
the platform. "The man who could speak those words cannot be either a
Christian or a minister of the Gospel. I call upon the speaker to be
honest now, honest with himself and us, and confess that he is not a
Christian, and therefore unworthy to be a preacher of any Christian
creed."

A storm of mingled expressions of approval and assent burst out from
every part of the crowded hall. Vane stood immovable and listened to it
with a smile hovering round his lips. The President rose at once and
said:

"I must remind the reverend gentleman who has made this interruption--an
interruption which, if made in a church or a chapel, would render him
liable to imprisonment--is entirely out of order. We welcome discussion,
but it must come in its proper place. We cannot tolerate interruption,
and we won't."

The rebuke was too just and too pointed not to be felt, even by the
bigot who had deserved it. He sat down, and when the thunder of applause
which greeted the President's brief but pregnant interlude had died
away, Vane went on without a trace of emotion in his voice:

"I cannot say that I am sorry that that interruption was made, because
it makes it possible for me to ask whether there is really any
difference between Christianity and honesty?"

Again he was interrupted, this time by half the audience getting on to
its feet and cheering. The other portion sat still, and the units of it
began to look at each other very seriously. Vane was, in fact, bringing
the matter down to a most uncomfortably fine point. He made a slight
motion with his hand, and his hearers, having already recognised the
true missionary, or bringer of messages to the souls of men, instantly
became silent and expectant.

"If Christianity is not honest, or if honesty is not, for all practical
purposes, the same thing as Christianity, then so much the worse for
Christianity or for honesty as the case may be. A religion which is not
honest is not a religion. Honesty which is not a religion--that is to
say a tie between man and man--is not honest. That, I think, is a
dilemma from which there is no escape."

There was another burst of applause, this time almost universal, which
the President did not attempt to check. A few members of the audience
looked even more uncomfortable than before, but by the time Vane was
able to make himself heard again it was quite plain that the great
majority of his audience, believers and unbelievers, were heart and soul
with him.

"That," he went on, with a laughing note in his voice, "shows me that we
have got on to friendly territory at last, on to the ground of our
common humanity. I said just now, before my friend in the audience
diverted my attention to another and very important point, most of us
would feel very much insulted if anyone told us that we were not honest.
We should jump to the conclusion that such a statement was the same
thing as calling us thieves or swindlers; but that is not the question.
Honesty is not by any means confined to commercial dealings. It has a
social meaning and a very far reaching one too, for, as a matter of
fact, the man or woman who deceives another in the smallest detail of
life is not strictly honest, because it is impossible to be strictly
honest without at the same time being strictly truthful.

"It has been said that half the truth is worse than a lie. It is, I
think, a greater sin to tell half the truth than a deliberate and
comprehensive lie, for it is possible to tell a lie with an honest, if
mistaken purpose; and yet the business of the modern world is mainly
conducted by half-truths. Everyone tries to deceive the person he is
doing business with to some extent. It is not altogether his fault, for
he knows that if he didn't do so, the other man would deceive him, and
so get the better of the bargain. That is the way of the world, as it is
called, and a very bad way, and, as we believe, a very unchristian way
it is.

"Still, it is impossible to blame the trader and the man of commerce for
this. The real fault, the real sin, is not individual, it is
collective--the guilt properly belongs to Society. Men do not descend to
these mean subterfuges and these despicable trickeries merely to make
money, to pile on hundreds on hundreds and thousands on thousands. In
their hearts all the best of them despise the methods by which they are
forced to earn their incomes and make their fortunes; but the penalties
which the laws of Society place on honesty are so tremendous that a
really honest man will deliberately sacrifice his own honour rather than
incur them. That is a very serious thing to say, and yet it is the
literal truth, and the most pitiable part of the matter is that he
commits these sins of unscrupulousness and dishonesty chiefly for the
sake of his wife and children. The social penalties of honesty would
fall most heavily on them. Their houses and their luxurious furniture,
their carriages and their horses, their costly clothing and precious
jewels would be theirs no longer; in a word, they would become poor, and
Society has no place for people if they are poor, whatever else they may
be.

"To put the question in another way, a tiger seeking for its prey and
slaying it ruthlessly when it has found it is not a pleasant subject for
contemplation, but before we blame the tiger we must remember that
somewhere at home in the jungle there is a Mrs. Tiger and some little
tigers who have to be fed somehow. The tiger's methods of killing for
food are merciful in comparison with the methods of many men who already
possess enough to give the ordinary comforts of decent life to those who
are depending upon them, and yet go on deceiving and swindling, for
deception in commerce is swindling, in order to obtain those
superfluities of life which are absolutely necessary to keep up what is
called position in Society.

"I do not say that wealth and comfort would be impossible in an honest
world; there is no reason why they should be, but they would be gained
in greater moderation and by different methods. For instance, if Society
could and would change its standards of honesty and morality, the force
of public opinion would soon make crime impossible, save among the
mentally and morally diseased, who would, of course, be treated in the
same merciful but relentless fashion as we now treat what we call our
criminal lunatics.

"It will of course be quite impossible for me to treat this vast subject
in anything like detail in a single address, and therefore I shall
content myself with having thrown out these few suggestions, and leave
the development of it to those who will, I hope, take part in the
discussion.

"But one word more in conclusion. Your President has called me a
missionary, a missionary to the rich. That is the mission which I have
taken on myself, and therefore I gladly accept the title, all the more
gladly because it comes from one who, while he differs from me
absolutely on every theological point which I believe essential to
salvation, has proved his faith by giving me that title and by uttering
a prayer which has, I hope, already been heard by Him to whom all hearts
are open, and from whom no secrets are hid."

When Vane sat down there burst out a storm of applause, through which
not a few hisses, mostly from clerical lips, pierced shrilly. Yet, few
and simple as his words had been, it was quite evident that they had
gone straight to the hearts of the majority of his audience.

The President rose when the applause subsided, and, after a brief
speech, in which he frankly admitted that if all teachers of the
Christian faith were like Vane Maxwell, and if there were no other sort
of Christianity than his, there would be very little of what too many
Christians call infidelity in the world, gave the usual notice that the
meeting was now open for discussion.

Then the storm burst over Vane's devoted head. By a sort of tacit
agreement the Secularists left the attack to the clergy. As a matter of
fact they had practically no cause for dispute with Vane. On the
contrary they delighted in the frankness of his expression of his
belief, and the uncompromising fashion in which he had denounced and
repudiated that unchristian form of Christianity which, as the President
had put it, was responsible through its hypocrisy and double-dealing
with God and man for all the honest unbelief, and all the scoffing and
scepticism, which it pretended to deplore. So the Secularists sat still
and silent, enjoying hugely the series of bitter attacks that were made
on Vane by cleric after cleric, Anglican and Nonconformist, for close on
a couple of hours. Vane took it all very quietly, now smiling and now
looking grave almost to sadness, and when the last speaker had exhausted
his passion and his eloquence, and the President asked him to reply, he
got up and said in slow but grave and very clear tones:

"I have no reply to make to what I have heard, save to say that I have
heard with infinite sorrow from the lips of clergymen of every
denomination and shade of opinion a series of statements which not one
of them could justify from the teachings of Him who preached the Sermon
on the Mount. There is no other criterion of Christian faith and
doctrine than is to be found in the New Testament, and from the first
verse in the Gospel according to St. Matthew to the last in Revelations
there is not one word which contradicts what I have spoken, or which
supports what they have said.

"That is a serious thing to say, but I say it with full knowledge and
with perfect faith. I mean no personal offence. That would of course be
impossible under the circumstances; but it is also quite impossible for
me, after saying what I have said here and elsewhere, to argue seriously
with those who are by profession teachers and preachers of the
revelation of Jesus Christ--of the message of God to man by God
incarnate in the flesh--and who are yet able to reconcile in their own
souls the sayings of Jesus of Nazareth and the doings of twentieth
century Christianity. We have heard the words infidel and infidelity
used many times to-night. There is no infidelity in honest unbelief;
and, sorrowfully as I say it, I still feel it my duty to say it, that
there is more real infidelity inside the churches than there is outside,
for the worst and most damnable of all infidelities is that which says
with its lips 'Lord, Lord,' and does not with its heart and its hands do
that which He saith."

There was a little silence, a silence of astonishment on the one part of
the audience and of absolute stupefaction on the part of the other. Then
the storm of applause broke out once more, but there was no hissing
mingled with it this time. About a score of black-clad figures rose pale
and silent amidst the cheering throng and walked out. Their example was
followed by most of the West End Christians, including her ladyship of
Canore and her husband and daughters, whose curiosity had been more than
amply satisfied. The cheers changed from enthusiasm to irony as the
irregular procession moved towards the doors, and an irreverent
Secularist at the back of the hall jumped on his seat and shouted, with
an unmistakable Old Street accent:

"Got a bit more than you came for, eh? Hope you've enjoyed your lordly
selves. Don't forget to say your prayers to-night. You want a lot of
converting before _you'll_ be Christians. I've 'alf a mind to put up one
for you to-night myself, blowed if I 'aven't."

Then the applause changed to laughter, hearty and good-humoured, and
when the President had proposed the usual vote of thanks to the
lecturer, and Vane had accepted his invitation to give a series of
addresses at the halls of the Society throughout the country, the most
memorable meeting on record at the Hall of Science came to an end.



CHAPTER XXIV.


The next Sunday, Vane, the Mayfair Missionary, as one of the evening
papers had called him, preached at St. Chrysostom, and took for his
text:

     "Art thou a master of Israel and knowest not these things."

During the week, the storm of indignation against him had been growing
both in strength and violence, and a movement was already on foot to
arraign him before the Ecclesiastical Courts on charges of heresy and
unbelief, and of bringing the priesthood into contempt by publicly
associating himself as a priest with the avowed enemies of the Church.

The church was, of course, crowded, but the congregation was composed of
very different elements from those which had made up his congregation a
fortnight before. There were many of its richest members there, but they
did not come in their carriages. Many others had come in trains or
'busses, or had walked from Mile End and Bethnal Green to hear the words
of the new prophet; and scores of these had not seen the inside of a
church for years, or ever dreamt of listening with anything like respect
to a sermon from a Christian pulpit, yet none were more respectful and
attentive than these infidels and heretics whose respectful attention
and new-awakened reverence were the first fruits of Vane's mission
harvest.

His sermon was a direct and uncompromising reply to the challenge to
prove that he was worthy to wear the cloth of the priesthood, and when
it was over, his hearers, the believers and unbelievers alike, had been
driven to the conviction, unpleasant as it was to some of them, that if
the preacher had drawn his conclusions right from the words of Christ
and his Apostles, it was absolutely certain that neither churches or
churchmen, whatever their form of doctrine might be, could at the same
time be wealthy and powerful in the worldly sense, and remain anything
more than nominal Christians.

After the sermon Vane assisted Father Baldwin in the administration of
the Sacrament, and Carol and Rayburn took the elements from his hands;
Carol for the first time in her life, and Rayburn for the first time
since he had reached manhood. It was for them the consecration of their
new love and the new life which was to begin next day.

Dora, who had been present at the service and had remained through the
communion, had, greatly to the surprise of every one, and even to the
sorrow of Carol and Vane, refused steadily to partake. She would give no
reason, and therefore Carol quite correctly concluded that she had some
very sufficient one.

At ten the next morning, Vane married Carol and Rayburn. The ceremony
was as simple as the forms of the Church allowed, and absolutely
private. Sir Arthur gave Carol away, and Ernshaw acted as Rayburn's
best man. The only others present were Father Baldwin and Dora, and a
few of the usual idlers to whom a wedding of any sort is an irresistible
attraction, and who had no notion of the strangeness of the wooing and
the winning, or of the depth of the life-tragedy which was being brought
to such a happy ending in such simple fashion.

The only guests at the marriage-feast were Dora, Ernshaw, and Vane. It
was just a family party, as Sir Arthur called it, so the bride and
bridegroom were spared the giving and receiving of speeches. Never did a
greater change take place in a girl's life more simply and more quietly
than this tremendous, almost incredible change which took place in
Carol's, when, from being a nameless outcast beyond the pale of what is
more or less correctly termed respectable society, she became the wife
of a man who had wooed, and won her under such strange circumstances,
yet knowing everything, and the mistress of millions to boot.

When the brougham that was to take them to the station drew up at the
door, Rayburn put his hand on Vane's arm, and led him to the study.

"Maxwell," he said, as he shut the door, "I have done the best thing
to-day that a man can do. I have got a good wife, and----"

"You have done a great deal more than that, Rayburn," said Vane,
"infinitely more. I needn't tell you what it is, but if ever God and his
holy Saints looked down with blessing on the union of man and woman,
they did upon your marriage to-day."

"I see what you mean," said Rayburn, "and for Carol's sake, I hope so
with all my heart. Now, look here," he went on, in an altered tone,
taking an envelope out of his pocket, "you know that I don't find myself
able to believe with you on this question of the possession of wealth.
Perhaps I have got too much of it to be able to do so; but what I have,
I know Carol will help me to use better than I could use it myself. It
is the usual thing, I believe, for a man who has just taken a wife unto
himself, to make a thank-offering to the Church. Here is mine, and it is
not only mine, but hers, for we had a talk about it yesterday. Open it
when we have gone. And now, good-bye, brother Vane, and God speed you in
your good work!"

When the last good-byes had been said, and the last kisses and
handshakes exchanged, and the carriage had driven away, Vane went alone
into the study, and opened the envelope. It contained a note in Carol's
writing, and a cheque. The note ran thus:

     "MY DEAREST BROTHER,

     "The enclosed is the result of a talk I had with Cecil last night,
     he also had one with Mr. Ernshaw, and I had one with Dora. I should
     like it to be used, under your direction, for the good of those who
     are as I was, but have not been so blest with such good fortune as
     I have been.

     "Ever your most loving and grateful sister,
     "CAROL."

The cheque was for twenty thousand pounds.

Vane could scarcely believe his eyes when he looked at the five figures.
Then, when he had grasped the meaning of them, he murmured:

"God bless them both; they have made a good beginning," and went back
to join the others in the dining-room.

He had a long talk with Ernshaw that afternoon, and they decided to bank
the money in their joint name, Ernshaw absolutely refusing to have it in
his name alone, as the cheque had been given to Vane, and towards the
end of the talk Ernshaw said:

"I am glad to say that I should not be very much surprised now if what
your father said a couple of years ago were to come true. In fact, I
have broached the subject already very gently and circumspectly, of
course, but she absolutely refuses even to consider the matter for at
least a year. Still, she did it so gently and so sweetly that I don't by
any means despair; and that girl, Maxwell, will make as good a wife as a
parson ever had, and a better one than a good many have. She has given
me my life-work, too. You are going to try and redeem the rich, or, at
least, to show them the way of redemption. I, with God's help, and hers,
am going to try and show a way of redemption to those who have lost
everything, and this money of Rayburn's will give us a magnificent
start, if you will agree with me that it will be devoted to it."

"Of course, it must be," said Vane, "there can't be any doubt about
that. Miss Russell will naturally be at the head of the work, I suppose,
and the first thing we ought to do, I think, is to get an establishment
for her, and let her start as soon as may be. I suppose you have talked
it over with her already?"

"Oh, yes," replied Ernshaw, "and she is more than delighted with the
idea."

"I am glad to hear it," said Vane, "no one could possibly do the work
better. Ernshaw, old man," he went on, more gravely, "I'm afraid for
myself that with a helper, and, I hope, some day a help-meet like Miss
Russell, you will have a good deal more chance of success in your work
than I shall in mine."

"That, my dear fellow," replied Ernshaw, "is in other hands than ours.
There lies the work to our hands, and all we have got to do is to do it.
By the way, as far as mine is concerned, I hope you will help me to
persuade your father to take a share in it."

"I am perfectly certain he will," said Vane; "the fact that Carol
suggested it will be quite enough for that."

"Then if he does, by the time you come back from your first crusade, I
think you will find things getting pretty well into order."

"I'm sure I shall," said Vane.

But it was already written that this crusade was not to begin until many
other things had happened. That evening at dinner Sir Arthur said:

"Vane, I had a note from Sir Reginald this afternoon asking me to run
down to the Abbey for a few days, and then join them at Cowes. You are
included in the invitation, but, of course, you wouldn't go to Cowes,
and I don't think I shall, the work here will be very much more
interesting; but I thought perhaps you might like to run down to the
Abbey and see Father Philip before you start on your mission. Garthorne
and Enid are there, and her father and mother are going. It wouldn't be
a bad opportunity to tell the family party the good news about Carol."

"Oh, yes," said Vane, "I should like that, immensely; in fact, I've been
thinking already that if Father Baldwin agrees with me that before I do
make a start on my mission to Midas, as my friend, Reed, called it the
other day, the best thing I could do would be to spend a day or two at
the Retreat, and go into the matter thoroughly with Father Philip."

While he was speaking, Ernshaw noticed that Dora turned deadly pale.
When dinner was over Sir Arthur announced that he was going round for an
hour to see Sir Godfrey Raleigh on a little Indian business. Dora felt
now that her opportunity had come. It was a terrible thing to do, and
yet, all things considered, present, and to come, she felt that it was
her plain duty to do it, and not to permit this ghastly deception to go
on any longer. Her soul revolted at the thought of Sir Arthur and Vane,
Carol's half-brother, going to the Abbey and being received as friends
by Sir Reginald Garthorne. Knowing what she did, it seemed to her too
hideous to be thought of, and so when Vane asked jestingly what they
were going to do to amuse themselves, she got up, looking very white,
and said, in a voice that had a note almost of terror in it:

"Mr. Maxwell, there is something I want to say to you; something that I
must say to you. I cannot say it to you and Mr. Ernshaw together; it is
bad enough to say it even to you, but when I have said it, you will be
able to talk it over and try what is best to be done. I want to tell it
to you first, because it concerns you most."

"By all means," said Vane, looking at her with wonder in his eyes, "come
into the library. Ernshaw, I know, will excuse us; put on a pipe, and
get yourself some whiskey and soda. Now, Miss Russell," he said, as he
opened the door for her, "I'm at your service."

They left the room, and Ernshaw lit his pipe and sat down to speculate
as to the cause of Dora's somewhat singular request, but fifteen minutes
had not passed before the door was thrown open, and she came in white to
the lips and shaking from head to foot, and said:

"Mr. Ernshaw, come, please, quick. Mr. Maxwell is ill, in a fit, I
think. I have had to tell him something very dreadful, and it has been
too much for him."

Ernshaw jumped up without a word and ran into the library. Vane was
lying in a low armchair and half on the floor, his body rigid, his hands
clenched, his eyes wide open and sightless, and a slight creamy froth
was streaked round his lips.

"A fit!" said Ernshaw. "You must have given him some terrible shock. Run
and fetch Koda Bux and we will get him to bed; then tell a servant to go
for Doctor Allison; we will have him round all right before Sir Arthur
comes back."

In a couple of minutes Vane was on his bed, and Koda Bux had opened his
teeth and was dropping drop by drop, a green, syrupy fluid into his
mouth, while Ernshaw was getting his boots off ready for the hot-water
bottle that the housekeeper was preparing. By the time the Doctor had
arrived, Koda Bux's elixir had already done its work. His eyes had
closed and opened again with a look of recognition in them, his jaws had
relaxed and his limbs were loosening. The Doctor listened to what
Ernshaw had said while he was feeling his almost imperceptible pulse and
Koda was wrapping his feet up in a blanket with a hot-water bottle.

"Yes, I see," said the Doctor, "intensely nervous, high-strung
temperament, just what we should expect Mr. Vane Maxwell to be now.

"A very great mental shock and a fit. No, not epileptic, epileptoid,
perhaps. Did you say that this man gave him something which brought him
round? One of those Indian remedies, I suppose--very wonderful. I wish
we knew how to make them. I suppose you won't tell us what it is, my
man?"

Koda Bux's stiff moustache moved as though there were a smile under it,
and he bowed his head and said:

"Sahib, it is not permitted; but by to-morrow the son of my master shall
be well, for he is my father and my mother, and my life is his."

"I thought so," laughed the Doctor, who was an old friend of Sir
Arthur's. "I know you, Koda Bux, and I think I can trust you. I'll look
in again in a couple of hours, Mr. Ernshaw, just to see that everything
is right, but I don't think that I shall be wanted."

When the Doctor left Koda Bux took charge of the patient as a right, and
when they got back into the dining-room, Dora said after a short and
somewhat awkward silence:

"Mr. Ernshaw, after what has happened, I suppose it is only fair that I
should tell you what I told Mr. Maxwell, because when he gets better, of
course, he will talk it over with you, which is very dreadful, almost
incredible. I promised Carol that I should not say anything about it
until she was out of England. Of course, she told Mr. Rayburn; she
wouldn't marry him until he knew the whole story, and so I'm not
breaking any confidence in telling you."

"Yes," he said, "I can fully understand that. And now, what is it? It is
just as well that we should all know before Sir Arthur comes back, if I
am to have any share in it."

"Of course, you must have," she said, almost passionately. "You could
not remain Mr. Maxwell's friend and help him in the work you are going
to do if you did not know, and I had better tell you before Sir Arthur
comes back, so that you can think what is best to be done."

"Very well; tell me, please."

And she told him the whole miserable, pitiful, terrible story as she had
heard it from Carol from beginning to end. When she reached the part
about the flat in Densmore Gardens, his face whitened and his jaws came
together, and he muttered through his teeth:

"Very awful; but, of course, they didn't know. The sins of the fathers!
I am afraid Sir Reginald will have a very terrible confession to make.
It is difficult to believe that a human being could be guilty of such
infamy."

"Still I'm afraid there is no doubt about it," said Dora. "But what's to
be done? Mr. Maxwell will never let his father go to the Abbey now
without telling him what I have told you, and when he knows--no, I
daren't think about it. And poor Mrs. Garthorne, too; she married Mr.
Garthorne in all innocence, although I still believe she would rather
have married Mr. Maxwell. What would happen to her if she knew?"

"She would go mad, I believe," said Ernshaw. "It would be the most
terrible thing that a woman in her position could learn. We can only
hope that she shall never learn. If she ever does, God help her!"

"Yes," said Dora. "And yet, what is to happen? How can she help knowing
in the end? It must come out some time, you know."

"Yes, I am afraid it must," said Ernshaw, "but still, sufficient unto
the day; we shall do no good by anticipating that. We may as well leave
it, as the old Greeks used to say, on the knees of the gods."

And meanwhile the gods were working it out in their own way, using Koda
Bux as their instrument. Vane had gone to sleep after a second dose of
the drug which had brought him out of his fit, and, as the keen Oriental
intellect of Koda Bux had more than half expected, perhaps intended, he
soon began to talk quite reasonably and connectedly in his sleep, and so
it came to pass that a mystery which had puzzled Koda Bux for many a
long year was revealed to him.

When the Doctor came Vane was sleeping quietly, and, while he was
examining him, Sir Arthur arrived, and was told that he had been taken
ill shortly after dinner, and this the Doctor explained was probably due
to the very severe mental strain to which he had subjected himself
during the last week or so. He went up to his room and found Koda Bux on
guard. Koda salaamed and said:

"Protector of the poor, it is well! To-morrow Vane Sahib shall be well,
but now he must sleep."

"Very well, Koda Bux," replied Sir Arthur. "I know he can have no better
nurse than you, and you will watch."

"Yes, sahib, I will watch as long as it is necessary."

Then Sir Arthur went downstairs to hear from Ernshaw and Dora the now
inevitable story of the sin of the man who had been his friend for more
than a lifetime. He heard it as a man who knew much of men and women
could and should hear such a story--in silence; and then, saying a quiet
good-night to them, he went up to his room to have it out with himself
just as he had done on that other terrible night when he had found Vane
drunk on the hearth-rug in the Den, and had recognised that he had
inherited from his mother the fatal taint of alcoholic insanity.

When he awoke the next morning, after a few hours' sleep, Koda Bux was
not there to prepare his bath and lay out his clean linen. It was the
first time that it had happened for nearly twenty years, and it was not
until Sir Arthur came downstairs that he heard the reason. Koda Bux had
vanished. No one knew when or how he had gone, but he had gone, leaving
no sign or trace behind him.

"Vane," said Sir Arthur, as soon as the truth dawned upon him, "we must
go down to Worcester at once. I know where Koda Bux has gone, and what
he has gone to do. Garthorne's crime was vile enough, God knows, but we
mustn't let murder be done if we can possibly help it. Ah, there's an
ABC, Vane, just see which train he can have got to Kidderminster. I know
the next one is 9.50, which we can just catch when we have had a
mouthful of breakfast; that's a fast one, too; at least, fairly fast;
gets there about half past one."

"5.40, arriving 12.15, 6.30 arriving 12.20," said Vane, reading from the
time-table.

"In any case, I am afraid he has more than an hour's start of us at
Kidderminster. We can reduce that by taking a carriage to the Abbey
because he would walk, and, of course, he may not, probably will not, be
able to see Garthorne immediately, so we may be in time after all. Vane,
do you feel strong enough to come?"

"Of course I do, dad," he replied. "As long as I could stand I would
come."

"And may I come, too, Sir Arthur?" said Dora.

"You, Miss Russell!" he exclaimed, "but why? Surely there is no need
for us to ask you to witness such a painful scene as this, of course,
must be."

"I am Carol's friend, Sir Arthur," said Dora, "and I think it only right
to do all that I can do to prove that her story is true. I have got the
photographs, and I know the marks by which Sir Reginald can be
identified. If we are not too late, such a man will, of course, answer
you with a flat denial, but if I am there I don't think he can."

"Very well," said Sir Arthur. "It is very kind of you, and, of course,
you can help us a great deal if you will."

"And, of course, I will," she said.



CHAPTER XXV.


Koda Bux, dressed in half-European costume, had taken the 5.40 newspaper
train from Paddington to Kidderminster. He had been several times at
Garthorne Abbey in attendance on Sir Arthur, and so he decided to carry
out his purpose in the boldest, and therefore, possibly, the easiest and
the safest way. He was, of course, well known to the servants as the
devoted and confidential henchman of his master, and so he would not
have the slightest difficulty in obtaining access to Sir Reginald. He
walked boldly up the drive, intending to say that he had a letter of
great importance which his master had ordered him to place in Sir
Reginald's hand. Sir Reginald would see him alone in one of the rooms,
and then a cast of the roomal over his head, a pull and a wrench--and
justice would be done.

Koda Bux knew quite enough of English law to be well aware that it had
no adequate punishment for the terrible crime that Sir Reginald had
committed--a crime made a thousand times worse by deception of half a
lifetime.

According to his simple Pathan code of religion and morals there was
only one proper penalty for the betrayal of a friend's honour and his,
Koda Bux's, was even more jealous of his master's honour than he was of
his own, for he had eaten his salt and had sheltered under his roof for
many a long year, and if the law would not punish his enemy, he would.
For his own life he cared nothing in comparison with the honour of his
master's house, and so how could he serve him better than by giving it
for that of his master's enemy?

It was after lunch-time when he reached the Abbey. Sir Reginald had, in
fact, just finished lunch and had gone into the library to write some
letters for the afternoon post, when the footman came to tell him that
Sir Arthur Maxwell's servant had just come from London with an urgent
message from his master.

"Dear me," said Sir Reginald, looking up, "that is very strange! Why
couldn't he have written or telegraphed? It must be something very
serious, I am afraid. Ah--yes, Ambrose, tell him to sit down in the
hall, I'll see him in a few minutes."

The door closed, and, as it did so, out of the black, long, buried past
there came a pale flash of rising fear.

Sir Reginald was one of those men who have practically no thought or
feeling outside the circle of their own desires and ambitions. He had
lived on good terms with his fellow men, not out of any respect for
them, but simply because it was more convenient and comfortable for
himself. He had committed the worst of crimes against his friend, Sir
Arthur Maxwell, in perfect callousness, simply because the woman Maxwell
had married and inspired him with the only passion, the only enthusiasm
of which he was capable. He had never felt a single pang of remorse for
it. The sinner who sins through absolute selfishness as he had done
never does. In fact, his only uncomfortable feeling in connection with
the whole affair had been the fear of discovery, and that, as the years
had gone on, had died away until it had become only an evil memory to
him. And yet, why did Koda Bux, the man who had so nearly discovered his
infamy twenty-two years ago, come here alone to the Abbey to-day?

Ah, yes, to-day! A diary lay open on the writing-table before him. The
28th of June. The very day--but that of course was merely a coincidence.
Well, he would hear what Koda Bux had to say. He signed a letter, put it
into an envelope, and addressed it. Then he touched the bell. Ambrose
appeared, and he said:

"You can show the man in now."

"Very good, Sir Reginald," replied the man, and vanished.

A few moments later the door opened again and Koda Bux came in, looked
at Sir Reginald for a few moments straight in the eyes, and then
salaamed with subtle oriental humility.

"May my face be bright in your eyes, protector of the poor and husband
of the widow!" he said, as he raised himself erect again. "I have
brought a message from my master."

"Well, Koda Bux," said Sir Reginald, a trifle uneasily, for he didn't
quite like the extreme gravity with which the Pathan spoke.

"I suppose it must be something important and confidential, if he has
sent you here instead of writing or telegraphing. Of course, you have a
letter from him?"

"No, Sahib," replied Koda Bux, fingering at a blue silk handkerchief
that was tucked into his waist-band. "The message was of too great
importance to be trusted to a letter which might be lost, and so my
master trusted it to the soul of his servant."

"That's rather a strange way for one gentleman to send a message to
another in this country and in these days, Koda Bux," said Sir Reginald,
getting up from his chair at the writing-table and moving towards the
bell.

Instantly, with a swift sinuous movement, Koda Bux had passed before the
fireplace and put himself between Sir Reginald and the bell.

"The Sahib will not call his servants until he has heard the message,"
he said, not in the cringing tone of the servant, but in the
straight-spoken words of the soldier. Meanwhile, the fingers of his left
hand were almost imperceptibly drawing the blue handkerchief out of his
girdle.

Sir Reginald saw this, and a sudden fear streamed into his soul. His own
Indian experience told him that this man might be a Thug, and that if
so, a little roll of blue silk would be a swifter, deadlier, and more
untraceable weapon than knife or poison, and his thoughts went back to
the 28th of June, twenty-two years before.

"I am not going to be spoken to like that in my own house and by a
nigger!" he exclaimed, seeking to cover his fear by a show of anger. "I
don't believe in you or your message. If you have a letter from your
master, give it to me, if you haven't, I shan't listen to you. What
right have you to come here into my library pretending to have a message
from your master, when you haven't even a letter, or his card, or one
written word from him?"

"Illustrious," said Koda Bux, with a sudden change of manner, salaaming
low and moving backwards towards the door, "the slave of my master
forgot himself in the urgency of his message, which my lord, his friend,
has not yet heard."

There was an almost imperceptible emphasis on the word "friend" which
sent a little shiver through such rudiments of soul as Sir Reginald
possessed. He said roughly:

"Very well, then, if you have brought a message what is it? I can't
waste half the morning with you."

"The message is short, Sahib," replied Koda Bux, salaaming again, and
moving a little nearer towards the door. "I am to ask you what you did
at Simla two-and-twenty years ago this night--what you have done with
the Mem Sahib who was faithful to my lord's honour when you, dog and son
of a dog, betrayed it--and what has become of her daughter and yours?
Oh, cursed of the gods, thou knowest these things as thou knowest the
two marks of the African spear on thy left arm--but thou dost not know
the depth of infamy which thy sin dug for thine own son to fall into."

As he was saying this Koda Bux backed close to the door, locked it
behind him, and took the key out.

Bad as he was, the last words of Koda Bux hit Sir Reginald harder even
than the others. His son, the heir to his name and fortune, what had he
to do with that old sin of his committed before he was born?

"You must be mad or opium-drunk, Koda Bux," he whispered hoarsely, "to
talk like that. Yes, it is the 28th of June, and I have two spear marks
on my arm--but I am rich, I can make you a prince in your own land.
Come, you know something about me. That is why you came here; but what
has my son Reginald to do with it? If I have sinned, what is that to
him?"

"In the book of the God of the Christians," said Koda Bux, very slowly,
and approaching him with an almost hypnotic stare in his eyes, "in that
book it is written that the chief God of the Christians will visit the
sins of the fathers upon the children. This woman bore you a daughter;
your lawful wife bore you a son. The woman who was once the wife of
Maxwell Sahib was a drunkard, and now she's a mad-woman. Your own wife
bore you a son, and in London your daughter and your son, not knowing
each other, came together. Your daughter was what the good English call
an outcast, and, knowing nothing of your sin, they lived--"

"God in heaven! can that be true?" murmured Sir Reginald, sinking back
against the mantel-piece just as he was going-to pull the bell.

"No, it can't be! Koda Bux, you are lying; no such horrible thing as
that could be."

"My gods are not thine, if thou hast any, oh, unsainted one!" said Koda
Bux, "but, like the gods of the Christians, they can avenge when the cup
of sin is full. Yes, it is true. Your son and your daughter--your son,
who is now married to her who should have been the wife of Vane Sahib.
There is no doubt, and it can be proved. But that is only a part of your
punishment, destroyer of happiness and afflictor of many lives. That is
a thought which thou wilt take to Hell with thee, and it shall eat into
thy soul for ever and ever, and when I have sent thee to Hell I will
tell thy son and the woman he stole from Vane Sahib when he persuaded
him to take strong drink that morning at the college of Oxford. Yes, I
have heard it all. I, who am only a nigger! Dog and son of a dog, is not
thy soul blacker than my skin? And now the hour has struck. Thy breath
is already in thy mouth!"

Koda Bux snatched the handkerchief from his waist-band and began to
creep towards him, his Beard and moustache bristling like the back of a
tiger, and his big, fierce eyes gleaming red. Sir Reginald knew that if
he once got within throwing distance of that fatal strip of silk he
would be dead in an instant without a sound. He made a despairing spring
for the bell-rope, grasped it, and dragged it from its connection.

At the same moment there was a peal at the hall bell, followed by a
thunderous knocking. Enid, who was in the morning-room with her husband,
saw a two-horsed carriage come up the drive at a gallop, and the moment
it had stopped Vane jumped out and rang and knocked. Then out of the
carriage came Sir Arthur and a lady whom she had never seen before, but
whom Garthorne, looking over her shoulder out of the window, recognised
only too quickly.

"What on earth can Sir Arthur and Vane have come for in such a hurry as
that!" she exclaimed. "Why, it might be a matter of life and death, and
only such a short time after dear old Koda Bux, too. What can be the
matter, Reginald?"

But Garthorne had already left the room, his heart shaking with
apprehension. He ran up into the hall to open the door before one of the
servants could do it.

"Ah, Sir Arthur, Vane--and Miss Russell--I believe it is----"

"Yes, Mr. Garthorne," said Sir Arthur coldly but quickly, as they
entered the hall. "We have come to stop a murder if we can. I hope we
are in time. Where is your father, and has Koda Bux been here?"

"Koda Bux has been in the library with my father for about half-an-hour,
I believe," said Reginald. "What is the matter?"

"It is a matter of life or death," answered Vane, looking at him with
burning eyes and speaking with twitching lips. "Perhaps something worse
even than that. Where are they?--quick, or we shall be too late!"

"They are in the library," said Garthorne, as Enid came running out of
the morning-room, saying:

"Oh, Sir Arthur and Vane, good morning! How are you? What a very sudden
visit. I knew Sir Reginald asked you, but----"

"Never mind about that now, Enid," said Garthorne almost roughly. "Come
along, Sir Arthur, this is the library."

He crossed the great hall, and went down one of the corridors leading
from it, and the footman was already at one of the doors trying to open
it. It was locked. Garthorne hammered on it with his fists and shouted,
but there was no reply.

"I heard the library bell ring, sir," said Ambrose, "just as the front
door bell went--after that Indian person had been with Sir Reginald some
time."

"Never mind about that," said Garthorne; "run round to the windows, and
if any of them are open get in and unlock the door."

But before he had reached the hall door the library door was thrown
open. Koda Bux salaamed, and, pointing to the lifeless shape of Sir
Reginald, lying on the hearth-rug, he said to Sir Arthur:

"Protector of the poor, justice has been done. The enemy of thy house is
dead. Before he died he confessed his sin. Has not thy servant done
rightly?"

"You have done murder, Koda Bux," said Sir Arthur sternly, pushing him
aside and going to where Sir Reginald lay. He tried to lift him, but it
was no use. There was the mark of the roomal round his neck, the staring
eyes and the half-protruding tongue. Justice, from Koda Bux's point of
view, had been done. There was nothing more to do but to have him
carried up to his room and send for the police. Garthorne gripped hold
of Koda Bux, and called to one of the servants for a rope to tie him up
until the police came, but the Pathan twisted himself free with scarcely
an effort.

"There is no need for that, Sahib; I shall not run away," said Koda Bux,
drawing himself up and saluting Sir Arthur for the last time. "I came
here to give my life for the one I have taken, so that justice might be
done, and I have done it. In the next worlds and in the next lives we
may meet again, and then you will know that neither did I kill your
father nor die myself without good cause. Of the rest the gods will
judge."

He made a movement with his jaws and crunched something between his
teeth. They saw a movement of swallowing in his throat. A swift spasm
passed over his features; his limbs stiffened into rigidity, and as he
stood before them so he fell, as a wooden image might have done. And so
died Koda Bux the Pathan, loyal avenger of his master's honour.

For a few moments there was silence--every tongue chained, every eye
fixed by the sudden horror of the situation. Garthorne, roused by fear
and anger, for a swift instinct told him that Dora had not come to the
Abbey for nothing, was able to speak first. He was Sir Reginald now--but
why, and how? When a man of this nature is very frightened, he often
takes refuge in rage, and that is what Garthorne did. He turned on Sir
Arthur and Vane, his hands clenched, and his lips drawn back from his
teeth, and said, in a voice which Enid had never heard from him before:

"What does all this mean, Sir Arthur? My father murdered in his own
house; his murderer tells you that he has 'done justice,' and avenged
your honour--then poisons himself. If any wrong has been done, how did
that nigger servant of yours get to know of it? Why should he have been
let loose to murder my father? If you had anything against him, why
didn't you charge him with it yourself, as a man and gentleman should?
You must have been in it the whole lot of you or you wouldn't have been
here!

"But, perhaps," he went on, with a sudden change of tone, "you would
rather tell the police when they come; there must be some reason, I
suppose, for your bringing that woman, a common prostitute, into my
house, and into the presence of my wife."

"Oh, you fool, you hypocrite, you have asked for the punishment of your
sin, and you shall have it!"

Dora had taken a couple of strides towards him, and faced him--cheeks
blazing, and eyes flaming.

"Prostitute! yes, I was; but how do _you_ know it? Because you lived in
the same house with me. Yes, up to the very week of your wedding, with
me and that man's daughter. You have asked why he was killed. He was
killed righteously, because he wasn't fit to live. No, you didn't know
that then, and so far you are innocent; but you are guilty of a crime
nearly as great. Your father stole Carol's mother from her husband; you
stole your wife from the man she loved and would have married but for
you.

"It was _you_ who made Vane Maxwell drunk that morning at Oxford, in the
hope of wrecking his career. You didn't do that, but you gained your end
all the same, and your sin is just as great. How do I know this--how do
_we_ know it? I will tell you. Carol Vane, Mr. Maxwell's sister, _and
yours_, went to your wedding. Carol recognised him as her father. Look,
there is his photograph taken with her, when Carol was ten years old. If
you don't believe that, look at his left arm, and you will find two
spear stabs on it, and if that is not enough, I can bring police
evidence from France to prove that he committed the crime for which he
has died, and now, you--son of a seducer, libertine and thief of another
man's love--you have got your answer and your punishment!"

Dora's words, spoken in a moment of rare, but ungovernable passion, had
leaped from her lips in such a fast and furious torrent of denunciation,
that before the first few moments of the horror she had caused were
passed, she had done.

Enid heard her to the end, her voice sounding ever farther and farther
away, until at last it died out into a faint hum and then a silence.
Vane ran to her, and caught her just as she was swaying before she fell,
and carried her to a sofa. It was the first time he had held her in his
arms since he had had a lover's right to do so, and all the man-soul in
him rose in a desperate revolt of love and pity against the coldly
calculating villainy of the man who had used the vilest of means to rob
him of his love.

The moment he had laid her on the sofa, Dora was at her side, loosening
the high collar of her dress and rubbing her hands. Garthorne, crushed
into silence by the terrible vehemence of Dora's accusation, had dropped
into an armchair close by his father's body. Sir Arthur, half-dazed with
the horror of it all, threw open the door with a vague idea of getting
into the fresh air out of that room of death. As he did so, the hall
door opened, and an Inspector of Police followed by two constables and a
gentleman in plain clothes entered. The sight of the uniformed
incarnation of the Law brought him back instantly to the realities of
the situation. The Inspector touched his cap, and said, briefly, and
with official precision:

"Good morning, Sir Arthur. This is Dr. Saunders, the Coroner. I met him
on my way up from the village, and asked him to come with me. Very
dreadful case, Sir; but I hope the bodies have not been disturbed?"

"Oh, no," said Sir Arthur, "they have not been touched, but Mrs.
Garthorne is lying in the same room in a faint. I suppose we may take
her out before you make your examination?"

"Why, certainly, Sir Arthur," said the Coroner. "Of course, we will take
your word for that. But I believe Mr. Reginald Garthorne is at the
Abbey, is he not?"

"Yes," replied Sir Arthur, in a changed tone, "he is there, in the
library, but of course--well, I mean--what has happened has affected him
terribly, and I don't think he will be able to give you very much
assistance at present. In fact, he is almost in a state of collapse
himself."

"That is only natural, under the very painful circumstances," said the
Inspector, "please don't put him about at all, Sir Arthur. The last
thing we should wish would be to put the family to any inconvenience or
unpleasantness, and I am sure Dr. Saunders will arrange that the inquest
will be as private and quiet as possible."

And so it was, but, somehow, the ghastly truth of it all leaked out, and
for a week after the inquest the horrible story of Sir Reginald's crime
and its consequences made sport of the daintiest kind for the readers
of the gutter rags, those microbes of journalism, which, like those of
cancer and consumption, can only live on the corruption or decay of the
body-corporate of Society.

Only one name and one fact never came out, and that was due to Ernest
Reed's uncompromising declaration that he would shoot any man who said
anything in print about the identity of Carol Vane with the daughter of
Sir Reginald Garthorne's victim. He worked by telegraph and otherwise
for twenty-four hours on end, and the result was that his brother
pressmen all over the country, being mostly gentlemen, recognised the
chivalry of his attempt, and so chivalrously suppressed that part of the
truth. And so effectually was it suppressed, that it was not until about
a year afterwards that Mr. Ernest Reed found a rather difficult
matrimonial puzzle solved for him by the receipt of Mr. Cecil Rayburn's
cheque for a thousand pounds.



EPILOGUE.


A little more than a year had passed since the inquest on Sir Reginald
and Koda Bux. For Vane Maxwell, the Missionary to Midas, as every one
now called him, it had been a continued series of tribulations and
triumphs. From Land's End to John o' Groats, and from Cork Harbour to
Aberdeen he had preached the Gospel that he had found in the Sermon on
the Mount. He had, in truth, proved himself to be the Savonarola of the
twentieth century, not only in words, but also in the effects of his
teaching.

He had asked tens and hundreds of thousands of professing Christians,
just as he had asked the congregation of St. Chrysostom, to choose
honestly between their creed and their wealth, to be honest, as he had
said then, with themselves or with God; to choose openly and in the face
of all men between the service of God and of Mammon. And his appeal had
been answered throughout the length and breadth of the land.

Never since the days of John Wesley had there been such a re-awakening
of religious, really religious, feeling in the country. Just as the rich
Italians brought their treasures of gold and silver and jewels and
heaped them up under the pulpit of Savonarola in the market-places, so
hundreds of men and women of every social degree recognised the plain
fact that they could not be at the same time honestly rich and honestly
Christians, and so, instead of material treasure, they had sent their
cheques to Vane.

Before the year was over he found himself nominally the richest man in
the United Kingdom. He had more than five millions sterling at his
absolute disposal, almost countless thousands of pounds given up for
conscience' sake because he had said that honest Christians could not
own them; and he and Father Philip, Father Baldwin and Ernshaw, having
given many hours and days of anxious consideration to the very pressing
question as to which was the best way of disposing of this suddenly,
and, as they all confessed, unexpectedly acquired wealth, decided to
devote it to the extirpation, so far as was possible in England, of that
Cancer in Christianity which Christians of the canting sort call the
Social Evil.

As Jesus of Nazareth had said to the woman taken in adultery, "Go thou
and sin no more!" so the Missionary and his helpers said:

"You have sinned more through necessity than choice, and the Society
which denies you redemption is a greater sinner than you, since it
drives you into deeper sin. There is no hope for you here. Civilization
has no place for you, save the streets or the 'homes,' which are, if
anything, more degrading than the streets.

"Those who are willing to save themselves we will save so far as earthly
power can help you. We will give you homes where you will not be known,
where, perhaps, you may begin to lead a new life, where it may be that
you will become wives and mothers, as good as those who now, when they
pass you in the street, draw their skirts aside fearing lest they
should touch yours. And, if not that, at least we will save you from the
horrible necessity of keeping alive, by living a life of degradation."

The foregoing paragraphs are, to all intents and purposes, a précis of a
charter of release to the inhabitants of the twentieth century Christian
Inferno which was drawn up by Dora Russell the day before she yielded to
Ernshaw's year-long wooing, and consented to be his helpmeet as well as
his helper.

It was scattered broadcast in hundreds of thousands all over the
country. Storms of protest burst forth from all the citadels of
orthodoxy and respectability. It seemed monstrous that these women, who
had so far defied all the efforts of official Christianity to redeem
them, should be bribed--as many put it--bribed back into the way of
virtue, if that were possible, with the millions which had been coaxed
out of the pockets of sentimental Christians by this Mad Missionary of
Mayfair--as one of the smartest of Society journals had named him.

But, for all that, the Mad Missionary said very quietly to Ernshaw a few
hours before he intended to marry him to Dora:

"These good Christians, as they think themselves, are wofully wrong. It
seems absolutely impossible to get them to see this matter in its proper
perspective. They can't or won't see that in ninety-nine cases out of a
hundred it is one of absolute necessity--the choice between that and
misery and starvation. They don't see that this accursed commercial
system of ours condemns thousands of girls----"

"Yes," interrupted Dora, "I know what you are going to say. I was a
shop-girl myself once, a slave, a machine that was not allowed to have
a will or even a soul of its own, and I----"

Before she could go on, the door of the Den at Warwick Gardens--where
the conversation had taken place--opened, and Sir Arthur came in with
some letters in his hands.

"I just met the postman on the doorstep," he said, "and he gave me
these.

"Here's one for you, Vane. There's one for me, and one for Miss
Russell--almost the last time I shall call you that, Miss Dora, eh?"

Vane tore his envelope open first. As he unfolded a sheet of note-paper,
a cheque dropped out. The letter was in Carol's handwriting. His eye ran
over the first few lines, and he said:

"Good news! Rayburn and Carol are coming home next week and bringing a
fine boy with them--at least, that is what the fond mother
says--and--eh?--Rayburn has made another half million out there, and,
just look, Ernshaw--yes, it is--a cheque for a hundred thousand pounds,
to be used, as she says here in the postscript, 'as before.'"

"Oh, I'm so glad," exclaimed Dora, as she was opening her own envelope.
"Fancy having Carol back again. Mark, I won't marry you till she comes.
You must put everything off. I won't hear of it and--oh--look!" she went
on, after a little pause, "Sir Arthur, read that, please. Isn't it
awful?"

"The mills of God grind slowly but they grind exceeding small," said Sir
Arthur when he had looked over the sheet of note-paper. "Shall I read
it, Miss Russell?"

Dora nodded, and he read aloud:

"I have just heard that my husband, whom, as you know, I have not seen
since that terrible day at the Abbey, has died in a fit of delirium
tremens. The lawyers tell me that everything will be mine. If so,
Garthorne Abbey shall go back to the Church if Vane will take it, and if
you will let me come and help you in your work."

"Thank God!" said Sir Arthur, as he gave the letter back, "not for his
death, for that was, after all that we have heard, inevitable; but for
what Enid has done. Vane, she is your latest and, perhaps, after all,
your worthiest convert. And now, what's this?"

He tore open his own envelope, which was addressed in the handwriting of
one of his solicitor's clerks. The letter was very brief and formal, but
before he had read it through his face turned grey under the bronze of
his skin. He passed it over to Vane, and left the room without a word.

Vane looked at the few formal lines, and, as he folded the letter up
with trembling fingers, he said almost in a whisper:

"The tragedy is over. My mother is dead."



THE END.



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  COPYRIGHT SERIES.

  A NAME TO CONJURE WITH. By JOHN STRANGE WINTER.
  WHOSO FINDETH A WIFE. By WILLIAM LE QUEUX.
  THE SECRET OF THE DEAD. By L. T. MEADE.
  AUNT JOHNNIE. By JOHN STRANGE WINTER.
  STREET DUST. By OUIDA.
  THE MEMOIRS OF AN INSPECTOR. By GEORGE GRIFFITH.
  TURF TALES. By NATHANIEL GUBBINS.
  STORIES WEIRD AND WONDERFUL. By HUME NISBET.
  A SWEET SINNER. By HUME NISBET.
  A RISE IN THE WORLD. By ADELINE SERGEANT.
  IF SINNERS ENTICE THEE. By WILLIAM LE QUEUX.
  THE BLACK DROP. By HUME NISBET.
  BROTHERS OF THE CHAIN. By GEORGE GRIFFITH.
  THE OTHER MAN'S WIFE. By JOHN STRANGE WINTER.
  JOHN AMES, Native Commissioner. By BERTRAM MITFORD.
  A MAGNIFICENT YOUNG MAN. By JOHN STRANGE WINTER.
  BROUGHT TO BAY. By R. H. SAVAGE.
  LITTLE MISS PRIM. By FLORENCE WARDEN.
  THE JUSTICE OF REVENGE. By GEORGE GRIFFITH.
  QUEEN SWEETHEART. By Mrs. C. N. WILLIAMSON.
  IN WHITE RAIMENT. By WILLIAM LE QUEUX.
  A BORN SOLDIER. By JOHN STRANGE WINTER.
  ALETTA. By BERTRAM MITFORD.
  THE EMPIRE MAKERS. By HUME NISBET.
  A RATIONAL MARRIAGE. By FLORENCE MARRYAT.
  THE SECRET OF LYNNDALE. By FLORENCE WARDEN.
  NEW NOVEL. By GUY BOOTHBY.

  _Other Stories by the most Popular Authors of the day will follow in
  succession._



  MISCELLANEOUS.

  GOOD FORM: a Book of Every Day Etiquette. By MRS. ARMSTRONG, Author of
  "Modern Etiquette in Public and Private." _Limp Cloth, 2s._

  LETTERS TO A BRIDE, Including Letters to a Debutante. By MRS.
  ARMSTRONG. _Cloth Gilt, 2s. 6d._



  14, Bedford Street, Strand, W.C.



Transcriber's Note

Alternative spellings and hyphenation have been retained as they appear
in the original publication. Other punctuation, including quotation
marks, has been standardized.

In chapter XVII, in the sermon headline beginning with "WEIGHTY WORDS TO
RICH AND POOR," the name "Maxwell Vane" has been changed to "Vane
Maxwell."





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