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Title: Aaron the Jew - A Novel
Author: Farjeon, B. L. (Benjamin Leopold)
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.

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                         A FEW PRESS OPINIONS

                                  ON

                           "AARON THE JEW."

                                  BY

                            B. L. FARJEON.

                              *  *  *  *

                                Globe.

"Aaron is a most engaging figure; nothing loftier, purer, sweeter, can
be imagined than the beautiful tie which unites him to his gentle,
true-hearted Rachel."


                               Speaker.

"In many respects a really powerful story, strong and sympathetic. The
book is infinitely superior in tone and motive to much of the current
fiction."


                              Guardian.

"A very tender and touching sketch, showing what a beautiful and noble
life is possible to a Jew who would really live in the true spirit of
his simple faith and the best traditions of his people. Charming
pictures of Jewish household life.... Exceedingly pleasant to read."


                           Daily Telegraph.

"Written with earnestness, sincerity, and lively sympathy with all that
is good, generous, and tender."


                            The Scotsman.

"Powerful studies of lofty human character. It is full of genuine
life, of real men and women, and of sustained interest.... A
delightful story. 'Aaron the Jew' is a strong and original piece of
work, and will well repay perusal."


                          Lady's Pictorial.

"This book has been received with such a chorus of praise that nothing
is left to say. It is the best novel that Mr. Farjeon has produced
since 'Grif.'"


                           Glasgow Herald.

"'Aaron the Jew' is a benevolent and beautiful character. The story is
an interesting one."


                        Western Morning News.

"Mr. Farjeon has never written a more natural and touching story than
this of 'Aaron the Jew.' All his characters are of an attractive and
noble-minded type."


                         Westminster Gazette.

"Very simply and touchingly written; rises to the level of real
pathos."


                          Jewish Chronicle.

"The book is interesting, and is a worthy addition to the Jewish
stories which are so much in fashion just now."


                            Jewish World.

"'Aaron the Jew' is a contribution to light fiction, all the more
welcome because its very slightness may cause it to be read by people
who still know nothing of Jews and Judaism, and so tend to remove
senseless prejudices."


                               Record.

"A powerfully written work."


                                World.

"Mr. Farjeon's new novel, 'Aaron the Jew,' is his best work since
'Grif' made him known to the reading world as a writer of fiction
gifted with exceptional power and originality. The story is finely
conceived and worked out with great care and lucidity."


                        Liverpool Daily Post.

"The book is, indeed, in every way an excellent production of Mr.
Farjeon's pen, and will no doubt attain the popularity it
unquestionably deserves."



                           _AARON THE JEW_


                               A Novel



                                      _By_

                                _B. L. FARJEON_

                                   AUTHOR OF
            "_Great Porter Square_," "_Grif_," "_Blade o' Grass_,"
                    "_The Last Tenant_," _etc._, _etc_.



London, 1895
     HUTCHINSON & CO
               34, _PATERNOSTER ROW_


                        _All rights reserved_



                     _CHEAP AND POPULAR EDITION_.

                           *  *  *  *  *  *

                           THE LAST TENANT
                                  BY
                            B. L. FARJEON.

            _In crown 8vo, cloth gilt, gilt top, 2s. 6d.;_
                        _picture boards, 2s_.

                           *  *  *  *  *  *

"A well written novel of absorbing interest."

                                                       _Scotsman_.


"The story enchains the reader's attention from the first page to the
last."--_Yorkshire Post_.

"Must be pronounced a successful piece of detective narration. Those
who like a good detective story will find what they want in 'The Last
Tenant.'"

                                            _Manchester Guardian_.

                           *  *  *  *  *  *

              London: HUTCHINSON & CO., Paternoster Row.



                              CONTENTS.


                           BOOK THE FIRST.

                         _MOTHER AND CHILD_.

                              *  *  *  *

     CHAP.

          I. THE POOR DOCTOR.

         II. DR. SPENLOVE'S VISITOR.

        III. DR. SPENLOVE UNDERTAKES A DELICATE MISSION.

         IV. FLIGHT.

          V. DEATH BETTER THAN LIFE.

         VI. THE FRIEND IN NEED.

        VII. DR. SPENLOVE ADVISES.

       VIII. WHAT WAS PUT IN THE IRON BOX.

         IX. MR. MOSS PLAYS HIS PART.



                           BOOK THE SECOND.

                              _RACHEL_.

                              *  *  *  *

          X. THE VISION IN THE CHURCHYARD.

         XI. MR. WHIMPOLE INTRODUCES HIMSELF.

        XII. THE COURSE OF THE SEASONS.

       XIII. AARON COHEN PREACHES A SERMON ON LARGE NOSES.

        XIV. A PROCLAMATION OF WAR.

         XV. THE BATTLE IS FOUGHT AND WON.

        XVI. JOY AND SORROW.

       XVII. DIVINE CONSOLATION.



                           BOOK THE THIRD.

                 _THE TEMPTATION AND THE FALL_.

                              *  *  *  *

      XVIII. UNTO THEM A CHILD IS BORN.

        XIX. BETWEEN LIFE AND DEATH.

         XX. A MOMENTOUS NIGHT.

        XXI. OVER A BRIGHT CLOUD A BLACK SHADOW FALLS.

       XXII. THE LIVING AND THE DEAD.

      XXIII. PLUCKED FROM THE JAWS OF DEATH.

       XXIV. THE CURTAIN FALLS AWHILE.



                           BOOK THE FOURTH.

                        _HONOUR AND PROGRESS_.

                              *  *  *  *

        XXV. AFTER MANY YEARS.

       XXVI. THE FOUNDATION OF AARON'S FORTUNE.

      XXVII. THE FEAST OF PASSOVER.

     XXVIII. RACHEL'S LIFE IN THE NEW LAND.


       XXIX. THE FAREWELL.


        XXX. AT THE GRAVE OF HIS CHILD.



                           BOOK THE FIFTH.

                    _THE GATHERING OF THE CLOUD_.

                              *  *  *  *

       XXXI. AARON IS ASKED FOR A SUBSCRIPTION, AND RELATES THE
                 STORY OF A CONVERT.

      XXXII. AARON COHEN ADDRESSES A JEWISH AUDIENCE.

     XXXIII. WHAT SHALL BE DONE TO THE MAN WHOM THE KING DELIGHTETH
                 TO HONOUR?

      XXXIV. THE HONOURABLE PERCY STORNDALE.

       XXXV. THE SPIRIT OF THE DEAD PAST.

      XXXVI. BEFORE ALL, DUTY.



                           BOOK THE SIXTH.

                            _RETRIBUTION_.

                              *  *  *  *

     XXXVII. ESTHER MOSS RECEIVES A LETTER.

    XXXVIII. RUTH'S SECRET.

      XXXIX. THE HONOURABLE PERCY STORNDALE MAKES AN APPEAL TO
                 AARON COHEN.

         XL. A DUTY PERFORMED.

        XLI. THERE IS A PROVIDENCE THAT SHAPES OUR ENDS.

       XLII. A MOTHER'S JOY.

      XLIII. A PANIC IN THE CITY.

       XLIV. THE CONFESSION.

        XLV. A POISONED ARROW.

       XLVI. RETRIBUTION.



                            AARON THE JEW.

                               *  *  *

                           BOOK THE FIRST.

                         _MOTHER AND CHILD_.



                              CHAPTER I.

                           THE POOR DOCTOR.


On a bright, snowy night in December, 1871, Dr. Spenlove, having been
employed all the afternoon and evening in paying farewell visits to
his patients, walked briskly towards his home through the narrowest
and most squalid thoroughfares in Portsmouth. The animation of his
movements may be set down to the severity of the weather, and not to
any inward cheerfulness of spirits, for as he passed familiar
landmarks, he looked at them with a certain regret, which men devoid
of sentiment would have pronounced an indication of a weak nature. In
this opinion, however, they would have been wrong, for Dr. Spenlove's
intended departure early the following morning from a field which had
strong claims upon his sympathies was dictated by a law of inexorable
necessity. He was a practitioner of considerable skill, and he had
conscientiously striven to achieve a reputation in some measure
commensurate with his abilities. From a worldly point of view his
efforts had been attended with mortifying failure; he had not only
been unsuccessful in earning a bare livelihood, but he had completely
exhausted the limited resources with which he had started upon his
career; he had, moreover, endured severe privation, and an opening
presenting itself in the wider field of London, he had accepted it
with gladness and reluctance. With gladness, because he was an
ambitious man, and had desires apart from his profession; with
reluctance, because it pained him to bid farewell to patients in whom
he took a genuine interest, and whom he would have liked to continue
to befriend. He had, indeed, assisted many of them to the full extent
of his power, and in some instances had gone beyond this limit,
depriving himself of the necessaries of life to supply them with
medicines and nourishing food, and robbing his nights of rest to
minister to their woes. He bore about him distinguishing marks of the
beautiful self-sacrifice. On this last night of his residence among
them, his purse was empty, and inclement as was the weather, he wore,
on his road home, but one thin coat, which was but a feeble protection
from the freezing air, which pierced to his skin, though every button
was put to its proper use. A hacking cough, which caused him to pause
occasionally, denoted that he was running a dangerous risk in being so
insufficiently clad; but he seemed to make light of it, and smiled
when the paroxysm was over. In no profession can be found displayed a
more noble humanity and philanthropy than in that which Dr. Spenlove
practised, and, needy as he was, and narrow as had been his means from
the start, his young career already afforded a striking example of
sweet and unselfish attributes. In the Divine placing of human hosts,
the poor doctor and the poor priest shall be found marching in the van
side by side.

During the whole of the day snow had been falling, and during the
whole of the day Dr. Spenlove had had but one meal. He did not
complain; he had been accustomed to live from hand to mouth, and well
knew what it was to go to bed hungry; and there was before him the
prospect of brighter times.

But cheering as was this prospect, his walk home through the falling
snow was saddened by the scenes he had witnessed in the course of the
day; and one especially dwelt in his mind.

"Poor creature!" he mused. "What will become of her and her baby? O
pitiless world! Does it not contain a single human being who will hold
out a helping hand?"

Before one of the poorest houses in one of the poorest streets he
paused, and, admitting himself with a private latchkey, unlocked a
door on the ground floor, and entered a room which faced the street.
There was a wire blind to the window, on which was inscribed,--


                  CONSULTATIONS FROM 9 TILL 11 A.M.


This room, with a communicating bedroom at the back, comprised his
professional and private residence.

Dr. Spenlove groped in the dark for the matches, and, lighting a
candle, applied a match to a fire laid with scrupulous economy in the
matter of coals. As he was thus employed, his landlady knocked at the
door and entered.

"Is it you, Mrs. Radcliffe?" he asked, not turning his head.

"Yes, sir. Let me do that, please."

The paper he had lit in the grate was smouldering away without
kindling the wood; the landlady knelt down, and with a skilful touch
the flame leapt up. Dr. Spenlove, unbuttoning his thin coat, spread
out his hands to the warmth.

"Any callers, Mrs. Radcliffe?"

"A gentleman, sir, who seemed very anxious to see you. He did not
leave his name or card, but said he would call again this evening."

"Did he mention the hour?"

"Nine, sir."

Dr. Spenlove put his hand to his waistcoat pocket, and quickly
withdrew it, with a smile of humour and self-pity. The landlady
noticed the action, and dolefully shook her head.

"Very anxious to see me, you say, Mrs. Radcliffe."

"Very anxious indeed, sir. Dear, dear, you're wet through!"

"It is a bitter night," he said, coughing.

"You may well say that, sir. Bad weather for you to be out, with that
nasty cough of yours."

"There are many people worse off than I am, without either fire or
food."

"We all have our trials, sir. It's a hard world."

"Indeed, indeed!" he said, thinking of the female patient whom he had
last visited.

"Where's your overcoat, sir? I'll take it down to the kitchen; it'll
dry sooner there." She looked around in vain for it.

"Never mind my overcoat, Mrs. Radcliffe."

"But you had it on when you went out, sir?"

"Did I? Don't trouble about it. It will dry quickly enough where it
is."

He was now busily employed making a parcel of books and instruments,
which he had taken from different parts of the room, and which were
the only articles of value belonging to himself it contained. The
landlady stood for a moment or two watching his movements, and then
she hurried down to her kitchen, and presently returned with a cup of
hot tea. As she passed through the passage, with the cup in one hand
and a candle in the other, she glanced at the empty umbrella stand.

"His umbrella, too, as well as his overcoat," she muttered. "The man's
heart's too big for his body!"

She re-entered the room.

"I've brought you a cup of tea, sir, if you don't mind taking it."

"Not at all, Mrs. Radcliffe. It is very kind of you."

He drank the tea, which warmed him through and through.

"We're all sorry at your leaving us, sir," said the landlady. "There's
plenty that'll miss you."

"I am sorry, too," he replied; "but when needs must, you know. I can
do no good to myself or others by remaining. If the gentleman calls
again, ask him to wait, if his business is of importance. You had
better tell him I am leaving Portsmouth to-morrow morning."

With his parcel under his arm he left the house, and trudging through
the snow again, halted at a pawnbroker's shop, lingering awhile before
he entered, as sensitive men do before putting the finishing touch to
a humiliating act. Then, shrugging his shoulders, and muttering, "I
ought to be used to it by this time," he plunged into the shop, where
he obtained upon his few last treasures as much as would pay his
third-class fare to London and the two weeks' rent he owed his
landlady. Thus safe-guarded for a few hours at least, he left the
shop, but instead of immediately retracing his steps to his lodgings
he lingered once more irresolutely, with the air of a man who was at
war with himself upon a momentous question. The sixteen shillings due
to his landlady was in his pocket, and undoubtedly it was but simple
honesty that it should be handed over to her without hesitation. But
the hapless female patient who had occupied his thoughts during the
last hour was at this moment in the throes of a desperate human
crisis, and dark as was the present to her suffering soul, the terrors
which the future held in store for her were still more agonising. She
had a young baby at her breast; she had no food in her cupboard, not a
loaf of bread, not a cup of milk; she had not a friend in the world to
whom she could appeal for help. She, too, was in debt to her landlord,
a hard man who was waiting for another sun to rise to thrust her and
her infant into the white and pitiless streets. It would have been
done to-day but for the intervention of Dr. Spenlove, who had pawned
his overcoat and umbrella to buy of the poor creature's landlord a
respite of twenty-four hours. The sixteen shillings due to Mrs.
Radcliffe would buy her another respite for a longer term, but when
this was expired there was still the hopeless future to face. Dr.
Spenlove thrust aside this latter consideration, and thought only of
the ineffable relief it was in his power to bring to a heart racked
with anguish and despair. He lost sight of the fact that the wretched
woman would still be without food, and that she was too weak to work
for it. Even when she was strong, and able to ply her needle
throughout the whole of the day and the greater part of the night, her
earnings had never exceeded six shillings a week; she had confessed as
much to the good doctor, but for whose timely aid the workhouse would
have been her only refuge. As he stood debating with himself the
sentiment of pity was strong within him, but he could not banish the
voice of justice which whispered that the money was not his to dispose
of. All the people with whom he was acquainted were poor, and his
landlady was as poor as the rest; he knew that she often depended upon
the payment of his rent to pay her own. It might be that just now she
could afford to wait awhile for what was due to her; if so, he would
dispose of the sixteen shillings as his benevolent instincts impelled
him to do; he must, however, ascertain how the land lay before he
acted. It may appear strange to many fortunate persons that issues so
grave and vital should hang upon a sum of money which to them would
not be worth a thought; but it would be a good lesson for them to
learn that opportunities are not scarce for bringing Heaven's
brightest sunshine to overcharged hearts by the judicious bestowal of
a few small coins out of the wealth which yields them all the material
comforts of life.

Having made up his mind upon the important matter, Dr. Spenlove turned
homewards, and as he walked he recalled the incidents in connection
with the unhappy woman in which he had played a part. She was a
stranger in the neighbourhood, and had lived her lonely life in a
garret for five months. No person with whom she came in contact knew
anything of her or of her antecedents, and it was by chance that he
became acquainted with her. Attending to his poor patients in the
street in which she resided, he passed her one afternoon, and was
attracted as much by her modest and ladylike appearance as by the
evidence of extreme weakness, which could hardly escape the
observation of a man so kindly-hearted as himself. He perceived at
once that she was of a superior class to those among whom she moved,
and he was impressed by a peculiar expression on her face when his
eyes rested on her. It was the expression of a hunted woman, of one
who was in hiding and dreaded being recognised. He made inquiries
about her, but no one could give him any information concerning her,
and in the press of onerous cares and duties she passed out of his
mind. Some weeks later he met her again, and his first impressions
were renewed and strengthened; and pity stirred his heart as he
observed from her garments that she was on the downward path of
poverty. It was clear that she was frightened by his observance of
her, for she hurried quickly on; but physical weakness frustrated her
desire to avoid him; she staggered and would have fallen had he not
ran forward and caught her. Weak as she was she struggled to release
herself; he kept firm hold of her, however, animated by compassion and
fortified by honest intention.

"You have nothing to fear from me," he said. "Allow me to assist you.
I am Dr. Spenlove."

It was the first time he had addressed her, but his name was familiar
to her as that of a gentleman to whom the whole neighbourhood was
under a debt of gratitude for numberless acts of goodness. She glanced
timidly at his face, and a vague hope stirred her heart; she knew that
the time was approaching when she would need such a friend. But the
hope did not live long; it was crushed by a sudden fear.

"Do you know me, sir?"

"No," replied Dr. Spenlove, in a cheerful tone. "You are a stranger to
me, as I have no doubt I am to you."

"You are not quite a stranger, sir," she said, timidly. "I have heard
of your kindness to many suffering people."

"Tush, tush!" he exclaimed. "A man deserves no credit for doing his
duty. You feel stronger now, do you not? If you have no doctor you
must allow me to come and see you. Do not hesitate; you need such
advice as I can give you; and," he added gently, "I will send in my
account when you are rich. Not till then, upon my honour; and
meanwhile I promise to ask no questions."

"I am deeply grateful to you, sir."

And, indeed, when they parted the world was a little brighter to the
poor soul.

From that day he attended her regularly, and she was strengthened and
comforted by his considerate conduct towards her. She was known as
Mrs. Turner; but it was strange, if she were wife or widow, that she
should wear no wedding-ring. As their intimacy ripened his first
impression that she was a lady was confirmed, and although he was
naturally curious about her history, he kept his promise by not asking
her any questions which he instinctively felt it would be painful to
her to answer. Even when he discovered that she was about to become a
mother he made no inquiries concerning the father of her unborn child.
On the day he bade her farewell, her baby, a girl, was two weeks old,
and a dark and terrible future lay before the hapless woman. His heart
bled for her, but he was powerless to help her further. Weak and
despairing, she sat in her chair with her child at her wasted breast;
her dark and deep-sunken eyes seemed to be contemplating this future
in hopeless terror.

"I am grieved to leave you so," he said, gazing sadly at her; "but it
is out of my power to do what I would wish. Unhappily, I am almost as
poor as yourself. You will try to get strong, will you not?"

"I don't know," she murmured.

"Remember," he said, taking her hand, "you have a duty to perform.
What will you do when you are strong?"

"I don't know."

"Nay, nay," he gently urged, "you must not speak so despondently.
Believe me, I do not wish to force your confidence, but I have
gathered from chance words you have let drop that you lived in London.
I am going there to-morrow. Can I call upon any person who would be
likely to assist you?"

"There is no one."

"But surely you must have some friends or relations----"

"I have none. When you leave me I shall be without a friend in the
world."

"God help you!" he sighed.

"Will He?"

The question was asked in the voice of one who had abandoned hope, who
had lost faith in human goodness and eternal justice, and who was
tasting the bitterness of death.

Dr. Spenlove remained with her an hour, striving to cheer her, to
instil hope into her heart, but his words had no effect upon her; and,
indeed, he felt at times that the platitudes to which he was giving
utterance were little better than mockery. Was not this woman face to
face with the practical issues of life and death in their most awful
aspect, and was it not a stern fact that there was but one practical
remedy for them? She asked for bread, and he was offering her a stone.
It was then he went from her room and learned the full truth from her
landlord, who was only waiting till he was gone to turn her into the
streets. We know by what means he bought a day's respite for her.
Finally he left her, and bore away with him the darkest picture of
human misery of which he had ever had experience.



                             CHAPTER II.

                       DR. SPENLOVE'S VISITOR.


His landlady, Mrs. Radcliffe, met him on the doorstep, and informed
him that the gentleman who had called to see him in the afternoon had
called again, and was in his room.

"A word, Mrs. Radcliffe," he said, hurriedly. "I am going to ask a
great favour of you. I owe you two weeks' rent."

"Yes, sir."

His heart sank within him; he divined immediately from her tone that
she was in need of the money.

"Would it inconvenience you to wait a little while for it?"

"I must, sir, if you haven't got it," she replied, "but I am
dreadfully hard pressed, and I reckoned on it. I'm behindhand myself,
sir, and my landlord's been threatening me----"

"Say no more, Mrs. Radcliffe. Justice must be first served. I have the
money; take it--for Heaven's sake take it quickly! I must not rob the
poor to help the poor."

He muttered the last words to himself as he thrust the sixteen
shillings into her hand.

"I am so sorry, sir," said the distressed woman.

He interrupted her with, "There, there, I am ashamed that I asked you.
I am sure no one has a kinder heart than you, and I am greatly obliged
to you for all the attention you have shown me while I have been in
your house. The gentleman is in my room, you say?"

It was a proof of Mrs. Radcliffe's kindness of heart that there was a
bright fire blazing in the room, made with her own coals, and that the
lamp had been replenished with her own oil. Dr. Spenlove was grateful
to her, and he inwardly acknowledged that he could not have otherwise
disposed of the few shillings which he had no right to call his own.
His visitor rose as he entered, a well-dressed man some forty years of
age, sturdily built, with touches of grey already in his hair and
beard, and with signs in his face and on his forehead indicative of a
strong will.

"Dr. Spenlove?" he asked, as they stood facing each other.

"That is my name."

"Mine is Gordon. I have come to see you on a matter of great
importance."

Dr. Spenlove motioned to the chair from which his visitor had risen,
and he resumed his seat; but although he had said that he had come
upon a matter of great importance, he seemed to be either in no hurry
to open it, or to be uncertain in which way to do so, for he sat for
some moments in silence, smoothing his bearded chin and studying Dr.
Spenlove's face with a stern and studious intentness.

"Can you spare me half an hour of your time?" he said at length.

"Longer, if you wish," said Dr. Spenlove.

"It may be longer, if you offer no opposition to the service I wish
you to render me; and perhaps it is as well to say that I am willing
and can afford to pay for the service."

Dr. Spenlove bent his head.

"It is seldom," continued Mr. Gordon, "that I make mistakes, and the
reason is not far to seek. I make inquiries, I clear the ground, I
resolve upon a course of action, and I pursue it to its end without
deviation. I will be quite frank with you, Dr. Spenlove; I am a hard,
inflexible man. Thrown upon the world when I was a lad, I pushed my
way to fortune. I am self-made; I can speak fair English. I have
received little education, none at all in a classical way; but I
possess common sense, and I make it apply to my affairs. That is
better than education if a man is resolved to get along in life--as I
was resolved to do. When I was a young man I said, 'I will grow rich,
or I will know the reason why.' I have grown rich. I do not say it as
a boast--it is only fools who boast--but I am worth to-day a solid
twenty thousand pounds a year. I make this statement merely as a proof
that I am in a position to carry out a plan in which I desire your
assistance and co-operation."

"My dear sir," said Dr. Spenlove, who could not but perceive that his
visitor was very much in earnest, "the qualities you mention are
admirable in their way, but I fear you have come to the wrong man. I
am a doctor, and if you do not need my professional advice----"

"Stop a moment," interrupted Mr. Gordon, "I have come to the right
man, and I do not need professional advice. I am as sound as a bell,
and I have never had occasion to pay a doctor's fee. I know what I am
about in the mission which brings me here. I have made inquiries
concerning you, and have heard something of your career and its
results; I have heard of your kindnesses and of the esteem in which
you are held. You have influence with your patients; any counsel you
might give them, apart from your prescriptions, would be received with
respect and attention; and I believe I am not wrong when I say that
you are to some extent a man of the world."

"To some slight extent only," corrected Dr. Spenlove, with a faint
smile.

"Sufficient," proceeded Mr. Gordon, "for my purpose. You are not blind
to the perils which lie before weak and helpless women--before, we
will say, a woman who has no friends, who is living where she is not
known, who is in a position of grave danger, who is entirely without
means, who is young and good-looking, and who, at the best, is unable
by the work of her hands to support herself."

Dr. Spenlove looked sharply at his visitor. "You have such a woman in
your mind, Mr. Gordon."

"I have such a woman in my mind, Dr. Spenlove."

"A patient of mine?"

"A patient of yours."

There was but one who answered to this description, and whose future
was so dark and hopeless. For the first time during the interview he
began to be interested in his visitor. He motioned him to proceed.

"We are speaking in confidence, Dr. Spenlove?"

"In perfect confidence, Mr. Gordon."

"Whether my errand here is successful or not, I ask that nothing that
passes between us shall ever be divulged to a third person."

"I promise it."

"I will mention the name of the woman to whom I have referred, or, it
will be more correct to say, the name by which she is known to you.
Mrs. Turner."

"You mean her no harm, sir?"

"None. I am prepared to befriend her, to save her, if my conditions
are accepted."

Dr. Spenlove drew a deep breath of relief. He would go to his new
field of labours with a light heart if this unhappy woman were saved.

"You have come at a critical moment," he said, "and you have
accurately described the position in which she is placed. But how can
my mediation, or the mediation of any man, be necessary in such a
case? She will hail you as her saviour and the saviour of her babe.
Hasten to her immediately, dear sir; or perhaps you do not know where
she lives, and wish me to take you to her? I am ready. Do not let us
lose a moment, for every moment deepens her misery."

He did not observe the frown which passed into Mr. Gordon's face at
his mention of the child; he was so eager that his hat was already on
his head and his hand on the handle of the door.

Mr. Gordon did not rise from his chair.

"You are in too great a hurry, Dr. Spenlove. Be seated, and listen to
what I have to say. You ask how your mediation can avail. I answer, in
the event of her refusal to accept the conditions upon which I am
ready to marry her."

"To marry her!" exclaimed Dr. Spenlove.

"To marry her," repeated Mr. Gordon. "She is not a married woman, and
her real name need not be divulged. When you hear the story I am about
to relate, when you hear the conditions, the only conditions, upon
which I will consent to lift her from the degraded depths into which
she has fallen, you will understand why I desire your assistance. You
will be able to make clear to her the effect of her consent or refusal
upon her destiny and the destiny of her child; you will be able to use
arguments which are in my mind, but to which I shall not give
utterance. And remember, through all, that her child is a child of
shame, and that I hold out to her the only prospect of that child
being brought up in a reputable way and of herself being raised to a
position of respectability."

He paused a moment or two before he opened fresh matter.

"I was a poor lad, Dr. Spenlove, without parents, without a home; and
when I was fourteen years of age I was working as an errand-boy in
London, and keeping myself upon a wage of four shillings a week. I
lost this situation through the bankruptcy of my employer, and I was
not successful in obtaining another. One day, I saw on the walls a
bill of a vessel going to Australia, and I applied at the agent's
office with a vague idea that I might obtain a passage by working
aboard ship in some capacity or other. I was a strong boy--starvation
agrees with some lads--and a willing boy, and it happened that one of
my stamp was wanted in the cook's galley. I was engaged at a shilling
a month, and I landed in Melbourne with four shillings in my pocket.

"How I lived till I became a man is neither here nor there; but when
gold was discovered I lived well, for I got enough to buy a share in a
cattle station, which now belongs entirely to me. In 1860, being then
on the high road to fortune, I made the acquaintance of a man whom I
will call Mr. Charles, and of his only child, a girl of fourteen, whom
I will call Mary. I was taken with Mr. Charles, and I was taken in by
him as well, for he disappeared from the colony a couple of years
afterwards, in my debt to the tune of a thousand pounds. He had the
grace to write to me from London, saying he would pay me some day; and
there the matter rested for seven years more, which brings me to two
years ago.

"At that time I had occasion to visit England on business; and in
London I hunted up my debtor, and we renewed our acquaintance. Mary
was then a young woman of twenty-one; and had it not been for her, it
is more than likely I might have made things unpleasant for her
father, who was leading the disreputable life of a gambler on
racecourses, and in clubs of a low character.

"Dr. Spenlove, you must have gathered from the insight I have given
you into my character that I am not a man of sentiment, and you will
probably consider it all the more strange that I should have
entertained feelings towards Mary which caused me to consider whether
she would not make me a creditable wife. Of these feelings I prefer
not to speak in a warmer strain, but shall leave you to place your own
construction upon them. While I was debating with myself as to the
course I should pursue, the matter was decided for me by the death of
Mr. Charles. He died in disgrace and poverty, and Mary was left
friendless and homeless.

"I stepped in to her rescue, and I made a proposal of marriage to her.
At the same time, I told her that I thought it advisable, for her sake
and mine, that a little time should elapse before this proposal was
carried into effect. I suggested that our marriage should take place
in two years; meanwhile, I would return to Australia, to build a
suitable house and to prepare a home for her, and she would remain in
England to fit herself for her new sphere of duties. She accepted me,
and I arranged with a lady of refinement to receive her. To this lady
both she and I were utter strangers, and it was settled between Mary
and myself that she should enter her temporary home under an assumed
name. It was my proposal that this pardonable deceit should be
practised; no person was wronged by it, and it would assist towards
Mary's complete severance from old associations. Our future was in our
own hands, and concerned nobody but ourselves.

"I returned to Australia, and made my preparations. We corresponded
once a month, and some few months ago I informed her of the date of my
intended arrival in England. To that letter I received no reply; and
when I landed and called at the lady's house, I learned that she had
fled. I set to work to discover the truth, and I have discovered it; I
set to work to track her, and I have succeeded. Her story is a common
story of betrayal and desertion, and I am not inclined to trouble you
with it. She has not the remotest hope of assistance from the man who
betrayed her; she has not the remotest hope of assistance from a
person in the world with the exception of myself.

"Dr. Spenlove, notwithstanding what has occurred I am here in
Portsmouth this night with the intention of carrying out the
engagement into which I entered with her; I am here, prepared to marry
her, on express conditions. The adoption of assumed names, the
obscurity she has courted, the absolute silence which is certain to be
observed by her, by me, by you, by the man who betrayed her, render me
safe. It is known that I have come to England to be married, and she
will be accepted as I present her when I return with her as my wife. I
will have no discussion as to my motives for taking what the world
would consider an unwise step; but you will understand that my
feelings for the woman who has played me false must be of a deep and
sincere nature, or I should not dream of taking it.

"It now only remains for me to state the conditions under which I am
prepared to save her from even a more shameful degradation than that
into which she has already fallen. I speak plainly. You know as well
as I the fate that is in store for her if my offer is rejected."



                             CHAPTER III.

             DR. SPENLOVE UNDERTAKES A DELICATE MISSION.


Mr. Gordon had spoken throughout in a cold, passionless tone, and with
no accent of emotion in his voice. If anything could have been
destructive of the idea that he loved the woman he wished to marry, it
was his measured delivery of the story he had related; and yet there
could be no question that there was some nobility in the nature of the
sacrifice he was prepared to make for her sake. The contrast between
the man and the woman struck Dr. Spenlove very forcibly. The man was
hard and cold, the woman was sensitive and sympathetic. Had their
circumstances been equal, and had Dr. Spenlove been an interested
adviser, he would have had no hesitation in saying to her: "Do not
marry this man: there is no point of union between you; you can never
kindle in his heart the fire which burns within your own; wedded to
him, a dull routine of years will be your portion." But he felt that
he dared not encourage himself to pursue this line of argument.
Although the most pregnant part of Mr. Gordon's errand had yet to be
disclosed, it seemed to him that he would very likely presently be the
arbiter of her destiny. "You will be able," Mr. Gordon had said, "to
make clear to her the effect of her consent or refusal upon her
destiny and the destiny of her child." Whatever the conditions, it
would be his duty to urge her to accept the offer that would be made
to her; otherwise, he might be condemning her to a course of life he
shuddered to contemplate. The responsibility would be too solemn for
mere sentimental consideration. These were the thoughts that flashed
through his mind in the momentary pause before Mr. Gordon spoke again.

"I believe," his visitor then said, "that I am in possession of the
facts relating to Mrs. Turner"--he reverted to the name by which she
was generally known--"but you will corroborate them perhaps. She is in
want."

"She is in the lowest depths of poverty."

"Unless she pays the arrears of rent she will be turned into the
streets to-morrow."

"That is the landlord's determination."

"She would have been turned out to-day but for your intervention."

"You are well informed, I see," observed Dr. Spenlove, rather nettled.

"I have conversed with the landlord and with others concerning her.
She lives among the poor, who have troubles enough of their own to
grapple with, and are unable, even if they were inclined, to render
her the assistance of which she stands in need. She seems to have kept
herself aloof from them, for which I commend her. Now, Dr. Spenlove, I
will have no spectre of shame and degradation to haunt her life and
mine. Her past must be buried, and the grave must never be opened. To
that I am resolved, and no power on earth can turn me from it."

"But her child?" faltered Dr. Spenlove.

"She will have no child. She must part with her, and the parting must
be final and irrevocable. The steps I shall take to this end shall be
so effectual that if by chance in the future they should happen to
meet there shall be no possibility of recognition. I propose to have
the child placed with a family who will adopt her as a child of their
own--there will be little difficulty in finding such a family--to the
head of which a sum of one hundred pounds will be paid yearly for
maintenance. I name no limit as to time; so long as the child lives,
so long will the payment be made through my lawyers. Should the child
die before she reaches the age of twenty-one, the sum of five hundred
pounds will be paid to the people who undertake the charge. They will
know nothing of me or of the mother; our names will not be divulged to
them, and they will not be able to trace us. Should they evince a
disposition to be troublesome in this respect, the child will be taken
from them by my lawyers, and another home provided for her. A hundred
pounds a year is a liberal sum, and there will not be the least
difficulty in carrying out the proposed arrangement. In proof that I
desire the child to have every chance of leading a happy life, I will
engage to give her a marriage portion of five hundred pounds. Judge
for yourself whether a woman in Mrs. Turner's circumstances would be
acting wisely in rejecting my proposition."

"You have spoken in a most generous spirit," said Dr. Spenlove slowly,
"so far as money goes; but you seem not to have taken into
consideration a mother's feelings."

"I have not taken them into consideration: they are not part of my
plan. I have looked at the matter only from two points of view--its
worldly aspect, and my desire to carry out my personal wishes. I
decline to regard it or to argue upon it from the point of view of a
mother's feelings. I ask you to judge of it as a man of the world."

"Of which," said Dr. Spenlove, "as I have hinted to you, I am a poor
example. Do you expect me to provide for the babe such a home as that
you have described?"

"Not at all. It is my business to carry out my plan if she accepts the
conditions."

"What, then, do you wish me to do?"

"To lay my proposition before her as nearly as possible in my words,
to impress upon her that it is her duty to agree to it, for her own
sake and for the sake of the child."

"Why not do so yourself?"

"I have not seen her; I will not see her while she holds in her arms
her burden of shame. She shall come to me free and unencumbered, or
she shall not come at all. I could not speak to her as I have spoken
to you; I should not be able to command myself. She would plead to me,
and I should answer her in bitterness and anger. Such a scene would
set me so strongly against her that I should immediately relinquish my
purpose. You can reason with her; you can show her the path in which
her duty clearly lies. I do not deny that she is called upon to make a
sacrifice; but it is a sacrifice which will lead to good, it is a
sacrifice which every right-minded man would urge her to make.
Indifferent man of the world as you proclaim yourself to be, you
cannot be blind to the almost sure fate in store for her in the
circumstances in which she is placed. Your experiences must have made
you acquainted with the stories of women who have fallen as she has
fallen, and you will know how many of them were raised from the
depths, and how many of them fell into deeper shame. Dr. Spenlove, I
have entirely finished what I came here to say."

"Before I undertake to do what you require of me," said Dr. Spenlove,
who by this time understood the man he had to deal with, "I must ask
you a question or two."

"If they relate to the present business," responded Mr. Gordon, "I
will answer them."

"Failing me, will you employ some other person to act as your envoy to
Mrs. Turner?"

"I shall employ no other, for the reason that there is no other whose
counsel would be likely to influence her. And for another reason--I
have disclosed to you what I will disclose to no other person."

"Would you leave her as she is?"

"I would leave her as she is. Early in the morning I should take my
departure, and she would have to face the future unaided by me."

"If she will not listen to me, if she will not make the sacrifice, you
will surely give her out of your abundance some little assistance to
help her along?"

"Out of my abundance," replied Mr. Gordon, sternly, "I will give her
nothing--not the smallest coin. Make your mind easy upon one point,
Dr. Spenlove. So far as a practical man like myself is likely to go, I
will do what I can to make her happy if she affords me the
opportunity. She will live in a respectable atmosphere, she will be
surrounded by respectable people, she will have all the comforts that
money can purchase, and I shall never utter to her a word of reproach.
Her past will be as dead to me as if it had never been."

Dr. Spenlove rose. "It is your desire that I shall go to her
to-night?"

"It is. The matter must be settled without delay."

"If she asks for time to reflect----"

"I must have an answer to-night, yea or nay."

There was no more to be said. The man who had been wronged and
deceived, and who had made an offer so strange, and generous, and
cruel, was fixed and implacable.

"I may be absent some time," said Dr. Spenlove. "Where shall I see you
upon my return?"

"Here, if you will allow me to stay."

"You are welcome. My landlady will make you a bed on the sofa."

"Thank you; I need no bed. I can employ myself while you are away."

Dr. Spenlove stepped to the door, and turned on the threshold.

"One other question, Mr. Gordon. If I succeed, when will you require
her to give up her child?"

"To-morrow evening. I will have a carriage ready at the door. On the
following day Mrs. Turner and I will leave Portsmouth, and there is no
probability, after that, that you and I will ever meet again."

Dr. Spenlove nodded, and left the house.



                             CHAPTER IV.

                               FLIGHT.


The snow was falling more heavily, and a strong wind blew the flakes
into his face as he made his way to Mrs. Turner's garret. He walked as
quickly as he could, but his progress was impeded by the force of the
wind and by its driving the snow into his eyes. Despite these
obstacles he preserved his mental balance, and was observant of all
that was passing around him; and it was a proof of his kindly and
unselfish nature that, in the light of the vital errand upon which he
was engaged, he was oblivious of the sense of physical discomfort.
Conflicting questions agitated his mind. No longer under the influence
of the cold, cruel logic which distinguished Mr. Gordon's utterances,
he once more asked himself whether he would be acting rightly in
urging Mrs. Turner to renounce her maternal duties and obligations,
and to part for ever with the child of her blood. The human and the
Divine law were in conflict. On one side degradation and direst
poverty from which there seemed no prospect of escape, and driving the
mother perhaps to a course of life condemned alike by God and man; on
the other side a life of material comfort and respectability for
herself and her child. A fortuitous accident--a chance for which he
had prayed earlier in the night--had made him at once the arbiter and
the judge; his hand was on the wheel to steer these two helpless
beings through the voyage upon which they were embarked, and upon him
rested the responsibility of their future. There was no case here of
ploughing through unknown waters over hidden rocks; he saw the ocean
of life before him, he saw the rocks beneath. Amid those rocks lay the
forms of lost abandoned women who in their mortal career would surely
have been saved had an offer of rescue come, such as had come to the
woman who chiefly occupied his thoughts. They would have been spared
the suffering of despairing days, the horrors of a despairing death;
they would have been lifted from the gulf of shame and ignominy. New
hopes, new joys would have arisen to comfort them. The sacrifice they
would have been called upon to make would have been hallowed by the
consciousness that they had performed their duty. It was not alone the
happiness of the mortal life that had to be considered; if the
ministrations of God's ministers on earth were not a mockery and a
snare, it was the immortal life that was equally at stake. The soul's
reward sprang from the body's suffering.

And still the pitiless snow fell, and the wind howled around him; and
through the white whirlwind he beheld the light of heaven and the
stars shining upon him.

How should he act? He imagined himself steering the vessel through an
ocean of sad waters. On the right lay a haven of rest, on the left lay
a dark and desolate shore. Here, salvation; there, destruction. Which
way should he turn the wheel? His pity for her had drawn from him
during their last interview the exclamation, "God help you!" and she
had asked hopelessly, "Will He?" He had turned from her then; he had
no answer to make. There is, he said to himself now, no Divine
mediation in human affairs; the Divine hand is not stretched forth to
give food to the hungry. In so grave an issue as the starvation of a
human being, dependence upon Divine aid will not avail. Admitting
this, he felt it to be almost a heresy, but at the same time he knew
that it was true.

There were but few people in the white streets, and of those few a
large proportion tinged his musings with a deeper melancholy. These
were ragged shivering children, and women recklessly or despondently
gashing the white carpet, so pure and innocent and fair in its
sentimental, so hard and bitter and cruel in its material aspect. By a
devious process of reasoning he drew a parallel between it and the
problem he was engaged in solving. It was poetic, and it freezed the
marrow; it had a soul and a body, one a sweet and smiling spirit, the
other a harsh and frowning reality. The heart of a poet without boots
would have sunk within him as he trod the snow-clad streets.

Dr. Spenlove's meditations were arrested by a sudden tumult. A number
of people approached him, gesticulating and talking eagerly and
excitedly, the cause of their excitement being a couple of policemen
who bore between them the wet limp body of a motionless woman. He was
drawn magnetically towards the crowd, and was immediately recognised.

"Here's Dr. Spenlove," they cried; "he knows her."

Yes, he knew her the moment his eyes fell upon her, the people having
made way for him. The body borne by the policeman was that of a young
girl scarcely out of her teens, an unfortunate who had walked the
streets for two or three years past.

"You had better come with us, doctor," said one of the policemen, to
both of whom he was known. "We have just picked her out of the water."

A middle-aged woman pushed herself close to Dr. Spenlove.

"She said she'd do it a month ago," said this woman, "if luck didn't
turn."

Good God! If luck didn't turn! What direction in the unfortunate
girl's career was the lucky turn to take to prevent her from courting
death?

"You will come with us, sir?" said the policeman.

"Yes," answered Dr. Spenlove, mechanically.

The police station was but a hundred yards away, and thither they
walked, Dr. Spenlove making a hasty examination of the body as they
proceeded.

"Too late, I'm afraid, sir," said the policeman.

"I fear so," said Dr. Spenlove, gravely.

It proved to be the case. The girl was dead.

The signing of papers and other formalities detained Dr. Spenlove at
the police station for nearly an hour, and he departed with a heavy
weight at his heart. He had been acquainted with the girl whose life's
troubles were over since the commencement of his career in Portsmouth.
She was then a child of fourteen, living with her parents, who were
respectable working people. Growing into dangerous beauty, she had
fallen as others had fallen, and had fled from her home, to find
herself after a time deserted by her betrayer. Meanwhile the home in
which she had been reared was broken up; the mother died, the father
left the town. Thrown upon her own resources, she drifted into the
ranks of the "unfortunates," and became a familiar figure in low
haunts, one of civilisation's painted, bedizened night-birds of the
streets. Dr. Spenlove had befriended her, counselled her, warned her,
urged her to reform, and her refrain was, "What can I do? I must
live." It was not an uncommon case; the good doctor came in contact
with many such, and could have prophesied with unerring accuracy the
fate in store for them. The handwriting is ever on the wall, and no
special gift is needed to decipher it. Drifting, drifting, drifting,
for ever drifting and sinking lower and lower till the end comes. It
had come soon to this young girl--mercifully, thought Dr. Spenlove, as
he plodded slowly on, for surely the snapping of life's chord in the
springtime of her life was better than the sure descent into a
premature haggard and sinful old age. Recalling these reminiscences,
his doubts with respect to his duty in the mission he had undertaken
were solved. There was but one safe course for Mrs. Turner to follow.

He hastened his steps. His interview with Mr. Gordon and the tragic
incident in which he had been engaged had occupied a considerable
time, and it was now close upon midnight. It was late for an ordinary
visit, but he was a medical man, and the doors of his patients were
open to him at all hours. In the poor neighbourhood in which Mrs.
Turner resided, many of the street doors were left unlocked night and
day for the convenience of the lodgers, and her house being one of
these, Dr. Spenlove had no difficulty in obtaining admission. He shook
the snow from his clothes, and, ascending the stairs, knocked at Mrs.
Turner's door; no answer coming he knocked again and again, and at
length he turned the handle and entered.

The room was quite dark; there was no fire in the grate, no candle
alight. He listened for the sound of breathing, but none reached his
ears.

"Mrs. Turner!" he cried.

Receiving no response he struck a match, and looked around. The room
was empty. Greatly alarmed he went to the landing, and knocked at an
adjoining door. A woman's voice called,--

"Who's there?"

"It is I, Dr. Spenlove."

"Wait a moment, sir."

He heard shuffling steps, and presently the tenant appeared, only
partially dressed, with a lighted candle in her hand.

"I didn't send for you, doctor," she said.

"No. I want to ask you about Mrs. Turner. She is not in her room."

"I thought it was strange I didn't hear the baby crying, but I don't
know where she is."

"Did you not hear her go out?"

"No, sir; I came home at ten soaked through and through, and I was
glad to get to bed. It ain't a night a woman would care to keep out in
unless she couldn't help herself."

"Indeed it is not. Did you see anything of her before you went to
bed?"

"I didn't see her, I heard her. I was just going off when she knocked
at my door, and asked if I could give her a little milk for the baby;
but I hadn't any to give. Besides, she ain't got a feeding-bottle that
I know of. She's been trying to borrow one, but nobody in the house
could oblige her. She's having a hard time of it, doctor."

"She is, poor soul!" said Dr. Spenlove, with a sigh.

"It's the way with all of us, sir; no one ought to know that better
than you do. There ain't a lodger in the house that's earning more
than twelve shillings a week; not much to keep a family on, is it,
sir? And we've got a landlord with a heart of stone. If it hadn't been
for her baby, and that it might have got him in hot water, he'd have
turned her out weeks ago. He's bound to do it to-morrow if her rent
ain't paid. He told me so this morning when he screwed the last penny
out of me."

"Do you know whether she succeeded in obtaining milk for the child?"

"It's hardly likely, I should say. Charity begins at home, doctor."

"It is natural and just that it should; but it is terrible, terrible!
Where can Mrs. Turner have gone to?"

"Heaven knows. One thing I do know, doctor, she's got no friends; she
wouldn't make any, kept herself to herself, gave herself airs, some
said, though I don't go as far as that. I dare say she has her
reasons, only when a woman sets herself up like that it turns people
against her. Are you sure she ain't in her room?"

"The room is empty."

"It's enough to be the death of a baby to take it out such a night as
this. Listen to the wind."

A furious gust shook the house, and made every window rattle. To Dr.
Spenlove's agitated senses it seemed to be alive with ominous voices,
proclaiming death and destruction to every weak and helpless creature
that dared to brave it. He passed his hand across his forehead in
distress.

"I must find her. I suppose you cannot tell me of any place she may
have gone to for assistance?"

"I can't, sir. There's a bare chance that as she had no coals and no
money to buy 'em with, some one in the house has taken her in for the
night. I'll inquire, if you like."

"I shall be obliged to you if you will," said Dr. Spenlove, catching
eagerly at the suggestion; "and I pray that you may be right."

"You won't mind waiting in the passage, sir, till I've dressed myself.
I sha'n't be a minute."

She was very soon ready and she went about the house making inquiries;
and, returning, said that none of the lodgers could give her any
information concerning Mrs. Turner.

"I am sorry to have disturbed you," said Dr. Spenlove; and, wishing
her good-night, he once more faced the storm. The fear by which he was
oppressed was that the offer of succour had come too late, and that
Mrs. Turner had been driven by despair to the execution of some
desperate design to put an end to her misery. Instinctively, and with
a sinking heart, he took the direction of the sea, hurrying eagerly
after every person he saw ahead of him, in the hope that it might be
the woman of whom he was in search. The snow was many inches thick on
the roads, and was falling fast; the wind tore through the now almost
deserted streets, moaning, sobbing, shrieking, with an appalling human
suggestion in its tones created by Dr. Spenlove's fears. Now and then
he met a policeman, and stopped to exchange a few words with him, the
intention of which was to ascertain if the man had seen any person
answering to the description of Mrs. Turner. He did not mention her by
name, for he had an idea--supposing his search to be happily
successful--that Mr. Gordon would withdraw his offer if any publicity
were attracted to the woman he was ready to marry. The policemen could
not assist him; they had seen no woman with a baby in her arms
tramping the streets on this wild night.

"Anything special, sir?" they asked.

"No," he replied, "nothing special;" and so went on his way.



                              CHAPTER V.

                       DEATH BETTER THAN LIFE.


When Dr. Spenlove left Mrs. Turner she sat for some time in a state of
dull lethargy. No tear came into her eyes, no sigh escaped from her
bosom. During the past few months she had exhausted the entire range
of remorseful and despairing emotion. The only comfort she had
received through all those dreary months sprang from the helpful
sympathy of Dr. Spenlove; apart from, that she had never been buoyed
up by a ray of light, had never been cheered by the hope of a brighter
day. Her one prevailing thought was that she would be better dead than
alive. She did not court death; she waited for it, and silently prayed
that it would come soon. It was not from the strength of inward moral
support that she had the courage to live on; it was simply that she
had schooled herself into the belief that before or when her child was
born death would release her from the horrors of life. Young as she
was she so fostered this hope that it became a conviction, and she
looked forward to the end with dull resignation. "If I live till my
baby is born," she thought, "I pray that it may die with me."

Here was the case of a woman without the moral support which springs
from faith in any kind of religion. In some few mortals such faith is
intuitive, but in most instances it requires guidance and wise
direction in childhood. Often it degenerates into bigotry and
intolerance, and assumes the hateful narrow form of condemning to
perdition all who do not subscribe to its own particular creed. Pagans
are as worthy of esteem as the bigots who arrogate to themselves the
monopoly of heavenly rewards.

Mrs. Turner was neither pagan nor bigot; she was a nullity. Her
religious convictions had not yet taken shape, and though, if she had
been asked "Are you a Christian?" she would have replied, "Oh yes, I
am a Christian," she would have been unable to demonstrate in what way
she was a Christian, or what she understood by the term. In this
respect many thousands of human beings resemble her.

Faith is strength, mightier than the sword, mightier than the pen,
mightier than all the world's store of gold and precious stones; and
when this strength is displayed in the sweetness of resignation, and
in submission to the Divine will which chastens human life with
sorrow, its influence upon the passions is sustaining, and purifying,
and sublime. If Mrs. Turner had been blessed with faith which
displayed itself in this direction, she would have been the happier
for it, and hard as were her trials, she would to the last have looked
forward with hope instead of despair.

The story related by Mr. Gordon to Dr. Spenlove was true in every
particular. There was no distortion or exaggeration; he had done for
Mrs. Turner and her father all that he said he had done. He had not
mentioned the word "love" in connection with the woman he had asked to
be his wife. She, on her part, had no such love for him as that which
should bind a man and a woman in a life-long tie; she held him in
respect and esteem--that was all. But she had accepted him, and had
contemplated the future with satisfaction until, until----

Until a man crossed her path who wooed her in different fashion, and
who lavished upon her flatteries and endearments which made her false
to the promise she had given. For this man she had deserted the home
which Mr. Gordon had provided for her, and had deserted it in such a
fashion that she could never return to it, could never again be
received in it, and this without a word of explanation to the man she
had deceived. She was in her turn deceived, and she awoke from her
dream to find herself a lost and abandoned woman. In horror she fled
from him, and cast her lot among strangers, knowing full well that she
would meet with unbearable contumely among those to whom she was
known. Hot words had passed between her and her betrayer, and in her
anger she had written letters to him which in the eyes of the law
would have released him from any obligation it might otherwise have
imposed upon him. He was well pleased with this, and he smiled as he
put those letters in a place of safety--to be brought forward only in
case she annoyed him. She did nothing of the kind; her scorn for him
was so profound that she was content to release him unconditionally.
So she passed out of his life as he passed out of hers. Neither of
these beings, the betrayed or the betrayer, reckoned with the future;
neither of them gave a thought to the probability that the skeins of
Fate, which to-day separated them as surely as if they had lived at
opposite poles of the earth, might at some future time bring them
together again, and that the pages of the book which they believed was
closed for ever might be reopened for weal or woe.

The child's moans aroused the mother from her lethargy. She had no
milk to give the babe; nature's founts were dry, and she went from
door to door in the house in which she lived to beg for food. She
returned as she went, empty-handed, and the child continued to moan.

Dr. Spenlove, her only friend, had bidden her farewell. She had not a
penny in her pocket; there was not a crust of bread in the cupboard,
not an ounce of coal, not a stick of wood to kindle a fire. She was
thinly clad, and she did not possess a single article upon which she
could have obtained the smallest advance. She had taken the room
furnished, but even if what it contained had been her property a
broker would have given but a few shillings for everything in it.

The little hand instinctively wandered to the mother's wasted breast,
and plucked at it imploringly, ravenously. The woman looked around in
the last throes of an anguish too deep for expression, except in the
appalling words to which she gave despairing utterance.

"Come," she cried, "we will end it!"

Out into the cold streets she crept, unobserved. She shivered, and a
pitiful smile crossed her lips.

"Hush, hush!" she murmured to her babe. "It will soon be over. Better
dead--better dead--for you and for me!"

She crept towards the sea, and hugged the wall when she heard
approaching footsteps. She need not have feared; the night was too
inclement for any but selfish consideration. The soft snow fell, and
enwrapped her and her child in its pitiless shroud. She paused by a
lamp-post, and cast an upward look at the heavens, in which she could
see the glimmering of the stars. Then she went on, and fretfully
pressed her babe close to her breast, to stifle the feeble sobs.

"Be still, be still!" she murmured. "There is no hope in life for
either of us. Better dead--better dead!"



                             CHAPTER VI.

                         THE FRIEND IN NEED.


Desperately resolved as she was to carry her fatal design into
execution she had not reckoned with nature. Weakened by the life of
privation she had led for so many months, and also by the birth of her
child, her physical forces had reached the limit of human endurance.
She faltered and staggered, the ground slipped from beneath her weary
feet. Vain was the struggle, her vital power was spent. From her
overcharged heart a voiceless and terrible prayer went up to heaven.
"Give me strength, O God, give me but a little strength! I have not
far to go!" She fought the air with her disengaged hand, and tossed
her head this way and that; but her ruthless prayer was not answered,
and though she struggled fiercely she managed to crawl only a few more
steps. She had yet hundreds of yards to go to reach the sea when some
chord within her seemed to snap; her farther progress was instantly
arrested, and she found herself incapable of moving backward or
forward. Swaying to and fro, the earth, the sky the whirling snow, and
the dim light of the stars swam in her sight and faded from before
her. In that supreme moment she saw a spiritual vision of her
dishonoured life. Deprived early of a mother's counsel and
companionship, she had passed her days with a spendthrift father,
whose love for her was so tainted with selfishness that it was not
only valueless, but mischievous. When she grew to woman's estate she
was worse than alone; she had no guide, no teacher, to point out the
rocks and shoals of maidenhood, to inculcate in her the principles of
virtue which would act as a safeguard against the specious wiles of
men whose eyes were charmed by her beauty, and whose only aim was to
lure her to ruin. Then her father died, and a friend came forward who
offered her a home and an honourable position in the world. Friendless
and penniless, she accepted him, and gave him her promise, and
accepted his money. Love had not touched her heart; she thought it had
when a wilier man wooed her in another and more alluring fashion, and
by this man she had been beguiled and betrayed. Then she knew what she
had lost, but it was too late; her good name was gone, and she fled to
a strange part of the country and lived among strangers, a
heartbroken, despairing woman. All the salient features in her career
flashed before her. She saw the man who had trusted her, she saw the
man in whom she put her trust, she saw herself, an abandoned creature,
with a child of shame in her arms. These ghostly figures stood clearly
limned in that one last moment of swiftly fading light, as in the
moment of sunrise on a frosty morning every distant object stands
sharply outlined against the sky; then darkness fell upon her, and
with an inarticulate, despairing cry, she sank to the ground in a
deathlike swoon. The wind sobbed and shrieked and wailed around her
and her child; the falling snow, with treacherous tenderness, fell
softly upon them; herself insensible, she had no power to shake it
off; her babe was conscious, but its feeble movements were of small
avail against the white pall which was descending upon it and its
outcast mother. Thicker and thicker it grew, and in the wild outcry of
this bitter night Fate seemed to have pronounced its inexorable
sentence of death against these unfortunate beings.

Ignorant of the fact that chance or a spiritual messenger was guiding
him aright, Dr. Spenlove plodded through the streets. He had no clue,
and received none from the half-dozen persons or so he encountered as
he walked towards the sea. He was scarcely fit for the task he had
undertaken, but so intent was he upon his merciful mission that he
bestowed no thought upon himself. The nipping air aggravating the
cough from which he was suffering, he kept his mouth closed as a
protection, and peered anxiously before him for some signs of the
woman he was pursuing. A man walked briskly and cheerily towards him,
puffing at a large and fragrant cigar, and stamping his feet sturdily
into the snow. This man wore a demonstratively furred overcoat; his
hands were gloved in fur; his boots were thick and substantial; and in
the independent assertion that he was at peace with the world, and on
exceedingly good terms with himself, he hummed the words, in Italian,
of the Jewel Song in "Faust" every time he removed the cigar from his
lips. Although it was but a humming reminiscence of the famous and
beautiful number, his faint rendering of it was absolutely faultless,
and proved him to be a man of refined musicianly taste, quite out of
keeping with his demonstratively furred overcoat. Music, however, was
not his profession; the instincts of his race and a youthful ambition
had welded the divine art into his soul, and the instincts of his race
had made him--a pawnbroker. Singular conjunction of qualities--the
music of the celestial spheres and fourpence in the pound a month! A
vulgar occupation, that of a pawnbroker, which high-toned gentlemen
and mortals of aristocratic birth regard with scorn and contempt. But
the last vulgar and debasing music-hall ditty which was carolled with
delight by the majority of these gilded beings of a higher social
grade never found lodgment in the soul of Mr. Moss, which, despite
that he devoted his business hours to the lending of insignificant
sums of money upon any small articles which were submitted to his
judgment across the dark counter of his pawnbroking establishment, was
attuned to a far loftier height than theirs in the divine realms of
song. Puff, puff, puff at his cigar, the curling wreaths from which
were whirled into threads of fantastic confusion by the gusts of wind,
or hung in faint grey curls of beauty during a lull. The starry gleam
was transferred from the lips to the fur-covered hand:--


         "E' strano poter il viso suo veder;
          Ah! mi posso guardar mi pospo rimirar.
          Di, sei tu? Margherita!
          Di, sei tu? Dimmi su;
          Dimmi su, di su, di su, di su presto!"


From hand to lips the starry gleam, and the soul of Mr. Moss followed
the air as he puffed his weed....


         "E la figlia d'un re!...
          Proseguiam l'adornamento.
          Vo provare ancor se mi stan
          Lo smaniglia ed il monil!"


The pawnbroker broke into ecstasy. From lips to hand again the starry
light, and his voice grew rapturous:--


         "Ciel! E come una man
          Che sul baaccio mi posa!
          Ah! Io rido in poter
          Me stessa qui veder!"


The last trill brought him close to Dr. Spenlove.

"Friend, friend!" cried the doctor. "A word with you, for charity's
sake!"

Mr. Moss did not disregard the appeal. Slipping off his right glove,
and thereby displaying two fingers decorated with massive rings
studded with diamonds, he fished a couple of coppers from a capacious
pocket, and thrust them into Dr. Spenlove's outstretched palm. He
thought it was a homeless beggar who had besought charity. Dr.
Spenlove caught his hand, and said,--

"No, no, it is not for that. Will you kindly tell me----

"Why," interrupted Mr. Moss, "it is Dr. Spenlove!"

"Mr. Moss," said Dr. Spenlove, with a sigh of relief, "I am glad it
is you, I am glad it is you."

"Not gladder than I am," responded Mr. Moss, jovially. "Even in
weather like this I shouldn't care to be anybody else but myself."

This feeble attempt at humour was lost upon Dr. Spenlove.

"You have come from the direction I am taking, and you may have seen a
person I am looking for--a woman with a baby in her arms, a poor
woman, Mr. Moss, whom I am most anxious to find."

"I've come from the Hard, but I took no account of the people I
passed. A man has enough to do to look after himself, with the snow
making icicles in his hair, and the wind trying to bite his nose off
his face. The first law of nature, you know, doctor, is----"

"Humanity," interrupted Dr. Spenlove.

"No, no, doctor," corrected Mr. Moss; "number one's the first
law--number one, number one."

"You did not meet the woman, then?"

"Not to notice her. You've a bad cough, doctor; you'll have to take
some of your own medicine." He laughed. "Standing here is enough to
freeze one."

"I am sorry I troubled you," said Dr. Spenlove, hurt by the tone in
which Mr. Moss spoke. "Good-night."

He was moving away, when Mr. Moss detained him.

"But look here, doctor, you're not fit to be tramping the streets in
this storm; you ought to be snuggled up between the blankets. Come
home with me, and Mrs. Moss shall make you a hot grog."

Dr. Spenlove shook his head, and passed on. Mr. Moss gazed at the
retreating figure, his thoughts commingling.

"A charitable man, the good doctor, a large-hearted gentleman....


         'Tardi si fa ahdio!
          Ah! ti scongiuro invan.'


And poor as a church mouse. What woman is he running after? Mrs. Moss
would give her a piece of her mind for taking out a baby on such a
night.


         'Notte d'amor, tutta splendor,
          Begli astra d'oro.
          O celeste voluttà!
          Udir si, t'amo, t'adoro!'


Too bad to let him go alone, such a good fellow as he is; but Mrs.
Moss will be waiting up for me.... She won't mind when I tell
her.... I've a good mind to--yes, I will."

And after the doctor went Mr. Moss, and caught up to him.

"Doctor, can I be of any assistance to you?"

"I shall be glad of your help," said Dr. Spenlove, eagerly. "I'm
rather worn out; I have had a hard day."

"It's a trying life, the' life of a doctor," said Mr. Moss,
sympathetically, as they walked slowly on, side by side. "We were
talking of it at home only a month ago, when we were discussing what
we should put Michael to, our eldest boy, doctor."

"You have a large family," observed Dr. Spenlove.

"Not too large," said Mr. Moss, cheerfully. "Only eleven. My mother
had twenty-five, and I've a sister with eighteen. Our youngest--what a
rogue he is, doctor!--is eight months; our eldest, Michael, is
seventeen next birthday. School days over, he buckles to for work. We
had a family council to decide what he should be. We discussed all the
professions, and reduced them to two--doctor, stockbroker. Michael had
a leaning to be a doctor--that's why we kept it in for discussion--but
we succeeded in arguing him out of it. Your time's not your own, you
see. Called up at all hours of the night, and in all weathers; go
to a dinner-party, and dragged away before it's half over, obliged to
leave the best behind you; can't enjoy a game of cards or billiards.
You've got a little bet on, perhaps; or you're playing for points and
have got a winning hand, when it's 'Doctor, you must come at once;
so-and-so's dying.' What's the consequence? You make a miscue, or you
revoke, and you lose your money. If you're married, you're worse off
than if you're single; you haven't any comfort of your life. 'No, no,
Michael,' says I, 'no doctoring. Stockbroking--that's what you'll go
for.' And that's what he _is_ going for. Most of our people, doctor,
are lucky in their children. They don't forget to honour their father
and their mother, that their days may be long in the land, and so on.
There's big fish on the Stock Exchange, and they're worth trying for.
What's the use of sprats? It takes a hundred to fill a dish. Catch one
salmon, and your dish is filled. A grand fish, doctor, a grand fish!
What to do with your sons? Why, put them where they can make money;
don't make scavengers or coal-heavers of them. _We_ know what we're
about. There's no brain in the world to compare with ours, and that's
no boast, let me tell you. Take your strikes, now. A strike of
bricklayers for a rise of twopence a day in their wages. How many of
our race among the strikers? Not one. Did you ever see a Jewish
bricklayer carrying a hod up a hundred-foot ladder, and risking his
neck for bread, cheese, and beer? No, and you never will. We did our
share of that kind of work in old Egypt; we made all the bricks we
wanted to, and now we're taking a rest. A strike of bootmakers. How
many of our race among the cobblers? One in a thousand, and he's an
addlepate. We deal in boots wholesale; but we don't make them
ourselves. Not likely. We send consignments of them to the colonies,
and open a dozen shops in every large city, with fine plate-glass
windows. We build houses with _our_ money and _your_ bricks and
mortar. When we're after birds we don't care for sparrows: we aim at
eagles, and we bring them down; we bring them down." He beat his
gloved hands together, and chuckled. "What's your opinion, doctor?"

"You are right, quite right," said Dr. Spenlove, upon whose ears his
companion's words had fallen like the buzzing of insects.

"Should say I was," said Mr. Moss. "I ought to have gone on the Stock
Exchange myself; but when I was a young man I fancied I had a voice;
so I went in for music, studied Italian and all the famous operas till
I knew them by heart almost, and found out in the end that my voice
wasn't good enough. It was a great disappointment, because I had
dreamt of making a fortune as a tenor. Signor Mossini--that was to be
my name. My money being all spent, I had to take what was offered to
me, a situation with a pawnbroker. That is how I became one, and I've
no reason to regret it. Eh? Why are you running away?"

For Dr. Spenlove suddenly left his companion, and hurried forward.

During the time that Mr. Moss was unbosoming himself they had not met
a soul, and Dr. Spenlove had seen nothing to sustain his hope of
finding Mrs. Turner. But now his observant eyes detected a movement in
the snow-laden road which thrilled him with apprehension, and caused
him to hasten to the spot. It was as if some living creature were
striving feebly to release itself from the fatal white shroud. Mr.
Moss hurried after him, and they reached the spot at the same moment.
In a fever of anxiety Dr. Spenlove knelt and pushed the snow aside,
and then there came into view a baby's hand and arm.

"Good God!" he murmured, and gently lifted the babe from the cold bed.

"Is it alive? is it alive?" cried Mr. Moss, all his nerves tingling
with excitement. "Give it to me--quick! there's some one else there."

He saw portions of female clothing in the snow which Dr. Spenlove was
pushing frantically away. He snatched up the babe, and, opening his
fur coat, clasped the little one to his breast, and enveloped it in
its warm folds. Meanwhile Dr. Spenlove was working at fever-heat. To
release Mrs. Turner from her perilous position, to raise her to her
feet, to put his mouth to her mouth, his ear to her heart, to assure
himself there was a faint pulsation in her body--all this was the work
of a few moments.

"Does she breathe, doctor?" asked Mr. Moss.

"She does," replied Dr. Spenlove; and added, in deep distress, "but
she may die in my arms."

"Not if we can save her. Here, help me off with this thick coat. Easy,
easy; I have only one arm free. Now let us get her into it. That's
capitally done. Put the baby inside as well; it will hold them both
comfortably. Button it over them. There, that will keep them nice and
warm. Do you know her? Does she live far from here? Is she the woman
you are looking for?"

"Yes, and her lodging is a mile away. How can we get her home?"

"We'll manage it. Ah, we're in luck. Here's a cab coming towards us.
Hold on to them while I speak to the driver."

He was off and back again with the cab--with the driver of which he
had made a rapid bargain--in a wonderfully short space of time. The
mother and her babe were lifted tenderly in, the address was given to
the driver, the two kind-hearted men took their seats, the windows
were pulled up, and the cab crawled slowly on towards Mrs. Turner's
lodging. Dr. Spenlove's skilful hands were busy over the woman,
restoring animation to her frozen limbs, and Mr. Moss was doing the
same to the child.

"How are you getting along, doctor? I am progressing famously,
famously. The child is warming up, and is beginning to breathe quite
nicely."

He was handling the babe as tenderly as if it were a child of his own.

"She will recover, I trust," said Dr. Spenlove; "but we were only just
in time. It is fortunate that I met you, Mr. Moss; you have been the
means of saving two helpless, unfortunate beings."

"Nonsense, nonsense," answered Mr. Moss. "I have only done what any
man would do. It is you who have saved them, doctor, not I. I am proud
to know you, and I shall be glad to hear of your getting along in the
world. You haven't done very well up to now, I fear. Go for the big
fish and the big birds, doctor."

"If that were the universal law of life," asked Dr. Spenlove, in a
tone of exquisite compassion, with a motion of his hands towards Mrs.
Turner and her child, "what would become of these?"

"Ah, yes, yes," responded Mr. Moss, gravely; "but I mean in a general
way, you know. To be sure, there are millions more little fish and
birds than there are big ones, but it's a selfish world, doctor."

"You are not an exemplification of it," said Dr. Spenlove, his eyes
brightening. "The milk of human kindness will never be frozen, even on
such bitter nights as this, while men like you are in it."

"You make me ashamed of myself," cried Mr. Moss, violently, but
instantly sobered down. "And now, as I see we are close to the poor
woman's house, perhaps you will tell me what more I can do."

Dr. Spenlove took from his pocket the money with which he had intended
to pay his fare to London, and held it out to Mr. Moss. "Pay the
cabman for me, and assist me to carry the woman up to her room."

Mr. Moss thrust the money back. "I will pay him myself; it is my cab,
not yours. I don't allow any one to get the better of me if I can help
it."

When the cab stopped he jumped out and settled with the driver, and
then he and Dr. Spenlove carried Mrs. Turner and her babe to the top
of the house. The room was dark and cold, and Mr. Moss shivered. He
struck a match, and held it while Dr. Spenlove laid the mother and
child upon their wretched bed.

"Kindly stop here a moment," said the doctor.

He went into the passage, and called to the lodger on the same floor
of whom he had made inquiries earlier in the night. She soon appeared,
and after they had exchanged a few words, accompanied him, but
partially dressed, to Mrs. Turner's room. She brought a lighted candle
with her, and upon Mr. Moss taking it from her, devoted herself, with
Dr. Spenlove, to her fellow-lodger and the babe.

"Dear, dear, dear!" she said, piteously. "Poor soul, poor soul!"

Mr. Moss was not idle. All the finer qualities of his nature were
stirred to action by the adventures of the night. He knelt before the
grate; it was empty; not a cinder had been left; some grey ashes on
the hearth--that was all. He looked into the broken coal scuttle; it
had been scraped bare. Rising to his feet he stepped to the cupboard;
a cracked cup and saucer were there, a chipped plate or two, a
mouthless jug, but not a vestige of food. Without a word he left the
room, and sped downstairs.

He was absent fifteen or twenty minutes, and when he returned it was
in the company of a man who carried a hundredweight of coals upon his
shoulders. Mr. Moss himself was loaded: under his armpits two bundles
of wood and a loaf of bread; in one hand tea and butter; in his other
hand a can of milk.

"God bless you, sir!" said the woman, who was assisting Dr. Spenlove.

Mr. Moss knelt again before the grate, and made a fire. Kettle in hand
he searched for water.

"You will find some in my room, sir," said the woman.

Mrs. Turner and her babe were now in bed, the child still craving for
food, the mother still unconscious, but breathing heavily. The fire
lit, and the kettle on, Mr. Moss put on his fur overcoat, whispered a
good-night to Dr. Spenlove, received a grateful pressure of the hand
in reply, slipped out of the house, and took his way home, humming--


         "O del ciel angeli immortal,
          Deh mi guidate con voi lassù!
          Dio giusto, a te m'abbandono,
          Buon Dio, m'accorda il tuo perdono!"


He looked at his hands, which were black from contact with the coals.

"What will Mrs. Moss say?" he murmured.



                             CHAPTER VII.

                        DR. SPENLOVE ADVISES.


An hour after Mr. Moss's departure Mrs. Turner opened her eyes. It was
a moment for which Dr. Spenlove had anxiously waited. He had satisfied
himself that both of his patients were in a fair way of recovery, and
thus far his heart was relieved. The woman who had assisted him had
also taken her departure after having given the babe some warm milk.
Her hunger appeased, the little one was sleeping calmly and peacefully
by her mother's side.

The room was now warm and cheerful. A bright fire was blazing, the
kettle was simmering, and a pot of hot tea was standing on the hearth.

Mrs. Turner gazed around in bewilderment. The one candle in the room
but dimly lighted it up, and the flickering flames of the fire threw
fantastic shadows on walls and ceiling; but so bright was the blaze
that there was nothing distressful in these shadowy phantasmagoria. At
a little distance from the bed stood Dr. Spenlove, his pale face
turned to the waking woman. She looked at him long and steadily, and
did not answer him when he smiled encouragingly at her and spoke a few
gentle words. She passed her hand over the form of her sleeping child,
and then across her forehead, in the effort to recall what had passed.
But her mind was confused; bewildering images of the stages of her
desperate resolve presented themselves--blinding snow, shrieking wind,
the sea which she had not reached, the phantoms she had conjured up
when her senses were deserting her in the white streets.

"Am I alive?" she muttered.

"Happily, dear Mrs. Turner," said Dr. Spenlove. "You are in your own
room, and you will soon be well."

"Who brought me here?"

"I, and a good friend I was fortunate enough to meet when I was
seeking you."

"Why did you seek me?"

"To save you."

"To save me! You knew, then----"

She paused.

"I knew nothing except that you were in trouble."

"Where did you find me?"

"In the snow, you and your child. A few minutes longer, and it would
have been too late. But an angel directed my steps."

"No angel directed you: a devil led you on. Why did you not leave me
to die? It was what I went out for. I confess it!" she cried,
recklessly. "It was my purpose not to live; it was my purpose not to
allow my child to live! I was justified. Is not a quick death better
than a slow, lingering torture which must end in death? Why did you
save me? Why did you not leave me to die?"

"It would have been a crime."

"It would have been a mercy. You have brought me back to misery. I do
not thank you, doctor."

"You may live to thank me. Drink this tea; it will do you good."

She shook her head rebelliously.

"What is the use? You have done me an ill turn. Had it not been for
you I should have been at peace. There would have been no more hunger,
no more privation. There would have been an end to my shame and
degradation."

"You would have taken it with you to the Judgment Seat," said Dr.
Spenlove, with solemn tenderness. "There would have been worse than
hunger and privation. What answer could you have made to the Eternal
when you presented yourself before the Throne with the crime of murder
on your soul?"

"Murder!" she gasped.

"Murder," he gently repeated. "If you went out to-night with an
intention so appalling, it was not only your own life you would have
taken, it was the life of the innocent babe now slumbering by your
side. Can you have forgotten that?"

"No," she answered, in a tone of faint defiance, "I have not forgotten
it, I do not forget it. God would have forgiven me."

"He would not have forgiven you."

"He would. What has she to live for? What have I to live for--a lost
and abandoned woman, a mother whose association would bring
degradation upon her child? How should I meet her reproaches when
she grew to be a woman herself? I am not ungrateful for what you
have done for me"--she glanced at the fire and the tea he held in his
hand--"but it cannot continue. To-morrow will come. There is always a
to-morrow to strike terror to the hearts of such as I. Do you know
what I have suffered? Do you see the future that lies before us? What
hope is there in this world for me and my child?"

"There is hope. You brought her into the world."

"God help me, I did!" she moaned.

"By what right, having given her life, would you rob her of the
happiness which may be in store for her?"

"Happiness!" she exclaimed, bitterly. "You speak to me of happiness!"

"I do, in truth and sincerity, if you are willing to make a sacrifice,
if you are willing to perform a duty."

"What would I not be willing to do," she cried, despairingly; "what
would I not cheerfully do, to make her life innocent and happy--not
like mine--oh, not like mine! But you are mocking me with empty
words."

"Indeed I am not," said Dr. Spenlove, earnestly. "Since I left you
some hours ago, not expecting to see you again, something has occurred
of which I came to speak to you. I found your room deserted, and
feared--what we will not mention again. I searched, and discovered you
in time to save you; and with all my heart I thank God for it! Now,
drink this tea. I have much to say to you, and you need strength to
consider it. If you can eat a little bread and butter--ah, you can!
Let me fill your cup again. That is right. Now I recognise the lady it
was my pleasure to be able to assist, not to the extent I would have
wished, because of my own circumstances."

His reference to her as a lady, no less than the respectful
consideration of his manner towards her, brought a flush to her cheeks
as she ate. And, indeed, she ate ravenously. Defiant and rebellious as
may be our moods, nature's demands are imperative, and no mortal is
strong enough to resist them.

When she had finished he sat by her side, and was silent awhile,
debating with himself how he should approach the task which Mr. Gordon
had imposed upon him.

She saved him the trouble of commencing. "Are you acquainted with the
story of my life?" she asked.

"It has been imparted to me," he replied, "by one to whom I was a
stranger till within the last few hours."

"Do I know him?"

"You know him well."

For a moment she thought of the man who had brought her to this gulf
of shame, but she dismissed the thought. It was impossible. He was too
heartless and base to send a messenger to her on an errand of
friendship, and Dr. Spenlove would have undertaken no errand of an
opposite nature.

"Will you tell me his name?"

"Mr. Gordon."

She trembled, and her face grew white. She had wronged this man; the
law might say that she had robbed him. Oh! why had her fatal design
been frustrated? why was not this torturing existence ended?

"You need be under no apprehension," continued Dr. Spenlove; "he comes
as a friend."

She tossed her head in scorn of herself as one unworthy of friendship.

"He has but lately arrived in England from the Colonies, and he came
with the hope of taking you back with him as his wife. It is from him
I learned the sad particulars of your life. Believe me when I say that
he is desirous to befriend you."

"In what way? Does he offer me money? I have cost him enough already.
My father tricked him, and I have shamefully deceived him. To receive
more from him would fill me with shame; but for the sake of my child I
will submit to any sacrifice, to any humiliation--I will do anything,
anything! It would well become me to show pride when charity is
offered to me!"

"Do not forget those words--'for the sake of your child you will
submit to any sacrifice.' It is your duty, for her sake, to accept any
honourable proposition, and Mr. Gordon offers nothing that is not
honourable." (He sighed as he said this, for he thought of the
sacredness of a mother's love for her first-born.) "He will not give
you money apart from himself. United to him, all he has is yours. He
wishes to marry you."

She stared at him in amazement.

"Are you mad!" she cried, "or do you think that I am?"

"I am speaking the sober truth. Mr. Gordon has followed you here
because he wishes to marry you."

"Knowing me for what I am!" she said, still incredulous. "Knowing that
I am in the lowest depths of degradation; knowing this"--she touched
her child with a gentle hand--"he wishes to marry me!"

"He knows all. There is not an incident in your career with which he
does not seem to be acquainted, and in the errand with which he has
charged me he is sincerely in earnest."

"Dr. Spenlove," she said, slowly, "what is your opinion of a man who
comes forward to pluck from shame and poverty a woman who has behaved
as I have to Mr. Gordon?"

"His actions speak for him," replied Dr. Spenlove.

"He must have a noble nature," she said. "I never regarded him in that
light. I took him to be a hard, conscientious, fair-dealing man, who
thought I would make him a good wife, but I never believed that he
loved me. I did him the injustice of supposing him incapable of love.
Ah, how I misjudged this man! I am not worthy of him, I am not worthy
of him!"

"Set your mind not upon the past, but upon the future. Think of
yourself and of your child in the years to come, and remember the fear
and horror by which you have been oppressed in your contemplation of
them. I have something further to disclose to you. Mr. Gordon imposes
a condition from which he will not swerve, and to which I beg you to
listen with calmness. When you have heard all, do not answer hastily.
Reflect upon the consequences which hang on your decision, and bear in
mind that you have to make that decision before I leave you. I am to
bear your answer to him to-night; he is waiting in my rooms to receive
it."

Then, softening down all that was harsh in the proposal and magnifying
all its better points, Dr. Spenlove related to her what had passed
between Mr. Gordon and himself. She listened in silence, and he could
not judge from her demeanour whether he was to succeed or to fail.
Frequently she turned her face from his tenderly-searching gaze, as
though more effectually to conceal her thoughts from him. When he
finished speaking she showed that she had taken to heart his counsel
not to decide hastily, for she did not speak for several minutes. Then
she said plaintively,--

"There is no appeal, doctor?"

"None," he answered, in a decisive tone.

"He sought you out and made you his messenger, because of his
impression that you had influence with me, and would advise me for my
good?"

"As I have told you, in his own words, as nearly as I have been able
to recall them."

"He was right. There is no man in the world I honour more than I
honour you. I would accept what you say against my own convictions,
against my own feelings. Advise me, doctor. My mind is distracted; I
cannot be guided by it. You know what I am, you know what I have been,
you foresee the future that lies before me. Advise me."

The moment he had dreaded had arrived. The issue was with him. He felt
that this woman's fate was in his hands.

"My advice is," he said, in a low tone, "that you accept Mr. Gordon's
offer."

"And cast aside a mother's duty?"

"What did you cast aside," he asked, sadly, "when you went with your
child on such a night as this towards the sea?"

She shuddered. She would not look at her child; with stern resolution
she kept her eyes from wandering to the spot upon which the infant
lay; she even moved away from the little body so that she should not
come in contact with it.

A long silence ensued, which Dr. Spenlove dared not break.

"I cannot blame him," she then said, her voice, now and again, broken
by a sob, "for making conditions. It is his respectability that is at
stake, and he is noble and generous for taking such a risk upon
himself. There is a law for the man and a law for the woman. Oh, I
know what I am saying, doctor; the lesson has been driven into my
soul, and I have learnt it with tears of blood. One of these laws is
white, the other black, and justice says it is right. It is our
misfortune that we bear the children, and that their little fingers
clutch our heart-strings. It would be mockery for me to say that I
love my child with a love equal to that I should have felt if she had
come into the world without the mark of shame with which I have
branded her. With my love for her is mingled a loathing of myself, a
terror of the living evidence of my fall. But I love her, doctor, I
love her--and never yet so much as now when I am asked to part with
her! What I did a while ago was done in a frenzy of despair. I had no
food, you see, and she was crying for it; and the horror and the
anguish of that hour may overpower me again if I am left as I am. I
will accept Mr. Gordon's offer, and I will be as good a wife to him as
it is in my power to be; but I, also, have a condition to make. Mr.
Gordon is much older than I, and it may be that I shall outlive him.
The condition I make is--and whatever the consequences I am determined
to abide by it--that in the event of my husband's death, and of there
being no children of our union, I shall be free to seek the child I am
called upon to desert. In everything else I will perform my part of
the contract faithfully. Take my decision to Mr. Gordon, and if it is
possible for you to return here to-night with his answer, I implore
you to do so. I cannot close my eyes, I cannot rest, until I hear the
worst. God alone knows on which side lies the right, on which the
wrong!"

"I will return with his answer," said Dr. Spenlove, "to-night."

"There is still something more," she said, in an imploring tone, "and
it must be a secret sacredly kept between you and me. It may happen
that you will become acquainted with the name of the guardian of my
child. I have a small memorial which I desire he shall retain until
she is of age, say until she is twenty-one, or until, in the event of
my husband's death, I am free to seek her in years to come. If you do
not discover who the guardian is, I ask you to keep this memorial for
me until I reclaim it; which may be, never! Will you do this for me?"

"I will."

"Thank you for all your goodness to me. But I have nothing to put the
memorial in. Could you add to your many kindnesses by giving me a
small box which I can lock and secure? Dear Dr. Spenlove, it is a
mother who will presently be torn from her child who implores you!"

He bethought him of a small iron box he had at home, which contained
some private papers of his own. He could spare this box without
inconvenience to himself, and he promised to bring it to her; and so,
with sincere words of consolation, he left her.

In the course of an hour he returned. Mr. Gordon had consented to the
condition she imposed.

"Should I be thankful or not?" she asked, wistfully.

"You should be thankful," he replied. "Your child, rest assured, will
have a comfortable and happy home. Here is the box and the key. It is
a patent lock; no other key can open it. I will show you how to use
it. Yes, that is the way." He paused a moment, his hand in his pocket.
"You will be ready to meet Mr. Gordon at two to-morrow?"

"And my child?" she asked, with tears in her voice. "When will she be
taken from me?"

"At twelve." His hand was still fumbling in his pocket, and he
suddenly shook his head, as if indignant with himself. "You may want
to purchase one or two little things in the morning. Here are a few
shillings. Pray accept them."

He laid on the table the money with which he had intended to pay his
fare to London.

"Heaven reward you," said the grateful woman, "and make your life
bright and prosperous."

Her tears bedewed his hand as she kissed it humbly, and Dr. Spenlove
walked wearily home, once more penniless, but not entirely unhappy.



                            CHAPTER VIII.

                    WHAT WAS PUT IN THE IRON BOX.


The mother's vigil with her child on this last night was fraught with
conflicting emotions of agony and rebellion. Upon Dr. Spenlove's
departure she rose and dressed herself completely, all her thoughts
and feelings being so engrossed by the impending separation that she
took no heed of her damp clothes. She entertained no doubt that the
renunciation was imperative and in the interest of her babe; nor did
she doubt that the man who had dictated it was acting in simple
justice to himself and in a spirit of mercy towards her; but she was
in no mood to regard with gratitude one who in the most dread crisis
in her life had saved her from destruction. The cause of this
injustice lay in the fact that until this moment the true maternal
instinct had not been awakened within her breast. As she had
faithfully expressed it to Dr. Spenlove, the birth of her babe had
filled her with terror and with a loathing of herself. Had there been
no consequences of her error apparent to the world she would have
struggled on and might have been able to preserve her good name; her
dishonour would not have been made clear to censorious eyes; but the
living evidence of her shame was by her side, and, left to her own
resources, she had conceived the idea that death was her only refuge.
Her acceptance of the better course that had been opened for her
loosened the floodgates of tenderness for the child who was soon to be
torn from her arms. Love and remorse shone in her eyes as she knelt by
the bedside and fondled the little hands and kissed the innocent lips.

"Will you not wake, darling," she murmured, "and let me see your dear
eyes? Wake, darling, wake! Do you not know what is going to happen?
They are going to take you from me. Perhaps we shall never meet again;
and if we do, you have not even a name by which I can call you. But
perhaps that will not matter. Surely you will know your mother, surely
I shall know my child, and we shall fly to each other's arms. I want
to tell you all this--I want you to hear it. Wake, sweet, wake!"

The child slept on. Presently she murmured, "It is hard, it is hard!
How can God permit such cruelty?"

Half an hour passed in this way, and then she became more composed.
Her mind, which had been unbalanced by her misfortunes, recovered its
equilibrium, and she could reason with comparative calmness upon the
future. In sorrow and pain she mentally mapped out the years to come.
She saw her future, as she believed, a joyless life, a life of cold
duty. She would not entertain the possibility of a brighter side, the
possibility of her becoming reconciled to her fate, of her growing to
love her husband, of her having other children who would be as dear to
her as this one was. In the state of her feelings it seemed to her
monstrous to entertain such ideas, a wrong perpetrated upon the babe
she was deserting. In dogged rebellion she hugged misery to her
breast, and dwelt upon it as part of the punishment she had brought
upon herself. There was no hope of happiness for her in the future,
there was no ray of light to illumine her path. For ever would she be
thinking of the child for whom now, for the first time since its
birth, she felt a mother's love, and who was henceforth to find a home
among strangers.

In this hopeless fashion did she muse for some time, and then a star
appeared in her dark sky. She might, as she had suggested to Dr.
Spenlove, survive her husband; it was more than possible, it was
probable, and, though there was in the contemplation a touch of
treason towards the man who had come to her rescue, she derived
satisfaction from it. In the event of his death she must adopt some
steps to prove that the child was hers, and that she, and she alone,
had the sole right to her. No stranger should keep her darling from
her, should rob her of her reward for the sufferings she had
undergone. It was for this reason that she had asked Dr. Spenlove for
the iron box.

It was a compact, well-made box, and very heavy for its size. Any
person receiving it as a precious deposit, under the conditions she
imposed, might, when it was in his possession, reasonably believe that
it contained mementoes of price, valuable jewels, perhaps, which she
wished her child to wear when she grew to womanhood. She had no such
treasure. Unlocking the box she took from her pocket a packet of
letters, which she read with a bitterness which displayed itself
strongly in her face, which made her quiver with passionate
indignation.

"The villain!" she muttered. "If he stood before me now, I would
strike him dead at my feet."

There was no lingering accent of tenderness in her voice. The love she
had for him but yesterday was dead, and for the father of her child
she had now only feelings of hatred and scorn. Clearly she was a woman
of strong passions, a woman who could love and hate with ardour.

The letters were four in number, and had been written, at intervals of
two or three weeks, by the man who had betrayed and deserted her. The
language was such as would have deceived any girl who had given him
her heart. The false fervour, the protestations of undying love, the
passionate appeals to put full trust in his honour, were sufficient to
stamp the writer as a heartless villain, and, if he aped
respectability, to ruin him in the eyes of the world. Cunning he must
have been to a certain extent, but it was evident that, in thus
incriminating himself and supplying proofs of his perfidy, he had
forgotten his usual caution. Perhaps he had been for a short time
under a delusion that in his pursuit of the girl he was acting
honourably and sincerely, or perhaps (which is more likely), finding
that she held back, he was so eager to win her that he addressed her
in the only way by which he could compass his desire. The last of the
four letters contained a solemn promise of marriage if she would leave
her home, and place herself under his protection. It even went so far
as to state that he had the license ready, and that it was only her
presence that was needed to ratify their union. There was a reference
in this letter to the engagement between her and Mr. Gordon, and the
writer declared that it would bring misery upon her. "Release yourself
from this man," he continued, "at once and for ever. It would be a
living death. Rely upon my love. All my life shall be devoted to the
task of making you happy, and you shall never have occasion for one
moment's regret that you have consented to be guided by me." She read
these words with a smile of bitter contempt on her lips, and a burning
desire in her heart for revenge.

"If there is justice in heaven," she muttered, "a day will come!"

Then she brought forward a photograph of the betrayer, which, with the
letters, she deposited in the box. This done, she locked the box, and
tying the key to a bit of string, hung it round her neck, and allowed
it to fall, hidden, in her bosom.

Seating herself by the bedside, she gazed upon the babe from whom she
was soon to be torn. Her eyes were filled with tears, and her sad
thoughts, shaped in words, ran somewhat in this fashion:

"In a few hours she will be taken from me; in a few short hours we
shall be separated, and then, and then--ah, how can I know it and
live!--an ocean of waters will divide us. She will not miss me; she
does not know me. She will receive another woman's endearments; she
will never bestow a thought upon me, her wretched mother, and I--I
shall be for ever thinking of her! She is all my own now; presently I
shall have no claim upon her. Would it not be better to end it as I
had intended--to end it now, this moment!" She rose to her feet, and
stood with her lips tightly pressed and her hands convulsively
clenched; and then she cried in horror, "No, no! I dare not--I dare
not! It would be murder, and he said that God would not forgive me.
Oh, my darling, my darling, it is merciful that you are a baby, and do
not know what is passing in my mind! If you do not love me now, you
may in the future, when I shall be free, and then you shall feel how
different is a mother's love from the love of a strange woman. But how
shall I recognise you if you are a woman before we meet again--how
shall I prove to you, to the world, that you are truly mine? Your eyes
will be black, as mine are, and your hair, I hope, will be as dark,
but there are thousands like that. I am grateful that you resemble me,
and not your base father, whom I pray God to strike and punish. Oh,
that it were ever in my power to repay him for his treachery, to say
to him, 'As you dragged me down, so do I drag you down! As you ruined
my life, so do I ruin yours!' But I cannot hope for that. The woman
weeps, the man laughs. Never mind, child, never mind. If in future
years we are reunited, it will be happiness enough. Dark hair, black
eyes, small hands and feet. Oh, darling, darling!" She covered the
little hands and feet with kisses. "And yes, yes"--with feverish
eagerness she gazed at the child's neck--"these two tiny moles, like
those on my neck. I shall know you, I shall know you, I shall be able
to prove that you are my daughter!"

With a lighter heart she resumed her seat, and set to work mending the
infant's scanty clothing, which she fondled and kissed as though it
had sense and feeling. A church clock in the distance tolled five. She
had been listening for the hour, hoping it was earlier.

"Five o'clock!" she muttered. "I thought it was not later than three.
I am being robbed. Oh, if time would only stand still! Five o'clock!
In seven hours she will be taken from me. Seven hours--seven short
hours! I will not close my eyes."

But after awhile her lids drooped, and she was not conscious of it.
The abnormal fatigues of the day and night, the relaxing of the
overstrung nerves, the warmth of the room, produced their effect; her
head sank upon the bed, and she fell into a dreamful sleep.

It was merciful that her dreaming fancies were not drawn from the
past. The psychological cause of her slumbers being beguiled by bright
visions may be found in the circumstance that, despite the conflicting
passions by which she had been agitated, the worldly ease which was
secured to her and her child by Mr. Gordon's offer had removed a heavy
weight from her heart. In her visions she saw her baby grow into a
happy girlhood; she had glimpses of holiday times, when they were
together in the fields or by the seaside, or walking in the glow of
lovely sunsets, gathering flowers in the hush of the woods, or winding
their way through the golden corn. In these fair dreams her baby
passed from girlhood to womanhood, and happy smiles wreathed the lips
of the woe-worn woman as she lay in her poor garments on the humble
bed by the side of her child.

"Do you love me, darling?" asked the sleeping mother.

"Dearly, dearly," answered the dream-child. "With my whole heart,
mother."

"Call me mother again. It is like the music of the angels."

"Mother, mother!"

"You will love me always, darling?"

"Always, mother; for ever and ever and ever."

"Say that you will never love me less, that you will never forget me."

"I will never love you less; I will never forget you."

"Darling child, how beautiful you are! There is not in the world a
lovelier woman. It is for me to protect and guard you. I can do so: I
have had experience. Come, let us rest."

They sat upon a mossy bank, and the mother folded her arms around her
child, who lay slumbering on her breast.

There had been a few blissful days in this woman's life, during which
she had believed in man's faithfulness and God's goodness, but the
dreaming hours she was now enjoying were fraught with a heavenly
gladness. Nature and dreams are the fairies of the poor and the
afflicted.

She awoke as the church clock chimed eight. Again had she to face the
stern realities of life. The sad moment of separation was fast
approaching.



                             CHAPTER IX.

                       MR. MOSS PLAYS HIS PART.


At five o'clock on the afternoon of that day Dr. Spenlove returned to
his apartments. Having given away the money with which he had intended
to pay his fare to London, he had bethought him of a gentleman living
in Southsea of whom he thought he could borrow a sovereign or two for
a few weeks. He had walked the distance, and had met with
disappointment; the gentleman was absent on business, and might be
absent several days.

"Upon my word," said the good doctor, as he drearily retraced his
steps, "it is almost as bad as being shipwrecked; worse, because there
are no railways on desert islands. What on earth am I to do? Get to
London I must, by hook or by crook, and there is absolutely nothing I
can turn into money."

Then he bethought himself of Mr. Moss, and in his extremity determined
to make an appeal in that quarter. Had it not been for what had
occurred last night, he would not have dreamed of going to this
gentleman, of whose goodness of heart he had had no previous
experience, and upon whose kindness he had not the slightest claim.
Arriving at Mr. Moss's establishment, another disappointment attended
him. Mr. Moss was not at home, and they could not say when he would
return. So Dr. Spenlove, greatly depressed, walked slowly on, his mind
distressed with troubles and perplexities.

He had seen nothing more of Mr. Gordon, who had left him in the early
morning with a simple acknowledgment in words of the service he had
rendered; nor had he seen anything further of Mrs. Turner. On his road
home he called at her lodgings, and heard from her fellow-lodger that
she had left the house.

"We don't know where she's gone to, sir," the woman said; "but the
rent has been paid up, and a sovereign was slipped under my door. If
it wasn't that she was so hard up I should have thought it came from
her."

"I have no doubt it did," Dr. Spenlove answered. "She has friends who
are well-to-do, and I know that one of these friends, discovering her
position, was anxious to assist her."

"I am glad to hear it," said the woman; "and it was more than kind of
her to remember me. I always had an idea that she was above us."

As he was entering his room his landlady ran up from the kitchen.

"Oh, doctor, there's a parcel and two letters for you in your room,
and Mr. Moss has been here to see you. He said he would come again."

"Very well, Mrs. Radcliffe," said Dr. Spenlove; and, cheered by the
news of the promised visit, he passed into his apartment. On the table
were the letters and the parcel. The latter, carefully wrapped in
thick brown paper, was the iron box he had given to Mrs. Turner. One
of the letters was in her handwriting, and it informed him that her
child had been taken away and that she was on the point of leaving
Portsmouth.

"I am not permitted," the letter ran, "to inform you where I am going,
and I am under the obligation of not writing to you personally after I
leave this place. This letter is sent without the knowledge of the
gentleman for whom you acted, and I do not consider myself bound to
tell him that I have written it. What I have promised to do I will do
faithfully, but nothing further. You, who of all men in the world
perhaps know me best, will understand what I am suffering as I pen
these lines. I send with my letter the box you were kind enough to
give me last night. It contains the memorial of which I spoke to you.
Dear Dr. Spenlove, I rely upon you to carry out my wishes with respect
to it. If you are acquainted with the guardian of my child, convey it
to him, and beg him to retain it until my darling is of age, or until
I am free to seek her. It is not in your nature to refuse the petition
of a heartbroken mother; it is not in your nature to violate a
promise. For all the kindnesses you have shown me receive my grateful
and humble thanks. That you will be happy and successful, and that God
will prosper you in all your undertakings, will be my constant prayer.
Farewell."

Laying this letter aside he opened the second, which was in a
handwriting strange to him:--


"Dear Sir,--

"All my arrangements are made, and the business upon which we spoke
together is satisfactorily concluded. You will find enclosed a
practical expression of my thanks. I do not give you my address for
two reasons. First, I desire no acknowledgment of the enclosure;
second, I desire that there shall be no correspondence between us upon
any subject. Feeling perfectly satisfied that the confidence I reposed
in you will be respected,

              "I am,

                   "Your obedient servant,

                               "G. Gordon."

The enclosure consisted of five Bank of England notes for £20 each.

Dr. Spenlove was very much astonished and very much relieved. At this
juncture the money was a fortune to him; there was a likelihood of its
proving the turning-point in his career; and, although it had not been
earned in the exercise of his profession, he had no scruple in
accepting it. The generosity of the donor was, moreover, in some sense
an assurance that he was sincere in all the professions he had made.

"Mr. Moss, sir," said Mrs. Radcliffe, opening the door, and that
gentleman entered the room.

As usual, he was humming an operatic air; but he ceased as he closed
the door, which, after a momentary pause, he reopened, to convince
himself that the landlady was not listening in the passage.

"Can't be too careful, doctor," he observed, with a wink, "when you
have something you want to keep to yourself. You have been running
after me, and I have been running after you. Did you wish to see me
particularly?"

"To tell you the truth," replied Dr. Spenlove, "I had a special reason
for calling upon you; but," he added, with a smile, "as it no longer
exists, I need not trouble you."

"No trouble, no trouble at all. I am at your service, doctor. Anything
I could have done, or can do now, to oblige, you may safely reckon
upon. Within limits, you know, within limits."

"Of course; but the necessity is obviated. I intended to ask you to
lend me a small sum of money without security, Mr. Moss."

"I guessed as much. You should have had it, doctor, and no inquiries
made, though it isn't the way I usually conduct my business; but there
are men you can trust and are inclined to trust, and there are men you
wouldn't trust without binding them down hard and fast. Now, if you
still need the money, don't be afraid to ask."

"I should not be afraid, but I am in funds. I am not the less indebted
to you, Mr. Moss."

"All right; I am glad you don't want a loan. Now for another
affair--_my_ affair, I suppose I must call it till I have shifted it
to other shoulders, which will soon be done."

He paused a moment.

"Dr. Spenlove, that was a strange adventure last night."

"It was; a strange and sad adventure. You behaved very kindly, and I
should like to repay what you expended on behalf of the poor lady."

"No, no, doctor; let it rest where it is. I don't acknowledge your
right to repay what you don't owe, and perhaps I am none the worse off
for what I did. Throw your bread on the waters, you know. My present
visit has reference to the lady--as you call her one, I will do the
same--we picked out of the snow last night. Did you ever notice that
things go in runs?"

"I don't quite follow you."

"A run of rainy weather, a run of fine weather, a run of good fortune,
a run of ill fortune."

"Yes, I have observed it."

"You meet a person to-day you have never seen or heard of before. The
odds are that you will meet that person to-morrow, and probably the
next day as well. You begin to have bad cards, you go on having bad
cards; you begin to make money, you go on making money."

"You infer that there are seasons of circumstances, as of weather. No
doubt you are right."

"I know I am right. Making the acquaintance of your friend, Mrs.
Turner, last night, in a very extraordinary manner, I am not at all
surprised that I have business in hand in which she is concerned. You
look astonished; but it is true. You gave her a good character,
doctor."

"Which she deserves. It happens in life to the best of us that we find
ourselves unexpectedly in trouble. Misfortune is a visitor that does
not knock at the door; it enters unannounced."

"We have unlocked the door ourselves, perhaps," suggested Mr. Moss,
sagely.

"Quite likely, but we have done so in a moment of trustfulness,
deceived by specious professions. The weak and confiding become the
victims."

"It is the way of the world, doctor. Hawks and pigeons, you know."

"There are some who are neither," said Dr. Spenlove, who was not
disposed to hurry his visitor.

His mind was easy as to his departure from Portsmouth, and he divined
from the course the conversation was taking that Mr. Moss had news of
a special nature to communicate. He deemed it wisest to allow him to
break it in his own way.

"They are the best off," responded Mr. Moss; "brains well balanced--an
even scale, doctor--then you can steer straight and to your own
advantage. Women are the weakest, as you say; too much heart, too much
sentiment. All very well in its proper place, but it weighs one side
of the scale down. Mrs. Moss isn't much better than other women in
that respect. She has her whims and crotchets, and doesn't always take
the business view."

"Implying that you do, Mr. Moss?"

"Of course I do; should be ashamed of myself if I didn't. What do I
live for? Business. What do I live by? Business. What do I enjoy most?
Business, and plenty of it!"

He rubbed his hands together joyously.

"I should have no objection to paint on my shop door, 'Mr. Moss,
Business Man.' People would know it would be no use trying to get the
best of me. They don't get it as it is."

"You are unjust to yourself. Was it business last night that made you
pay the cabman, and sent you out to buy coals and food for an
unfortunate creature you had never seen before?"

"That was a little luxury," said Mr. Moss, with a sly chuckle, "which
we business men indulge in occasionally to sharpen up our faculties.
It is an investment, and it pays; it puts us on good terms with
ourselves. If you think I have a bit of sentiment in me you are
mistaken."

"I paint your portrait for myself," protested Dr. Spenlove, "and I
shall not allow you to disfigure it. Granted that you keep as a rule
to the main road--Business Road, we will call it, if you like----"

"Very good, doctor, very good."

"You walk along, driving bargains, and making money honestly----"

"Thank you, doctor," interposed Mr. Moss, rather gravely. "There are
people who don't do us so much justice."

"When unexpectedly," continued Dr. Spenlove, with tender gaiety, "you
chance upon a little narrow path to the right or the left of you, and,
your eye lighting on it, you observe a stretch of woodland, a touch of
bright colour, a picture of human suffering, that appeals to your
poetical instinct, to your musical tastes, or to your humanity. Down
you plunge towards it, to the confusion, for the time being, of
Business Road and its business attractions."

"Sir," said Mr. Moss, bending his head with a dignity which did not
sit ill on him, "if all men were of your mind the narrow prejudices of
creed would stand a bad chance of making themselves felt. But we are
wandering from the main road of the purpose which brought me here. I
have not said a word to Mrs. Moss of the adventure of last night; I
don't quite know why, because a better creature doesn't breathe; but I
gathered from you in some way that you would prefer we should keep it
to ourselves. Mrs. Moss never complains of my being out late; she
rather encourages me, and that will give you an idea of the good wife
she is. 'Enjoyed yourself, Moss?' she asked when I got home. 'Very
much,' I answered, and that was all. Now, doctor, a business man
wouldn't be worth his salt if he wasn't a thinking man as well. After
I was dressed this morning I thought a good deal of the lady and her
child, and I came to the conclusion that you took more than an
ordinary interest in them."

"You were right," said Dr. Spenlove.

"Following your lead, which is a good thing to do if you've confidence
in your partner, I found myself taking more than an ordinary interest
in them; but as it wasn't a game of whist we were playing, I had no
clue to the cards you held. You will see presently what I am leading
up to. While I was thinking and going over some stock which I am
compelled by law to put up to auction, I received a message that a
gentleman wished to see me on very particular private business. It was
then about half-past nine, and the gentleman remained with me about an
hour. When he went away he made an appointment with me to meet him at
a certain place at twelve o'clock. I met him there; he had a carriage
waiting. I got in, and where do you think he drove me?"

"I would rather you answered the question yourself," said Dr.
Spenlove, his interest in the conversation receiving an exciting
stimulus.

"The carriage, doctor, stopped at the house to which we conveyed your
lady friend and her child last night. I opened my eyes, I can tell
you. Now, not to beat about the bush, I will make you acquainted with
the precise nature of the business the gentleman had with me."

"Pardon me a moment," said Dr. Spenlove. "Was Mr. Gordon the
gentleman?"

"You have named him," said Mr. Moss, and perceiving that Dr. Spenlove
was about to speak again, he contented himself with answering the
question. But the doctor did not proceed; his first intention had been
to inquire whether the business was confidential, and if so to decline
to listen to the disclosure which his visitor desired to make. A
little consideration, however, inclined him to the opinion that this
might be carrying delicacy too far. He was in the confidence of both
Mr. Gordon and Mrs. Turner, and it might be prejudicial to the mother
and her child if he closed his ears to the issue of the strange
adventure. He waved his hand, thereby inviting Mr. Moss to continue.

"Just so, doctor," said Mr. Moss, in the tone of a man who had
disposed of an objection. "It is a singular business, but I have been
mixed up with all kinds of queer transactions in my time, and I always
give a man the length of his rope. What induced Mr. Gordon to apply to
me is his concern, not mine. Perhaps he had heard a good report of me,
and I am much obliged to those who gave it; perhaps he thought I was a
tradesman who would take anything in pledge, from a flat iron to a
flesh and blood baby. Any way, if I choose to regard his visit as a
compliment, it is because I am not thin-skinned. Mr. Gordon informed
me that he wished to find a home and to provide for a young baby whose
mother could not look after it, being imperatively called away to a
distant part of the world. Had it not been that the terms he proposed
were extraordinarily liberal, and that he gave me the names of an
eminent firm of lawyers in London who had undertaken the financial
part of the business, and had it not been, also, that as he spoke to
me I thought of a friend whom it might be in my power to serve, I
should have shut him up at once by saying that I was not a baby
farmer, and by requesting him to take his leave. Interrupting myself,
and as it was you who first mentioned the name of Mr. Gordon, I think
I am entitled to ask if you are acquainted with him?"

"You are entitled to ask the question. I am acquainted with him."

"Since when, doctor?"

"Since last night only."

"Before we met?"

"Yes, before we met."

"May I inquire if you were then acting for Mr. Gordon?"

"To some extent. Had it not been for him I should not have gone in
search of Mrs. Turner."

"In which case," said Mr. Moss, in a grave tone, "she and her child
would have been found dead in the snow. That is coming to first
causes, doctor. I have not been setting a trap for you in putting
these questions; I have been testing Mr. Gordon's veracity. When I
asked him whether I was the only person in Portsmouth whom he had
consulted, he frankly answered I was not. Upon this I insisted upon
his telling me who this other person was. After some hesitation he
said, 'Dr. Spenlove.' Any scruples I may have had were instantly
dispelled, for I knew that it was impossible you could be mixed up in
a business which had not a good end."

"I thank you."

"Hearing your name I thought at once of the lady and her child whom we
were instrumental in saving. Am I right in my impression that you are
in possession of the conditions and terms Mr. Gordon imposes?"

"I am."

"Then I need not go into them. I take it, Dr. Spenlove, that you do
not consider the business disreputable."

"It is not disreputable. Mr. Gordon is a peculiar man, and his story
in connection with the lady in question is a singular one. He is not
the father of the child, and the action he has taken is not prompted
by a desire to rid himself of a responsibility. On the contrary, out
of regard for the lady he has voluntarily incurred a very heavy
responsibility, which I have little doubt--none, indeed--that he will
honourably discharge."

"I will continue. Having heard what Mr. Gordon had to say--thinking
all the time of the friend who might be induced to adopt the child,
and that I might be able to serve him--I put the gentleman to the
test. Admitting that his terms were liberal, I said that a sum of
money ought to be paid down at once, in proof of his good faith. 'How
much?' he asked. 'Fifty pounds,' I answered. He instantly produced the
sum, in bank-notes. Then it occurred to me that it would make things
still safer if I had an assurance from the eminent firm of London
lawyers that the business was honourable and met with their approval;
and if I also had a notification from them that they were prepared to
pay the money regularly. 'Send them a telegram,' suggested Mr. Gordon,
'and make it full and complete. I will write a shorter one, which you
can send at the same time. Let the answers be addressed here, and open
them both yourself when they arrive, which should be before twelve
o'clock.' The telegrams written, I took them to the office; and before
twelve came the replies, which were perfectly satisfactory. Everything
appeared to be so straightforward that I undertook the business. A
singular feature in it is that Mr. Gordon does not wish to know with
whom the child is placed. 'My lawyers will make inquiries,' he said,
'and they will be content if the people are respectable.' Dr.
Spenlove, I thought it right that you should be informed of what I
have done; you have expressed your approval, and I am satisfied. Don't
you run away with the idea that I have acted philanthropically.
Nothing of the kind, sir; I have been paid for my trouble. And now, if
you would like to ask any questions, fire away."

"Were no conditions of secrecy imposed upon you?"

"Yes; but I said that I was bound to confide in one person. He may
have thought I meant Mrs. Moss, but it was you I had in my mind. I
promised that it should go no further, and I do not intend that it
shall. Mrs. Moss will be none the worse for not being let into the
secret."

"Where is the child now?"

"In the temporary care of a respectable woman, who is providing
suitable clothing for it, Mr. Gordon having given me money for the
purpose."

"He has not spared his purse. When do you propose taking the child to
her new home?"

"To-night."

"They are good people?"

"The best in the world. I would trust my own children with them. She
cannot help being happy with them."

"Do they live in Portsmouth?"

"No; in Gosport. I think this is as much as I have the right to
disclose."

"I agree with you. Mr. Moss, you can render me an obligation, and you
can do a kindness to the poor child's mother. She has implored me to
endeavour to place this small iron box in the care of the guardians of
her child, to be retained by them for twenty-one years, or until the
mother claims it, which she will be free to do in the event of her
husband dying during her lifetime. I do not know what it contains, and
I understand that it is to be given up to no other person than the
child or her mother. Will you do this for me or for her?"

"For both of you, doctor," replied Mr. Moss, lifting the box from the
table. "It shall be given into their care, as the mother desires. And
now I must be off; I have a busy night before me. Do you go to London
to-morrow?"

"A train leaves in a couple of hours; I shall travel by that."

"Well, good-night, and good luck to you. If you want to write to me,
you know my address."

They parted with cordiality, and each took his separate way, Dr.
Spenlove to the City of Unrest, and Mr. Moss to the peaceful town of
Gosport, humming as he went, among other snatches from his favourite
opera,--


         "Dio dell' or del mondo signor,
          Sei possente risplendente,
          Sei possente resplendente,
          Culto hai tu maggior guaggiù.
          Non v'ha un uom che non t'incensi
          Stan prostati innanzi a te;
          Ed i popolied i re;
          I bei scudi tu dispensi,
          Del la terra il Dio sei tu."



                           BOOK THE SECOND.

                              _RACHEL_.



                              CHAPTER X.

                    THE VISION IN THE CHURCHYARD.


Some twelve months before the occurrence of the events recorded in the
preceding chapters, a Jew, bearing the name of Aaron Cohen, had come
to reside in the ancient town of Gosport. He was accompanied by his
wife, Rachel. They had no family, and their home was a home of love.

They were comparatively young, Aaron being twenty-eight and Rachel
twenty-three, and they had been married five years. Hitherto they had
lived in London, and the cause of their taking up their residence in
Gosport was that Aaron had conceived the idea that he could establish
himself there in a good way of business. One child had blessed their
union, whom they called Benjamin. There was great rejoicing at his
birth, and it would have been difficult to calculate how many
macaroons and almond and butter cakes, and cups of chocolate and
glasses of anise-seed, were sacrificed upon the altar of hospitality
in the happy father's house for several days after the birth of his
firstborn. "Aaron Cohen does it in style," said the neighbours; and as
both he and Rachel were held in genuine respect by all who knew them,
the encomium was not mere empty praise. Seldom even in the locality in
which the Cohens then resided--the East End of London, where charity
and hospitality are proverbial--had such feasting been seen at the
celebration of a circumcision. "If he lived in Bayswater," said the
company, "he couldn't have treated us better." And when the father
lifted up his voice and said, "Blessed art Thou, the Eternal, our God,
King of the universe, who hath sanctified us with His commandments,
and commanded us to introduce our sons into the covenant of our father
Abraham," there was more than usual sincerity in the response, "Even
as this child has now entered this covenant, so may he be initiated
into the covenant of the law, of marriage, and of good works." Perhaps
among those assembled there were some who could not have translated
into English the Hebrews' prayers they read so glibly; but this
reproach did not apply to Aaron, who was an erudite as well as an
orthodox Jew, and understood every word he uttered. On this memorable
day the feasting, commenced in the morning, was continued during the
whole day. "I wish you joy, Cohen, I wish you joy;" this was the
formula, a hundred and a hundred times repeated to the proud father,
who really believed that a prince had been born among Israel; while
the pale-faced mother, pressing her infant tenderly to her breast, and
who in her maidenhood had never looked so beautiful as now, received
in her bedroom the congratulations of her intimate female friends. The
poorest people in the neighbourhood were welcomed; and if the seed of
good wishes could have blossomed into flower, a rose-strewn path of
life lay before the child. "He shall be the son of my right hand,"
said Aaron Cohen; and Rachel, as she kissed her child's mouth and
tasted its sweet breath, believed that Heaven had descended upon
earth, and that no mother had ever been blessed as she was blessed.
This precious treasure was the crowning of their love, and they laid
schemes for baby's youth and manhood before the child was out of long
clothes--schemes destined not to be realised. For sixteen months
Benjamin filled the hearts of his parents with ineffable joy, and then
the Angel of Death entered their house and bore the young soul away.
How they mourned for the dear one who was nevermore on earth to
rejoice them with his beautiful ways need not here be related; all
parents who have lost their firstborn will realise the bitterness of
their grief. But not for long was this grief bitter. In the wise and
reverent interpretation of Aaron Cohen, their loss became a source of
consolation to them. "Let us not rebel," he said to his wife, "against
the inevitable and Divine will. Give praise unto the Lord, who has
ordained that we shall have a child in heaven waiting to receive us."
Fraught with tenderness and wisdom were his words, and his counsel
instilled comfort into Rachel's heart. Benjamin was waiting for them,
and would meet them at the gates. Beautiful was the thought, radiant
the hope it raised, never, never to fade, nay, to grow brighter even
to her dying hour. Their little child, dead and in his grave, brought
them nearer to God. Heaven and earth were linked by the spirit of
their beloved, who had gone before them: thus was sorrow sweetened and
happiness chastened by faith. Sitting on their low stools during the
days of mourning, they spoke, when they were alone, of the peace and
joy of the eternal life, and thereby were drawn spiritually closer to
each other. The lesson they learned in the darkened room was more
precious than jewels and gold; it is a lesson which comes to all, high
and low alike, and rich indeed are they who learn it aright. For some
time thereafter, when the mother opened the drawer in which her most
precious possessions were kept, and kissed the little shoes her child
had worn, she would murmur amid her tears,--

"My darling is waiting for me, my darling is waiting for me!"

God send to all sorrowing mothers a comfort so sweet!

Aaron Cohen had selected a curious spot in Gosport for his habitation.
The windows of the house he had taken overlooked the quaint, peaceful
churchyard of the market town. So small and pretty was this
resting-place for the dead, that one might almost have imagined it to
be a burial ground for children's broken toys. The headless wooden
soldiers, the battered dolls, the maimed contents of cheap Noah's
arks, the thousand and one treasures of childhood might have been
interred there, glad to be at rest after the ruthless mutilations they
had undergone. For really, in the dawning white light of a frosty
morning, when every object for miles around sharply outlined itself in
the clear air and seemed to have lost its rotund proportions, it was
hard to realise that, in this tiny churchyard, men and women, whose
breasts once throbbed with the passions and sorrows of life, were
crumbling to that dust to which we must all return. No, no; it could
be nothing but the last home of plain and painted shepherds, and
bald-headed pets, and lambs devoid of fleece, and mayhap--a higher
flight which we all hope to take when the time comes for us to claim
our birthright of the grave--of a dead bullfinch or canary, carried
thither on its back, with its legs sticking heavenwards, and buried
with grown-up solemnity, and very often with all the genuineness of
grief for a mortal bereavement. Have you not attended such a funeral,
and has not your overcharged heart caused you to sob in your dreams as
you lay in your cot close to mamma's bed?

But these fantastic fancies will not serve. It was a real human
churchyard, and Rachel Cohen knew it to be so as she stood looking out
upon it from the window of her bedroom on the first floor. It was from
no feeling of unhappiness that her sight became dimmed as she gazed
upon the tombstones. Shadows of children rose before her, the
pattering of whose little feet was once the sweetest music that ever
fell on parents' ears, the touch of whose little hands carried with it
an influence as powerful as a heart-stirring prayer; children with
golden curls, children with laughing eyes, children with wistful
faces; but there was one, ah! there was one that shone as a star amid
the shadows, and that rose up, up, till it was lost in the solemn
clouds, sending therefrom a Divine message down to the mother's heart,
"Mamma, mamma, I am waiting for thee!"

Quiet as was everything around her, Rachel heard the words; in the
midst of the darkness a heavenly light was shining on her.

She wiped the tears from her eyes, and stole down to the room in which
her husband was sitting.



                             CHAPTER XI.

                   MR. WHIMPOLE INTRODUCES HIMSELF.


It was the front room of the house, on the ground floor, which Aaron
Cohen had converted into a shop. The small parlour windows had been
replaced by larger ones, a counter had been put up, behind which were
shelves fitted into the walls. These shelves at present were bare, but
Aaron Cohen hoped to see them filled. Under the counter were other
shelves, as empty as those on the walls.

When Rachel entered her husband was engaged counting out his money,
like the king in his counting house. There was a studious expression
on his face, which was instantly replaced by one of deep tenderness as
he looked up and saw traces of tears in her eyes. He gathered his
money together, banknotes, silver, gold, and coppers, and motioned her
into the room at the rear of the shop. This was their living-room; but
a large iron safe in a corner denoted that it was not to be devoted
entirely to domestic affairs. In another corner was the symbol of his
business, which was to be affixed to the front of the premises, over
the shop door, the familiar device of three golden balls.

Letting his money fall upon the table, he drew his wife to his side,
and passed his arm around her.

"The house," he said, "is almost in order."

"Yes, Aaron; there is very little left to do."

"I am also ready for business. I have the license, and to-morrow those
glittering balls will be put up and the name painted over the shop
window. They are rather large for so small a shop, but they will
attract all the more attention." He gazed at her anxiously. "Do you
think you will be contented and happy here?"

"Contented and happy anywhere with you," she replied, in a tone of the
deepest affection.

"In this town especially, Rachel?"

"Yes, in this town especially. It is so peaceful."

"But," he said, touching her eyes with his fingers "these?"

"Not because I am unhappy," she said; and her voice was low and sweet.
"I was looking out upon the churchyard from our bedroom window."

"Ah!" he said, and he kissed her eyes.

He divined the cause of her tears, and there was much tenderness in
his utterance of the monosyllable and in the kisses he gave her. Man
and wife for five years, they were still the fondest of lovers.

"My dear," said Aaron presently, "the spirit of prophecy is upon me.
We shall lead a comfortable life in this town; we shall prosper in
this house. It was a piece of real good fortune my hitting upon it.
When I heard by chance that the man who lived here owned the lease and
wished to dispose of it, I hesitated before parting with so large a
sum as a hundred pounds for the purchase. It was nearly half my
capital, but I liked the look of the place, and a little bird
whispered that we should be lucky in it, so I made the venture. I am
certain we shall not regret it. Here shall be laid the foundation
stones of a fortune which shall enable us to set up our carriage. I
know what you would say, my life, that we can be happy without a
carriage. Yes, yes; but a carriage is not a bad thing to have. People
will say, 'See what a clever man that Aaron Cohen is. He commenced
with nothing, and he rides in his own carriage already. How grand he
looks!' I should like to hear people say that. There is a knock at the
street door."

"Who can it be?" asked Rachel. "We know no one in Gosport, and it is
night."

"Which is no excuse for our not opening the door," said Aaron Cohen,
sweeping the money off the table into a small chamois leather bag,
which he tied carefully at the neck, and put into his pocket. "True,
we believe we are not known here, but there may, nevertheless, be an
old acquaintance in Gosport who has heard of our arrival, and comes to
welcome us; or Judah Belasco may have told a friend of his we are
here; or it may be an enterprising baker or grocer who wishes to
secure our custom. No," he added, as the knock was repeated, "that is
not the knock of a tradesman. It is a knock of self-importance, and
you may depend upon it that it proceeds from Somebody with a large S.
Let us see who it is that announces himself so grandly."

Aaron went to the street door, and Rachel followed him into the
passage, carrying a candle. The night was dark, and Rachel stood a
little in the rear, so that Aaron could not distinguish the features
of his visitor. He was a big man, and that was all that was apparent
to the Cohens.

"Mr. Cohen?" queried the visitor

"Yes," said Aaron.

"Mr. Aaron Cohen?"

"That is my name"

"Can I speak with you?"

"Certainly."

And Aaron waited to hear what the stranger had to say.

"I am not accustomed to be kept waiting on the doorstep. I should
prefer to speak to you in the house."

Rachel, who was naturally timid, moved closer to her husband, who took
the candle from her hand, and held it up in order to see the face of
the stranger.

"Step inside," he said.

The stranger followed Aaron and Rachel into the little parlour, and
without taking off his hat, looked at Aaron, then at Rachel, and then
into every corner of the room; the last object upon which his eyes
rested was the device of the three golden balls, and a frown gathered
on his features as he gazed. Aaron noted these movements and signs
with attention and amusement.

"Do you detect any blemish in them?" he asked.

"I do not understand you," said the stranger.

"In those balls. There was an expression of disapproval on your face
as you gazed at them."

"I disapprove of them altogether," said the stranger.

"I am sorry, but we cannot please everybody. I am not responsible for
the insignia; you will find the origin in the armorial bearings of the
Medici. That is a beautiful hat you have on your head." The stranger
stared at him. "Really," continued Aaron, blandly, "a beautiful hat;
it must have cost a guinea. A hat is a fine protection against the hot
rays of the sun; a protection, also, against the wind and the rain.
But in this room, as you may observe, we have neither wind, nor rain,
nor sun; and you may also observe that there is a lady present." The
stranger, reddening slightly, removed his hat, and placed it on the
table. "My wife," then said Aaron.

The stranger inclined his head, with the air of a man acknowledging an
introduction to one of a lower station. The manner of this
acknowledgment was not lost upon Aaron.

"My wife," he repeated courteously, "Mrs. Cohen."

"I see," said the stranger, glancing again at Rachel with
condescension. "With your permission I will take a seat."

It was distinctly at variance with the hospitable instincts of Aaron
Cohen that he did not immediately respond to this request.

"You have the advantage of us," he said. "I have had the pleasure of
introducing my wife to you. Afford me the pleasure of introducing you
to my wife."

With an ungracious air the stranger handed Aaron a visiting card, upon
which was inscribed the name of Mr. Edward Whimpole, and in a corner
the word "Churchwarden." Mr. Whimpole's movements were slow, and
intended to be dignified, but Aaron exhibited no impatience.

"My dear, Mr. Edward Whimpole, churchwarden."

Rachel bowed gracefully, and Aaron, with an easy motion of his hand,
invited Mr. Whimpole to a chair, in which he seated himself. Then
Aaron placed a chair for his wife, and took one himself, and prepared
to listen to what Mr. Whimpole had to say.

Mr. Whimpole was a large-framed man with a great deal of flesh on his
face; his eyes were light, and he had no eyebrows worth speaking of.
The best feature in his face was his mouth, and the most insignificant
his nose, which was really not a fair nose for a man of his bulk. It
was an added injury inflicted upon him by nature that it was very thin
at the end, as though it had been planed on both sides. But then, as
Aaron had occasion to remark, we don't make our own noses. A distinct
contrast presented itself in the two noses which, if the figure of
speech may be allowed, now faced each other.

Mr. Whimpole had not disclosed the purpose of his visit, but he had
already made it clear that he was not graciously disposed towards the
Jew. Aaron was quite aware of this, but the only effect it had upon
him was to render him exceedingly affable. Perhaps he scented a
bargain, and was aware that mental irritation would interfere with the
calm exercise of his judgment in a matter of buying and selling.

"May I inquire," he said, pointing to the word "churchwarden" on the
card, "whether this is your business or profession?"

"I am a corn-chandler," said Mr. Whimpole.

"Churchwarden, my dear," said Aaron, addressing his wife in a pleasant
tone, "_and_ corn-chandler."

For the life of him Mr. Whimpole could not have explained to the
satisfaction of persons not directly interested, why he was angry at
the reception he was meeting. That Aaron Cohen was not the kind of man
he had expected to meet would not have been accepted as a sufficient
reason.

"I am not mistaken," said Mr. Whimpole, with a flush of resentment,
"in believing you to be a Jew?"

"You are not mistaken," replied Aaron, with exceeding urbanity. "I am
a Jew. If I were not proud of the fact, it would be folly to attempt
to disguise it, for at least one feature in my face would betray me."

"It would," said Mr. Whimpole, dealing a blow which had the effect of
causing Aaron to lean back in his chair, and laugh gently to himself
for fully thirty seconds.

"When you have quite finished," said Mr. Whimpole, coldly, "we will
proceed."

"Excuse me," said Aaron, drawing a deep breath of enjoyment. "I beg
you will not consider me wanting in politeness, but I have the
instincts of my race, and I never waste the smallest trifle, not even
a joke." A little tuft of hair which ran down the centre of Mr.
Whimpole's head--the right and left banks of which were devoid of
verdure--quivered in sympathy with the proprietor's astonishment. That
a man should make a joke out of that which was generally considered to
be a reproach and a humiliation was, indeed, matter for amazement;
nay, in this instance for indignation, for in Aaron Cohen's laughter
he, Mr. Whimpole himself, was made to occupy a ridiculous place. "We
are loth," continued Aaron, "to waste even the thinnest joke. We are
at once, my dear sir, both thrifty and liberal."

"We!" exclaimed Mr. Whimpole, in hot repudiation.

"We Jews I mean. No person in the world could possibly mistake you for
one of the chosen."

"I should hope not. The idea is too absurd."

"Make your mind easy, sir; you would not pass muster in a synagogue
without exciting remark. Yes, we are both thrifty and liberal, wasting
nothing, and in the free spending of our money seeing that we get good
value for it. That is not a reproach, nor is it a reproach that we
thoroughly enjoy an agreeable thing when we get it for nothing. There
are so many things in life to vex us that the opportunity of a good
laugh should never be neglected. Proceed, my dear sir, proceed; you
were saying that you believed you were not mistaken in taking me for a
Jew."

"Is it your intention," asked Mr. Whimpole, coming now straight to the
point, "to reside in Gosport?"

"If I am permitted," replied Aaron, meekly. "We have not always been
allowed to select our place of residence. I am thankful that we live
in an enlightened age and in a free country."

"I hear, Mr. Cohen, that you have purchased the lease of this house."

"It is true, sir. The purchase money has been paid, and the lease is
mine."

"It has twenty-seven years to run."

"Twenty-seven years and three months. Who can tell where we shall be,
and how we shall be situated, at the end of that time?"

Mr. Whimpole waved the contemplation aside.

"You gave a hundred pounds for the lease."

"The precise sum; your information is correct."

"I had some intention, Mr. Cohen, of buying it myself."

"Indeed! Why did you not do so?"

"There were reasons. Not pecuniary, I beg to say. I delayed too long,
and you stepped in before me."

"A case of the early bird catching the worm," Aaron observed, with a
smile.

"If it gratifies you to put it that way. I have, therefore, no option
but to purchase the lease of you."

"Mr. Whimpole," said Aaron, after a slight pause, "I am agreeable to
sell you the lease."

"I thought as much." And Mr. Whimpole disposed himself comfortably in
his chair.

Rachel's eyes dilated in surprise. Their settlement in Gosport had not
been made in haste, and all arrangements for commencing the business
were made. She could not understand her husband's willingness to give
up the house.

"I do not expect you to take what you gave for it," said Mr. Whimpole.
"I am prepared to give you a profit; and," he added, jocosely, "you
will not be backward in accepting it."

"Not at all backward. You speak like a man of sense."

"How much do you ask for your bargain? How much, Mr. Cohen? Don't open
your mouth too wide."

"If you will permit me," said Aaron, and he proceeded to pencil down a
calculation. "It is not an undesirable house, Mr. Whimpole."

"No, no; I don't say it is."

"It is compact and convenient."

"Fairly so, fairly so."

"I will accept," said Aaron, having finished his calculation, "five
hundred pounds."

"You cannot be in earnest!" gasped Mr. Whimpole, his breath fairly
taken away.

"I am quite in earnest. Are you aware what it is you would buy of me?"

"Of course I am aware; the lease of this house."

"Not that alone. You would buy my hopes for the next twenty-seven
years; for I declare to you there is not to my knowledge in all
England a spot in which I so desire to pass my days as in this
peaceful town; and there is not in all Gosport a house in which I
believe I shall be so happy as in this. You see, you propose to
purchase of me something more than a parchment lease."

"But the--the things you mention are of no value to me."

"I do not say they are. I am speaking from my point of view, as men
generally do. It is a failing we all have, Mr. Whimpole. There is no
reason why we should bandy words. I am not anxious to sell the lease.
Wait till it is in the market."

"A most unhealthy situation," observed Mr. Whimpole.

"It concerns ourselves, and we are contented."

"I cannot imagine a more unpleasant, not to say obnoxious, view."

"The view of the churchyard? The spot has already acquired an
inestimable value in my eyes. God rest the souls of those who lie in
it! The contemplation of the peaceful ground will serve to remind me
of the vanity of life, and will be a constant warning to me to be fair
and straightforward in my dealings. The warning may be needed, for in
the business I intend to carry on, there are--I do not deny it--many
dangerous temptations."

"Tush, tush!" exclaimed Mr. Whimpole, petulantly. "Straightforward
dealings, indeed! The vanity of life, indeed!"

Aaron Cohen smiled.

Only once before in his life had Mr. Whimpole felt so thoroughly
uncomfortable as at the present moment, and that was when he was a
little boy and fell into a bed of nettles from which he was unable to
extricate himself until he was covered with stings. It was just the
same now; he was smarting all over from contact with Aaron Cohen, who
was like a porcupine with sharp-pointed quills. But he would not
tamely submit to such treatment; he would show Aaron that he could
sting in return; he knew well enough where to plant his poisoned
arrow.

It is due to Mr. Whimpole to state that he was not aware that the
manner in which he was conducting himself during this interview was
not commendable. Being a narrow-minded man, he could not take a wide
and generous view of abstract matters, which, by a perversion of
reasoning, he generally regarded from a purely personal standpoint.
Such men as he, in their jealous regard for their own feelings, are
apt to overlook the feelings of others, and, indeed, to behave
occasionally as if they did not possess any. This was Mr. Whimpole's
predicament, and, having met a ready-witted man, he was made to suffer
for his misconduct. He sent forth his sting in this wise:

"You speak, Mr. Cohen, of being fair and straightforward in your
dealings; but, for the matter of that, we all know what we may expect
from a----"

And having got thus far in his ungenerously-prompted speech, he felt
himself unable, in the presence of Rachel, and with her reproachful
eyes raised to his face, to conclude the sentence. Aaron Cohen
finished it for him.

"For the matter of that," he said, gently, "you all know what you may
expect from a Jew. That is what you were going to say. And with this
thought in your mind you came to trade with me. Well, sir, it may be
that we both have something to learn."

"Mr. Cohen," said Mr. Whimpole, slightly abashed, "I am sorry if I
have said anything to hurt your feelings."

"The offence, sir, is atoned for by the expression of your sorrow."

This was taking high ground, and Mr. Whimpole's choler was ready to
rise again; but he mastered it, and said, in a conciliatory tone,--

"I will disguise nothing from you; I was born in this house."

"The circumstance will make it all the more valuable to us. My
dear,"--impressing it upon Rachel with pleasant emphasis--"Mr.
Whimpole was born in this house. A fortunate omen. Good luck will come
to us, as it has come to him. It is a low-rented house, and those who
have been born in it must have been poor men's children. When they
rise in the world as Mr. Whimpole has done, it is better than a
horseshoe over the door. In which room were you born, Mr. Whimpole?"

"In the room on the back of the first floor," replied Mr. Whimpole,
making a wild guess.

"Our bedroom. There should be a record on the walls; there should,
indeed, be a record, such as is placed outside those houses in London
which have been inhabited by famous people. Failing that, it is in the
power of every man, assuredly every rich man, to make for himself a
record that shall be unperishable--far better, my dear sir, than the
mere fixing of a plate on a cold stone wall."

Mr. Whimpole gazed at Aaron Cohen to discover if there was any trace
of mockery in his face; but Aaron was perfectly grave and serious.

"A man's humility," said Mr. Whimpole, raising his eyes to the
ceiling, "his sense of humbleness, would prevent him from making this
record for himself. It has to be left to others to do it when they
have found him out."

"Aha! my dear sir," said Aaron, softly, "when they have found him out.
True, true; but how few of us are! How few of us receive our just
reward! How few of us when we are in our graves receive or deserve the
tribute, 'Here lies a perfect man!' But the record I speak of will
never be lost by a rich man's humility, by his humbleness; for it can
be written unostentatiously in the hearts of the poor by the aid of
silver and gold."

"I understand you, Mr. Cohen,"--inwardly confounding Aaron's flow of
ideas--"by means of charity."

"Yes, sir, by means of charity, whereby the name of a man becomes
sweet in the mouth. A good name is better than precious oil, and the
day of one's death better than the day of his birth. There is an old
legend that a man's actions in life are marked in the air above him,
in the places in which they are performed. There, in invisible space,
are inscribed the records of his good and bad deeds, of his virtues,
of his crimes; and when he dies his soul visits those places, and
views the immortal writing, which is visible to all the angels in
heaven and which covers him with shame or glory. Gosport doubtless has
many such records of your charity."

"I do my best," said Mr. Whimpole, very much confused and mystified;
"I hope I do my best. I said I would disguise nothing from you; I will
therefore be quite frank, with no intention of wounding you. I am
strictly a religious man, Mr. Cohen, and it hurts me that one whose
religious belief is opposed to my own should inhabit the house in
which I was born. I will give you a hundred and twenty pounds for the
lease; that will leave you a profit of twenty pounds. Come, now!"

"I will not accept less for it, sir, than the sum I named."

"Is that your last word?"

"It is my last word."

Mr. Whimpole rose with a face of scarlet, and clapped his hat on his
head. "You are a--a----"

"A Jew. Leave it at that. Can you call me anything worse?" asked
Aaron, with no show of anger.

"No, I cannot. You are a Jew."

"I regret," said Aaron, calmly, "that I cannot retort by calling you a
Christian. May our next meeting be more agreeable! Good-evening, Mr.
Whimpole."

"You do not know the gentleman you have insulted," said Mr. Whimpole,
as he walked towards the door; "you do not know my position in this
town. I am in the expectation of being made a justice of the peace.
You will live to repent this."

"I think not," said Aaron, taking the candle to show his visitor out.
"I trust you may."

"You may find your residence in Gosport, where I am universally
respected, not as agreeable as you would wish it to be."

"We shall see, we shall see," said Aaron, still smiling. "I may also
make myself respected here."

"There is a prejudice against your race----"

"Am I not aware of it? Is not every Jew aware of it? Is it not thrown
in our teeth by the bigoted and narrow-minded upon every possible
occasion? We will live it down, sir. We have already done much; we
will yet do more. Your use of the word 'prejudice' is appropriate;
for, as I understand its meaning, it represents a judgment formed
without proper knowledge. Yes, sir, it is not to be disputed that
there exists a prejudice against our race."

"Which, without putting any false meaning upon it, will make this
ancient and respectable town"--here Mr. Whimpole found himself at a
loss, and he was compelled to wind up with the vulgar figure of
speech--"too hot to hold you."

"This ancient town," said Aaron, with a deeper seriousness in his
voice, "is known to modern men as Gosport."

"A clever discovery," sneered Mr. Whimpole. "Are you going to put
another of your false constructions on it?"

"No, sir. I am about to tell you a plain and beautiful truth. When in
olden times a name was given to this place, it was not Gosport: it was
God's Port; and what Gods port is there throughout the civilised world
in which Jew and Christian alike have not an equal right to live,
despite prejudice, despite bigotry, and despite the unreasonable anger
of large corn-chandlers and respected churchwardens? I wish you, sir,
good-night."

And having by this time reached the street door, Aaron Cohen opened it
for Mr. Whimpole, and bowed him politely out.



                             CHAPTER XII.

                      THE COURSE OF THE SEASONS.


Upon Aaron's return to the little parlour he saw that Rachel was
greatly disturbed.

"My life!" he said, and he folded her in his arms and tenderly
embraced her. "Don't allow such a little thing as this to distress
you; it will all come right in the end."

"But how you kept your temper," she said; "that is what surprised me."

"It gave me the advantage of him, Rachel. I was really amused."

He pinched her cheeks to bring the colour back to them.

"Some men must be managed one way, some another. And now for
our game of bezique. Mr. Whimpole's visit"--he laughed at the
recollection--"will make me enjoy it all the more."

There was no resisting his light-heartedness, and he won a smile from
her, despite her anxiety.

Rachel was not clever enough to discover that it was only by the
cunning of her husband that she won the rub of bezique. He was a keen
judge of human nature, and he knew that this small victory would help
to soothe her.

The next day was Friday, and the three golden balls were put up, and
the name of Aaron Cohen painted over the shop door. A great many
people came to look, and departed to circulate the news.

At one o'clock the painting was done, and then Aaron said to his wife,
"I shall be out till the evening. Have you found any one to attend to
the lights and the fire?"

They were not rich enough to keep a regular servant, and neither of
them ever touched fire on the Sabbath.

"I have heard of a woman," said Rachel; "she is coming this afternoon
to see me."

"Good," said Aaron, and, kissing Rachel, went away with a light heart.

In the afternoon the woman, Mrs. Hawkins, called, and Rachel explained
the nature of the services she required. Mrs. Hawkins was to come to
the house every Friday night to put coals on the fire and extinguish
the lights, and four times on Saturday to perform the same duties.
Rachel proposed eightpence a week, but Mrs. Hawkins stuck out for
tenpence, and this being acceded to, she departed, leaving a strong
flavour of gin behind her.

When Aaron returned, the two Sabbath candles were alight upon the
snow-white tablecloth, and on the table a supper was spread--fried
fish, white bread, and fresh butter, and in the fender a steaming
coffeepot. Rachel was an excellent cook, and had always been famous
for her fried and stewed fish, which her husband declared were dishes
fit for kings; and, indeed, no one in the land could have desired
tastier or more succulent cooking.

Aaron washed and said his prayers, and then they sat down to their
meal in a state of perfect contentment. The head of the modest
household broke two small pieces of bread from the loaf, and dipping
them in salt, besought the customary blessing on the bread they were
about to eat; then praised the fish, praised the butter, praised the
coffee, praised his wife, and after a full meal praised the Lord, in a
Song of Degrees, for blessings received: "When the Eternal restored
the captivity of Zion, we were as those who dream. Our mouths were
then filled with laughter, and our tongues with song."

He had-a rich baritone voice, and Rachel listened in pious delight to
his intoning of the prayer. The supper things were cleared away, the
white tablecloth being allowed to remain because of the lighted
candles on it, which it would have been breaking the Sabbath to lift,
and then there came a knock at the street door.

"That is the woman I engaged," said Rachel, hurrying into the passage.

There entered, not Mrs. Hawkins, but a very small girl, carrying a
very large baby. The baby might have been eighteen months old, and the
girl ten years; and of the twain the baby was the plumper.

Without "With your leave" or "By your leave," the small girl pushed
past Rachel before the astonished woman could stop her, and presented
herself before the no less astonished Aaron Cohen. Her sharp eyes took
in the lighted candles, the cheerful fire, and the master of the house
in one comprehensive flash. With some persons what is known as making
up one's mind is a slow and complicated process, with the small girl
it was electrical. She deposited the large baby in Aaron's lap,
admonishing the infant "to keep quiet, or she'd ketch it," blew out
the candles in two swift puffs, and, kneeling before the grate,
proceeded to rake out the coals. So rapid were her movements that the
fender was half filled with cinders and blazing coals before Rachel
had time to reach the room.

"In Heaven's name," cried Aaron, "what is the meaning of this?"

"It's all right, sir," said the small girl, in the dark; "I've come
for aunty."

"Put down the poker instantly!" exclaimed Aaron. "Your aunty, whoever
she may be, is not here."

"Tell me somethink I don't know," requested the small girl. "This is
Mr. Cohen's, the Jew, ain't it?"

"It is," replied Aaron, with despairing gestures, for the baby was
dabbing his face with hands sticky with remnants of sugarstuff.

"Well, wot are yer 'ollering for? I'm only doing wot aunty told me."

"And who _is_ your aunty?"

"Mrs. 'Orkins. Pretend not to know 'er--do! Oh yes, jest you try it
on. Aunty's up to yer, she is. She sed yer'd try to do 'er out of 'er
money, and want 'er to take fippence instid of tenpence."

"Did she? You have come here by her orders, I suppose?"

"Yes, I 'ave; to poke out the fire and blow out the candles, and I've
done it."

"You have," said Aaron, ruefully. "And now, little girl, you will do
as _I_ tell you. Put down that poker. Get up. Feel on the mantelshelf
for a box of matches. I beg your pardon, you are too short to reach.
Here is the box. Take out a match. Strike it. Light the candles. Thank
you. Last, but not least, relieve me of this baby with the sticky
hands."

The small girl snatched the baby from his arms and stood before him in
an attitude of defiance. For the first time he had a clear view of
her.

"Heaven save us!" he cried, falling back in his chair.

Her appearance was a sufficient explanation of his astonishment. To
say that she was ragged, and dirty, and forlorn, and as utterly unlike
a little girl living in civilised society as any little girl could
possibly be, would be but a poor description of her. Her face
suggested that she had been lying with her head in a coal scuttle; she
wore no hat or bonnet; her hair was matted; her frock reached just
below her knees, and might have been picked out of a dust-heap; she
had no stockings; on her feet were two odd boots, several sizes too
large for her and quite worn out, one tied to her ankle with a piece
of grey list, the other similarly secured with a piece of knotted
twine. Her eyes glittered with preternatural sharpness; her cheek
bones stuck out; her elbows were pointed and red; she was all
bone--literally all bone; there was not an ounce of flesh upon her,
not any part of her body that could be pinched with a sense of
satisfaction. But the baby! What a contrast! Her head was round and
chubby, and was covered with a mass of light curls; her hands were
full of dimples; her face was puffed out with superabundant flesh; the
calves of her legs were a picture. In respect of clothes she was no
better off than Mrs. Hawkins's niece.

"Wot are yer staring at?" demanded the girl. "At you, my child,"
replied Aaron, with compassion in his voice.

"Let's know when yer done," retorted the girl, "and I'll tell yer 'wot
I charge for it."

"And at baby," added Aaron.

"That'll be hextra. Don't say I didn't warn yer."

There were conflicting elements in the situation; its humour was
undeniable, but it had its pathetic side. Aaron Cohen was swayed now
by one emotion, now by another.

"So you are Mrs. Hawkins's niece," he said, with a twinkle in his
eyes.

"Yes, I am. Wot 'ave yer got to say agin it?"

"Nothing. Is baby also Mrs. Hawkins's niece, or nephew?"

"If you've no objections," said the girl, with excessive politeness,
"she's Mrs. Pond's little gal, and I nusses 'er."

"I have no objection. What is your name?"

"Wot it may be, my lordship," replied the girl, her politeness
becoming Arctic, "is one thing--wot it is, is another."

"You are a clever little girl," said Aaron, smiling and rubbing his
hands, "a sharp, clever little girl."

"Thank yer for nothink," said the girl. She had reached the North
Pole; it was necessary to thaw her.

"Upon the mantelshelf," said Aaron, "just behind that beautiful blue
vase, are two penny pieces. Step on a chair--not that cane one, you'll
go through it; the wooden one--and see if you can find them."

"I see 'em," said the girl, looking down upon Aaron in more senses
than one.

"They are yours. Put them in your pocket."

The girl clutched the pennies, jumped from the chair--whereat the baby
crowed, supposing it to be a game provided for her amusement--and
having no pocket, held the money tight in her hand. Visions of
sweetstuff rose before her. The pennies getting warm, the ice in the
North Pole began to melt. But there was a doubt in the girl's mind;
the adventure was almost too good to be true.

"Yer don't get 'em back," she said; "stow larks, yer know."

"I don't want them back. And now, perhaps, you will tell me your
name."

"Prissy. That's the short 'un."

"The long one is----"

"Priscilla."

"A grand name. You ought to have a silk gown, and satin shoes, and a
gold comb." Prissy opened her eyes very wide. The ice was melting
quickly, and the buds were coming on the trees. "And baby's name?"

"Wictoria Rejiner. That's grander, ain't it?"

"Much grander. Victoria Regina--a little queen!" Prissy gave baby a
kiss, with pride and love in her glittering eyes. "What makes your
face so black, Prissy?"

"Coals. Aunty deals in 'em, and ginger-beer, and bundles of wood, and
cabbages, and taters, and oranges, and lemons. And she takes in
washing."

"You look, Prissy, as if you had very little to eat."

So genial was Aaron Cohen's voice that spring was coming on fast.

"I don't 'ave much," said Prissy, with a longing sigh. "I could eat
all day and night if I 'ad the chance."

"My dear," said Aaron to his wife, "there is some coffee left in the
pot. Do you like coffee, Prissy?"

"Do I like corfey? Don't I like corfey! Oh no--not me! Jest you try
me!"

"I will. Give me Victoria Regina. Poke the fire. That's right; you are
the quickest, sharpest little girl in my acquaintance. Pour some water
from the kettle into the coffee-pot. Set it on the fire. Rachel, my
dear, take Prissy and baby into the kitchen and let them wash
themselves, and afterwards they shall have some supper."

The buds were breaking into blossom; it really was a lovely spring.

In a few minutes Rachel and the children re-entered the room from
the kitchen, baby with a clean face, and Prissy with a painfully red
and shining skin. Following her husband's instructions, Rachel cut
half-a-dozen slices of bread, upon which she spread the butter with a
liberal hand. Prissy, hugging Victoria Regina, watched the proceedings
in silence. By this time the coffee was bubbling in the pot.

"Take it off the fire, Prissy," said Aaron Cohen; and in another
minute the little girl, with baby in her lap, was sitting at the table
with a cup of smoking hot coffee, well sugared and milked, which she
was so eager to drink that she scalded her throat. The bread and
butter was perhaps the sweetest that Prissy had ever eaten, and the
coffee was nectar. The baby ate more than Prissy; indeed, she ate so
much and so quickly that she occasionally choked and had to be
violently shaken and patted on the back, but she became tired out at
last, and before Prissy had finished her bounteous meal she was fast
asleep in her nurse's arms.

Aaron Cohen leaned back in his chair, and gazed with benevolent eyes
upon the picture before him; and as he gazed the sweetest of smiles
came to his lips, and did not leave them. Rachel, stealing to the back
of his chair, put her arms round his neck, and nestled her face to
his.

It was a most beautiful summer, and all the trees were in flower.



                            CHAPTER XIII.

          AARON COHEN PREACHES A SERMON ON LARGE NOSES.


The fire was burning brightly, and the old cat which they had brought
with them to Gosport was stretched at full length upon the hearthrug.
The children were gone, and Prissy had received instructions to come
again at ten o'clock to extinguish the candles. It may be said of
Prissy, in respect of her first visit to the house, that she came in
like a lion and went out like a lamb.

It was a habit on Sabbath eve for Aaron to read to his wife something
from the general literature of the times, or from the newspapers, and
to accompany his reading with shrewd or sympathetic remarks, to which
Rachel always listened in delight. Occasionally he read from a book of
Hebrew prayers, and commented upon them, throwing a light upon poem
and allegory which made their meaning clear to Rachel's understanding.
Invariably, also, he blessed her as Jewish fathers who have not
wandered from the paths of orthodoxy bless their children on the
Sabbath. Now, as she stood before him, he placed his hand on her head,
and said,--

"God make thee like Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, and Leah. May the Eternal
bless and preserve thee! May the Eternal cause His face to shine upon
thee, and be gracious unto thee! May the Eternal lift up His
countenance towards thee, and grant thee peace!"

It was something more than a blessing; it was a prayer of heartfelt
love. Rachel raised her face to his, and they tenderly kissed each
other. Then he took his seat on one side of the fire, and she on the
other. A prayer-book and one of Charles Dickens's stories were on the
table, but he did not open them; he had matter for thought, and he was
in the mood for conversation. He was in a light humour, which
exhibited itself in a quiet laugh, which presently deepened in volume.

"I am thinking of the little girl," he explained to Rachel. "It
was amazing the way she puffed out the candles and poked out the
fire--quick as lightning. It was the most comical thing! And her black
face--and Victoria Regina's sticky fingers! Ha, ha, ha!"

His merriment was contagious, and it drew forth Rachel's; the room was
filled with pleasant sound.

"I saw Mr. Whimpole to-day," said Aaron, "and I made him a bow, which
he did not return. My Jewish nose offends him. How unfortunate! Yes,
my life, no one can dispute that the Jew has a big nose. It proclaims
itself; it is a mark and a sign. He himself often despises it; he
himself often looks at it in the glass with aversion. 'Why, why,
have I been compelled to endure this affliction?' he murmurs,
and he reflects with envy upon the elegant nose of the Christian.
Short-sighted mortal, not to understand that he owes everything to his
big nose! A great writer--a learned man, who passed the whole of his
life in the study of these matters--proclaims the nose to be the
foundation, or abutment, of the brain. What follows? That the larger
is the nose of a man, the better off for it is the man. Listen, my
dear." He took a book from a little nest of bookshelves, and turned
over the pages. "'Whoever,' says this learned writer, 'is acquainted
with the Gothic arch will perfectly understand what I mean by this
abutment; for upon this the whole power of the arch of the forehead
rests, and without it the mouth and cheeks would be oppressed by
miserable ruins.' He lays down exact laws, which govern the beautiful
(and therefore the large) nose. Its length should equal the length of
the forehead, the back should be broad, its outline remarkably
definite, the sides well defined, and, near the eye, it must be at
least half an inch in breadth. Such a nose, this great authority
declares, is of more worth than a kingdom. It imparts solidity and
unity to the whole countenance; it is the mountain--bear in mind, my
dear, the mountain--that shelters the fair vales beneath. How proud,
then, should I be of my nose, which in some respects answers to this
description! Not in all, no, not in all. I am not so vain as to
believe that my nose is worth more than a kingdom; but when I am told
that a large nose is a sign of sensibility, and of good nature and
good humour, I cannot help a glow of conceited satisfaction stealing
over me. How many great men have you known with small noses? There
are, of course, exceptions, but I speak of the general rule. Our
co-religionist, Benjamin Disraeli--look at his nose; look at the noses
of all our great Jewish musicians and composers--it is because they
are of a proper size that they have become famous. Some time since in
London I had the opportunity of looking over a wonderful Bible--six
enormous volumes published by Mr. Thomas Macklin nearly a century
ago--embellished with grand pictures by the most eminent English
artists; and there I saw the figures of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob,
and other ancestors of ours. There is not a small nose on one of the
faces of these great patriarchs and prophets. The great painters who
drew them had learned from their studies how to delineate the biblical
heroes. Moses the law-giver--what an administrator, what a grand
general was that hero, my dear! How thoroughly he understood men and
human nature! Aaron, the high priest; King Solomon, the man of wisdom;
Isaiah, the prophet and poet--they all had tremendous noses. A big
nose is a grand decoration, and I would sooner possess it than a bit
of red ribbon in my button-hole, or a star on my breast. Indeed, my
life, I have it--the nose of my forefathers!" Aaron made this
declaration in a tone of comic despair. "And, having it, I will not
part with it except with life."

There was so much playful humour in the dissertation that Rachel
laughed outright. Her laugh was the sweetest in the world, and it fell
like music on Aaron's heart. He smiled, and there was a gleam in his
eyes, and presently he spoke again.

"I am not aware whether you have ever observed the attraction a big
nose has for children. Take the most popular drama of all ages, 'Punch
and Judy.' Where is the artist who would venture to present Punch
with any but an enormous nose? Are the children frightened at it? No,
they revel in it. Do they sympathise with Judy when she is slain? Not
at all; every whack Punch gives her is greeted with shrieks of
laughter--because of his enormous nose. Introduce two strangers to a
baby, one with a very small nose, the other with a very big nose. Let
them both hold out their arms. Instinctively the baby flies to the man
with the large nose. It is nature's silent voice that instructs the
child. He or she--the sex is not material--instinctively knows which
is the better nose of the two, which is the most promising nose, the
most suggestive of kisses, and jumps in the air, and cakes, and songs,
and all that is dear to a child's heart. The test is infallible.
Nothing will convince me that you did not marry me because of my big
nose."

"Indeed, dear," said Rachel, still laughing, "I hardly think I would
have married you without it."

"Then the fact is established. I am about to make a confession to
you, Rachel; I am going to tell you the true reason for my choosing
this place to reside in, where I am separated by a long distance from
the friends of my youth and manhood, and where you, too, my dear
child"--in his moments of tenderness he occasionally addressed her
thus--"will, I fear, be for a time without friends to whom you can
unbosom yourself."

"I have you, my dear husband," said Rachel, in a tone of deep
affection, drawing closer to him, and slipping her little hand into
his great hand. A fine, large, nervous hand was Aaron Cohen's; a
palmister would have seen great possibilities in it. Rachel's hand,
despite her domestic work, was the hand of a lady; she took a proper
pride in preserving its delicacy and beauty. "I have you, my dear
husband," she said.

"Yes, my' life, but you used to kiss at least a dozen female friends a
day."

"I kissed Prissy and the baby to-night."

"When their faces were washed, I hope. Listen to my confession.
Pride and hard-heartedness drove me from the neighbourhood in which we
were married. A thousand pounds did my dear father--God rest his
soul!--bequeath to me. It dwindled and dwindled--my own fault; I could
not say No. One came to me with a melancholy tale which led to a
little loan; another came, and another, and another. I did not make
you acquainted with the extent of my transgressions. My dear, I
encouraged the needy ones; I even went out of my way to lend, thinking
myself a fine fellow, and flapping my wings in praise of my stupidity.
Not half I lent came back to me. Then business began to fall off, and
I saw that I was in the wrong groove. I had grown into bad ways; and
had I remained much longer in the old neighbourhood I should have been
left without a penny. I thought of our future, of the injustice I was
inflicting upon you. 'I will go,' said I, 'where I am not known, while
I still have a little to earn a living with, among strangers who, when
they borrow, will give me value in return, and where I shall not have
to say to poor friends, "Come to me no more; I am poorer than
yourselves." I have been foolish and weak; I will be wise and strong.
I will grow rich and hard-hearted.' Yes, my dear, that is what I
intend, and my heart will not be oppressed by the sight of suffering
it is out of my power to relieve. Rachel, I am not so clever as I
pretend to be; to speak the truth, I am afraid I am rather given to
crowing; and when it is not alone my own welfare, but the welfare of
one so dear to me as you are, that is concerned, I tremble, I begin to
doubt whether I have done right. Give me your opinion of the step I
have taken."

She gazed at him with serious, loving, trustful eyes. "It is a wise
step, Aaron, I am sure it is. Whatever you do is right, and I am
satisfied."

Ten o'clock struck, and a knock at the door announced the faithful
Prissy, come to put the fire out. She entered with the baby in her
arms, sound asleep. She was flushed and excited, and she held her hand
over the right side of her face.

"Victoria ought to be a-bed," said Rachel, taking a peep at baby.

"She can't go," retorted Prissy, "afore 'er mother's ready to take
'er."

"Where is her mother?" asked Aaron.

"At the Jolly Sailor Boy, enjying of 'erself."

"Ah! And where is your aunt?"

"At the Jolly Sailor Boy, too, 'aving a 'arf-quartern. There's been a
reg'lar row there about Mrs. Macrory's flannin peddicut."

"What happened to it?"

"It went wrong. Yes, it did. Yer needn't larf. Call me a story, do! I
would if I was you!"

"No, no, Prissy," said Aaron, in a soothing tone. "How did the flannel
petticoat go wrong?"

"Nobody knowed at fust. Aunty does Mrs. Macrory's washing, and a lot
more besides, and the things gits mixed sometimes. Aunty can't 'elp
that--'ow can she? So Mrs. Macrory's things was took 'ome without the
peddicut. Mrs. Macrory she meets aunty at the Jolly Sailor Boy, and
she begins to kick up about it. 'Where's my flannin peddicut?' she
ses. ''Ow should I know?' ses aunty. Then wot d'yer think? Mrs.
Macrory sees somethink sticking out of aunty's dress be'ind, and she
pulls at it. 'Why,' she ses, 'you've got it on!' That's wot the row
was about. Aunty didn't know 'ow it come on 'er--she's ready to take
'er oath on that. Ain't it rum?"

"Very rum. Put out the fire, Prissy. It is time for all good people to
get to bed."

In the performance of this duty Prissy was compelled to remove her
hand from her face, and when she rose from the floor it was seen that
her right eye was sadly discoloured, and that she was in pain.

"Oh, Prissy, poor child!" exclaimed Rachel; "you have been hurt!"

"Yes, mum," said Prissy. "Mrs. Macrory's gal--she's twice as big as
me; you should see 'er legs!--she ses, 'You're in that job,' she ses,
meaning the peddicut; and she lets fly and gives me a one-er on
account."

Rachel ran upstairs, and brought down a bottle of gillard water, with
which she bathed the bruise, and tied one of her clean white
handkerchiefs over it. Prissy stood quite still, her lips quivering;
it may have been the gillard water that filled the girl's unbandaged
eye with tears.

"That will make you feel easier," said Rachel. "Blow out the candles
now, and be here at half-past eight in the morning."

"I'll be sure to be," said Prissy, with a shake in her voice.

In the dark Aaron Cohen heard the sound of a kiss.

"Good-night, sir," said the girl.

"Good-night, Prissy," said Aaron.

The chain of the street door was put up, and the shutters securely
fastened, and then Aaron and Rachel, hand in hand, went up the dark
stairs to their room.

"My dear," said Aaron, drowsily, a few minutes after he and his wife
were in bed, "are you asleep?"

"No, Aaron," murmured Rachel, who was on the border-land of dreams.

"I've been thinking,"--he dozed off for a moment or two--"I've been
thinking----"

"Yes, my dear?"

--"That I wouldn't give Prissy's aunt any flannel petticoats to wash."

Almost before the words had passed his lips sleep claimed him for its
own.



                             CHAPTER XIV.

                        A PROCLAMATION OF WAR.


On Monday morning Aaron commenced business. In the shop window was a
display of miscellaneous articles ticketed at low prices, and Aaron
took his place behind his counter, ready to dispose of them, ready to
argue and bargain, and to advance money on any other articles on which
a temporary loan was required. He did not expect a rush of customers,
being aware that pawnbroking was a tree of very small beginnings, a
seed which needed time before it put forth flourishing branches. The
security was sure, the profits accumulative. He was confident of the
result. Human necessity, even human frailty, was on his side; all he
had to do was to be fair in his dealings.

In the course of the day he had a good many callers; some to make
inquiries, some to offer various articles for pledge. Of these latter
the majority were children, with whom he declined to negotiate. "Who
sent you?" "Mother." "Go home and tell her she must come herself." He
would only do business with grown-up people. Setting before himself a
straight and honest rule of life, he was not the man to wander from it
for the sake of a little profit. Of the other description of callers a
fair proportion entered the shop out of idle curiosity. He had
pleasant words for all, and gave change for sixpences and shillings
with as much courtesy as if each transaction was a gain to him; as,
indeed, it was, for no man or woman who entered with an unfavourable
opinion of him (influenced by certain rumours to his discredit which
had been circulated by Mr. Whimpole) departed without having their
minds disturbed by his urbanity and genial manners. "I don't see any
harm in him," was the general verdict from personal evidence; "he's as
nice a spoken man as I ever set eyes on." Many of his visitors went
away laughing at the humorous remarks he had made, which they passed
on from one to another. On the evening of this first day he expressed
his satisfaction at the business he had done.

"Our venture will turn out well," he said to Rachel. "The flag of
fortune is waving over us."

It was eight o'clock, and, although he scarcely expected further
custom, he kept the gas burning in the shop window.

"Light is an attraction," he observed. "It is better than an
advertisement in the papers."

The evening was fine. He and Rachel were sitting in the parlour,
with the intermediate door open. Aaron was smoking a handsome
silver-mounted pipe and making up his accounts, while his wife was
busy with her needle. Satan could never have put anything in the shape
of mischief in the way of these two pairs of industrious hands, for
they were never idle, except during the Sabbath and the fasts and
holydays, and then it was not idleness, but rest, Divinely ordained.
The silver-mounted pipe was one of Aaron's most precious possessions,
it being his beloved wife's gift to him on his last birthday. He would
not have sold it for ten times its weight in gold. Rachel often held a
light to it after it was filled, and Aaron, with an affectionate
smile, would kiss her white hand in acknowledgment of the service.
There are trifling memorials which are almost human in their
influence, and in the tender thoughts they inspire. At peace with the
world and with themselves, Aaron and his wife conversed happily as
they worked; but malignant influences were at work, of which they were
soon to feel the shock.

Aaron had put his account books in the safe, and was turning the key,
when the sound of loud voices outside his shop reached their ears. The
voices were those of children, male and female, who were exercising
their lungs in bass, treble, and falsetto. Only one word did they
utter.

"Jew! Jew! Jew!"

Rachel started up in alarm, her hand at her heart. Her face was white,
her limbs were trembling.

"Jew! Jew! Jew!"

Aaron put the key of the safe in his pocket, and laid down his pipe.
His countenance was not troubled, but his brows were puckered.

"Jew! Jew! Jew!"

"It is wicked! it is wicked!" cried Rachel, wringing her hands. "Oh,
how can they be so cruel!"

Aaron's countenance instantly cleared. He had to think, to act, for
her as well as for himself. With fond endearments he endeavoured to
soothe her; but her agitation was profound, and while these cries of
implied opprobrium continued she could not school herself to calmness.
Not for herself did she fear; it was against her dear, her honoured
husband that this wicked demonstration was made, and she dreaded that
he would be subjected to violence. Stories of past oppressions,
accounts she had read in the newspapers of Jew-baiting in other
countries, flashed into her mind. To her perturbed senses the voices
seemed to proceed from men and women; to Aaron's clearer senses they
were the voices of children, and he divined the source of the insult.
Rachel sobbed upon his breast, and clasped him close to protect him.

"Rachel, my love, my life!" he said, in a tone of tender firmness. "Be
calm, I entreat you. There is nothing to fear. Have you lost
confidence in your husband? Would you increase my troubles, and make
the task before me more difficult than it is? On my word as a man, on
my faith as a Jew, I will make friends of these foolish children, in
whose outcries there is no deep-seated venom--I declare it, none. They
do not know what they are doing. From my heart I pity them, the young
rascals, and I will wage a peaceful war with them--yes, my life, a
peaceful war--which will confound them and fill them with wonder. I
will make them respect me; I will enrich them with a memory which,
when they are men and women, will make them think of the past with
shame. I will make all my enemies respect me. If you will help me by
your silence and patience, I will turn their bitterness into
thistledown, which I can blow away with a breath. Take heart, my
beloved, dear life of my life! Trust to me, and in the course of a few
days you shall see a wonder. There, let me kiss your tears away. That
is my own Rachel, whose little finger is more precious to me than all
the world beside. Good, good, my own dear wife! Do you think it is a
tragedy that is being enacted by those youngsters? No, no; it is a
comedy. You shall see, you shall see!"

She was comforted by his words; she drew strength from his strength;
she looked at him in wonder, as he began to laugh even while he was
caressing her, and her wonder increased when she saw that his eyes
fairly shone with humour.

"Have no fear, my heart," he said; "have not the slightest fear. I am
going to meet them--not with javelin and spear, but with something
still more powerful, and with good temper for my shield."

"Aaron," she whispered, "are you sure there is no danger?"

"If I were not sure," he answered, merrily, "I would remain snug in
this room. I am not a man of war; I am a man of peace, and with
peaceful weapons will I scatter the enemy. For your dear sake I would
not expose myself to peril, for do I not know that if I were hurt your
pain would be greater than mine? It is my joy to know it. You will
remain quietly here?"

"I will, my dear husband. But you will not go into the street?"

"I shall go no farther than the street door. I shall not need to go
farther."

He stopped to fill his pipe, and to light it; and then, with loving
kisses and a smile on his lips, he left her.

When he made his appearance at the shop door there was a sudden hush,
and a sudden scuttling away of the twenty or thirty children who had
congregated to revile him. He remained stationary at the door, smoking
his pipe, and gazing benignantly at them.

Their fears of chastisement dispelled by his peaceful attitude, they
stopped, looked over their shoulders, and slowly and warily came back,
keeping, however, at a safe distance from him. They found their voices
again; again the reviling cries went forth.

"Jew! Jew! Jew!"

"Good children! good children!" said Aaron, in a clear, mellifluous
voice. Then he put his pipe to his mouth again, and continued to
smoke, smiling and nodding his head as if in approval.

"Jew! Jew! Jew!"

"Good little boys and girls," said Aaron. "Bravo! bravo! You deserve a
reward. Every labourer is worthy of his hire."

He drew from his pocket three or four pennies, which, with smiling
nods of his head, he threw among them.

Instantly came into play other passions--greed, avarice, the
determination not to be defrauded of their due. Falling upon the
money, they scrambled and fought for it. Aaron threw among them two or
three more pennies, and their ardour increased. They scratched, they
kicked, they tumbled over each other; blows were given and returned.
Those who had secured pennies scampered away with them, and, with loud
and vengeful cries, the penniless scampered after them. In a very
little while they had all disappeared. To the victors the spoils, it
is said; but in this instance it really appeared as if victory had
ranged itself on Aaron's side.

Shaking with internal laughter, he remained on his steps awhile,
puffing at his pipe; then he put up the shutters, locked the street
door, put out the shop lights, and rejoined his wife.

"My dear," he said, and his voice was so gay that her heart beat with
joy, "that is the end of the first act. They will not come back
to-night."



                             CHAPTER XV.

                    THE BATTLE IS FOUGHT AND WON.


"The personal affections by which we are governed," said Aaron Cohen,
seating himself comfortably in his chair, "are, like all orders of
beings to which they come, of various degrees and qualities, and the
smaller become merged and lost in the larger, as the serpents of
Pharaoh's magicians were swallowed up by Aaron's rod. Wisdom is better
than an inheritance, and anger resteth in the bosom of fools.
Moreover, as is observed by Rabbi Chanina, 'Wise men promote peace in
the world.' Such, my dear Rachel, is my aim, and so long as the means
within my reach are harmless, so long will I follow the learned
rabbi's precept. If the human heart were not full of envy and deceit,
what I have done should bring joy to our persecutors; but I will not
pledge myself that it has done so in this instance. On the contrary,
on the contrary. They have something else to think of than calling me
what I am proud to be called--a Jew. How they scratched and fought and
ran!" Aaron paused here to laugh. "The opprobrious cries ceased
suddenly, did they not, Rachel?"

"They did, and I was very much surprised."

"You will be more surprised when you hear that I rewarded with modern
shekels the labours of the young rascals who would make our lives a
torment to us."

"You gave them money!" exclaimed Rachel, in amazement. "Is it possible
you rewarded them for their bad work?"

"I threw among them seven penny pieces. Yes, yes, I rewarded them. Why
not?"

"But why?"

"Ah, why, why? Had I thrown among them seven cannon balls they would
scarcely have been more effective. The truth of this will be made
manifest to our benefit before many days are gone, or Cohen is not my
name. Wife of my soul, I went forth, not with a lion's, but with a
fox's skin. Have I not studied the law? Are not the Cohanim priests,
and are not priests supposed to be men of intelligence and resource?
We read in Proverbs, 'Counsel is mine, and sound wisdom; I have
understanding, I have strength.' Rabbi Meyer says that the study of
the law endows a man with sovereignty, dominion, and ratiocination. He
is slow to anger, ready to forgive an injury, has a good heart,
receives chastisement with resignation, loves virtue, correction, and
admonition. This, perhaps, is going a little too far, and is endowing
a human being with qualities too transcendent; but it is true to a
certain extent, and I have profited by the learned rabbi's words. Ill
fitted should I be to engage in the battle of life if I were not able
to cope with the young rascals who made the night hideous outside our
door, and who, if I am not mistaken; will repeat their performance
to-morrow evening at the same hour."

"They will come again!" cried Rachel, clasping her hands in despair.

"They will come again, and again, and yet again, and then--well, then
we shall see what we shall see."

"You gave them money to-night," said Rachel, sadly, "and they will
return for more."

"And they will return for more," said Aaron, with complacency. "At
the present moment I should judge that they are engaged in a fierce
contest. When that look comes into your face, my dear, it is an
indication that I have said something you do not exactly understand.
I threw to them seven apples of discord, which the nimblest and the
strongest seized and fled with. But each soldier conceived he
had a right to at least one of the apples, and those who were left
empty-handed laboured under a sense of wrong. They had been robbed by
their comrades. After them they rushed to obtain their portion of the
spoils of war. Then ensued a grand scrimmage in which noses have been
injured and eyes discoloured. Even as we converse the battle is
continued. I am not there, but I see the scene clearly with my mind's
eye." He took a sovereign from his pocket, and regarded it
contemplatively. "Ah, thou root of much evil and of much good, what
have you not to answer for? What blessings is it not in your power to
bestow, what evil passions do you not bring into play? Rachel, my
love, take heart of courage, and when you hear those boys shouting
outside tomorrow night do not be alarmed. Trust in me; everything will
come right in the end."

The scene which Aaron had drawn from his imagination was as near as
possible to the truth. There had been a battle royal between the boys
and girls for possession of the pennies; noses were put out of joint,
black eyes were given, words of injurious import exchanged, and much
bad blood engendered. The sevenpence for which they fought would have
gone but a little way to pay for the repairs to the clothes which were
torn and rent during the fray. The end of it was that the robbers,
after being kicked and cuffed ignominiously, were not allowed to join
in a compact made by the penniless, to the effect that they would
assemble outside Aaron Cohen's shop to-morrow night and repeat the
tactics which had been so well rewarded, and that all moneys received
should be equally divided between the warriors engaged. One Ted Kite
was appointed commander, to organise the expedition and to see fair
play.

Accordingly, on Tuesday night a score or so of boys and girls
presented themselves in front of the shop, and commenced shouting,
"Jew! Jew! Jew!" the fugleman being Ted Kite, who proved himself well
fitted for the task.

"There he is, there he is!" said the youngsters eagerly, as Aaron made
his appearance on the doorstep; and, inspired by their captain, they
continued to fire.

"Good children, good children," said Aaron, with good-humoured smiles,
and continuing to smoke his silver-mounted pipe. "Very well done, very
well done indeed!"

"Ain't he going to throw us nothink?" they asked each other anxiously,
their greedy eyes watching Aaron's movements. They were kept rather
long in suspense, but at length Aaron's hand sought his pocket, and
half a dozen pennies rattled on the stones. Despite their compact down
they pounced, and fought and scratched for them as on the previous
night, the fortunate ones scudding away as on the first occasion,
followed by their angry comrades. They were caught, and compelled to
disgorge; the pennies were changed into farthings, and each soldier
received one for his pay; the two or three that were left were spent
in sweetstuff.

"What a game!" the children exclaimed, and appointed to meet on the
following night to continue the pastime.

On this third night they were kept waiting still longer. Aaron Cohen
did not make his appearance so quickly, and several minutes elapsed
before the pennies were thrown to them. On the first night he had
disbursed seven, on the second night six, on this third only four.
There was the usual fighting for them, and the usual scampering away;
but when the sum-total was placed in the hands of Ted Kite a great
deal of dissatisfaction was expressed. Only fourpence! They doubted
the correctness of the sum; they were sure that more had been thrown;
one girl said she counted eight, and others supported her statement.
Who had stolen the missing pennies? They quarrelled and fought again;
they regarded each other with suspicion; doubts were thrown upon the
honesty of the captain. Off went his coat instantly; off went the
coats of other boys; the girls, having no coats to throw off, tucked
up their sleeves; and presently six or seven couples were hitting,
scratching, and kicking each other. Much personal damage was done, and
more bad blood engendered. The warfare was not by any means of a
heroic nature.

Nevertheless they assembled on the fourth night, and were kept waiting
still longer before they were paid. Aaron did not show his liberality,
however, until he had had a conference with the captain. His keen eyes
had singled out Ted Kite, and he beckoned to him. Ted hesitated; he
was only a small boy; Aaron Cohen was a big man, and in a personal
contest could have disposed of him comfortably.

"Yah, yer coward!" cried the rank and file to their captain. "What are
yer frightened at? What did we make yer captain for?"

Thus taunted, Ted Kite ventured to approach the smiling foe.

"Come a little nearer," said Aaron; "I am not going to hurt you. I
wish you to do me a favour."

Ted, with a sidelong look over his shoulders at his army, as if
appealing to it to rush to his rescue in case he was seized, shuffled
forward. Aaron Cohen held out his hand; Ted Kite timidly responded,
and was surprised at the friendly grip he received.

"You are the leader," said Aaron, in his most genial voice.

"Yes, Mr. Cohen," replied Ted, growing bold, "I'm the captain."

"Clever lad, clever captain! Here's a penny for you. Don't let them
see you take it. It is for you alone. They will do as you tell them,
of course."

"I'll let 'em know it if they don't."

"It's right you should. I think it is very kind of you to come here as
you do, but I want you to oblige me and not come to-morrow night It is
Friday, and the shop will be closed; so you would be wasting your
time. That would be foolish, would it not?"

"Yes, it would," said Ted, somewhat bewildered. "Shall we come on
Saturday night?"

"Certainly, if you think proper. Then you will not be here to-morrow?"

"We won't, as you'd rather not, Mr. Cohen."

"Thank you, I am really obliged to you. Now go and join your army."

Ted Kite turned away, walked a step or two, and returned.

"But I say, Mr. Cohen----"

"Well, my lad?"

"Do you like it?"

"Do I like it?" echoed Aaron, With a sly chuckle. "Should I speak to
you as I am doing if I didn't? I think it is very nice of you; very
nice, very nice indeed!"

"Oh!" said Ted, in a crest-fallen tone. As Aaron took pleasure in the
persecution, it was not half such good fun as it had been. "He says he
likes it," he said to his comrades, when he was among them.

"How much did he give yer?" they inquired, feeling as he did in
respect of the fun of their proceedings.

"He didn't give me nothink."

"We sor him hold out his hand to yer," they protested.

"You sor us shake hands, that's what yer saw. Let's get on with the
game; we don't want to be kept waiting here all night."

They went on with the game, calling "Jew! Jew! Jew!" half-heartedly.
Putting the pecuniary reward out of the question, it was a game that
was becoming rather monotonous. They had to call for quite a quarter
of an hour before Aaron paid them; and this time he paid them with two
pennies only. The children fell on the ground, and scraped the stones
for more, but found none; and they retired grumbling, discontented,
and suspicious of each other's honesty.

On Friday night, the Sabbath eve, Aaron and Rachel had peace; and on
Saturday night the children made their appearance again and gave forth
their chorus. Aaron came to the door, and stood there, smoking his
pipe, and smiling at them; but he did not throw any pennies to them.
They did not know what to make of it. Their voices grew weaker and
weaker, they wandered about discontentedly, they declared it was not
fair on Mr. Cohen's part. "We'll try him agin on Monday night," they
said.

They tried him again on Monday night, and he stood on his steps,
commending them, but he gave them no more pennies. There was no heart
whatever now in their invectives. They were not philosophers, and did,
not know that the course Aaron had pursued had taken the sting out of
their tails. "He likes it," they said to one another, as they strolled
off moodily, "and he wants us to come here and scream our throats dry
without being paid for it. Well, we ain't going to do it. We won't
call him Jew any more, if he wants us ever so much. It ain't likely,
now, is it? What does he mean by treating us so shabby?" These young
rapscallions thought the world was out of joint.

On this Monday night an incident occurred which never came to Aaron's
ears. Prissy, hearing of the annoyance to which the Cohens were
subjected, made her appearance as the boys were wandering
disconsolately away, and without wasting time in asking questions,
darted like a tiger-cat upon the biggest of them, and fixed her
fingers in his hair. She had left Victoria Regina asleep on the coals
in her aunt's shop, and had, so to speak, girded up her loins for the
contest, by pinning up her ragged skirts and tucking up her sleeves to
the shoulder. "What's that for?" cried the boy, struggling to get
free. Prissy vouchsafed no explanation; the only words she uttered
were addressed to the other boys. "Fair play. One at a time. I'm only
a gal." Chivalry was not dead. They stood round the combatants, and
witnessed the fight without interfering. It was a desperate encounter.
Many an ugly blow did Prissy receive; but she depended upon her
talons, and pulled such quantities of hair out of the big boy's head,
and scratched his face so dreadfully, that he was at length driven to
tears and entreaties to her to leave off. "Do yer want any more?"
screamed Prissy, whose breath was almost gone. The big boy's answer
was to run away, whimpering, and the other boys hooted him as he fled.
"Would any other boy like to come on?" demanded the panting Prissy.
Not one accepted the challenge, and Prissy, glaring at them as they
followed their vanquished comrade, went back to Victoria Regina, and
shed copious tears of indignant satisfaction over the sleeping babe.

In this way it was that Aaron Cohen fought the battle and gained a
bloodless victory. He laughed in his sleeve as he thought of it, and
laughed aloud in his cosy little parlour when he related the whole
affair to Rachel.

"One shilling and eightpence has it cost me, my love," he said, "and I
do not grudge the money. Show 'me the battle that has been won for
less."

Rachel was greatly relieved; but her dominant feeling was admiration
for her husband's wisdom.

"I do not believe any other man in the world would have thought of
it," she said; and though Aaron shook his head in modest deprecation,
he was justified in inwardly congratulating himself upon his astute
tactics.

The story got about, and the townspeople were much amused by it. "Mr.
Cohen's a clever fellow," they said. He grew to be respected by them,
and as the weeks passed by and it was seen that he was not only a
fair-dealing but a kindly-hearted man, the innuendoes which Mr.
Whimpole continued to circulate about him produced a very small
effect. Mr. Whimpole was not pleased; where is the man who would have
been in his position? Talking one night with Rachel over the animosity
the corn-chandler bore towards the Jews, Aaron said,--

"I have no doubt, my dear, that he is quite conscientious, and that he
considers his prejudices to be the outcome of a just conviction.
Doubtless his parents had the same conviction, and he imbibed it from
them. There are thousands of people who agree with him, and there are
worse persecutions than that to which we have been subjected. Look at
that infamously-governed country, Russia, which, in the maps, ought to
be stamped blood-red, with a heavy mourning border around it! The
wretches who inflict incredible sufferings upon countless innocent
beings call themselves Christians. They are not Christians, they are
fiends, and a judgment will fall upon them. Spain, once the greatest
of nations, fell into decay when the Jews deserted it. So will it be
with other nations that oppress the Jew. Let Germany look to it. It is
easy to arouse the evil passions of human beings, but a brand of fire
shall fall upon the heads of those who are employed in work so vile."



                             CHAPTER XVI.

                           JOY AND SORROW.


Perhaps, however, to Rachel may chiefly be ascribed the general esteem
in which the Cohens were held by the townsfolk. Charitable, kind, and
gentle by nature, she was instinctively drawn to all poor people who
had fallen into misfortune. Here there was no question of Jew and
Christian. A human being was in trouble; that was sufficient for this
dear woman, whose heart bled at the sight of suffering. Upon her
sympathetic ears no tale of distress could fall without bearing fruit.
Now it was a basin of nourishing soup, now a mould of jelly, now part
of a chicken, cooked by herself, and paid for out of her housekeeping
money. She won friends everywhere, and her sweet face was like a ray
of sunshine in the homes of the poor. It was not at all uncommon to
hear that her timely assistance had been the means of restoring to
health those who had been stricken down. She walked through life as an
angel of mercy might have done, and spiritual flowers grew about her
feet.

Of all the friends who sounded her praises none were more enthusiastic
than little Prissy, who came now regularly to the house to do domestic
work.

Anxious to increase his trade, Aaron had stocked his shop with such
articles of wear and adornment which were most in request. He had not
the means to pay ready money for the stock, but through a friend in
Portsmouth, Mr. Moss, with whom the readers of this story have already
become acquainted, he obtained credit from wholesale dealers who would
have been chary to trust him without a sufficient recommendation.
Apart from the pleasures which his modest success in business afforded
him, there was a happiness in store for him to which he looked forward
with a sense of profound gratitude. Rachel was about to become a
mother. To this fond couple, who lived only for each other, there
could be no greater joy than this. They had lost their firstborn, and
God was sending another child to bless their days. They never closed
their eyes at night, they never rose in the morning, without offering
a prayer of thanks to the Most High for His goodness to them. They saw
no cloud gathering to darken their happiness.

It was an ordinary event, for which Aaron could hardly have been
prepared.

They had been eleven months in Gosport when one morning Aaron, rising
first and going down to his shop, found that burglars had been at
work. They had effected an entrance at the back of the house, and had
carried away the most valuable articles in the window. The loss, Aaron
calculated, would not be less than a hundred pounds.

It was, to him, a serious loss; he had commenced with a very small
capital, and his earnings during the year had left only a small margin
over his household and trade expenses. His business was growing, it is
true, but for the first six months he had barely paid his way; it was
to the future he looked to firmly establish himself, and now in one
night all his profits were swept away. More than this; if he were
called upon to pay his debts he would have but a few pounds left.
Rachel, whose health the last week or two had been delicate, her
confinement being so near, was in bed by his directions; he had
forbidden her to rise till ten o'clock. It was a matter to be thankful
for; he could keep the shock of the loss from her; in her condition
bad news might have a serious effect upon her.

He set everything in order, spoke no word of what had occurred to his
wife, re-arranged the shop window, and took down the shutters. In the
course of the day he told Rachel that he intended to close a couple of
hours earlier than usual; he had to go to Portsmouth upon business in
the evening, and should be absent probably till near midnight.

"You will not mind being alone, my love?" he said.

"Oh no," she answered, with a tender smile; "I have plenty to occupy
me."

She had been for some time busy with her needle preparing for her
unborn child.

"But you must go to bed at ten," said Aaron. "I shall lock the shop,
and take the key of the back door with me, so that I can let myself
in."

She promised to do as he bade her, and in the evening he left her to
transact his business. He had no fear that she would be intruded upon;
it was not likely that the house would be broken into two nights in
succession; besides, with the exception of some pledges of small value
which he kept in the safe, where they were secure from burglars, there
was little now to tempt thieves to repeat their knavish doings. So
with fond kisses he bade her goodnight.

They stood facing each other, looking into each other's eyes. Rachel's
eyes were of a tender grey, with a light so sweet in them that he
never looked into them unmoved. He kissed them now with a strange
yearning at his heart.

"I hope baby's eyes will be like yours, dear love," he said; "the soul
of sweetness and goodness shines in them."

She smiled happily, and pressed him fondly to her. Ah, if he had
known!

His first business was with the police. He went to the station, and
telling the inspector of his loss, said that he wished it to be kept
private, because of his fear that it might reach his wife's ears. The
inspector replied that it would be advisable under any circumstances.
Leaving in the officer's hands a list of the articles that had been
stolen, he proceeded to Portsmouth to consult his friend Mr. Moss.
That good-hearted gentleman was deeply concerned at the news.

"It is a serious thing, Cohen," he said.

"A very serious thing," replied Aaron, gravely; "but I shall overcome
it, Only I require time. I promised to pay some bills to-morrow, and
as I shall need a little stock to replace what I have lost, it will
cramp me to do so now."

He mentioned the names of the tradesmen to whom he had given the
promise, and asked Mr. Moss to call upon them in the morning and
explain the matter to them.

"They will not lose their money," he said; "it will not take me very
long to make everything right."

"I will see them," said Mr. Moss, "and I am sure they will give you
time. Aaron Cohen's name is a sufficient guarantee."

"I hope it will always be," replied Aaron. "It is very unfortunate
just now, because I have extra expenses coming on me. The nurse, the
doctor----"

"I know, I know. How is Mrs. Cohen?"

"Fairly well, I am glad to say. She knows nothing of what has
occurred."

"Of course not. How could you tell her while she is like that? When
Mrs. Moss is in the same way I am always singing and laughing and
saying cheerful things to her. Between you and me, we expect an
addition ourselves in about four months."

"Indeed! That will make----"

"Twelve," said Mr. Moss, rubbing his hands briskly together. "Increase
and multiply. It's our bounden duty; eh, Cohen?"

"Yes," said Aaron, rather absently. "And now I must go; it will be
late before I reach home, and for all Rachel's promises I expect she
will keep awake for me. Good-night, and thank you."

"Nothing to thank me for. Good-night, and good luck."

When Aaron returned to Gosport it was midnight. Winter was coming on,
and it was cold and dark. Buttoning his coat close up to his neck, he
hastened his steps.

He was not despondent. Misfortune had fallen upon him, but he had
confidence in himself; and, despite the practical common sense which
showed itself in all his actions, there was in his nature an
underlying current of spiritual belief in Divine assistance towards
the successful accomplishment of just and worthy endeavour. That it is
man's duty to do right, to work, to pray, to be considerate to his
neighbours, to make his home cheerful, to be as charitable as his
means will allow--this was his creed; and it was strengthened by his
conviction that God made Himself manifest even upon earth in matters
of right and wrong. He did not relegate the expiation of transgression
to the future; he did not believe that a man could wipe out the sins
of the past year by fasting, and praying, and beating his breast on
the Day of Atonement. Wrong-doing was not to be set aside and
forgotten until a convenient hour for repentance arrived. That was the
conduct of a man who tried to cheat his conscience, who deluded
himself with the hope that the Eternal sometimes slept. Daily, hourly,
a man must keep watch over himself and his actions. This had been his
rule of life; and it contributed to his happiness, and to the
happiness of those around him.

He was within a quarter of a mile of his residence when he was
conscious of an unseen disturbance in the air; and presently he saw a
distant glare in the sky, and the faint echoes of loud voices stole
upon his senses. Agitated as he had been by what had transpired during
this long unfortunate day, he could not at first be certain whether
these signs were real or imaginary; but he soon discovered that they
did not spring from his imagination. The glare in the sky became
plainly visible, the loud voices reached his cars. There was a fire in
the town, and he was proceeding towards it. Instantly his thoughts,
his fears, centred upon Rachel. He ran forward quickly, and found
himself struggling through an excited crowd. Flames shot upwards; the
air was filled with floating sparks of fire. Great God! It was his own
house that was being destroyed by the devouring element. He did not
heed that; the destruction of his worldly goods did not affect him.

"My wife!" he screamed. "Where is my wife?"

By main force they held him back, for he was rushing into the flames.

"Let me go!" he screamed. "Where is my wife?"

"It is all right, Mr. Cohen," a number of voices replied. "She is
saved!"

"Thank God, oh, thank God!" he cried. "Take me to her. Where is she?"

He cared not for the ruin that had overtaken him; like cool water to a
parched throat had come the joyful news.

"Take me to her. In the name of Heaven, tell me where she is!"

She was in a house, at a safe distance from the fire, and thither he
was led. Rachel was lying on a couch in her nightdress; sympathising
people were about her.

"Rachel, Rachel!" he cried, and fell upon his knees by her side.

She did not answer him; she was insensible.

"Do not agitate yourself," said a voice. It was that of a physician
who had been attending to her. "Be thankful that she lives."

"O Lord, I thank Thee!" murmured the stricken man. "My Rachel lives!"

What mattered all the rest? What mattered worldly ruin and
destruction? The beloved of his heart was spared to him.

"You are a sensible man, Mr. Cohen," said the physician, "and you must
be calm for her sake. In her condition there will be danger if she
witnesses your agitation when she recovers."

"I will be calm, sir," said Aaron, humbly. "She is all I have in the
world."

He made no inquiries as to the cause of the fire; he did not stir from
Rachel's side, but sat with his eyes fixed upon her pallid face. The
physician remained with them an hour, and then took his departure,
saying he would return early in the morning, and leaving instructions
to Aaron what to do.

At sunrise Rachel awoke. Passing one hand over her eyes, she held out
the other in a groping, uncertain way. Aaron took it in his, and held
it fondly; the pallor left her cheeks.

"It is you, my dear?" she murmured.

"Yes, it is I, my life!" he said, in a low and gentle tone.

"You are well--you are safe?"

"I am well; I am safe," he replied. "And you, Rachel, how do you
feel?"

"I have a slight headache. It will soon pass away. Oh, my dear
husband, how thankful I am! When did you return?"

"Not till you were taken from the house. Do not talk now. Rest, rest,
my beloved!"

The endearing words brought a glad smile to her lips.

"I will sleep presently, Aaron. Is the doctor here?"

"No, but he will come soon. Shall I go for him?"

"I can wait, dear; when he comes I should like to speak to him alone."

"You are hurt!" he said, alarmed. "Tell me!"

"I am not hurt, dear; it is only that my head aches a little. He will
give me something to relieve me. Have no fear for me, Aaron; I am in
no danger; indeed, indeed, I am not!"

"God be praised!"

She drew his head to her breast, and they lay in silence awhile,
fondly embracing.

"Let me tell you, dear, and then I will go to sleep again. I went to
bed at ten, as you bade me, and though I had it in my mind to keep
awake for you I could not do so. I do not know how long I slept, but I
awoke in confusion, and there was a strong glare in my eyes. I hardly
remember what followed. I heard voices calling to me--Prissy's voice
was the loudest, I think--and then I felt that strong arms were around
me, and I was being carried from the house. That is all, my dear, till
I heard your voice, here. Where am I?"

He informed her; and then, holding him close to her, she fell asleep
again. As the clock struck nine the physician entered the room, and
Aaron told him what had passed.

"I can spare half an hour," said the physician. "Go and see after your
affairs. I will not leave her till you return."

Kissing Rachel tenderly, and smoothing the hair from her forehead,
Aaron left the house, and went to his own. Before he departed he
learned from the kind neighbours, who had given Rachel shelter, that
they were not in a position to keep her and Aaron with them, and he
said that he would make arrangements to remove her in the course of
the day, if the doctor thought it would be safe to do so. His own
house, he found, was completely destroyed, but he heard of another at
no great distance, which was to be let furnished for a few weeks; and
this he took at once, and installed Prissy therein, to light fires and
get the rooms warm. The arrangement completed, he hastened back to
Rachel, between whom and the physician a long consultation had taken
place during his absence. At the conclusion of their conversation she
had asked him one question,--

"Shall I be so all my life, doctor?"

"I fear so," was his reply.

"My poor husband!" she murmured. "My poor, dear husband! Say nothing
to him, doctor, I implore you. Let him hear the truth from my lips."

He consented, not sorry to be spared a painful duty. "She is
surprisingly well," he said to Aaron, "and in a few days will be able
to get about a little, though you must not expect her to be quite
strong till her child is born."

The news was so much better than Aaron expected, that he drew a deep
breath of exquisite relief.

"Can she be removed to-day with safety?" he asked.

"I think so. She will be happier with you alone. Give me your new
address; I will call and see her there this evening."

At noon she was taken in a cab to her new abode and Aaron carried her
in, and laid her on the sofa before a bright fire. In the evening the
physician called according to his promise. "She is progressing
famously," he said to Aaron. "Get her to bed early, and it may be
advisable that she should keep there a few days. But I shall speak
more definitely about this later on. Mr. Cohen, you have my best
wishes. You are blessed with a noble wife." Tears shone in Aaron's
eyes. "Let me impress upon you," continued the doctor, "to be strong
as she is strong; but at present, with the birth of her child so near,
it is scarcely physical power that sustains her. She is supported by a
spiritual strength drawn from her love for you and her unborn babe."

With these words the physician left them together. Prissy was gone,
and Aaron and Rachel were alone.

They exchanged but few words. Rachel still occupied the couch before
the fire, and as she seemed to be dozing Aaron would not disturb her.
Thus an hour passed by, and then Rachel said,--

"The doctor advises me to go to bed early. Will you help me up, dear?"

She stood on her feet before him, and as his eyes rested on her face a
strange fear entered his heart.

"Come, my life!" he said.

"A moment, dear husband," she said. "I have something to tell you,
something that will grieve you. I do not know how it happened, nor
does the good doctor know. He has heard of only one such case before.
I am not in pain; I do not suffer. It is much to be grateful for, and
I am humbly, humbly grateful. It might have been so much worse!"

"Rachel, my beloved!" said Aaron, placing his hands on her shoulders.

"Keep your arms about me, my honoured husband. Let me feel your dear
hands, your dear face. Kiss me, Aaron. May I tell you now?"

"Tell me now, my beloved."

"Look into my eyes, dear. I cannot look into yours. Dear husband, I am
blind!"



                            CHAPTER XVII.

                         DIVINE CONSOLATION.


The shock of this revelation was so overwhelming that for a few
moments Aaron was unable to speak. In the words of the prophet, "His
tongue clave to the roof of his mouth." His soul was plunged in
darkness, and a feeling of passionate rebellion racked his heart. That
upon his sweet and innocent wife should have fallen an infliction so
awful seemed to blot all brightness out of the world. Nay, more--it
seemed to be so opposed to the principle of justice as to render it a
mockery and a snare. The sentiment which animated him was one of
horror and indignation, and he yielded to it unresistingly. What had
Rachel done to deserve the cruel blow? Her life had been a life of
purity and innocence; her religious obligations had been zealously
fulfilled; in her home her duties had been faithfully and cheerfully
performed; to the poor she had been a ministering angel; she had
walked truly in the ways of God. Not with a crown of sorrow, but with
a crown of glory should she have been crowned And was it not natural
that he should rebel against it? He was her champion, her protector,
her defender; she had no one else. Should he stand tamely by and show
no sense of the injustice which had been inflicted upon her?

Very, very rarely had Aaron been dominated by so stubborn a mood;
very, very rarely had he allowed it to take possession of him; and
never in a single instance on his own account. Mere worldly
misfortune, however disastrous in its effect, he had invariably met
with philosophic calm and fortitude. Many reverses had attended him,
and he had borne them bravely, as a man should, as it was a man's duty
to do. With a courage which may be said to be heroic had he accepted
each successive stroke, and had immediately applied himself to the
task of repairing the breach. No fainthearted soldier he, sitting down
and weeping by the roadside when he received a wound. To be up and
doing, that was his creed. These were but ordinary checks, which a man
must be prepared to encounter in his course through life; weak indeed
would he prove himself to be who did not at once set to work manfully
and energetically to make the best, instead of the worst, of each
rebuff. Aaron's keen gift of humour and his talent for justifiable
device were of immense assistance to him in these encounters, and in
his conversations with Rachel he was in the habit of throwing so droll
a light upon the difficulties with which he was contending, that he
lifted from her heart and from his own a weight which otherwise would
have remained there and impeded his efforts. He treated every personal
ailment which visited him, and every little accident he met with, in
the same fashion, laughing away Rachel's distress, and bearing his
pain without the least symptom of querulousness. "You seem almost to
like pain, my dear," she had said. "There is pleasure in pain," he had
answered; "think of the relief." Thus did he make the pack upon his
shoulders easy to carry, and thus did he contribute to Rachel's
enjoyment of life.

Over and above these lesser features in his character reigned the
great factors truth and justice. Temptations he had had, as all men
have, but he was, happily, so constituted that he had not to fight
them down; they were destroyed in their suggestion. It was with him an
impossibility to advance his own interests by deceit and subterfuge,
to make money by cheating his neighbour. He took no credit to himself
that he was never guilty of a meanness; it was simply that it was not
in his nature to fall so low, and that he walked instinctively in the
right path. He had a soul of pity for misfortune, and had frequently
conversed with Rachel upon the doctrine of responsibility, arguing
that children born of vicious parents should not be made accountable
for their evil acts to the fullest extent. "It is an inheritance," he
argued, "and it is not they who are wholly guilty. My parents gave me
an inheritance of cheerfulness and good temper, and I am more grateful
for it than I should be if they had left me a large bag of gold." Upon
questions of right and wrong his good sense and his rectitude led him
unerringly to the just side, and when he had a stake in a decision he
was called upon to make in such or such an issue he never for a moment
hesitated. To have benefited himself at the expense of justice would
have been in his eyes a sin which was not to be forgiven. A sin of
unconscious omission could be expiated, but a sin of deliberate
commission would have weighed for ever on his soul. Could such a man
as this, a devout and conscientious Jew, faithful every day of his
life in the observances of his religion, with a firm belief in the
mercy and goodness of the Eternal God, and with the principles of
truth and justice shining ever before him, be guilty of such a sin? It
will be presently seen.

So far himself, considered as an entity. Had he been alone in life,
with no other life so welded into his own as to be inseparable from
it, it is scarcely possible that he could have been guilty of a
conscious wrong, for his soul would have risen in revolt against the
suggestion. Had he been alone, misfortunes might have fallen upon him
unceasingly, poverty might have been his lot through all his days,
disease might have racked his bones--he would have borne all with
tranquillity and resignation, and would have lifted up his voice in
praise of the Most High to his last hour. Of such stuff are martyrs
made; from such elements springs the lofty ideal into which, once in a
generation, is breathed the breath of life, the self-sacrificing hero
who sheds his blood and dies with a glad light on his face in the
battle of right against might, in the battle of weak innocence against
the ruthless hand of power. But Aaron was not alone; Rachel was by his
side, leaning upon his heart, looking to him for joy, for peace, for
happiness. And when he suffered, it was through her he suffered; and
when he was oppressed with sorrow, it was through her he sorrowed. So
keen was his sympathy with her, so intense was his love for her, that
if only her finger ached he was in pain. We are but human after all,
and no man can go beyond a man's strength. Legends are handed down to
us of Divine inspiration falling upon a man who, thus spiritually
directed and inspired, becomes a leader, a hero, a prophet; but in
that man's heartstrings are not entwined the tender fingers of wife
and children. He communes with nature, he hears voices in the forest,
the rustling leaves whisper to him, the solemn trees, rearing their
stately forms to the dark skies, bear a message to his soul, he sees
visions in the dead of night; but he hears not the voice of his
beloved, he beholds not the angelic face of his sleeping child in its
crib. As blades of grass, which we can rub into nothingness between
our fingers, force their upward way to air and sunshine through
adamantine stones, as rocks are worn away by the trickling of drops of
water, so may a man's sublimest qualities, so may a man's heart and
soul, be pierced and reft by human love.

It was this absorbing sentiment that agitated Aaron when Rachel
revealed to him that she was blind, it was this that struck him dumb.

Meekly and patiently she stood before him--he had fallen back a
step--and waited for him to speak. He did not utter a word.

Presently her sweet voice stole upon his senses.

"Aaron, my beloved, why are you silent? why do you not speak to me?"

He lifted his head and groaned.

"Ah, do not groan, dear husband," she continued. "It is for me you
suffer; but I am not suffering--did I not tell you so? It is, indeed,
the truth. Look into my face; you will see no pain there. All is well
with us; all will be well with us; the future is glad and bright. And
remember, dear, I need you more than ever now. Next to God, you are my
rock, my salvation. He has cast this affliction upon me out of His
goodness and wisdom. Humbly, gratefully, I thank Him. Let us lift up
our voices in His praise."

And from her lips flowed, in the ancient tongue, the sublime prayer:

"Hear, O Israel, the Eternal, our God, the Eternal is One. And thou
shalt love the Eternal thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy
soul, and with all thy might. And these words which I command thee
this day shall be in thine heart. And thou shalt teach them diligently
unto thy children, and shall speak of them when thou sittest in thine
house, and when thou walkest by the way, when thou liest down, and
when thou risest up."

An angel's voice could not have been more melodious and sweet, and the
beauty of the prayer acquired truly a Divine strength through Rachel's
intoning of the pious words. But it was not only her voice that
resounded in the room. The moment she commenced to pray rebellion
against Fate's decree melted out of Aaron's heart, and pity took its
place. He was restored to his better self. Holding her hand, he joined
her in the prayer, but not in so loud a voice as usual; she was the
teacher now, and he the pupil; he followed her, as it were, and was
led by her; and when the prayer was ended her head sank upon his
breast, and her arms entwined themselves around his neck.

"You are resigned, my dear?" she whispered.

"I bow my head," he answered. "The Lord's will be done."

"I could not keep it from you any longer. I was blind when I opened my
eyes in the house of the good people who gave me shelter; I was blind
when you sat by my side there; but I feared to tell you; I wished to
speak to the doctor first. It was so strange, so sudden, that I hoped
it would not last. I awoke with the cry of fire in my ears, and, as I
leapt from bed, the bright glare of the flames seemed to strike sight
out of my eyes. I fainted, and remember nothing more, only that when I
opened my eyes again I could not see. It was merciful that there was
no pain. Oh, my dear husband, I am so sorry for you; so sorry, so
sorry!"

"Rachel, dear Rachel, dear life of my life, it is not for me you
should grieve--it is for yourself."

"No, dear love, I do not grieve for myself. Should I not rather
rejoice? Because I know, I know,"--she put his hand to her lips and
kissed it, then held it to her heart--"that you will bear with me,
that I shall not be a trouble to you."

"A trouble to me, Rachel! You are dearer to me than ever, more
precious to me than ever. Oh, my dear! I never loved you as I love you
now!"

"How sweet, how sweet!" she murmured. "How beautiful is life! No woman
was ever blessed as I am blessed! And soon, dear love, we shall have
with us another evidence of the Lord's great mercy. Our child, our
darling, will be here! Ah, what happiness!"

She hid her face upon his breast.

Was there already in her heart the shadow of an abiding sorrow
springing from the knowledge that she would never see the face of her
unborn child, that she would never be able to look into the beautiful
eyes which in a short time would open upon the world? Aaron had hoped
that baby's eyes would be like hers, but she would never know from
personal evidence whether they were or not. If such a sorrow was
making itself felt she kept it to herself and guarded it jealously,
lest Aaron should participate in it. Her face was radiant as they
continued to converse, and by her loving words she succeeded in
thoroughly banishing from Aaron's soul the rebellious promptings by
which he had first been agitated.

Thus did Rachel, to whom the light of the universe was henceforth as
night, become the divine consoler in the home.

"I am tired, dear. Will you lead me to our room?"

He took her in his arms and carried her up, as he would have carried a
child; and this new office of love, and indeed everything he did for
her, drew them spiritually closer to each other.

When she was in bed she asked him to tell her about the fire, and if
he would be a great loser by it. He softened the loss, said that he
was well insured, that they had a good friend in Mr. Moss, and that it
would not be long before he was On his feet again. Content and
happiness were expressed on her face as she listened.

"It will be a comfort to you to know," he said, "that no one will lose
anything by me; every demand will be met, every penny will be paid. In
my mansion"--his study of the law and his devotion to his faith led
him occasionally into a biblical phrase--"are three stars. First, the
Eternal God; next, you, my beloved; next, our good name."

"That is safe in your keeping, dear," she said.

"And will ever be, so far as human endeavour can aid me. You will be
glad to hear, too, that the townspeople sympathise with us in our
trouble."

"I am very glad: it was proved by the kindness that was shown to me
when I was taken out of the fire. Who that lives to know you does not
learn to honour you?"

She held his hand in a tender clasp, and kissed it repeatedly.

"I will tell you something. I am beginning already to acquire a new
sense. When you look at me I feel it. You are looking at me now. When
your eyes are not on my face I know it. I shall learn a good deal very
soon, very soon! I do not intend to be a burden to you."

This was said with tender gaiety.

"You can never be that." He touched her eyes. "Henceforth I am your
eyes. It is a poor return; for you, Rachel, are my very life."

"Dear husband! Dear love! Kiss me. I want to fall asleep with those
words in my ears. You will not stop up long?"

"I will go down and put out the lights and see that all is safe. Then
I will come up at once. Sleep, my life, sleep!"

He passed his fingers caressingly across her forehead, and she fell
asleep with a smile on her lips.

He stole softly from the room, and went down and made the house safe;
then he returned to the bedroom.

The smile had left Rachel's lips; her face was paler, and there was a
worn look on it. A terrible fear entered his heart.

"O God! if she should die! O God! if I should lose her!"

He took his silk taleth from its bag, and wrapping it around him, put
on his hat, and stood and prayed, with his face to the east:--

"How precious is Thy mercy, O God! The children of men take refuge
under the shadow of Thy wing. They are satisfied with the richness of
Thy house, and Thou causest them to drink of the stream of Thy
delight. For with Thee is the fountain of life; by Thy light only do
we see light. O continue Thy mercy unto them who know Thee, and Thy
righteousness to the upright of heart!"

One line in the prayer he repeated again and again--

"For with Thee is the fountain of life; by Thy light only do we see
light."

And so he prayed till midnight, and the one supplication into which
all else was merged was sent forth with touching pathos from his very
heart of hearts--

"O Lord of the universe, Giver of all good, humbly I beseech Thee to
spare my beloved! Take her not from me! Let her live, let her live, to
bless my days! Let not darkness overwhelm me. It is Thy hand that
directs the fountain of life."

His prayers ended, he sat by the bedside watching his wife's face, and
listening to her breathing.

And Rachel slept on, and dreamt of the child whose face she was never
to see on earth.



                           BOOK THE THIRD.

                    _THE TEMPTATION AND THE FALL_.



                            CHAPTER XVIII.

                      UNTO THEM A CHILD IS BORN.


Three weeks of great anxiety followed. Despite the courage with which
Rachel had borne the sudden visitation of blindness, her physical
strength did not hold out, and, by the doctor's orders, she kept her
bed.

During these weeks Aaron had enough to do to put his affairs in order,
and he had the additional trouble that matters turned out worse than
he had anticipated. For security's sake, and to set the borrowers at
ease, he transferred all the pledges that had been saved to another
pawnbroker; those which were destroyed he considered himself bound in
honour and common honesty to make good. He made no demur to the claims
that were brought against him, but settled them promptly, and settled,
also, all his trade debts. What with all this harassing business and
his domestic sorrows, he was occupied day and night; but he was
careful that Rachel should not suspect how bad things were with him.

The doctor came daily, and Rachel's time was very near. At every visit
Aaron watched his face for hopeful news of Rachel's condition; but the
doctor volunteered no information, and only gave instructions to do
this or that. This reticence was torture to Aaron, and one day he
begged the doctor to conceal nothing from him.

"There is nothing to conceal," said the doctor. "Her state is
critical; but what else could be expected? Consider what she has
passed through."

"I think of nothing else, of nothing else!" said Aaron, his fingers
working convulsively, for a question was trembling on his lips which
he felt he must ask, but to which he could scarcely give utterance.

At length he found courage.

"Doctor, will she live?"

The doctor bit his lip as he gazed upon Aaron's misery.

"Whatever lies in my power shall be done, but human skill and science
have their limitations. We are all in God's hands."

And with these words, and a look of compassion, he departed.

Aaron stood motionless awhile. We are all in God's hands! How often
has that been said, and how terrible is its import! Human science and
skill have done all it is in their power to do, the rest is with God.
Aaron reasoned the true meaning away.

"Yes, we are all in God's hands," he murmured; "old and young, rich
and poor, the strong and the feeble alike. It is so with one and all.
I thank God he did not tell me to prepare for the worst!"

He drew comfort, not from what was said, but from what was not said.
He continued to commune with himself.

"How can she be otherwise than weak? And doctors sometimes think it
their duty not to look on the brightest side. My Rachel will be spared
to me. God will not take her away."

He went up to her. A nurse he had engaged was in the room; she could
come for only a week, her services at the end of that time being
required elsewhere.

She put her fingers to her lips as he entered.

"Is she asleep?" he asked, in a whisper.

She nodded in reply; but when he approached the bed, Rachel held out
her hand to him.

"Nurse thought you were asleep, dear," he said, bending down to her.

"I may have been," she answered. "I fall off into a doze a dozen times
an hour, it seems, but I always know when you are near me."

She put her hand to her head.

"Are you in pain, my life?"

"Oh no. I am rather weak, but I shall get strong soon. Whenever I doze
I see our dear one, the blessing God is sending us. Aaron, dear love,
do not be anxious for me. I shall hold our darling in my arms."

The nurse gave him a warning look not to encourage her to talk, and,
understanding the silent monition, he kissed Rachel tenderly, and went
down to muse and pray.

The settlement of all his debts had left him almost a beggar. He owed
not a shilling, except to the doctor, who had said nothing about his
account; the week's money for the nurse was carefully put away: he
could not have afforded to engage her for a longer term, for all the
money he had left in the world amounted to barely two pounds. What was
he to do when that was spent? Commence business again upon borrowed
capital? That seemed to be the only course open to him. But who would
lend it to him? It was no small sum that would be required, and all
his friends, with the exception of Mr. Moss, were poor. Mr. Moss was
comparatively a new friend, and he could not expect him to render such
substantial assistance without security. And what security could he
offer but his own bare word? There were money-lenders; the newspapers
teemed with their advertisements. It would be folly to apply to any
one of them for so large a loan as fifty pounds, which sum, he
calculated, was the least he could begin business again with; he would
be sure to be met with a refusal. But what was he to do?

He thrust these worldly contemplations aside, and indeed it was
impossible for him to dwell upon them with a heavier sorrow at his
door, and with a dread crisis so very near. He trusted in God--yes;
but he knew that a man must work for his livelihood. Well, he would
work; he was willing and ready for any honest occupation; but he must
wait--for what? He became confused. The pressing worldly necessity,
with its exacting and imperative demands, and the overwhelming human
sorrow were contending for supremacy. He stepped into the passage, and
softly ascending the stairs, listened at Rachel's door. As he stood
there the nurse came out.

"Go for the doctor," she whispered.

He flew. There was no conflict now in his mind between the two
extremities; his worldly trouble was forgotten; he thought only of his
beloved wife and their unborn child. The doctor was not in, but was
expected in a quarter of an hour, and would be sure to come round at
once. Leaving an urgent entreaty not to delay a moment, Aaron hastened
back to his house, and on the road found himself intercepted by
Prissy, who had grown taller but no stouter since the night upon which
she introduced herself to him. By reason of her increased height she
looked thinner and scraggier than ever; as usual, Victoria Regina, who
had grown plumper and rounder, was in the girl's arms.

"Mr. Cohen, Mr. Cohen!" cried Prissy.

"I can't stop now," he replied, passing her quickly.

But Prissy's long legs were as active as his, and though Victoria
Regina was a heavy weight to carry, she kept pace with him.

"D'yer know wot some people's saying about yer, Mr. Cohen?"

"Never mind, never mind, my good girl; I have no time to listen."

"They're saying, everybody is," persisted Prissy, "that yer as good as
ruined, and that yer 'aven't got a shilling left to pay yer way with."

"What does it matter what some people say, Prissy? There are good and
bad, just and unjust. Never listen to tittle-tattle."

"'Ow's it to be 'elped, Mr. Cohen, when it's dinged in yer ears? Mr.
Whimpole, he ses he sor wot was coming all along, and when I ups and
gives 'im a bit o' my mind he slaps my face he does, and pushes me
into the gutter. I don't mind that, but no one's going to speak agin
yer when I'm by. It ain't likely after all yer've done for me."

"You are a good girl, but take no notice of what Mr. Whimpole says.
There are many here who still have a good word for me."

"Plenty, sir, and that's wot makes Mr. Whimpole mad; he can't make
everybody think as he wants 'em to. There's plenty as speaks up for
yer. You look ill, Mr. Cohen. I 'ope missis is no wus, I do."

"She is still weak and ill, Prissy; but she will get well soon--eh,
Prissy?--she will get well soon?"

He cast a swift anxious look upon her; even from the lips of this poor
girl he sought the comfort of a consoling word.

"Yes, sir, she's sure to. Don't you worry yerself, Mr. Cohen. Gawd
won't let nothink wrong 'appen to 'er. He knows what He's up to, Gawd
does. Wot did Mrs. Cohen say 'erself to me more nor once? 'Be a good
gal,' she ses, 'and tell the truth, and be as kind as yer can to
everybody, and Gawd'll look after yer.' And ain't she good, sir, and
does she ever say anythink but the truth, and ain't she as kind as
kind can be to everybody about 'er? Why, it's in everybody's mouth,
'xcept Mr. Whimpole's! Nobody 'xcept 'im's got a word to say agin
'_er_. She's sure to get well, Mr. Cohen, and then yer'll let me see
'er, sir, won't yer?"

"Yes, Prissy, yes," said Aaron, laying his hand for a moment on
Prissy's tangled hair. He had reached his house, and was unlocking the
door. "She will get well, please God, and you shall see her. Thank
you, thank you, my good girl; and now run away."

"I'm off, Mr. Cohen," said Prissy; "this is going to bring yer luck,
it is." And slipping a large paper parcel into his hand, she scuttled
away.

He did not know what it was he held until he reached his room, and
then he examined it. When he removed the paper he saw a horseshoe and
two penny pieces which had been rubbed bright with sand, so that they
shone like gold. Something shone in Aaron's eyes as he gazed at the
humble offering. He smiled wistfully, and muttering, "It is an omen of
good fortune; God bless you, little Prissy!" put the shoe and the
pennies carefully aside. Then he stepped softly up the stairs, and
gently tapped at the bedroom door.

"How is she, nurse?"

"Bearing up wonderfully, sir."

"Thank God! The doctor will be here presently. I will wait for him at
the street door."

He had not long to wait; in a very short time he saw the welcome form
turning the corner, and the doctor, with a friendly, smiling nod,
passed into the house.

Aaron paced to and fro in the room below, and waited for the word that
was to bring joy or despair to his soul. He had put his slippers on,
in order that his footsteps should not be heard. In such times of
tribulation his thoughts were invariably directed to the Divine
footstool; as with all devout Jews, prayer was part of his life, and
never, since the day of his birth, had he prayed so earnestly and
fervently as now. Every few moments he paused in the supplications he
was sending forth, and went into the passage and listened. He heard no
sound, not a sob, not a cry; and after remaining in the passage
several minutes, he returned to his room and resumed his prayers. His
heart was with Rachel, and he knew that she was thinking of him. In
the light of the perfect love that existed between them, in the
anxious expectancy of these lagging minutes, what mattered poverty or
riches, what mattered mere worldly misfortune? A stout spirit, a
strong shoulder to the wheel, and all would be well; thus much could a
right-minded man do with a cheerful spirit. But here and now he was
helpless, impotent; here and now was impending a graver issue, which
he was powerless to influence. A life--the life of his beloved--was
hanging in the balance; and all he could do was to wait, and hope, and
pray.

Hush! What was that? An infant's wail--the cry of a new-born child!
With his heart in his ears he stood in the passage, then sank upon the
stairs, with his face in his hands. His child lived--but Rachel! how
was it with her? "Lord of the universe," he prayed, inwardly, "spare
my beloved! With Thee is the fountain of life; by Thy light only do we
see light. Let Thy light shine upon me and upon her!"

The bedroom door opened and closed, and the doctor came down. The
passage was dark, for it was now evening, and Aaron could not see the
doctor's face. Taking Aaron's arm, which shook in his grasp like a
leaf in a strong wind, the doctor led him into the sitting-room, and
lit the gas.

"Doctor!" implored Aaron, with clasped hands.

"You have a little girl."

"And Rachel--my wife!"

"Be comforted. She is in no immediate danger. She is a brave and noble
woman. I will return in a couple of hours. The nurse will tell you
when you can go up and see her."

Aaron laid his head upon the table and wept.



                             CHAPTER XIX.

                       BETWEEN LIFE AND DEATH.


"Aaron!"

"My beloved!"

"Is our darling beautiful?"

"Very beautiful--like you."

"You spoil me, dear; you think too much of me."

"It is not possible, Rachel. Without you my life would not be perfect;
without you I should be a broken man."

"Oh, my dear, my dear!" she said, clasping his hand tight. "It is out
of my power to repay you for all your goodness to me."

"You repay me every moment of your life. Not for a throne would I
exchange my place by your side; not for a palace would I exchange my
humble home, with you to hallow it." Their lips met, and there was
silence in the room awhile.

"Dear husband, you are not disappointed that our child is a girl?"

"I am rejoiced that we have with us a daughter in Israel. What greater
happiness could I desire? When you are strong, when I hear your
footsteps about the house again, all will be well."

A holy joy dwelt in her face. "My darling, my darling!" she murmured,
as she held the sleeping babe to her breast. "I had a fear, but it is
gone, a fear that our precious one would be deprived of sight. What
happiness entered my heart when the doctor told me that her eyes were
bright and beautiful, and that she could see! I was fearful that my
affliction might be visited upon her. It would have broken my heart.
But I am blessed--I am happy; our child can see the light, the green
fields, the flowers. If only the gracious Lord will not take her, if
only He will spare her to live to an honoured old age!"

"He will, He will, my beloved! We must not talk any more. Sleep and
grow strong."

He sat by her bedside in silence, gazing upon her face, which was as
the face of an angel, and then he stole softly downstairs. He had much
to occupy his thoughts; Rachel's danger happily passed, as he hoped,
he could turn his attention to his worldly affairs, which, indeed,
being at a desperate pass, would have forced themselves to the front
under any circumstances. By the doctor's orders he had been compelled
to make certain purchases which had not only emptied his purse, but
had driven him to the necessity of parting with two or three articles
of jewellery which he and Rachel possessed. These proceeds gone he was
an absolute beggar.

Never in his life had he been placed in so serious a position.
Difficulties had been encountered and confronted with courage and
success, times of embarrassment had been tided over, losses had been
made good, and he had fought his way cheerfully; but now his heart
sank within him at the prospect that was opening out. Rachel needed
not only care and unremitting attention, but delicacies in the shape
of food, to keep up her strength. Nourishing soups, a glass of port
wine, a chicken--these were no trifles to a man in Aaron's position;
and, unable to afford the regular services of a servant, he had to
look after these matters himself, to perform domestic work, to cook,
and to keep the whole house in order. The nurse's attention was
devoted solely to the sick-room, and he could not therefore look to
assistance from her. Prissy made her appearance daily, but Aaron
dismissed her quickly, feeling the injustice of accepting services for
which he could not pay. It was no easy matter to get rid of Prissy,
who was not only willing but anxious to remain, and she feebly
protested against being turned away so unceremoniously. Her protests
would have been more vigorous had she not entertained a certain awe of
Aaron's strength of character, before which she, as it were, was
compelled to prostrate herself. Thus Aaron, from force of circumstance
and from his inherent sense of justice, was thrown entirely upon his
own resources.

Counting the money in his purse he calculated that it was sufficient
to last for nine or ten days. In four days the nurse would take her
departure, and then he and Rachel and their babe would be left alone
in the house. At the expiration of less than a week after that he must
be prepared to face the most serious difficulties. He had friends in
London, to whom he had already written, and had received replies of
regret that they were unable to assist him. Mr. Moss had been so good
a friend that he hardly dared appeal again to him, and he resolved to
leave it to the last moment. With a troubled heart, and hardly having
the strength to hope against hope, he went about the house and
attended to his duties. The four days passed, the nurse, having taken
her leave of Rachel, came down to Aaron to receive her wages, and bid
him good-bye. He paid her with a sad smile, and thanked her for her
services. The "good-day" exchanged, she lingered a moment. With quick
apprehension he divined why she delayed.

"You have something to say to me, nurse, about my wife."

"Yes, Mr. Cohen, I have," she replied; "and I am glad you have
mentioned it, as I did not know how to bring it out." She paused
again.

"Well, nurse?"

"I think you ought to know, Mr. Cohen, that your wife is not so well
as you suppose."

"Nurse!"

"She keeps it from you, sir, and has begged me not to alarm you, but
it is my duty. I should never forgive myself if I went away without
speaking. No, sir, she is far from well, and is not getting on as she
ought. She grows weaker and weaker--and baby, too, is not thriving. It
is that which keeps Mrs. Cohen back."

"What can be done, nurse?" asked Aaron, the agony of his feelings
depicted on his countenance. "Tell me--only tell me!"

"It isn't for me to say, Mr. Cohen. If I were you I would ask the
doctor to speak plainly."

"I will, I will. Nurse, does she suffer?"

"She's just the one to suffer, sir, and to say nothing. It would be a
dreadful thing for you, sir, if----" But here the woman stopped
suddenly and bit her lip. She had said more than she intended.
"Good-day, sir, and I hope we may all be wrong."

He caught her arm. "No, no, nurse. I will beg the doctor to speak
plainly to me; but he will not be here till to-morrow, and I cannot go
to him and leave my wife and child alone in the house. Finish what you
were about to say. 'It would be a dreadful thing if----'"

"Well, sir, it is best to face the truth. If your poor lady was to
die."

"Great God! There is danger, then?"

"I am afraid there is, sir. Don't take on so, sir, don't! I am sorry I
spoke."

"You have done what is right," Aaron groaned.

"We must all of us be prepared, sir; trouble comes to all of us."

"Alas, it is a human heritage! But you do not know what this means to
me--you do not know what it means to me."

"Perhaps I have made things out worse than they are; I hope so, I am
sure. But you ask the doctor, sir, and don't give way. I shall think
of your lady a good deal when I'm gone."

With that, and with a sympathetic look at him, the woman departed.

At length, at length, the truth had been spoken; at length, at length,
he knew the worst. It was as if a sentence of death had been
pronounced. His Rachel, his beloved wife, the tenderest, the truest
that man had ever been blessed with, was to be taken from him. His
child, also, perhaps; but that was a lesser grief, upon which he had
no heart to brood. His one overwhelming anxiety was for Rachel, who,
as it now seemed to him, was lying at death's door in the room above.

He had some soup ready, and he took a basin up to her.

"Can you drink this, dear?"

"I will try."

He assisted her to rise, and put a pillow at her back. As he fed her
he watched her face, and he saw that it had grown wan and thin. It was
well for both of them that she could not see him; the sight of his
agony would have deepened her sufferings and added to his own. With
wonderful control he spoke to her with some semblance of cheerfulness,
and his voice and words brought a smile to her lips. So through the
day he ministered to her, and every time he left her room his fears
grew stronger. He did not expect the doctor till the following day,
and he was startled and alarmed when he made his appearance at
nightfall.

"I happened to be passing," he said to Aaron, "and I thought I would
drop in to see how we are getting along."

When they came down from the sick-room Aaron observed a graver
expression on his face.

"It is unfortunate that you have no nurse, Mr. Cohen," he said; "your
wife needs constant care and watchfulness."

"She will have it, doctor. Is she any better, sir? How is she
progressing?"

"She is still the same, still the same, no better and no worse."

"It is not in her favour, doctor, that she remains the same?"

"No, I cannot conscientiously say it is. At this stage a little
additional strength would be of great assistance to her. Nature's
forces require rallying; but we will hope for the best, Mr. Cohen."

"We will, doctor, but will hope avail?"

His sad voice struck significantly upon the doctor's ears. "Perhaps
not, but it is a consolation."

"There are griefs, sir, for which there is no consolation. I cannot
wrest my thoughts from the selfish view. There are sorrows that come
so close home as to take complete possession of us."

"It is human, Mr. Cohen, it is natural; but we must not shut out
resignation, fortitude, submission."

"Doctor, I implore you to conceal nothing from me. It will be
merciful."

"What is it you wish to know?"

"Tell me exactly how my wife and child are, so that I may be
prepared"--his voice faltered--"for the worst."

"You do not know, then?"

"I fear--but I do not know."

"We doctors have frequently hard duties to perform, Mr. Cohen, duties
which to others appear cruel. I will speak plainly; it will be best.
It is due to your wife's gentle and loving nature that I have not done
so before, and I yielded to her imploring solicitations, deeming it
likely that you would discover the state of the case from your own
powers of observation. Mr. Cohen, I have rarely had so sad and
affecting an experience as I find here. It would be wrong for me to
say that your wife is not in danger; she has been in danger for some
days past, and it is only an inward moral strength that has supported
her through the crisis. Physically she is very weak, spiritually she
is very strong. She has still a vital power which, under certain
conditions, will be of immense assistance to her, which will enable
her--so far as it is in human power to judge--to pull through. You
will gather from my words that her safety, nay, her life, depends not
so much upon herself as upon others; upon you to some extent, but to a
much greater extent upon her babe. It is her deep love for you both
that has sustained her, that still sustains her. Were anything to
happen to either of you I should fear the gravest results. It would
react upon her, and in her delicate state there would be no hope."

"I am strong and well bodily, doctor; nothing is likely to happen to
me. Her danger, then, lies in our child?"

"You have clearly expressed it. Her life hangs upon the life of her
child. So fine and delicate are her susceptibilities, so profound is
her love for those who are dear to her, that I, a doctor, who is
supposed to be nothing if he is not scientific, am compelled to
confess that here my learned theories are at fault. I will no longer
disguise from you that her life hangs upon the balance."

"And our child, doctor, how is it with her?"

"I can answer you with less certainty. Something of the delicate
susceptibilities of the mother has in the course of nature entered her
child's being. The baby is not strong, but she may grow into strength;
it is as yet a problem to be solved, and a physician's skill is almost
powerless to help to a happy issue. Hope, Mr. Cohen, hope; and in
bidding you hope, and in explaining matters to you, I have not said
all that it is necessary for me to say. There remains something more."

"One question first, doctor," said Aaron, in a hushed voice; "if our
child lives, there is hope that my wife will live?"

"A strong hope; I speak with confidence."

"And if our child dies?"

"The mother will die. Forgive me for my cruel frankness."

"It is the best kindness you can show me. You have something more to
tell me."

"Something almost as cruel, but it must be spoken. Mr. Cohen, your
wife has been severely tried; the shock of the fire, the shock of her
sudden blindness, both coming so close upon her expected confinement,
have left their effects upon her. If things take a favourable turn
with her it will be imperative, in the course of the next three or
four weeks--earlier if possible, and if she can be removed with
safety--that you take her to a milder climate, where she can be nursed
into permanent' strength. We are going to have a severe winter, and I
will not answer for its effects upon her. From three or four weeks
hence till the spring in a warmer atmosphere, where there are no fogs
or east winds, will be of invaluable service to her, will set her up
probably for many years to come. You must recognise this yourself, and
if by any possibility or sacrifice you can manage it, you must do so."

"Is it vitally necessary, doctor?"

"You have used the right word--it is vitally necessary. And now,
good-night, Mr. Cohen. I leave my best wishes behind me."



                             CHAPTER XX.

                          A MOMENTOUS NIGHT.


Each day, each hour, Aaron became more anxious and troubled. In the
doctor's plain speaking there was no reading between the lines, and no
possible mistaking of his meaning. The stern truth had been revealed,
and there was no arguing it away. Aaron saw clearly what was before
him, but he could not see a way out of his difficulties, nor to doing
what he was warned it was imperative upon him that he should do, in
the happy event of Rachel's coming safely through her present crisis.
There was no apparent change in her; she lay weak and powerless in her
bed, receiving Aaron always with sweet and patient words, and nursing
her child as well as her feeble state would allow her. The condition
of the babe pained and troubled him. He observed no indication of
suffering, no querulousness in the child; it was simply that she lay
supine, as though life were flowing quietly out of her. Every time
Aaron crept up to the bedside and found the babe asleep, he leant
anxiously over her to catch the sound of her breathing; and so faint
and low was her respiration that again and again he was smitten with a
fear that she had passed away. Acutely sensitive and sensible now of
every sign in his wife, it became with him an absolute conviction that
the doctor was not mistaken when he declared that her life and the
life of her babe were inseparable, that if one lived the other would
live, that if one died the other would die. During this torturing time
strange thoughts oppressed him, and oppressed him more powerfully
because he scarcely understood them. The tenor of these thoughts
resolved itself into the one passionate desire to do something--he
knew not what--to keep his wife with him even if she should lose her
babe, and towards the accomplishment of which he felt that a power
outside the sphere of human influence was necessary. Normally he was a
man of sound understanding, not given to mysticism nor to a belief in
the effects of supernatural power upon mundane affairs; but during
these agitating days there was a danger of his healthy mind becoming
unbalanced. Human resource had failed him; he must seek elsewhere for
aid; if he were to be successful in steering his beloved to a haven of
peace and health it must be through outside influences which had not
yet made themselves visible to him. "Show me the way, O gracious Lord,
show me the way!" This was his constant prayer, and although in less
agitated times he would have blamed himself for praying for a seeming
impossibility, he encouraged himself in it now, in the dim and
despairing hope that some miracle would occur to further his agonising
desire.

Meanwhile his funds had run completely out, and he saw with terror the
wolf approaching the door. He had not the means to pay for the
necessaries of the next twenty-four hours. Then it was that he
resolved to make an urgent appeal to Mr. Moss. He would tell him
everything, he would reveal his hapless position in the plainest
terms, and he would beg for an immediate temporary loan of money,
which he would promise to faithfully repay when the cloud was lifted
from his house.

It was a cold and bitter evening. The snow had been falling heavily; a
fierce wind was raging. He thought of poor people he had seen in such
inclement weather as this walking along with sad faces, homeless and
hungry; he recalled the picture of a young good-looking woman whom he
had seen years ago in a London park during a heavy snow-storm; she was
thinly clad, want was in her face, she pressed a babe to her bosom.
Shivering with cold she walked slowly onward, and looked around with
despairing eyes for succour. He slipped a shilling into her hand, and
as he hurried away, he heard, with a feeling of remonstrant shame, her
gratitude expressed in the words "God Almighty bless you, sir!" as
though he had performed an act of extraordinary generosity. Between
this wretched woman and his beloved Rachel there seemed to be an
affinity, and his heart was torn with woe. He was the breadwinner; to
him she looked for food, for warmth, for shelter; he was her shield.
Could he not keep desolation and despair from her? could he not keep
death from her? He did not know that the angel was already in his
house.

The doctor had paid a visit early in the morning, and had spoken even
more gravely of Rachel.

"Much depends," he said, "upon the next day or two. For some days past
she has been silently suffering, and I have succeeded in piercing the
veil of sorrow which hangs upon her soul. She fears that her child
will not live, and if unhappily her fears are confirmed----" He did
not finish the sentence; there was no need for further words to convey
his meaning. "This harrowing thought," he continued, "keeps her from
rest, prevents her sleeping. There are periods of sickness when sleep
means life. I will send round a sleeping draught, which you will give
her at eight o'clock to-night; it will ensure her oblivion for a good
twelve hours, and if when she wakes all is well with the child, all
will be well with her."

"Can you tell me, doctor, why this fear has grown stronger within
these last few days?"

"The babe lies quietly in her arms; she does not hear its voice, and
only by its soft breathing can she convince herself that it lives.
Tender accents from the child she has brought into the world would
fall as a blessing upon her sorrowing heart. At any moment the child
may find its voice; let us hope that it will very soon."

The sleeping draught was sent to Aaron, and it was now on the table.
The hour was six--in a couple of hours he would give it to her; and
while he waited he sat down to write his letter to Mr. Moss. It was a
long letter, for he had much to say, and he was but half way through
when a postman's knock summoned him to the street door. He hurried
there quickly, so that the knock should not be repeated, and to his
surprise received a telegram. It was from Mr. Moss, and it informed
him that that gentleman was coming to see him upon a very important
matter, and that he was to be sure not to leave home that night. Aaron
wondered what this important matter could be, and there was a joyful
feeling in his heart that the telegram might be the presage of good
fortune. He knew enough of Mr. Moss's kindly nature to be convinced
that he would not be the herald of bad news. "There is a rift in the
clouds," he murmured, as he pondered over the message; "I see the
light, I see the light!" Would Mr. Moss's errand open up a means of
giving Rachel the benefit of soft air and sunshine in a more genial
clime? He prayed that it might, and he had never prayed more
fervently. But the night was inclement, and Mr. Moss might not be able
in consequence to pay the promised visit. Time pressed; the necessity
was imminent, and would brook no delay; therefore he determined to
finish his letter and to post it this night, in the event of Mr. Moss
not making his appearance.

It wanted a few minutes to eight when his task was completed. He read
the letter over, and addressed an envelope, but did not stamp it; he
had but one stamp, and every penny was of importance. He looked at the
clock; eight o'clock. With gentle steps he went up to Rachel.

"It is time for the draught, my love," he said.

"I will take it, dear."

He poured it into a glass, and she drank it reclining in his arms.

"If our dear one lives, Aaron," said Rachel, "we will call her Ruth,
after your mother."

"It shall be so, love," answered Aaron, laying her head upon the
pillow. "God will vouchsafe the mercy to us. She will live, Rachel,
she will live!" Desirous that she should not talk now that she had
taken the sleeping draught, he kissed her tenderly and would have left
her, but she held him by the hand.

"Has the doctor told you that I am in sorrow, Aaron?"

"You have the gift of divinity, love. Yes, he has told me, and he said
that to-morrow, perhaps, please God, you will hear our darling's
voice."

"Did he say so? Heaven bless him! She is sleeping?"

"Yes, beloved."

"I pray that the good doctor may be right. I shall dream of it.
To-morrow--perhaps to-morrow! Ah, what happiness! It needs but that,
dear husband, it needs but that! How tired you must be with all that
you are doing for me! Kiss me again. God guard you!"

And so she fell asleep.

The small fire in the room required attention, and Aaron arranged each
piece of coal and cinder with scrupulous care; never had there been so
much need for thrift as now. In all his movements there was not the
least sound; so softly did he step that his feet might have been shod
with velvet pile. One of Rachel's arms was lying exposed on the
counterpane; he gently shifted it beneath the warm coverings; then he
quitted the apartment and closed the door upon his wife and child, and
upon the Angel of Death, who was standing by the bedside to receive a
departing soul.

Aaron did not return to his room below; he stood by the open street
door, looking anxiously up and down for Mr. Moss, and thinking with
sadness that if that gentleman delayed his visit he would be compelled
in the morning to part with his silver-mounted pipe, which was the
only article of any value that was left to him. Of all his personal
belongings he cherished this pipe the most; so often had she filled it
for him that he regarded it almost as part of herself. It was not
between his lips at the present moment; he had no heart to smoke. For
nearly an hour he stood upon the watch, interrupting it only for the
purpose of creeping upstairs to see if Rachel were still sleeping. At
nine o'clock Mr. Moss made his welcome appearance in the street; even
as he turned the corner at a distance of many yards Aaron recognised
him. He was enveloped in his great fur coat, which was pulled up close
to his ears; he was puffing at one of his large cigars, and between
the puffs was humming a celebrated air from the latest operatic
success--


         "Toreador attento,
          Toreador, Toreador,
          Non obliarche un occhio tutt' ardor
          Adammirarti è intento,
          E che t' aspett' amor,
          Toreador t' aspett' aspetta amor."


He scorned the English tongue in operas, and though by no means a
well-educated man, never sang but in Italian. The last flourish
brought him close to Aaron.

"Why, Cohen" he said, in a hearty tone, "what are you standing at the
door for on such a cold night?"

"I have been expecting you," Aaron answered, "and I did not wish you
to knock. Rachel has taken a sleeping draught, and must not be
disturbed."

"Yes, yes, I understand," said Mr. Moss, accompanying his friend into
the house. "How is she?"

"Not well, not at all well, I am grieved to say. Mr. Moss, my heart is
almost broken." He turned aside with a sob.

"No, no, no!" exclaimed Mr. Moss. "That will never do, Cohen. You
mustn't give way--a strong, clever man like you. Look on the best
side. Things will right themselves; they will, mark my words. I am
here to set them right."

"To set them right!" exclaimed Aaron, all his pulses throbbing.

"Yes, to set them right. What is this?--an envelope addressed to me?"

"I was writing you a letter when your telegram arrived."

"And then you did not stop to finish it?"

"I did finish it, Mr. Moss, in case you did not come."

"May I read it?"

"Yes; it will explain matters; you will learn from it what it would
pain me to tell you in any other way."

"Smoke a cigar while I read."

Aaron took the cigar, and laid it aside, and then Mr. Moss, who had
taken off his thick coat, sat down and perused the letter.

"I have come in the nick of time, Cohen," he said. "There is a silver
lining to every cloud; I have brought it with me."

"I felt," said Aaron, his hopes rising, "that you could not be the
bearer of bad news."

"Not likely, friend Cohen. I am the bearer of good news, of the best
of news. Don't be led away; it isn't a legacy--no, no, it isn't a
legacy, but something almost as good, and I hope you will not throw
away the chance."

"If it is anything that will relieve me from my terrible
embarrassments it is not likely that I shall throw it away."

"It will do that for a certainty, and there is money attaching to it
which I have in my pocket, and which I can pay over to you this very
night."

"How can I thank you? how can I thank you?"

"Don't try to, and don't be surprised at what you hear. It is a
strange piece of business, and I should have refused to undertake it
if I had not said to myself, 'This will suit my friend Cohen; it will
lift him out of his trouble.' But upon my word, now that I'm here I
don't know how to commence. I never met with anything like it in all
my life, and if you were well off you would be the last man in the
world I should have dreamt of coming to. But you are not well off,
Cohen; you have lost everything; Rachel is ill, and the doctor says
she must be taken out of this cold and dismal climate to a place where
she can see the sun, and where the air is mild and warm. I dare say
you're thinking, 'Moss is speaking in a strange way,' and so I am; but
it's nothing to what I've got to tell you. Cohen, what will happen if
you can't afford to do as the doctor advises you?"

"Do not ask me," groaned Aaron. "I dare not think of it--I dare not, I
dare not!"

"I don't say it unkindly, Cohen, but it seems to me to be a matter of
life and death." Aaron clasped his forehead. "Very well, then; and
don't forget that it is in your own hands. Before I commence I must
say a word about myself. I can't do all you ask me in this letter; as
I'm a living man I should be glad to assist you, but I have entered
into a large speculation which has taken all my spare cash, and all I
could afford would be eight or ten pounds. How long would that last
you? In two or three weeks it would be gone, and you would be no
better off than you were before; and as to taking Rachel to the South
of France, that would be quite out of the question."

"But you held out hope to me," said the trembling Aaron, "you said you
were the bearer of good news!"

"I said what is true, Cohen, but it is not my money that I have to
deal with. I have brought fifty pounds with me; another man's money,
entrusted to me for a special purpose, and which you can have at once
if you will undertake a certain task and accept a certain
responsibility. It is only out of my friendship for you, it is only
because I know you to be so badly off that you hardly know which way
to turn, it is only because Rachel is ill and requires what you can't
afford to pay for, that it entered my mind to offer you the chance."

"Fifty pounds would be the saving of me, Mr. Moss," said Aaron, in an
agony of suspense. "It would restore my Rachel to health, it would
bring happiness into my life. Surely Heaven has directed you to come
to my assistance!"

"You shall judge for yourself. Listen patiently to what I am going to
tell you; it will startle you, but don't decide hastily or rashly. And
bear in mind that what passes between us is not to be disclosed to
another person on earth."



                             CHAPTER XXI.

              OVER A BRIGHT CLOUD A BLACK SHADOW FALLS.


Mr. Moss then proceeded to unfold the nature of the mission he had
undertaken for Mr. Gordon, with the particulars of which the reader
has been made acquainted in the earlier chapters of this story. Aaron
listened with attention and astonishment: with attention because of
his anxiety to ascertain whether the proposal was likely to extricate
him from his cruel position, with astonishment because the wildest
stretch of his imagination would not have enabled him to guess the
purport of the singular disclosure. When Mr. Moss ceased speaking the
afflicted man rose and paced the room in distress and disappointment.

"I told you I should startle you," said Mr. Moss, with a shrewd
observance of his friend's demeanour, and, for the good of that
friend, preparing for a battle. "What do you say to it?"

"It is impossible--impossible!" muttered Aaron. "I told you also,"
continued Mr. Moss, calmly, "not to decide hastily or rashly. In the
way of ordinary business I should not, as I have said, have dreamt of
coming to you, and I should not have undertaken the mission. But the
position in which you are placed is not ordinary, and you are bound to
consider the matter not upon its merits alone, but in relation to your
circumstances. I need not say I shall make nothing out of it myself."

"Indeed you need not," said Aaron, pressing Mr. Moss's hand. "Pure
friendship has brought you here, I know, I know; but surely you must
see that it is impossible for me to assume the responsibility."

"I see nothing of the kind. Honestly and truly, Cohen, I look upon it
as a windfall, and if you turn your back upon it you will repent it
all your life. What is it I urge you to do? A crime?"

"No, no, I do not say that. Heaven forbid!"

"You are naturally startled and agitated. Cohen, you are a man of
intelligence and discernment. My wife has often said, 'If Mr. Cohen
were a rich man he would be one of the heads of our people.' She is
right; she always is. But there are times when a man cannot exercise
his judgment, when he is so upset that his mind gets off its balance.
It has happened to me, and I have said afterwards, 'Moss, you are a
fool': it happens to all of us. Let me put the matter clearly before
you. Have you ever been in such trouble as you are in now?"

"Never in my life."

"Misfortune after misfortune has fallen upon you. All your money is
gone; everything is gone; you can't get through this week without
assistance. You have tried all your friends, and they cannot help you;
you have tried me, and I can only offer you what will meet the
necessities of the next few days. It is known that you are badly off,
and you cannot get credit; if you could it would cut you to the soul,
because you know you would be owing money that there was no
expectation of your being able to pay. You would be ashamed to look
people in the face; you would lose your sense of self-respect, and
every fresh step you take would be a step down instead of up. Poor
Rachel is lying sick almost to death; she has a stronger claim than
ever upon your love, upon your wisdom. The doctor has told you what
she requires, and of the possible consequences if you are unable to
carry out his directions. Cohen, not one of these things must be lost
sight of in the answer you give to what I propose."

Great beads of perspiration were on Aaron's forehead as he murmured,
"I do not lose sight of them. They are like daggers in my heart."

"Strangely and unexpectedly," pursued Mr. Moss, "a chance offers
itself that will extricate you out of all your difficulties. You will
not only receive immediately a large sum of money, but you will be in
receipt of a hundred a year, sufficient to keep your family in a
modest way. What are you asked to do in return for this good fortune?
To take care of an innocent child, who has no one to look after her,
who will never be claimed, and about whom you will never be troubled.
You can engage a servant to attend to her, and when you explain
everything to Rachel she will approve of what you have done. Before I
came to you, Cohen, I consulted a gentleman--Dr. Spenlove--who has a
kind heart and correct principles, and he agreed with me that the
transaction was perfectly honourable. I have no doubt of it myself, or
I should not be here. Be persuaded, Cohen; it will be a benevolent, as
well as a wise, act, and all your difficulties will be at an end. What
is it Shakespeare says? 'There is a tide in the affairs of men which,
taken at the flood,----' you know the rest. Why, there are thousands
who would jump at the opportunity. Come, now, for Rachel's sake!" Mr.
Moss was genuinely sincere in his advice, and he spoke with
earnestness and feeling.

"The child is a girl, Mr. Moss?"

"A dear little girl, of the same age as your own."

"Hush! You forget. This little stranger is born of Christian parents."

"That is no crime, Cohen."

"Do I say it is? But we are Jews. The stipulation is that she should
be brought up as one of our family; and, indeed, it could scarcely be
otherwise. She would live her life in a Jewish household. It is that I
am thinking of Mr. Moss, I am at war with my conscience."

"She will be none the worse off for living with you and Rachel. Your
character is well known, and Rachel is the soul of kindness. You would
be committing no sin, Cohen."

"I am not so sure."

"Then who is to know? You and Rachel are alone, and when she is able
to be moved you will take her for a time to another place. You need
not return here. Rachel's health restored, you should go to London, or
Liverpool, or Manchester, where your talents would have a larger
field. I always thought it wrong for you to bury yourself in so small
a town as this. There is no scope for you in it; you would never make
your fortune here."

"If I go from this place I shall not return to it. You ask who is to
know. Mr. Moss, God would know; Rachel and I would know. How can I
reconcile it with my conscience to bring up a child in a faith in
which she is not born? It would weigh heavily upon me."

"That is because your views are so strict. I do not see why it should
weigh heavily upon you. If it were a boy I should not press it upon
you; but girls are different. There is very little for them to learn.
To pray--there is only one God. To be good and virtuous--there is only
one code of morality. You know that well enough."

"I do know it, but still I cannot reconcile it with my conscience."

"In your position," continued Mr. Moss, perceiving that Aaron was
wavering, "I should not hesitate; I should thank God that such a
chance fell in my way. Even as it is, if I did not have eleven
children, and expecting the twelfth, I would take this lamb into my
fold--I would indeed, Cohen. But my hands are full. Cohen, let me
imagine a case. It is a cold and bitter night, and the world is filled
with poor struggling creatures, with little children who are being
brought up the wrong way. Rachel is asleep upstairs. You are here
alone. Suddenly you fancy you hear a cry in the street, the cry of a
babe. You go to the door, and upon the step you see an infant lying,
unsheltered, without a protector. What would you do?"

"I should bring it into my house."

"With pity in your heart, Cohen."

"I hope so. With pity in my heart."

"Poor as you are, you would share what you have with the deserted
babe; you would nourish it, you would cherish it. You would say to
Rachel, 'I heard a cry outside the house on this bitter night, and
upon the doorstep I discovered this poor babe; I brought it in, and
gave it shelter.' What would Rachel answer?"

"She is a tender-hearted woman; she would answer that I did what was
right."

"Look upon it in that light, and I will continue the case. In the
child's clothes you find a fifty-pound note, and a letter unsigned, to
the effect that the little one has no protector, is alone in the
world, and beseeching you to take charge of it and save it from
destitution and degradation. No scruples as to the child being a
Christian would disturb you then; you would act as humanity dictated.
In the case I have imagined you would not be at war with your
conscience; why should you be at war with it now?"

"Still I must reflect; and I have a question or two to ask. The name
of the mother?"

"Not to be divulged."

"The name of the father?"

"The same answer. Indeed, I do not know it myself."

"Where is the child?"

"At the Salutation Hotel, in the charge of a woman I brought with me."

"My decision must be made to-night?"

"To-night."

"Supposing it to be in the affirmative, what position do you occupy in
the matter in the future?"

"None whatever. The task I undertook executed, I retire, and have
nothing further to do with it. Anything you chose to communicate to me
would be entirely at your discretion. Voluntarily I should never make
reference to it."

"What has passed between us, you informed me, is not to be disclosed
to any other person?"

"To no other person whatever."

"Am I to understand that it has been disclosed to no other?"

"You are. Only Dr. Spenlove and the gentleman who entrusted me with
the commission have any knowledge of it."

"How about the woman who is now taking care of the child at the
Salutation Hotel?"

"She is in entire ignorance of the whole proceeding."

"Is she not aware that you have come to my house?"

"She is not. In the event of your deciding to undertake the charge I
myself will bring the child here."

"Is the mother to be made acquainted with my name?"

"It is an express stipulation that she is to be kept in ignorance of
it."

"And to this she consented willingly?"

"Willingly, for her child's good and her own."

"Is Dr. Spenlove to be made acquainted with it?"

"He is not."

"And the gentleman whose commission you are executing?"

"Neither is he to know. It is his own wish."

"The liberal allowance for the rearing of the child, by whom will it
be paid?"

"By a firm of respectable London lawyers, whose name and address I
will give you, and to whom I shall communicate by telegram to-night.
All the future business will be solely between you and them, without
interference from any living being."

"Mr. Moss, I thank you; you have performed the office of a friend."

"It was my desire, Cohen. Then you consent?"

"No. I must have time for reflection. In an hour from now you shall
have my answer."

"Don't throw away the chance," said Mr. Moss, very earnestly.
"Remember it is for Rachel's sake."

"I will remember it; but I must commune with myself. If before one
hour has passed you do not see me at the Salutation Hotel, you will
understand that I refuse."

"What will you do then, Cohen? How will you manage?"

"God knows. Perhaps He will direct me."

Mr. Moss considered a moment, then took ten five-pound banknotes from
his pocket, and laid them on the table.

"I will leave this money with you," he said.

"No, no!" cried Aaron.

"Why not? It will do no harm. You are to be trusted, Cohen. In case
you refuse I will take it back. If you do not come for me, I will come
for you, so I will not wish you good-night. Don't trouble to come to
the door; I can find my way out."

Aaron was alone, fully conscious that this hour was, perhaps, the most
momentous in his life. The money was before him, and he could not keep
his eyes from it. It meant so much. It seemed to speak to him, to say,
"Life or death to your beloved wife. Reject me, and you know what will
follow." All his efforts to bring himself to a calm reflection of the
position were unavailing. He could not reason, he could not argue with
himself. The question to be answered was not whether it would be right
to take a child born of Christian parents into his house, to bring her
up as one of a Jewish family, but whether his dear wife was to live or
die; and he was the judge, and if he bade his friend take the money
back, he would be the executioner. Of what value then would life be to
him? Devout and full of faith as he was, he still, in this dread
crisis, was of the earth earthy. His heart was torn with love's agony.

The means of redemption were within his reach: why should he not avail
himself of them?

Rachel enjoyed life for the pleasure it gave her. Stricken with
blindness as she was, he knew that she would still enjoy it, and that
she would shed comfort and happiness upon all who came in contact with
her. Was it for him to snap the cord, to say, "You shall no longer
enjoy, you shall no longer bestow happiness upon others; you shall no
longer live to lighten the trouble of many suffering mortals, to shed
light and sweetness in many homes"? Was this the way to prove his love
for her? No, he would not shut the door of earthly salvation which had
been so providentially opened to him, he would not pronounce a
sentence of death against the dear woman he had sworn to love and
cherish.

Aaron was not aware that in the view he was taking he was calling to
his aid only those personal and sympathetic affections which bound him
and Rachel together, and that, out of a common human selfishness, he
was thrusting from the scale the purely moral and religious
obligations which usually played so large a part in his conduct of
life. In this dark hour love was supreme, and held him in its thrall;
in this dark hour he was intensely and completely human; in this dark
hour the soft breathing of a feeble woman was more potent than the
sound of angels' trumpets from the Throne of Grace, the sight of a
white, worn face more powerful than that of a flaming sword of justice
in the skies.

He had arrived at a decision; he would receive the child of strangers
into his home.

Before going to the Salutation Hotel to make the announcement to Mr.
Moss he would see that his wife was sleeping, and not likely to awake
during his brief absence from the house. The doctor had assured him
that she would sleep for twelve hours, and he had full confidence in
the assurance; but he must look upon her face once more before he left
her even for a few minutes.

He stood at her bedside. She was sleeping peacefully and soundly; her
countenance was now calm and untroubled, and Aaron believed that he
saw in it an indication of returning health. Certainly the rest she
was enjoying was doing her good. He stooped and kissed her, and she
did not stir; her sweet breath fanned his cheeks. Then he turned his
eyes upon his child; and as he gazed upon the infant, in its white
dress, a terror for which there is no name stole into his heart. Why
was the babe so still and white? Like a marble statue she lay, bereft
of life and motion. He put his ear to her lips--not a breath escaped
them; he laid his hand upon her heart--not the faintest flutter of a
pulse was there. With feverish haste he lifted the little hand, the
head, the body, and for all the response he received he might have
been handling an image of stone. Gradually the truth forced itself
upon him. The young soul had gone to its Maker. His child was dead!



                            CHAPTER XXII.

                       THE LIVING AND THE DEAD.


"If our child lives, there is hope that my wife will live?"

"A strong hope. I speak with confidence."

"And if our child dies?"

"The mother will die."

No voice was speaking in the chamber of death, but Aaron heard again
these words, which had passed between the doctor and himself. If the
child lived, the mother would live; if the child died, the mother
would die.

A black darkness fell upon his soul. His mind, his soul, every
principle of his being, was engulfed in the one despairing thought
that Rachel was doomed, that, although she was sleeping peacefully
before his eyes, death would be her portion when she awoke to the fact
that her babe had been taken from her.

"If, when she wakes, all is well with the child, all will be well with
her."

The spiritual echo of the doctor's words uttered but a few hours ago.
He heard them as clearly as he had heard the others.

How to avert the threatened doom? How to save his Rachel's life?
Prayer would not avail, or he would have flown to it instinctively. It
was not that he asked himself the question, or that in his agony he
doubted or believed in the efficacy of prayer. It may be, indeed, that
he evaded it, for already a strange and terrible temptation was
invading the fortress of his soul. To save the life of his beloved was
he ready to commit a sin? What was the true interpretation of sin? A
perpetrated act which would benefit one human being to the injury of
another. Then, if an act were perpetrated which would ensure the
happiness and well-doing not of one human creature, but of three,
and would inflict injury upon no living soul, that act was not a
sin--unmistakably not a sin. But if this were really so, wherefore the
necessity for impressing it upon himself? The conviction that he was
acting justly in an hour of woe, that the contemplated act was not
open to doubt in a moral or religious sense, was in itself sufficient.
Wherefore, then, the iteration that it was not a sin?

He could not think the matter out in the presence of Rachel and of his
dead child. He stole down to his room, and gave himself up to
reflection. He turned down the gas almost to vanishing point, and
stood in the dark, now thinking in silence, now uttering his thoughts
aloud.

A friend had come to him and begged him to receive into his household
a babe, a girl, of the same age as his own babe lying dead in the room
above. She was deserted, friendless, alone. All natural claims had
been abandoned, and the infant was thrown upon the world, without
parents, without kith or kin. Even while he believed his own child to
be alive he had decided to accept the trust. Why should he hesitate
now that his child was dead? It was almost like a miraculous
interposition, or so he chose to present it to himself.

"Even as we spoke together," he said aloud, "my child had passed away.
Even as I hesitated the messenger was urging me to accept the trust.
It was as if an angel had presented himself, and said, 'The life of
your beloved hangs upon the life of a babe, and the Eternal has called
her child to Him. Here is another to take her place. The mother will
not know; she is blind, and has never seen the face of her babe, has
scarcely heard its voice. To-morrow she lives or dies--it is the
critical day in her existence--and whether she lives or dies rests
with you, and with you alone. Science is powerless to help her in her
hour of trial; love alone will lift her into life, into joy, into
happiness; and upon you lies the responsibility. It is for you to
pronounce the sentence--life or death for your beloved, life or death
for a good woman who, if you do not harden your heart, will shed peace
and blessings upon all around her. Embrace the gift that God has
offered you. Allow no small scruples to drive you from the duty of
love.' Yes," cried Aaron in a louder tone, "it was as if an angel
spoke. Rachel shall live!"

If there was sophistry in this reasoning he did not see it; but the
still small voice whispered,--

"It is a deception, you are about to practise. You are about to place
in your wife's arms a child that is not of her blood or yours. You are
about to take a Christian babe to your heart, to rear and instruct her
as if she were born in the old and sacred faith that has survived long
centuries of suffering and oppression. Can you justify it?"

"Love justifies it," he answered. "The good that will spring from it
justifies it. A sweet and ennobling life will be saved. My own life
will be made the better for it, for without my beloved I should be
lost, I should be lost!"

Again the voice: "It is of yourself you are thinking."

"And if I am," he answered, "if our lives are so interwoven that one
would be useless and broken without the other, where is the sin?"

Again the voice: "Ah, the sin! You have pronounced the word. Remember,
it is a sin of commission."

"I know it," he said, "and I can justify it--and can I not atone for
it in the future? I will atone for it, if the power is given me, by
charity, by good deeds. In atonement, yes, in atonement. If I can
relieve some human misery, if I can lift a weight from suffering
hearts, surely that will be reckoned to my account. I record here a
solemn vow to make this a purpose of my life. And the child!--she will
be reared in a virtuous home, she will have a good woman for a mother.
With such an example before her she cannot fail to grow into a bright
and useful womanhood. That will be a good work done. I pluck her from
the doubtful possibilities which might otherwise attend her; no word
of reproach will ever reach her ears; she will live in ignorance of
the sad circumstances of her birth. Is all this nothing? Will it not
weigh in the balance?"

Again the voice: "It is much, and the child is fortunate to fall into
the hands of such protectors. But I repeat, in using these arguments
you are not thinking of the child; you think only of yourself."

"It is not so," he said; "not alone of myself am I thinking. I am the
arbiter of my wife's earthly destiny. Having the opportunity of
rescuing her from death, what would my future life be if I stand idly
by and see her die before my eyes? Do you ask of me that I shall be
her executioner? The heart of the Eternal is filled with love; He
bestows upon us the gift of love as our divinest consolation. He has
bestowed it upon me in its sublimest form. Shall I lightly throw away
the gift, and do a double wrong--to the child that needs a home, to
the woman whose fate is in my hands? Afflict me no longer; I am
resolved, and am doing what I believe to be right in the sight of the
Most High."

The voice was silent, and spake no more.

Aaron turned up the gas, took the money which Mr. Moss had left upon
the table, and quietly left the house. As he approached the Salutation
Hotel, which was situated at but a short distance, he saw the light of
Mr. Moss's cigar in the street. That gentleman was walking to and fro,
anxiously awaiting the arrival of his friend.

"You are here, Cohen," he cried, "and the hour has barely passed. That
is a good omen. How pale you are, and you are out of breath. In order
that absolute secrecy should be preserved I thought it best to wait
outside for you. You have decided?"

"I have decided," said Aaron, in a husky voice. "I will receive the
child."

"Good, good, good," said Mr. Moss, his eyes beaming with satisfaction.
"You are acting like a sensible man, and you have lifted yourself out
of your difficulties. I cannot tell you how glad you make me, for I
take a real interest in you, a real interest. Remain here; I will
bring the babe, and we will go together to your house. It is well
wrapped up, and we will walk quickly to protect it from the night air.
I shall not be a minute."

He darted into the hotel, and soon returned, with the babe in his
arms. Upon Aaron's offering to take the child from him, he said,
gaily, "No, no, Cohen'; I am more used to carrying babies than you.
When you have a dozen of them, like me, I will admit that we are
equal; but not till then, not till then."

Although his joyous tones jarred upon Aaron he made no remark, and
they proceeded to Aaron's house, Mr. Moss being the loquacious one on
the road.

"The woman I brought with me does not know, does not suspect, where
the child is going to, so we are safe. She goes back to Portsmouth
to-night; I shall remain till the morning. The baby is fast asleep.
What would the world be without children? Did you ever think of that,
Cohen? It would not be worth living in. A home without children--I
cannot imagine it. When I see a childless woman I pity her from my
heart. They try to make up for it with a cat or a dog, but it's a poor
substitute, a poor substitute. If I had no children I would adopt one
or two--yes, indeed. There is a happy future before this child; if she
but knew, if she could speak, her voice would ring out a song of
praise."

When they arrived at the house Aaron left Mr. Moss in the room below,
and ran up to ascertain if Rachel had been disturbed. She had not
moved since he last quitted the room, and an expression of profound
peace was settling on her face. His own child lay white and still. A
heavy sigh escaped him as he gazed upon the inanimate tiny form. He
closed the door softly, and rejoined his friend.

"I will not stay with you, Cohen," said Mr. Moss; "you will have
enough to do. To-morrow you must get a woman to assist in the house.
You have the fifty pounds safe?" Aaron nodded. "I have some more money
to give you, twenty-five pounds, three months' payment in advance of
the allowance to be made to you for the rearing of the child. Here it
is, and here, also, is the address of the London lawyers, who will
remit to you regularly at the commencement of every quarter. You have
only to give them your address, and they will send the money to you. I
shall not leave Gosport till eleven in the morning, and if you have
anything to say to me I shall be at the Salutation till that hour.
Good-night, Cohen; I wish you happiness and good fortune."

Alone with the babe, who lay on the sofa, which had been drawn up to
the fire, Aaron stood face to face with the solemn responsibility he
had taken upon himself, and with the still more solemn deception to
which he was pledged. For awhile he hardly dared to uncover the face
of the sleeping child, but time was precious, and he nerved himself to
the necessity. He sat on the sofa, and gently removed the wrappings
which had protected the child from the cold night, but had not impeded
its powers of respiration.

A feeling of awe stole upon him; the child he was gazing on might have
been his own dead child, so strong was the resemblance between them.
There was a little hair upon the pretty head, as there was upon the
head of his dead babe; it was dark, as hers was; there was a singular
resemblance in the features of the children; the limbs, the feet,
the little baby hands, the pouting mouth, might have been cast in the
same mould. The subtle instinct of a mother's love would have enabled
her to know instinctively which of the two was her own babe, but it
would be necessary for that mother to be blessed with sight before she
could arrive at her unerring conclusion. A father could be easily
deceived, and the tender age of the children would have been an
important--perhaps the chief--factor in the unconscious error.
"Surely," Aaron thought, as he contemplated the sleeping babe, "this
is a sign that I am acting rightly." Men less devout than he might
have regarded it as a Divine interposition. But though he strove still
to justify his act, doubt followed every argument he used in his
defence.

The next hour was occupied in necessary details which had not hitherto
occurred to him. The clothing of the children had to be exchanged. It
was done; the dead was arrayed as the living, the living as the dead.
Mere words are powerless to express Aaron's feelings as he performed
this task, and when he placed the living, breathing babe in the bed in
which Rachel lay, and took his own dead child to an adjoining room,
and laid it in his own bed, scalding tears ran down his cheeks. "God
forgive me, God forgive me!" he murmured, again and again. He knelt by
Rachel's bed, and buried his face in his hands. He had committed
himself to the deception; there was no retreat now. For weal or woe,
the deed was done.

And there was so much yet to do, so much that he had not thought of!
Each false step he was taking was leading to another as false as that
which had preceded it. But if the end justified the means--if he did
not betray himself--if Rachel, awaking, suspected nothing, and heard
the voice of the babe by her side, without suspecting that it was not
her own, why, then, all would be well. And all through his life, to
his last hour, he would endeavour to make atonement for his sin. He
inwardly acknowledged it now, without attempting to gloss it over. It
_was_ a sin; though good would spring from it, though a blessing might
attend it, the act was sinful.

His painful musings were arrested by a knock at the street door. With
a guilty start he rose to his feet, and gazed around with fear in his
eyes. What did the knock portend? Was it in some dread way connected
with his doings? The thought was harrowing. But presently he
straightened himself, set his lips firmly, and went downstairs to
attend to the summons.



                            CHAPTER XXIII.

                   PLUCKED FROM THE JAWS OF DEATH.


Mr. Moss stood at the street door, bearing in his arms the little iron
casket which Dr. Spenlove, at the intercession of the mother who had
consented to part with her child, had entrusted to him.

"In my excitement, Cohen," he commenced, before Aaron could speak,
"something slipped my memory when we were talking together. I rapped
softly at first, fearing to disturb Rachel, but no one answering, I
had to use the knocker. I hope I have not disturbed her."

"She is sleeping peacefully," replied Aaron, "and is taking a turn for
the better, I am thankful to say. To-morrow, I trust, all danger will
be over. Come in."

He closed the door gently, and they entered the parlour.

"I have come back about this little box," said Mr. Moss, depositing it
on the table; "it belongs to the task I undertook. The mother of the
babe made it a stipulation that whoever had the care of the child
should receive the box, and hold it in trust for her until she claimed
it."

"But I understood," said Aaron, in apprehension, "that the mother had
no intention of claiming her child."

"In a certain sense that is true. Don't look worried; there is no fear
of any trouble in the future; only she made it a condition that the
box should go with the child, and that, when the girl was twenty-one
years of age, it should be given to her, in case the mother did not
make her appearance and claim the property. It stands this way, Cohen.
The mother took into consideration the chance that the gentleman she
is marrying may die before her, in which event she stipulated that she
should be free to seek her daughter. That is reasonable, is it not?"

"Quite reasonable."

"And natural?"

"Quite natural. But I should have been informed of it."

"It escaped me, it really escaped me, Cohen; and what difference can
it make? It is only a mother's fancy."

"Yes, only a mother's fancy."

"I'll lay a thousand to one you never hear anything more about it. Put
the box away, and don't give it another thought."

Aaron lifted it from the table. "It is heavy, Mr. Moss."

"Yes, it is heavy."

"Do you know what it contains?"

"I haven't the slightest idea."

"It must be something that the mother sets store on--jewels, perhaps."

"Nothing more unlikely. The poor woman didn't have a shilling to bless
herself with. I shouldn't trouble about it if I were you."

"I have gone too far," said Aaron, sighing; "I cannot retreat."

"It would be madness to dream of such a thing. Remember what depends
upon it. Cohen, in case anything occurs, I think I ought to tell you
what has been passing in my mind."

"In case anything occurs!" repeated Aaron, in a hollow tone, and with
a startled look. "What can occur?"

"The poor child," continued Mr. Moss, "has had a hard time of it. We
almost dug her out of the snow last night; the exposure was enough to
kill an infant of tender years, and there's no saying what effect it
may have upon her. If it had been a child of my own I should be
alarmed for the consequences, and I should scarcely expect her to live
through it." Aaron gasped. "The idea distresses you, but we must
always take the human view. Should she not survive no one can be
blamed for it. How is your own dear little girl?"

"She is well," replied Aaron, mechanically. He passed his hand across
his eyes despairingly. The duplicity he was compelled to practise was
hateful to him, and he despised himself for it.

"Good-night again," said Mr. Moss. "I have sent my telegram to the
London lawyers. Don't forget that I shall be at the Salutation till
eleven in the morning. I should like to hear how Mrs. Cohen is before
I leave."

It was not only the incident of the iron safe that Mr. Moss, in the
first instance, had omitted to impart to Aaron. In the agreement
formulated by Mr. Gordon there was an undertaking that in the event of
the child's death, or of her marriage if she grew to womanhood, the
lawyers were to pay the sum of five hundred pounds to the person into
whose home the child was received. Mr. Moss had not mentioned this,
and Aaron was in consequence ignorant of the fact. Had he been aware
of it, is it likely that he would have shrunk from carrying out the
scheme inspired by his agony? It is hard to say. During these pregnant
and eventful hours he was dominated by the one overpowering,
passionate desire to save the life of his beloved; during these hours
all that was highest and noblest in his nature was deadened by human
love.

There was no rest for him on this night; he did not dare to undress
and seek repose. The moments were too precious; some action had to be
taken, and to be taken soon, and, his mind torn with agony and
remorse, he devoted himself to the consideration of it. In the course
of this mental debate he was plunged at times into the lowest depths
of self-abasement; but the strength of his character and the serious
issues at stake lifted him out of these depths. Ever and anon he crept
into Rachel's room and derived consolation from the calm sleep she was
enjoying. The doctor's prognostications of returning health seemed to
be on the point of realisation; when she awoke in the morning and
clasped her child to her bosom, and heard its sweet voice, all would
be well with her. What need, then, for further justification?

But his further action must be decided upon and carried out before
Rachel awoke. And it was imperative that she should be kept in
ignorance of what had taken place. On no account must it be revealed
to her that he had taken a strange child into the house, and that it
had died there within a few hours. In her delicate state the news
might be fatal.

Gradually all that it was necessary for him to do unfolded itself, and
was mentally arranged in consecutive order. He waited till three
o'clock, and then he went from his house to the Salutation Hotel. The
night porter, half asleep, was in attendance, and after some demur he
conducted Aaron to Mr. Moss's sleeping apartment.

"Who is there?" cried Mr. Moss, aroused by the knocking at his door.

"It is I," replied Aaron; "I must speak to you at once."

Mr. Moss jumped from bed.

"Is it all right, sir?" asked the night porter.

"Of course it is all right," said Mr. Moss, opening the door, and
admitting his visitor.

The night porter returned to his duties, and fell into a doze.

"What brings you here at this time of night?" exclaimed Mr. Moss; and
then, seeing the distress in Aaron's face, "Good God! It is not about
Rachel?"

"No, it is not about Rachel; it is bad enough, but not so bad as that.
How shall I tell you--how shall I tell you?"

"Stop a moment," said Mr. Moss. "I ordered half a bottle of port
before I went, and there is a glass or two left. Drink this."

The wine gave Aaron courage to proceed with his task.

"I have dreadful news to tell you," he said, putting down the glass.

"I guess it," interrupted Mr. Moss. "The child!"

"Yes," answered Aaron, with averted eyes, "the child."

"Is she very ill?"

"Mr. Moss, the child is dead."

"Heavens!" cried Mr. Moss, slipping into his clothes as fast as he
could. "What a calamity! But at the same time, Cohen, what a release!
Tell me all about it. Does Rachel know?"

"Rachel does not know. She is still sleeping, and she must not know.
It would kill her--it would kill her!'

"I see the necessity, Cohen; it must be kept from her, and I think I
see how it can be managed. It is a fortunate thing that the woman who
accompanied me here with the poor child has not returned to
Portsmouth, as I bade her. She met with some friends in Gosport who
persuaded her to stop the night, and she was going back with me in the
morning. I promised to call for her, but she will have to remain here
now till the child is buried. She will not mind, because it will be
something in her pocket. A sad ending, Cohen, a sad ending, but I
feared it. Did I not prophesy it? What else was to be expected after
last night's adventure? A child of such a tender age!' The wonder is
it did not die in my arms. But you have not told me how it occurred."

"It is very simple," said Aaron, in a low tone. "I laid the babe in my
own bed, intending to call in a woman as soon after daylight as
possible to attend it till Rachel was well and able to get about. She
seemed to be asleep, and was in no pain. I determined not to go to
bed, but to keep up all night, to attend to the little one, and to
Rachel and my own child---- Bear with me, Mr. Moss, I am unstrung."

"No wonder. Take time, Aaron, take time."

"Now and again I went up to look at the babe, and observed nothing to
alarm me. An hour ago I closed my eyes, and must have slept; I was
tired out. When I awoke I went upstairs, and was startled by a strange
stillness in the child. I lifted her in my arms. Mr. Moss, she was
dead. I came to you at once, to advise me what to do. You must help
me, Mr. Moss; my dear Rachel's life hangs upon it. You know how
sensitive she is; and the doctor has warned me that a sudden shock
might be fatal."

"I will help you, Cohen, of course I will help you; it is my duty,
because it is I who have brought this trouble upon you. But I did it
with the best intentions. I see a way out of the difficulty. The woman
I employed--how fortunate, how fortunate that she is still here!--is a
god-send to us. She is a kind-hearted creature, and she will be sorry
to hear of the child's death, but at the same time she is poor, and
will be glad to earn a sovereign. A doctor must see the child, to
testify that she died a natural death. She must have passed away in
her sleep."

"She did. Is it necessary that the doctor should visit my house in
order to see the child?"

"Not at all. I have everything planned in my mind. Now I am ready to
go out. First to the telegraph office--it is open all night here--to
despatch a telegram to the London lawyers to send a representative
down immediately, who, when he comes, will take the affair out of our
hands, I expect. Afterwards to the house of the woman's friends; she
must accompany us to your house, and we will take the child away
before daylight. Then we will call in a doctor, and nothing need reach
Rachel's ears. Don't take it to heart, Cohen; you have troubles enough
of your own. The news you give me of Rachel is the best of news. Joy
and sorrow, Cohen--how close they are together!"

In the telegraph office Mr. Moss wrote a long message to Mr. Gordon's
lawyers, impressing upon them the necessity of sending a
representative without delay to take charge of the body, and to attend
to the funeral arrangements.

"Between ourselves, Cohen," he said, as they walked to the house
of the woman's friends, "the lawyers will be rather glad of the news
than otherwise; and so will Mr. Gordon, when it reaches him. I am not
sure whether I made the matter clear to you, but there is no doubt
whatever that, so far as Mr. Gordon is concerned, the child was an
encumbrance--to say nothing of the expense, which perhaps he would not
have minded, being almost a millionaire. But still, as it has turned
out, he has got rid of a difficulty, and he will not be sorry when he
hears of it."

"And the mother," said Aaron, "how will she take it?"

"I will not pretend to say. _We_ know, Cohen, what we think of our own
children, but there are people in the world with different ideas from
ours. The mother of this little one will feel grieved at first, no
doubt, but I dare say she will soon get over it. Then, perhaps her
husband will not tell her. Here we are at the woman's house."

They halted before a small cottage, inhabited by people in humble
circumstances. Before he aroused the inmates, Mr. Moss said,--

"I shall keep your name out of the affair, Cohen; but to a certain
extent the woman must be taken into our confidence. Secrecy will be
imposed upon her, and she will be paid for it. Remain in the
background; I will speak to her alone."

The woman herself came to the door, and when she was dressed Mr. Moss
had a conversation with her, the result of which was that she and the
two men walked to Aaron's house, where she took charge of the dead
child, and carried it to the cottage. Then she went for a doctor--to
Aaron's relief not the doctor who attended his wife--and as there was
no doubt that the child had died a natural death, a certificate to
that effect was given. At six in the morning Aaron returned to Rachel,
and sitting by her bedside, waited for her awakening. The potion she
had taken was to ensure sleep for twelve hours; in two hours he would
hear her voice; in two hours she would be caressing a babe to which
she had not given birth.

It seemed to Aaron as though months had passed since Mr. Moss had
presented himself at his house last night, and for a while it almost
seemed as though, in that brief time, it was not himself who had
played the principal part in this strange human drama, but another
being who had acted for him, and who had made him responsible for an
act which was to colour all his future life. But he did not permit
himself to indulge long in this view of what had transpired; he knew
and felt that he, and he alone, was responsible, and that to his dying
day he would be accountable for it. Well, he would bear the burden,
and would, every by means within his power, endeavour to atone for it.
He would keep strict watch over himself; he would never give way to
temptation; he would act justly and honourably; he would check the
hasty word; he would make no enemies; he would be kind and considerate
to all around him. He did not lay the flattering unction to his soul
that in thus sketching his future rule of life he was merely
committing himself to that which he had always followed in the past.
This one act seemed to cast a shadow over all that had gone before; he
had to commence anew.

A strange and agonising fancy haunted him. The child of his blood,
Rachel's child, was lying dead in the house of a stranger. The
customary observances of his religion could not be held over it;
Christians had charge of the lifeless clay. With his mind's eye he saw
his dead child lying in the distant chamber, alone and unattended,
with no sympathising heart near to shed tears over it, with no mourner
near to offer up a prayer in its behalf. The child opened its eyes and
gazed reproachfully upon its father; then it rose from the couch, and
in its white dress went out of the house and walked through the snow
to its father's dwelling. The little bare feet left traces of blood in
the snow, and at the door of its father's house it paused and stood
there crying, "Mother, mother!" So strong was this fancy that Aaron
went to the street door, and, opening it, gazed up and down the
street. The snow was still falling; no signs of life were visible, and
no movement except the light flakes fluttering down. A mantle of
spotless white was spread over roads and roofs, and there was silence
all around. But in Aaron's eyes there was a vision, and in his heart a
dead voice calling. His babe was there before him, and its voice was
crying, "Mother, mother! Why am I deserted? why am I banished from my
father's house?" When he drew back into the passage he hardly dared
shut the street door upon the piteous figure his conscience had
conjured up.

At eight o'clock in the morning Rachel stirred; she raised her arm and
put her hand to her eyes, blind to all the world, blind to her
husband's sin, blind to everything but love. Then instinctively she
drew the babe nearer to her. A faint cooing issued from the infant's
lips, and an expression of joy overspread the mother's features. This
joy found its reflex in Aaron's heart, but the torturing anxiety under
which he laboured was not yet dispelled. It was an awful moment. Was
there some subtle instinct in a mother's love which would convey to
Rachel's sense the agonising truth that the child she held in her arms
was not her own?

There was no indication of it. She fondled the child, she suckled it,
the light of Heaven shone in her face.

"Aaron!"

"My beloved!"

"Do you hear our child, our dear one? Ah, what happiness!"

"Thank God!" said Aaron, inly. "Oh, God be thanked!"

"Is it early or late, dear love?" asked Rachel. "It is morning, I
know, for I see the light; I feel it here"--with her hand pressing the
infant's head to her heart.

"It is eight o'clock, beloved," said Aaron.

"I have had a long and beautiful sleep. I do not think I have dreamt,
but I have been so happy, so happy! My strength seems to be returning;
I have not felt so well since the night of the fire. Our darling seems
stronger, too; it is because I am so much better. I must think of
that; it is a mother's duty to keep well, for her child's sake--and,
dear husband, for your sake also. I do not love you less because I
love our child so dearly."

"I am sure of that. Should I be jealous of our child? That would be as
foolish as it would be unwise."

"You speak more cheerfully, Aaron. Is that because of me?"

"It is because of you, beloved. We both draw life and happiness from
you. Therefore, get strong soon."

"I shall; I feel I shall. My mind is clear, there is no weight on my
heart. Before many days have passed I shall be out of bed, learning my
new duties. Aaron, our child will live."

"She will live to bless and comfort us, beloved."

She passed her hand over his face. "You are crying, Aaron."

"They are tears of joy, Rachel, at seeing you so much better. A
terrible fear has weighed me down; it is removed, thanks be to the
Eternal. The world was dark till now; I dared not think of the future;
now all is well."

"Am I, indeed, so much to you, dear husband?"

"You are my life. As the sun is to the earth, so are you to me."

The wife, the husband, and the child lay in each other's embrace.

"God is good," murmured Rachel. "I did so want to live for you and for
our child! But I feared, I feared; strength seemed to be departing
from me. What will they do, I thought, when I am gone? But God has
laid His hand upon us and blessed us. Praised be His name for ever and
ever!"

"Amen, amen! I have not yet said my morning prayers. It is time."

She sank back in bed, and he put on his taleth and phylacteries, and
prayed fervently. He did not confine himself to his usual morning
devotions, but sought his book for propitiatory supplications for
forgiveness for transgressions. "Forgive us, oh, our Father! for we
have sinned; pardon us, oh, our King! for we have transgressed; for
Thou art ever ready to pardon and forgive. Blessed art Thou, the
Eternal, who is gracious and doth abundantly pardon." And while he
supplicated forgiveness, Rachel lay and sang a song of love.

His prayers ended, Aaron folded his taleth and wound up his
phylacteries, and resumed his seat by Rachel's bed.

"While you slept last night, dear love," he said, "a piece of good
fortune fell to my share, through our friend Mr. Moss. I shall be able
to take a servant in the house."

"How glad I am!" she answered. "It distressed me greatly to know that
you had everything to attend to yourself. A woman, or a girl, is so
necessary!"

"There is altogether a brighter outlook for us, Rachel. Do you think
Prissy would do?"

"She is very handy, and very willing. If you could manage till I can
get up I could soon teach her."

"I will go, then, and see if she is able to come. You must not mind
being alone a little while."

"I shall not be alone, dear," said Rachel, with a bright smile at the
child.

He prepared breakfast for her before he left, and she partook of it
with a keen appetite. Then he went on his mission, and met Mr. Moss
coming to the house.

"I have received a telegram," said that gentleman, "in reply to mine.
A gentleman will arrive from London this afternoon to attend to
matters. You look brighter."

"Rachel is much better," said Aaron.

"You are in luck all round, Cohen. There are men who always fall on
their feet. I'm one of them; you're another. This time yesterday you
were in despair; now you're in clover. Upon my word, I am as glad as
if it had happened to myself. You know one of our sayings--'Next to
me, my wife; next to my wife, my child; next to my child, my friend.'
My good old father told me it was one of the wise sayings of Rabbi
ben--I forget who he was the son of. A friend of ours who used to come
to our house said to my father that there was no wisdom and no
goodness in the saying, because the Rabbi put himself first, as being
of more consequence than wife, and child, and friend. My father
answered, 'You are wrong; there is wisdom, there is goodness, there is
sense in it. Self is the greatest of earthly kings. Put yourself in
one scale, and pile up all the world in the other, and you will weigh
it down.' He was right. What comes so close home to us as our own
troubles and sorrows?"

"Nothing," said Aaron, rather sadly; "they outweigh all the rest. We
are human, and being human, fallible. Can you imagine an instance, Mr.
Moss, where love may lead to crime?"

"I can, and what is more, I would undertake to justify it. Who is this
little girl?"

The diversion in the conversation was caused by Prissy, who had run to
Aaron, and was plucking at his coat.

"A good girl who attends to our Sabbath lights."

"'Ow's missis, please, sir?" inquired Prissy, anxiously.

"Much better this morning, thank you."

"And the babby, sir?"

"Also better and stronger, Prissy." Prissy jumped up and down in
delight. "I was coming to see you. Do you think your aunt would let
you come to us as a regular servant, to live, and eat, and sleep in
the house?"

This vision of happiness almost took Prissy's breath away; but she
managed to reply, "If yer'd make it worth 'er while, she would, Mr.
Cohen. She's allus telling me I'm taking the bread out of 'er mouth,
and ain't worth my salt. Oh, Mr. Cohen, _will_ yer take me, _will_
yer? I don't care where I sleep, I don't care wot yer give me to eat,
I'll work for yer day and night, I will! Aunty makes my life a misery,
she does, and I've lost Wictoria Rejiner, sir. She's got another nuss,
and I ain't got nobody to care for now. Aunty sed this morning I was a
reg'lar pest, and she wished she could sell me at so much a pound."

"You don't weigh a great deal," said Aaron, gazing at Prissy in pity;
and then, with a sad touch of his old humour, "How much a pound do you
think she would take?"

"Come and arks 'er, Mr. Cohen, come and arks er," cried Prissy,
running before Aaron, and looking back imploringly at him.

He and Mr. Moss followed the girl into the presence of Prissy's aunt,
and, although he did not buy Prissy by the pound weight, he made a
bargain with the woman, and by the outlay of five shillings secured
the girl's permanent services, it being understood that she was not to
take her niece away without Prissy's consent. As they walked back to
Aaron's house he spoke to Prissy about wages; but the girl, who felt
as if heaven's gates had opened for her to enter, interrupted him by
saying,--

"Don't talk about wages, sir, please don't. I don't want no wages.
Give me a frock and a bone, and I'll work the skin off my fingers for
yer, I will!"

Extravagant as were her professions, never was a poor girl more in
earnest than Prissy. Blithe and happy she set to work, and never did
valiant soldier polish up his arms with keener zest than did Prissy
her pots and pans. The kitchen was her battleground, and she surveyed
it with the air of a conqueror. There was joy in Rachel's heart in the
room above, there was joy in Prissy's heart in the room below.



                            CHAPTER XXIV.

                      THE CURTAIN FALLS AWHILE.


Mr. Moss and Aaron spent the greater part of the day together,
awaiting the arrival of Mr. Gordon's legal representative. The doctor
who attended Rachel called only once, and gave a good report of her
condition.

"The crisis is over," he said to Aaron. "Your wife and child will
live. In a few days Mrs. Cohen will be strong enough to be removed,
and I advise you to take her without delay to the South of France,
where before spring her health will be completely re-established."

It was not until the doctor had departed that the question presented
itself to Aaron whether he had any right to the fifty pounds he
had received from Mr. Moss. He was clear as to the second sum of
twenty-five pounds--that must be returned. He wished Mr. Moss to take
it back; but that gentleman would have nothing to do with it, and as
to Aaron's right to retain the fifty pounds he entertained no doubt.

"It is undisputably yours," he said. "It was handed to me by Mr.
Gordon himself for a specific purpose, and I look upon it as a
retaining fee. No lawyer returns such a fee when the case breaks
down--trust them for that. Understand, please, Cohen, that I am no
longer acting in the affair: it rests now between you and the
lawyers."

Late in the afternoon Mr. Moss went to the railway station to meet the
lawyer, and the two proceeded together to the house where the dead
child lay. Arrangements for the funeral were made, and then Mr. Moss
conducted the lawyer, whose name was Chesterman, to Aaron's house.

"Mr. Chesterman has something to say to you, Cohen," he said. "I will
leave you together." He took Aaron aside. "It is something of great
importance--a wonderful stroke of fortune. Don't throw it away; it
will be the making of you; and remember Rachel."

"Mr. Moss," commenced Mr. Chesterman, when he and Aaron were alone,
"has related to me all that has occurred. In a general sense the death
of the child is to be regretted, as would be the death of any person,
old or young; but there are peculiar circumstances in this case which
render this visitation of God a relief to certain parties. It removes
all difficulties from the future, and there is now no likelihood of
our client's plans being hampered or interfered with. You are aware
that he is a gentleman of fortune?"

"I have been so informed."

"You may not be aware, however, that he is a gentleman of very decided
views, and that he is not to be turned from any resolution he may have
formed. We lawyers have to deal with clients of different
temperaments, and when a case is submitted to us by a strong-minded
gentleman, we may advise, but, if we find our client determined, we do
not waste time in arguing. I understand from Mr. Moss that you have
some scruples with respect to the money you have received from him."

"I wish to know whether I may consider the first sum of fifty pounds
mine; I have my doubts about it. As to the second sum of twenty-five
pounds, paid in advance for the rearing of the child, I have no doubts
whatever."

"We have nothing to do with either of those sums; they did not come
from us, but from our client to Mr. Moss, and from Mr. Moss to you.
Without being consulted professionally, I agree with Mr. Moss that the
fifty pounds is yours. I offer no opinion upon the second sum."

"If you will give me your client's address, I will communicate with
him."

"We cannot disclose it to you. It is confided to us professionally,
and our instructions are to keep it secret."

"You can give him my name and address?"

"No. His stipulation is that it is not to be made known to him. If at
any time he asks us voluntarily for it, that is another matter, and I
will make a note of it. The special purpose of my visit is to complete
and carry out to the last letter our client's instructions. The
conditions to which he bound himself were very liberal. With a
generous desire for the child's welfare, in the event of her living
and marrying, he placed in our hands the sum of five hundred pounds as
a marriage dowry, to be paid over to her on her wedding-day."

"A noble-minded gentleman," said Aaron.

Mr. Chesterman smiled, and continued,--

"In the event of the child's death this five hundred pounds was to be
paid over to the party or parties who undertook the charge of her. The
child is dead; the five hundred pounds is to be paid over to you."

"But, sir," said Aaron, in astonishment, "do you not understand that I
cannot accept this money?"

"It is not for us to consider any scruples you may have; it is for us
to carry out our instructions. It does not come within our province to
argue with you. I have brought the cheque with me, and all I have to
do is to hand it over to you, and to take your receipt for it. Mr.
Moss hinted to me that you might raise objections; my reply was,
'Nonsense.' The money belongs to you by legal and moral right, and I
decline to listen to objections. If it is any satisfaction to you, I
may tell you that our client can well afford to pay it, and that by
its early payment he is a considerable gainer, for he is no longer
under the obligation to pay a hundred a year for the child's
maintenance. Here is the receipt, legally drawn out; oblige me by
signing it."

It was in vain for Aaron to protest; the lawyer insisted, and at
length, fearing the consequences of a decided refusal, Aaron put his
name to the paper.

"Our business being concluded," said Mr. Chesterman, rising, "I have
the pleasure of wishing you good-day. Should in the future any
necessity for the statement arise, I shall not hesitate to declare
that the child was placed in the care of an honourable gentleman, who
would have faithfully performed his duty towards her."

"God forgive me," said Aaron, when his visitor was gone, "for the sin
I have committed! God help me to atone for it!"

But he would have been less than human had he not felt grateful that
the means were placed in his hands to restore his beloved wife to
health and strength. Before a week had passed he and Rachel and the
child, accompanied by Prissy, were travelling to a milder clime.



                           BOOK THE FOURTH.

                        _HONOUR AND PROGRESS_.



                             CHAPTER XXV.

                          AFTER MANY YEARS.


A man upon whose face all that is noble and steadfast seems to have
set its seal, to give the world assurance that here was one who, had
his lot been so cast, would have ruled over men with justice, truth,
and honour. He is of a goodly height, and his features are large and
clearly defined. A sensitive, resolute mouth; calm, well-proportioned
lips, which close without restraint and are eloquent even when the
tongue is silent; a nose gently arched, with curved indented nostrils;
a massive forehead, almost oval at the top, and with projecting lower
arches, the eyebrows near to the large brown eyes; the chin and cheeks
clothed in a handsome beard, in which grey hairs are making themselves
manifest. Powerful, benignant, and self-possessed as is his
appearance, there is an underlying sadness in his eyes which could be
variously construed--as born of a large experience of human ways and
of the errors into which mortals are liable to fall, or, maybe, of an
ever-abiding remembrance of one moment in his own life when he also
was tempted and fell. But no such thought as the latter ever entered
the minds of those who knew him personally and those who judged him by
the repute he bore, which could only have been earned by a man who
walked unflinchingly and unerringly in the straight path and was just
and merciful to all who came in contact with him. There were instances
when mercy so predominated that persons who had wronged him were
allowed to go free, and when a helping hand was held out to men who
had sinned against him. This is Aaron Cohen, now close upon his
fiftieth year.

A woman whose tranquil eyes never see the light of day, but in which,
nevertheless, there is no sign of repining or regret. Purity and
sweetness dwell in her face, and as she stands motionless in a
listening attitude, her white hand resting on the table, no more
exquisite representation of peace and universal love and sympathy
could be found in living form or marble statue. She is fair almost to
whiteness, and although her figure is slight and there is no colour in
her cheeks, she is in good health, only that sometimes during the day
she closes her eyes and sleeps in her armchair for a few minutes. In
those intervals of unconsciousness, and when she seeks her couch, she
sees fairer pictures, perhaps, than if the wonders of the visible
world were an open book to her. Her dreams are inspired by a soul of
goodness, and her husband's heart, as he gazes upon her in her
unconscious hours, is always stirred to prayer and thankfulness that
she is by his side to bless his days. Not only in the house is her
influence felt. She is indefatigable in her efforts to seek out
deserving cases of distress and relieve them; and she does not confine
her charity to those of her faith. In this regard Jew and Christian
are alike to her, and not a week passes that she does not plant in
some poor home a seed which grows into a flower to gladden and cheer
the hearts of the unfortunate and suffering. Grateful eyes follow her
movements, and a blessing is shed upon her as she departs. A
ministering angel is she, whose words are balm, whose presence brings
sweet life into dark spaces. So might an invisible herald of the Lord
walk the earth, healing the sick, lifting up the fallen, laying his
hand upon the wounded breast, and whispering to all, "Be comforted.
God has heard your prayers, and has sent me to relieve you." This is
Rachel Cohen, Aaron's wife, in her forty-fourth year.

A younger woman, in her springtime, with life's fairest pages spread
before her. Darker than Rachel is she, with darker hair and eyes and
complexion, slim, graceful, and beautiful. It is impossible that she
should not have felt the influence of the home in which she has been
reared, and that she should not be the better for it, for it is a home
in which the domestic affections unceasingly display themselves in
their tenderest aspect, in which the purest and most ennobling lessons
of life are inculcated by precept and practice; but a profound student
of human nature, whose keen insight would enable him to plumb the
depths of passion, to detect what lay beneath the surface, to trace
the probable course of the psychological inheritance which all parents
transmit to their children, would have come to the conclusion that in
this fair young creature were instincts and promptings which were
likely one day to give forth a discordant note in this abode of peace
and love, and to break into rebellion. There is no outward indication
of such possible rebellion. To the friends and acquaintances of the
household she is a lovely and gracious Jewish maiden, who shall in
time become a mother in Judah. This is Ruth Cohen, in the eyes of all
the world the daughter of Aaron and Rachel.

A young man, Ruth's junior by a year, with his father's strength of
character and his mother's sweetness of disposition. He is as yet too
young for the full development of this rare combination of qualities,
the outcome of which is to be made manifest in the future, but he is
not too young to win love and respect. His love for his parents is
ardent, his faith in them indestructible. To him his mother is a
saint, his father a man without blemish. Were he asked, to express his
most earnest wishes, he would have answered, "When I am my father's
age may I be honoured as he is: when I marry may my wife be as my
mother is." This is Joseph Cohen, the one other child of Aaron and
Rachel.

A tall, ungainly woman of thirty, working like a willing slave from
morning to night, taking pride and pleasure in the home, and
metaphorically prostrating herself before every one who lives beneath
its roof. Esteemed and valued by her master and mistress, for whom she
is ready to sacrifice herself and to undergo any privation; especially
watchful of her mistress, and tender towards her; jealous of the good
name of those whom she serves with devotion. Of Aaron Cohen she stands
somewhat in awe, he is so far above her in wisdom. She does not
trouble herself about religious matters; questions of theology come
not within her domain, her waking hours being entirely filled and
occupied with the performance of her domestic duties. She listens
devoutly to the chanting of Hebrew prayers, not one word of which does
she understand, and is none the worse for them. Her master and
mistress are the representatives of a race for which through them she
entertains the profoundest respect; it is more than likely, if the
choice had been hers and if she had deemed herself worthy of the
distinction, that she would have elected to be born in the Jewish
faith. She carries her allegiance even to the extent of fasting with
the household on the Day of Atonement, and of not allowing bread to
pass her lips during the Passover week. This is Prissy, the ever true,
the ever faithful.



                            CHAPTER XXVI.

                  THE FOUNDATION OF AARON'S FORTUNE.


Eventful indeed to Aaron Cohen had been the twenty years since he left
Gosport. In the South of France, where they remained for a much longer
time than he intended, Rachel was restored to health, and Aaron had
the joy of seeing her move happily about the house and garden, and of
hearing her sing to her babe the songs and lullabies which, from a
mother's lips, are so fraught with melodious and tender meaning. It
almost seemed as if she had inward cause for thankfulness that
blindness had fallen upon her, for Aaron had never known her to be so
blithe and light-hearted as during those weeks of returning health.
Prissy was invaluable to them, and proved to be a veritable treasure.
The short time it took her to learn her duties, the swiftness and
neatness with which they were performed, the delight she took in the
babe, who soon replaced Victoria Regina in her affections, and the
care and skill with which she guided her mistress's movements, amazed
Aaron. He had divined from the first that she was a shrewd, clever
girl, and he had the satisfaction of discovering that she was much
cleverer than he would have ventured to give her credit for. She was
tidier in her dress, too, and never presented herself unless she was
clean and neat. She became, in a sense, her mistress's teacher, and
Rachel was so apt a pupil that Aaron's apprehensions that she would
meet with an accident if she moved too freely about were soon
dispelled.

"Is it not wonderful, love?" she said. "I think I must have eyes at
the tips of my fingers. But it is Prissy I have to thank for it."

She repaid the girl, be sure. Gradually Prissy's mode of expressing
herself underwent improvement; she did not use so many negatives, she
dropped fewer h's, she learned to distinguish between g's and k's; and
Aaron himself laid the first stone in her education by teaching her
the a b c. One thing Prissy would not learn; she obstinately refused
to have anything to do with the French language. English was good
enough for her, she declared, and to the English tongue she nailed her
colours.

Fond as she was of babies, she would not countenance French babies,
and said it was a shame to dress them so. "I'm a troo bloo, sir," she
said to Aaron; "please don't force me." And with a hearty laugh he
desisted.

He himself spoke French fluently, and to this may be ascribed the
first change in his fortunes. Easy in his mind respecting Rachel, easy
respecting money, he found himself at leisure to look about him and
observe. He made friends, and among them a poor French engineer of
great skill. In conversation one day this engineer mentioned that
tenders were invited for the construction of a local bridge. It was
not a very important matter; the lake it was to span was of no great
dimensions, and the bridge required was by no means formidable.

"There are only two contractors who will tender for it," said the
engineer, "and they play into each other's hands. They will settle
privately the amount of their separate tenders, and the lowest will
obtain the contract. They will divide the profits between them. If I
had a little money to commence with I would tender for the work, and
my tender would be at least ten thousand francs below theirs. Then it
would be I who would construct the bridge, and public money would be
saved."

"What would be your profit?" asked Aaron.

"Twenty thousand francs," was the reply; "perhaps more."

"And the amount of your tender?"

"Eighty thousand francs. I have the plans and specifications, and
every detail of expense for material and labour in my house. Will you
come and look over them?"

Aaron examined them, and submitting them to the test of inquiry
as to the cost of labour and material, found them to be correct. A
simple-minded man might have been taken in by a schemer who had
prepared complicated figures for the purpose of trading with another
person's money, and standing the chance of winning if the venture
resulted in a profit, and of losing nothing if it resulted in a loss;
but Aaron was not simple-minded, the poor engineer was not a schemer,
and the figures were honestly set down.

"It would not need a great amount of money," said the engineer. "If a
certain sum were deposited in the bank, a further sum could be raised
by depositing the contract as security; and, moreover, as the work
proceeds, specified payments will be made by the local authorities."

"How much would be required to commence operations, and to make
everything safe?"

"Ten thousand francs."

Roughly, that was four hundred pounds. The five hundred pounds he had
received from the lawyers was as yet untouched, for they lived very
economically and were in a part of the world where thrift was part of
the people's education. Aaron believed the project to be safe.

"If I advanced it," he asked, "what proposition do you make?"

"We would make it a partnership affair," replied the poor engineer,
eagerly.

Upon that understanding the bridge was tendered for, and the tender
accepted. In four months the work was executed and passed by the
inspectors; the contractors received the balance due to them, and a
division of the profits was made. After paying all his expenses Aaron
was the richer by three hundred pounds. He gave fifty pounds to the
poor, which raised him in the estimation of the people among whom he
was temporarily sojourning. He had not been idle during the four
months occupied by the building of the bridge; under the guidance of
his partner he had superintended the workmen and undertaken the
correspondence and management of the accounts; and new as these duties
were to him he had shown great intelligence and aptitude.

"We met on a fortunate day," said the engineer.

At about this time a new engineering project presented itself. It was
on a larger scale than the first, and the two men, emboldened by
success, tendered for it. Again did fortune favour them; everybody,
with the exception of rival contractors, was on their side. In the
carrying out of their first contract there had not been a hitch; they
had paid their workmen better wages, they had behaved honestly and
liberally all round, and they had already achieved a reputation for
liberal dealing with the working man. Moreover, people were talking of
Rachel's kindness and of Aaron's benevolence. Hats were lifted to
them, women and children left flowers at their door; rich was the
harvest they gathered for their charity.

When it was known that they had obtained another contract, the best
workmen came to them for employment, and they learned what all
employers of labour may learn, that it is wise policy to pay
generously for bone and muscle. The hateful political economy of
Ricardo, which trades upon the necessities of the poor, and would
grind labour down to starvation pittance, could never find lodgment in
the mind of such a man as Aaron Cohen. The new venture was entirely
successful, and being of greater magnitude than the first, the profits
were larger. Aaron was the possessor of two thousand pounds. He gave
two hundred pounds to the poor. He did more than this. The doctor who
had attended Rachel in Gosport had declined to accept a fee, and Aaron
now wrote him a grateful letter, enclosing in it a draft for five
hundred pounds, which he asked the doctor to distribute among the
local charities. This five hundred pounds he regarded as a return of
the sum he had received from the London lawyers. That the receipt of
this money afforded gratification to the doctor was evidenced by his
reply. "Every one here," he said, "has kind words for you and your
estimable wife, and the general feeling is that if you had continued
to reside in Gosport it would have been a source of pleasure to all of
us. When I speak of your good fortune all the townsfolk say, 'We are
glad to hear it.'" Thus did good spring out of evil.

Aaron felt that his foot was on the ladder. He entered into a regular
partnership with his friend the engineer, and they executed many
public works and never had a failure. The justness of their trading,
their consideration for the toilers who were helping to build up a
fortune for them, the honest wages they paid, earned for them an
exceptional reputation for rectitude and fair dealing. In these
matters and in this direction Aaron was the guiding spirit. He left to
his partner the technical working out of their operations, and took
upon himself the control of wages and finance. Occasionally there were
arguments between him and his partner, the latter hinting perhaps that
there was a cheaper market, and that money could be saved by employing
middlemen who offered to supply labour and material at prices that
were not equitable from the point of view of the toilers and
producers. Aaron would not entertain propositions of this kind. "We
are doing well," he said, "we are making money, we are harvesting. Be
satisfied." His partner gave way. Aaron's character was too strong for
resistance. "Clean and comfortable homes," said Aaron, "a good
education for their children, a modest enjoyment of the world's
pleasures--these are the labourers' due." Hearing of this some large
employers called him quixotic, and said he was ruining trade; but he
pursued the just and even tenor of his way, satisfied that he was a
saviour and not a spoiler. Upon the conclusion of each transaction,
when the accounts were balanced, he devoted a portion of his profits
to benevolent purposes, and he became renowned as a public benefactor.
The thanks that were showered upon him did not please him, but tended
rather to humiliate and humble him; he would not listen to expressions
of gratitude; and it will be presently seen that when he returned to
England he took steps to avoid the publicity which was distasteful to
him.



                            CHAPTER XXVII.

                        THE FEAST OF PASSOVER.


A point of friendly contention between Aaron Cohen and the engineer
was the observance of the Sabbath day. From sunset on Friday till
sunset on Saturday Aaron would do no work and attend to no business.
He paid the workmen their wages on Friday, and made up the accounts on
that day. They hailed the new arrangement with satisfaction, but the
engineer was rather fretful over this departure from the usual custom.

"What is your objection?" asked Aaron.

"It must confuse affairs," replied the engineer.

"Are not the accounts faithfully kept," said Aaron, "and does not the
work go on regularly?"

"Oh, I am not complaining," said the engineer, "only----"

"Only what?" said Aaron, with a smile.

The engineer could not explain; he was a skilful engineer, but a weak
controversialist. The only answer he could make was,--

"You are living in a Christian land, among Christians."

"I am none the less a Jew. All over the world we live in Christian
lands, among Christians; we are a nation without a country. You
observe your Sunday Sabbath as a day of rest."

"Certainly I do."

"Allow me, also, to observe my Sabbath on the day appointed by my
faith."

"What difference can it make to you," persisted the engineer,
"Saturday or Sunday?"

"If that is your view," said Aaron, his eyes twinkling with amusement,
"let us both keep our Sabbath on the Saturday."

Aaron conducted the argument with such perfect good temper that the
engineer could not help laughing at the rebuff, and the subject was
allowed to drop. Nor was it revived on the subsequent occasions of
the Jewish holydays, which were zealously observed by Aaron and his
wife. They were both orthodox Jews, and nothing could tempt them to
neglect their religious obligations; neither of them had ever tasted
shell-fish or touched fire on the Sabbath. The festival of the New
Year in the autumn, with its penitential Day of Atonement and its
joyful Feast of Tabernacles, the Feast of Lights (Chanukah) in the
winter, the Festivals of Purim and Passover in the spring, the Feast
of Pentecost in the early summer--not one of these days of memorial
was disregarded. The m'zuzah was fastened on the doorposts, and
regularly every morning did Aaron put on his garment of fringes and
phylacteries and say his morning prayers. Thus was he ever in
communion with his Maker.

He experienced at first great difficulty in conforming to Jewish
precepts. There was no synagogue in the village, and no killer of
meat, according to the formula prescribed by the Mosaic law. For
several days his family lived upon fish and vegetables and eggs; then
he succeeded in arranging with a Jewish butcher in a town some fifty
miles distant for a regular supply of meat and poultry. The only
co-religionist with whom he came into close personal association was a
man of the name of Levi, who had no such scruples as he in regard to
food. This man was married, and had three sons, the eldest of whom was
approaching his thirteenth year, the age at which all Jewish lads
should be confirmed. In conversation with M. Levi Aaron learned that
he had no intention of carrying out the ceremony of confirmation.
Yearning to bring the stray sheep back into the fold, Aaron invited M.
Levi and his family to celebrate the Passover with him, and there upon
the table the Levis saw the white napkins with the special Passover
cakes between the folds, the shankbone of a shoulder of lamb, the
roasted egg, the lettuce, the chevril and parsley, the cup of salt and
water, the savoury balls of almond, apple, and spice, and the raisin
wine--all of which are symbols of the Passover, the most joyous of the
Jewish festivals. In this year the first night of the holydays fell
upon the Sabbath, and the apartment presented a beautiful appearance,
with the lighted candles, the bright glass, and the spotless purity of
the linen. The house had been cleaned from top to bottom, all leaven
had been removed, and every utensil and article that was used for the
cooking and partaking of food was new. M. Levi's eyes glistened as he
entered the apartment and looked around; his wife's also, for she had
been brought up in an orthodox Jewish home. Old memories were revived,
and as they sat down at the table it was to them as if they had
suddenly gone back to the days of their youth. Love and self-reproach
shone in their faces as they gazed upon their children, to whom this
picture of home happiness was a delightful revelation. "Blessed art
Thou, O Lord, our God!" said Aaron, in the ancient tongue, after the
filling of the first glasses of wine. "King of the universe, who
createst the fruit of the vine. Blessed art Thou, O Lord, our God,
King of the universe, who hath chosen us from among all people, and
exalted us above all languages, and sanctified us with His
commandments; and with love hast Thou given us, O Lord, our God,
Sabbaths for rest, and solemn days for joy, festivals and seasons of
gladness, this day of rest, and this day of the feast of unleavened
cakes, the season of our freedom; a holy convocation in love, a
memorial of the departure from Egypt. For Thou hast chosen us and
sanctified us above all people; and Thy holy Sabbaths and festivals
hast Thou caused us to inherit with love and favour, joy and gladness.
Blessed art Thou, O Lord, who sanctifiest the Sabbath, and Israel, and
the seasons." After this prayer the first glass of wine was drank, and
the children smacked their lips. Rachel's blindness did not prevent
her from superintending the kitchen, and under her direction
everything was prepared for the table almost as skilfully and
tastefully as if her own hands had done the work. Her raisin wine was
perfect, and Aaron smacked his lips as well as the children: the
finest vintage of champagne would not have been so palatable to him.
Rachel's face was turned towards him as he raised the glass to his
lips; she was anxious for his approval of the wine, which he had
always praised extravagantly, and when she heard him smack his lips
she was satisfied. Aaron proceeded with the ceremonies and prayers; he
had purchased books of the "Hagadah," the Hebrew on the right-hand,
and a translation in French on the left-hand pages, so that his
guests, young and old, could understand what was being said and done.
In silence they laved their hands, chevril was dipped into salt water
and distributed around, and the middle cake in the napkins broken.
Then Aaron held aloft the dish containing the roasted egg and the
shankbone, and intoned, "This is the bread of affliction which our
ancestors ate in the land of Egypt. Let all that are hungry enter and
eat; let all that are in want come hither and observe the Passover."
The prayers were not uttered in a sing-song drawl; there was a joyous
note in the chanting, which proclaimed that the hearts of the
worshippers were glad. They heard from Aaron's lips what was said by
the wise son, the wicked son, and the simple son; how a handful of the
children of Israel went into Egypt, and how they increased and
multiplied till they became a mighty nation; how they were oppressed
by the Egyptians, and forced to build stone cities for Pharaoh,
Pithom, and Raamses; how they prayed unto the Eternal, and He
remembered His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and punished
the oppressors with the ten plagues; how, under Divine protection,
Israel went forth from Egypt, and walked through the Red Sea. "The sea
beheld, and fled; Jordan was driven backward. The mountains skipped
like rams, the hills like lambkins. What ailed thee, O sea, that thou
fledst--thou, Jordan, that thou wast driven backward--ye mountains,
that ye skipped like rams--ye hills, like lambkins? Tremble, O earth!
in the presence of the God of Jacob, who turned the rock into a pool
of water, the flinty rock into a fountain of water." The first portion
of the service ended, the books were laid aside, and the table spread
for supper. While the preparations for the meal were being made by
Prissy, who wore a new frock for the holydays and was as clean as a
new pin, an animated conversation went on. Aaron was in the merriest
of moods, and his witty sayings and jokes kept the company in a ripple
of laughter. It is a special feature in the home worship of the Jew
that it promotes good fellowship, breeds good feeling, and draws
closer the domestic ties which so strongly distinguish the race.
Innocent jest is encouraged, it is really as if it were a duty that
every one shall be in a holiday humour. The subjects of conversation
are of a cheerful nature, scandal is avoided, the tenderer feelings
are brought into play. Scrupulous attention is paid to cleanliness,
young and old attire themselves in their best. When we appear before
the Sovereign we make ourselves resplendent; so does the Jew when he
appears before the King of heaven and earth. On such occasions
slovenliness would be a crime. It is not only the outer man that is
attended to; the choicest special Jewish dishes are prepared; there is
no stint, plenty abounds, and friends are gladly welcomed, and invited
to partake; everything is done that can contribute to harmony and
content. Young people bill and coo, and their elders look on with
approving eyes. These are the golden hours of love's young dream.

"It does my heart good," said Madame Levi, laughing heartily at one of
Aaron's jokes, "to be among our own people again."

"Come often, come often," said Aaron Cohen. "You and yours will always
be welcome."

The meal consisted of coffee, Passover cakes, fresh butter, and fried
and stewed fish. Nothing could be more tempting to the eye than the
large dish of stewed fish, with its thick yellow sauce of egg and
lemon, and nothing more tempting to the palate, unless it were the
fried fish, with its skin nicely browned, and cooked in such a way as
to bring out the full sweetness of the flesh.

"We have the advantage of the Gentile," chuckled Aaron, who always
took fried fish for his first course, and stewed for his second. "We
know how to fry fish. It is strange that in all these thousands of
years he has not discovered the simple secret."

"I have not tasted such stewed fish for I don't know how many years,"
observed Madame Levi, who had just been assisted to a second helping.

"Mrs. Cohen fries fish beautifully," said Aaron, "but her stewed fish
is a marvel."

"That is the way my husband always speaks of me," said Rachel, with an
affectionate smile. "He does not believe I have a fault."

"A woman who cooks fish as she does," said Aaron, oracularly, "cannot
have a fault; she is a perfect woman. She is a glory and an honour to
her sex. Again I assert, her stewed fish is a marvel."

"He forgets," said Rachel sweetly, to her guests, "that I have to
trust others."

"My dear," persisted Aaron, "you stand by and direct. A victorious
general does not rush into the battle; he stands aside, and gives his
orders. With my own eyes I saw you squeeze the lemons; with my own
eyes I saw you mix the batter; each slice of fish passed through your
hands before it was put into the pan and saucepan. You know, Madame
Levi, how important it is that the fish should be properly dried
before it goes through the ordeal of fire."

"You bring it to my mind," said Madame Levi, speaking in a pensive
tone; "my mother could fry and stew fish beautifully."

"But not like Rachel," rejoined Aaron. "I will give way on every other
point, but not on this. If I were a plaice or a halibut I should be
proud to be treated so; it would be a worthy ending of me, and I
should bless the hand that cut me up. I should feel that I had not
lived in vain. There is a spiritual touch," he continued, waiting
until the laughter had subsided, "in these things. Half a lemon
more or less makes all the difference in stewed fish; an egg more or
less, the consistency of the batter, and the quality of the oil, make
all the difference when you are frying. In England the poor and
middle-class Christians are shocking cooks; the moment they touch it
half the goodness of the food is gone. It is a melancholy fact, and it
is the cause of innumerable domestic grievances. It drives away
cheerfulness, it breeds sulks and bad temper, and yet the women will
not learn--no, they will not learn. When you see a well-ordered
household and a peaceful home, the children happy and contented, the
husband and wife affectionate to each other, you know at once that the
mistress is a good cook. You laugh; but it is really a very serious
matter. It goes straight to the root of things."

Grace was said after supper, and the reading of the Passover prayers
continued. Aaron had a fine baritone voice, and he did full justice to
the ancient psalmody, which has been transmitted through long ages,
from generation to generation. "Were our mouths filled with sacred
song as the sea is with water, our tongue shouting loudly as its
roaring billows, and our lips extended with praise like the widely
spread firmament, and our eyes sparkling like the sun and the moon,
and our hands extended like the eagle's wings in the skies, and our
feet swift as the hind's, we should yet be deficient to render
sufficient thanks unto Thee, O Lord our God, and the God of our
fathers, or to bless Thy name for even one of the innumerable benefits
which Thou hast conferred upon us and our ancestors." Then followed
"It was at midnight." "When the blaspheming Sennacherib purposed to
assail Thine habitation, Thou didst frustrate him through the dread
carcases of his host in the night. Bel and its image were hurled down
in the darkness of the night. To Daniel, the much beloved man, was
the mysterious vision revealed in the night.... Thou wilt tread the
wine-press for them who anxiously ask, Watchman, what of the night?
Let the Eternal, the Watchman of Israel, cry out and say, The morning
hath come as well as the night." Nearly at the end of the service
there was a merry chant, "Oh, may He who is most mighty soon rebuild
His house; speedily, speedily, soon, in our days." And the prayers
ended with the curious poem, "One only kid, one only kid," supposed to
be a parable illustrating the written and unwritten history of the
Jewish race.

So conducive of cheerfulness and amiability had been the dedication of
the Passover that smiles were on every lip and good feeling in every
eye; amiability and good nature shone on their countenances. An hour
was devoted to a chat upon general subjects, and after accepting an
invitation to come again upon the following night, the Levis took
their departure. On their way home they spoke freely of the
hospitality and geniality of their host, of the sweet disposition of
Rachel, with whom they had all fallen in love, of the order and
cleanliness of the house, of the salutary effects of an evening so
spent. Never had they been so deeply impressed with the beauty of the
religion into which they had been born, the obligations of which they
had thrust aside and neglected, principally, as M. Levi would have
advanced, on the score of convenience. Had Aaron Cohen argued with M.
Levi upon this neglect it is likely he would have contributed to the
defeat of the object he had in view; but he was far too astute to
argue with a man who, being in the wrong, would have obstinately
defended himself when thus attacked. He knew the value of the lesson
the Levis had received, and he was content to wait for the result. He
would have been greatly gratified had he heard the whispered words
addressed to her husband by Madame Levi.

"Cannot we do the same? Cannot we live as they do?"

M. Levi, deep in thought, did not answer the question, but it was
nevertheless treasured in his memory. Treasured also in his memory
were some words that passed between his eldest son and his wife.

"Mother, I am a Jew?"

"Yes, my dear."

"I am glad."

"Why, my child?"

"Because M. Cohen is a Jew. I want to be like him."

M. Levi looked at his son, a handsome lad, whose face was flushed with
the pleasures of the most memorable evening in his young life. To
deprive him of his confirmation would be robbing him of God's
heritage. The father was at heart a Jew, but, like many of his
brethren residing in Christian communities, had found it easier to
neglect his religion than to conform to its precepts. Putting it
another way, he thought it would be to his worldly disadvantage. He
had made his will, and therein was written his desire to be "buried
among his people"--that controlling wish which, in their last moments,
animates so many Jews who through all their days have lived as
Christians. "Let me be buried among my people," they groan; "let me be
buried among my people!" That is their expiation, that is their charm
for salvation, for though all their years have been passed in
attending to their worldly pleasures and temporal interests, they
believe in a future life. These men have been guided by no motives of
sincerity, by no conscientious inquiry as to how far the tenets of an
ancient creed--the principal parts of which were formulated while the
race was in tribulation--are necessary and obligatory in the present
age; they are palterers and cowards, and grossly deceive themselves if
they believe that burial in Jewish ground will atone for their
backsliding. M. Levi was not a coward, and now that his error was
brought home to him he was strongly moved to take up the broken
threads of a faith which, in its purity, offers so much of Divine
consolation. He himself broached the subject to Aaron, and his resolve
was strengthened by the subsequent conversations between them.

"That man is to be honoured, not despised," said Aaron, "who changes
his opinions through conviction. He may be mistaken, but he is
sincere, and sincerity is the test of faith. You believe in God, you
acknowledge His works, you live in the hope of redemption. In religion
you must be something or nothing. You deny that you are a Christian.
What, then, are you? A Jew. What race can boast of a heritage so
glorious? We have yet to work out our future. Take your place in the
ranks--ranks more illustrious than that which any general has ever led
to victory--be once more a soldier of God."

These words fired M. Levi. The following Saturday his place of
business was closed; from a box in which it may be said they were
hidden, he took out his garment of fringes, his prayer-books, his
phylacteries, and worshipped as of yore. Two vacancies occurring in
his business, he filled them up with Jews; Aaron also induced a few
Jews to settle there, and in a short time they could reckon upon ten
adults, the established number necessary for public worship. In the
rear of his house Aaron built a large room, which was used as a
synagogue, and there M. Levi's eldest son was confirmed. In the
autumn, when the Feast of Tabernacles was celebrated, the little band
of Jews found a booth erected in Aaron's garden; there was a roof of
vines through which they saw the light of heaven. It was beautified
with flowers, and numbers of persons came to see this pretty
remembrance of a time when the Children of Israel dwelt in tents in
the wilderness. The prayers in the synagogue over, the worshippers
assembled in the booth, and ate and drank with Aaron and his family.
Aaron had provided palms, citrons, myrtle, and willows for his
co-religionists, and in an address he gave in the course of the
service he told them how the citron was a symbol of innocent
childhood, the myrtle a symbol of youth and of the purity that dwells
on the brow of the bride and bridegroom, the firm and stately palm a
symbol of upright manhood, and the drooping willow a symbol of old
age. His discourses had always in them something new and attractive
which had a special bearing upon the ancient faith in which he took so
much pride.

"We have you to thank for our happiness," said Madame Levi to him.

"It is a good work done, my love," said Aaron to his wife, rubbing his
hands with satisfaction; "a good work done."



                           CHAPTER XXVIII.

                    RACHEL'S LIFE IN THE NEW LAND.


Meanwhile Rachel throve. She walked with an elastic spring in her
feet, as though in response to nature's greeting, and joy and
happiness accompanied her everywhere. She was profoundly and devoutly
grateful for her husband's better fortune, and daily rendered up
thanks for it to the Giver of all good. She took pleasure in
everything; blind as she was, she enjoyed nature's gifts to the full.
In winter it was extraordinary to hear her describe the aspect of
woods and fields in their white feathery mantle; with deep-drawn
breath she inhaled the fresh cold air, and a glory rested on her face
as she trod the snow-clad paths. When she visited the poor on those
cold days Prissy accompanied her, carrying a well-filled basket on her
arm. Her sympathy with the sick and suffering was Divine, and in the
bleakest hours, when the sky was overcast and the light was hidden
from shivering mortals, she was the herald of sunshine. A priest met
her on one of these journeys, and gave her good-day.

"Good-day, father," she said.

"You know me!" he exclaimed, surprised; for though his priestly
calling was apparent from his attire, Rachel could not see it.

"I heard your voice a fortnight ago," she replied, "in the cottage I
am going to now, and I never forget a voice. After you were gone the
poor woman told me you were her priest. I heard so much of you that
was beautiful."

She put forth her hand; he hesitated a moment, then took it and
pressed it.

"How sad, how sad, my daughter, that you are a Jewess!"

"I am happily a Jewess, father."

"Let me come and talk to you."

"Yes, father, come and talk to me of your poor, to whom you are so
good. You do so much; I, being blind, can do so little. If you will
allow me----" She offered him some gold pieces, and he accepted them.

"The Holy Mother have you in her keeping," he said; and went his way.

Dogs and horses were her friends, and were instinctively conscious of
her presence. She scattered food for the birds, and they soon grew to
know her; some would even pick crumbs from her hand. "I do not think,"
she said, "they would trust me so if I were not blind. They know I
cannot see, and cannot harm them." Aaron thought differently; not a
creature that drew breath could fail to trust and love this sweet
woman whom God had spared to him.

Whom God had spared to him! When the thought thus expressed itself, he
raised his eyes to Heaven in supplication.

She was the first to taste the sweet breath of spring. "Spring is
coming," she said; "the birds are trilling the joyful news. How busy
they are over their nests, the little chatterers, telling one another
the news as they work! In a little while we shall see the flowers."
She invariably spoke of things as if she could see them, as doubtless
she did with spiritual sight, investing them with a beauty which was
not of this world. It was her delight in summer to sit beneath the
branches of a favourite cherry tree, and to follow with her ears the
gambols of her children. For she had two now. A year after they left
Gosport another child was born to them, Joseph, to whom Aaron clave
with intense and passionate love. It was not that he was cold to Ruth,
that he was not unremitting in showing her affection, but in his love
for his son there was a finer quality, of which no one but himself was
conscious. He had prayed for another child, and his prayer was
answered. In the first flush of his happiness he was tempted to regard
this gift of God as a token that his sin was forgiven, but he soon
thrust this reflection aside, refusing to accept his own
interpretation of his sin as an atonement for its committal. It was
presumptuous in man to set lines and boundaries to the judgment of the
Eternal. It was to Rachel that this blessing was vouchsafed, for a
time might come when she would find in it a consolation for a
revelation that would embitter the sweet waters of life. Both the
children were pretty and engaging, and had winning and endearing ways,
which, in the mother's sightless eyes, were magnified a thousandfold.
In the following year a picture by a famous painter was exhibited in
the Paris _salon_; it was entitled "A Jewish Mother," and represented
a woman sitting beneath a cherry tree in flower, with two young
children gambolling on the turf at her feet. In the background were
two men, the curé of the village and a Jew, the latter being the
woman's husband, and looking like a modern Moses. The faces of the
men--one full-fleshed, with massive features and a grand beard, the
other spare and lean, with thin, clear-cut features and a close-shaven
face--formed a fine contrast. But although the points of this contrast
were brought out in masterly fashion, and although the rustic scene
was full of beauty, the supreme attraction of the picture lay in the
woman. In her sightless eyes dwelt the spirit of peace and purity, and
there was an angelic sweetness and resignation in her face as, with
head slightly inclined, she listened to the prattle of her children.
You could almost hear a sigh of happiness issue from her lips. The
woman's face photographed itself upon the minds of all who beheld it,
and it is not too much to say that it carried with it an influence for
good. Years afterwards, when their visit to the _salon_ was forgotten,
it made itself visible to their mind's eye, and always with beneficial
suggestion. So it is also with a pure poem or story; the impression it
leaves is an incentive to kindly act and tolerant judgment; it
softens, it ameliorates, it brings into play the higher attributes of
human nature, and in its practical results a benefit is conferred
equally upon the sufferer by the wayside and the Samaritan who pours
oil upon his wounds. The critics were unanimous in their praises of
the picture. "Who is the woman?" they asked, and no one could answer
the question except the painter, and he held his tongue.

The secret was this. The famous painter, passing through the village
with the subject of his next great picture in his mind, saw Rachel,
and was spellbound by the purity and grace of her face and figure.
Travelling under an assumed name, in order that he should not be
disturbed by the trumpet blasts of fame--a proof (clear to few men)
that there is pleasure in obscurity--he cast aside the subject of the
great picture he had intended to paint, and determined to take his
inspiration from Rachel. He was assured from what he heard of her that
he was in the presence of a good woman, and he was deeply impressed by
her gentleness and grace. He did not find it difficult to obtain an
introduction to Aaron, who invited him home, where he made himself
welcome--no difficult matter, for Aaron was ever ready to appreciate
intellect. Many an evening did the painter pass with them, sometimes
in company with the curé, and many a friendly argument did they have.
The priest and the artist were surprised at the wide range of subjects
with which Aaron was familiar, and upon which he could converse with
fluent ease. Upon great themes he spoke with so much force and
clearness that even when they differed from him he generally succeeded
in weakening their convictions. It was not his early schooling that
made him so comprehensive and clear-sighted; a man's education depends
chiefly upon himself--teachers and masters play but a subsidiary part,
and all the coaching in the world will not make a weak intellect
strong. Superficial knowledge may be gained; but it is as transient as
a shadow, and in its effect is valueless in the business of life.
Aaron was not a classical scholar; he was something better--a
painstaking student, who extracted from his extensive reading the
essence of a subject, and took no heed of the husk and shell in which
it was embedded. Firm, perhaps to some extent dogmatic, in matters of
religion, he was gifted with a large-hearted toleration which led him
to look with a kindly eye upon men who did not think as he did; but
his final judgment was the judgment of a well-balanced mind.

The artist did not ask Rachel and Aaron to be his models, but he made
innumerable sketches of them, and remained in the village long enough
to accumulate all the principal points and accessories for his
picture. Then he departed and painted his masterpiece elsewhere. Some
time afterwards he revisited the village with the intention of making
acknowledgment for the inspiration, but Aaron and his family had
departed, and the painter's secret was undivulged.

As it was with Rachel in winter and spring, so was it in summer and
autumn. The flowers, the butterflies, the fragrant perfume of garden
and hedgerow, all appealed powerfully to her, and all were in kinship
with her. The village children would follow her in the gloaming,
singing their simple songs; brawlers, ashamed, would cease contending
when she came in sight; women would stand at their cottage doors and
gaze reverently upon her as she passed. Not a harsh thought was
harboured against her and hers; her gentle spirit was an incentive to
gentleness; she was a living, tender embodiment of peace on earth and
goodwill to all. The whisper of the corn in the autumn, when the
golden stalks bowed their heads to the passing breeze, conveyed a
Divine message to her soul; and, indeed, she said seriously to Aaron
that she sometimes fancied she heard voices in the air, and that they
brought a sense of ineffable pleasure to her heart.

In the ordinary course of events the partnership came to an end. The
engineer was invited to Russia to undertake an important work for the
Government, and Aaron would not accompany him.

"In the first place," he said, "I will not expose my wife and
children to the rigours of such a climate. In the second place, I will
not go because I am a Jew, and because, being one, I should meet with
no justice in that land. In the annals of history no greater infamy
can be found than the persecution to which my brethren are subjected
in that horrible country. In former ages, when the masses lived and
died ignorant and unlettered, like the beasts of the field, one can
understand how it was that the iron hand ruled and crushed common
human rights out of existence; but in these days, when light is
spreading all over the world except in such a den of hideous
corruption and monstrous tyranny as Russia, it is almost incredible
that these cruelties are allowed to be practised."

"How would you put a stop to them?" asked the engineer.

"I will suppose a case," Aaron answered. "You are the ruler of an
estate, upon which reside a number of families, who respect the laws
you make for them, who pay you tribute, and who lead reputable lives.
You know that these families are not all of one opinion upon religious
matters. Some pray in churches, some in synagogues, some do not pray
at all. You do not show favour to those with whose views you agree,
and you do not oppress those from whom you differ. You say to them,
'You are all my subjects; so long as you obey my laws, so long as you
conduct yourselves as good citizens, you shall live upon an equality,
and shall have my protection. Thought is free. Worship God according
to the dictates of your conscience, and be happy. For you the
synagogue, for me the church. I am content.' What is the consequence?
Between you and your people exists a bond of allegiance and affection.
They are true and loyal to you, and you really look upon them as
children of one family. In times of national distress, when a cry for
help is heard in any part of your estate, the bishop of your
Established Church, the Pope's cardinal, and the Chief Rabbi of the
Jews meet upon common ground, free one and all to act as priests of
humanity, and eager to alleviate the suffering which has arisen among
them. In your government councils all creeds are represented, and the
voice that is heard in decisions of national importance is truly the
national voice. You have your reward. Order is preserved, property is
safe, and you are respected everywhere. There are other estates in
your neighbourhood which more or less resemble yours, and in which men
of all creeds have equal rights. But there is one from which shrieks
of agony issue daily and nightly, terrible cries of suffering,
imploring appeals for help and mercy. They strike upon your ears; you
cannot help hearing them. The brutal ruler of this estate has for his
subjects a vast number of families, all of whom have been born on his
land, all of whom recognise him as their king, and are ready and
anxious to pay him respect, all of whom have a natural claim upon him
for protection, all of whom work for him and contribute to the
expenses of his household. To those whose religious views agree with
his own he shows favour and gives protection; those who are born in a
different faith he hates and tortures. From them proceed these shrieks
of agony, these cries of suffering, these appeals for help. You see
them torn and bleeding, their faces convulsed with anguish, their
hearts racked with woe; they have no other home, and there is no
escape for them. Every step they take is dogged and watched; whichever
way they turn the lash awaits them, and torture chambers to drive them
to the last stage of despair. And their shrieks and supplications
eternally pierce the air you breathe, while the oppressed ones stretch
forth their hands for mercy to the monster who makes their lives a
hell upon earth. What do they ask? That they should be allowed to live
in peace. But this reasonable and natural request infuriates the
tyrant. He flings them to the ground and grinds his iron heel into
their bleeding flesh; he spits in their faces, and orders his
torturers to draw the cords tighter around them. It is not for a day,
it is not for a week, it is not for a year, it is for ever. They die,
and leave children behind them, who are treated in the same fashion;
and for them, as it was with their fathers, there is no hope. No
attempt is made to hide these infamies, these cruelties, which would
disgrace the lowest order of beasts; they are perpetrated in the light
of day, and the monster who is responsible for them sneers at you, and
says, 'If you were in their place, I would treat you the same.' He
laughs at your remonstrances, and draws the cords still tighter, and
tortures the quivering flesh still more mercilessly, and cries, 'It is
my estate, they are my subjects, and I will do as I please with them.
Let them abjure their God, and I may show them mercy. Their bodies are
mine, they have no souls!' To argue with him is presumption; in his
arrogant estimation of himself the 'divinity that doth hedge a king'
places him above human conditions--this man, who comes of a family
with a social history so degrading that, were it attached to one of
low degree, he would not be admitted into decent society. Talk to him
of humanity, and he derides and defies you. You burn with indignation;
but what action do you take?"

"It is a strong illustration," said the engineer; "but it is not with
nations as with families."

"It is," said Aaron, with passionate fervour. "There is no distinction
in the eyes of God. We are all members of one family, and the world is
our heritage. The world is divided into nations, nations into cities,
towns, and villages, and these are subdivided into houses, each having
its separate rulers; and, though physically and geographically wide
apart, all are linked by the one common tie of our common humanity.
The same emotions, the same passions, the same aspirations, run
through all alike. Does it make an innocent babe a malefactor because
he is born in Russia instead of France or England? But it is so
considered, and his life is made a misery to him by monsters who, when
they give bloody work to their armies to do, blasphemously declare
that the Lord of hosts is on their side, and call upon Him to bless
their infamous banners."

It was seldom that Aaron expressed himself so passionately, and, as
the engineer made no reply, they did not pursue the discussion.



                            CHAPTER XXIX.

                            THE FAREWELL.


When it became known that Aaron was about to leave the quiet
resting-place in which the last few years had been passed, and in
which he had enjoyed peace and prosperity, a general feeling of regret
was expressed, and efforts were made to induce him to change his
resolution. Coming among them a stranger, a foreigner, and an alien in
religion, he had won for himself the lasting esteem of all classes of
the community. The village was now an important centre, its trade was
in a flourishing condition, and its population had largely increased;
as a natural consequence, property had risen in value, and the old
residents were growing rich. It was ungrudgingly acknowledged that all
this was due to Aaron Cohen's enterprise and to the integrity of his
character. The well-to-do and the poor alike deplored the impending
loss, and united in their appeals to him to remain; but they were
unsuccessful. There was in Aaron a latent ambition, of which he
himself was scarcely aware, to move in a larger sphere, and to play
his part in life among his own people. His intention had been at first
to remain in the pretty French village only long enough to benefit
Rachel's health, and had it not been for the chance that threw him and
the engineer together, and which opened up enterprises which had led
to such fortunate results, he would have fulfilled this intention and
have selected some populous city in England to pursue his career. One
venture had led to another, and the success which had attended them
was a sufficient inducement to tarry. But now that the partnership was
at an end the incentive was gone, and he was not sorry that he was in
a certain sense compelled to return to his native land. One thing in
his life in the village had weighed heavily upon him. There was no
established synagogue in which he and his family could worship, and,
as we have seen, it was in his own home that he carried out all the
ceremonials of his religion. Much as Aaron had reason to be grateful
for, he yearned to follow the practices of his religion among a larger
body of his co-religionists, to have the honour of taking the sacred
scroll from the ark, to hear the chazan's voice from the pulpit and
the melodious chant of the choir, followed by the deep responses of
the congregation. He had an instinctive leaning to movement and
colour. He loved the peace of his home; it was his ark of rest; but he
loved also the bustle and turmoil of life. He was essentially an
administrator, and fitted by nature for the control and direction of
large bodies of men. Had he been single he would doubtless have
migrated to one of the new colonies which perennially spring up under
British rule, and have taken a prominent part in its growth and
development. It is greatly due to Jewish spirit and enterprise that
these new countries thrive and flourish so rapidly.

There was another consideration. Aaron wished his son Joseph to grow
up amid his co-religionists, to mix with them, to become familiar with
their ways, so that he might be fixed firmly in the faith of his
forefathers. There was no Jewish school in the village in which the
lad could be educated. He looked forward to the future. Joseph would
become a man, and in this village there were limitations and
restrictions which were not favourable to the formation of strong
character. Here was a young mind to be trained; the more comprehensive
the surroundings the better the chance of worldly advancement. He
discussed these matters with Rachel.

"Yes," she said, "let us go. But I shall never forget the happy years
we have passed here."

"Nor I," said Aaron. "Honour and good fortune have attended us. May a
blessing rest upon the village and all the dwellers therein!"

Then Rachel spoke of her poor and of her regret at leaving them.

"We will bear them in remembrance," said Aaron, "and before we bid
them, farewell something can be done to place them in permanent
comfort."

Much was done by Rachel and himself. For some time past he had
bestowed a great part of his benefactions in such a manner that those
whom he befriended were ignorant of the source from which the good
flowed. In order that this should be carried out as he wished he had
to seek an agent; looking around he made his selection, and asked the
curé of the village to be his almoner, explaining that he did not wish
it to be known that the money came from him. The curé, much surprised,
accepted the office; Aaron was grievously disturbing his opinion of
the heretic. After the meeting with Rachel, which has been described
in the previous chapter, he had visited her home with the laudable
desire of converting the family to the true faith, and had found
himself confronted with peculiar difficulties. He strove to draw them
into argument, but in a theological sense they slipped through his
fingers. Aaron's course in this respect was premeditated, Rachel's was
unconsciously pursued. She listened to all he said, and smilingly
acquiesced in his declaration that there was only one road open to
heaven's gates.

"It is the road of right-doing, father," she said, "the road of
kindness, of doing unto others as you would they should do unto you,
of dispensing out of your store, whether it be abundant or not, what
you can spare to relieve the unfortunate. You are right, father; there
is only one road."

By her sweetness and charity, by her practical sympathy with the
suffering, she cut the ground from under his feet. He spoke of the
saints, and she said they were good men and women, and were receiving
their reward. In a word, she took the strength and subtlety out of
him, and he yielded with sighs of regret and admiration. With Aaron he
was more trenchant, and quite as unsuccessful. Many of Aaron's
humorous observations made the good priest laugh in spite of himself,
and the pearls of wisdom which fell from the Jew's lips crumbled his
arguments to dust. There was no scoffing or irreverence on Aaron's
part; he simply parried the thrusts with a wisdom and humanity deeper
and truer than those of which his antagonist could boast.

"My son," said the curé, "would you not make me a Jew if it were in
your power?"

"No," replied Aaron, "we do not proselytise, and even if we did you
are too good a Christian for me to wish to make you a Jew."

This was one of the puzzling remarks which caused the curé to ponder,
and which dwelt long in his mind; sometimes he thought that Aaron was
a man of deep subtlety, sometimes that he was a man of great
simplicity, but whether subtle or simple he felt it impossible to
withhold a full measure of respect from one whose eternal lot he
sighed to think was perdition and everlasting torment. That sincerity
was the true test of faith, as Aaron declared, he would not admit;
there could be no sincerity in a faith that was false, there could be
no sincerity if you did not believe as he believed. Nevertheless, he
had an uncomfortable impression that he was being continually worsted
in the peaceful war of words in which they invariably engaged when
they came together.

As Aaron was not to be turned from his resolution to leave the
country, the villagers took steps to show their respect for him.
Public meetings were held, which were attended by many persons from
surrounding districts, and there was a banquet, of which Aaron did not
partake, the food not being cooked according to the Jewish formula. He
contented himself with fruit and bread, and made a good and sufficient
meal. Speeches were made in his honour, and he was held up as an
example to old and young. His response was in admirable taste. He said
that the years he had spent among them were the happiest in his life,
and that it was with true regret he found himself compelled to leave
the village. He spoke of his first coming among them with a beloved
wife in a delicate state of health, who had grown well and strong in
the beautiful spot. It was not alone the sweet air, he said, which had
brought the blessing of health to her; the bond of sympathy which had
been established between her and her neighbours had been as a
spiritual medicine to her, which had given life a value of which it
would otherwise have been deprived. It was not so much the material
reward of our labours that conferred happiness upon us as the feeling
that we were passing our days among friends who always had a smile and
a pleasant greeting for us. Riches were perishable, kindly
remembrances immortal. The lessons of life were to be learned from the
performance of simple acts of duty; for he regarded it as a duty to so
conduct ourselves as to make our presence welcome, and agreeable to
those with whom we were in daily association. As to the kind things
that had been said of him, he felt that he was scarcely worthy of
them. "There is," he said, "a leaven of human selfishness in all that
we do; and the little I have, with the blessing of God, been enabled
to do has conferred upon me a much greater pleasure than it could
possibly have conferred upon others. To you and to my residence among
you I owe all my good fortune, to you and to my residence among you I
owe my dear wife's restoration to health; and it would be ingratitude
indeed did I not endeavour to make some return for the good you have
showered upon me. I shall never forget you, nor will my wife forget
you; in our native land we shall constantly recall the happy years we
spent in this pleasant village, and we shall constantly pray that
peace and prosperity may never desert you." The earnestness and
feeling with which these sentiments were uttered were unmistakable and
convincing, and when Aaron resumed his seat the eyes of all who had
assembled to do him honour were turned upon him approvingly and
sympathisingly. "Ah," groaned the good curé, "were he not a Jew he
would be a perfect man!" The flowers which graced the banqueting table
were sent by special messenger to Rachel, and the following day she
pressed a few and kept them ever afterwards among her precious relics.
Aaron did not come home till late in the night, and he found Rachel
waiting up for him. He delighted her by describing the incidents and
speeches of the memorable evening. Aaron was a great smoker, and while
they talked he smoked the silver-mounted pipe for which he had so
great an affection.

There are in the possession of many men dumb memorials of
insignificant value which they would not part with for untold gold,
and this silver-mounted pipe of Aaron's was one of these. Before
Rachel was blind she had been in the habit of filling it for him, and
when she was deprived of sight he sorely missed the affectionate
service. Tears started to his eyes one night when, with a loving
smile, she handed it to him, filled; and now she did it for him
regularly. Rachel had indulged in a piece of extravagance. She had a
special case made for the pipe, adorned with the letters A. and R.
outlined in brilliants, and Aaron handled his treasure almost with the
care and affection he bestowed upon his children.

"Your health was proposed," said Aaron, "and the health of our little
ones. What was said about you, my life, gave me much more pleasure
than what was said about myself. It abashes one to have to sit and
listen to extravagant praises far beyond one's merits, but it is the
habit of men to run into extravagance."

"They could say nothing, dear husband, that you do not deserve."

"You too!" exclaimed Aaron, gaily. "It is well for me that you were
not there, for you might have been called upon to give your
testimony."

"I should not have had the courage." She fondly pressed his hand. "I
am glad they spoke of me kindly."

"They spoke of you truly, and my heart leaped up within me at what the
good curé said of you, for it was he who proposed the toast. I
appreciated it more from him than I should have done from any one
else, and he was quite sincere for the moment in all the sentiments he
expressed, whatever he may have thought of himself afterwards for
asking his flock to drink the health of a Jewess. Well, well, it takes
all sorts to make a world."

"How much we have to be grateful for!" said Rachel, with a happy sigh.

"Indeed, indeed, for boundless gratitude. Think of what we passed
through in Gosport"--he paused suddenly; the one experience which
weighed upon his conscience brought a dark and troubled shadow into
his face.

"Why do you pause, dear? Has not my blindness proved a blessing to us?
Do I miss my sight? Nay, I think it has made life sweeter. But for
that we should not have come to this place, but for that we should not
have had the means to do something towards the relief of a few
suffering and deserving people. Nothing but good has sprung from it.
Our Lord God be praised."

Aaron recovered himself. "There was Mr. Whimpole's visit to us before
I commenced business, there were those stupid boys who distressed you
so with their revilings, which I managed to turn against themselves.
It was this pipe of yours, my life, that gave me the inspiration how
to disarm them. It sharpens my faculties, it brings out my best
points; it is really to me a friend and counsellor. And now I have
smoked enough, and it is time to go to bed. I will join you
presently."

In solitude the one troubled memory of the past forced itself
painfully upon him. Did he deserve what had been said in his honour
on this night? He valued men's good opinion, and of all the men he
knew he valued most the good opinion of the curé. What would this
single-minded, conscientious priest think of him if he were acquainted
with the sin of which he had been guilty, the sin of bringing up an
alien child in a religion in which she had not been born? He would
look upon him with horror. And it was a bitter punishment that he was
compelled to keep this secret locked in his own breast, that he dared
not reveal it to a single human creature, that he dared not say
openly, "I have sinned, I have sinned. Have mercy upon me!" To his own
beloved wife, dearer to him than life itself, he had behaved
treacherously; even in her he dared not confide. It was not with
Rachel as it was with him; there was no difference in the love she
bore her children; they were both equally precious to her. To fall
upon his knees before her and make confession would be like striking a
dagger into her heart; it almost drove him mad to think of the shock
such a revelation would be to her. No, he must guard his secret and
his sin jealously to the last hour of his life. So far as human
discovery went he believed himself to be safe; the betrayal, if it
ever came, lay with himself. True, he had in his possession testimony
which might damn him were it to fall into other hands, the little iron
safe which Mr. Moss had received from Dr. Spenlove, and at the
mother's request had conveyed to him. In his reflections upon the
matter lately the question had intruded itself, What did this little
box contain? It was impossible for him to say, but he felt
instinctively that there was evidence in it which would bring his sin
home to him. He allowed his thoughts now to dwell upon the mother.
From the day on which he received the five hundred pounds from Mr.
Gordon's lawyers he had heard nothing from them, nothing from Mr. Moss
or from anybody relating to the matter. Between himself and Mr. Moss
there had been a regular though not very frequent correspondence, but
his friend had never written one word concerning it, and Aaron, of
course, had not referred to it. Thus far, therefore, it was buried in
a deep grave.

But would this grave never be opened? If other hands were not
responsible for the act would it not be his duty to cause the light of
truth to shine upon it? The mother had stipulated that, in the event
of her husband's death, she should be free to seek her child, should
be free to claim the box. Upon this contingency seemed to hang his
fate; but there were arguments in his favour. Mr. Gordon might live,
and the mother could do nothing. Arguing that the man died, it was
more than probable that his wife had borne other children who had a
claim upon her love which she acknowledged. To seek then her child of
shame would be the means of bringing disgrace upon these children of
her marriage. Would she deliberately do this? He answered the question
immediately, No. In the consideration of these phases of the matter he
bore in mind that, although the false news of the child's death must
of necessity have been communicated to Mr. Gordon by his lawyers, it
was likely that it had been kept from the knowledge of the mother.
Aaron had been made to understand that Mr. Gordon was a man of
inflexible resolution, and that he had pledged himself never under any
circumstances to make mention of the child to the woman he had
married. Even setting this aside, even going to the length of arguing
that, hearing of the child's death, Mr. Gordon departed from the
strict letter of his resolution, and said to his wife, "Your child is
dead," was it not likely that she would reply, "I do not believe it;
you tell me so only to deceive me"? In that case, her husband dead and
herself childless, would she not search the world over for her
offspring?

Setting this all aside, however, the onus still devolved upon him to
open the grave. One of the stipulations attached to his receipt of the
box was that when Ruth was twenty-one years of age it should be handed
over to her. Would he dare to violate this condition? Would he so far
tamper with his conscience as to neglect an obligation which might be
deemed sacred? The question tortured him; he could not answer it.

He heard Rachel moving in the room above, and with a troubled heart he
went up to her. Thus this night, the events of which were intended to
shed honour and glory upon him, ended in sadness, and thus was it
proved that the burden of a new deceit may be as a feather-weight to
the solemn and heavy consequences which follow in its train.

Everything was ready for the departure of the Cohens, which was to
take place at the end of the week. Before the day arrived they
received other tokens in proof of the appreciation in which they were
held. A deputation of working men waited on Aaron, and presented him
with an address. The employers of labour themselves--secretly glad,
perhaps, that he was going from among them--paid him a special honour.
Rachel's heart throbbed with gratitude and with pride in her husband.
But her greatest pleasure, in which were mingled touches of deep
sorrow, was derived from the affecting testimony of the poor she had
befriended. Old men and women witnessed their departure, and bidding
farewell to Rachel, prayed God's blessing upon her. Children gave her
flowers, and their childish voices were full of affection. The tears
ran from her eyes; she could hardly tear herself away. At length it
was over; they were gone; but it was long before her sweet face faded
from their memory.



                             CHAPTER XXX.

                      AT THE GRAVE OF HIS CHILD.


The years that followed until Ruth was grown to womanhood and Joseph
was a young man were eventful years for Aaron and his family. He
returned to England the possessor of a few thousands of pounds, and
was received with open arms by the Jewish community. He found to his
surprise that the story of his life in a foreign land was known to his
co-religionists, who are ever eager to acknowledge the success of
their brethren. With Jews, as with Christians, success is a power, an
"open sesame;" they are proud of it as reflecting honour upon the
race, and, as is the human fashion, are willing to overlook a
retrograde step or two in matters of religious observance on the parts
of those who have won their way into the front ranks. It is also
human, perhaps, that they are less tolerant to those who have not been
so successful. Aaron Cohen, as we know, had no need of such
indulgence; by poor and rich, by the heterodox and the orthodox, he
was hailed as a worthy upholder of the old faith which has survived
the persecutions of thousands of years. Before he went to Gosport he
had resided in the East End of London, and he derived pleasure from
his visits to the old familiar ground and from the renewal of
acquaintance with old friends who had not prospered in life's battle.
That he should be asked to assist these was natural, and the practical
aid he tendered brought its reward. In a certain sense he became
suddenly famous. "That's Aaron Cohen," said the East End Jews,
pointing him out as he passed; "he used to live here, and he has made
an enormous fortune"--multiplying his riches, of course, a
hundredfold. But a man may be famous without being popular; Aaron was
both, and he was not allowed to remain in ignorance of the fact. He
was offered an honourable office in his synagogue, and he gladly
accepted it. He was asked to serve on the board of several of the
Jewish charities with which London abounds, and he did not refuse one
of these requests. It was his earnest wish to make himself practically
useful to the community, and also to do something towards the stemming
of the tide of loose religious observance which was steadily rising
among his brethren. Upon this subject he had many conversations with
the clerical leaders of the chosen people, who saw the inroads that
were being made and seemed powerless to provide a remedy. It did not
occur to them that by a bold grasp of the nettle danger they might
pluck from it the flower safety. Aaron Cohen believed in the thirteen
articles of the Creed framed by Maimonides, which are accepted as the
fundamental articles of the Jewish faith. He believed in following--so
far as was practicable in the present age--the precepts which
Moses transmitted to his race, with which all faithful Jews should
be familiar. Some, he knew, were obsolete; such as those affecting
the Nazarites, of whom not one disciple exists to-day among
English-speaking communities: others were impracticable; such, for
instance, as those relating to the burnt sacrifices, the redeeming of
the male firstling of an ass, and the punishment of criminals by
stoning and the sword. But in this code of six hundred and thirteen
precepts are to be found many which breathe the pure essence of the
faith in which he was born, and these he believed it incumbent upon
him to obey. His lectures and addresses to Jewish audiences in the
East End of London were listened to with breathless interest; the
halls were not large enough to accommodate those who thronged to hear
him. He drew from history illustrations of their past grandeur which
fired and thrilled them. Sensible of the impression he made upon them,
Aaron Cohen had reason to be proud of the part he was playing, but
there was more room in his heart for humbleness than pride; the shadow
of a committed sin for ever attended him.

Apart from these communal matters he had much to do. In business hours
business claimed him, and he answered zealously to the call. To such a
man idleness would have been little less than a living death, and,
taking up his residence in London, he embarked very soon in
enterprises of magnitude. The knowledge he had gained during his
partnership in France was of immense value to him, and in conjunction
with other men of technical resource, he contracted for public works
in various parts of the country. His fortune grew, and he gradually
became wealthy. He moved from one house to another, and each move was
a step up the ladder. A house in Prince's Gate came into the market,
and Aaron purchased it, and furnished it with taste and elegance.
There he entertained liberally but not lavishly, for his judgment led
him always to the happy mean, and his house became the resort of men
and women of intellect and culture. Mr. Moss, who was wedded to
Portsmouth, and continued to flourish there, paid periodical visits to
London, and was always welcome in Aaron's home. He was as musically
inclined as ever; and opportunities were afforded him of hearing the
finest singers and players at Prince's Gate. On occasions, Aaron
readily consented to give an introduction, through concerts held in
his house, to young aspirants in whom Mr. Moss took an interest; and
to other budding talent in the same direction Aaron's rooms were
always open. In relation to their intimacy in Gosport a conversation
took place between Mr. Moss and Aaron some three years after the
latter was settled in London. Aaron had just completed a successful
contract, and business had called Mr. Moss to the metropolis.

"I heard to-day," said Mr. Moss, "that you had cleared six or seven
thousand pounds by the contract."

"The balance on the right side," replied Aaron, "is a little over
seven thousand."

"I congratulate you. The gentleman I spoke with said that if he had
had the contract he would have made a profit of three times as much."

"It is likely."

"Then, why didn't you do it, Cohen?"

Aaron smiled and shook his head. "Let us speak of another subject."

"But I want to get at the bottom of this. I should like you to know
what the gentleman said about it."

"Very well. What did he say?"

"That you are ruining the labour market."

"Ruin to some men may mean salvation to others. He doubtless gives an
explanation. How am I ruining the labour market?"

"By high wages and short hours."

"That is a new view."

"You do pay high wages, Cohen, according to what everybody says."

"Oh, it's everybody now, as well as your gentleman friend. Yes, I pay
good wages, and I don't consider them high."

"And the hours are not as long as they might be."

"Quite true. They might be twelve, fourteen, sixteen, out of the
twenty-four. We read of such unfair strains upon human labour. My
hours are reasonably long enough. If I am satisfied and my workmen are
satisfied, I give offence to no man."

"You are wrong, Cohen; you give offence to the capitalist."

"I regret to hear it."

"He says you are ruining the capitalist."

"Oh, I am ruining the capitalist now. But if that is the case, he is
no longer a capitalist."

"You know what I mean. I don't pretend to understand these things as
you do, because I have not studied political economy."

"I have, and believe me it is a horse that has been ridden too hard.
Mischief will come of it. Apply your common sense. In what way would
your friend have made twenty-one thousand pounds out of the contract
instead of seven thousand?"

"By getting his labour cheaper and by making his men work longer
hours."

"Exactly. And the difference of fourteen thousand pounds would have
gone into his pocket instead of the pockets of his workmen."

"Yes, of course."

"Ask yourself if that is fair. The wages I pay my men are sufficient
to enable them to maintain a home decently, to bring up their families
decently, and perhaps, if they are wise and thrifty--only, mind you,
if they are wise and thrifty--to make a small provision for old age,
when they are no longer able to work. Their hours are long enough to
give them just a little leisure, which they can employ partly in
reasonable amusement and partly in intellectual improvement. I have
gone thoroughly into these matters, and I know what I am talking
about. Men who do their work honestly--and I employ and will keep no
others--have a right to fair wages and a little leisure, and I decline
to grind my men down after the fashion of the extreme political
economist. The contract I have just completed was tendered for in an
open market. My tender was the lowest, and was accepted. I make a
considerable sum of money out of it, and each of my men contributes a
mickle towards it. They believe I have treated them fairly, and I am
certain they have treated me fairly. Upon those lines I intend to make
my way. Your sweater is a political economist. I am not a sweater. It
is the course I pursued in France, and by it I laid the foundation of
what may prove to be a great fortune. I am tendering now for other
contracts, and I shall obtain my share, and shall pursue precisely the
same course. Mr. Moss, you and I are Jews. At a great disadvantage
because of the nature of your business, which I myself once intended
to follow, you have made yourself respected in the town in which you
reside. Why? Because you are a fair-dealing man. I, on my part, wish
to make myself respected in whatever part of the world I live. To this
end the conditions are somewhat harder for us than for our Christian
neighbours. They drive as hard bargains as we do, they are equally
guilty of malpractices. When one is found out--a terrible crime, as we
know--it is not said of him, 'What could you expect? He is a
Christian.' It is not so with us. When one of us is proved to be
guilty of sharp dealing, it is said, 'What could you expect? He is a
Jew.' I will not go into the question whether we have justly earned
the reproach; but it certainly lays upon us the obligation of being
more careful than perhaps we might otherwise be, of even giving way a
little, of being a trifle more liberal. It is a duty we owe to
ourselves. Surely there is no race to which it is a greater honour,
and should be the greatest pride to belong, than the Jewish race; and
by my conduct through life I trust I shall do nothing to tarnish that
honour or lower that pride. Moreover, what I can do to weaken a
prejudice shall be done to the last hour of my life. It may or may not
be for that reason that I decline to follow the political economist to
the depths into which he has fallen."

Mr. Moss's eyes gleamed. Aaron had touched a sympathetic cord; the men
shook hands and smiled cordially at each other.

"When you were in Gosport," said Mr. Moss, "I ought to have asked you
to go into partnership with me."

"If you had made the offer," responded Aaron, "I should have accepted
it."

"Lucky for you that I missed my opportunity. It is a fortunate thing
that you went to France when you did."

"Very fortunate. It opened up a new career for me; it restored my dear
wife to health; my son was born there."

"About the poor child I brought to you in Gosport, Cohen. We have
never spoken of it."

"That is true," said Aaron, outwardly calm; but his heart beat more
quickly.

"Did the lawyers ever write to you again?"

"Never."

"And I have heard nothing. The iron box I gave you--you have it still,
I suppose?"

"I have it still."

"I have often wondered what it contains, and whether the mother will
ever call for it."

"If she does it shall be handed to her in the same condition as you
handed it to me. But she does not know in whose possession it is."

"No, she does not know, and she can only obtain the information from
Mr. Gordon's lawyers. My lips are sealed."

Aaron considered a moment. This opening up of the dreaded subject made
him keenly sensible of the sword that was hanging over his head; but
his sense of justice impelled him to say, "It may happen that the
mother will wish to have the box restored to her, and that the lawyers
may refuse to give her the information that it is in my possession.
She may seek elsewhere for a clue, and may be directed to you."

"Who will direct her? Nothing is more unlikely."

"It is at least probable," said Aaron.

"Well," Mr. Moss rejoined, "if she does apply to me, I shall not
enlighten her. It is none of my business."

"My desire is that you do enlighten her. The box is her property, and
I have no right to retain it."

"Very well, Cohen, if you wish it; but it is my opinion that you will
never see her again. She has forgotten all about it long ago."

"You are mistaken. A mother never forgets."

"And now, Cohen, I have a message for you from Mrs. Moss. She is
burning to see you, and cannot come to London. We are about to have an
addition to our family; that will be the sixteenth. Upon my word, I
don't know when we are going to stop. Is it too much to ask you to pay
us a visit?"

"Not at all; it will give me great pleasure. When?"

"It will give Mrs. Moss greater pleasure," said Mr. Moss, rubbing his
hands joyously at this answer. "She will be delighted, and so will all
our friends in Portsmouth. You have no idea how anxious she has been
about it. She was afraid you would refuse because----"

He paused rather awkwardly.

"Finish the sentence," urged Aaron, in a kind tone.

"To tell you the truth," said Mr. Moss, with a frank laugh, "she
thought you might be too grand now to visit us. I told her she was
mistaken. 'Cohen is not the kind of man to forget the past,' I said to
her."

"No," said Aaron; "I do not forget the past."

The sad tone in which these words were spoken escaped Mr. Moss. With a
beaming face, he continued,--

"'Once a friend,' I said to Mrs. Moss, 'always a friend. It does not
matter to him whether a man is up or down in the world, so long as he
is honest and straightforward.' Why, if business went wrong, and I was
in trouble, I should come straight to you."

Aaron pressed the hand of this warm-hearted friend.

"You would do right. I hope you may never need my services in that
way; but if unhappily you should, do not hesitate to come to me."

"I promise you, Cohen, I promise you. Not that there is any likelihood
of it. To bring up such a family as ours is no light matter, keeps
one's nose to the grindstone, as the saying is; but we're not at all
badly off. I return to Portsmouth on Thursday. Will that time suit you
for the visit?"

"Yes; I will accompany you."

And away went Mr. Moss, overjoyed, to write to his wife to make all
needful preparations. Not being acquainted with the secret which had
become the torture of Aaron Cohen's life, he could have had no idea
that the ready acceptance of the invitation sprang from a father's
burning desire to stand by the grave of his child.

Aaron's visit lasted a week, and he spent one day and night in
Gosport. Nothing was changed in the ancient town. The house he had
occupied had been rebuilt; the streets were the same; the names over
the shops were unaltered. His wish was to pass in and out of the town
without being recognised; but the wish was not gratified. The
Portsmouth newspapers circulated in Gosport, and Aaron Cohen's visit
"to our esteemed neighbour, Mr. Moss," found its way into the local
columns. It may be that Mr. Moss himself was the harbinger of this
piece of news and that he was also responsible for certain creditable
episodes in Aaron's career which were duly recorded in print; but if
the reporters were indebted to him for the particulars he made no
mention of the fact. He was certainly proud of the paragraphs, and
sent copies of the papers to all his friends. The Gosport folk were
therefore prepared for Aaron's visit; old friends came forward to
greet him; and the kind physician who had attended to Rachel during
her illness pressed him to be his guest, but Aaron excused himself.
When he left the doctor his road lay past Mr. Whimpole's shop, at the
door of which the proprietor was standing. Their eyes meeting, Aaron
courteously inclined his head. The corn-chandler, very red in the
face, returned the salute, and, after a momentary hesitation, advanced
towards Aaron with outstretched hand. Aaron stopped, and took the hand
of his old enemy.

"Mr. Cohen," said Mr. Whimpole, "I hope you do not bear animosity."

"I do not, sir," replied Aaron. "Life is too full of anxieties for
needless enmity."

"I am glad to hear you say so, Mr. Cohen. I have often reproached
myself for misjudging you; but the best of men may be mistaken."

"They may, sir. I trust you have changed your opinion of those whose
religious views differ from your own."

"We speak as we find," said Mr. Whimpole; "and you have proved
yourself to be a gentleman."

"It is never too late to admit an error," said Aaron; and, bowing
again, he passed on, leaving Mr. Whimpole with an uncomfortable
impression that he had once more been worsted by the man he despised.

It was night when Aaron stood by the grave of his child. Light clouds
floated before the moon, and the shifting shadows played upon the
graves of those who lay in peace in that solemn sanctuary. For a long
time he stood in silence, musing upon the sin he had committed, the
full measure of which had not yet come home to him. He held a high
place among men; his name was honoured; he had been spoken of as Aaron
Cohen the upright Jew; he had made himself a leader, and had but to
speak to be obeyed; he had brought back strayed sheep to the fold. The
Chief Rabbi had said to him, "The example of such a man as yourself is
invaluable. Inroads are being made in our ancient faith, and you stand
like a valiant soldier in the breach. You exercise an influence for
incalculable good." And then he had blessed the man who was hugging an
awful secret close, and veiling it from the eyes of men. How would it
be if his sin were laid bare?

The spirit of his child seemed to rise from the grave.

"Why am I here?" it asked reproachfully. "Why am I cut off from my
race?"

He beat his breast; the tears flowed down his beard.

"Forgive me, Lord of hosts," he sobbed, "for laying my child to rest
in a Christian churchyard! It was to save my beloved! Pardon my
transgression! Have mercy upon me!"



                           BOOK THE FIFTH.

                    _THE GATHERING OF THE CLOUD_.



                            CHAPTER XXXI.

            AARON IS ASKED FOR A SUBSCRIPTION, AND RELATES
                       THE STORY OF A CONVERT.


The highest point in Aaron Cohen's prosperity was reached in 1893.
From the day of his return to England there had been no break in the
onward march of his fortunes; every enterprise he undertook
flourished, and the old saying was applied to him, "Everything he
touches turns to gold." A kind of superstition is associated with such
men; people regard them as under the spell of some beneficent
enchantment. Aaron's reputation, however, was not due solely to the
fact that he was uniformly fortunate in his ventures, but that he was
a just and charitable man. No appeal for assistance in any worthy
movement was made to him in vain; his purse was ever open, and he was
ever ready to respond. Among his co-religionists he was a power for
good, and his advice was sought by high and low. The poorest Jew, in a
time of difficulty, did not hesitate to go to him for counsel, and
only those held back whose conduct would not stand the searching light
he threw upon all matters submitted to him. By the oppressor he was
held in awe, by the oppressed he was worshipped. One of the former,
who had grown rich by usury, came to him for advice. Aaron listened in
silence, and spoke no word of counsel to assist him out of his
difficulty. "Reform your life," he said; "give back to the poor what
you have stolen from them; then come to me again."

He did not confine his labours and charities to the Jewish community;
his name was to be found among the administrators of all their
benevolent funds, and it was also to be found on the lists of
numberless Christian charities. In so generous a spirit did he meet
the appeals that were made to him, and so devoid of narrowness were
his benefactions, that he grew into the esteem of all classes of
society. Early in the year a public indignation meeting was held at
the Mansion House under the auspices of the Lord Mayor, to protest
against the barbarous treatment of the Jews in Russia. Church and
synagogue joined hands in the common cause of human brotherhood. It
was not a question of theology but of humanity, and Catholic Cardinal,
Protestant Bishop, and Jewish Chief Rabbi stood shoulder to shoulder
in the indignant protest. Aaron was requested to speak on the
occasion, and his words went forth to the world, and were quoted far
and wide. In the course of his speech he said: "We do not ask for
favour, we scarcely dare ask for justice, though it is to be hoped
that this will come by-and-by, when the eyes of the rulers of Russia
are open to the fact that in their oppression of the Jew they are not
only violating the laws of God and man, but are retarding their own
prosperity. We ask merely for toleration, for permission to follow the
faith in which we were born, to worship God according to our ancient
usage. The history of nations furnishes the proof that the Jew, fairly
treated, is a good citizen, that he is obedient to the law, and loyal
to the head of the State and in his support of lawful authority. In
his love of family life, in the orderly regulation of his household,
in the performance of his duty to wife and children, he is surely
entitled to rank with his Christian brother. He is, moreover,
industrious and enterprising, he excites emulation and stimulates the
commercial activity of his neighbour, by which the wealth of the
general community is increased. These are distinct virtues, private
and national, but Russian rulers seem to account them crimes. When a
tale of bodily slavery reaches a civilised country a thrill of horror
runs through the land, and it is not the least of the glorious records
of England that wherever the English-speaking race holds sway the
shackles of the slave are removed, and he hears the blessed words,
'You are free!' But in Russia they are not content to chain the body;
they hold man's soul in bondage. Not only do they say to the Jew,
'Your presence is a contamination; you shall not live in this or that
town or city; you shall not engage in such or such pursuits; you shall
wear badges of disgrace;' but they add, 'You shall not think; you
shall not pray.' Incredible are the instances of cruelty which are
brought before us: of families torn asunder; of the deliberate
wrecking of cherished hopes and worthy aspirations; of steady and
honourable lives brought to ruin; of shameful robbery and pillage, and
even of worse doings which I should blush to name. It is indeed time
that the voice of humanity should be forced upon the ears of the
oppressors who are making life horrible for millions of helpless human
beings; and we, the Jewish residents in this honoured land, render our
grateful homage to this distinguished assembly, and our sincere thanks
for its powerful assistance in the endeavour we are making to rescue
our brethren from misery and despair."

He was congratulated on all sides for these stirring words, which were
recognised and acknowledged as a fitting tribute to the Jewish
character. Some called it a vindication; he would not have it so. "We
need no vindication now in this happy land," he said. "We have proved
ourselves; the old prejudice is dying away."

When the speech was read to Rachel her eyes overflowed with tears of
joy. Aaron, coming in shortly afterwards, found her holding the
newspaper to her heart. She took his hand, and raised it to her lips.

"No, no," he said; "you humble me."

He folded her in his arms, where she lay, contented and happy.

As a matter of course he was sometimes beguiled into bestowing money
upon unworthy objects or persons, but it did not affect him. "Where
lives the man who does not make mistakes?" he said. "If there is one
deserving case in ten I am satisfied." In the wide scope of his
charities he had some curious experiences, and one of these, becoming
known, was the theme of much comment, both serious and humorous.
A gentleman called upon him and solicited a contribution to an
old-established society, the name of which he did not mention. He
contented himself with saying that it was known all the world over,
and that its objects were universally approved of.

"You do not, I suppose," said Aaron, "expect me to give in the dark.
Favour me with the name of the society."

"You have doubtless heard of it," replied the gentleman. "It is the
Society for the Promotion of Christianity amongst the Jews."

Aaron smiled as he said, "Yes, I have heard of it. But, my dear sir, I
am myself a Jew."

"I am aware of it," said the gentleman, "and the reason I make the
appeal is that you have been described to me as a man who has no
narrow prejudices, and who is in no sense dogmatic or bigoted."

"It is, then, a compliment you are paying me when you ask me to
contribute to a fund which is antagonistic to my race."

"In your view antagonistic," observed the gentleman. "There are
generally two sides to a question."

"I see. Meaning that my view is not necessarily the correct view."

The gentleman nodded courteously. He was not a collector for the
society, nor a paid officer, but a man of means who was also noted for
his benevolence.

"I have myself occasionally," he remarked, "given a donation to an
object with which I was not in entire sympathy."

"When you decided to pay me a visit had you any hope of converting
me?"

"Your conversion would give our society an immense impetus, but I had
no hope of it. But there are men whose views are not so firmly fixed
as your own, and I thought you would not object to assist them in the
praiseworthy task of examining their consciences."

"Through a lens made of gold. In other words, giving them mercenary
assistance to a spiritual conclusion."

"It is an original way of putting it," said the gentleman, greatly
interested in the turn the conversation was taking.

"I cannot but consider the matter seriously," said Aaron,
thoughtfully, "for there can be no doubt of your sincerity. Still, it
occurs to me that if we were both equally sincere in our advocacy of
objects of a similar nature, it would be as well that we should pause
and ask ourselves this question. Instead of endeavouring to convert
Jews or Christians to a faith in which they were not born, would it
not be better to employ ourselves in the effort to make those who call
themselves Christians true Christians, and those who call themselves
Jews true Jews?"

"There is force in your argument, but it is no answer to my appeal for
a contribution to the objects of my society."

"You can probably," Aaron then said, "furnish me with particulars of
the working of your society."

"Anticipating your request I have brought the papers with me."

Aaron looked through the printed books and papers handed to him, and
made certain calculations.

"I perceive," he said, "that you take credit to yourselves for making
a stated number of conversions during the past five years, and that
you have spent a stated sum of money during that period. The number of
conversions is very small, the amount of money expended very large. I
have worked out the sum, and according to my figures each convert has
cost you nearly eleven thousand pounds. You find these wavering Jews
very expensive."

"Very expensive," assented the gentleman, with a half humorous sigh.

"I cannot say I sympathise with you, but I will make a proposition to
you. You are zealous in the furtherance of an object which you believe
to be worthy, and I am zealous in the furtherance of an object which I
know to be worthy. I will give you a cheque as a donation to your
object if you will give me a cheque for half the amount as a donation
to mine. Do not be afraid; it is not for the promotion of Judaism
among the Christians."

The gentleman, who was rich and liberal-minded, laughed
good-humouredly as he said, "I consent, on the further understanding
that your cheque is for a reasonable amount."

"Will this do?" asked Aaron, filling in a cheque for one hundred
pounds.

The gentleman made a wry face, but, without remark, he wrote a cheque
for fifty pounds, and they exchanged documents.

"My contribution," said Aaron, "represents the one hundred and tenth
part of a convert--the one hundred and tenth part of one transitory
and, in all probability, worldly and insincere conversion. Your
contribution represents a sick bed for two years in a hospital for
poor children. During those two years you will be engaged in
converting the one hundred and tenth part of an apostate Jew, and my
hospital beds will be occupied by two poor Christian children, who, by
God's mercy, will, I trust, be restored to health. You will pardon me
for saying that I think I have the best of the transaction."

"You are a singular man," said the gentleman, "and I will not dispute
with you. But I should like a few words with you upon what you say as
to our converts being worldly and insincere. Is that really your
opinion?"

"It is something more than an opinion. It is a conviction."

"Based upon some kind of proof, I presume?"

"Based upon proof and observation. Once a Jew, always a Jew, whether
he follows the Mosaic laws or disregards them. So powerful is the seed
of Judaism that it can never be entirely destroyed in the heart of one
born in the ancient faith. We who are Jews know this to be
incontrovertible; you who are Christians may not be able to understand
it. So much for observation; now for the proof. I observe on your list
of converts the name of Borlinski."

"You know the name?" the gentleman interrupted, eagerly.

"It is very familiar to me," replied Aaron.

"There are two Borlinskis on the list," said the gentleman. "Josef and
Izak."

"I am acquainted with them both."

"We are very proud of the Borlinskis," said the gentleman, speaking
with enthusiasm, "as the most important converts on our books. They
are under engagement with us."

"On a salary?"

"Yes, an insignificant salary; twenty-five shillings a week each."

"Employed by you to make other converts."

"Yes."

"Have they been successful?"

"They have been with us for a few months only," said the gentleman.
"These things take time."

"Truly, they take time--and money. Would you mind relating to me how
the Borlinskis became associated with your society?"

"Not at all. It was a matter of conscience, purely a matter of
conscience. That is why we are so proud of them. Josef Borlinski came
first. He presented himself at our office; he had doubts; he had had
doubts since childhood. In his country--Poland--no such society as
ours exists, where a man can obtain monition and teaching to confirm
or dispel those doubts. There are in that country converted Jews, but
the conversion is sudden and effected by a kind of terrorism. Josef
Borlinski is a reasonable being, and wished to be convinced through
his reason. We cheerfully took up the task of convincing him of the
error of his ways; we argued with him, we gave him books, he attended
our meetings, we expounded the Gospel to him. At length he was
satisfied, and became a zealous and happy convert to Christianity."

"How many months or years did it take to convince Josef Borlinski of
his error?" asked Aaron.

"Nearly two years."

"During which time you supported him."

"We could do no less. He was desperately poor, almost starving when he
came to us. Then, he was a foreigner, and the only trade--if it can be
called one--to which he could turn his hand was that of an itinerant
glazier, at which he could not earn more than three or four shillings
a week, sometimes not so much. In any circumstances, it would have
been a dangerous occupation for him to follow; he would have had to be
out the whole of the day exposed to the weather, and the poor fellow
is consumptive."

"So that you first adopted, and then converted him. How did you get
hold of Izak Borlinski?"

"He is Josef's cousin, and Josef brought him to us."

"Zealous Josef! Izak also had doubts, and wished to be convinced
through his reason?"

"That is so."

"And you adopted and converted him as well as Josef?"

"Yes."

"Clever Josef! Poor, consumptive Josef! It would not surprise me if he
presently introduces another of his countrymen to you who has had
doubts since childhood, and wishes to be convinced--through his reason
and your pocket. Him, also, you can adopt and convert. Ah, what a loss
to the stage is Josef Borlinski! Only that he lacks industry, for in
him are united a fox's cunning and a sloth's love of idleness. The
rogue! He imposed upon me for months, until at length, my suspicions
aroused, I unmasked the rascal."

"Do you mean to say that we have been imposed upon?" asked the
gentleman, in an excited tone.

"Judge for yourself. Six years ago Josef Borlinski came to this
country, and lived for some time upon charity. I am on the committees
of several of our benevolent institutions, and at every meeting I
attended, the name of Josef Borlinski cropped up. It was always Josef
Borlinski, Josef Borlinski, destitute and starving. The continual
recurrence of the name irritated me, and I went to see this Josef
Borlinski, destitute and starving. I found him down Whitechapel way
playing draughts with his cousin, Izak. I saw before me a young man
with black eyes, black hair, and a general appearance of belonging to
the lymphatic order of being. I questioned him. How long had he been
in England? Eighteen months. Why had he lived upon charity all that
time? He was unfortunate; he could not obtain work. Was he willing to
work? Oh yes, yes, yes, several times repeated, his little cunning
eyes watching me as we conversed. Was he married? No. Had he a trade?
Unfortunately no, he had no trade. Then, what could he do, what did he
feel himself fitted for? Anything, everything. He is a man of
professions this Josef Borlinski, glib of tongue, quick at response,
supple as a reed, slippery as an eel. I reflected. He spoke English
fairly well; he looked strong and healthy, not a symptom of
consumption visible. How much a week could he, a single man, live
upon? Upon anything, nothing--a few shillings, a few pence. Thus spoke
Josef Borlinski, humbly and smoothly, interlarding his speech with
Hebrew exclamations and pious adjurations. I offered him a situation
at twenty shillings a week, to be increased if he gave satisfaction,
which required no special knowledge of a trade, and in which he would
have to work five days out of the seven. Boundless were his
professions of gratitude. I was his benefactor; he would bless me all
his life. He commenced work on the following Monday, and on the
Tuesday he presented himself to me, with his coat rent, and black
cloth round his hat. He had received a letter from Poland; his father
was dead; a week of mourning was incumbent upon him; could he be
spared to fulfil this religious obligation? Grief was in his
countenance, tears in his eyes, his voice trembled. I sympathised with
him; he could have his week's mourning. But he was destitute; he was
starving; how was he to support himself during this week of enforced
idleness? I gave him something more than a week's wages, and he
departed, blessing me. His week of mourning over, it was reported to
me that he had not returned to work. I sought him out, and found him
playing draughts with his cousin Izak. He made a thousand excuses; he
was ill; he was overwhelmed with sorrow at the loss he had sustained;
he did not understand English customs; he did not think it was lawful
to resume work in the middle of the week; moreover, he was in rags. He
obtained money from me for a new suit of clothes, and a further
extension of leave till the end of the week. On the Monday he duly
presented himself, and in the afternoon fell down in a swoon, and had
to be conveyed home in a cab, where he remained for three weeks,
supported, as usual, by charity. My wife sent him wine and jelly, and
the rascal was in clover. I visited him, and found him playing
draughts with his cousin Izak. 'The game requires no exertion,' he
said languidly; 'it is my only amusement; it diverts my mind from the
sorrow by which I am oppressed.' I thought it extremely curious. The
effects of his swoon having passed away, he commenced work again, and
on the second day I received a letter from him. He had been compelled,
he wrote, to take to his bed; he had spasms; he was doubled up with
pain; he hoped to be better soon; meanwhile, could I send him a few
shillings for medicine and food? He obtained what he asked for, and I
called to see how he was progressing. I found him playing draughts
with his cousin Izak. I was now thoroughly interested in Josef
Borlinski. Such a chapter of accidents--such a plausible speaker and
writer--so regularly unfortunate when he went to work, and so fond of
playing draughts with his cousin Izak. I He was weeks getting rid of
his spasms, but at length he recommenced work. Would you believe it?
On the evening of the first day I found him waiting for me in this
house. His left hand was in bandages, and the linen was besmeared with
blood. In Heaven's name what had happened? He told me a lugubrious
tale of having cut three of his fingers to the bone. The accident
happening in my service made me responsible, and I felt myself bound
to support him, especially as I discovered that he had related his
woes to my wife, who was filled with pity for the rascal. 'You will
look after the poor man,' she said to me; 'I promised him that you
would.' 'I will look after him,' I replied. I did, and at every visit
I paid him I found him playing draughts with his cousin Izak. He was,
however, so long getting well this time, that I sent my own doctor to
him. I also employed an agent to make inquiries into the history of
the Borlinskis. My doctor reported that it was with great difficulty
he had succeeded in obtaining a sight of Josefs wounded fingers. He
had him held fast while he took off the bandages, and then he
discovered that the fingers were without a scar, no wound of any kind
had been received. My agent reported that the Borlinskis were well
known in the village in Poland from which they had emigrated. They had
lived the lives of idle scamps there, and had never been known to do
one day's honest work. They preferred to hang about the drinking
shops, to beg, to pilfer on the sly, to impose on charitable
strangers, to do anything but work. As liars they were pre-eminent.
Josef lost his father fourteen years before he came to England,
therefore his statement that he had just received a letter from Poland
informing him of his father's death was an invention, a trick. His
swoon was a trick; his spasms a trick; his cutting his fingers to the
bone a trick. From the hairs of his head to the soles of his feet he
is a knave and a trickster; through his blood runs the incorrigible
vice of indolence, and rather than work he will resort to any
subterfuge. Only on one day in the whole year does his conscience
disturb him, on the day of the White Fast. To-day a Jew, to-morrow a
Christian, the next day a Mohammedan, the next a Pagan--it matters not
to him so long as he can make money out of it, and eat the bread of
idleness. My dear sir, I wish you joy of your Borlinskis."

The gentleman rose to take his leave, his belief in the genuineness of
the conversion of the Borlinskis visibly shaken. He put but one
question to Aaron Cohen.

"Josef Borlinski being what you describe him to be, what becomes of
your assertion, 'Once a Jew, always a Jew'?"

"I have spoken of the White Fast," replied Aaron, "as the only day
upon which Josef's conscience is awake. He believes, as we all do, in
a future state, in the immortality of the soul. The White Fast is the
great Day of Atonement, when Jews pray to be forgiven the sins they
have committed during the past year. The most ignorant of them believe
that if they pray and fast on the Day of Atonement their
transgressions are atoned for. We have our black sheep, as you have;
but the blackest of them observes this day with superstitious fear,
and Josef Borlinski is not an exception. This year, on the Day of
Atonement, I myself saw Josef in synagogue, enveloped in the white
shroud he brought from Poland, beating his breast, and praying for
forgiveness for his sins. From sunset to sunset food did not pass his
lips; from sunset to sunset he prayed, and grovelled, and trembled.
Come to our synagogue next year, and you shall see him there, if
before that time he is not called to his account. Though he be
converted to twenty different religions, and baptized twenty times
over, Josef Borlinski is a Jew, and will remain a Jew to the last hour
of his life."



                            CHAPTER XXXII.

               AARON COHEN ADDRESSES A JEWISH AUDIENCE.


The world gave Aaron Cohen credit for being exceedingly wealthy, and
fabulous tales of the success of his ventures obtained credence with
the people. Instead of the age of romance being over, there was never
a time in the world's history which afforded so much material for
romance as the present, and in which it was so eagerly sought after
and believed in. Imagination is more powerful than science, and this
is the age of both. Small wonder, therefore, for the current report
that Aaron Cohen was a millionaire; but such was not the case. He had
money and to spare, and his private establishment was conducted on a
liberal scale. Had he retired at this period he might have done so on
an income of some five thousand pounds, which people's imagination
would have multiplied by ten; and he might have justified this flight
as to his means were it not that in addition to the charities to which
he openly subscribed, a considerable portion of the profits of his
enterprises was given anonymously to every public movement for the
good of the people and for the relief of the poor. For several years
past great curiosity had been evinced to learn the name of the
anonymous donor of considerable sums of money sent through the post in
bank-notes in response to every benevolent appeal to the public purse.
A colliery disaster, a flood, an earthquake in a distant country, a
case of national destitution--to one and all came large contributions
from a singularly generous donor, who, in the place of his signature,
accompanied the gift with the simple words, "In Atonement." Several
well-known benefactors were credited with these liberal subscriptions,
but so careful was the giver in the means he adopted to preserve his
anonymity that they were not traced to the right source. They were
strange words to use to such an end. In atonement of what? Of an
undiscovered crime, the committal of which had enriched the man who
would not sign his name? A few ingenious writers argued the matter out
in the lesser journals, and although specifically they were very far
from the truth, they were in a general sense more often nearer to it
than they suspected.

These charitable donations were Aaron's constant appeal to the Divine
Throne for mercy and forgiveness for the one sin of his life, and thus
did he effectually guard against becoming a millionaire.

He was, indeed, unceasing in his secret charities to individuals as
well as to public bodies. Many a struggling man never discovered to
whom he was indebted for the timely assistance which lifted him out of
his troubles, and started him on the high road to prosperity; many a
widow had cause to bless this mysterious dispenser of good. If upon
his deathbed a life-long sinner, repenting, may be forgiven his
numberless transgressions, surely a life-long record of noble deeds
may atone for an error prompted by the purest feelings of love. Such a
thought did not enter Aaron's mind; the flattering unction was not for
him. He walked in sorrow and humility, wronging no man, doing good to
many, and faithfully performing his duty to all. At the Judgment Seat
he would know.

Perhaps of all the institutions in which he took a part, those which
most deeply interested him were the Jewish working men's clubs in the
East End. He was one of their most liberal patrons; their library
shelves were lined with the books he had presented, and he frequently
took the chair at their Sunday evening gatherings. The announcement of
his name was sufficient to crowd the hall; to shake hands with Aaron
Cohen was one of the ambitions of the younger members. When he made
his appearance at these gatherings he felt that he was among friends;
there was a freemasonry among them, as indeed there is among Jews all
the world over. Aaron devoted particular attention to the young
people. He knew that the hope of Judaism lay in the new generation,
and it was his aim to encourage in the minds of the young the pride of
race which engenders self-respect and strengthens racial character. He
regarded old customs as something more than landmarks in his religion;
they were essentials, the keystones of the arch which kept the fabric
together, and he was anxious that they should be preserved. Symbols
are unmeaning to the materialist; to those who have faith they convey
a pregnant message, the origin of which can be traced back to the
first days of creation, when God made man in His own image. They are
the links which unite the past, full of glorious traditions, and the
future, full of Divine hope. Of this past Aaron spoke in words which
stirred the sluggish fires in the hearts of the old, and made them
leap into flame in the hearts of the young. "I have heard," he said,
"of Jews who were ashamed that it should be known that they were Jews;
of Jews who, when Jews were spoken of slightingly in Christian
society, have held their tongues in order that they might perchance
escape from the implied disparagement. I will not stop to inquire
whether this springs from cowardice or sensitiveness, for in either
case it is both wrong and foolish. Lives there any member of an old
historic family who is not proud of the past which has been
transmitted to him as a heritage, who is not conscious that his
lineage sheds a lustre upon the name he bears? Not one. He pores over
the annals of his race, and, pausing at the record of a noble deed
performed, thinks proudly, 'This deed was performed by my ancestor,
and it lives in history.' He takes up a novel or a poem, and reads it
with exultant feelings, as having been inspired by another ancestor
who, mayhap, shed his blood in defence of king and country. Let me
remind you, if you have lost sight of the fact, that there is no
historic family in England or elsewhere the record of whose deeds can
vie in splendour with the record of the Jew. His history is at once a
triumph of brain power and spiritual vitality, and the proudest boast
a Jew can make is that he is a Jew. It is not he who holds the lower
ground; he stands on the heights, a noble among the men who presume to
despise him. Be true to yourselves, and it will not be long before
this is made manifest and universally acknowledged. In personal as
well as in racial history you stand pre-eminent. What greater
schoolman than Maimonides? What greater master of philosophy than
Spinoza? What poets more sublime than Isaiah and Ezekiel? In infamous
Russia Jews who practised their religion in secret have been among its
most eminent ministers of finance, and the glory of Spain departed
when it persecuted our brethren and drove them from the country. The
Disraelis, father and son, were Jews; Benary was a Jew; Neander, the
founder of spiritual Christianity, was a Jew; in Germany the most
celebrated professors of divinity were Jews; Wehl, a Jew, the famous
Arabic scholar, wrote the 'History of Christianity'; the first Jesuits
were Jews; Soult and Messina were Jews; Count Arnim was a Jew;
Auerbach, Pasta, Grisi, Rachel, Sara Bernhardt, Baron Hirsch, the
philanthropist, Meyerbeer, Mendelssohn--all Jews. These are but a few
of the names which occur to me; are you ashamed to be associated with
them? In war, in politics, in philosophy, in finance, in philanthropy,
in exploration and colonisation, in all the arts and professions, you
stand in the front rank. I see in this audience many young men, some
of whom, I believe, are by their talents destined to become famous,
and some to grow rich by their shrewdness and industry. To them I say,
Work and prosper, and work in the right way. Whatever be the channel
they have chosen to the goal they wish to reach, let them work
honestly towards it, and when they stand upon the fairer shore let
them not forget their religion, let them not forget that they owe
their advancement to the intelligent and intellectual forces which
have been transmitted to them by their great ancestors through all the
generations."

This address was received with enthusiasm, and Aaron's hearers went to
their homes that night stirred to their inmost hearts, and proud of
the faith of their forefathers.



                           CHAPTER XXXIII.

                WHAT SHALL BE DONE TO THE MAN WHOM THE
                      KING DELIGHTETH TO HONOUR?


On a bright morning in the autumn of the year 1893 a number of
influential persons wended their way to Aaron Cohen's house to take
part in a function of a peculiarly interesting nature. They comprised
representatives of literature and the arts, of politics, science, and
commerce, and among them were delegates of the press, who were deputed
to report the proceedings for their respective journals. That the pen
is mightier than the sword was open to dispute at an earlier period of
the world's history, but the contention exists no longer, and though
the day is far distant when the lion shall lie down with the lamb, the
press is now a powerful factor in peace and war, and can effectually
hasten or retard the conflict of nations. It is an open question
whether its invasion of the arena of private life is a desirable
feature in the power it wields; but it is useless to resist its march
in this direction, and earnest as may be a man's desire to hide his
light (or the reverse) under a bushel, he does not live to see it
gratified. The up-to-date journalist, argus-eyed, overruns the earth;
it is to be deplored that his quill is sometimes poison-tipped, but as
a rule he sets about his work with good-humoured zest, and it is not
to be denied that he prepares many a piquant dish for his omnivorous
public.

When a movement was set afoot to make some sort of semi-private,
semi-public recognition of the remarkable position attained by the
hero of this story, he made an effort to discourage it. The idea of
any kind of publicity was distasteful to him, and he expressed an
opinion to this effect. It was not heeded by the organisers of the
testimonial, and he was thinking of remonstrating in stronger terms,
when the matter was settled for him by a few simple words spoken by
Rachel.

"Why do you object?" she asked. "You did not seek the honour, and it
will reflect honour upon us."

"Do you wish it, Rachel?"

"It will give me pleasure, dear," she replied.

He did not argue with her, but yielded immediately, and allowed
himself to be carried with the stream. Never in the course of their
happy married life had he failed to comply with her lightest wish;
never had there been the least conflict between them; to each of them
the word of the other was law, and it was love's cheerful duty to
obey.

The esteem in which he was held was to be demonstrated by two
presentations, one a portrait of himself by a famous English artist,
the other a picture also, the subject being withheld from his
knowledge. This second painting was no other than the picture of
Rachel sitting beneath the cherry tree, which had created so much
interest in the Paris _salon_ more than a dozen years ago. It had
originally been purchased by a collector, who had lately died. After
his death his collection had been brought to the hammer, and this
particular picture was purchased by a London dealer, who exhibited it
in his shop. The first intention was to present a silver memorial with
Aaron's portrait, but a friend of his happened to see the French
picture in London, and was struck by the wonderful resemblance of the
principal figure to Rachel. He made inquiries privately of Aaron
respecting his sojourn in the south of France, and learned that there
was a picturesque cherry tree in the grounds at the back of the house,
in the shadow of which Rachel was in the habit of sitting in sunny
weather, that he had a friend, the curé of the village, and that one
summer a French painter had visited the village and had made a number
of sketches of Rachel and the garden. Following up his inquiries,
Aaron's friend obtained from the London dealer some information of the
history of the picture and of the year in which it was exhibited, and,
putting this and that together, he came to the conclusion that Rachel
had unconsciously sat for the picture. It was an interesting
discovery, and the first idea of a silver presentation was put aside,
and the picture substituted in its place.

Mr. Moss, of course, came from Portsmouth to attend the function. Our
old friend was frequently in London now, to attend to certain
complicated business matters. Sad to say, of late years fortune had
not smiled upon him; he had met with losses, but that did not prevent
him from humming his operatic airs at every possible opportunity. He
had himself to blame for this reverse of fortune; certainly he had a
tremendously large family, sixteen children to rear and provide for,
and eight of them girls--he used to say jocularly that it was
difficult to find names for them; but he had a comfortable business,
and should have been content. Unhappily, one day he had a bright idea;
he made a plunge in stocks, with disastrous results. Had he consulted
Aaron Cohen, as he afterwards confessed, it would never have happened;
Aaron would have shown him the folly of expecting to grow rich in a
week. The consequence was that he found himself involved, and his
frequent visits to London were necessitated by his personal endeavours
to reduce his losses. It made no difference in Aaron's friendship for
him; it may be said, indeed, to have strengthened it. In a time of
more than ordinary difficulty Aaron came forward voluntarily, and
afforded practical assistance to his old friend. "If you want to know
the kind of metal Aaron Cohen is made of," he said to his wife, "go to
him when you are in misfortune. That is the time to prove a man."
Another strengthening tie was to be forged in the firm friendship of
these men. One at least of Mr. Moss's numerous daughters was always in
London on a visit to Rachel, and it was quite in the natural order of
things that Joseph Cohen should fall in love with Esther Moss, the
prettiest and sweetest of all the girls. Rachel and her husband were
very fond of Esther, and regarded the attachment with favour. Joseph
was too young yet to marry, but with the consent of his parents an
engagement was entered into between the young people, and there was
joy in Mr. Moss's estimable family.

It was a natural consequence of this family arrangement that Esther
was frequently invited to make her home for a time with the Cohens in
London, and she was in their house on the day of the presentations.
Her lover was absent, and had been out of England for some months
past. Young as he was, he already held a position of responsibility in
an extensive firm, and had been sent to Australia to attend to
business of an important nature. He was expected home at the end of
the week, but was then to remain in England only a few days, his
passage to India being taken, his mission being to establish agencies
in that land for the gentleman by whom he was employed. Years ago the
choice of a classical education had been offered him by his father;
but his inclination was for commerce, and Aaron Cohen did not believe
in forcing a lad into a career which was distasteful to him. Upon his
return from India eight or nine months hence the marriage between him
and Esther was to take place. Needless to say how proud and happy the
young maid was in the contemplation of the approaching union.

Neither was Ruth Cohen a witness of the honour which was paid to the
man she believed to be her father. She had invited herself to
Portsmouth, to spend a week or two with Mrs. Moss. When she expressed
the wish to go Rachel Cohen had remonstrated with her, and hinted that
she should remain in London to attend the presentations; but Ruth was
restless and rebellious, and said she did not care to be present.
Rachel, inwardly grieved, did not press it upon her.

"Are you not happy at home?" she asked gently. Ruth did not speak, and
Rachel continued, "You do not take pleasure in the society of our
friends?"

"I am not very fond of them," Ruth replied.

Rachel said no more. Ruth's dislike of Jewish society was not new to
her; it had caused her great pain, and she had striven in vain to
combat it. The strength of Rachel's character lay in her moral and
sympathetic affections: with those who recognised the sweetness and
unselfishness of these attributes her power was great; with those who
failed to appreciate them she was powerless. This was the case with
Ruth, in whom, as she grew to womanhood, was gradually developed a
stubbornness which boded ill for peace. Frequently and anxiously did
Rachel ask herself, From whom could a daughter of her blood have
inherited views and ideas so antagonistic and rebellious?

Aaron could have answered this question, had it been put to him, and
had he dared to answer. Ruth's instincts were in her blood,
transmitted by parents whom he had never known, and of whose
characters he was ignorant. Heredity lay at the root of this domestic
misery. As a rule, vices, virtues, and all classes of the affections
are hereditary, and the religious sentiments are not an exception.
Aaron had studied the subject, and was conscious of the solemn issues
dependent upon it.

He had obtained possession of Ruth's body, but not of her mind, and
even of the former his guardianship would soon be at an end. Although
he could not fix the exact day of her birth, she would soon be
twenty-one years of age, when the duty would devolve upon him of
delivering to her the iron casket of which he had been made the
custodian, and he was in an agony how he should act. Every day that
passed deepened his agony; he saw shadows gathering over his house
which might wreck the happiness of his beloved wife. Again and again
had he debated the matter without being able to arrive at any
comforting conclusion. Undoubtedly the casket contained the secret of
Ruth's parentage; when that was revealed the sword would fall.

However, he could not on this day give himself up to these disturbing
reflections; he had consented to accept an honour of which he deemed
himself unworthy, and it was incumbent upon him that he should not
betray himself. There was still a little time left to him to decide
upon his course of action. The man of upright mind was at this period
laying himself open to dangerous casuistical temptations. Even from
such unselfish love as he entertained for the wife who was deserving
of love in its sweetest and purest aspects may spring an upas tree to
poison the air we breathe.

Among the company was an old friend of ours--Dr. Spenlove, who had
attained an eminent position in London. His career from the time he
left Portsmouth had been a remarkable one. In the larger field of
labour to which he had migrated his talents were soon recognised, and
he began almost at once to mount the ladder of renown. Success in the
medical profession is seldom gained upon an insecure foundation; there
must be some solid justification for it, and once secured it lasts a
lifetime. Dr. Spenlove was no exception to the rule, and was not
spoilt by prosperity. He was still distinguished by that kindliness of
nature which had made his name a household word in the humble
neighbourhood in Portsmouth in which he had struggled and suffered.
The poor never appealed to him in vain, and he was as attentive to
those who could not afford to pay him as to those from whom he drew
heavy fees. Many a time did he step from his carriage to a garret in
which lay a poor sufferer whose fortunes were at the lowest ebb, and
many a trembling hand which held a few poor coins was gently put aside
with tender and cheerful words which were never forgotten by those to
whom they were spoken.

A man so kindly-hearted was of necessity associated with the
benevolent and public movements of the passing hour. Aaron Cohen, whom
till this day he had not met, had subscribed to some of the charities
in which he was interested, and he gladly availed himself of the
opportunity of becoming acquainted with him. When the company were
assembled in the reception room in Aaron's house, Dr. Spenlove
happened to be standing next to Mr. Moss, whom he had not seen since
he left Portsmouth. Except for the wear and tear of time, which,
however, did not sit heavily upon him, there was little alteration in
Mr. Moss; his worldly anxieties had not dimmed the brightness of his
eyes, nor robbed his countenance of its natural cheerful aspect. There
was a greater alteration in Dr. Spenlove; the thoughtful lines in his
face had deepened, there was an introspection in his eyes. Mr. Moss
seemed to be for ever looking upon the outer world, Dr. Spenlove for
ever looking upon his inner self. As an observer of character Mr. Moss
was Dr. Spenlove's superior; as a student and searcher after truth Dr.
Spenlove towered above Mr. Moss. The man of business never forgot a
face; the man of science often did. The first sign of recognition,
therefore, came from Mr. Moss.

"Good day, Dr. Spenlove."

The physician looked up, and said, abstractedly, "Good day." He
frequently acknowledged a salute from persons whose names he could not
at the moment recall.

"You do not remember me," said Mr. Moss, with a smile.

"You will pardon me," said Dr. Spenlove, searching his memory; "I have
an unfortunate failing----"

"Of forgetting faces," said Mr. Moss, with a smile. "It is very stupid
of me."

"Not at all; one can't help it. Besides, it is so long since we
met--over twenty years."

"In London?"

"No; in Portsmouth, the night before you left. We had an adventure
together----"

"You quicken my memory. How do you do, Mr. Moss?"

They shook hands.

"Very well, thank you, and happy to see you again. I have heard a
great deal of you, doctor; you are at the top of the ladder now. It is
strange, after the lapse of years, that we should meet in this house."

"Why is our meeting in this house strange?" inquired Dr. Spenlove.

The question recalled Mr. Moss to himself. The one incident which
formed a link between them was that connected with a wretched woman
and her babe whom they had rescued from impending death on a snowy
night long ago in the past. But he had not made Dr. Spenlove
acquainted with the name of the man to whom he had entrusted the
child, and upon this point his lips were sealed.

"I mean," he said, "that the circumstances of our meeting here and in
Portsmouth are so different."

"Widely different. Varied as have been my experiences, I have met with
none more thrilling than that in which we were both engaged on that
eventful night. I have not forgotten your kindness, Mr. Moss. I trust
the world has prospered with you."

"So-so. We all have our ups and downs. Health is the main thing, and
that we enjoy. Doctors have a bad time with us."

"I am glad to hear it. By the way, Mr. Moss, my part of the adventure
came to an end on the day I left Portsmouth; you had still something
to do. Did you succeed in finding a comfortable home for the child?"

"Yes."

"Did you lose sight of her after that?"

"Very soon. Before she had been in her new home twenty-four hours the
poor thing died."

"Dear, dear! But I am not surprised. It was hardly to be expected that
the child would live long after the exposure on such a bitter night.
She was almost buried in the snow. It was, most likely, a happy
release. And the mother, Mr. Moss?"

"I have heard nothing of her whatever."

The conversation ceased here. The proceedings had commenced, and a
gentleman was speaking. He was a man of discretion, which all orators
are not. He touched lightly and pertinently upon the reputation which
Mr. Aaron Cohen had earned by his unremitting acts of benevolence and
by the worthiness of his career. Such a man deserved the good fortune
which had attended him, and such a man's career could not fail to be
an incentive to worthy endeavour. Rachel, seated by her husband,
turned her sightless eyes upon the audience and listened to the
speaker with gratitude and delight. It was not that she had waited for
this moment to learn that she was wedded to an upright and noble man,
but it was an unspeakable happiness to her to hear from the lips of
others that he was appreciated as he deserved, that he was understood
as she understood him. It was natural, said the speaker, that the
gentleman in whose honour they had that day assembled should be held
in the highest esteem by his co-religionists, but it was a glory that
in a Christian country a Jew should have won from all classes of a
mixed community a name which would be enrolled upon those pages of our
social history which most fitly represent the march of true
civilisation and humanity. They were not there to glorify Money; they
were not there to glorify worldly prosperity; they were there to pay
tribute to one whose example Christians well might follow, to a man
without stain, without reproach. The influence of such a man in
removing--no, not in removing, but obliterating--the prejudices of
caste was lasting and all-powerful. He regarded it as a privilege that
he had been deputed to express the general sentiment with respect to
Mr. Aaron Cohen. This sentiment, he begged to add, was not confined to
Mr. Cohen, but included his wife, whose charities and benevolence were
perhaps even more widely known and recognised than those of the
partner of her joys and sorrows. In the presence of this estimable
couple it was difficult to speak as freely as he would wish, but he
was sure they would understand that in wishing them long life and
happiness he was wishing them much more than he dared to express in
their hearing, and that there was but one feeling entertained towards
them, a feeling not of mere respect and esteem, but of affection and
love. In the name of the subscribers he offered for their acceptance
two paintings, one a portrait of Mr. Cohen by an artist of renown, for
which he had been good enough to sit, the other a painting which
probably they would look upon now for the first time. The latter
picture was an accidental discovery, but Mr. Cohen would tell them
whether they were right in seizing the opportunity to obtain it, and
whether they were right in their belief that his esteemed wife had
unconsciously inspired the artist who had availed himself of a happy
chance to immortalise himself.

The pictures were then unveiled amid general acclamation, and if ever
Rachel wished for the blessing of sight to be restored to her it was
at that moment; but it was only for a moment. The dependence she
placed upon her husband, the trust she had in him, the pleasure she
derived from his eloquent and sympathetic descriptions of what was
hidden from her, were of such a nature that she sometimes said inly,
"I am thankful I can see only through the eyes of my dear husband."

The portrait of himself, from his frequent sittings, was familiar to
Aaron Cohen, but the picture of his beloved sitting beneath the cherry
tree was a delightful surprise to him. It was an exquisitely painted
scene, and Rachel's portrait was as faithful as if she had given
months of her time towards its successful accomplishment.

Aaron's response was happy up to a certain point. Except to pay a
deserved compliment to the artist and to express his gratitude to the
subscribers, he said little about the portrait of himself. The
presentation of the second picture supplied the theme for the
principal part of his speech. He said there was no doubt that it was a
portrait of his dear wife, and he recalled the time they had passed in
the south of France, and described all the circumstances of the
intimacy with the artist which had led to the painting of the picture.
He was grateful for that intimacy because of its result, which he saw
before him, and because of the pleasure it would afford his beloved
wife, who, until to-day, had been as ignorant as himself that such a
painting was in existence. "I went to the south of France," he said,
"in the hope that my wife, who was in a delicate state of health,
would be benefited by a short stay there. My hope was more than
realised; she grew strong there; my son, whose absence from England
deprives him of the pleasure of being present on this interesting
occasion, was born there, and there the foundation of my prosperity
was laid. It might be inferred from this that I believe all the events
of a man's life are ruled by chance, but such is not my belief. There
is an all-seeing Providence who shows us the right path; He speaks
through our reason and our consciences, and except for the accident of
birth, which lays a heavy burden upon many unfortunate beings, and
which should render them not fully responsible for the evil they do,
we ourselves are responsible for the consequences of our actions. We
must accept the responsibility and the consequences." He paused a few
moments before he continued. "When men of fair intelligence err they
err consciously; it is idle for them to say that they erred in
ignorance of the consequences. They must know, if they write with
black ink, that their writing must be black." He paused again. "But it
may be that a man commits a conscious error through his affections,
and if that error inflicts injury upon no living being--if it even
confer a benefit upon one or more--there may be some palliation of his
error. In stating that you set for me a standard too high I am stating
my firm belief. No man is stainless, no man is without reproach; the
doctrine of infallibility applied to human affairs is monstrous and
wicked; it is an arrogation of Divine power. I am, as all men are,
open to error; in my life, as in the lives of all men, there have been
mistakes; but I may still take the credit to myself that if I have
committed a conscious error it has harmed no living soul, and that it
has sprung from those affections which sweeten and bless our lives. A
reference has been made to my being a Jew. I glory that I am one. The
traditions and history of the race to which I am proud to belong have
been of invaluable service to me, and to the circumstance of my being
a Jew I owe the incidents of this day, which will be ever a proud
memory to me and to my family. In the name of my dear wife and my own
I thank you cordially, sincerely and gratefully for the honour you
have paid to us--an honour not beyond my wife's merits, but far beyond
my own."

Other speeches followed, and when the proceedings were at an end Dr.
Spenlove asked Mr. Moss to introduce him to Mr. Cohen.

"Cohen," said Mr. Moss, "Dr. Spenlove wishes to be introduced to you.
He practised in Portsmouth twenty years ago."

Aaron started. He never forgot a name or a face, and he recollected
the mention of Dr. Spenlove's name when Mr. Moss came to him in
Gosport with the child.

"Without exactly knowing it, perhaps," said Dr. Spenlove, "you have
been most kind in movements in which I have taken an interest. I am
glad of the opportunity of making your acquaintance."

Nothing more; no reference to the private matter. Aaron breathed more
freely. He responded to Dr. Spenlove's advances, and the gentlemen
parted friends.

Mr. Moss had been somewhat puzzled by Aaron's speech. It seemed to him
that his friend did not place sufficient value on himself. "People are
always ready to take you at your own price, so don't be too modest,"
was a favourite saying of his. Then what did Aaron mean by letting
people suppose that he had done something wrong in his life? He spoke
about it to Aaron.

"Look back," said Aaron, laying his hand kindly on Mr. Moss's
shoulder, "and tell me if you do not recollect some action which you
would gladly recall."

"I daresay, I daresay," said Mr. Moss, restlessly, "but what's the use
of confessing it when there's no occasion? It's letting yourself
down."

Aaron turned to greet another friend, and the subject was dropped; but
it remained, nevertheless, in Mr. Moss's mind.

His daughter Esther was in the room during the proceedings, and her
fair young face beamed with pride; it was her lover's father who was
thus honoured, and she felt that she had, through Aaron Cohen's son, a
share in that honour. When the gratifying but fatiguing labours of the
day were at an end, and Aaron, Rachel, and Esther were alone, Rachel
said,--

"I am sorry, dear Esther, that Joseph was not here to hear what was
said about his father."

"It would not have made him love and honour him more," said Esther.

Rachel pressed her hand and kissed her; she had grown to love this
sweet and simple girl, who seemed to have but one thought in life--her
lover. Then the sightless woman asked them to describe the pictures to
her, and she listened in an ecstasy of happiness to their words.

"Is it not wonderful?" she said to Aaron. "A famous picture, they
said, and I the principal figure. What can the painter have seen in
me?"

"What all men see, my life," replied Aaron; "but what no one knows as
I know."

"It has been a happy day," sighed Rachel; she sat between them, each
holding a hand. "You did not hear from our dear Ruth this morning?"

"No, dear mother." For thus was Esther already permitted to address
Rachel.

"She will be home in two days, and our dear lad as well. I wish he
were back from India, even before he has started, and so do you, my
dear. But time soon passes. Just now it seems but yesterday that we
were in France."

The day waned. Rachel and Esther were together; Aaron was in his study
writing, and preparing for an important meeting he had to attend that
night. A servant entered.

"A gentleman to see you, sir."

Aaron looked at the card, which bore the name of Mr. Richard
Dillworthy.

"I am busy," said Aaron. "Does he wish to see me particularly? Ask him
if he can call again."

"He said his business was pressing, sir."

"Show him in."

The servant ushered the visitor into the room, a slightly-built,
middle-aged man, with iron-grey hair and whiskers. Aaron motioned him
to a chair, and he placed a card on the table, bearing the name and
address of a firm of lawyers.

"I am Mr. Dillworthy, of Dillworthy, Maryx, and Co.," he said.

"Yes?"

"I have come to speak to you upon a family matter----"

"A family matter!" exclaimed Aaron, interrupting him. "Does it concern
me?"

"It concerns you closely, and the client on whose behalf I am here."

"What is its nature?"

"Allow me to disclose it in my own way. I shall take it as a favour if
you will regard this interview as private."

"Certainly."

"Briefly, I may say, as an introduction, that it refers to your
daughter, Miss Ruth Cohen."



                            CHAPTER XXXIV.

                   THE HONOURABLE PERCY STORNDALE.


For the second time on this eventful day Aaron felt as if his sin were
about to be brought home to him, as if the temple which, by long years
of honourable and upright conduct, he had built for himself, were
about to crumble to dust. In that temple was enshrined not only his
good name, but what was far more precious to him, his wife's happiness
and peace of mind. He had not yet nerved himself to the effort to go
to her frankly and say, "Ruth is not our child." Out of Rachel's
innate goodness and sweetness sprang the love she bore for the young
girl. The suggestion of love may come from without, but the spirit of
love is the offspring of one's own heart, and it is made enduring and
ennobling by one's own higher qualities; and in a like manner it is
one's lower passions which debase and degrade it. In whatever fashion
Rachel would receive her husband's confession, he knew full well that
it would inflict upon her the most exquisite suffering; the cherished
ideal of her life would be shattered, and she would sit for ever
afterwards in sackcloth and ashes. This was his torturing belief; it
was not that he dreaded exposure for his own sake; he had no wish to
spare himself, but to spare Rachel inevitable suffering. He knew that
the truth could not be much longer hidden, and yet he was too weak to
take the deciding step. He had sown a harvest of woe, and his constant
fervent prayer was that he might not be compelled to reap it with his
own hands.

Agitated as he was, he did not betray himself by word or sign, but by
a courteous movement of his hand invited his visitor to proceed.

"It is a family matter," said Mr. Dillworthy, "of a peculiarly
delicate nature, and my client thought it could best be arranged in a
private personal interview."

"Being of such a nature," observed Aaron, "would it not have been
better that it should be arranged privately between the parties
interested instead of through an intermediary?"

"Possibly, possibly; but my client holds strong views, and feels he
could scarcely trust himself."

"Favour me with the name of your client."

"Lord Storndale."

"Lord Storndale? I have not the pleasure of his acquaintance."

"But you are familiar with his name."

"Not at all. It is the first time I have heard it."

"You surprise me. Lord Storndale is a peer."

"I know very few peers, and have had no occasion to study the
peerage."

"But, pardon me, Storndale is the name; it may have escaped you."

"I repeat, the name is strange to me."

"I do not presume to doubt you, but it introduces a new element into
the matter. Your daughter, then, has never mentioned the Honourable
Percy Storndale to you?"

"Never, and I am at a loss to understand the association of their
names."

The lawyer paused. In this unexpected turn of affairs a deviation
suggested itself to his legal mind which would be likely to assist
him.

"Mr. Cohen, you have the reputation of being an earnest and sincere
Jew."

"I follow the precepts and the obligations of my faith," said Aaron,
with a searching glance at his visitor.

"In this back-sliding and time-serving age orthodoxy--especially, I
should say, in the Jewish religion--has a hard time of it. The customs
and duties of an enlightened civilisation must clash severely with the
precepts and obligations you speak of. It is because of the
difficulty--perhaps the impossibility--of following the hard and fast
laws of the Pentateuch that divisions have taken place, as in all
religions, and that you have among you men who call themselves
Reformed Jews."

"Surely it is not part of your mission to debate this matter with me,"
said Aaron, who had no desire to discuss these questions with a
stranger.

"No, it is not, and I do not pretend to understand it; but in a
general way the subject is interesting to me. If you will permit me, I
should like to ask you one question." Aaron signified assent. "What is
your opinion of mixed marriages?"

Aaron did not answer immediately; he had a suspicion that there was
something behind, but the subject was one regarding which both he and
Rachel held a strong view, and he felt he would be guilty of an
unworthy evasion if he refused to reply.

"I do not approve of them," he said.

"You set me at ease," said the lawyer, "and it will gratify Lord
Storndale to hear that you and he are in agreement upon the question.
As our interview is private I may speak freely. Unhappily, Lord
Storndale is a poor peer. Since he came into the title he has had
great difficulties to contend with, and as his estates lay chiefly in
Ireland these difficulties have been of late years increased. Happily
or unhappily, also, he has a large family, two daughters and six sons.
Of these sons the Honourable Percy Storndale is the youngest. I do not
know who is more to be pitied, a poor peer struggling with mortgages,
decreased rents, and the expenses of a large family, or a younger son
who comes into the world with the expectation that he is to be
provided for, and whose father can allow him at the utmost two hundred
and fifty or three hundred a year. Father and son have both to keep up
appearances, and the son's allowance will scarcely pay his tailor's
and his glover's bills. There are a thousand things he wants, and to
which he believes himself entitled. Flowers, horses, clubs, a stall at
the theatre, and so on and so on, _ad infinitum_. The consequence is
that the young gentleman gets into debt, which grows and grows.
Perhaps he thinks of a means of paying his creditors--he plunges on a
horse, he plays for high stakes at his club. You know the result. Into
the mire, deeper and deeper. A sad picture, Mr. Cohen."

"Very sad," said Aaron, who had listened patiently, and knew that the
crucial part of the lawyer's mission--that which affected himself and
Ruth--had not yet been reached.

"Lord Storndale," continued the lawyer, "is a gentleman of exclusive
views, and is perhaps prouder in his poverty than he would be with a
rent-roll of a hundred thousand a year. His son's extravagances and
debts are not hidden from his knowledge--the moneylenders take care of
that. From time to time, and at a great sacrifice, he extricates the
young scapegrace from temporary difficulties, but at length he comes
to a full stop. His own means are exhausted, and willing as he may be
to keep putting his hand in his pocket, it is useless to do so,
because the pocket is empty. But he has some influence in a small way,
and he obtains for his son the offer of a post in the colonies; not
very grand certainly, but affording an opening which may lead to
something better, if the young gentleman will only condescend to look
at life seriously--which, as a rule, such young fellows decline to do
until it is too late. However, a father, whether he be a peer or a
common labourer, can do no more than his duty. He informs his son of
the appointment he has obtained for him, and the scapegrace--I am
speaking quite openly, Mr. Cohen; the Honourable Percy Storndale _is_
one--declines to accept it. 'Why?' asks the astonished father. 'I
cannot live on it,' replies the son. Then the father points out how he
can live on it by cutting down some of his extravagances, and that he
may find opportunities in the colonies which he can never meet with
here. The son remains obdurate. 'There is another reason for your
refusal,' says the father. 'There is,' the son admits. 'I prefer to
remain in London; it is the only city in the world worth living in.'
'And starving in,' suggests the father. The scapegrace shrugs his
shoulders, and says something will turn up here, and that he will not
submit to banishment because he happens to have been born a few years
too late--a reflection upon his brother, the eldest son, who in course
of time will inherit the family embarrassments and mortgages. The
father remonstrates, argues, entreats, but the young man will not give
way. Meanwhile the appointment is bestowed upon another and a worthier
gentleman, and the chance is lost. I trust I am not wearying you."

"No. I am attending to all you say, and waiting to hear how my
daughter's name comes to be mixed up with the family history you are
giving me."

"You will understand everything presently. My object is to make the
matter perfectly clear, and to have no concealment. For this reason I
wish you to be aware of the character of the young gentleman, and
I am describing it carefully at the express wish of his father. At the
same time I lay no positive charge against him; I am not saying he is
a bad man, but an undesirable man. There are thousands of young
fellows who are living just such a careless, irresponsible, reckless
life, who get into debt, who gamble, and who ultimately find
themselves passing through the bankruptcy court. Young men without
balance, Mr. Cohen, and who, in consequence, topple over. They sow
trouble wherever they go, and they are always smiling, self-possessed,
and pleasant-mannered. Women especially are caught by these externals;
but speaking myself as the father of grown-up daughters, I should be
sorry to see one of that class visiting my house as a suitor to one of
my girls."

Aaron started, but did not speak.

"Lord Storndale suspected that there was another reason which his son
had not mentioned for his refusal of the colonial appointment, and in
a short time his suspicions were confirmed. It came to his knowledge
that his son was paying attentions to a young lady whom he was in the
habit of meeting at garden parties and tennis, and probably by
arrangement in the parks, and he taxed the young gentleman with it.
His son did not deny it; he said that he loved the lady, that her
father was very wealthy, and that she was in every way presentable. 'I
do not know,' said the young man, 'whether the circumstance of her
father being a commoner will prejudice you against him.' Lord
Storndale replied that he would have preferred his son had chosen from
his own rank, but that marriages between rich commoners and members of
the aristocracy were not unusual in these days, and that he would
sanction the match if the lady's father were a gentleman. To be honest
with you, Mr. Cohen, Lord Storndale has no liking for commoners who
have made fortunes in trade or by speculating; but he did not allow
these scruples to weigh with him, his hope being that the proposed
union would be the means of extricating his son from his difficulties,
and of steadying him. The young man said that the lady's father was a
gentleman widely known for his benevolence and uprightness of
character, and that he was held in universal esteem. Up to this point
the interview had been of an amicable nature, but then arose an
insurmountable difficulty. 'Who is the gentleman?' inquired Lord
Storndale. 'Mr. Aaron Cohen,' replied the young man."

Observing Aaron's agitation the lawyer suspended his narration, and
said,--

"Pardon me; you were about to speak."

Aaron by a great effort controlled himself.

"I will wait till you have quite finished, Mr. Dillworthy. Before I
commit myself it will be as well that I should be in possession of all
the facts."

"Quite so. I have been explicit and circumstantial in order that there
shall be no mistake. When I have finished you will have few, if any,
questions to ask, because you will know everything it is in my power
to tell. Upon hearing your name, his lordship remarked that it was a
Jewish name. 'Yes,' said the young man, 'Mr. Cohen is a Jew.' Lord
Storndale was angry and distressed. I admit that it is an unreasonable
prejudice; but he has an invincible dislike to Jews, and it shocked
him to think that his son contemplated a marriage with a Jewess. I
need dwell no longer upon the interview, which now took a stormy turn,
and it ended by the son abruptly leaving the room. On no account,
whatever, Mr. Cohen, will Lord Storndale or any member of his family
consent to such an alliance; if it is accomplished the young man will
be thrown upon his own resources, and his wife will not be recognised
by his kinsfolk. The trouble has already reached a climax. The young
gentleman is hot-headed--a Storndale failing--and he declines to
listen to remonstrances; the consequence is, that he has been
forbidden his father's home till he comes to reason. But despite his
extravagances and the constant and perplexing involvements issuing
therefrom, his father has an affection for him, and is bent upon
saving his family from----"

The lawyer pausing here, with an awkward cough, as though he was
choking down a word, Aaron quietly added it.

"Disgrace?"

"Well, yes," said Mr. Dillworthy, briskly; "we will not mince matters.
It is not my word, but Lord Storndale's. He would account such an
alliance a disgrace. I will say nothing in his excuse. In all
civilised countries we have living evidences of happy unions between
members of the aristocracy and wealthy daughters of Israel, and also
living evidences of happy mixed marriages between persons neither
aristocratic nor wealthy; and these might be brought forward as
powerful arguments against the view my client entertains. But they
would have no weight with him. We must take into consideration the
pride of race."

"Yes," said Aaron, still speaking in a quiet tone, "we must take that
into consideration. You have not quite finished, sir?"

"Not quite. As a last resource, Lord Storndale consulted me, and
entrusted me with a painful task. He requested me to call upon you,
and represent the matter in the plainest terms, which I have
endeavoured to do, omitting or concealing no single incident of the
unhappy affair. I am deputed to ask you to take a course with your
daughter similar to that he has taken with his son--that is, to
absolutely forbid the union. The young gentleman is in a state of
extreme pecuniary embarrassment, and it is possible--I do not state it
as a fact, but merely as a presumption--that he reckons upon your aid
to settle with his creditors. When he finds that this aid will not be
forthcoming, and that he cannot depend upon your making a suitable
settlement upon your daughter, he is not unlikely, for prudential
reasons, to beat a retreat."

"What is the inference you wish me to draw from this expression of
opinion?"

"That Mr. Storndale is following your daughter for your money."

"And that he has no love for her?"

The lawyer shrugged his shoulders. The interview was taking a turn not
exactly pleasing to him.

"You are not flattering the young gentleman," Aaron said.

"I had no intention of doing so. Of course, it is for you to consider
the matter from your own point of view. First, as a father----"

He paused.

"Yes, first as a father," repeated Aaron.

"Next, as a Jew."

"Yes, next as a Jew," said Aaron, again repeating the lawyer's words.

He was agitated by conflicting emotions, which no man but he could
have understood--and which, indeed, in the light of the revelation
which had been made, he himself could scarcely grasp, so strongly did
it affect the secret of his life. But that secret still was his, and
he had still to play his part.

"You are commissioned to take my answer to Lord Storndale?"

"He is anxiously awaiting it."

"I may trust you to convey that answer as nearly as possible in my own
words?"

"It shall be my endeavour."

"You will tell him, then, that the mission with which he has entrusted
you comes upon me as a surprise. As I have already informed you, I
have never, until this day, heard his name or the name of his son. As
to the character you give the young gentleman, it may or may not be
correct, for you speak of him as an advocate on the other side----"

"But surely," interrupted the lawyer, "that would not affect the
religious aspect of the question."

"No, it would not affect it. But whether correct or not, it seems
clear that the young gentleman has not acted as a man of honour,
although he is Lord Storndale's son. A young girl's trustfulness and
innocence should be her safeguard; but here they have been basely
used, according to your own statement, by a man whose external
accomplishments have unhappily attracted her."

"And from such a man," said the lawyer, rather too eagerly, "it is a
fathers duty to protect his daughter."

"Undoubtedly," replied Aaron, who could not dispute the lawyer's
reasoning. "That my wife and I should have been kept in ignorance of
Mr. Storndale's attentions is to be deplored; and it appears certain
that he must have bound Miss Cohen by a promise to say nothing to us
about them. You speak of the pride of race as affecting Lord
Storndale. We have also that pride, and if any Jewish parent were so
far forgetful of the obligations of his faith as to admit your
client's son into his family, it is upon him and upon Lord Storndale
that honour would be conferred."

"It is a fair retort," said the lawyer. "I beg you to believe that the
views I have expressed are not mine, but Lord Storndale's, in whose
interests I am acting. I am, as you say, an advocate--merely a
mouthpiece, as it were--and I am bound to follow out my instructions.
Your disapproval of mixed marriages gives me confidence that my
mission has not failed, and it will be a satisfaction to Lord
Storndale. May I take it that you will pursue the course with your
daughter that he has taken with his son, and that you will forbid the
union?"

"Have I not made myself sufficiently clear?" asked Aaron, with an
inward rebellion against the evasion he felt himself compelled to
practise.

"Yes, yes," said the lawyer, hastily, too astute to press for precise
words. "And I may inform Lord Storndale that you distinctly disapprove
of marriages between Jews and Christians?"

"You may."

Mr. Dillworthy, believing he had gained his point, wisely dropped the
subject, and expressing his obligations to Aaron, rose to take his
departure. Before he reached the door, however, he turned, and in a
tone of courteous deference, asked if Mr. Cohen could spare him a few
moments more. Aaron assenting, the lawyer resumed his seat, and taking
a pocket-book from his pocket searched in it for a letter.



                            CHAPTER XXXV.

                     THE SPIRIT OF THE DEAD PAST.


Aaron observed him anxiously. The disclosure that had already been
made had so agitated him that he was apprehensive of further trouble.

"Ah! here it is," said the lawyer, opening the letter for which he had
been looking; "I was afraid I had left it behind me. Excuse me a
moment; I wish to refresh my memory."

He ran his eye over the letter, and nodded as he went through its
points of importance.

"Does it concern the unhappy affair we have discussed?" inquired
Aaron, unable to restrain his impatience.

"No," replied the lawyer; "I take it that is settled, and I trust, for
the sake of both the families, that it will not be re-opened."

"I trust not."

"This is quite a different matter, and I hardly know how to excuse
myself for troubling you with it. It is a sudden thought, for I came
here with no such intention. You must thank your own reputation for
it, Mr. Cohen; it is well known that you have never neglected an
opportunity to do an act of kindness, and though what I am about to
speak of has come to me in the way of business, the story contains
elements so romantic and peculiar that it has strangely attracted me.
The reference in the letter which induces me to think that you may be
able to help me is that you are a gentleman of influence in your
community, and have a wide acquaintance with your co-religionists.
Perhaps I had better read the words. My correspondent says--'I know
that there are peculiar difficulties in the search I intend to make
upon my return home, but before my arrival you may be able to discover
something which will be of assistance to me. Probably if you consult
some kind-hearted and influential member of the Jewish race you may,
through him, obtain a clue; or, failing this, you might employ a
Jewish agent to make inquiries.' It is a lady who writes to me, and
her letter comes from Australia. May I continue? Thank you. Let me
tell you the story; it will interest you, and I will be as brief as
possible. The letter is too long to read throughout." He handed it to
Aaron. "It occupies, you see, fourteen closely written pages, and it
is somewhat in the nature of a confession. If you wish, I will have a
copy of it made, and will send it on to you to-morrow."

Aaron, turning over the pages, came to the superscription:

                        "I remain,
                            "Yours truly,
                                  "Mary Gordon."


Truly this was a day of startling surprises to him. He recollected the
name as that of the gentleman for whom, twenty years ago, Mr. Moss had
undertaken the commission which had lifted him from beggary by placing
in his hands a large sum of money to which in strict justice he was
not entitled, but which, from fear that the deception he had practised
might otherwise be discovered, he was compelled to accept. He had, as
an atonement, expended in secret charities a hundred times the sum;
but this did not absolve him from the responsibility. The spirit of
the dead past rose before him, and he was overwhelmed with the dread
possibilities it brought with it.

"I fear," said the lawyer, "that I have been inconsiderate in
introducing the matter at the present moment. I will postpone it to a
future occasion."

"Pray continue," said Aaron, whose burning desire now was to know the
worst. "I have had an exciting day, but I will pay due attention to
what you wish to impart to me."

"I appreciate your kindness. If you cannot assist me, you may
recommend me to an agent whom I will employ. I noticed that you
referred in the letter to the name of my correspondent, Mrs. Gordon;
the inquiry is of a delicate nature, and it may be her wish that her
name is not too freely mentioned--at all events, for the present. Her
story is not an uncommon one, but it takes an extraordinary and
unusual turn. She is now, according to her own account, a lady of
considerable means; her husband has lately died, and she has come into
a fortune. Some twenty odd years ago she was a young woman, and had
two lovers, one of whom wooed her with dishonourable intentions, and
by him she was betrayed. This occurred during the absence in Australia
of the gentleman who had proposed to her, and whom she had accepted.
He was a resident in Australia, and it was his intention to make his
home there. While he was on his way to England, with the intention of
making her his wife and returning with her to the colony, she
discovered that she was about to become a mother. In despair she fled
from London, where he expected to find her, and sought to hide her
shame among strangers. The place she selected was Portsmouth, and
there she went through a series of harrowing trials, and was reduced
to extreme poverty. In her letter to me she makes no effort to
disguise the misery into which she was plunged, and she is frank and
outspoken in order that I may properly understand how it was that she
was forced to abandon the child that was born in Portsmouth under most
distressing circumstances. For it appears that when the suitor who
wooed her honourably arrived in London and learned the story of her
betrayal, he was still desirous to make her his wife. He traced her to
Portsmouth, and found her there with her babe, who was then but a few
days old. This would have induced most men to forego their honourable
intentions; but Mr. Gordon, whose name she now bears, was an exception
to the rule, and, through a gentleman who acted as a go-between, he
made a singular proposition to her. It was to the effect that she
should consent to give up her child entirely, and during his lifetime
to make no effort to recover it; he undertook to find a respectable
and comfortable home for the babe, and to make a liberal provision for
it. This is the bare outline of his proposition, and I need not go
further into it. So desperate was her position that she and her child
at the time were literally starving; she had not a friend but Mr.
Gordon, who was stern in his resolve not to befriend her unless she
accepted the conditions he dictated; the gentleman who acted as a
go-between had behaved very kindly to her, but could not assist her
further. In these circumstances she made the sacrifice, and parted
with her child, who from that day to this she has never seen. Mr.
Gordon honourably fulfilled the terms of the agreement; a home was
found for the child, and he married the lady, and took her to
Australia, where she has resided for the last twenty years. It was
part of the agreement that she should not be informed of the name of
the people who adopted the child, and should not, directly or
indirectly, make the least endeavour to obtain any information
concerning it while her husband was alive. If he died before her she
was free to act as she pleased in the matter. This has occurred, and
the widow, who has had no children by her marriage, is bent upon
recovering her child, who, I may mention, is a girl. The task is beset
with difficulties, and may prove hopeless. Shortly stated, Mr. Cohen,
this is the case as it at present stands."

"Is there a special reason," inquired Aaron, "for your applying to me
for assistance?"

"Not exactly special; it is in a sense accidental, inspired by my
visit this evening on the other matter we have spoken of. There are
certain particulars in relation to Mrs. Gordon's search for her
daughter which I have omitted. The arrangements for the future
provision of the babe were carried out, I understand, by a firm of
lawyers whose names Mrs. Gordon has been unable to ascertain; but she
is acquainted with the name of the gentleman who in Portsmouth
conveyed Mr. Gordon's proposition to her. This gentleman is Dr.
Spenlove, who, leaving Portsmouth several years ago, has attained an
eminent position in London. You may be acquainted with him."

"He was at my house to-day."

"Then you are on terms of intimacy with him."

"No. We met to-day for the first time."

"In her letter Mrs. Gordon refers me to Dr. Spenlove, and I have not
yet communicated with him. The letter only reached me this morning,
and I have not had time to see him."

"You have not explained why you apply to me."

"The explanation is simple. During her husband's lifetime Mrs. Gordon
faithfully carried out her obligation, and, as it appears to me, no
words passed between them on the subject of the child. In his last
moments, however, he must have relented; unfortunately, he left it too
late to give his wife the information she so eagerly desired; he could
scarcely articulate, and all she could gather from him was that he had
employed an agent to look after the child, and that this agent was of
the Jewish persuasion. The conclusion is that he was a resident of
Portsmouth, but he may not be living; and it has occurred to me that
you, who have friends of your persuasion everywhere, may expedite the
discovery by giving me the name and address of some old inhabitant who
can put us on the track of Mr. Gordon's agent. When the lady arrives
in England she will naturally go to Dr. Spenlove, who will doubtless
assist her in her natural endeavour to obtain intelligence of the fate
of her child. If you can also assist us you will earn a mother's
gratitude."

"I will consider it," said Aaron, and his voice was troubled; "that is
all I can promise at present."

"It is all we can expect of you. There is another peculiar feature in
this strange case. Mrs. Gordon, before she left England, entrusted Dr.
Spenlove with a metal casket in which she had deposited some memorials
of interest; this casket was to be given to the man who undertook to
bring up the child, on the understanding that it was to be handed to
the young lady at the age of twenty-one (supposing, of course, that
she lived to that age), or before that time to be returned to the
mother if she came to claim it. The young lady, if she be living, is
not yet twenty-one, and it is the mother's intention to recover this
casket, if it be possible. It is to be hoped it fell into the hands of
an honest man."

"It is to be hoped so," said Aaron, mechanically.

Mr. Dillworthy said in a kind tone, "It is not an opportune time to
seek your aid in a cause in which you are not personally interested,
when another subject, the welfare of a dear daughter, engrosses your
attention. Pray forgive me, Mr. Cohen."

Aaron bent his head, and as the lawyer closed the door behind him,
sank back in his chair with a heavy sigh.



                            CHAPTER XXXVI.

                          BEFORE ALL, DUTY.


He sat silent for many minutes, his mind in a state of chaos; but
presently his native strength of character came to his aid, and he
resumed the task which the entrance of Mr. Dillworthy had interrupted!
In addition to the important meeting he had to attend that night, his
presence was expected at the board of a Jewish charity, of which he
was the founder. This meeting came first, and his colleagues could not
proceed to business without him; he must not disappoint them. Before
all, duty. The thought shaped itself in whispered words, which he
repeated again and again, and their iteration brought to him a sense
of their true significance. Duty had been a leading principle of his
life, and in the part he had taken in public matters he had never
neglected it, and had never studied his personal convenience. But he
had now to consider the principle in its most comprehensive aspect,
and he felt that its application to his private affairs was imperative
in the conflicting interests in which he was engaged. This being so,
what was his duty here at home in respect of his wife and the girl he
had brought up as their daughter, and how should he perform it? Love
played so vital a part in the consideration of this question that he
could not thrust it aside. It was, indeed, its leading element. For
years past he had lived in a fool's paradise, and time had crept on
and on until suddenly he saw the flowers withering before him. He had
been false to himself, he had worn a mask, and now it was to be torn
aside; but this he could bear. How would Rachel bear it?

Unconsciously he had risen from his chair, and was pacing to and fro
while he reflected. Pausing, he saw upon the table the papers he had
been studying. The meeting of the Jewish society was of minor
consequence, and required but little thought; the second meeting,
however, was of vast importance, for there a decision was to be
arrived at which would affect thousands of poor families and have a
direct bearing upon the question of capital and labour. There had been
a great strike in the building trade, and thousands of men had
deliberately thrown themselves out of employment, choosing, in their
adherence to a principle, what was almost next door to starvation. The
strike had been brought about by a rival contractor, a Mr. Poynter, an
employer of labour on an extensive scale, and a man as well known as
Aaron himself. To say that these two were rivals does not necessarily
imply that they were enemies, for that is a game that two must play
at, and it was a game in which Aaron played no part. He did not
approve of Mr. Poynter's methods: he went no further than that; and if
he was called upon to express his opinion upon the subject he did so
in a manner which robbed it of any personal application. Mr. Poynter,
on the other hand, was nothing if he was not personal, and he hated
Aaron with a very sincere and conscientious hate. He hated him because
he had lost several profitable contracts, which Aaron had obtained;
and this hatred may be applied in a general sense, because he hated
every successful rival, great or small. He hated him because Aaron was
genuinely respected by large bodies of working men, and had great
influence with them; and this hatred may also be applied in a general
sense, because he hated all employers of labour who were held by their
workmen in higher respect than himself. He hated Aaron because he was
a Jew; and this may certainly be applied in a general sense, because
he had a bitter hatred of all Jews, and would have willingly
subscribed liberally and joined in a crusade to hunt them out of the
country. He did not subscribe to the Society for Promoting
Christianity among the Jews, because to Christianise them would be to
admit them upon terms of equality, and the idea was abhorrent to him.
On no terms could a Jew be made the equal of a Christian. That a Jew
could be a good man, that he could be a just man, that he could do
anything without an eye to profit or self-aggrandisement--these, in
his belief, were monstrous propositions, and no man of sense,
certainly no true Christian, could seriously entertain them. Mr.
Poynter was a Christian, a true Christian, regular in his attendance
at church, and fairly liberal, also, in his charities, though his left
hand always knew what his right hand did. And here he found another
cause for hating Aaron. He heard his name quoted as a man of large
benevolence, and he went so far as to declare that Aaron's charities
were a means to an end. "He looks upon them as an investment," he
said; "they bring him a good return. Did you ever know a Jew part with
money without an eye to the main chance?" When he heard that it was
generally reported that Aaron gave away in secret much more than he
gave away in public, his comment was, "What is easier than to set such
a rumour afloat? Any rich man can do it by an expenditure of ten
pounds a year! If money is bestowed in secret, who is to know of it
but the donor? If it becomes public, who could have spoken of it first
but the donor? No one but a fool would be gulled by so transparent a
trick!" These detractions were generally uttered to men who
sympathised with the speaker, and they were not without effect. By
which it will be seen that Aaron had enemies, as all men have. Mr.
Poynter posed as a moral man, and it is the very essence of these
usurpers of morality that each of them must stand alone, and that upon
the pedestal he sets up there shall be no room for any other braggart.
He was a married man, with sons and daughters, and a wife, who all
looked upon the husband and father as a pattern. Whether his children
followed the pattern or not does not concern this history, which has
to do with the head of the family alone. Whatever a man may be in the
prime of life, the earlier Adam, if it differ from the later, will
very likely assert itself in the blood of his descendants, and this
may have been the case with Mr. Poynter's children, despite the
respect in which they held him. You come into contact with a
sober-faced man whose distinguishing mark is one of intense
respectability; you see him at home in the bosom of his family, whom
he entertains with severely respectable platitudes; you hear his
opinions on matters of current interest, a trial, a scandal in high
life, tittle-tattle of the stage, the Court, the Church, and society
in general. What an intensely respectable gentleman, what severely
respectable views, what strict morality, what an estimable father of a
family! Ah, but draw the curtain of years aside, and we behold another
man--another man, yet still the same, a man about town, philandering,
deceiving, lying, and playing the base part to serve his selfish
pleasures. Where is the morality, where the respectability now--and
which of the two is the true man?

Was this the case with Mr. Poynter? The course of events may possibly
supply the answer to this question presently. Meanwhile, nothing is
more certain to-day than that he is accepted as he presents himself.
But, if in the past life of such a man as Aaron Cohen may be found an
episode of his own creating upon which he looks with dismay, why might
it not be so with such a man as Mr. Poynter?

In a country like England, where operations of magnitude are being
continually undertaken, there is room for all who occupy the higher
rungs of the ladder; it is only the lower rungs which are overcrowded,
and which need clearing by means of emigration to lands where there is
room for the toiling, suffering millions. But Mr. Poynter chose to
believe that there was not room for Aaron and himself, and he nursed
and fostered a venomous desire to drag Aaron down. This desire,
indeed, had really become a disease with him, and had grown by what it
fed on. He hunted about for the means, he asked questions. It was
unquestionably true that there were Jews who had grown rich through
dishonesty and usury, and Mr. Poynter did not stop to consider that
this applied equally to Christians. Perhaps it was the knowledge of
his own early life that made him think, "If I could find something in
his past that would bring shame upon him--if I could only rake up
something that would show him in his true light! It would be the
commercial and social ruin of him. He would never be able to hold up
his head again." He would gladly have paid for some such discovery.

At the present time he had special reasons for hate. One reason was
that the strike in the building trade was affecting him seriously. He
was engaged in large contracts, in the carrying out of which thousands
of men were needed, and it was chiefly against himself that the strike
was ordered by the unions. He was on the brink of great losses, and
Aaron had been called in as a mediator and arbitrator. The strike at
an end, and the masters the victors, he was safe, and more prosperous
than ever; but every day that it was prolonged meant so many hundreds
of pounds out of his pocket. His fate seemed to hang upon the final
advice to the men which Aaron was to give, and his profits would be
large or small according to the nature of that advice. He laid the
credit of the strike at Aaron's door; for in their enterprises he and
Aaron employed different methods. Aaron had pursued in England the
course he had pursued in France. He paid his men liberally, gave them
bonuses, even to a certain extent acknowledged them as co-operators.
In Mr. Poynter's eyes this was a crime, for it struck at the very root
of his prosperity. "He is a rabid socialist," Mr. Poynter said; "men
of his stamp are a danger to society."

Another reason was that tenders had lately been called for works of
exceptional magnitude, and he had entertained hopes of obtaining the
contract. Again he was worsted by this insidious enemy. Within the
last few hours he had heard that Aaron's tender had been accepted. He
ground his teeth with rage. He could have undertaken the works in
spite of the strike, for he had very nearly completed arrangements for
the introduction of foreign workmen, whom he was determined to employ
if the English workmen held out. There would be a row, of course, and
the lower classes would cast obloquy upon him, for which he would have
to thank his rival and enemy. When he heard that he had lost the
contract he said to a friend, "I would give half I am worth to drag
him down." And he meant what he said.

The last meeting of the strikers was now being held. It had been
called for seven o'clock, and it was known that the discussion would
occupy several hours. Aaron was not asked to attend this discussion,
which was to be private, even the representatives of the press not
being admitted. Eleven o'clock was the hour at which he was expected,
and it was understood that he would bring with him certain
propositions from the masters, which, with the workmen's views, were
to be discussed, and a decision arrived at. To-morrow morning's papers
would announce whether the strike was to be continued or was at an
end.

He studied the papers before him--the arguments and statements of
employers of labour, comparisons of wages here and in foreign
countries, the comparative rates of living here and there, and the
conflicting views of the living wage, documents of every description,
among which were pathetic letters from wives of the strikers,
imploring him to put an end to the strike. He had mastered them all,
and was familiar with every detail, but he read them again in order to
divert his attention for this night from his own private affairs. His
mind must be free; he would think of them to-morrow. He had public
duties to attend to. Before all, duty.

The words haunted him, and he was dismayed to find that all his
efforts to concentrate his attention upon his public duties were vain.
Pictures of the past presented themselves: he saw his home in Gosport;
he saw Rachel lying in bed with her dead babe by her side; he saw
himself engaged in the task of completing the guilty deception,
changing the clothing of the infants, and giving his own child to a
strange woman,--every incident connected with his sin was stamped
indelibly upon his brain, and now rose vividly before him. Very well.
He had half an hour to spare before he left his house for the Jewish
meeting; he would devote the time to a consideration of his private
affairs.

He gathered his papers, arranged them in order, and put them in his
pocket. He dallied with them at first, but feeling that he was
prolonging the simple task in order to shorten the time for serious
thought, he smiled pitifully at his weakness, and completed it
expeditiously.

In admitting Ruth into his household, in adopting her as a daughter he
had undertaken a sacred responsibility. He was fully conscious of this
twenty years ago in Gosport, and what he had done had been done
deliberately. It was a question then of the sacrifice of a precious
life. The doctor had stated the case very clearly. The pregnant words
they had exchanged were in his memory now, and might have been spoken
only a few moments since. "Her life," the doctor had said, "hangs upon
the life of her child." "If our child lives," Aaron had asked, "there
is hope that my wife will live?" "A strong hope," the doctor had
answered. "And if our child dies?" asked Aaron. The doctor answered,
"The mother will die."

He recalled the agony of those hours, the sufferings through which
Rachel had passed with so much sweetness and patience, his poverty and
helplessness, the dark future before him. Then came the ray of light,
Mr. Moss, with the strange commission of the deserted child. He had
not courted it, had not invited it; he had had no hand in it. He had
regarded it as a message from heaven. What followed? The death of his
own babe, the calm and peaceful death, the young soul taken to heaven,
his beloved wife in an untroubled sleep by the side of her dead babe.
It was a visitation of God. Could he be accused of having had a hand
in it? Heaven forbid! On the contrary, who could blame him for
believing that it was a Divine direction of the course he was to take?
And who was wronged? Surely not the mother who had deserted her babe.
Surely not the babe, who had found a happy home. The wrong--and herein
was the sting--was to Rachel, whose life had been saved by the deceit.
So far, then, was he not justified?

But if, before the committal of a sin, we could see the consequences
of the sin--if he had seen the consequences of his, would he not have
paused, and said, "It rests with God; let it be as He wills; I will be
no party to the deceit"? In that case Rachel's life would have been
sacrificed. There was no human doubt of it. Rachel would have died,
and the blessings she had shed around her, the good she had been
enabled to do, the suffering hearts she had relieved, the light she
had brought into despairing homes, would never have been. Against a
little evil, so much good. Against a slight error, so much that was
sweet and beautiful.

But in these reflections he had taken into account only Rachel and
himself--only their two lives. How about Ruth herself?

He had never disguised from himself that there was much in Ruth's
character which was not in accordance with Rachel's views or his own,
which she did not assimilate with either of their natures. Being one
of his family in the eyes of the world, he had brought her up as a
Jewess. She was born a Christian. Was this not a crime of which she
had been made the victim? He had experienced great difficulties in her
education. He wished to correct the defect which exists in ninety-nine
English Jewesses out of a hundred--he wished her to pray in the Hebrew
tongue, and to understand her prayers. To this end he himself had
endeavoured to teach her to read and translate Hebrew. She would not
learn. Even now as a woman she understood but a very few words, and
this scanty knowledge was mechanical. A parrot might have learned as
much. She had an aversion to Jewish society. As a child, when she was
necessarily in leading strings, she was taken by Rachel to the
synagogue on every Sabbath day, but when she began to have intelligent
ideas she rebelled; she would not go, and Rachel walked to the House
of God alone. It was a grief to her that Ruth would not follow in her
footsteps, and she and Aaron had frequently conversed upon the
subject. "It is so with many Jewish women," Aaron said. "It would be
wrong to force her; she will find out her error by-and-by." But Ruth
never did, and Rachel suffered in silence.

There was another sorrow. Between their son Joseph and Ruth did not
exist that love which brother and sister should bear each other.
Joseph was ready with demonstrative affection, but Ruth did not
respond. Aaron had taken note of this, but he was powerless to remedy
it, and the lad, who was as solicitous as his father to spare the dear
mother pain, made no trouble of it. Ruth respected and admired her
reputed father, and in the feelings she entertained towards him there
was an element of fear, because of his strength of character, but she
did not love him as a child should. He, knowing what he knew, found
excuses for her. "It is in her blood," he said to himself.

All this was hidden from Rachel, to whom Ruth was tender and kind. Who
could be otherwise to so sweet a woman? But Rachel did not know of
what she was deprived until Esther Moss began to make long visits to
their home. "Esther is like a daughter to me," she said, and only
Aaron was aware of the depth of meaning these simple words conveyed.
In Rachel's association with Esther she had realised what a daughter
might have been to her.

But now he had to consider the matter, not from his or Rachel's point
of view, but from Ruth's. She was a woman in her springtime, and love
had come to her, and she had held out her arms to it. And the man she
loved was a Christian.

It was not within his right to take into consideration that the man
she loved was a spendthrift and a scapegrace. The question had often
intruded itself since she was grown to womanhood, whether he would not
be adding sin to sin by encouraging her to marry a Jew. She had
answered the question herself. What right had he to gainsay her? He
might, as a true and sincere friend, say to her, "This man will not
make you happy. He has vices and defects which will bring misery upon
your home. You must not marry him." But he had no right to say to her
"You must not marry this man because he is a Christian." It would be a
detestable argument for one in his position, and in hers, to advance.

Then Mr. Dillworthy might be wrong in his estimate of the young man's
character. The only objection Lord Storndale had to the union was that
Ruth was a Jewess. But she was not a Jewess, and it was in his power
to go to the young man's father and make the disclosure to him. Lord
Storndale's natural reply would be, "Let it be clearly understood. You
have done this lady a grievous wrong. You are a wealthy man. Repair
the wrong by making a suitable settlement upon her. But it must be
publicly done, and the injustice of which you have been guilty must be
publicly acknowledged." The only answer he could make would be, "It is
just. I will do as you dictate."

What would be the effect as regarded himself? Among his
co-religionists he was held up as a pillar of the old Jewish faith.
His voice had been raised against apostasy; he had taken a decided
stand against the more liberal ideas of civilised life which prevailed
and were adopted by a large section of his race. Even now he was
pledged to deliver a public address against the backsliding of the
modern Jew, who was disposed to adapt his life to the altered
circumstances of the times. He had written this address, and public
attention had been drawn to the coming event. His arguments were to
himself convincing, and by them he hoped to stem the tide. He had
always been orthodox, and he hoped to prevail against the wave of
heterodoxy which was sweeping over modern Judaism. He had stepped
forward as a champion. In the light of the domestic revelation which
must presently be made, how dare he, himself a transgressor, presume
to teach his brethren their religious duty? His sound judgment of
things which interested or affected him was due to his common sense,
which, he had been heard to say, was a rare quality.

"You are always right," Mr. Moss once said to him. "How is it?"

"If I form a correct opinion," he replied, with a smile, "it is
because I exercise my common sense. I do not judge from my own
standpoint."

He did this now. He put himself in the place of other men. He listened
to his own confession. He passed the verdict upon himself.

"This man has been living the life of a hypocrite. He has accepted
money for false service. Not perhaps by word of mouth, but most
assuredly by his acts, he has lied. He has violated the canons of his
religion. He has deceived his wife--for money, which he pretends to
despise. He has robbed a young girl of her birthright. And he dares to
preach to us of duty!"

Who would believe him if he told the true story of his hard trial, if
he described the bitter tribulation of his soul when his beloved wife
was lying at death's door? He had counselled many men in their days of
struggle and temptation to be brave and do their duty. How had he
performed his in _his_ hour of temptation? No one would believe the
only story he could plead in extenuation of his sin. He would be
condemned by all.

And he was in the zenith of his fame. On this very day, when exposure
seemed to be approaching with, swift and certain steps, he had been
honoured as few men live to be. If he felt pleasure in the position he
had won, it was because it was a source of pride and pleasure to
Rachel. Was he, with his own hand, to destroy the ideal he had
created? Was this the plain duty that lay now before him?

"The carriage is at the door, sir."

It was a servant who interrupted his tortured musings; he had given
orders to be informed when his carriage was ready. With slow steps he
left his study.



                           BOOK THE SIXTH.

                            _RETRIBUTION_.



                           CHAPTER XXXVII.

                    ESTHER MOSS RECEIVES A LETTER.


There was an apartment in Aaron Cohen's house which was called the
Cosy Room, where the family were in the habit of sitting when they had
no visitors, and it was here that their real domestic happiness
reigned. Here Aaron used to smoke his old silver-mounted pipe, and
chat with his wife, and indulge in his entertaining pleasantries when
he was in the humour; and here the feeling used to steal over him that
life would hold more joy for him and those dear to him if they dwelt
in a smaller house and his doings were less under the public eye.

"I am convinced," he would say, "that those who are in the lower
middle class are the best off. They have fewer cares, they have more
time for domestic enjoyment, they can attend without hindrance to
their own affairs. Their neighbours are not jealous of them; they are
not high enough to be envied, nor low enough to be pitied. There is no
happiness in riches. Miserable man that I am! Why do I continue to
wish to accumulate more money?"

"Because," Rachel would answer affectionately, "it enables you to
contribute to the happiness of others. But I should be as contented if
we were poor."

On the occasion of Mr. Dillworthy's visit to Aaron a scene of a
different nature was being enacted in the Cosy Room. Rachel was
overpowered with languor, and she fell into a doze. The apartment was
large; but an arrangement of screens, and the disposal of the
furniture, made it look small; domestically speaking, there is no
comfort in any but a small room. Esther, during her present visit, had
noticed with concern that Mrs. Cohen appeared weak, that her
movements, which were always gentle, were more languid than usual, and
that her quiet ways seemed to be the result of physical prostration.
She spoke of it to Rachel, who confessed that she had not felt strong
lately, but cautioned the young girl to say nothing of it to Aaron.

"He is so easily alarmed about me," she said, "and he has great
anxieties upon him."

"But you should see the doctor," urged Esther, solicitously.

"I will wait a day or two," answered Rachel, and again enjoined Esther
not to alarm her husband.

On the evening of this exciting day she looked so pale and fatigued
that she yielded to Esther's solicitations, and, without Aaron's
knowledge, sent for the physician who was in the habit of attending
her. While waiting for him she fell asleep in her armchair in the Cosy
Room. At her request Esther played softly some of Rachel's favourite
pieces; the piano was behind a screen at one end of the room, and
Esther did not know that she had fallen asleep. While thus employed
Prissy quietly entered the room. The faithful woman looked at her
mistress, and stepped noiselessly to the screen.

"Miss Esther," she whispered.

The girl stopped playing immediately, and came from behind the screen.

"Is it the doctor, Prissy?" she asked.

"No, miss."

Prissy pointed to her mistress, and Esther went to the armchair and
adjusted a light shawl which was falling from the sleeping lady's
shoulder. It was a slight action, but it was done with so much
tenderness that Prissy smiled approvingly. She liked Esther much
better than Ruth, who did not hold in her affections the place the
other members of the family did. Humble as was her position in the
household, she had observed things of which she disapproved. Ruth was
from home more frequently than she considered proper, and had often
said to her, "You need not tell my mother that I have gone out unless
she asks you." Prissy had not disobeyed her, and the consequence was
that Ruth was sometimes absent from the house for hours without her
mother or father being aware of it. Prissy's idea was that her young
mistress would bring trouble on the house; but she kept silence
because she would otherwise have got into trouble herself with Ruth,
and would also have distressed her dear lady if she had made mention
of her suspicions, for which she could have offered no reasonable
explanation. Prissy's distress of mind was not lessened because Ruth,
when she enjoined secrecy upon her, gave her money, as if to purchase
her silence. She would have refused these bribes; but Ruth forced them
upon her, and she felt as if she were in a conspiracy to destroy the
peace of the family.

"I did not know she was asleep," said Esther, coming back to Prissy.

"I'm sure you didn't, miss. She falls off, you know."

"Yes, I know," said Esther, with affectionate solicitude.

"As she used to do a good many years ago--long before you knew her,
miss. She had gone through a severe illness, and was that delicate for
months afterwards that you could almost blow her away. She never
complained, and never did a cross word pass her lips. I'm glad you're
with her, Miss Esther: you're a real comfort to her. I've got a letter
for you, miss."

"I didn't hear the postman."

"The postman didn't bring it, miss," said Prissy, giving her the
letter. "A boy. Said immejiet."

"It must be from---- no." She was thinking of her lover as she looked
at the letter, but she saw it was not his hand. She recognised the
writing: it was Ruth's. "The envelope is not very clean, Prissy."

"So I told the boy when he brought it to the back door."

"The back door!" exclaimed Esther, rather bewildered.

"It's curious, isn't it, miss, that it wasn't sent by post?"

"Yes, it is. What did the boy say?"

"It's what I said first, miss. 'You've been and dropped it in the
gutter,' I said; but he only laughed, and said it was give to him this
morning, and that he was to bring it to the servants' entrance and ask
for Prissy."

"But why didn't he deliver it this morning?" asked Esther, her
bewilderment growing.

"I don't know, miss. He's been playing in the streets all day, I
expect. Anyway, he said I was to give it to you when nobody was
looking. It's Miss Ruth's writing, miss."

Esther made no remark upon this, but asked, "Did he say who gave it to
him?"

"A young lady, he said, miss."

"That will do, Prissy."

"Can I do anything for you, miss?"

"Nothing, thank you."

Prissy gone, Esther looked at the envelope, and saw written in one
corner, "Read this when you are alone." Troubled and perplexed, she
stood with the letter in her hand; but when the door was opened again
and the doctor was announced, she put it hastily into her pocket, and
went forward to meet him.

Dr. Roberts had attended Rachel for some years past, and took the
deepest interest in her.

"Sleeping," he said, stepping to her side. He turned to Esther, and,
questioning her, learned why he had been sent for. "She falls asleep,"
he said, with his fingers on Rachel's pulse. "Ah, you are awake," as
Rachel sat upright. "Now, let us see what is the matter. You are not
in pain? No. That's good."

"There is really nothing the matter with me, doctor," said Rachel.

"But you feel weak and drowsy at times. We will soon set that right."

Dr. Roberts was one of those cheerful physicians whose bright ways
always brighten their patients. "Make the best of a case," was a
favourite saying of his, "not the worst."

He remained with Rachel a quarter of an hour, advised her to get to
bed, gave her instructions as to food, ordered her a tonic, and took
his leave. Esther went with him into the passage.

"There is no danger, doctor?"

"Not the slightest, my dear," he answered, in a fatherly manner. "But
I would advise perfect rest. Don't tell her anything exciting. She
must not be worried. Get a humorous story and read it to her. Make her
laugh. Let everything be bright and cheerful about her. But I need not
say that: it always is--eh? If you have any troubles, keep them to
yourself. But what troubles should a young girl like you have?"

He met Aaron at the street door.

"Ah, Mr. Cohen, I have been to see your wife--in a friendly way."

"She is not ill?" asked Aaron, in an anxious tone, stepping back.

"No; a little weak, that is all. Don't go up to see her; I have just
left her, and she will think there is something the matter, when
there's nothing that cannot be set right in a few days. She wants
tone, that is all, and rest, and perfect freedom from excitement. That
is essential. Such a day as this, flattering and pleasant as it must
have been, is not good for her. Keep her mind at rest, let her hear
nothing that is likely to disturb her, speak of none but cheerful
subjects to her, and she will be herself again in a week. Follow my
advice, and there is not the least cause for alarm."



                           CHAPTER XXXVIII.

                            RUTH'S SECRET.


Dr. Roberts spoke so heartily and confidently that Aaron's anxiety was
relieved, and the counsel that Rachel should be told nothing that was
likely to disturb her was something like a reprieve, as it prevented
him from precipitating matters. A few days were still left for
reflection, and he went forth to his public duties with a lighter
heart.

Esther, meanwhile, was busy for some time attending to Rachel, who
wished the young girl to remain with her till she was asleep. With
Ruth's letter in her pocket, which had been delivered almost
clandestinely at the house, and which she was enjoined to read when
she was alone, she was compelled to bridle her impatience. She did not
dare to speak of it to Rachel, and the course the conversation took in
the bedroom did not tend to compose her. Rachel spoke only of family
matters, of her husband and children, and presently the conversation
drifted entirely to the subject of Ruth.

"Young girls," said Rachel, "confide in each other. There is a true
affection between you, is there not, my dear?"

"Yes," replied Esther, wondering what was coming, and dreading it.

"It happens sometimes," continued Rachel, with a sigh, "that parents
do not entirely win their children's confidence. Joseph has not a
secret from me. Do you think Ruth is quite happy, my dear?"

"I think so," said Esther.

"I am not asking you to break a confidence she may have reposed in
you----"

Esther could not refrain from interrupting her.

"But, dear mother, I know nothing."

As she uttered the words a guilty feeling stole over her. What did the
letter in her pocket contain?

Rachel drew the girl's face to hers, and caressed her.

"Now it is you," she said, "who are speaking as if you are in trouble.
I am very inconsiderate; but love has its pains as well as its joys.
You have no trouble, Esther?"

"None, dear mother. I am perfectly happy."

"See how mistaken I am; and I hope I am mistaken also about Ruth. I
feared that she had some secret which she was concealing from me.
Blind people are suspicious, and breed trouble for themselves and
others."

"Not you, dear mother," said Esther, kissing her. "Now you must go to
sleep. This is quite against the doctor's orders."

Rachel smiled and yielded. She took pleasure in being led by those she
loved.

In the solitude of her chamber Esther read the letter.


"Darling Esther,--

"I am in great trouble, and you must help me. You are the only friend
I have in the world----but no, I must not say that; it is not true.
What I mean is, you are the only friend at home I can trust.

"Father and mother, and you, too, think I am in Portsmouth with your
family. Dear Esther, I am in London; I have been in London all the
week. The happiness of my life is in your hands; remember that.

"I went down to Portsmouth, but I only stayed two days. I told your
father I had to pay a visit to other friends, and he believed me. And
now I hear he is in London, and of course will come to the house. He
is the only person you may tell; you must beg him not to say a word
about my going from Portsmouth; you must make him promise; you don't
know what depends upon it. Speak to him quietly, and say he must not
betray me; he will do anything for you.

"Dear, darling Esther, I have a secret that I cannot disclose yet. I
will soon--perhaps to-morrow, perhaps in a week; I cannot fix a time,
because it does not depend upon me. But remember my happiness is in
your hands.

                                  "Your loving

                                             "Ruth."


The young girl was bewildered and distressed by this communication.
They had all believed that Ruth was on a visit to Esther's family, and
Esther had received letters from her with the Portsmouth postmark on
them. It was true that Ruth had asked her, as a particular favour, not
to reply to the letters, and though Esther considered it a strange
request, she had complied with it. Ruth's stronger will always
prevailed with her. But what did it all mean? If Ruth had been in
London a week, where was she stopping? Esther's character could hardly
as yet be said to be formed: it was sweet, but it lacked decision, and
now that she was called upon to act in a matter of importance she
looked helplessly round, as if for guidance. She was glad when Prissy
knocked at her door and said that her father was downstairs. Part of
the responsibility seemed to be already lifted from her shoulders.

"Prissy," she said, before she went down, "you haven't spoken to
anybody about the letter?"

"No, miss."

"Don't say anything about it, please. Mrs. Cohen is not well, and the
doctor is very particular that she shall not be bothered or worried."

"I won't say anything, miss." She shook her head gravely as Esther
tripped downstairs, and muttered, "Trouble's coming, or my name ain't
what it is."

"I am so glad you are here, father," said Esther; "I have something to
tell you."

"I have something to tell _you_," said Mr. Moss. "Such an odd
impression! Of course I must be mistaken. But first I want to know how
Mrs. Cohen is. I thought she was not looking strong to-day."

Esther told him of the doctor's visit and the instructions he had
given, and then handed him Ruth's letter, which he read in silence.

"I don't like the look of it," he said. "I hate mystery, and I cannot
decide immediately whether it ought to be kept from Mr. Cohen."

"Oh, father," cried Esther, "Ruth will never forgive me if I betray
her."

"I don't think it is a question of betrayal," said Mr. Moss. "She
tells you to speak to me, and you have done so. I take the blame on
myself, whatever happens. My dear, you are not old enough to
understand such matters, and you must leave this to me. The letter
will be better in my keeping than in yours. Just consider, Esther;
would you have behaved so?"

"No, father, I could not."

"There is the answer. The odd impression I spoke of was that I saw
Ruth to-night in a hansom cab. I thought I was mistaken, but now I am
convinced it was she. If I had known what I know now I should have
followed her. As to Ruth never forgiving you, what will Mr. Cohen's
feelings be towards you when he discovers that you have acted in a
treacherous manner towards him and his wife? Ruth is very little older
than yourself, and I am afraid cannot discriminate between right and
wrong; she must not be allowed to drag us into a conspiracy against
the peace of the family."

Esther was dismayed; she had not looked upon it in this light.

"Was Ruth alone?" she asked, in a faltering voice.

"No, she had a gentleman with her. It is a bad business--a bad
business. I intended to return to Portsmouth to-morrow, but now I
shall remain till the matter is cleared up."

"Shall you speak to Mr. Cohen to-night, father?"

"No. I shall do nothing till the morning; I must have time to consider
how to act. Mr. Cohen will not be home till past midnight, and he will
be completely tired out with the fatigues of the day. To think that it
should turn out so! Good-night, my dear child. Get to bed, and try to
sleep. Things may turn out better than we expect, after all."

But despite that hope Mr. Moss, when he left Aaron's house, could find
nothing more cheerful to occupy his mind than the _Miserere_ from "Il
Trovatore," which he hummed dolefully as he trudged through the
streets. There was very little sleep for his daughter on this night,
and very little also for Aaron Cohen. The cloud that was gathering was
too ominous for repose.



                            CHAPTER XXXIX.

            THE HONOURABLE PERCY STORNDALE MAKES AN APPEAL
                           TO AARON COHEN.


On the following morning Aaron had a great deal of work before him
which could not be neglected. He had returned home late on the
previous night, after an exhausting interview with the strikers, in
which he had won the battle. It is to be doubted whether any other man
in London could have exercised so commanding an influence over men who
were convinced that they had right on their side, and many of whom
were still inclined to hold out for better terms than Aaron was
empowered to offer them; but his arguments prevailed in the end, and
the men gave way. Neither the masters nor the strikers obtained all
they desired; each side had to concede something; though, in the main,
the advantage lay with the men, whose delegates, in generous words,
acknowledged the services which Aaron had rendered to the cause they
were fighting for. The newspapers, in recording that the strike was
over, were no less generous in their acknowledgments. "It will be long
remembered," said the editor of a leading journal, "that a grave
danger has been averted chiefly through the influence and high
character of one of the most esteemed of our Jewish citizens. To Mr.
Aaron Cohen, and to him alone, may be said to be due the credit of
terminating a strike which, had it been much longer continued, would
have had a disastrous effect upon an important industry, and in the
performance of a service which was as disinterested as it was arduous
he has established his claim to be ranked among the public benefactors
of the country. Masters may well take a lesson from this gentleman,
who, in the building up of his own fortunes, has been consistently
mindful of the interests and well-being of his workmen. Herein we see
the value of character and its influence on the masses. Were capital
generally to follow the example of Mr. Cohen in its dealings with
labour there would be less room for discontent. In another column will
be found an account of the proceedings which took place at this
gentleman's house yesterday, upon which occasion a deserved honour was
paid to him. If he deserved, as he certainly did, such a tribute
yesterday, he deserves it tenfold to-day when the thanks of the nation
are due to him for his successful efforts in the builders' strike." At
any other time Aaron would have been proud to read these remarks, but
now he put the newspaper aside with a heavy sigh. The higher the
position the greater the fall. He alone knew that his fair reputation
was in danger, and that the honourable edifice he had built for
himself was tottering to the ground. From these matters, however, his
attention was diverted by a visit from his wife's physician.

Dr. Roberts had not been quite ingenuous in his report of Rachel's
condition: his ripe experience warned him that a crisis might occur,
and that a few days must elapse before the extent of the danger, if
any existed, could be ascertained. It was this that caused him to call
early at the house to see Rachel, and when he left her he sought Aaron
to confer with him. The moment the doctor entered the room Aaron's
thoughts flew to his beloved, and he started up in alarm.

"Doctor!" he cried.

"Now what do you see in my face," said Dr. Roberts, with a smile, "to
cause you to start up so suddenly? Sit down, sit down, and let me tell
you at once that your wife is in no danger--only she requires a little
care and attention. I have come to give you advice, if you will listen
to it."

"Of course I will listen to it."

"Of course you will; and you will follow it."

"To the letter."

"That is right. My advice is that you send Mrs. Cohen at once to the
seaside. She will be better out of London. I saw on her table a number
of letters--begging letters, I was informed--which Miss Moss had been
reading to her. Just now she is not equal to the strain. She must be
free from the emotions created by these appeals, and from anything of
an agitating nature. Perfect repose and rest--that is what she
requires, with brighter sunshine and a balmier air, and in a week or
two she will be well. I should recommend Bournemouth, and if you wish
I will run down and see her there. Meanwhile, I will give you the name
of a physician who will understand her case as well as I do. Let Miss
Moss go with her; your wife is fond of her, and she is a cheerful
companion, though she seems to be rather depressed this morning. I
have been lecturing the young lady, and she tells me she has had a bad
night. It will do them both good."

"I cannot accompany her to-day," said Aaron. "I have so many important
matters to attend to. We will go down to-morrow."

"Send her to-day," urged the physician, "and you can follow on
to-morrow, or later. It is good weather for travelling; in a few hours
it may change. To-day, by all means. We doctors are autocrats, you
know, and will not listen to argument. To-day."

Had the business he had to attend to been of less importance, Aaron
would have put it aside, and travelled with his wife to the seaside;
but it was business which imperatively demanded his personal
attention, and he had no alternative but to send her with Esther and
the ever faithful Prissy, in whom he had every confidence. He
accompanied them as far as the railway station, and held Rachel's hand
in his as they drove to Waterloo. It was not only that they were still
lovers, but that he felt the need of the moral support which he
derived from the tender hand-clasp.

"Do not be anxious about me, dear," said Rachel, "and do not come down
till Friday. Then you can stop till Monday morning, and perhaps Joseph
will be home by then, and he can come with you. He will not be able to
keep away from Esther, and he has but a short time to remain in
England. Nothing really ails me except a little weakness which I shall
soon overcome. If Ruth is happy in Portsmouth let her remain there if
she wishes. We are growing old, love, you and I, and we must not tie
our children too closely to our sides. They will fly away as the young
birds do, and make nests of their own. May their homes be as happy as
ours has been--may their lives be as happy as you have made mine!"

In such-like tender converse the minutes flew by, and as the train
steamed out of the station Rachel's face, with a bright smile upon it,
was turned towards her husband.

On the road home Aaron telegraphed to Ruth in Portsmouth, addressing
his telegram to Mr. Moss's house; he desired her to return to London
to-day or to-morrow. He felt that he must speak to her with as little
delay as possible respecting the disclosure which Mr. Dillworthy had
made to him; it would be playing the coward's part, indeed, if he did
not immediately ascertain the nature of her feelings for the
Honourable Percy Storndale. Thus far the first step of his duty; what
steps were to follow he had not yet determined upon.

Arriving at his house, he found Mr. Moss waiting to see him. Esther
had left a letter for her father acquainting him with their departure
for the seaside, and giving him their address in Bournemouth, which
she was enabled to do because Aaron had made arrangements by telegraph
for their reception in a Jewish house there. After a few words of
explanation of the cause of Rachel and Esther leaving so suddenly,
Aaron informed his friend that he had telegraphed to Ruth to come home
at once. Mr. Moss started.

"You sent the telegram to my house?" he said.

"Certainly. I am sorry to break her visit, which she must have
enjoyed, but there is a necessity for it. As my oldest friend you
should not be kept in ignorance of this necessity, and we will agree
that it is not to be spoken of outside ourselves without my consent."

Thereupon he related the part of his interview with Mr. Dillworthy
that affected Ruth and the son of Lord Storndale.

"There is another matter," he said, "of great importance which was
mentioned during the interview, and which we may speak of presently.
You now know my reason for sending to Ruth to come home. I must learn
the truth from her own lips."

"Strangely enough," said Mr. Moss, nervously, "I have come to say
something about Ruth myself."

"Surely not in connection with this matter?" exclaimed Aaron.

"You must be the judge of that, Cohen. Did you notice whether Esther
was looking well?"

"She looked tired. Dr. Roberts said she had passed a bad night, and
that the change would do her good."

"A bad night. No wonder, poor child! I scarcely slept an hour with
what is on my mind. You will be surprised at what I have to tell you.
But first--Esther said nothing about Ruth?"

"Nothing whatever."

"You must not blame her; she acted by my directions, and her lips are
sealed."

"Why should I blame her? She is a dear good child; I have implicit
faith and confidence in her. You alarm me, Mr. Moss. Speak plainly, I
beg of you."

"Yes, I will do so, but I would have liked to break it gradually.
Cohen, Ruth is not in Portsmouth."

"Not in Portsmouth! Where, then?"

"If what she writes and my eyes are to be believed, she is in London,
and has been there all the week, She remained with us two days, and
then left, saying she was going to pay a visit to some other friends.
We naturally thought, though we expected her to make a longer stay,
that you were aware of it, and that the plan of her visit had been
altered with your concurrence. Last night, as I passed through Regent
Street, I saw a lady in a hansom in the company of a gentleman, and I
could have sworn it was Ruth; but the cab was driving at a quick pace,
and I thought I must have been deceived. I came on here to Esther, and
the poor child was in deep distress. She had received a letter from
Ruth, which she gave me to read. I do not offer any excuse for taking
the letter from her; she is but a child, and is quite unfit for a
responsibility which, without her consent, was imposed upon her. Here
is the letter; it explains itself."

Aaron read it with conflicting feelings. His first thought was that
Ruth had taken her fate into her own hands. He had done his duty
zealously by her in the past, whatever might be his duty in the
present. If, as was his fervent hope, no dishonour to her was involved
in her flight--for it was no less than flight, and desertion of the
home in which she had been reared--if there had been a secret
marriage, new contingencies of the future loomed dimly before him,
contingencies in which the stern task it was his duty to perform was
not so terrible in its import. The past could never be condoned, but
in his consideration of the future one figure towered above all
others, the figure of his wife. If for her the suffering could be made
less--if the fact of Ruth taking her course without his prompting,
even in defiance of the lessons he had endeavoured to inculcate, would
mitigate the severity of the blow, was it not something to be grateful
for? If, he argued mentally, she and the son of Lord Storndale were
married, they had little to hope for from the Storndale family. Their
dependence, then, rested upon him, and he resolved that he would not
fail the rash couple. His hope of an honourable, though secret,
marriage was based upon his knowledge of Ruth's character. She was not
given to exaggerated sentiment, he had never known her to go into
heroics, she possessed certain sterling qualities of strength and
determination. Granted that she was led away by the glamour of wedding
the son of a peer, he was convinced she would not so far forget
herself as to bring shame upon herself and her connections. She was
Christian born, and she had the right to marry a Christian; by her own
unprompted act she had cut the Gordian knot. That the Honourable Percy
Storndale had a double motive in pursuing her was likely enough; love,
Aaron hoped, being one, the fact of her reputed father being a wealthy
man the other. Well, he would fulfil the young man's expectations;
there was nothing in the shape of worldly atonement which he was not
ready and anxious to make.

In the midst of his musings a servant presented himself with a
telegram and a card. The card bore the name of The Hon. Percy
Storndale, the telegram was from Mrs. Moss in Portsmouth.

"Wait outside," Aaron said to the servant, who left the room.

The telegram was to the effect that Ruth was not in Portsmouth, and
that Mrs. Moss, in her absence, had taken the liberty of reading the
message, under the idea that it might contain something which required
an immediate answer. "Is Ruth coming to us again?" Mrs. Moss asked.

Aaron passed the telegram and the card to Mr. Moss.

"Keep in the house," he said, "while I have an interview with this
gentleman. Wait in the library, and tell the servant to show Mr.
Storndale into this room."

In a few moments the young man was ushered in and Aaron motioned him
to a seat.

It is a human failing to run into extremes. No man is quite so good or
bad as he is represented to be by his admirers or detractors. In his
anxiety to prejudice Aaron against Lord Storndale's son Mr. Dillworthy
had done the young man an injustice. A scapegrace he was, without
doubt, but he had been educated into his vices and extravagances--it
may be said with truth carefully reared into them--and he was
certainly no worse than hundreds of other men who are brought up
with no definite aim in life, and are educated without any sensible
and serious effort being made to impress them with life's
responsibilities. He had, indeed, the advantage of many, for although
he considered it perfectly excusable to get into debt with tradesmen
and to borrow from moneylenders without an expectation of being able
to pay either one or the other, he would not have descended so low as
to pick a pocket or to cheat at cards. More of the pigeon than the
gull, he looked always to his family to get him out of his scrapes; he
believed it to be their duty; and it was upon him, not upon them, that
injustice was inflicted when he was thrown entirely upon his own
resources and he was given to understand that for the future he would
have to settle his own liabilities.

He was fair-haired and blue-eyed, and passably good-looking; beyond
this there was nothing remarkable in his appearance; but there was
that air of good humour and careless ease about him which generally
wins favour with women who do not look beneath the surface. Just now
he was manifestly ill at ease, for he had never before been engaged
upon a mission so awkward and embarrassing. That he was impressed by
Aaron's dignified manner was evident; he had expected to meet a man of
a different stamp. Each waited for the other to speak, and Aaron was
not the first to break the silence.

"I have taken the liberty of visiting you upon a rather delicate
matter," said the young gentleman, "and it is more difficult than I
anticipated."

"Yes?" said Aaron, and said no more.

The monosyllable was uttered in the form of a question, and did not
lessen the difficulties in the young man's way.

"Yes," he replied, and was at a loss how to continue; but again Aaron
did not assist him.

"Upon my honour," he said at length, "I would not undertake to say
whether I would rather be in this room than out of it, or out of it
than in it." He gave a weak laugh here, with a half idea that he had
said something rather clever; but still he met with no encouragement
from Aaron. "It is so difficult, you see," he added. "I do not suppose
you know me."

"No," said Aaron; "I do not know you."

"I thought it possible that your daughter, Miss Cohen, you know, might
have mentioned me to you."

"She has never done so."

"It was my fault entirely. I said, on no account; and naturally she
gave in."

"Did she wish to mention you to me?"

"Oh yes; but I insisted. I don't exactly know why, but I did, and she
gave in. I daresay I was a blockhead, but I hope you will find excuses
for me."

"At present I can find none. We shall understand each other if you
come to the point."

"I will try to do so, but it is not easy, I assure you Mr. Cohen,
after the way I have behaved. Upon second thoughts I do not see, upon
my honour I do not see, how you can be expected to find excuses for
me. But it does happen sometimes that a fellow meets another fellow
who helps a lame dog over the stile. I am the lame dog, you know."

"It may assist you," said Aaron, "if I ask you one question, and if
you frankly answer it. Are you a married man?"

"Upon my soul, sir," exclaimed the Honourable Percy Storndale, "I
cannot be sufficiently thankful to you. Yes, sir, I am a married man."

"Long married?"

"Four days, Mr. Cohen."

"Can you show me proof of it?"

"I thank you again, sir. But it wasn't my idea; it was my wife's.
'Take the marriage certificate with you,' she said. She has wonderful
ideas."

"Let me see the certificate."

The young man instantly produced it, and Aaron, with a deep-drawn
breath of relief, saw recorded there the marriage of Miss Ruth Cohen
and the Honourable Percy Storndale.

"You married my--my daughter, I see," said Aaron, "in a registrar's
office."

"I don't know how to apologise to you, sir," said the young man, as
relieved by Aaron's calm attitude as Aaron was himself at this proof
of an honourable union. "I can't conceive anything meaner; but what
could I do? Ruth--Miss Cohen, you know--being a Jewess, could not well
have been married in a church, and I, being a Christian, could not
well have been married in a synagogue. It was a very delicate point; I
am not acquainted with the law on the subject, but no fellow can deny
that it was a delicate point. Then there was another difficulty.
Bridesmaids, bridesmaids' presents, and general expenses, to say
nothing of the publicity when the parties principally concerned wanted
to get it over quietly and quickly. Ruth said you would never consent;
I said my family would never consent; so what else was there for it?
Pray forgive me if I am expressing myself clumsily."

"Your family did not encourage the match?"

"Dead against it; from the first dead against it. Bullied and
threatened me. 'What!' they cried, 'marry a Jewess!' 'As good as any
Christian,' I retorted. But did you ever know a Storndale listen to
reason, Mr. Cohen?"

"You are a Storndale," said Aaron, quietly.

"Had me there," chuckled the young man. "'Gad, sir, you had me there.
Well, sir, that is how it stands, and if you show me the door I'll not
say I don't deserve it."

"I will not show you the door, but it is not correct to say that is
how it stands, as if there were nothing more to explain. Mr.
Storndale, if the lady you have married were a Christian, would your
family have objected?" The young man laughed in a weak awkward way.
"Answer me frankly, this and other questions it is my duty to put."

"My family would not have objected," said the Honourable Percy
Storndale, "if there had been settlements. You see, sir, we are not
exactly rolling in money, and I am a younger son. No expectations,
sir. A poor gentleman."

"An imprudent marriage, Mr. Storndale."

"No denying it, sir; and it has only come home to me the last day or
two. Marriage in such circumstances pulls a fellow up, you see, makes
him reflect, you know. My wife's an angel, and that makes it cut
deeper. A married fellow thinks of things. As a bachelor I never
thought of to-morrow, I give you my word on it. So long as I had a
five-pound note in my pocket I was happy. To-morrow! Hang to-morrow!
That was the way of it. I've only just woke up to the fact that there
is a to-morrow."

"Was it a love match, Mr. Storndale?"

"On both sides, sir. Without vanity--and I don't deny I've got my
share of that--I may speak for her as well as for myself."

"From the first, a love match, Mr. Storndale? Did it never occur to
you that I was a rich man?"

"You drive me hard, sir, but I'm not going to play fast and loose with
you. 'Be prepared, Percy,' Ruth says to me. 'My father is a wise as
well as a just and kind man, and I don't know whether he will ever
forgive me; but you will make a sad mistake if you don't speak the
honest truth to him.' The truth it shall be, as I am a gentleman. I
did think of Ruth's father being a rich man, and seeing us through it.
But after a little while I got so over head and heels that I thought
only of her. I give you my word, sir, I never had the feelings for any
woman that I have for Ruth, and that, I think, is why I'm rather
scared when I think of to-morrow. If I hadn't been afraid of losing
her I might have come straight to you before we went to the registrar,
but I didn't care to run the risk. What would you do, sir, for a woman
you loved?"

"Everything--anything."

"You would stake everything against nothing, with a certainty of
losing, rather than give her up?"

"I would make any earthly sacrifice for her."

"Well, sir, you know how I feel. I don't set myself up as a good man;
I've done foolish things, and I dare say shall do more foolish things,
but not half nor quarter as many with a clever woman by my side to
keep me straight. What some of us want, sir, is ballast; I never had
it till now, and even now perhaps it's of no use to me. Until a week
ago I had to think for one; now I have to think for two. But thinking
won't help me through, I'm afraid."

Never before had the Honourable Percy Storndale expressed himself in
so manly a fashion; it was as though contact with Aaron were bringing
out his best qualities.

"Was it your intention, Mr. Storndale, to come to me so soon after
your marriage?"

"I had no settled intention when to come, sir, but I have been forced
to it sooner than I expected."

"What has forced you to it?"

"Writs. I give you my word they are flying about, and I am afraid I
shall have to fly too. When needs must, you know, sir."

"Are you heavily in debt?"

"To the tune of three thousand, sir."

"When a question of this kind is asked, the answer is generally below
the mark."

"True enough, sir, but I am pretty close to it this time. Ruth's an
angel, but she's a sensible woman as well. She made me put everything
down."

"If I settle the claims against you"--the young man looked up with a
flush on his face--"you will get into debt again."

"I'll try not to, sir."

"Honestly, Mr. Storndale?"

"Honestly, Mr. Cohen. Ruth will keep me straight."

"Leave me your address. I will come and see you to-night at eight
o'clock. Make out a clear and truthful list of your debts; omit
nothing. Meanwhile----"

He wrote a cheque, and handed it to the young man, who received it in
astonishment, which deepened when he saw the amount for which it was
drawn. He was in no way prepared for such liberality and such a
reception as he had met with.

"I don't know how to thank you, sir."

"Take care of Ruth. Be kind and considerate to her."

"I will do my best, sir."

He shook hands gratefully with Aaron, and with a light heart went to
gladden his young wife with the good news.



                             CHAPTER XL.

                          A DUTY PERFORMED.


Before Mr. Moss rejoined him, Aaron had repented of his promise to
call and see the young couple in the evening. This vacillation was a
proof of the effect recent events had had upon his mind; it was really
unbalanced; the prompt decision of all matters, whether great or
small, which presented themselves for consideration, seemed to have
deserted him. He felt that he could not depend upon himself in the
promised interview with Ruth, and that he might precipitate a
discovery, the proper time for which, he believed, had not yet
arrived. That it would have to be made eventually was certain; truth
and justice demanded it, and the claim should be met, but not to-day,
not until other plans with respect to his future were settled. For
there had already grown in his mind a conviction that he was not
worthy of the position he held among his co-religionists, that it was
his duty to retire into obscurity, and not presume to teach what
should be done in important issues where he himself had so signally
failed. He mentally asked why had he not recognised this earlier; and
the answer that trod upon the heels of the question brought a pitiful
smile of self-despisal to his lips. He had been living deliberately in
an atmosphere of deceit, trusting to chance to avoid detection and
exposure. He could lay blame upon no other shoulders than his own; he,
and he alone, was responsible for the consequences of his acts. Well,
he would not shrink from them, he would accept them humbly, and rest
his hopes in the mercy of God. If, when the hour arrived for open
confession--and arrive it must before many weeks were past--he could
still retain the love of his wife, if she would forgive him for the
deception he had practised, he would be content, he might even be
happy again, fallen as he would be from his high estate. Meanwhile
there lay upon him the obligation of lifting Ruth and her husband from
poverty, of placing them in an honourable and independent position,
and this task he would ask his friend Mr. Moss to undertake for him.

"All is explained," he said, when that gentleman re-entered the room.
"Ruth has done what cannot be undone. She and Mr. Storndale are
married."

"Married!" exclaimed Mr. Moss. He was startled at the news, but no
less startled at the calm voice in which it was communicated to him.
"What are you going to do about it?"

"Accept it," replied Aaron; "there is no alternative."

"It is an outrage. He should be made to suffer for it."

"He must not be made to suffer for it, nor must Ruth. Apart from the
personal consideration of the matter so far as it affects myself, and
from another consideration which doubtless is in your mind, Mr.
Storndale has acted as honourably as we could expect from one in his
position. There has been concealment and deception, but it is not for
me to cast a stone against him. The young man is in difficulties, and
I have resolved to clear him from them, and to provide for Ruth's
future. They will expect to see me to-night; but I cannot trust
myself. I wish you to undertake the task for me, and to carry the
whole matter through. Mr. Moss, all through my life you have been my
sincere friend, and I value your friendship; you will not fail me
now?"

"No, Cohen, no; I will do whatever you wish me to do; but it is hardly
what I expected of you."

"You are surprised that I do not show anger at this marriage, that I
do not express resentment against Mr. Storndale?"

"I am."

"Before long," said Aaron, placing his hand on his friend's shoulder,
"you will understand why I am so calm. I can trust you, and when I
confess that there was in my life an hour when temptation assailed me
and I fell before it, I feel that my confidence will be respected
until the time arrives when all the world will know what is hidden in
my breast, what has been hidden for the last twenty years."

"For the last twenty years! Cohen, that takes us back to the old
Gosport days!"

"It does. But ask me no questions now, for I am not prepared to answer
them. Great changes are coming in my life, and I must arm myself to
meet them. If only Rachel will forgive!"

He covered his eyes with his hand, and turned away.

"Cohen," said Mr. Moss presently, "I see that you are unstrung, that
you are suffering. You are doing yourself an injustice; I am sure of
it, I am sure of it. I do not pretend to understand what it is that
distresses you, but I would like to say that you may depend upon me in
any difficulty. You may turn against yourself, but you are not going
to turn an old friend like me against you."

Aaron pressed Mr. Moss's hand, and then explained the task he wished
performed. Mr. Moss was to call upon Ruth and her husband, and obtain
from them an honest and faithful account of their position. This done,
he was to pay every shilling the young man owed; after which a
settlement of a thousand pounds a year was to be made upon Ruth as a
marriage portion, the money to be absolutely at her own disposal.

"It is not a great deal," said Aaron, "for a gentleman, the son of a
peer, to live upon; but his family in a little while, when they learn
the truth about Ruth"--he paused, and Mr. Moss nodded gravely; a
strange suspicion was beginning to haunt him--"may be disposed to
forgive him, and through their influence he may obtain a lucrative
appointment. From the way in which he spoke I am disposed to think
that he may turn over a new leaf, and that an honourable future may
lie before him and Ruth. Give her my love, and say that circumstances
render it impossible for me to see her for a few days, and that when
we meet I shall have something of great importance to disclose to her.
Be patient with me, Mr. Moss. My words point to a mystery which will
soon be public property. What you are about to do for me can scarcely
be finished before the end of the week, but I cannot rest until it is
finished. My own affairs will entirely occupy me, and I must run down
to Bournemouth to see Rachel."

"I will not waste a moment," said Mr. Moss. "How about the money
necessary for the settlement and the payment of Mr. Storndale's debts?
Have you calculated how much it will cost you? A large sum, Cohen."

"It will be forthcoming; the means will be placed in your hands
to-morrow. Do not return here tonight. Come and breakfast with me at
nine in the morning."

Aaron sat up till long past midnight, making calculations, and
arranging his affairs. He was quite resolved to retire from public
life, and altogether from business; and to effect this there was much
to do. He had uncompleted contracts in hand which he would transfer to
employers of whose methods he approved, and he had just obtained
another which a dozen contractors would be eager to take off his
hands. He thought of Mr. Poynter, and shook his head. To such a man he
could not entrust any of his responsibilities. Then he devoted himself
to an examination of his private financial position.

After providing for Ruth he calculated that he could realise a sum of
about ninety thousand pounds, in addition to which there were his
house and furniture, which would realise another ten thousand. One
third of this would be sufficient to provide for Ruth and her husband,
one third should be divided among the Jewish charities, and one third
should be invested for himself and Rachel. This would produce an
income of between eight and nine hundred pounds, amply sufficient for
the maintenance of a comfortable home either in London or the country.

"Rachel will be content," he thought; "and the years that are left to
us shall be passed in peace, away from the turmoil and fever of life.
If she will but forgive me--if she will but forgive!"

All depended upon that.

He held offices of honour in the synagogue which he would immediately
resign; there and then he wrote his letters of resignation. There had
been a time when he was called upon to support a movement in respect
of these honourable offices. A man who had grown rich by usury and
fraud had succeeded in getting himself nominated for a high position
in the synagogue, and this had aroused the displeasure of the more
respectable members of the community, who had enlisted Aaron on their
side. His all-powerful influence had settled the question, and the
usurer was taught a salutary lesson. From that time a strict watch was
kept upon these dignities, which were conferred upon none whose past
lives would not bear strict scrutiny. Aaron thought of this as he drew
forth the address upon modern Judaism he had undertaken to deliver,
hoping thereby to counteract the loose views of religious obligations
which threatened to sap the foundations of the old faith. He read the
powerful arguments he had written to this end, and sighed as he read.

"Not for me the task," he murmured. "Not for me. I am not worthy. It
is for me to learn, not to teach."

He tore the manuscript and burned it; he had forfeited the right to
show his brethren the path of duty.

At length he came to the end of his labours. Before he retired to rest
he prayed long and fervently, and offered up supplications for
forgiveness.

At nine o'clock in the morning Mr. Moss presented himself, and
reported what he had done.

"Everything is in such straight order," he said, "that the whole
business can be finished to-morrow."

"It will be a great weight off my mind," said Aaron, "when all the
papers are signed. I have letters from Rachel and Esther." He passed
the young girl's letter to Mr. Moss. "She says there is no change in
Rachel, but that she thinks the air and change of scene are doing her
good. If you write to Esther do not hint at any impending trouble, and
do not mention Ruth's name, lest Rachel should suspect that something
was wrong. I ought to tell you, Mr. Moss, that I have resolved to
retire into private life; I shall be much happier, and I am sure
Rachel will be. It is a sudden resolution, and I daresay my friends
will be surprised; but I am fixed, nothing can induce me to change my
mind."

"And your contracts, Cohen?" asked Mr. Moss, who was sufficiently
familiar with Aaron's character to know that remonstrance at present
would be thrown away.

"I shall transfer them. My earnest wish is that I shall be forgotten,
and allowed to live in peace. I am growing old; let my place, which I
unworthily hold, be occupied by a better man."

"That is hardly likely to come to pass," said Mr. Moss, gravely. "You
are not old; you are in the prime of life, with very many years of
usefulness before you. But I will not argue with you; when you have
recovered from your depression, when Rachel is well again, you will
think better of it. We need you; no other man can fill your place, and
you will not be allowed to retire without remonstrance. But we will
wait till Sunday, when you are to deliver your address upon 'Judaism,
its Duties and Obligations.' After it is delivered it will be printed
in pamphlet form, will it not?"

"No; it will be neither delivered nor printed."

"Cohen!" exclaimed Mr. Moss, amazed at this statement.

"It is as I say, Mr. Moss," said Aaron, firmly.

"But it is expected; it is looked forward to, and the best results are
anticipated from it. You will not go from your word?"

"I must. The address is destroyed. I must bear whatever is said of me;
I accept it as part of my punishment."

"Of your punishment! I do not understand you."

"You will by-and-by. Mr. Moss, the man who presumes to set down laws
of right and wrong should be above reproach. Can a thief preach
honesty? Can a liar lift his voice in praise of truth?"

"These are strange utterances, Cohen, from your lips."

"There is a sad foundation for them. To know yourself--that is the
height of human wisdom; and I have learned too late. Pray do not
continue the subject; you stand in the dark, I in the light."

"Well, well," said Mr. Moss, with a sigh, "we will speak of this
another time. But I do not see what you can have to reproach yourself
with."

"Let every man search his own heart," replied Aaron, and his voice was
very mournful. "He will find the answer there. And now we will waste
no more time in idle conversation. We must go to the lawyers and the
bank. Have you a list of Mr. Storndale's debts? Ah, thank you." He
looked at the total, and drew a cheque for the amount. "The payment of
these claims will keep you busy during the day. I will give
instructions to the lawyers to prepare the deed of settlement, and
tomorrow it can be signed. You will be a trustee; I will call upon a
gentleman who will be the other. I shall spend to-night at
Bournemouth, and will come back by an early train in the morning."

"Will you not see Ruth before you leave?" asked Mr. Moss.

"No, not till everything is finished. How is she?"

"Well and happy, and overjoyed that you are not angry with her.
Between ourselves, Cohen, it is not what she expected." Under his
breath he added, "Nor what I expected, either."

"She has all the more reason for contentment," said Aaron. "I wish her
to be happy."

They had a busy time with lawyers, stockbrokers, bank managers, and
creditors, and Aaron just managed to catch the two-twenty train for
Bournemouth. He passed a quiet evening with Rachel and Esther, and
answered such questions put by his wife concerning Ruth in a manner
which seemed to satisfy her, for she did not press him upon the
subject. With Esther he had a private conversation, and cautioned her
to preserve silence as to the letter she had received. On the
following morning he took train for London, and arriving before noon,
found everything prepared for a final settlement of his plans for
Ruth's worldly future. When the deeds were signed, and the consols
bought and deposited in the Bank of England, Aaron breathed more
freely. He had made some small atonement to Ruth for the deception of
which he had been guilty.

"We have had no honeymoon trip," said the Honourable Percy Storndale
to him, "and I am thinking of taking Ruth to the Continent tomorrow."

"Yes," said Aaron, absently.

"But," added Mr. Storndale, "the trip will have no pleasure for her if
she does not see you before we go."

"I will come with you now," said Aaron.

They met and parted without any warm expression of affection. Such a
demonstration from Ruth towards one whom she believed to be her
father, but for whom she had never entertained a strong love, would
have been a new feature in her character, and grateful as she was for
his generosity she was held back by the feeling that she had given him
a poor return for his life-long kindness towards her, and by her fear
that he was quietly angry with her; while Aaron was held back by the
consciousness of his wrong-doing. And so the young couple went forth
to commence their new life, and the secret of Ruth's birth was still
unrevealed.



                             CHAPTER XLI.

             THERE IS A PROVIDENCE THAT SHAPES OUR ENDS.


Two weeks had passed away. Joseph had come and gone. In the company of
Esther and his parents he had spent three sad and happy days in
Bournemouth, happy because he was in the society of those he loved,
sad because he was so soon to part from them. Rachel's health was
improved, and it touched Aaron deeply to observe how she clung to her
son and Esther, as though she were seeking in them a recompense for
what she was losing in Ruth. He exerted himself to be bright and
cheerful, and flattered himself that he was succeeding; but, indeed,
during these days he was not the only one who was playing a part.
Rachel was also exerting herself to hide the cloud which was hanging
over her spirits because of the prolonged absence of Ruth, as to whom
both she and Aaron seemed now to have entered into a loving conspiracy
of silence.

With Joseph Aaron was compelled to be more open, and to the young man
and his affianced he imparted the news of Ruth's secret marriage.

"I have not yet broken it to your dear mother," said Aaron, "in
consequence of the state of her health. But she is growing stronger
every day, and when you are gone I will break it to her gently." He
turned to Esther, and said, "You stand now in Ruth's place, and in you
I also have gained a daughter. Do not let this news distress you. Be
true to each other, be steadfast to the old faith, and all will be
well. And be careful to say nothing to the dear mother. Leave that
task to me."

The carrying out of his intention to retire into private life, and to
entirely give up the important business transactions in which he had
been engaged for so many years, rendered it necessary that he should
be in London the greater part of these two weeks; and Mr. Moss, who
was endeavouring to get his own affairs in order, was his constant
companion during this time. The private distribution of so large a sum
of money as Aaron had set apart for charity was no easy matter, and
the officers of the institutions which were the richer for his
benevolence used much persuasion to induce him to make his
benefactions public; but on this point he was resolved. The other
important matter which occupied him was the transference of his
existing contracts. His great rival, Mr. Poynter, was especially
anxious to obtain a share of this business, and with that object in
view he called upon Aaron. But the two men could not agree; it was not
a question of terms, but a question as to certain stipulations with
respect to wages and hours of labour which Aaron insisted upon.

"Surely," protested Mr. Poynter, "you do not arrogate the right to
dictate to other employers what they shall pay their workmen?"

"Not at all," Aaron replied, "where I am not concerned. But these
contracts are mine; numbers of the workmen have been in my employ for
years, and I must protect them."

"Protect them!" exclaimed Mr. Poynter, angrily. "Against me!"

"Against all," said Aaron, firmly, "who would pay workmen less than a
fair living wage, and would put too severe a strain upon bone and
muscle."

"Bone and muscle!" cried Mr. Poynter. "Bone and fiddlesticks! You are
talking common cant, Mr. Cohen."

The interview grew stormy, and did not last much longer. When Mr.
Poynter departed it was with a burning anger against Aaron, and with a
burning desire for revenge. From that moment he looked about for the
means of compassing this revenge. "If I could only bring him down!" he
thought, "if I could only bring him down!"

At the end of the fortnight Aaron was in London, his labours over, and
at this time his own fortune amounted to something over forty-five
thousand pounds, a larger sum than he had anticipated would be left to
him.

It must be mentioned that Ruth and her husband had just returned to
London, as he was informed by letter, their honeymoon trip having come
suddenly to an end in consequence of Ruth's indisposition It was she
who wrote to him, and she was so earnest in the expression of her wish
that he would come and see her, that he had sent her a telegram saying
that he would call at eight or nine o'clock, by which time he expected
to be free. He would have called earlier, but he had an appointment
with Mr. Moss at six, his intention being to make to his old friend a
full disclosure of his secret respecting Ruth. On the following day
Rachel and Esther were coming back to London, as Rachel did not wish
to remain longer in Bournemouth.

Aaron was waiting now in his study for Mr. Moss. The cares and sorrows
of the past few months had left their mark upon him. The grey hairs
had multiplied fast, the lines in his face had deepened, and in the
kind eyes and benevolent countenance there was a touch of childlike
pathos, as though the strong man had suddenly grown weak, and was
mutely appealing for mercy.

Mr. Moss's face was flushed with excitement as he entered the room
with an evening paper in his hand.

"Have you heard the rumour, Cohen?" he asked, excitedly.

"What rumour?" inquired Aaron, rising to meet his friend.

"About your bank, the Colonial Alliance?"

"No, I have heard nothing. I have not been out of the house since the
morning."

"It came on me like a thunderclap, but it cannot be true."

"What cannot be true, Mr. Moss?" Aaron spoke quite calmly.

"Well, there's nothing definite, but you know there has been something
like a panic in the City."

"I am aware of it, but it cannot affect me. I have no investments now,
with the solitary exception of my bank shares. All my affairs are
settled, and what is left of my fortune is in the bank until I decide
how to invest it."

Mr. Moss groaned "I wish you had it safely tied up in consols. Is all
your money there?"

"Every shilling. The only investments I have not realised are the
shares I hold in the bank."

"That makes it all the worse. The shareholders are liable to the
depositors?"

"Certainly--to the extent of the unpaid portion of their shares.
Perhaps beyond that--I am not quite sure."

The flush had died out of Mr. Moss's face, which was now white with
apprehension. "They're calling it out in the streets; but here's the
paper."

He pointed to a paragraph, which stated that one of the largest banks
in the City had closed its doors half an hour before its time, and
that the panic had in consequence reached an alarming height.

"There is no name mentioned, Mr. Moss."

"No, Cohen, no; but I passed through the City on my way here, and the
name of the bank was on every one's lips. If your bank stops payment
tomorrow how will you stand?"

"If it stops payment for sufficient cause," said Aaron, in a steady
voice, "I shall be a ruined man."

"Good heavens! And you can speak of it so calmly!"

"Why not? To work myself into a frenzy will not help me. There are
worse misfortunes."

"I cannot imagine them, Cohen. Ruined? Absolutely ruined?"

"Absolutely ruined," answered Aaron, with a smile.

"And it is only yesterday that you were----" He could not continue,
and Aaron took up his words.

"It is only yesterday that I was on the top of the tree. A dangerous
height, Mr. Moss, but I must bear the fall. If, when they climb the
ladder of fortune, men would but be careful to make the lower rungs
secure! But prosperity makes them reckless. Do not look so mournful.
Happiness is as easily found in poverty as in riches."

"It may be, after all, a false alarm," groaned Mr. Moss.

"Let us hope so; though there is no smoke without a fire. We will wait
till to-morrow."

"Will you not come with me to the City now to ascertain whether it is
true or false?"

"No. It will only trouble me, and it will not affect the result. I
will wait till to-morrow."

So marked was the contrast between his cheerful and Mr. Moss's
despondent mood that it really seemed as if it were his friend's
fortune that was imperilled instead of his own. He was standing by the
door, and hearing a knock he opened it.

"I beg your pardon, sir," said the servant, "but this gentleman is
below, and wants to see Mr. Moss."

Aaron took the card without looking at it, and handed it to Mr. Moss,
who exclaimed,--

"Dr. Spenlove! What can he want here?"

"Show the gentleman up," said Aaron to the servant, after a moment's
consideration.

"Had I not better see him alone?" asked Mr. Moss.

"If you have no objection," replied Aaron, "I should prefer that you
receive him here in my presence."

They both seemed to scent a coming danger, but Aaron appeared to hail
it gladly, while Mr. Moss would rather have avoided it.

"A thousand apologies," said Dr. Spenlove to Aaron upon his entrance,
"for intruding upon you; but hearing that Mr. Moss had come to your
house I took the liberty of following him. My errand is an urgent
one."

"I am happy to see you, Dr. Spenlove," Aaron responded; "if your
business with Mr. Moss is not quite private you can speak freely
before me."

"I think," said Dr. Spenlove, half hesitating, "that it is quite
private."

"I have a distinct reason," continued Aaron, as though Dr. Spenlove
had not spoken, "for making the suggestion; it is more than likely
that I have a distinct connection with your business, and this must be
my excuse for wishing to be present. If it is of an incident in the
past you wish to speak, when you and Mr. Moss were acquainted in
Portsmouth----"

"How singular that you should have guessed it!" exclaimed Dr.
Spenlove. "It is such an incident that brings me here."

"The time was winter," pursued Aaron, "the season an inclement one. I
remember it well. For some days the snow had been falling----"

"Yes, yes. It was a terrible season for the poor."

"For one especially, a lady driven into misfortune, and who had no
friend but a stern and honourable gentleman who would only lift her
from the depths into which she had fallen on the condition that she
submitted to a cruel sacrifice. His demand was that she should give
her infant into the care of strangers, and that only in the event of
his death should she be free to seek to know its fate. Is that the
incident, Dr. Spenlove?"

"It is. I see you know all, and with Mr. Moss's consent I will speak
openly." Mr. Moss looked at Aaron, who nodded, and Dr. Spenlove
continued. "There is no need to recall all the particulars of that
bitter night when you so kindly assisted me in the search for the
unhappy mother and her child."

"None at all," said Mr. Moss; "they are very vivid in my memory."

"And in mine. Your kindness has not been forgotten either by me or by
the lady whose life, and whose child's life, were saved by you. He
shakes his head in deprecation, Mr. Cohen, but what I say is true. Had
he not, out of the kindness of his heart, accompanied me, these two
hapless human beings would have perished in the snow. I had a motive
to serve; he had none. On the night we parted in Portsmouth, Mr.
Moss, you were on the point of seeking a home for the poor babe, for
whom"--he turned to Aaron--"a liberal provision was made."

"I am acquainted with every detail of the strange story," said Aaron.
"I was residing in Gosport at the time."

Dr. Spenlove gave him a startled look. "It was in Gosport he hoped to
find this home, with a friend of whom he spoke in the highest terms.
The commission entrusted to me by Mr. Gordon--I perceive you are
familiar with the name--ended on that night, and what remained to be
done was in the hands of Mr. Moss and Mr. Gordon's lawyers. The
following morning I came to London, where I have resided ever since.
From that day until two or three weeks ago Mr. Moss and I have not
met. It was here in your house, Mr. Cohen, that, seeing him for the
first time after so long an interval, I made inquiries concerning the
infant entrusted to him. He informed me that she died very shortly, as
I understood, after she entered her new home. I was not surprised to
hear it; the exposure on that bitter night was sufficiently severe to
kill a child much older. In order that my visit to Mr. Moss to-night
may be properly understood I will relate in a few words the subsequent
history of the mother. She married Mr. Gordon, and accompanied him to
Australia, where she has resided for twenty years. She has had no
children by him, and is now a widow, and very wealthy. Unknown to Mr.
Gordon she, in her last interview with me, entrusted to me a small
iron casket--it was one I gave her, and I can identify it--in which
she deposited some articles, of the nature of which I was ignorant.
She entreated me to take steps that this box should be delivered to
the people who received her child into their home, and to obtain from
them a promise that if the child lived till she was twenty-one years
of age it was to be handed over to her, or, in the event of her child
dying or of herself claiming the box at any future time, to be handed
over to her. I informed Mr. Moss of the mother's desire, and he
promised that it should be attended to. I have looked over some old
papers, and I find that, had the child lived, she would be twenty-one
in the course of a couple of months. But the child is dead, and the
mother has appealed to me to obtain the box which she delivered into
my charge."

"The mother has appealed to you!" exclaimed Aaron. "In person?"

"In person," replied Dr. Spenlove. "She has returned to England, and
is at this moment awaiting me in my carriage below. It is not the only
appeal she has made to me. She is overwhelmed with grief at the news
of her child's death, and I have the sincerest pity for her. She
desires to know where her child is buried. Mr. Gordon's lawyers, it
appears, were so bound to secrecy by their client that they do not
feel warranted in giving her any information or assistance. She has
communicated with another firm of lawyers in London, who are unable to
assist her. As a last resource she has come to me to entreat my aid,
which, in the circumstances, I cannot refuse to give her. My errand is
now fully explained. Mr. Moss, will you see the poor lady, and give
her the information she has a right to demand?"

"I will reply for my friend," said Aaron. "Dr. Spenlove, I was the
person to whose care the child was entrusted. The casket is in this
house, and it is for me to satisfy her. Will you step down and ask her
to come up, or shall I send a servant to her?"

"It will be best for me to go," said Dr. Spenlove. "How strangely
things turn out! It is fortunate that I came here to seek Mr. Moss."

"I must speak to Mrs. Gordon alone, without witnesses," said Aaron.
"You and Mr. Moss will not mind waiting in the adjoining room for a
few minutes? The poet's words are true: 'There is a Providence that
shapes our ends, rough-hew them as we will.' The mother may have cause
to bless this night."

He bent his head humbly and solemnly as Dr. Spenlove and Mr. Moss left
the room together.



                            CHAPTER XLII.

                           A MOTHER'S JOY.


For the first time in their lives these two beings, whose fates were
so strangely linked together, faced each other--the mother who
believed her child to be dead, the father who had brought up that
child in ignorance of her birthright. It was a solemn moment, as
trying to the man who had erred as to the woman who had fallen. To him
the truth was as clear as though it were proclaimed with a tongue of
fire, to her it had yet to be revealed. How feeble was the human act
when brought into juxtaposition with destiny's decree!

Aaron's sin had been ever before him; the handwriting had been ever on
the wall. Scarcely for one day during the last twenty years had the
voice of conscience been stilled, and it had been part of his
punishment that the inherited instincts of the child had worked
inexorably against all his efforts; her silent resistance to the
lessons he would have inculcated had been too powerful for him; and in
the end she had turned resolutely from the path into which, with
inward reproaches, he had endeavoured to lead her, and had obeyed the
promptings of her nature in mapping out her own future.

Keen as were Aaron's sufferings, he experienced a sense of relief that
the bolt had fallen, and that the hour of retribution had arrived; the
agony of suspense had been almost unbearable, and he accepted with
mournful resignation the decree which ordained that he should pass
judgment upon himself.

A difficult task lay before him; the revelation he had to make must be
made with tact and delicacy, in consideration for the mother's
feelings. Joy, as well as sorrow, has its fears.

Forgetful for the moment of his own domestic grief, a sympathetic pity
for the bereaved woman stirred Aaron's heart. Her tribulation was
expressed in her face, which was pale with woe; her eyes were suffused
with tears; her limbs trembled as she sank into the chair which he
placed for her. It was not he alone who was experiencing the tortures
of remorse.

Mrs. Gordon was in mourning, and Aaron knew it was as much for her
child as for her husband. Except that time had told its tale there was
little change in her, and few persons who had known her in her
springtime would have failed to recognise her in her middle age. Her
union with Mr. Gordon had not been entirely unhappy; he had performed
his duty towards her, as she had done towards him, and though he had a
suspicion that through all the long years she never lost sight of her
secret sorrow, he made no reference to it, and she, on her part, did
not intrude it upon him. Only on his deathbed had he spoken of her
child, and had given her an imperfect clue, which she was now
following up. Bitter was the knowledge she had gained. Her child was
dead. Free, and in possession of great wealth, she was alone, without
a tie in the world. All her bright dreams had faded. She had indulged
the hope that her child still lived, and as she travelled back to
England had raised up mental pictures of her daughter which filled her
with joy. The presumption was that the young girl was living in a poor
home, and was perhaps working for a livelihood. To lift her from
poverty to wealth, to make a lady of her, to load her with gifts, to
educate her for the new and higher station in life in which she was
now to move, to love and caress her, to travel with her through the
pleasure grounds of Europe--these were the dreams in which she had
indulged. Innumerable were the pictures she had raised on her voyage
home of the joy and delight of her daughter, and of the happy days in
store for them. The information she received from Dr. Spenlove had
killed these hopes, and her yearning desire now was to visit the grave
of the babe she had deserted, and to weep over it tears of bitter
repentance. It was not so much to reclaim the iron box containing the
clue to a shameful episode in her youthful life, as to learn where her
babe was buried, that she wished to learn into whose care her child
had been given. There was a time when she nursed a fierce desire for
revenge upon the man who had betrayed her, but this desire had burnt
itself away, and she would be content that the melancholy memories of
the past should be buried in oblivion. No good result would accrue
from rekindling the smouldering ashes of an experience so mournful.
She had lived down the shame; no word of reproach had been uttered
against her; let the dead past bury its dead.

For a few moments there was silence between her and Aaron, and she was
the first to speak.

"Dr. Spenlove has told me all," she said.

"He has told you what he knows," said Aaron, "but you have something
more to hear. Mrs. Gordon, it was I who undertook the charge of your
child. Mr. Moss brought her to me in Gosport, and delivered to me also
the casket which you entrusted to Dr. Spenlove. I return it to you
now, in the same condition as it was handed to me. You will oblige me
by convincing yourself that it has not been tampered with."

She unlocked the box with a key she carried in her purse, and taking
from it the letters she had deposited therein, glanced over them with
a bitter smile, then replaced them in their hiding-place, and relocked
the casket.

"There was nothing else in it?" asked Aaron.

"Nothing else," she replied; "it is as I delivered it to Dr. Spenlove.
Tell me about my child. Did she live long? Was she buried in Gosport?
You will tell me the truth; you will conceal nothing from me?"

"I will tell you the truth; I will conceal nothing from you; but what
I have to say must be said in my own way. Prepare yourself for a
strange story, but have no fear. You are the first person to whom it
will be revealed. When Mr. Moss left your child with me there were two
babes in my house of the same age, and we were in deep poverty and
distress. My wife--my beloved wife lay at the point of death"--he
covered his eyes with his hands. "Bear with me; these recollections
overcome me." Presently he resumed. "But a short time before her
confinement she had been stricken with blindness. Her own child, whose
face she had never seen, lay quiet and still in her arms. The doctor
who attended her feared the worst, and said that her life depended
upon the life of her babe. If our child died on the morrow the mother
would die; if our child lived, the mother would live. Temptation
assailed me, and to save the life of my beloved wife I yielded to it.
How can I expect you to forgive me for what I did in the agony of my
heart?"

Again he paused, and tears gushed from his eyes. Mrs. Gordon sank back
in her chair; there was not a vestige of colour in her face.

"My God! My God!" she murmured. "Have I not suffered enough?"

The words recalled him to himself. He begged her to have courage, to
be strong; there was no new suffering in store for her, he said; what
he had to relate would bring joy into her life. He gave her wine, and
when she had recovered he proceeded with his story, and gradually and
tenderly revealed to her the truth. As he proceeded her face shone
with incredulous joy, her heart beat tumultuously with the prospect of
this unexpected happiness; and when his story was finished, and he sat
before her with bowed head, there was a long, long silence in the
room. He dared utter no further words; in silent dread he waited for
his condemnation.

He felt a hand upon his knee, and looking down he saw her kneeling at
his feet. She was transfigured; the spirit of youth shone in her
countenance, and she took his hand, and kissed it again and again,
bedewing it with happy tears. He gazed at her in wonder. He had
expected revilings, and she was all tenderness.

"Is it true?" she murmured. "Oh! is it true? At such a time as this
you would not deceive me!"

"Heaven forbid!" he answered. "What I have related is the solemn
truth."

"And my child lives?"

"She lives."

"God in heaven bless you! She lives--my daughter lives!"

"And you do not blame me--you do not reproach me?"

"I shall bless you to my dying day! Oh, my heart, my heart! It will
burst with happiness!"

He entreated her to be composed, and in a little while she was calmer.
Then for the first time he wrested himself from the environment of his
own selfish sorrows; he put himself in her place, and understood the
sacred joy which animated her. She was all eagerness to see her child,
but Aaron bade her restrain her impatience; he had much more to relate
which it was necessary she should hear.

"But I must see her to-night!" she cried.

"You shall see her to-night. I will take you to her."

She was fain to be satisfied with this assurance, but she would not be
content till she saw a portrait of Ruth. He gave her a cabinet
photograph, and she gazed at it longingly, yearningly.

"She is beautiful, beautiful!"

"Yes, she is a beautiful girl," said Aaron; and then proceeded with
the story, saying nothing, however, of what he had done for the young
couple. At first she was grieved to hear that Ruth was married, but
she found some consolation in the reflection that she had married into
an honourable family. When Aaron related the particulars of the
lawyer's visit to him, commissioned by Lord Storndale because of his
stern objection to his son marrying a Jewess, she exclaimed,--

"But Ruth is not a Jewess!" and was appalled by the thought that her
daughter was not born in wedlock. A child of shame! How would she be
received? It was her turn now to fear, and Aaron, whose native
shrewdness had returned to him, divined her fear; but it was not for
him to moot the subject.

"My child," she said, with hot blushes on her face, "believes herself
to be your daughter?"

"She does. It was my intention to undeceive her to-night."

"You know my story?"

"It was imparted to me," he replied, with averted head, "when I was
asked to receive your child."

"Who knows the truth," she asked, trembling and hesitating, "about
me?"

"I, Mr. Moss, Dr. Spenlove, and your husband's lawyers."

"No other persons?"

"No other persons." He took her hand. "Dear lady, from my heart I pity
and sympathise with you. If I can assist you in any way----"

"You can--you can!" she cried. "For God's sake do not destroy the
happiness that may be mine!"

"As Heaven is my judge, no word shall pass my lips. Be comforted, be
comforted. The lawyers' lips are sealed, as you have already learned,
and I will answer for Mr. Moss and Dr. Spenlove. Say to her and to her
husband's family what you will--it will be justified. Your secret is
safe."

She thanked him humbly and gratefully; it was she who was abashed; it
was she who had to implore for mercy; and it was due to his wisdom
that her aching heart was eased.

"If I can repay you--if I can repay you!" she murmured.

"You can repay me by saying you forgive me for the sin I committed."

"Your sin!" she cried, in amazement. "You, who have brought up my
child in virtue and honour! At my door lies the sin, not at yours."

"You forget," he groaned; "I have sinned against my wife, whom I love
with a love dearer than life itself, and she has yet to receive the
confession I have made to you. It was my love for her that led me into
the error."

"An error," said Mrs. Gordon, in tender accents, "that has saved a
daughter from regarding her mother with abhorrence. Dear friend, God
sees and judges, and surely He will approve what you have done. A
grateful mother blesses you!"

"Remain here," said Aaron. "I will speak to my friends and yours, and
then I will conduct you to your daughter."



                            CHAPTER XLIII.

                         A PANIC IN THE CITY.


On the following morning Aaron was up earlier than usual, and in the
daily papers he read the confirmation of the intelligence which Mr.
Moss had imparted to him. The panic on the Stock Exchange had grown to
fever heat, and fortunes were already being won and lost. The bank in
which his money was deposited, and in which he held a large number of
shares, was tottering, and he knew that he was ruined if it could not
weather the storm.

Mr. Moss found him reading the news over his breakfast-table.
Business, as we know, had not prospered with Mr. Moss of late years;
his investments had turned out badly, and he was in low water himself.
He had placed his dependence upon Aaron to pull him through, and the
rock he had depended upon was crumbling away.

"You are also in trouble, Mr. Moss," said Aaron, as his friend made
his appearance.

"I have brought the second edition of the morning papers," replied Mr.
Moss, with a white face. "The Stock Exchange is in a blaze, and the
world is coming to an end."

"There will be misery in many homes," said Aaron. "It is the innocent
who will chiefly suffer. I pity them sincerely."

"Everything is going to the dogs," groaned Mr. Moss.

"Have you breakfasted?"

"Had breakfast at seven o'clock. Couldn't sleep a wink all night, and
could hardly eat a mouthful!"

"Why?"

"Why?" exclaimed Mr. Moss. "What a question to ask when ruin stares a
man in the face!"

"I hope," said Aaron, gravely, "that you are not deeply involved."

"I am up to my neck. But what is my position compared with yours?
Cohen, you are a mystery."

"Because I accept the inevitable? Can you show me how I can improve
matters?"

"No, I can't," answered Mr. Moss, with a deep groan; "only if I had
capital I could make a fortune."

"In what way?"

"By joining the bears. Cohen, you have a grand chance before you. Your
credit is good. There is nothing for it but a plunge. It will set you
right. Luck has been with you all your life; it will be with you now."

"How if it goes the other way, Mr. Moss?"

"What if it does? You will be no worse off than a thousand men who are
plunging."

"The majority of whom, before another sun rises, will find themselves
disgraced. No, Mr. Moss, no. I have never dabbled in stocks and shares
at the risk of my good name, and I never will. There is but one way to
meet misfortune, and that is the straight way. We will go to the City
and ascertain, if we can, exactly how matters stand. Rachel and Esther
do not return from Bournemouth till the afternoon."

In the City they learned the worst, and Aaron realised that he was
beggared.

"Can you save nothing from the wreck?" asked Mr. Moss.

"Nothing," replied Aaron. "It may be that all I possess will not be
sufficient to clear me. I think you had better take Esther back with
you to Portsmouth; you have been absent from your business too long."

"I must go this evening," said Mr. Moss; "but Esther can stay. She
will be a comfort to Mrs. Cohen."

"No, take her with you. In this crisis Rachel, I know, would prefer to
be alone with me. Besides," he added, with a sad smile, "I have to
provide another home, and I must be careful of my shillings."

"Another home, Cohen! What do you mean?"

"With certain ruin staring me in the face, and with claims coming upon
me which I may not be able to meet, I must begin immediately to
retrench. Our establishment is an expensive one, and I dare not carry
it on a day longer than is necessary. Rachel and I will sleep in the
house to-night for the last time. To-morrow I will pay off the
servants, and we shall move into humbler quarters. So tumble down all
our grand castles. Well, it has happened to better men, who, after
many years of toil, have to begin life all over again. Rachel will not
mind; we have faced poverty before to-day, and will face it again
cheerfully."

"It drives me wild to hear you speak like that," exclaimed Mr. Moss.
"You are looking only on the black side. If you had the money you have
got rid of the last two or three weeks----"

"Hush, Mr. Moss, hush!" said Aaron, interrupting him. "It is a
consolation to me to know that the greater part of my legitimately
earned fortune has been so well bestowed. I am glad I did not wait to
make reparation for the great error of my life. Rachel has yet to hear
my confession. If I obtain her forgiveness I can face the future
bravely and cheerfully."

Under the seal of confidence Aaron had made Mr. Moss and Dr. Spenlove
acquainted with the particulars of the story of the two babes, and of
the deception he had practised in his home in Gosport. Mr. Moss was
not greatly astonished, for the hints lately dropped by his friend had
prepared him for some disclosure of a strange nature. "Besides," he
said inwardly to himself, "Ruth bears no likeness to either Mr. or
Mrs. Cohen. It is a mercy she fell in love with that Storndale fellow;
it would never have done for her to marry a Jew. Cohen would not have
permitted it. But how blind we have all been!" In his weak moments Mr.
Moss was rather inclined to be wise after the event. Both he and Dr.
Spenlove had pledged themselves to secrecy, but when they proceeded to
commend Aaron for the act and to find justification for it he stopped
them. "It is a matter between me and my conscience," he said, and
added mentally, "and between me and my beloved."

On this disastrous morning, as they walked from the City, Mr. Moss
asked Aaron when he intended to reveal the secret to his wife.

"As soon as I can summon courage to speak," Aaron answered. "She has
first to hear that we are beggared; it will be as much, perhaps, as
she can bear in one day, but in any case I must not delay too long."

"If I were in your place," said Mr. Moss, "I should not delay at all.
There are women who become strong through misfortune, and Mrs. Cohen
is one. I wish Mrs. Moss were like her--don't think I am complaining
of her. She is the best wife in the world, but she breaks down under
reverses. If only I could be of some assistance to you, Cohen----"

"Your friendship counts for much, Mr. Moss," responded Aaron, pressing
his companion's hand, "but every man must fight his own battle. I am
not without hope, hard as is the trial through which I am passing. It
is kind of you to be so solicitous about my affairs when you have such
heavy troubles of your own to contend with. Are things very bad with
you?"

"Oh, I shall weather the storm, but it will leave me rather crippled.
What matters? _Nil desperandum_. And there is just one ray which may
become a perfect sunbeam."

"Ah, I am glad to hear that."

"My eldest boy has started in business as a dentist, and has commenced
well. Once a dentist makes his name the money rolls in. It is a
favourite business with our people."

"Yes," said Aaron, somewhat absently, "I have observed it."

"It is a kind of revenge, Cohen."

"A kind of revenge!" echoed Aaron. "How so?"

"Well, you know, in old times the Christians used to extract our teeth
to get our money from us, and now it's our turn. We extract theirs at
a guinea a tooth. See?"

Aaron could not help smiling at the joke, and the friends parted with
mutual expressions of goodwill.



                            CHAPTER XLIV.

                           THE CONFESSION.


On the evening of the same day Aaron and Rachel were alone in their
house in Prince's Gate, which was soon to know them no more. Esther
had taken an affectionate leave of them, and she and her father were
travelling to Portsmouth. Esther was bright and cheerful, but Mr.
Moss's heart was heavy; he was older than Aaron, and confident as he
was in speech he was not inwardly so courageous in the hour of
adversity. Ordinarily, when he and his daughter were travelling
together, his blithe spirits found vent in song; on this occasion,
however, he was moody and silent. Esther looked at him in surprise,
and asked what made him so melancholy.

"When you reach my age," he replied, "I hope you will not discover
that life is a dream."

The remark seemed to him rather fine and philosophical, and afforded
him some kind of melancholy satisfaction; but had he been asked to
explain its precise meaning he would have found it difficult to do so.

"I hope I shall, father," said Esther, as she leant back and thought
of her lover; "a happy dream."

"I am glad to get back to you and to our dear home," Rachel was saying
to her husband at the same moment. "You must not send me away again.
Indeed, dear Aaron, if you ever have such an intention I shall for
once in my life be rebellious, and shall refuse to go. I am happiest
by your side."

She spoke tenderly and playfully, and held his hand in hers, as in the
olden days.

"Nevertheless, my love, your short visit to the seaside has done you
good."

"Yes, dear, I am almost well; I feel much stronger."

"There is the justification," said Aaron. "Neither am I happy away
from you, but there are occasions when it is our duty to make
sacrifices. This is the longest separation there has been between us
in the twenty-six years of our married life."

"How time has flown!" she mused. "Twenty-six years of peace and joy.
It has always been the same, dear husband, whether we were poor or
rich. I cannot recall a day in the past without its flower of dear
remembrance which money could not purchase."

"You make my task easier, Rachel," said Aaron. "I have something to
disclose to you."

"And it is not good news, love," she said, in a tone of much
sweetness.

"It is not good news, Rachel. By what means have you divined that?"

"I see without eyes. In the early days of my blindness I used to tell
you that I was acquiring new senses. It is true. Some accent in your
voice, the touch of your hand, conveys the message to my mind, and I
wait in patience, as I am waiting now. Aaron, my dear husband, I have
known for some time past that you have a sorrow which one day you
would ask me to share. How have I known it? I cannot tell, but it is
clear to me. You have not had a joy in your life apart from me. It is
my right, is it not, to share your sorrows?"

"It is your right, Rachel, and you shall share them. I have not been
without my errors; once in the past my footsteps strayed, but in the
straying I inflicted suffering upon no human being."

"Of that I am sure, my love. It is human to err, but it is not in your
nature to inflict suffering or commit an injustice. I am not pressing
you to confide in me before in your judgment the proper time arrives.
Nothing can shake my faith and trust in you."

He regarded her in silence awhile. The turn the conversation had taken
favoured the disclosure of his secret respecting Ruth, but he still
feared to speak of that and of his ruin in the same hour. The latter
was the more imperative, because it demanded immediate action, and he
nerved himself to the task.

"Your loving instinct, Rachel, has not misled you. For many years I
have had a secret which I have concealed from you."

"Fearing to give me pain, dear husband?"

"Yes; and fearing that it would disturb the faith you have in me. I
place so high a value upon it that my life would be dark indeed were I
to lose it."

"That is impossible, dear. Banish the fear from your mind. Were the
hands of all men raised against you I would stand before you as your
shield, and they would not dare to strike. So long as we are together
I am happy and content."

"Dear life of my life, you inspire me with hope. But it is not of this
secret I must speak first. There is another trouble which has come
upon me quite suddenly, and which demands immediate action. Rachel,
for twenty years Heaven has showered prosperity upon me; not a venture
I have made has failed, and many of my undertakings have succeeded far
beyond my expectations. I have heard it said, 'Everything Aaron Cohen
touches turns to gold.' It really has been so. I accumulated a large
fortune, and--with humbleness I say it--no man, however high or low
his station, was the loser by it. But a breath may destroy what the
labours of a lifetime have created. If such a reverse has come to me,
Rachel, how would you accept it?"

"Without murmuring, love," she said, drawing him close to her, and
kissing his lips. "I should have but one regret--that I could not work
for you as you have worked for me. But that, also, was God's will, and
I have never repined. Who would presume to question His wisdom? His
name be praised for ever and ever!"

"Amen. In our old home in Gosport you were happy."

"I have never been happier, Aaron. I have sometimes felt pride in your
successes, but surely that is pardonable. Many and many a time have I
thought of our early life and struggles with gratitude, because of the
love which sustained us and gave us strength. It is the most precious
gift that life can bestow. All else is nought. It is our soul-life,
and dies not with the body."

"You do not value money, Rachel?"

"For the good it may do to others, not for the good it can do to the
possessor; for the suffering it may be made the means of relieving,
for the blessings it may bring into the lives of the afflicted and
unfortunate. Then it becomes God-like, and when so used the angels
smile approval."

"Dear love, you lighten my burden. When I won you my life was blessed.
Listen, Rachel. This is a dark day for many men who find themselves
fallen from their high estate. Despair sits in many homes at this
hour."

"But not in ours, Aaron, whatever has happened."

"Thank God! It is my happy belief that this hour is not dark for us.
It was my intention, Rachel, to retire altogether from business and
public life, and to that end I took advantage of your absence from
London to settle my affairs. My resolution was prompted by the secret,
the burden of which, although I have not yet disclosed it to you, you
have made lighter for me to reveal. Brought to public knowledge, which
I fear its peculiar nature will render inevitable, it will be
immediately said that I am unfitted to retain my position as a leader
and teacher. To tarry until that judgment was pronounced upon me would
be to aggravate the disaster, and I resolved to anticipate the verdict
by resigning the honours which have been conferred upon me. I have
done so, and I have withstood the pressure that has been put upon me
to withdraw my resignation. An examination of my worldly affairs
resulted in my finding myself in possession of nearly a hundred
thousand pounds. I divided this into three portions, one of which I
intended to retain in order that we might pass what years of life
remained to us in comfort; the second portion I devoted to charity,
and it has thus been distributed; the third portion was devoted to
repairing to some extent the error of which I have been guilty."

He looked at Rachel after he uttered these words, which he had spoken
with averted head. There was no change in her. Sweetness and sympathy
were expressed in her beautiful face, and it seemed as if her soul's
light dwelt thereon.

"Do you approve, Rachel?"

"Entirely, love. Let me hold your hand."

He continued. "The money I intended for our private use was lodged in
a City bank, and in this bank I hold shares for which I am liable to
the depositors. Yesterday Mr. Moss brought me news of a commercial
crisis in which I discerned----"

"Go on, dear husband. I am prepared for the worst."

"In which I discerned my ruin. This morning I convinced myself that
the news was true."

"And we are poor again," said Rachel, in a gentle voice.

"And we are poor again. Everything is lost. I do not know the extent of
my liabilities upon the shares I hold in the bank, but it is certain
that my property--even down to the smallest possession--will scarcely
be sufficient to meet them. I have nothing more to tell of my worldly
trouble, Rachel."

"Dear love," said Rachel, sweetly, with her arms around him, "it is a
small trouble, and we will meet it bravely. With all my heart and
strength I will help you to meet it, and it will not make the future
less happy. We cannot remain in this house; the expenses are too
great."

"You echo my thought, Rachel. I have already discharged the servants,
and have paid what is due to them. They expressed their sorrow, for I
think they have an affection for us, but the separation is
unavoidable. To-morrow they take their departure, and to-morrow, dear
love, we must move into humbler quarters."

"I am content," said Rachel, "I am happy. We have each other. Do all
the servants go--all?"

"No; one insists upon remaining. I could not convince her that it
would be for her good to leave us."

"Prissy!" cried Rachel.

"Yes, Prissy, the foolish woman. With or without my consent she
insists upon sharing our poverty."

"Dear, faithful Prissy! Do you remember the first night she came to us
in Gosport? What changes there have been since that time! Let it be as
she wishes, love; I know her constant, devoted nature. She will be a
comfort to both of us."

"It shall be as you say, Rachel; a faithful heart like hers is a
treasure."

Rachel paused before she spoke again, and Aaron, gazing upon her, held
his breath, for he divined what was coming. She took his hand, and
held it between her own.

"Kiss me, love," she said, her voice trembling from emotion. He
pressed his lips to hers in silence. "I have been a great trouble to
you, dear."

"You have been the blessing of my life, Rachel," he said in a low
tone.

"Not only your love, dear, but the thought that you believed me worthy
of your confidence, has brought great sweetness into mine. You have
made me truly happy; and yet, dear husband, my heart is aching--not
for myself, not because we are poor again, but for you, for you; for
your heart, also, is charged with sorrow. We commence a new life
to-morrow, and it affects not ourselves alone, but those who are dear
to us. Let this night end your sorrows, and let me share them now,
before I sleep. Aaron, not once have you mentioned the name of Ruth.
Is it the thought of her that oppresses you? It oppresses me, too, and
it is no new grief. For a long time past I have felt as if something
had come between us, weakening the tie which should unite mother and
child. If anything has been hidden from me which I should know, let it
be hidden no longer. I am well, I am strong. Give me all your
confidence. There is nothing I cannot bear for your dear sake."

He could not resist the appeal. In a voice as tremulous as her own he
related the story of his sin. He recalled all the incidents of their
life in Gosport, of the calamities which had trodden upon each others'
heels, of the desperate state of poverty he was in when the fire
occurred which deprived her of sight, of the birth of their child, of
the doctor's words that Rachel's life depended upon the life of her
babe and upon his taking her away to a warmer clime, of his giving her
the sleeping draught and leaving her, wrapt in slumber, to admit Mr.
Moss who had come from Portsmouth charged with a startling commission,
the acceptance of which would be the saving of Rachel, of his
reluctance to accept the guardianship of a strange child, and of his
requesting time to consider it. Here he faltered; he stood, as it
were, upon the threshold of his sin, and but for Rachel's tender
urging he would have been unable to proceed.

"Dear love, dear love," she said, "my heart bleeds for you! Ah, how
you must have suffered! Be strong, dear husband, and tell me all. I am
prepared--indeed, indeed I am!"

In hushed and solemn tones he told her of the death of their
offspring, of the desperate temptation that assailed him, of his
yielding to it, of the transposition of the babes, and of his agony
and joy as he watched her when she awoke and pressed the stranger to
her breast.

"By my sin you were saved," he said.

"By your agony was I saved," she murmured, and still retained and
fondled his hand while the tears ran down her face. But love was there
in its divinest aspect, and tenderest pity; and thus fortified, he
continued to the end, and waited for the verdict that was to mar or
make his future. He had not long to wait. Rachel held him close in her
embrace, and mingled her tears with his.

"Can you forgive me, Rachel?"

"It is for me to bless, not to forgive," she sobbed. "For me you
strayed, for me you have suffered. Comfort his bruised heart, O
all-merciful God, who sees and judges! And, Aaron, dear and honoured
husband, we have still a son to bless our days!"



                             CHAPTER XLV.

                          A POISONED ARROW.


Had it not been that public attention was directed mainly to events of
greater importance Aaron Cohen's affairs would have furnished a
liberal theme for the busy hunters of sensational and personal
journalism, but to a certain extent he was protected by the fever of
the financial panic in which numbers of unfortunate families were
caught and ruined, and the fortunes of famous historic houses
imperilled. He would have been grateful to slip into obscurity
unnoticed, but this could scarcely be expected. He had occupied too
high a station to be passed over in complete silence, and he had one
bitter enemy, Mr. Poynter, who rejoiced in his downfall and neglected
no opportunity to wing a poisoned arrow against his old rival. This
man was furious with disappointment at having been unable to secure
his rival's contracts, and when the excitement of the panic was over
these arrows became more numerous, and Aaron's name was frequently
mentioned in a slighting manner in those second- and third-class
journals whose columns are too freely open to personal spite and
malice. He saw but few of the paragraphs in which he was attacked, and
those he read did not wound him; they made his friends angry (for he
was not deserted by all), and they urged him to reply to them; but he
shook his head, and said, "I shall not assist my enemies to stir up
muddy waters. To every word I wrote they would reply with twelve. Let
them do their worst." He was, however, greatly concerned lest the
slanders should reach Rachel's knowledge; and here her blindness aided
him. Either he or the faithful Prissy was ever by her side, and if his
traducers hoped to make him suffer through the being whose love was
the most precious jewel in his life, they were doomed to
disappointment. Perhaps Aaron had never been happier than he was
during these dark days of adversity. Now that the weight of a secret
sin was lifted from his heart he had no fears of poverty. He had full
confidence in his being able to obtain some employment which would
keep the wolf from the door; however lowly it might be he was ready to
accept it thankfully. He was not immediately free to enter a
situation, for the whole of his time was occupied in settling his
affairs. He had left his home in Prince's Gate, and was living in
lodgings in Brixton. Everything he had in the world was given up to
the creditors of the bank, and when he quitted the house, neither he
nor Rachel had taken from it a single article of the slightest value.
Small personal gifts which had been given by one to the other,
articles of dress which they might legitimately have retained,
mementos of little value, endeared to them by some affectionate
association, even the old silver-mounted pipe in its jeweled
case--all were left behind. Simply dressed, without a piece of
jewellery about them, they turned their faces towards the new home and
the new life without a murmur, and, hand in hand, walked to their
humble rooms with contented hearts.

Prissy, who had gone before to get the place ready, received them with
a smiling face. Grandeur was nothing to Prissy, so long as she could
be with those whom she loved to serve. As happy in a cottage as in a
palace, she proved herself to be a true philosopher, accepting
fortune's rubs with equanimity, and making the best of them with a
cheerful willingness it were well for loftier folk to emulate. Bird
never trilled more happily than Prissy as she moved hither and
thither, upstairs and down, setting things to rights, shifting the
furniture and studying each new arrangement with a critical eye,
interrupting herself every minute by running to the window to see
if her master and mistress were coming. The rooms were sweet and
clean, there were flowers about, and blooming flowers in pots on the
window-sill. The fragrance of the flowers greeted Rachel as she
entered, and her bright face was Prissy's reward.

"Where did the flowers come from, Prissy?" asked Aaron, when Rachel
was out of hearing.

"From the flower-man, sir," she answered.

"Surely not a gift?"

"Yes, sir," said the unblushing Prissy; "wasn't it good of him?"

"Prissy!" said Aaron, with warning finger uplifted.

"Well, sir, they cost next to nothing, and they're paid for."

"But, Prissy----"

"Please don't, sir," she interrupted, and there were tears in her eyes
and a pleading rebellion in her voice. "I know what you're going to
say, Mr. Cohen, but please don't. You'd like me to keep good, wouldn't
you, sir?"

"Why, of course, Prissy," said Aaron, astonished at the question.

"Well, sir, I can't, if you blow me up now you're in misfortune; I
can't keep good if you don't let me have my way in little things. I'll
be very careful, I will, indeed, Mr. Cohen. It's almost the first time
in my life I've bought any flowers at all for any one else, and it
ain't in you, sir, to take away pleasure from anybody--and did you
see, sir, how happy missis looked when she came in?"

Thus inconsequentially Prissy, mixing her arguments in the strangest
manner.

"But, my good girl," said Aaron, kindly, "you have no business to
waste your money; you must think of your future."

"It's what I am thinking of, sir; I don't want to grow wicked, and
flowers are the only things that will prevent me. It's the honest
truth, sir; they make me feel good. Mr. Cohen, if it hadn't been for
you, where should I have been? In the gutter, I daresay. You took me
out of it, sir. I don't forget the first night I come to you with
Victoria Regina in Gosport; if I lived to be as old as Methusalem I
couldn't never forget it. And then when missis got me the gillard
water to bathe my eyes--I should be the ungratefullest woman that ever
drew breath if I could forget those things. Do, please, sir, let me
have my way. You've paid me a lot more wages than I was worth, and all
my money is in the post office savings bank, and it ain't mine at all,
it's yours----"

"My good Prissy," said Aaron, much affected, for Prissy could not
continue, her voice was so full of tears, "do as you wish, but be very
careful, as you have promised. Perhaps fortune will turn again, and
then----"

"And then, sir," said Prissy, taking up his words, "you shall give it
all back to me--and I'll take it then, sir, you see if I don't. It
will turn, if there's any fairness anywhere. And now, if you'll
forgive me, sir, I must go and look after the dinner."

Aaron was very busy for several days after this making a careful
inventory of his possessions in the house in Prince's Gate, which he
sent to the appointed liquidators of the bankrupt bank. Of all the
debtors he was the only one who did not wait for the law's decree to
give up his fortune to the last farthing, and perhaps he was the only
one whose conscience was free of the intention of wrong.

He had his gleams of sunshine. First, the sweet contentment and
happiness of his beloved wife. The affection she lavished upon him was
of so tender and exalted a nature that it made their humble home a
paradise. She listened for his footstep, she stood at the door to meet
him, she drew him to her side, as a young maiden in the springtime of
life might have done to the lover she adored. Spiritual flowers grew
about her feet, and everything and every one was made purer and better
by contact with her. Then, as ill news travels fast, his son Joseph,
when his ship stopped at a not-distant port to take in cargo, was made
acquainted through the public journals with the condition of affairs;
and, divining that his father was in need of money, he cabled home
advices which assisted Aaron in his extreme need. The young man had
saved some money, and he placed it all at the disposal of his parents,
who derived an exquisite pleasure from this proof of affection. As in
Gosport twenty years before, Rachel did not know the stress to which
her husband was put; he kept from her knowledge everything of a
distressing nature, and in this loving task he was silently assisted
by Prissy, whose thoughtfulness and devotion were not to be excelled.
She watched her mistress's every movement, and anticipated her
lightest wish. The dishes she liked best were always on the table, and
everything she wanted was ready to her hand. Prissy was no less
attentive to her master, brushing his clothes, and polishing his boots
till she could see her face in them.

"What should we do without you, Prissy?" said Rachel.

"I hope you'll never want to do without me, ma'am," answered Prissy.

Another gleam of sunshine came to him in the offer of a situation from
a merchant who had known him in his days of prosperity. He was not
asked to occupy a position of responsibility, and the offer was
conveyed to him in apologetic terms.

"I cannot displace men who have been long in my employ," the merchant
said, "but a desk is vacant which you can have if you think it worthy
of you."

Aaron accepted it gladly, and expressed his thanks.

"Fortune has not deserted us," he said to his wife. "I shall not only
be able to pay our expenses, but I shall even be able to save a
little. The hours are short, the labour is light; and in time I may
rise to something better."

So, like a young man commencing life, he went every morning to his new
duties, and returned in the evening to a peaceful and happy home.

During all this time he had heard no word of Ruth or Mrs. Gordon, and
the sin of which he had been guilty had not reached the public ear.
His house and furniture still remained unsold, law's process being
proverbially slow and tedious. At length, passing his house one
evening, he saw bills up, announcing that the mansion and its contents
were to be sold by auction in the course of the following week. He was
not a stoic, and it gave him a pang, but the pain soon passed away.
"What have I to repine at," he thought, "with heavenly love awaiting
me at home?" It was his intention to attend the auction for the
purpose of purchasing two or three small mementos, towards which he
had saved a few pounds. The sale was to take place on Thursday, and on
Wednesday night he was looking through the catalogue, and talking with
Rachel about his intended purchases.

"There are dumb memorials," he said, "which from long association
become like living friends. Something of our spirit seems to pass into
them, imbuing them with life. I shall not be quite happy till I get
back my silver-mounted pipe; of all my possessions it was my dearest.
Tobacco has lost its flavour since I left it behind me; but I had no
right to bring away anything of value, and I have always looked
forward to possessing it again. Great misfortunes are really easy to
bear in comparison with such-like trifles."

Aaron seldom indulged now in those touches of humour to which Rachel
in the old days loved to listen. The Aaron of to-day and the Aaron of
yesterday were the same in everything but that; the tender gaiety was
replaced by a tender sadness, and Rachel often thought with regret of
the play of fancy which used to stir her to mirth.

On this night they expected a visit from Mr. Moss, who was coming to
London on business; and at about nine o'clock he made his appearance.
An hour afterwards Rachel retired to bed, and left the friends
together. Aaron had observed that Mr. Moss looked anxious and uneasy,
but he was careful not to refer to it in the presence of his wife.

"You have something on your mind," he now said. "No new misfortune, I
hope?"

"Not to me personally," replied Mr. Moss, with a reluctant air.

"To none of your family, I trust."

"No; they are all quite well. My dentist son is getting along
famously; I saw him before I came here, and he told me that he had
pulled out three Christian teeth to-day. Isaac of York is avenged!"

Dolefully as he spoke, Aaron could not help smiling. "But what is it?"
he asked.

"I am the harbinger of trouble, it seems," groaned Mr. Moss, "and to
my best friend. I was the first to bring you the news of the panic,
and now----"

"Yes," said Aaron, gently, "and now? Speak low, or Rachel may overhear
us."

"You do not see many papers, Cohen?"

"Not many."

"I hardly like to tell you," said Mr. Moss, "but you will be sure to
hear of it to-morrow. They never spare a man who is down, For God's
sake, Cohen, don't blame me! I've never opened my lips--I'd have cut
my tongue out first."

"Let me know the worst," said Aaron. "It relates to me, I see. As for
blaming you, set your mind at ease. You have been too good a friend to
me to do anything to distress me. Come, shake hands. Whatever it is, I
can bear it like a man, I hope. I have passed through the fire, and it
has left me humble and patient."

In silence Mr. Moss took a newspaper from his pocket, and handed it to
Aaron. It was folded in a particular place, and there Aaron read an
article headed "A Strange Revelation," in which the whole story of his
sin was circumstantially detailed. He was not referred to by name, nor
was Ruth's name or Mrs. Gordon's mentioned; but the name of the place
in which the incident occurred and the year of the occurrence were
accurately set down, and certain allusions to himself could not be
mistaken. He was spoken of as a Jew who, until lately, had occupied an
eminent position in society, who had posed as a friend of the working
man, and had been instrumental in putting an end to the late great
strike in the building trade.

"Ostensibly this may be said to have been of service to society, but
in our judgment of a man's character the public issue must be set
aside. The question of private motive has to be considered: if it be
worthy it reflects credit upon him; if unworthy, it passes to his
dishonour."

From this argument was drawn the conclusion that there was not a
public act performed by "the eminent Jew" that was not undertaken
with a view to self-interest and self-aggrandisement. He was a dealer
in fine phrases, which, with a stock of empty professions and mock
moralities which he kept always on hand, had helped to set him on the
pedestal from which he had toppled down. For years he had been
successful in throwing dust into the eyes of the multitude whom he had
cajoled into sounding his praises; but at length the sword had fallen,
and the life of duplicity he had led both publicly and privately was
laid bare to view. His charities were so many advertisements, and were
undoubtedly turned to profit; his religious professions, unceasingly
paraded, served as a cloak for his greed and self-seeking.

"This man's life of hypocrisy points a moral. He was in affluence, he
is in want; he was a leader, he has become a drudge. He has been
justly served, and we hold him up as a warning and an example to all
pretenders of his class and creed."

Then followed a promise of further revelations to be furnished by a
competent authority, and probably by the publication of the
delinquent's name, for the benefit of society at large.

As Aaron read this scandalous article the colour deserted his cheeks,
his hands and mouth trembled, his heart sank within him. What could he
say in his defence? Nothing. The deductions and conclusions were
false, but the story was true. There was but one answer to the
question whether he had perpetrated a domestic fraud, and had brought
up as a Jewess a child whom he had allowed to grow to womanhood in
ignorance of her parentage and rightful faith. This answer would be
fatal, and would give the impress of truth to the entire article. How
could he show himself in public after such an exposure? His intended
appearance at the sale to-morrow must be relinquished: he would be
pointed at with scorn and contempt. Not for him the open paths where
he would meet his fellowman face to face; he must creep through the
byways, close to the wall. It seemed to him as if his life were over.
His head drooped, his arms sank listlessly down, his whole appearance
was that of a man who had received a mortal stroke.

"It is abominable, abominable!" cried Mr. Moss. "Is there no law to
punish such a slander? Is there no protection for such a man as you?"

"For such a man as I?" echoed Aaron, sadly. "Ah, my friend, you
forget. There is no grave deep enough for sin and wrong-doing; you may
bury it fathoms deep, but the hour will arrive when the ghost rises
and points at you with accusing hand. The punishment meted out to me
is just."

"It is not--it is not!"

"Hush! You will disturb Rachel."

He stepped softly into the bedroom; Rachel was slumbering, with a
smile on her lips. As he stood by her side, contemplating her sweet
and beautiful face, she awoke.

"Aaron!"

"Yes, my life!"

"Is it late? Has Mr. Moss gone?"

"He is still here, Rachel. It is quite early."

She encircled his neck with her arms, and drew him to her. "I have had
such happy dreams, dear love! Some good fortune is going to happen to
us."

"What would life be without its delusions?" he said, in a sad tone.

"Do not speak sadly, dear. You have borne up so bravely; you must not
break down now. Come, come--for my sake, love!"

"For your sake, beloved," he said; and as he spoke the tormenting
demon which had been torturing him lost its power.

"What made you sad, love?" said Rachel. "Surely not because we are
poor?"

"No, love; it was not that. But if your dreams should not come true"

"Why, then," she answered, and her voice was like music in his ears,
"we have faced trouble before, and can face it again. It will make no
difference so long as we are together. Aaron, with you by my side I
would walk barefoot through the world, and bless the gracious Lord
that made me. He is all-merciful and all-powerful, and in Him I put my
trust. To the last, to the last, dear and honoured husband, we will
not lose our trust in Him! Do not be sad again. All will come right--I
feel it will. It is as if a Divine voice is whispering to me."

When Aaron rejoined his friend the colour had returned to his face,
his step was firmer, his eye brighter.

"There is an angel in my home," he said. "Let my enemies do their
worst. I am armed against them. Does this article make any change in
our friendship?"

"It binds me closer to you, Cohen."

Aaron pressed Mr. Moss's hand.

"Love and friendship are mine," he said simply. "What more can I
desire?"



                            CHAPTER XLVI.

                             RETRIBUTION.


The following morning Aaron went to the office as usual, and quickly
discovered that the poisoned arrow had found its mark. He was received
with coldness, and the principals of the firm passed his desk without
speaking to him. He observed the older employes whispering together,
and looking at him furtively, avoiding his eye when he returned their
gaze. His mind was soon made up; sending in his name to his employers
he requested an interview with them. Upon entering the private room he
saw upon the table a copy of the paper containing the scandalous
attack; he did not change colour, he thought of Rachel's love, and his
voice was firm and resigned.

"You have read this article, Mr. Cohen?" said the principal member of
the firm.

"Yes, sir; I read it last night."

"And you have come to explain----"

He interrupted his employer mildly.

"No, sir; I have not come to explain anything. I am here to tender my
resignation."

"You save us from a difficulty, Mr. Cohen. It was our intention to
speak to you before the day was over. But still, if the story we have
seen in the paper is not true--if it does not, after all, refer to
you----"

"The story is true," he said, "and it refers to me."

"In that case," was the reply, "there is nothing more to be said. We
regret the necessity, but it appears unavoidable. The cashier will pay
you a month's salary in lieu of notice."

"I can accept only what is due to me," said Aaron; and shortly
afterwards he left the office.

Not one of his fellow-clerks offered to shake hands with him as he
went away; but the pang he felt was momentary.

"Patience, patience," he murmured, raising his eyes to heaven. "To Thy
decree, O God, I humbly submit. My punishment is just."

He did not return home until evening, and then he said nothing to
Rachel of his dismissal. The next day he went out and wandered
aimlessly about the streets, choosing the thoroughfares where he would
be least likely to be recognised. So the days passed, and still he had
not the courage to speak to Rachel.

"Perhaps in another country," he thought, "I may find rest, and Rachel
and I will be allowed to pass the remainder of our life in peace."

On Tuesday, in the ensuing week, he went forth, and with bowed head
was walking sadly on, when, with a sudden impulse, he wheeled round in
the direction of his home. The feeling that impelled him to do this
was, that he was behaving treacherously to Rachel in keeping the
secret from her. He would make her acquainted with his disgrace and
dismissal, and never again in his life would he conceal anything from
her knowledge. This resolution gave him the courage he had lacked.

"It is as if I were losing faith in her," he murmured. "Love has made
me weak where it should have made me strong."

He hastened his steps, and soon reached his home. As he stood for a
moment at the door of the sitting-room he heard a voice within which
he recognised as that of his old rival, Mr. Poynter, and upon his
entrance he found that gentleman and his wife together.

Rachel was standing in a dignified attitude, as though in the presence
of an enemy; her face was pale and scornful, and Mr. Poynter was
manifestly ill at ease. Hearing her husband's footsteps she extended
her hand, and taking his, pressed it to her lips. In this position
they must be left for a brief space while an explanation is given of
another incident which was to bear directly upon the scene, and to
bring into it a startling colour.

Prissy had conducted Mr. Poynter into the presence of her mistress,
and had scarcely done so when she was called down to a lady, who had
inquired for Mr. and Mrs. Cohen.

"Mr. Cohen is out," said Prissy, "and Mrs. Cohen is engaged."

"I wish to see them particularly," said the lady, giving Prissy a
card, upon which the name of Mrs. Gordon was engraved. "Are you
Prissy?"

"Yes, ma'am," Prissy answered in wonder; "but I don't remember ever
having seen you."

"You have never seen me before," said Mrs. Gordon with a smile, "but I
have heard of you. Can I wait until your mistress's visitor is gone? I
bring good news."

"You can sit in my room, if you don't mind, ma'am," said Prissy, who
was greatly excited at the promise of good news.

"Thank you," said Mrs. Gordon; and she followed the servant upstairs
to a room next to that in which Mr. Poynter and Rachel were
conversing, and where, the wall being thin, she could hear every word
that was being spoken in the adjoining apartment.

"This gentleman," said Rachel to her husband, pointing in the
direction of Mr. Poynter, "has called to see you on business, and has
taken advantage of your absence to offer me a bribe."

"One moment, Rachel," said Aaron; "let me first hear the nature of Mr.
Poynter's business."

"I will explain it," said Mr. Poynter. "I have not been fortunate
enough to win Mrs. Cohen's favour, but ladies are not accustomed to
discuss business matters."

"Did you come here to discuss a business matter with my wife?"
inquired Aaron, calmly.

"Well, hardly; but as you were absent I thought I might mention the
matter to her."

"What matter?"

"The business I came upon," said Mr. Poynter, irritated by Aaron's
composure. "I am ready to hear it, sir."

"Very well. We will not beat about the bush, but will come straight to
the point. You are down in the world, Mr. Cohen?"

"Yes, sir; I am, as you say, down in the world."

"The newspapers," continued Mr. Poynter, "have been saying
uncomplimentary things of you, and I have heard a threat of further
revelations. I considered it my duty--in the interests of truth, Mr.
Cohen--to make your wife acquainted with these public disclosures."

Rachel pressed her lips again upon Aaron's hand, which she held in a
firm and loving grasp. His face brightened.

"You have rendered me a service," he said. "Possibly I have you to
thank, also, for the statements which have been made in the papers
concerning me."

"Possibly," said Mr. Poynter.

"Nay," said Aaron, "you suggested just now the advisability of not
beating about the bush, and you proclaim that you are here in the
interests of truth. Have I, or have I not, to thank you for this
unfavourable publicity?"

"I have never shrunk from the truth," replied Mr. Poynter, with a
lofty air, "nor from a duty, however distressing the truth or the duty
might be. Society has to be considered, and we must ignore the feeling
of the individual. I became possessed of certain information, and I
considered it my imperative duty not to withhold it from the public
ear."

"I thank you. Without further circumlocution I must ask you to come
straight to the business which brings you here."

"It is very simple, and will put money in your pocket, of which, it
seems to me, you stand in need."

"I do stand in need of money."

"Then the matter can be arranged. Some little while since we had a
conversation concerning certain contracts which you were not in a
position to complete."

"You solicited a transference of those contracts to your firm," said
Aaron, "and I declined to grant your request."

"You use high-sounding words for one in your position," said Mr.
Poynter, with a frown, "but I will not quarrel with you. You gave the
worst of all bad reasons for your refusal."

"Whether my reasons were good or bad, you have taken your revenge."

"God-fearing men do not seek revenge, but justice. To continue. The
firm to which you transferred the most important of these contracts
happens at the present time to need some assistance, and hearing of
it, I offer what it needs. But it appears that you have hampered them,
and that in the deed of transference you expressly stipulate that no
part of the contracts shall be executed by me unless I bind myself to
a scale of wages and hours which you have tabulated."

"I considered it fair to the men," said Aaron, "and it is as you have
stated."

"It is my belief," pursued Mr. Poynter, "that the firm will accept my
aid if I adhere to the scale, which I decline to do. I know what is
right, and I will not be dictated to. My business here is to make you
the offer of a sum of money--I will go as far as a hundred pounds--if
you will cancel this stipulation by which my friends are bound. A
hundred pounds is a large sum, Mr. Cohen; it would come in useful to
you just now."

"It would. It is likely you would increase the sum."

"Oh, you Jews, you Jews!" exclaimed Mr. Poynter, jocosely, thinking
he had gained his point. "Always on the look-out for the main
chance--always screwing out the last penny. Well, I am not a mean man,
Mr. Cohen. We will say a hundred and twenty."

Aaron turned to Rachel, and asked, "Is this the bribe you spoke of?"

"It is not," she replied. "Mr. Poynter will explain it to you in his
own words."

"I haven't the smallest objection," said Mr. Poynter. "You see, Mr.
Cohen, it is sometimes necessary to put the screw on. Who knows that
better than you? There is a material screw, and a moral screw, in this
particular case. The material screw is money; the moral screw is an
iron safe, of which, as yet, no mention has been made in the
newspapers."

"Ah!" said Aaron.

"It is almost a waste of words to speak of it to you, who are so
familiar with the circumstances. This iron safe, it appears, was given
into your charge when you received the infant into your house in
Gosport. You were a pauper at the time, and from that day you
prospered. In a manner of speaking you became suddenly rich. Well,
well, the temptation was too strong for you. You could not resist
opening the safe, and appropriating what it contained--undoubtedly
treasure of some sort in money or jewels. But, Mr. Cohen, there is an
all-seeing Eye."

"I acknowledge it In the event of my refusing your money, you threaten
to accuse me through the columns of the press of breaking open the
safe and stealing the contents."

"You have expressed it clearly, Mr. Cohen. The moral screw, you know."

"And of further blackening my character."

"It can scarcely be made worse than it is. In the event of your
refusal I shall certainly do my duty."

"Mr. Poynter," said Aaron, with dignity, "I refuse your offer."

"It is not enough?"

"Were you to multiply it a hundred times, it would not be enough."

Through Aaron's veins ran the sweet approval conveyed in Rachel's
close clasp upon his hand. "You beggar!" exclaimed Mr. Poynter. "You
hypocrite! You defy me?"

"I do not defy you; I simply tell you to do your worst."

"It shall be done!" cried Mr. Poynter, furiously. "You are ruined; I
will ruin you still more; I will bring you to your knees; you shall
lie in the gutter and beg for mercy! You paragon of sanctity, all the
world shall know you for what you are!"

"You can use no harsher words," said Aaron. "Relieve me now of your
presence."

As he said this the communicating door between the rooms opened, and
Mrs. Gordon appeared on the threshold.

"Yes, I will go," said Mr. Poynter, but fell back when Mrs. Gordon
advanced.

"Not yet," she said, and turned to Aaron. "I have a word to say to
this gentleman. Your servant admitted me, and allowed me to wait in
the adjoining apartment till you were disengaged. I have heard all
that has passed between you, and I am thankful for the chance that
enabled me to do so. Mr. Cohen, look upon that man, and mark how
changed he is from braggart to coward. It is not the infamous
falsehoods he has spoken, it is not the cowardly threats to which he
has dared to give utterance in the presence of a lady, that cause him
to shrink, that blanch his face, and bring terror into his eyes. It is
because he sees me stand before him, the woman he betrayed and
deserted long years ago. He believed me dead, driven to death by his
treachery and baseness; he beholds me living, to cover him, if I wish,
with shame and ignominy. Heaven knows I had no desire to seek him, but
Heaven directed me here in a just moment to expose and baffle him. It
is my turn now to threaten, it is my turn to dictate. You unutterable
villain, you shall make some sort of retribution for the infamy of the
past!"

"Psha!" said Mr. Poynter, with white lips. "Who will believe you? You
have no proofs."

"I have. God's justice has turned your weapon against yourself. The
safe entrusted to this noble gentleman, and which he delivered to me
intact, untampered with, when I came to claim it, contained no
treasure in money or jewels. When I parted with my child--and yours--I
was too poor to deposit even one silver coin in it, but in its stead I
placed there the letters you wrote to me, in your own hand, signed in
your own name, the name by which you are known. These letters are now
in my possession. How would you stand in the eyes of the world if I
published them, you God-fearing man, with the story attaching to them?
I will do it, as Heaven is my judge, if you do not repair the injury
you have done this gentleman, whom, with all my heart and soul, I
honour and revere. It is him you have to thank that your child has
been reared in honour and virtue. Go! I never wish to look upon your
face again; but as you are a living man I will bring the good name you
falsely bear to the dust if you do not make reparation!"

As he slunk past her, uttering no word, she held her dress so that it
should not come in contact with him. His power for evil was at an end,
and Aaron had nothing more to fear from his malice.

Then, after Aaron had introduced her to Rachel, she poured glad
tidings into their ears. She had not sought them earlier, she said,
because she wished first to execute a plan which was in her head
respecting them, and she had also to reconcile Lord Storndale to his
son's marriage with Ruth. Her great wealth had enabled her, after much
labour, to succeed in this endeavour, and Ruth was recognised by her
husband's family. The fortune which Aaron had settled upon Ruth had
not been used in the carrying out of her desire; it was deposited in
the bank, where only Aaron's signature was needed to prove his right
to it. And now she begged them to accompany her; she wished to show
them something, and her carriage was at the door. It conveyed them to
a handsome house in a good neighbourhood, which they supposed to be
Mrs. Gordon's residence. A neatly dressed maid answered the bell, and
to their surprise Mrs. Gordon immediately left them, and saying she
would call on the morrow, drove away before they could reply. The
maid, holding the door open to allow them to enter, handed Aaron a
letter and a packet, both addressed to him. The letter was from Mrs.
Gordon, and upon reading it the mystery was explained. The house had
been purchased by her in the name of Aaron Cohen, and the packet
contained the deeds. "In furnishing the house," Mrs. Gordon wrote,
"Ruth has been the guiding spirit; she knew what was most precious to
you and your dear wife." Aaron's heart throbbed with gratitude as he
and Rachel walked through the rooms, and he saw all the memorials of
their old home which they held most dear. On the walls were the
portrait of himself and the picture of Rachel in the garden in France,
which had been presented to him on the day when all his friends had
assembled to do him honour. Joyful tears ran down Rachel's face as he
described these treasures to her; the love she had lavished on Ruth
met now with its return. In the study Aaron paused, and lifting
something from the table, placed it in Rachel's hands.

"Your silver-mounted pipe!" she exclaimed.

"My silver-mounted pipe," he answered. "My life, with this pipe, and
the dear picture of you sitting under the cherry tree, and holding
your dear hand, I can pass my days in perfect happiness and content."

"O Lord of the Universe," said Rachel, clasping her hands, and raising
her lovely face, "I thank Thee humbly for all Thy goodness to me and
mine!"



                               THE END



                           *  *  *  *  *  *
Printed by Hazell, Watson, & Viney, Ld., London and Aylesbury.





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