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Title: A Fair Jewess
Author: Farjeon, B. L. (Benjamin Leopold)
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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Transcriber's Notes:
   1. Page scan source: https://books.google.com/books?id=emlLN6DE1I
      (Harvard University)
   2. This book was also published as "Aaron the Jew. A Novel," in
      London by Hutchinson & Co. in 1895.



A Fair Jewess



BY
B. L. FARJEON,

_Author of "The Last Tenant" Etc_.



NEW YORK:
THE F. M. LUPTON PUBLISHING COMPANY.



Copyright, 1894, by
THE CASSELL PUBLISHING CO.

_All rights reserved_.



CONTENTS.

CHAPTER
I.         The Poor Doctor
II.        Dr. Spenlove's Visitor
III.       Dr. Spenlove Undertakes a Delicate Mission
IV.        "One More Unfortunate"
V.         "Come! We Will End It"
VI.        The Friend in Need
VII.       The Result of Dr. Spenlove's Mission
VIII.      What was Put in the Iron Box
IX.        Mr. Moss Plays his Part
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
XVIII.     In the New House
XIX.       The Doctor Speaks Plainly to Aaron Cohen
XX.        A Momentous Night
XXI.       The Temptation
XXII.      The Living and the Dead
XXIII.     Plucked from the Jaws of Death
XXIV.      The Curtain Falls
XXV.       After Many Years
XXVI.      The Foundation of Aaron's Fortune
XXVII.     The Farewell
XXVIII.    Revisits Gosport
XXIX.      What Shall be Done to the Man whom the
              King Delighteth to Honor?
XXX.       The Honorable Percy Storndale
XXXI.      The Spirit of the Dead Past
XXXII.     Before All, Duty
XXXIII.    A Cheerful Doctor
XXXIV.     Ruth's Secret
XXXV.      The Honorable Percy Storndale Makes an
              Appeal
XXXVI.     A Duty Performed
XXXVII.    The Mother's Appeal
XXXVIII.   A Mother's Joy
XXXIX.     A Panic in the City
XL.        "Can you Forgive me?"
XLI.       A Poisoned Arrow
XLII.      Retribution



A FAIR JEWESS.



CHAPTER I.
THE POOR DOCTOR.


On a bright, snowy night in December, some years ago, Dr. Spenlove,
having been employed all the afternoon and evening in paying farewell
visits to his patients, walked briskly toward 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 this, 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 practiced, 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? Oh,
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 smoldering away without kindling
the wood; the landlady knelt down, and with a skillful touch the flame
leaped 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 humor 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 lady. "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 a while 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 safeguarded 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 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 agonizing. 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 a while 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
homeward, 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 neighborhood, 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 dreaded being
recognized. 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 neighborhood 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 dare say I am to you."

"No, sir," she said; "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
will 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 honor; and meanwhile
I promise to ask no questions."

"I am deeply grateful to you, sir."

From that day he attended her regularly, and she was strengthened and
comforted by his considerate conduct toward 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 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 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
instill 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 there any other than a 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 favor 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. 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 gray 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.

"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 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 kindness 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, 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 whose future seemed
so dark and hopeless. For the first time during this 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, at
least, 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 labors with a light heart if this unhappy woman was 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 savior, and the savior 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, on which
I will consent to lift her from the degrading 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
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 highroad 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
afterward in my debt to the tune of two 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 race
courses 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 toward 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
practiced; no person was wronged by it, and it would assist toward
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; no touch of tenderness unites 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 considerations. 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's circumstances"--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 specter 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 that I shall take to this end
shall be so effectual that if by chance in the future they should
happen to meet she shall not recognize her. 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--the
worldly aspect of it, 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 own
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 position 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. 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 the 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 for 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.
"ONE MORE UNFORTUNATE."


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 his intuitive observance of what was passing around him and
all his mental forces were in active play, 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
right in urging Mrs. Turner to renounce her maternal duties and
obligations, and to part forever 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 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 upon the wheel to steer these two
helpless beings through the voyage upon which they were embarked, and
upon him rested the responsibility. There was no case here of plowing
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 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. 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 aspect, so hard and bitter and cruel in its material. 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 toward the crowd, and was immediately recognized.

"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 policemen 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 civilization's painted, bedizened nightbirds of the
streets. Dr. Spenlove had befriended her, counseled 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,
forever 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
spring, time 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 street in which Mrs. Turner
resided many of the houses 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
light. He listened for the sound of breathing, but none reached his
ears.

"Mrs. Turner!" he cried.

Receiving no response, he struck a match. 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 come home at ten soaked through and through, and I was
glad to get to bed. It aint 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 aint 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 aint 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 aint
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 aint 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, someone 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 shan'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 succor 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.
"COME! WE WILL END IT."


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, which she did not express in words,
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. "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 their own particular belief.
Pagans are as worthy of esteem as the bigots who arrogate to
themselves the monopoly of heavenly rewards.

Mrs. Turner was neither pagan not 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, or 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 lifelong 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 the letters into 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 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 forever might be reopened again 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, and 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
weird 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 toward 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 considerations. The soft snow fell, and
enwrapt 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 pressed her babe
close to her breast to stifle its 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 dishonored
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 have been 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
honorable 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 another man wooed
her in a 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 her
and her 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 of a spiritual messenger was guiding
him aright, Dr. Spenlove plodded through the streets. He had no clew,
and received none from the half dozen persons or so he encountered as
he walked toward 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 toward 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 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 caroled 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 gray 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, dì su, dì su, dì su presto!"


From hand to lips the starry gleam, and the soul of Mr. Moss followed
the air as he puffed his weed. The pawnbroker broke into ecstasy. From
lips to hand again the starry light, and his voice grew rapturous:


     "Ceil! E come una man
      Che sul baccio 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 diamond rings, he
fished a couple of coppers from a capacious pocket, and thrust them
into Dr. Spenlove's outstretched palm. 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 humor 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. "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--' 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. Too bad to let him go alone, 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. "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. Schooldays 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, and
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 you're
just winning 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 honor 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
our sons? Why, put them where they can make money. _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 per 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 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, and would have continued had not
Dr. Spenlove hurried forward out of hearing.

During the time that Mr. Moss was expounding his views 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 hurriedly to the spot. It was as if some living creature
was 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 excitements "Give it to me--quick; there's someone 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 closely to his breast, and enveloped it
in its warm folds. To release Mrs. Turner from her perilous condition,
to raise her to her feet, to put his mouth to her mouth, his ear to
her heart, to assure himself that 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 toward 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 toward Mrs. Turner's
lodging. Dr. Spenlove's skillful 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. 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 toward 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 anyone 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 gray 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, and 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; in one hand a loaf of bread, 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.
THE RESULT OF DR. SPENLOVE'S MISSION.


An hour after Mr. Moss' 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 murmured.

"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. "You speak to me of happiness!"

"I do, in truth and sincerity, if you are willing to make a sacrifice,
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 recognize 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 toward her, brought a flush to her cheeks
as she ate. And indeed she ate ravenously; defiant and desperate as
had been her mood, 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 a while, 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.

"Who is the gentleman who takes such an interest in me?"

"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
honorable proposition, and Mr. Gordon offers nothing that is not
honorable." He sighed as he said this, for he thought of the
sacredness of a mother's love for her firstborn. "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 been
wronged as I have wronged 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.
I am not worthy of him, or of any man."

"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 of 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 take 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 demeanor 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 honor more than I honor
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 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 toward 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. 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 was 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 she 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 will unlock 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 three to-morrow?"

"And my child?" she asked, with tears in her voice. "When will that 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 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 interests of her babe; nor did
she doubt that the man who had dictated it was acting in simple
justice to himself and perhaps in a spirit of mercy toward 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
dishonor 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. We may 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, sweet!"

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. Forever would she be
thinking of the child for whom she now, for the first time since its
birth, 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
toward 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 letter, 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 I would strike him
dead at my feet!"

There was no lingering accent of tenderness in her voice. For the
father of her child she had only feelings of hatred and scorn. Clearly
she was a woman of strong passions, a woman who could love and hate in
no niggardly fashion.

She tore the letter down in two uneven strips, and placed one strip in
the box; the other she folded carefully and returned to her pocket.
Then she locked the box, and tying the key with a piece of string,
hung it round her neck and allowed it to fall, hidden in her bosom.

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

The portion of the letter which she had deposited in the box read as
follows:


"My Darling:

        "My heart is
dear girl that I do no
can express my feelings
would be powerless to ex
will show my deep love in
life shall be devoted to t
of making you happy. Neve
have occasion for one moment
that you have consented to be
I have thoroughly convinced yo
marriage with Mr. Gordon would b
of bringing the deepest misery up
be truly a living death. With me
be filled with love and sunshine. N
be allowed to darken it. As your p
as your devoted husband, I solemnly sw
will forever shield and guard you. In
hours our new and joyful life will be com
Meet me to-morrow night at the appointed p
and be careful not to whisper a word of you
flight to a living soul. The least suspicion
certainly ruin your happiness and mine. And
sure that you burn this letter as you have bur
With fond and everlasting love, believe me, my o
be forever and ever your faithful and constant l


Putting the iron box on the table she sat by the bedside, her eyes
fixed upon her child. Her 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 think of it?--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
forever 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
recognize 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 a while her lids dropped, 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 to which she had proved she was too prone to yield, 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. From
girlhood to womanhood in these fair dreams her baby passed, 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; forever 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' 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 services 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 this 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 inclosed
a practical expression of my thanks. I do not give you my address for
two reasons. First, I desire no acknowledgment of the inclosure;
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 inclosure consisted of five Bank of England notes for twenty
pounds 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. 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. 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.
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."

"I understand."

"You meet a person to-day whom 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
cannot avert misfortune. It is a visitor that does not knock at the
door; it enters unannounced."

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

"It happens sometimes 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 like 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 engage 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 gayety, "you
chance upon a little narrow path to the right or left of you, and your
eye lighting on it, you observe a stretch of woodland, a touch of
bright color, a picture of human suffering, that appeals to your
poetical instinct, to your musical tastes, or to your humanity. Down
you plunge toward 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
set 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 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 are 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
clew 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 affair, but I have been mixed up in
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 flatiron to a
flesh and blood baby. Anyway, if I chose 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 her."

"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 taken upon himself a very heavy
responsibility, which I have little doubt--none, indeed--that he will
honorably 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 banknotes. 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 honorable, 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 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 farther, 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. 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
endeavor 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 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.



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 aniseed 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 neighbors, 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 Hebrew 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, and 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 neighborhood 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
realized.

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
realize 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 realize that, in this tiny churchyard, men and women whose
breasts once throbbed with the passions and sorrows of life should be
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 heavenward, 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 parent's 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 parlor 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 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 round her.

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

"Yes, Aaron; there is very little 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. 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. There is a knock at the street door."

"Who can it be?" asked Rachel anxiously. "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 a tradesman. Let us see who it is that expresses himself so
impatiently."

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 parlor, 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 on 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; a
fine protection against the hot rays of the sun; a protection, also,
against the wind and rain. But in this room, as you may observe, we
have neither wind nor rain nor sun." 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 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."

Somewhat stiffly 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 build. 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 nature of his visit, but he had
already made it clear that he was not graciously disposed toward the
Jew; the only effect this had upon Aaron 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 those 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 center 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 loath," continued Aaron, "to waste even the thinnest joke. We
are at once 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.

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

"It is true, sir. The 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. It is a case of the early bird, then."

"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 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 want 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 all
men are bound to do. 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 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 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 offense, 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 of every rich man, to make for himself a
record that shall be imperishable--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," said Mr. Whimpole inwardly confounding
Aaron's flow of ideas, "by means of charity."

"Yes, sir, by means of charity. 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 a strictly 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 toward 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 God's port is there throughout the civilized
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 parlor he saw that Rachel was
greatly disturbed.

"My life!" he said, and he folded her in his arms and tenderly
embraced her. "Don't let such a little thing as this 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 color 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 rubber
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 anyone to attend to the
lights and the fire?" They were not rich enough to keep a regular
servant, and Aaron never 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
flavor of gin behind her. When Aaron came home the two Sabbath candles
were alight upon the snow-white tablecloth, and on the tablecloth a
supper was spread--fried fish, white bread and white butter, and in
the fender a steaming coffeepot. He washed and said his prayers, and
then they sat down to their meal in a state of perfect contentment.
Aaron, having besought the customary blessing on the bread they were
about to eat, 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 comprehensive
glance 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 fire. 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; "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, aint it?"

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

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

"And who is your aunty?"

"Mrs. 'Orkins. Pretend not to know 'er--do! She sed you'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 civilized 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 gray 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' 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 humor was
undeniable, but it had its pathetic side. Aaron Cohen was swayed now
by one emotion, now by another.

"So you are Mrs. Hawkins' 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' 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 sweet
stuff rose before her. The pennies getting warm, the ice at the North
Pole began to melt.

"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, aint 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 cabbages and taters and oranges and
lemons. And she takes in washing."

So genial was Aaron Cohen's voice that spring was coming in fast. "You
look, Prissy, as if you had very little to eat."

"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 coffeepot. Set it on the fire. Rachel, my
dear, take Prissy and baby into the kitchen and let them wash
themselves, and afterward 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 hot smoking 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 ate, 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 hearth rug.
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 upon 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 toward thee, and grant thee peace!"

It was something more than a blessing; it was 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' 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 humor, 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 the nose of a man
is 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 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 humor, 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 coreligionist, 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
Jacob and Aaron and Moses, 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. A big nose is a grand decoration, and I
would sooner possess it than a bit of red ribbon in my buttonhole, 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 humor 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 sympathize 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 reasons 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 neighborhood 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 neighborhood 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, to grow rich, 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 abed," 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, enj'ying 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
begins to kick up about it. 'Where's my 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 wos about.
Aunty didn't know 'ow it come on 'er--she's ready to take 'er oath on
that. Aint 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 discolored, and that she was in pain.

"O 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 borderland 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 different things in 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 unfavorable opinion of him (influenced by certain
rumors 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."

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 parlor,
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 the
holidays, 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. At peace with the
world and with themselves, they 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 himself. With fond endearments he endeavored 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 honored husband
that this wicked demonstration was made, and she dreaded that he would
be subjected to violence. To her perturbed mind 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. 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 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 humor.

"Have no fear, my heart," he said, "have not the slightest fear. I am
going to meet them--not with javelin and spear; 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, 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 light it, and then, with tender
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.

"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.

"Jew! Jew! Jew!"

"Good little boys and girls," said Aaron. "Bravo! bravo! You deserve a
reward. Every laborer 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 ardor increased. They scratched, they
kicked, they tumbled over each other, blows were exchanged. Those who
had secured pennies scampered away with them, and with loud and
vengeful cries the penniless scampered after them. The next moment
they had all disappeared.

Shaking with internal laughter, Aaron remained on his steps a while,
purring at his pipe; then he put up the shutters, locked the street
door, 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." 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 labors of the young rascals who would make our lives a
torment to us."

"You gave them money!" exclaimed Rachel in amazement.

"I threw among them seven penny pieces. 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 instinctively profited by it. 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 labored 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 are
injured and eyes discolored. 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, root of much evil and of much good,
what have you not to answer for? Rachel, my love, take heart of
courage, and when you hear those boys shouting outside to-morrow 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,
eyes were discolored, words of injurious import exchanged, and bad
blood engendered. The sevenpence for which they fought would not have
paid 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 organize 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, nodding benignantly in
approval, and continuing to smoke his silver-mounted pipe. "Very well
done, very well done indeed!"

"Aint he going to throw us anything?" 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.
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 hungry 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 sweet stuff.

"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;
and 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 quarreled 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, you coward!" cried the rank and file to their captain. "What are
you frightened at? What did we make you 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 favor."

Ted, with a sidelong look over his shoulder 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."

"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? It is as good as a play. I think it is
very nice of you--very nice, very nice indeed!"

"Oh," said Ted in a crestfallen 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. "He says
it's as good as a play."

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

"He didn't give me nothing."

"We saw him hold out his hand to you," they protested.

"You saw us shake hands, that's what you 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 money 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 again 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 money. 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 each other as they strolled
off moodily, "and he wants us to come here and scream our throats dry
without being paid for it. Well, we aint going to do it. We won't call
him Jew any more if he wants us ever so much. It aint likely, now, is
it? What does he mean by treating us so shabby?" These young
rapscallions thought the world was out of joint.

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 cozy little parlor when he related the whole
affair to Rachel.

"One shilling and eightpence has it cost me, my love," he said, "and I
do not begrudge 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 innuendos 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 toward 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 judgment will fall upon them. Spain, once the greatest of
nations, fell into decay when the Jew 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 uneducated 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
respect the Cohens earned among the townsfolk. Charitable, kind, and
gentle by nature, she was instinctively drawn to those poor people who
had fallen into misfortune. Upon her sympathetic ears no tale of
distress could fall without bearing fruit. 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 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 as 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 seemed to live 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, rearranged 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, there was little now to tempt
thieves to repeat their knavish doings. So with fond kisses he bade
her good-night.

They stood facing each other, looking into each other's eyes. Rachel's
eyes were of a tender gray, 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 goodhearted 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 I
shall require a little stock to replace what I have lost; it would
cramp me to do so now."

He mentioned the name 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. 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, 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----"

"Fourteen," 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 toward the successful
accomplishment of just and worthy endeavor. That it was man's duty to
do right, to work, to pray, to be considerate to his neighbors, 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. Wrongdoing was not to be set aside and forgotten until a
convenient hour for repentance arrived. Hourly, daily, 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. A distant glare in the
sky, 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
spiritual, but presently he discovered that they did not spring from
his imagination. The glare in the sky became plainly visible, the loud
voices reached his ears. There was a fire in the town, and he was
proceeding toward it. Instantly his thoughts, his fears, centered upon
Rachel. He ran forward quickly, and found himself struggling through
an excited crowd. Flames shot upward; 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 came the joyful news that she was saved.

"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 night dress; sympathizing
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, Mr. Cohen," said a voice; it was that of the
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 a while,
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 neighbors 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 the 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 honored 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 blot out the principle of justice, 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? 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 is 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 faint-hearted 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 humor 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 incident he met with, in
the same spirit, 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. 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 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 bag of gold." Upon questions of right and wrong his good
sense and his rectitude led him unerringly to the just side, and when
his own interests were involved in a decision he was called upon to
make in such and 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 forever 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 inspired,
becomes a leader, a hero, a prophet; but in that man's heartstrings
are not entwined the tender fingers of wife and children. 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. 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. Let us
lift 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 prayer, but not in so loud a voice as usual; 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
leaped 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!"

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 endeavor can aid me. You will be
glad to hear, too, that the townspeople sympathize with us in our
trouble."

"I am very glad; it could hardly have been otherwise. Who that lives
to know you does not learn to honor 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 gayety.

"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 in his stocking feet, 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 causeth 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. Oh, 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, and 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."

And Rachel slept on, and dreamed of the child whose face she was never
to see upon earth.



CHAPTER XVIII.
IN THE NEW HOUSE.


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 that were destroyed he considered himself bound in
honor and common honesty to make good; he made no demur to the claims
that were brought against them, 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 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.
"Doctor, will she live?"

The doctor bit his lip as he gazed upon Aaron's misery. "We will do
our best; but remember, we are all in God's hands." And with these
words, and a look of compassion, he departed.

Aaron stood motionless a while. 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.

"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. Aaron, dear love, do not be anxious for me; I
shall soon 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? 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. It would be unreasonable to
ask for so large a loan, say, as fifty pounds, for that was the least
that he could begin again with; besides, 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. 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 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 thought in his mind now of his worldly troubles;
he thought only of his beloved wife and 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 everybody's saying about yer, Mr. Cohen?"

"Never mind, never mind, my good girl; I have no time to listen."

"They're saying, everybody is," continued Prissy, "that yer as good as
ruined, and that you 'aven't got a shilling left to pay yer way with."

"What does it matter what people say, Prissy? Never listen to
tittle-tattle."

"'Ow's it to be 'elped, Mr. Cohen, when they ding it 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 aint 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 'em
think as he wants 'em to. 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. Wot did she 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
aint she good, sir? and does she ever say anythink but the truth? and
aint she as kind as kind can be to everybody about 'er? Why, it's in
everybody's mouth, 'xcept Mr. Whimpole's. 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 the door of 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 upstairs, and softly
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 sorrow 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 stepped softly into the passage, and listened.
He heard no sound, not a sob, not a cry; then 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 man do with a cheerful heart. 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 that he could do was to
wait and hope and pray.

Hush! What was that? An infant's wail--the cry of a newborn 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?

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 Aaron 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.
THE DOCTOR SPEAKS PLAINLY TO AARON COHEN.


"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. Loving you as I do, with my whole heart,
there is still some wisdom in my love. 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 a while.

"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 born blind, as I am. Thank
God, I did not bring that misfortune upon her. What happiness entered
my heart when the doctor told me that her eyes were bright and
beautiful. If only the gracious Lord will not take her--if only he
will spare her to live to an honored 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 the few articles of
jewelry 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-by. 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. 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.

"It isn't for me to say, Mr. Cohen. If I were you I would ask the
doctor to tell me 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 ask 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 am 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 was surprised 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 you 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 favor, 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 human 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, will you speak plainly to 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. 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 physically strong and well, 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, coming so close upon her expected confinement, have
left their effects upon her. If things take a favorable 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 softer 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 recognize this yourself, and
if by any possibility or sacrifice you can manage it you must do so."

"It is vitally necessary, doctor?"

"It is, I have no hesitation in saying, 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. Aaron saw clearly what was before
him, but he could not see a way out of his difficulties, nor to doing
what he was told 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. There was 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 leaned
anxiously over her to catch the sound of her breathing; and so faint
and soft 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 spoke the truth 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 burning desire to do something to keep
his wife with him even if she should lose her babe, but toward the
accomplishment of this he felt that he could do nothing. He was but an
instrument; if he were to be successful in steering his beloved to a
haven of peace and health it must be through outside influences which
up to the present were not visible to him. "Show me the way, oh,
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 agonizing desire.

Meanwhile his funds had run completely out, and with spiritual sight
he saw 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 his 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 evening, a cold and bitter evening. The snow had been falling
heavily, a fierce wind was raging. He thought of Rachel, homeless and
hungry, and his heart was torn with woe. It seemed as if her life
depended upon him; 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 earlier in the day, 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 insure 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 her
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 halfway 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' 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' errand open up the 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 for a time 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; it was Rachel's
gift, and she had often filled it for him. 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 recognized him. He was
enveloped in his great fur coat, which was pulled up close to his
ears; a lighted cigar was between his lips, and he was humming an
operatic air as he puffed at it.

"Why, Cohen," said Mr. Moss 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 little sob.

"No, no, no!" exclaimed Mr. Moss. "That will never do, Cohen. Look on
the best side. Things will right themselves; they will, mark my words.
I am here 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--"in the nick of
time. 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--not likely. 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 you can have 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 dreamed 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 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 the most 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,
intrusted to me for special purposes, 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.
THE TEMPTATION.


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 through the earlier chapters of this story.
Aaron listened with attention and surprise, with attention because of
his anxiety to ascertain whether the proposal was likely to extricate
him from his cruel position, with surprise 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 demeanor, 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 dreamed 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 that I shall
make nothing out of it myself."

"Indeed, you need not," said Aaron, pressing Mr. Moss' hand. "Pure
friendship has brought you here--I know, I know; but surely you must
see that it is impossible for me to undertake 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
was 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 the balance.
It has happened to me, and I have said afterward, '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 people 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 took 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
moderate 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 I consulted a gentleman--Dr. Spenlove--who has a
kind heart and correct principles, and agreed with me that the
transaction was perfectly honorable. 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 Shakspere 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 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 undertook executed, I retire, and have
nothing further to do with it. Anything you choose to communicate with
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 intrusted 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 eminent 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 these 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 insure 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 this 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 the
hour of her 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 practice. 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 if need arise I can
atone for it in the future. The child will be reared in a virtuous
home, and 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.
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 sweetest 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, gathered 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' 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! 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; "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 walk 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 gayly:

"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. 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 a while 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 startling 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 mold. 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 doubt. "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.

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 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 endeavor 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
safe which Dr. Spenlove, at the intercession of the mother who had
consented to part with her child, had intrusted 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 parlor.

"I have come back about this little safe," 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 safe, 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 a fact. Don't look worried; there is no
fear of any trouble in the future; only she made it a condition that
the safe 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 child. 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.

"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.

"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."

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 realization; 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' 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 out, 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? But you have not told me how it occurred."

"It was very simple," said Aaron in a low tone. "I laid the child 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, Cohen, take time."

"Now and again I went to look at the child, 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
godsend 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
dispatch 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. Afterward 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. It clears the
way for him, in a manner of speaking. 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?"

"That is another matter, and I will not pretend to say. There are
mothers and mothers, and fathers and fathers. 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 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, evidently 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 insure 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 color 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, by every means within his power, endeavor to atone for it.
He would keep strict watch over himself; he would never give way to
temptation; he would act justly and honorably; 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.

At eight o'clock Rachel stirred; she raised her arm and put her hand
to her eyes, blind to all the world, blind to his 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 anxiety under which he labored was not yet
dispelled. Was there some suitable instinct in a mother's love which
would convey to Rachel's sense the agonizing 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 dreamed,
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, beloved. 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 forever 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 transgression. "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 until 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 had 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
forgot 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 all 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 aint 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 aint 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 touch of his old humor, "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.



CHAPTER XXIV.
THE CURTAIN FALLS.


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 that you take her away 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.
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 very different
temperaments, and when a case is submitted to us by a strong-minded
gentleman we may advise, but we may 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 doubt
whatever."

"We have nothing to do with either of those sums; they do not come
from us, but independently 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 are 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. "Different people, different temperaments. 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 understand; it is for us to carry out
instructions. I have brought the sum 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 honorable gentleman who would
have faithfully performed his duty toward 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 travelers to a milder clime.



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 honor. 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
gray 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
prone 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. 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 color in
her cheeks, she is in perfect 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 to 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 indelible. To him his mother is a
saint, his father a man without blemish. Were he asked to express his
most earnest wishes he would answer, "When I am my father's age may I
be honored 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 everyone 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 toward her; jealous of
the good name of those whom she serves with devotion. 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 baby the songs and lullabys 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 lighthearted 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
eagerness 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' 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' 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. She did make a
commencement, but when she was told that _chou_ (she scornfully turned
her back on _du_) was cabbage it was the last straw. "In course we
choo," she said; "wot do we put things in our mouth for?" She had
previously shied at _pain_, declaring that bread was pleasure. English
was good enough for her, she declared, and to the English tongue she
nailed her colors. 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 are in each other's confidence. 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 labor, 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 labor 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 losing or winning; 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
upon the signed contract being given 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 were as yet untouched, for they lived very
economically, and they 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 advance it?" he asked.

"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; they received the balance due to them, and a division of
the profits was made. After paying all his expenses Aaron was the
richer by two 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 their
success, tendered for it. Again did fortune favor 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 around, and they had already achieved a reputation.
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 they had obtained another contract the best workmen
came to them for employment, and they learned what all employers of
labor may learn, that it is wise policy to pay generously for bone and
muscle. The hateful political economy of Ricardo, which would grind
labor 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, inclosing in it a draught for a
hundred pounds, which he asked the doctor to distribute among the
local charities. That the receipt of this money afforded gratification
to the doctor was evidenced in his reply. "Everyone 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 three
years' 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
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 so
much money could be saved by employing such and such middlemen, who
offered to supply labor 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
laborers' 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 savior 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.

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.

"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.

"You are a Jewess?"

"Yes, 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 looked wistfully for recognition
when she was near them. She scattered food for the birds, and they
grew to know her; some would even pick crumbs from her hands. "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! 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 favorite 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 the blessing was bestowed upon him.

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 by
the Paris Salon; it was entitled "A Jewish Mother," and represented a
woman sitting beneath a cherry tree in flower, with two young children
gamboling 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-flushed, 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's face. It dwelt in the minds of all who beheld it, and it is
not too much to say that it carried with it an influence for good.

So is it also with a pure poem and story; the impression they leave is
an incentive to kindly act and tolerant judgment; they soften, they
ameliorate, they bring into play the higher attributes of human
nature, and in their practical results a benefit is conferred equally
upon the sufferer by the wayside and the Samaritan who pours oil upon
his wounds.

"Who is the woman?" asked the critics, 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.
Traveling 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 he had
intended to paint, and determined to take Rachel in its stead. He made
himself acquainted with her story, was introduced to Aaron, and
contrived to make himself welcome in their home--no difficult matter,
for Aaron was ever ready to appreciate intellect.

Many an evening did this painter pass with them, sometimes in company
with the curé, and many a friendly argument did they have. He 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 afterward 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 perfumes 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
harbored against her or hers; her gentle spirit was an incentive to
gentleness; she was a living tender embodiment of peace on earth and
good will 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
were a pleasure to her.

The three years having expired, the partnership came to an end. The
engineer was invited to Russia to undertake some great 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 rigors 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 practiced."

"How would you put a stop to them?" asked the engineer.

"I will suppose a case," Aaron answered. "You are a married man, with
wife and children, and you have for your neighbor another married man
with wife and children. You bring up your family decently, you treat
them kindly, you have an affection for them. All round you other men
with wives are doing the same; but there is one exception--your brutal
neighbor. Daily and nightly shrieks of agony are heard proceeding from
his house, terrible cries of suffering, imploring appeals for help and
mercy. He has a numerous family of children, all of whom have been
born in the house of which he is a ruler, all of whom recognize 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 toward the expenses of his household. Some of these
children he loves, some he hates, and it is those he hates whom he
oppresses. From them proceed these shrieks of agony, these cries of
suffering, these appeals for help. You see them issue from his house
torn and bleeding, their faces convulsed with anguish, their hearts
racked with woe; you see them return to it--inexorable necessity
drives them there; they have no other home, and there is no escape for
them--trembling with fear, for the lash awaits them, and torture
chambers are there 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 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 forever.
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 house--they are my children, and I will do as I
please with them. Their bodies are mine, they have no souls!' 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 fervor. "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 ruler; 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 call upon
the Lord of Hosts 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 XXVII.
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. The well-to-do and the poor alike deplored the impending
loss, but their appeals 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 center 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. He
was the only Jewish man in the place; there was no synagogue in which
he and his family could worship, and it was in his own home that he
carried out all the ceremonials of his religion. Not one of these did
he omit; he strictly observed the Sabbaths and holidays and fasts, and
under no consideration would he perform any kind of work on those
occasions.

He obtained his Passover cakes and his meat (killed according to the
Jewish law) from neighboring towns, and he did not excite the ire of
the local butcher, because he spent more money with him in providing
for the wants of the poor than he could have done in his own
establishment had it been twice as large as it was. Every year he
erected in his garden a tent in which to celebrate the Feast of
Tabernacles, and in all these observances Rachel took a devout and
heartfelt pleasure.

If the great painter who had painted her portrait as she sat beneath
the cherry tree had been a witness of the scene when the family were
assembled in the prettily decorated tent, and Aaron, with the palm
branch in his hand, intoned in his rich musical voice, "When I wave
the branches do Thou pour down the blessings of thy heavenly influence
on Thine habitation, the bridal canopy, the dwelling place of our
God," while Rachel, with her young children, stood meekly before him,
he would have been inspired to produce another picture which would
have rivaled the first in popularity. But much as Aaron had reason to
be grateful for, he yearned to follow the practices of his religion
among his co-religionists, he yearned to have the honor 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. There was another consideration.

He wished his son, Joseph, to grow up amid such surroundings, 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, there
was no Jewish society in which he could mix. He looked forward to the
future. Joseph would become a man, and in this village there would be
no Jewish maiden to attract his heart. 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. "Peace 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 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, and, after consideration, he 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 his 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 do 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 proselytize, 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 after the Jewish mode. He contented
himself with fruit and bread, and made a good and sufficient meal.
Speeches were made in his honor, and he was held up as an example to
old and young alike.

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 neighbors 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 labors 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 best lessons of life were to be learned from the performance of
simple acts of duty, for he regarded it a duty to so conduct ourselves
as to make our presence welcome and agreeable to those with whom we
were in daily association. As for 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
my dear wife's restoration to health, and it would be ingratitude
indeed did I not endeavor 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 among you, 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 honor were turned upon him
approvingly and sympathizingly.

"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 afterward 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 which he had grown to regard with an
affection which was really spiritual. There are in the possession of
many men and women dumb memorials of insignificant value which they
would not part with for untold gold, and this silver-mounted pipe of
Aaron's--Rachel's gift to him in the early years of their married
life--was one of these. A special case had been made for it, and he
handled it 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 gayly. "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 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 anyone else,
and he was quite sincere at the moment in all the sentiments he
expressed, whatever he may have thought of himself afterward 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 toward the relief of a few
suffering and deserving people. What 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 counselor. 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 honor 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 up 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 that he was 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 it contained evidence 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 lawyer 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 open the grave?
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 favor.

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 the 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 all this 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 honor and
glory upon him, ended in sadness, and thus was it proved that a deceit
when first practiced 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 workingmen waited on Aaron, and presented him
with an address. The employers of labor themselves--secretly glad,
perhaps, that he was going from among them--paid him a special honor.
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 XXVIII.
REVISITS GOSPORT.


The years that followed until Ruth was grown to womanhood and Joseph
was a young man were eventful years for Aaron Cohen and his family. He
returned to England the possessor of a moderate fortune, but he had no
idea of retiring from the active duties of life. 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 the 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 the 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 two or three occasions
Aaron readily consented to give an introduction through a concert held
in his house to a young aspirant in whom Mr. Moss took an interest,
and to other budding talent in the same direction Aaron's rooms were
always open. The only conversation between Mr. Moss and Aaron in
relation to their intimacy in Gosport occurred some three years after
the latter had taken up his residence 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. His view is that you are ruining the
labor market."

"In what way?"

"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. I pay good
wages, and I don't consider them high."

"And the hours are not as long as they might be."

"They are reasonably long enough. If I am satisfied and my workmen are
satisfied I give offense to no man."

"You are wrong, Cohen; you give offense to the capitalist."

"I regret to hear it."

"The idea is that 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 labor cheaper and by making his own 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 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 toward 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. I, on my part, wish to make myself respected here. Surely
there is no race in the world to which it is greater honor, and should
be a greater pride, to belong than the Jewish race; and by my conduct
through life I trust I shall do nothing to tarnish that honor or lower
that pride. 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' eyes gleamed; Aaron had touched a sympathetic chord; 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 me the offer," responded Aaron, "I'm afraid 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."

"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 feel as if a sword were 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 clew, and may be directed to you."

"I shall not enlighten her," said Mr. Moss.

"My desire is that you do enlighten her. It is her property, and I
have no right to retain it."

"Very well, Cohen, if you wish it; but nothing is more unlikely than
your ever being troubled with her, or ever seeing her. 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, Cohen," said Mr. Moss,
rubbing his hands joyously. "I am going back the day after to-morrow.
Will that time suit you?"

"Yes, I will accompany you."

The visit was paid, and lasted three days. Before he returned to
London Aaron went to 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. He saw Mr. Whimpole in his
shop attending to a customer, and saw other men and women whom he
recognized, but to whom he did not speak. He made his way to the
churchyard where his child was buried, and he stood and prayed over
the grave.

"Forgive me, O Lord of Hosts," he said audibly, "that I should have
laid my child to rest in a Christian churchyard. It was to save my
beloved. Forgive me! Have mercy upon me!"



CHAPTER XXIX.
WHAT SHALL BE DONE TO THE MAN WHOM THE KING DELIGHTETH TO HONOR?


In the autumn of the year 1891 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 several journals.

That the pen is mightier than the sword was, at an earlier period in
the world's history, open to dispute, but the contention exists no
longer, and although the day is far distant when the lion shall lie
down with the lamb, the press is now the pre-eminent dictator of 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 beneficial 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 under a bushel, he does not live to see it
gratified.

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 did not receive it with any kind of pleasure,
and he made an effort to avoid it. That his effort was not successful
was not so much due to the perseverance of the leaders of the movement
as to a few simple words uttered by his wife.

"It will give me pleasure," she said.

He did not argue with her; he 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.

Remarkable, indeed, was the position he had won. From the day of his
return to England there had been no break in his prosperity; every
enterprise he undertook flourished, and the old saying was applied to
him, "Everything he touches turns to gold." His reputation, however,
was not based on the fact that he was a lucky but that he was a just
and charitable man. No appeal for any good purpose 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, and his advice was asked and taken
by high and low alike. His character was so well-known that the
poorest Jew, in an hour 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 worldly matters. He did not
confine his labors 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 as a large-hearted, honorable,
and benevolent gentleman. Of course he was sometimes beguiled into
bestowing money upon unworthy objects or persons, but when this came
to his knowledge it did not affect him. "It is but human nature," he
would say. "Where lives the man who does not make mistakes?"

In the wide scope of his charities he had curious experiences, and one
of these got to be known and quoted.

A gentleman visited him and asked for a contribution to an
old-established society known all the world over. Aaron inquired the
name and objects of the society.

"You have doubtless heard of it," replied the gentleman. "It is for
the promotion of Christianity among the Jews."

Aaron smiled as he said, "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 quoted to me as a man who has no narrow
prejudices, and who in no sense of the word could be called dogmatic
or prejudiced."

"It is, then, a compliment you are paying me by asking me to
contribute to a fund which is antagonistic to my race."

"In your view antagonistic," observed the gentleman.

"I see. Meaning that my view is not necessarily the right view."

The gentleman nodded courteously. He was not a collector for the
society, nor a paid officer, but a gentleman of means who, in a
smaller way than Aaron, was also noted for his benevolence.

"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 endeavoring to convert Jews or
Christians to a faith in which they were not born, would it not be
better to employ ourselves in making those who call themselves
Christians true Christians, and those who call themselves Jews true
Jews?"

"There is force in your argument," said the gentleman, "but it is no
answer to my appeal for a contribution to the objects of my society."

"Can you furnish me with particulars," Aaron then said, "of the
working of the society?"

"I have brought the papers with me, anticipating your request."

Aaron looked over the printed books and papers handed to him, and made
certain calculations upon paper.

"I perceive," he said, "that you take credit to yourselves for making
a certain number of conversions during the past five years, and that
you have spent a great deal of money in these conversions. The number
of conversions is very small, the amount of money expended very large.
I have worked out the sum, and I see that each conversion has cost you
nearly eleven thousand pounds. You find these wavering Jews very
expensive?"

"Very expensive," assented the gentleman, with a half-humorous sigh.

"Well, my dear sir," said Aaron, "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
believe to be worthy. I will write a check in contribution to your
object on the understanding that you write a check for half the amount
in contribution to mine. Do not be afraid; it is not for the promotion
of Judaism among the Christians."

The gentleman, who was fairly liberal-minded, laughed good-humoredly
at the proposition as he said:

"I consent, but you are richer than I, and I must stipulate that your
check is not for a large amount."

"It shall not be large," said Aaron, and he filled in a check for
twenty pounds.

The gentleman, somewhat relieved, wrote his check for ten pounds, and
they exchanged documents.

"My contribution," observed Aaron, "represents the five hundred and
fiftieth part of one transitory and probably worldly and insincere
conversion, your contribution represents the fiftieth part of a
perpetual endowment of one sick bed in a hospital. You will pardon me
for saying that I think I have the best of the transaction."

A word as to Aaron Cohen's material position. The world gave him
credit for being exceedingly wealthy, but he was not really so. He had
money, and to spare, and his private establishment was conducted on a
liberal scale. Roughly speaking, had he retired in 1891 he might have
done so on an income of some five thousand pounds, whereas popular
rumor would have credited him with ten times as much. The reason for
this was that a considerable portion of the profits of his enterprise
was regularly given anonymously to every public movement for the good
of the people and for the relief of the suffering. Great curiosity had
been evinced for a long time past as to who was the anonymous donor of
large sums of money in response to these appeals. A colliery disaster,
a flood, an earthquake in a distant country, a case of public
destitution--to one and all of these came a large contribution from a
person who adopted the most careful means to preserve his anonymity,
and who signed himself "Mercy."

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.

The esteem in which he was held was to be demonstrated by two
presentations, one a portrait of himself, by a renowned English
painter, 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 excitement
in the Paris Salon more than a dozen years ago. It had been purchased
by a collector, who had lately died. After his death his collection
was brought to the hammer, and this particular picture purchased by a
London dealer, who exhibited it in his shop.

It was originally intended that a presentation of silver should be
made with Aaron's portrait, but a friend of his happened to see the
picture in London, and was struck by the marvelous resemblance of the
principal figure to Rachel. He made some inquiries privately of Aaron
respecting his sojourn in the south of France, and learned that there
was a certain cherry tree in his garden there beneath which Rachel was
in the habit of sitting in fine weather, that he had a friend, the
curé of the village, and that one summer a French painter visited the
village and made a great many sketches of Rachel and the cherry tree.

Aaron's friend obtained from the London dealer some information of the
history of the picture, and of the year it was exhibited, and putting
this and that together he came to the correct conclusion that Rachel
had unconsciously sat for the painter. It was an interesting
discovery, and the 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.

It is sad to relate that of late years the same good fortune had not
attended him as had attended his friend Aaron. It was his own fault;
he had embarked in speculations outside the scope of his legitimate
business, and when these speculations came to grief he found himself
by no means so well off as he was at the commencement of this history.
It made no difference in Aaron's friendship for him; it may be said,
indeed, to have strengthened it. In a period of difficulty Aaron came
forward voluntarily, and afforded practical assistance to his old
friend. Another strengthening tie was also to be added to this
friendship. On a visit to Portsmouth Aaron's son Joseph fell in love
with one of Mr. Moss' daughters, Rose, a sweet girl, of whom Rachel
was very fond. 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' estimable family.

"There never was such a man as Aaron Cohen," said Mr. Moss to his wife
and children. "He is a credit and an honor to the Jewish race."

In which opinion there was not a Jew in England who did not agree with
him.

It was a consequence of this family arrangement that Rose was often
invited to spend a few weeks 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. He held a position of
responsibility with a large contractor, and had been sent to Austria
upon business of an important nature. He was expected home at the end
of the week, but was only to remain in England two days, his passage
to Australia being already taken, to look after a railway contract
which had been secured by his employer, Mr. Monmouth. He was expected
to be away eight or nine months, and upon his return home the marriage
was to take place. Neither was their other child, Ruth, a witness of
the presentations. She had invited herself to Portsmouth, to spend a
week or two with Mrs. Moss. Rachel missed her, Aaron did not. Although
he could not fix the exact day of her birth, he knew that she would
soon be twenty-one years of age, when the duty would devolve upon him
of delivering to her the iron box of which he had been made the
custodian, and he was in an agony as to how he should act. Every day
that passed deepened his trouble, and it was perhaps to this that his
growing impression may be ascribed that shadows were gathering over
his house which might wreck the happiness of his beloved wife.

Again and again had he debated the matter with himself without being
able to arrive at any comforting conclusion. Rachel doted on her
children. She could not see what Aaron could see--that there was
something weighing also upon Ruth's mind which she was concealing from
them, and that the confidence was wanting which should exist between a
child and her parents. However, on this day he could not give himself
up to these disturbing reflections; he had consented to accept an
honor 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. He was beginning to tamper with himself. The man of upright
mind was at this period laying himself open to dangerous casuistical
temptations. Even from such pure, 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 atmosphere we breathe.

Among the company was an old friend of ours, Dr. Spenlove, who had
attained an eminent position in London. The hundred pounds which Mr.
Gordon had left for his acceptance had proved the turning point in his
career, and he was at the top of the tree in his profession. A man as
kind-hearted as he was of necessity mixed up with many benevolent and
public movements. Aaron, whom till this day he had never 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 of 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 mark of
years, which did not tell heavily upon him, Mr. Moss was the same
jovial-featured, bright-eyed man as ever; Dr. Spenlove had altered;
the fashion of his hair was different, the thoughtful lines in his
face had deepened, he had grown stouter. So that when the two looked
at each other the first sign of recognition came from Dr. Spenlove.

"If I am not mistaken," he said, "we have met before."

Mr. Moss, looking at him, was puzzled for a moment. "In Portsmouth,"
added Dr. Spenlove, jogging his memory.

"Dr. Spenlove?"

"The same."

They shook hands. "It is strange," said Mr. Moss, "that after the
lapse of years 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 poor woman and
her babe whom they rescued from impending death on a snowy night
twenty years ago. But he had not made Dr. Spenlove acquainted with the
name of the man to whom he had intrusted 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 different."

"Widely different," observed Dr. Spenlove. "I have never forgotten
that sad night, have never forgotten your kindness."

"Not worth mentioning."

"But worth bearing in remembrance, as all acts of kindness are. I have
heard nothing more of the matter from that time to this. What became
of the child, Mr. Moss?"

"She died very shortly afterward. A happy release."

"Death is a happy release to many. It, was hardly to be expected that
the child would live long after the exposure on such a night. She was
almost buried in the snow. And the mother, Mr. Moss?"

"I have heard nothing of her whatever."

"Nor have I."

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 endeavor. Rachel, seated by her husband, and
turning her sightless eyes upon the audience, who were only
spiritually visible to her, listened to the speaker in 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 honor
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 civilization 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 might follow, 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 recognized 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 toward 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 immortalize 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 toward 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 happy
chance that had led to the painting of the picture. He was grateful
for that chance 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 realized; 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 useless
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 ever be 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 honor you have paid to us--an honor 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 know you."

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.

Rose Moss was in the room during the proceedings, and her fair young
face beamed with pride; it was her lover's father who was thus
honored, and she felt that she had, through Aaron Cohen's son, a share
in that honor.

When the gratifying but fatiguing labors of the day were at an end,
and Aaron, Rachel, and Rose were alone, Rachel said:

"I am sorry, dear Rose, that Joseph was not here to hear what was said
about his father."

"It would not have made him love and honor him more," said Rose.

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 picture 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 Rose already permitted to address
Rachel.

"She will be home in two days, and our dear lad as well. I wish he
were back from Australia, 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 Rose were together; Aaron was in his study,
writing letters. 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-gray 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 & Co.," he said.

"Yes."

"I have come to speak to you upon a family matter----"

"A family matter!" exclaimed Aaron, interrupting him.

"On behalf of a client. I shall take it as a favor if you will regard
this interview as private."

"Certainly."

"It refers principally to your daughter, Miss Ruth Cohen."



CHAPTER XXX.
THE HONORABLE 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 honorable 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 of
far greater value to him, his wife's happiness and peace of mind. It
was too late now to go to her frankly and say: "Ruth is not our
child." Out of Rachel's innate goodness and sweetness sprang the deep
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 forever afterward in sackcloth and ashes. 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."

"Favor 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 Honorable
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 backsliding 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 civilization 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 with all
religions, and that you have among you men who call themselves
Reformed Jews."

"Surely it is not part of your mission to discuss this matter with
me," said Aaron, who had no desire to enter into such 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 Honorable Percy Storndale is the youngest. I do not
know who is the 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 bill. There are a thousand things he wants,
and to which he believes himself entitled--flowers, horses, clubs, a
stall at the theater, 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 money lenders 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 laborer, 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 Honorable 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
live 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, 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 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 was 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.
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
amiable 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, 'he 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 the 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 recognized
by his kinsfolk. The trouble has already reached a climax. The young
gentleman is hot-headed--a Storndale failing--and he declined 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
civilized 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
intrusted me with a painful task. He requested me to call upon you and
represent the matter in the plainest terms, which I have endeavored 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. A good end will thus be served, and much future misery
averted. You will gather from what I have said that I do not believe
the Honorable Percy Storndale possesses qualities which would make
your daughter happy."

"You are commissioned to take my answer to Lord Storndale."

"I am."

"I may trust you to convey that answer as nearly as possible in my own
words?"

"It shall be my endeavor."

"You will tell him, then, that the mission with which he has intrusted
you is a surprise to me. Until this day I never heard his name, nor
until this day have I heard the name of his son. Never before, to my
knowledge, has my daughter concealed anything from me or from her
mother, and I need not say that what you have revealed is a grief to
me, and will be to her mother if it comes to her ears. That our
daughter must have been under the spell of some powerful influence to
induce her to keep us in ignorance of what was passing between her and
your client's son is in my judgment indisputable, and the inference is
that this influence has been exercised by the young man, who must have
bound her by a solemn promise to say nothing of the attentions he has
paid to her. I have no hesitation in declaring that no honorable man
would have acted in a manner so clandestine and secret, and you will
inform Lord Storndale that in my opinion his son is not a man of
honor. A young girl's trustfulness and innocence should be her
safeguard, but here they have been basely used by a man who, according
to your own statement, by his external accomplishments has unhappily
attracted her. It has not been concealed from us that our daughter has
mixed a little in society outside our special family circle, for in
her participation of these, as I hoped, harmless pleasures she had
generally been accompanied by her mother, who, I grieve to say, is
blind.

"This affliction has necessarily prevented her from keeping that watch
over her daughter which is a mother's loving duty, and of this
affliction your client's son has taken a base advantage. You speak of
the pride of race as affecting Lord Storndale. We have also that
pride, and if we were so far forgetful of the obligations of our faith
as to admit your client's son into our family it is upon him and upon
Lord Storndale, not upon us, that honor would have been conferred.
Such an alliance will never, with my sanction, be entered into, and I
will endeavor to guard my daughter from the peril with which she is
threatened."

Mr. Dillworthy, having obtained his point, wisely dropped the subject.
He briefly expressed his obligations to Aaron, and 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 pocketbook
from his pocket, searched in it for a letter.



CHAPTER XXXI.
THE SPIRIT OF THE DEAD PAST.


Aaron observed him anxiously. The disclosure that had already been
made had so unnerved 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 reopened."

"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 consulted
some kind-hearted and influential member of the Jewish race you may,
through him, obtain a clew; 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 practiced
might otherwise be discovered, he had been 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 yourself assist me you may
recommend me to an agent whom I will employ. I see 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 dishonorable 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 the
most distressing circumstances. For it appears that when the suitor
who wooed her honorably 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 honorable
intentions, but Mr. Gordon, whose name she now bears, was an exception
to the rule, and, through a poor 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 this proposition, and I need not go
farther into it. So desperate was her position that she and her child
at the time were literally starving; she had not a friend except 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 was poor and could not help her.

"In these circumstances she made the sacrifice he demanded, and parted
with her child, who from that day to this she has never seen. Mr.
Gordon honorably 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 endeavor 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 probably know 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 seen
him on the subject. But it appears he is bound to secrecy, and he
declines, very properly perhaps, to enter into any communication with
me on the matter."

"Still you have not explained why you apply to me.

"The explanation is simple. It has somehow come to Mrs. Gordon's
knowledge that, after enlisting the services of Dr. Spenlove, her
husband employed another agent, who was commissioned to find a home
for her child, and that this agent was of the Jewish persuasion. The
natural conclusion is that this agent was a resident of Portsmouth,
who may or may not have been bound to secrecy in the same manner as
Dr. Spenlove. You have friends of your own persuasion everywhere and
are probably acquainted with many Portsmouth Jews, through whom this
poor lady may gain intelligence of the fate of her child. If you
assist me 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."

Mr. Dillworthy gave him a kind look and said: "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, must
naturally engross your attention. Pray forgive me, Mr. Cohen."

Aaron bent his head, and as the lawyer closed the door behind him sank
into his chair with a heavy sigh.



CHAPTER XXXII.
BEFORE ALL, DUTY.


On this evening many pressing matters claimed his attention, and
before Mr. Dillworthy's visit he had intended to devote himself
entirely to them.

He took an active part in the dispensing of several Jewish charities,
and his personal attendance was necessary to a wise distribution of
their funds. Some of these charities were modest in the limited extent
of their aims, but they needed care and attention, and his presence
was always anxiously looked for by both the administrators and
recipients.

Meetings of two of the charities were to be held this evening, and
he had promised to preside at both. He must not disappoint them.
Before all, duty. That was the thought that came to him--before all,
duty, and it was only the iteration of it that brought a true sense
of its significance to his mind. Before all, duty, in these public
matters--but did it not also apply to private life? And if so, what
part in the strict adherence to the axiom did love occupy?

What was his duty here at home in respect of his wife and the girl he
had brought up as their daughter? He endeavored to thrust the
reflection aside, and drew forth some papers which bore reference to
the charities and to another matter of great public, importance which
had occupied him for weeks past, and which he was on the point of
bringing to a successful conclusion.

He strove now to concentrate his attention upon the papers, for he was
to attend a late night meeting at eleven o'clock at which a decision
was to be arrived at which was to affect thousands of poor families.

There had been a great strike in the building trade, and vast numbers
of men had voluntarily thrown themselves out of employment, and had
chosen what was almost next door to starvation in their adherence to a
principle. The strike had been brought about chiefly by Aaron's great
rival contractor, a Mr. Poynter, an employer of labor on a gigantic
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 farther than that.

On the other hand, Mr. Poynter 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
workingmen, and had great influence with them; and this hatred may
also be applied in a general sense, because he hated all employers of
labor 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.

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-aggrandizement--these 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
attendances 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 rumor 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 sympathized 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 they must stand alone, and that upon their
pedestal 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?

Aaron Cohen and he had been acquainted for many years, and at Aaron's
hands Mr. Poynter had received mortifications again and again. 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 had
nursed and fostered an ardent wish to drag Aaron down.

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 some
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 he was safe, 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
socialist," Mr. Poynter said; "men of his stamp are a danger to
society."

Another reason was that tenders had lately been called for on 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 nearly completed arrangements for the
introduction of foreign workmen, whom he was determined to employ if
the English workers 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 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, although he probably named a larger percentage than he would be
willing to pay.

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 labor, comparisons of wages here and in foreign
countries, the comparative rates of living here and there, 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
wished 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. He could think only of his beloved wife and of
Ruth. Very well. He had half an hour to spare before he left his house
for the Jewish meetings; he would devote the time to a consideration
of his private duty.

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 set it clearly before him.

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. Again, 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 endeavored 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 was 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 toward 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 Rose Moss began to make long visits to
their home. "Rose is like a daughter to me," she said, and only Aaron
was aware of the depth of meaning these simple words conveyed.

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 civilized 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 his 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 duty which properly
devolved upon him, 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 services. Not in words, but 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 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 counseled 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
honored as few men lived 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.



CHAPTER XXXIII.
A CHEERFUL DOCTOR.


There was an apartment in Aaron Cohen's house which was called the
cozy 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 humor, 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. There is no happiness in riches. 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 cozy 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.

Rose during her present visit had noticed with concern that Mrs. Cohen
appeared weak, and that her movements, which were always gentle, were
more so 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 Rose 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 Rose solicitously.

"I will wait a day or two," answered Rachel, and again enjoined Rose
not to alarm her husband.

On the evening of this exciting day she looked so pale and fatigued
that she yielded to Rose'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 cozy
room. At her request Rose played softly some of Rachel's favorite
pieces. The piano was behind a screen at one end of the room, and Rose
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 Rose," 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 Rose 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 Rose 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 father or mother
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 Rose, coming back to Prissy.

"I'm sure you didn't, miss. She falls off, you know."

"Yes, I know," said Rose with affectionate solicitude. "What do you
want, Prissy?"

"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 recognized 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 Rose, 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 Rose, 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 you when nobody was looking.
It's Miss Ruth's writing, miss."

Rose 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, Rose 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 Rose, 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."

"It is only because Rose was so anxious," said Rachel. "There is
really nothing the matter with me, doctor."

"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 brightened his patients. "Make the best of a case," was a
favorite 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. Rose 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 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 anxiety."



CHAPTER XXXIV.
RUTH'S SECRET.


Dr. Roberts' hearty and confident tone carried conviction with it.
Aaron's anxiety was dispelled; easier in his mind respecting Rachel's
health, he felt like a man reprieved. A few days were still left for
reflection, and he went forth to his public duties with a sense of
great relief.

Rose, 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 her children--in which category she
included Rose. 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 Rose, 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. He is happy. Do you think Ruth is quite happy, my
dear?"

"I think so," said Rose.

"I am not asking you to break a confidence she may have reposed in
you."

Rose 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, Rose?"

"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 a secret which she was concealing from me. Blind
people are suspicious, Rose, and breed trouble for themselves and
others."

"Not you, dear mother," said Rose, 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 Rose read the letter:


"Darling Rose: 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 Rose, 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 must 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 Rose, 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 Rose's family, and
Rose had received letters from her with the Portsmouth postmark on
them. It was true that Ruth had asked her, as a particular favor, not
to reply to the letters, and though Rose 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? Rose's character could hardly as
yet be said to be formed; it was sweet, but it lacked decision, and
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 anyone
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 Rose tripped downstairs and muttered:

"Trouble's coming--or my name aint what it is."

"I am so glad you are here, father," said Rose; "I have something to
tell you."

"I have something to tell you, Rose," 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."

Rose told him of the doctor's visit and the instructions he had given,
and then handed him Ruth's letter, which he read in pain and surprise.

"I don't like the look of it, Rose," he said. "I hate mystery, and I
cannot decide immediately whether it ought to be kept from Mr. Cohen."

"Oh, father!" cried Rose. "Ruth will never forgive me if I betray
her."

"I don't think it is the question of a 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. Give me the
letter, my dear; it will be better in my keeping than in yours. Just
consider, Rose; 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 for Ruth never forgiving you, what will Mr. Cohen's
feelings be toward you when he discovers that you have acted in such a
treacherous manner? 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."

Rose was dismayed; she had not looked upon it in that 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 do anything 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 jaded 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. It
may, after all, turn out better than I expect."

But there was very little sleep for Rose this night, and very little,
also, for Mr. Moss or Aaron Cohen. The cloud that was gathering was
too ominous for repose.



CHAPTER XXXV.
THE HONORABLE PERCY STORNDALE MAKES AN APPEAL.


It was not the only cloud that threatened Aaron's fortunes and
happiness. Others were ready to burst, and in the gathering storm he
saw, not too clearly, perhaps, the peril in which he stood. His fair
reputation was in danger, the honorable edifice he had built for
himself was tottering, the wealth he had amassed was jeopardized by
circumstances over which he had no control. In the course of a few
days all these things were to happen, and although on the day
following that on which so great an honor had been paid to him he did
not realize that ruin stared him in the face, he was sufficiently
conscious that more than one sword was hanging over his head. But mere
worldly misfortune was a trifle in comparison with the stings of his
conscience and with a sting as bitter which he learned from the lips
of Dr. Roberts. The physician had not been quite ingenuous in his
report of Rachel's condition; his ripe experience scented a crisis
which might or might not occur. It did not depend upon him, but upon
the patient, and a few hours would decide the extent of the danger. It
was this that caused him to call early at the house to see Rachel, and
after he had been with her for a quarter of an hour he had a private
conversation with Aaron.

"There is no absolute danger," he said, "but I shall be better
satisfied if you will send her at once to the seaside. She will be
better out of London. I saw on the table a number of letters--begging
letters, I was informed--which Miss Rose had been reading to her. 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 balmier air. I should
recommend Bournemouth, and if you wish I'll 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 Rose 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 traveling; 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 traveled with his wife to the seaside,
but it was business which imperatively demanded his present attention,
and he had no alternative but to send her with Rose 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 handclasp.

"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 Rose, and he has but a short time to remain in England.
There is really nothing the matter with 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 toward her husband.

On the road home Aaron telegraphed to Ruth in Portsmouth, addressing
his telegram to Mr. Moss' 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 Honorable
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. Rose 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 Rose 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 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 rather 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 Rose 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--Rose 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 here 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 mistaken. I came on here to Rose, 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 in silence, and with conflicting feelings.

His first thought was that Ruth had taken her fate into her own hands.

He had done his duty jealously by her in the past whatever might be
his duty in the present. If, as was his fervent hope, no dishonor 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 endeavored to inculcate, would mitigate the severity of her 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 honorable, though secret,
marriage was based upon his knowledge of Ruth's character. She was not
given to exaggerated sentiment, he had never known her 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 a
Christian born, and she had the right to marry a Christian; by her own
unprompted act she had cut the Gordian knot. That the Honorable 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 fulfill 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 and 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 reared into his vices and extravagancies--it
may be said with truth carefully reared--and he was certainly no worse
than hundreds of other men who are brought up with no definite aim in
life, and 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 money lenders
without any expectation of being able to pay either one or the other,
he would not have descended so low as to pick a pocket or 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 when 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 humor and careless ease about him which generally
wins favor 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 half 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 honor," 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 dare say 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 honor, 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 Honorable 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 Honorable Percy Storndale.

"You married my--my daughter, I see," said Aaron, "in a registrar's
office."

"I don't know how to apologize to you, sir," said the young man, as
relieved by Aaron's calm attitude as Aaron was himself at this proof
of an honorable 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 Honorable 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. 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 in love 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, 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, then you know how I feel. I don't set myself up as a good
man; I've done many 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 Honorable 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. 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 in 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 check and handed it to the young man, who shook hands with
him gratefully, and with a light heart went to gladden his young wife
with the good news.



CHAPTER XXXVI.
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 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
was growing 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 recognized 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 a fool's paradise, 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, he
knew, before many weeks were past--he could still retain the love of
his wife, if she would forgive him for the deception he had practiced,
he would be content; he might even be happy again, fallen as he would
be from his high estate.

The first duty he had to perform was to lift Ruth and her husband from
poverty, to place them in an honorable 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. The young man is
in difficulties, and I have resolved to clear him from them and to
provide for their 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; 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, Cohen."

"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' hand, and 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 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 honorable 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 unraveled. 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
completed. 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?"

"It will be placed in your hands to-morrow. Do not return here
to-night. 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 everything
in the shape of 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 trust 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 realize a sum of
about ninety thousand pounds, in addition to which there were his
house and furniture, which would realize another ten thousand.
One-third of this should be given to his son Joseph and Rose,
one-third should be divided among the Jewish charities, and one-third
should be invested for himself and Rachel. This would produce an
income 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 honor in the synagogue, which he would immediately
resign. There and then he wrote his letters of resignation. He drew
forth the address upon modern Judaism he had undertaken to deliver,
hoping thereby to counteract the loose views of religious obligation
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 labors. 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 Rose." 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 Rose do not hint of 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 dare say my friends
will be surprised, but I am fixed; nothing can make me 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. You
deliver your address on Sunday, do you not?"

"No."

"But, Cohen, 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 the
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. Have you seen the papers this morning?"

"I have not opened them."

"They are full of your praises for putting an end to the strike; they
say it is due alone to your character and powerful influence."

"I take no credit to myself. What I did was done with a conscientious
motive."

"Good," said Mr. Moss with hearty emphasis. "That is the keynote of
your life. Then what have you 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 check 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
to-morrow 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."

"She has all the more reason for contentment. I wish her to be happy."

They had a busy time with lawyers, bank managers, and creditors, and
Aaron just managed to catch the two-twenty train for Bournemouth. He
passed a quiet evening with Rachel and Rose, and answered the
questions put by his wife concerning Ruth in a manner to satisfy her.
With Rose he had a private conversation upon the subject, and
cautioned her to preserve silence as to the letter she had received.
On the following morning he took an early 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 Honorable Percy Storndale to
him, "and I am thinking of taking Ruth to the Continent to-morrow, but
she will be unhappy if she does not see you before we go."

"I will come with you now," said Aaron.

They met and parted without any warm demonstration of affection. Such
a demonstration from Ruth toward 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 lifelong kindness toward her and by her fear
that he was quietly angry with her; while Aaron was held back by the
consciousness of his wrongdoing. And so the young couple went forth to
commence their new life, and the secret of Ruth's birth was still
unrevealed. Aaron had not yet mustered courage to make confession, but
he knew that the hour was fast approaching when he would stand in the
full light of the sin he had committed through love.



CHAPTER XXXVII.
THE MOTHER'S APPEAL.


Two weeks had passed away. Joseph had come and gone. In the company of
Rose 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 not
improved, the physician said, and those to whom she was so dear were
continually warned that she was not to be agitated by news of a
distressing nature. The shrewd doctor impressed this upon them the
more strongly for the reason that he perceived that a cloud was
hanging over their spirits which they were concealing from the
sightless lady.

"You cannot be too careful," he said. "A sudden shock might produce
serious effects."

They were, therefore, compelled to preserve secrecy, and to invent
excuses for Ruth's absence from the family circle. Joseph and Rose had
both been informed of Ruth's marriage, and were thus partners with
Aaron in the affectionate conspiracy. Aaron had gone no farther with
them than this. The vital secret was still in his sole possession.

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 many years, necessitated his being in London the
greater part of these two weeks; he would have liked to keep his
proceedings from public knowledge, but in this he was not successful.
One cause of the publicity which was given to his actions lay in the
disposal of a portion of his fortune in charity; his benefactions were
heralded far and wide, and he was made the subject of numberless
laudatory articles in the newspapers. Another cause was his
transference of large contracts, and especially of the last one for
which he had successfully competed, to other firms. In the
transference of these contracts he had laid down stipulations with
respect to wages and hours of labor which, while they did not meet
with the full approval of employers, earned for him renewed
commendation from the working classes. Mr. Poynter had tried to obtain
some of these contracts, but Aaron found him so shifty in his methods
that he declined to have anything to do with him. For which defeat Mr.
Poynter vowed revenge, and looked about for the means of compassing
it.

At the end of the fortnight Aaron was in London, his labors ended, and
at this time his fortune amounted to something over thirty thousand
pounds, a larger sum than he 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, 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.

At six o'clock on this evening he and Mr. Moss were together in
Aaron's house, by appointment. Aaron had resolved to reveal his secret
to his faithful friend, and he had set apart this evening as a fitting
time for the disclosure. On the following day Rachel and Rose were to
return to London, as Rachel did not wish to remain any longer in
Bournemouth, and Mr. Moss was to return to Portsmouth.

Mr. Moss' face was flushed with excitement as he entered the room with
an evening paper in his hand.

"Have you heard the rumor, Cohen?" he asked excitedly.

"What rumor?" inquired Aaron, rising to meet his friend.

"About your bank, the Equitable 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 know, but it cannot affect me. I have no investments now, with the
solitary exception of my bank shares. All my affairs are settled, and
the money in the bank until I decide how to invest it."

Mr. Moss groaned. "I wish you had it safely invested in consols. Is
all your money there?"

"Every shilling. The only investments I have not realized are the
shares I hold in the bank."

"That makes it all the worse. The shareholders are liable to the
depositors."

"Yes."

The flush had died out of Mr. Moss' 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 everyone's lips. If the bank stops payment
to-morrow 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," said Aaron, with a smile.

"And it was only yesterday that you were----"

He could not continue, and Aaron took up his words.

"It is only yesterday that I was on 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. We will wait till to-morrow."

"Will you not go into 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'
despondent mood that it really seemed as if it were his friend's
fortune that was imperiled instead of his own. He was standing by the
door, and hearing a knock, he opened it.

"I beg your pardon, sir," said a 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!"

"Show him up," said Aaron to the servant.

"Had I not better see him alone?" asked Mr. Moss.

"If you have no objection," replied Aaron, "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 was here 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, but men sometimes receive an
inspiration for which there is no visible warranty. 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 honorable 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' 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 unfortunate?"

"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 warmest terms. The commission intrusted 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 intrusted to him. He informed me that
she died very shortly, as I understand, 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
briefly 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, intrusted to me a small iron box--it was one I gave
her, and I can identify it--in which she deposited some article of the
nature of which I am 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 through 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 assist her 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 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 intrusted. The box 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 may.' 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 XXXVIII.
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, more
trying to the man who had erred than 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 dart 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 endeavored to lead her, and had obeyed the
promptings of her nature in mapping out her own future.

Keen as was 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 was over, 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 believed it was for her child.
Except that time had left its marks upon her countenance there was but
little change in her, and few persons who had known her in her
springtime would have failed to recognize her in her middle age.

Her union with Mr. Gordon had not been entirely unhappy; he had
performed his duty toward her, as she had done toward 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. Even on his deathbed he did not
speak of it; she understood him well enough to feel convinced that he
would answer no questions she put to him, and she sincerely desired
not to distress him, for she had grown to be grateful for his faithful
fulfillment of the promise he had made.

And now she was free, and in the possession of great wealth. But 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 traveled back to England had raised up mental pictures of her
daughter which filled her with joy. The information she received from
Dr. Spenlove had killed that hope, and her yearning desire 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 now to reclaim the iron box containing the clew 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 burned 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 smoldering ashes of an experience so sad. 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. It was I who undertook the charge of your child. Mr.
Moss brought her to me in Gosport, and delivered to me also the box
which you intrusted to Dr. Spenlove. I hand you now the box 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 half of the letter she had deposited therein, glanced over
it with a bitter smile, then replaced it in its hiding place and
relocked the box.

"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. 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 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. 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 color in her face.

"My God! my God!" she murmured. "Have I not suffered enough?"

These 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 long pent up love of a mother made
her young again; 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?"

"It is the solemn truth," he answered.

"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 impatience 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
a peer's 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 sympathize 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 honor! At my door lies the sin, not at yours."

"You forget," he groaned; "my wife, whom I love with a love dearer
than life itself, 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 XXXIX.
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. There was a panic in the City, 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 in trouble, Mr. Moss," said Aaron as his friend made his
appearance.

"I have the second edition of the morning papers," replied Mr. Moss
with a white face. "The Stock Exchange is in a blaze."

"Rather early to commence business," observed Aaron calmly; "the
outlook is not improving, I suppose?"

"Everything is going to the dogs, Cohen."

"Have you breakfasted?" asked Aaron.

"Had breakfast at seven o'clock. Couldn't sleep a wink all night."

"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."

"How?"

"By joining the bears. Cohen, there is a chance for you. Your credit
is good. There is nothing for it but a plunge. It will set you right."

"How if it goes the other way, Mr. Moss?"

"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 Rose
do not return from Bournemouth till the afternoon."

In the City they learned the worst, and Aaron realized that he was
beggared.

"Can you save nothing from the wreck?" asked Mr. Moss.

"Nothing," replied Aaron. "It may be that all I possess may not be
sufficient to clear me. I think you had better take Rose back with you
to Portsmouth; you have been absent from your business too long."

"I must go this evening," said Mr. Moss, "but Rose 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
years of toil, have to begin life 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 practiced 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. 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 justify Aaron for the act he stopped them,
saying it was a matter between him and his conscience. Now on this
disastrous morning, as they walked from the City, Mr. Moss asked Aaron
whether he intended to tell his wife to-day.

"Not to-day," Aaron answered. "I must bide my time. The news that we
are poor will be as much as Rachel can bear."



CHAPTER XL.
"CAN YOU FORGIVE ME?"


On the evening of the same day Aaron and Rachel were alone in their
house in Prince's Gate. Rose had taken her leave of them, and she and
her father were traveling to Portsmouth, Mr. Moss with a heavy heart;
he was older than Aaron, and was not so courageous in the hour of
adversity.

"What makes you so melancholy, father?" said Rose.

"When you reach my age, Rose," he replied, "I hope you will not
discover that life is a dream."

The remark seemed to him rather fine and philosophical, but had he
been asked to explain its precise meaning he would have found it
difficult.

"I hope I shall, father," said Rose as she leaned 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 never send me away again.
Indeed, dear Aaron, if you intend it I shall for once in my life be
rebellious, and shall refuse to go."

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. "I am not 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 happiness. 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 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 will
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 a while. The turn the conversation had
taken favored the disclosure of his secret respecting Ruth, but he
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
resolved to confine himself to it on this evening.

"Your loving instinct, Rachel, has not misled you. I have 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 you are by my
side I am happy and content."

"Dear life of my life, you inspire me with hope. But one secret which
oppresses me cannot be divulged to-night. It is of my worldly troubles
I must speak now; the rest shall follow at a more fitting time.
Rachel, for twenty years Heaven has showered prosperity upon me; all
my undertakings have succeeded, and 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 labors 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, is God's will, and
I have never repined. Who would presume to question his wisdom? His
name be praised forever 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. Love 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 Godlike, 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 it lighter for me to bear. 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 would be to
aggravate the disaster, and I resolved to anticipate the verdict by
resigning the honors 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 had been guilty."

He looked at Rachel after he had 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 in this house and what it contains 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 soul
I will help you to meet it. We cannot remain in the house; the
expenses are too great."

"You echo my own words, Rachel. I have already discharged the
servants, and have paid what is due to them. To-morrow they take their
departure, and we must be content to move into humbler quarters."

"I am content," said Rachel. "I am happy. We have each other. What
does Prissy say?"

"She will not leave us. With or without my consent, she insists upon
sharing our poverty."

"Dear, faithful girl! Let it be as she wishes, love. I know her
constant, devoted nature. She will be a comfort to both of us."

She paused before she spoke again, and then it was in a voice
trembling with emotion.

"We commence a new life to-morrow. O Aaron, dear husband, my heart is
aching, not because we are poor, not for myself, but for you, love,
for you! Aaron, you have said nothing of Ruth. Let this night end your
sorrows, and let me share them now. It is the thought of Ruth that
oppresses you. I feel it, I have known it long, but did not dare to
mention it. Give me all your confidence; I am well, I am strong. 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
made confession of his sin, and not for one moment while he spoke
would she relinquish his hand. And when his confession was ended she
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 God,
who sees and judges! And, Aaron, dear and honored husband, we have
still a son to bless our days!"



CHAPTER XLI.
A POISONED ARROW.


Had it not been that public attention was mainly directed to events of
greater importance, Aaron Cohen's affairs would have furnished a
tempting 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 men of a higher station were brought down
low, and the fortunes of famous historic houses imperiled. He would
have been grateful to slip into obscurity entirely without notice, but
this could scarcely be expected.

He had one bitter enemy--Mr. Poynter--who rejoiced in his downfall,
and who neglected no opportunity to wing a poisoned arrow against his
old rival. 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 they did not wound
him; some of his friends--for he was not deserted by all--urged him to
reply to them, but he shook his head and said:

"I am content. Lives there a man without enemies?"

His chief concern was that the slanders should not 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. The weight of a secret sin was lifted from his
heart, and 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 much 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
at the bank, and when he quitted the house neither he nor Rachel had
taken from it anything 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, mementoes of little value endeared
to them by some affectionate association, even the old silver-mounted
pipe--all were left behind. Simply dressed, without a piece of jewelry
about them, they turned their faces toward the new home and the new
life without a murmur, and 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. The
rooms were sweet and clean, there were flowers about, and blooming
flowers in pots on the window-sill. Rachel sighed with pleasure 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 flowerman, sir," she answered. "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.

"I can't keep good, sir, 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 the first time in my
life I've bought any flowers at all--and did you see, sir, how happy
missus 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. Mr. Cohen, if it
hadn't been for you I shouldn't have been no good at all. 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 missus 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 aint 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 her words, "you shall give it
all back to me. And it will turn, sir; you see if it won't!"

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, as ill news travel fast, his
son, Joseph, upon his arrival in Australia, was made acquainted
through the public journals of 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' every movement and anticipated her slightest
wish.

"What should I 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 labor 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 a week. It was his
intention to attend the auction for the purpose of purchasing a few
small mementoes, toward which he had saved two or three 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, dear," he said, "which from long
association become almost like living friends. I shall not be quite
happy till I get back my silver-mounted pipe. Tobacco has lost its
flavor 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 easy to bear in comparison with such-like
trifles."

Aaron seldom indulged now in those touches of humor 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 gayety 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 afterward Rachel retired to bed, and left the friends
together. Aaron had observed that Mr. Moss looked anxious and uneasy,
and being now alone with him he inquired the reason.

"I expected you to tell me of it," said Mr. Moss.

"Of what?" asked Aaron. "I hope there is no fresh trouble."

"I am the harbinger of it, it seems," groaned Mr. Moss. "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."

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
workingman, 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 the man's character such an issue must be set
aside. The question of motive has to be considered; if it be worthy it
reflects credit upon him, if unworthy it passes to his dishonor."

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. 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. We hold him up as
a warning."

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 color deserted his cheeks,
his hands and mouth trembled, his heart sank within him. What could he
say in his defense? 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 up 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
fellow-man 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 wrongdoing; 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 so sadly, dear. It is not because we are poor, is it?"

"No, love, it is 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. God is all-merciful and in him
I put my trust. To the last--to the last--dear and honored husband, we
will not lose our trust in him. Do not be sad. 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 color had returned to his face, his
step was firmer, his eye brighter.

"There is an angel by my side," 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' hand. "Love and friendship are mine," he said
simply. "What more can I desire?"



CHAPTER XLII.
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 employees whispering together,
and looking at him furtively, avoiding his eye when he returned their
gaze. His mind was soon made up; he would not wait for the dismissal
he saw impending, and in an interview with his employers he tendered
his resignation.

"You have saved us from a difficulty, Mr. Cohen," they said. "We
intended to speak to you before the day was over. But still, if the
story we have seen in several papers is not true--if it does not,
after all, refer to you----"

"The story is true," he said, "and it refers to me."

"We regret the necessity," was their reply; "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
afterward he left the office.

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 recognized. 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 recognized 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 on the scene, and to bring
into it a startling color.

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
come to see Mr. and Mrs. Cohen. This lady was Mrs. Gordon.

"I bring good news to your master and mistress," she said to Prissy
after she had heard that Mrs. Cohen was engaged. "Can I wait until the
visitor is gone?"

"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 favor, but ladies are not accustomed to
discuss business matters. You are down in the world, Mr. Cohen. It is
best to speak quite plainly."

"It is. 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 of a threat of further
revelation. I considered it my duty 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 to thank
you, also, for the statements which have been made in the papers
concerning me?"

"Possibly," said Mr. Poynter.

"Nay," said Aaron, "you said just now that it is best to speak quite
plainly, have I, or have I not, to thank you for the unfavorable
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. I became possessed of certain information, and I considered it my
duty, in the interests of truth, not to withhold it from the public
ear."

"I thank you. Perhaps you will now come straight to the business which
brings you here."

"It is very simple, and will put money into 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 you
transferred your contracts to other firms, ignoring me entirely in the
transaction."

"For which," said Aaron, "I had good reasons, and for which you have
taken your revenge."

"God-fearing men," said Mr. Poynter, "do not seek revenge, but
justice. To continue. The firm to which you transferred the most
important of these contracts happen, at the present time, to need some
assistance, and hearing of it I offer what they need. But it appears
that you have hampered them, and that in the deed of transference you
expressly stipulated 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 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 lookout for the main
chance--always screwing out the last penny. I wouldn't mind, 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 poor 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 its contents."

"You have expressed it clearly, Mr. Cohen. The moral screw, you know."

"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 cold
clasp upon his hand.

"You beggar!" exclaimed Mr. Poynter. "You hypocrite! You defy me?"

"You rich man," said Aaron, "you God-fearing man, 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 turning 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 causes him to shrink, that
blanches his face, and brings 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 intrusted to this noble gentleman, and which he delivered 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 torn half of one of your letters, retaining the other
portion in proof of its genuineness. This letter is now in my
possession. How would you stand in the eyes of the world if I
published this, you God-fearing man, with the story attaching to it? 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 honor
and revere. It is him you have to thank that your child has been
reared in honor 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 labor, to succeed in this
endeavor, and Ruth was recognized 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 neighborhood, and
Aaron's heart throbbed with gratitude as he saw in it all the
memorials of his old home which he and Rachel held dear.

On the walls were the portraits of himself and Rachel which had been
presented to him on the day when all his friends had assembled to do
him honor. Happy tears ran down Rachel's face as Aaron walked with her
through the rooms and described their contents. In the study he
paused, lifted something from the table, and 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 yourself sitting beneath the cherry tree, and
holding your dear hand, I could go through the world in perfect
happiness and content."

"O Lord of the Universe," said Rachel, clasping her hands, and lifting
her lovely face, "I thank thee humbly for all thy goodness to me and
mine!"



THE END.





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