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Title: Peradventure - or the Silence of God
Author: Keable, Robert
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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  PERADVENTURE

  OR THE SILENCE OF GOD
  BY ROBERT KEABLE



  "He is a god; peradventure he sleepeth"--1 _Kings xviii._ 27



  CONSTABLE & CO LTD
  LONDON BOMBAY SYDNEY



First published, 1922



  _BY THE SAME AUTHOR_

  THE MOTHER OF ALL LIVING
  A CITY OF THE DAWN
  SIMON CALLED PETER
  PILGRIM PAPERS
  STANDING BY
  _ETC._



DEDICATION

_MY DEAR CHRISTOPHER,_

_Recently a very eminent Anglican divine gave us a book which he said
embodied "forty years of profound thought."  In it he deals to no small
extent with the subject of this novel, a novel which, though hiddenly,
I wish to dedicate to you._

_I want to do so because, perhaps, you alone of all my friends will
know how much herein written down is true to the life we both led and
both have left.  It is odd, I think, as I look back, how little we have
seen of each other, and how much: how little, because great tracts of
your life and mine have been traversed wholly apart, and we only met,
in the beginning, when we had both of us come some distance along the
way; but how much, since each time we met and walked a mile or two
together, we talked very freely and we found we understood.  Now, as
like as not, I shall see increasingly less of you, seeing that you have
become a Catholic, a religious, and a priest at that.  It is little one
knows of life and its surprises, but we have shaken hands at the
cross-roads anyway.  A moment, then, ere you go up the steep hill ahead
of you, and a moment ere I take my own road that has I cannot see what
level or uphill or down in it,--a moment ere you put my book in your
pocket for the sake of the days gone by._

_You will appreciate the fact that I should have put my thought into a
novel and not into a book of serious theology.  Man's thoughts about
God are read best in a novel.  Yes, on the one hand, they are best set
in a transitory frivolous form that booksellers will expose on their
stalls labelled with one of those neatly-printed little tickets--you
know: "Just the Book for a Long Journey"--to catch the attention of a
man off for his holiday or a girl bored with having to return.  Yes,
they are best set where they can be read in a few hours by the
drawing-room fire.  For, after all, ten years or forty or four hundred
of man's profound thought about God is worth, maybe a little more than
the price of a pound of chocolates, maybe a little less than that of a
theatre seat.  Besides the novel has a coloured wrapper, and they are
not yet brave enough or sufficiently wise to wrap up theology in that
form._

_But on the other hand, my dear Chris, there is no form of writing yet
devised quite so true or quite so profound as the novel of human
affairs may well be.  For, Incarnation or no Incarnation, beyond doubt
you cannot separate man and God.  We have no medium other than the
human brain by which to think of Him, however illumined or deluded that
brain may be, and no other measure of His Person than that of human
life.  Your abstract theologian may decide that He is or is not a
Father: it is man's striving soul that knows; and against their
presumptive reasoning of the spiritual heaven, I would set half a dozen
pages torn from earth._

_You will be well aware as you read that these chapters are such pages
truly enough.  I do not mean that it is not the stuff of fiction that
is here, but I do protest that Claxted and Keswick and Port o' Man and
Thurloe End and Fordham, yes, and Zanzibar, are true to type, though
many readers will scarcely believe me.  I can see the critics mocking
though the ink is not yet dry upon the page.  And if, by chance, one of
them should catch a fleeting glimpse of his own face in the glass, he
will assuredly throw it up at me that the mirror is distorted.  Yet, as
Samuel Butler says: "If a bona fide writer thinks a thing wants saying
... the question whether it will do him personally good or harm, or how
it will affect this or that friend, never enters his head, or if it
does, it is instantly ordered out again."_

_Allow me then, for this reason, your name within the boards.  You will
know, however much you disapprove, that there is no malice here.  For
what would I gain by mockery, old friend, who have already lost friends
enough by speaking the truth? It is a pitiable dance this of ours
around the altar of Baal, over which, if God be too divine, at least
man should be human enough rather to weep than to mock.  Yet I believe,
as indeed I have written, that sorrow in the human story is but the
shadow of a lovelier thing; that the grass grows green, that the flower
blows red, that in the wide sea also are things creeping innumerable
both small and great beasts, and that every one is good.  And God's in
His Heaven?  Peradventure.  At least His Veil is fair._

_But--and it is a big "but"--for you in your high vocation and for me
in this of mine, for each of us, oddly enough, in his own way, there is
a verse from Miss V. H. Friedlaender's_ A Friendship _which I find I
cannot easily forget:_

  _When we are grown
  We know it is for us
  To rend the flowery lies from worlds
  Foul with hypocrisy;
  To perish stoned and blinded in the desert--
  That men unborn may see._

_And I want to set that down too, before a reader turns a page._

_Ever yours,
    ROBERT KEABLE._



CONTENTS

CHAPTER

  DEDICATION

  I. LAMBETH COURT
  II. CAMBRIDGE
  III. CHRISTMAS CAROLS
  IV. FATHER VASSALL
  V. VACATION
  VI. MOUNT CARMEL
  VII. THURLOE END
  VIII. JUDGMENTS
  IX. FORDHAM
  X. "THE BLIND BEGGAR"
  XI. URSULA
  XII. ZANZIBAR



PERADVENTURE



CHAPTER I

LAMBETH COURT

  Bring me my Bow of burning gold!
  Bring me my Arrows of desire!
  Bring me my Spear!  O clouds, unfold!
  Bring me my Chariot of fire!

  I will not cease from Mental Fight,
  Nor shall my Sword sleep in my hand,
  Till we have built Jerusalem
  In England's green and pleasant land.
                                BLAKE: Milton.

  Thirsting for love and joy,
    Eager to mould and plan,
  These were the dreams of a boy....
        ARTHUR C. BENSON: Peace and Other Poems.



(1)

It must be presumed that some reason underlies the nomenclature of the
ways of our more modern towns, but the game of guessing will long
remain an entertainment to the curious.  True, we think to honour our
illustrious dead by calling some business street wholly given over to
modern commercialism after one of them, as also we occasionally seek
satisfaction by casting forth a name now identified with our equally
infamous enemies; but the process by which were named byways and courts
that, after all, have not been in existence a lifetime, must remain a
puzzle.  Thus if, walking down the dreary monotony of Apple Orchard
Road, one might conceive that at some time or another it boasted an
apple-tree, the most nimble imagination baulks at that blind alley
leading from it into an open irregular space entirely surrounded by the
meanest houses, entitled Lambeth Court.  It, at least, was surely never
associated with an Archbishop.  The mere sight of his gaiters there
would have been the occasion for an hilarious five minutes.  And if it
was ever part of his property, the least said about that the better.

For all this the Borough of Claxted, now within the boundaries of
Greater London, was a highly respectable town.  Its citizens were
mainly composed of those who go daily to the City round and about the
decent hour of nine-thirty for frequently mysterious but none the less
remunerative occupations, and of those who supply their households with
the necessaries and pleasant superfluities of good living.  A class
apart, these latter nevertheless shone, in Claxted, with some of the
lustre of their betters, and were, indeed, known, when Paul Kestern was
young, as Superior Tradespeople.  For both, at Claxted, there were
miles of trim villas ascending to avenues of detached houses; churches
there were, swept and garnished, or empty with an Evangelical Christian
emptiness; Municipal buildings, dignified, sufficient, new and clean.
There was, in short, an air about the place and its citizens, in those
days, almost wholly neatly and simply Conservative.  The Borough,
moreover, obtained a suffragan bishop about this time, and may thus be
said to have been sealed with a just measure of divine approval.

Yet the untroubled broad stream of Claxted's righteous prosperity had
its occasional backwater into which there drifted the rubbish which
would otherwise have defiled the comfortable colour of waters neither
muddy nor translucent.  Lambeth Court was one such.  Possibly it was
overlooked by the Borough Council; possibly it was allowed to remain
for some such definite purpose as that it certainly fulfilled.  In any
case the Court afforded a "problem" for the church in whose parish it
lay, and the principles of the Christian Endeavour Society, which set
every young Christian immediately to work (thus preventing the leakage
which otherwise occurs after the Sunday School age in the South), were
offered in it an ample field for exercise.  God knows it needed all
that the young Christian Endeavourers and their more adult directors
strove to give it.  Their work was possibly a forlorn hope, but if the
Sunshine Committee could not lighten the darkness of the Court, what
else, asked Claxted, could?  Nothing, it may well be conceded, except
rebuilding and replanning to admit light and air.  These, however, cost
money, and besides the dwellers in Lambeth Court would only have moved
themselves elsewhere.  The poor, reflected the Claxted councillors, ye
have with you always, and went home to dinner.

So far as the Christian Endeavour Society was concerned, it was Paul
Kestern who discovered Lambeth Court.  He was eighteen at the time and
secretary of the Open-Air Committee--a committee, it must be explained
perhaps, which did not function in town-planning but in
gospel-preaching.  One Sunday morning, returning from a children's
service in the Mission Hall at the end of Apple Orchard Road, he
entered it for the first time.  A scholar had said that his elder
sister, regular in attendance at the service, was sick, and Paul,
enquiring her whereabouts, had learned that she lived "in the Court."
Its inhabitants rarely aspired to the "Lambeth" part of their
designation, but if the enquirer needed further enlightenment added
"Behind the 'South Pole.'"  Paul, thus informed, remembered the dim
opening under the railway bridge behind the public-house of that name,
and said he would "call in" that morning.  The urchin looked doubtfully
at his teacher's silk hat and frock coat, but ran off after service to
acquaint his mother.  Paul had followed at leisure.

It is not necessary to give a detailed description of Lambeth Court,
but it may be pointed out how the place instantly struck Paul
strategically.  It was not too far from the Hall, he saw at once, to
make the work of carrying the harmonium too heavy; every corner of its
area could be reached with a powerful voice; in the very centre stood a
lamp-post, and, what was more, that lamp-post stood alone in its glory
in the Court.  This condition offered two great advantages: first, that
of supplying all the light required for the evangelists, and secondly,
that of creating those dark shadows beyond beloved by Nicodemus and his
like.  The railway arch through which one entered and which shut off
that end of the place, would, of course, occasionally vibrate with
trains--an item on the debit side of the account; but on the other hand
the filthy tumbling hovels were enclosed on three sides by hoardings
and tall blank warehouse walls which would catch the voice, and their
strips of refuse-strewn gardens, separated from each other by broken
palings, were just such as would invite the inhabitants to sit and
gossip there on summer and early autumn evenings.  Paul noted all this
in a moment so soon as he was inside the arch.  He was a born
evangelist.

But to do the boy justice, he noted far more than this.  He saw the
slatternly woman, with an unspeakable gaping blouse, her hair in
curl-papers and her feet in bulging unlaced boots, who came to the door
of the first cottage and shouted at a flaxen-haired little toddler of a
girl playing with a matchbox in the gutter.  The burning words fell on
his ears like a scream from hell.  "Maud-Hemily, yer bloody little
bitch, come in out o' that muck or I'll smack your bottom for yer."  He
saw the two men by the lamp-post look at him, and he read aright their
besotted faces.  Neither spoke, but one spat well and truly at the base
of the pillar, and that did for speech.  He rapped on the door of No.
5, and when Jimmie opened it, he saw the remains of a meal in greasy
newspapers on the filthy table, and his nostrils caught the smell of
unwashed clothes and Sunday morning's kippers.  He tried to avoid the
wall as he went up the stairs.  And when he was in the little overhead
bedroom, whose window never opened and through whose grimy glass one
read an advertisement of Reckitt's Blue on the hoarding opposite, and
stood by the side of a heap of blankets and sacks on which lay and
coughed a child of thirteen in consumption, a cracked article on a
chair by her bedside over which she occasionally leaned and
expectorated, his heart moved with something of that compassion which
had been the outstanding characteristic of the greatest Evangelist the
world has ever known.

He was more silent than his wont at the midday dinner.  But when
Saturday's hot joint, cold on Sundays, had been removed, he looked
across the table to the clergyman at its head, and spoke.  "Dad," he
said, "do you know Lambeth Court?"

"Lambeth?" queried the clergyman.  "No.  Oh, let me see.  Isn't it that
place behind the 'South Pole'?"

"Yes.  I went in to-day to see Queenie Archer.  She's awfully bad
again.  Dad, it's a ghastly place.  I thought I'd speak to the
Committee this afternoon and arrange an open-air there."

His mother looked up from helping the pudding and spoke with a trace of
anxiety.  "Paul, she has consumption.  Ought you to visit her, dear?
And it's a dreadful place; I don't think the C.E. girls ought to go
into it even for an open-air."

Paul moved restlessly.  "They'd be all right with us, mother," he said.
"Do you think Jesus Christ would have stayed away because it was dirty
or because Queenie had consumption?  If there's a place in the parish
where souls need saving, that place is Lambeth Court."

His mother suppressed a little sigh.  The speech was typical of Paul.
As a Christian she loved him for it; as a mother she was very proud.
But this irresistible logic, which he was so prone to use, however much
it belonged to the atmosphere of religion in which she whole-heartedly
believed, affrighted her a little.  It opened up infinities.  She made
the rather pathetic appeal which was characteristic of her.  "What do
you think, father?" she queried.

Mr. Kestern had very kindly eyes, a forehead which would have made for
intellectuality if his ever-narrowing outlook on life had given it a
chance, and a weak chin hidden by a short-beard and moustache.  He
smiled at her.  "The boy is quite right, dear," he said, "but, Paul,
you should not run unnecessary risks, especially now.  You might have
left the visit to me.  I will go to-morrow.  As for the open-air, I
should think it would be a capital place, but keep the girls by you and
don't let them wander alone into the houses with tracts or leaflets.
Do you mean to go to-night?"

"No, not to-night, dad.  Our pitch is in Laurence Place to-night.  I
thought perhaps next Sunday."

"Next Sunday is the first in the month, dear," said his mother gently.
"Won't it be rather late?  You don't usually have open-airs on the
first Sunday, do you?"

"I know, mother," said Paul, "but why not?  It is better to be a bit
late when we go to Lambeth Court.  Some of the men may be out of the
publics by then.  And it always seems to me that Communion Sunday is
the best in the month for an open-air.  Surely after we've remembered
His 'precious Death and Burial' at the Table, that is just the time for
us to preach the Cross."

"And 'His glorious Resurrection and Ascension,' Paul," quoted his
father softly.  "Don't forget that.  It's the living Saviour, no dead
Christ on a crucifix, that we proclaim."

"I know, dad," said the boy, his eyes shining.  "How could one think
otherwise?"

"I don't know, laddie," said his father, smiling tenderly at him, "but
some appear to do so.  God guard you from such errors, Paul.  Don't be
over-confident; Satan can deceive the very elect."

Thus was the mission to Lambeth Court decided upon.  Paul had carried
his Committee with him, as he always did.  Its eldest member, a married
bank clerk of a nervous temperament, had indeed echoed something of
Mrs. Kestern's fears.  He thought that the Court was no place for
ladies, and said, frankly, he would not care for his wife to go there.
Paul, at the head of the Mission vestry table, played with a pencil,
and showed his instinctive leadership again by not answering him.  He
looked up instead, and caught Edith Thornton's eyes as she sat opposite
him.  They were eager and indignant, and he nodded ever so slightly.
Edith, therefore, had taken up her parable, and the more forcefully
since she did not often speak on Committee.  "Oh, Mr. Derrick," she
exclaimed, "I don't agree with you at all!  What about our
missionaries' wives?  What about the Salvation Army?  Do you think any
place can be too bad for a Christian if there is one single soul to be
saved?"  She flushed a little at her own vehemence.

Mr. Derrick coughed, fumbling with his watchchain.  He was well aware
that the Spirit was at work in Apple Orchard Mission Hall, and he was
conscious of being one of the weaker brethren.  Paul's very silence
daunted him, for he honestly loved the eager Paul.  "Let us pray about
it," he suggested.

Paul pushed his chair back, and slipped to his knees.  Instinctively he
always knelt to pray, though the more general custom was to sit.  "A
few minutes' silent prayer first," he commanded, and, in the slow
ticking of the clock, he prayed himself, with utter simplicity and
earnestness, for Lambeth Court, for the guidance of the Holy
Spirit--and for Mr. Derrick.  The result was, of course, a foregone
conclusion.

Thus, at intervals, all that golden summer, Lambeth Court heard the
Word.  True, the signs following were so small that the less zealous
Endeavourers openly shook their heads, and even the more ardent of the
band would have been tempted to give in.  But Paul and Edith were of
different mettle.  At devotional meetings, Paul spoke of heroic souls
who had preached for half a generation in heathen lands and not seen a
convert, until, one day, the tide turned in all its power.  Most
effective was the story of the Moravians who laboured among a certain
band of Esquimaux for forty years unblessing and unblessed, and then,
discovering that the channels were choked in themselves, cleared them,
and saw many mighty works.  And in July, indeed, the doubters had
received a knock-out blow.  Mrs. Reynolds, of No. 11, had been as truly
converted as Saul on the road to Damascus, converted by the human
instrumentality of Edith and a novel tract in the shape of a small slip
of cardboard bearing nothing but a question mark on one side and on the
other:

  _HOW_ SHALL YE ESCAPE
  IF YE NEGLECT
  SO GREAT SALVATION?


Poor Mrs. Reynolds, one would have thought that her present woes were
big enough to discount effectively all future ones.  Reynolds hawked,
when he had anything to hawk or time to spare from the "South Pole" and
regular terms of service for His Majesty.  Mrs. Reynolds, herself,
drank, when, more rarely than her spouse, she had the wherewithal to
obtain drink.  Reynolds, who should have accounted himself blessed in
the number of olive branches round about his table, illogically cursed
whenever he saw them, but added to the tribe as fast as Nature
permitted.  It was, indeed, when his wife was expecting what turned out
to be twins, that Edith came her way.  Against orders, she left the
circle and gave the woman a chair within her palings whereon she might
sit and listen.  Mrs. Reynolds, gently intoxicated, was grateful, and
asked her visitor to fetch a Bible from within which had remained to
the family because it could not be pawned.  On the table Edith silently
laid the tract.  Mrs. Reynolds, returning later, had seen it, and had
been (as she said) knocked all of a heap.  Why, particularly, by that
tract or just then, does not appear, and was not indeed questioned for
a moment by the Endeavourers.  For converted Mrs. Reynolds honestly and
truly had been.  Into her dwarfed and darkened life had shone the
radiance of a new hope, and from her hardened heart, so strangely
broken, had come welling out a vivid and wonderful spring.  Regular at
services, humble at home, zealous in her work, undaunted by scoffing
and blows, Mrs. Reynolds had not only been constrained, nervously and
pathetically, to testify publicly in her own Court, but honestly did
testify by her life every day of the week.  The very publican at the
corner, who had a soft spot for Paul by the way, admitted it.  "Let the
poor devil alone," he would shout at Reynolds cursing his wife and
damning the Mission across the bar, "or get out of 'ere.  Christ!
You're a bloody fool, you are!  'Ere's the Mission give you as good a
wife as any man ever 'ad, and you cursin' of 'em.  Wouldn't mind if
they converted my ole woman, I wouldn't.  She might 'old a
prayer-meetin' now and agin in the bar-parlour, off-hours, if she'd
keep it clean."



(2)

But this Sunday in October was to see the end of the effort for the
season.  In the first place, Paul left that week for his first term at
Cambridge, and this was a bigger damper than the Committee cared to
allow.  In the second, however, it was getting cold in the evenings,
and activities took a new direction in the winter.  Thus, a little
late, after Communion, the band sallied out for the last time.  Some
fifteen or twenty of them, they gathered round the lamp-post.  A couple
of young men distributed the hymn-sheets to the loungers in the
gardens, with a cheerful smile and a word of friendly greeting, fairly
well received, as a matter of fact, by now.  Paul mounted his chair
under the light.  Edith took her seat beneath at the harmonium, for
Miss Madeline Ernest, daughter of the Rev. John Ernest, an elderly
assistant curate, who usually played, was unwell.  The last faint
radiance of the day was dying out over the railway bridge, and the
stars shone steadily in a clear sky above the hoardings.

The Court greeted the Missioners in various moods.  "They've come,
Joe," said Mrs. Reynolds to her husband who, for once and for obvious
reasons, was at home and sober; "won't yer come out and listen-like a
bit?  The 'ymns will cheer yer up, and they carn't do yer no 'arm
anywise.  It's yer larst charnst for the season, Joe."

"Garn," said Joe, "damn yer!"

Hilda Tillings put her hat at a becoming angle in the back kitchen of
No. 9 and sallied out into the parlour.  Her mother sniffed.  "Silly
fool," she said, "ter go and suck up ter 'em like that.  'E won't look
twice at yer.  It'll be a case between 'im and that there Madeline
lidy, if yer asks me."

Hilda tossed her head.  "Miss Ernest's not come to-night," she said.
"I saw out of the top winder.  'Sides, yer don't know wat yer talking
of, ma.  I like the meeting."  And she sallied out.

Two urchins, tearing at top speed under the arch, made for the
lamp-post.  "'Ere, 'ook it," gasped the first to arrive, _sotto voce_,
to a diminutive imp already there.  "I'll bash yer 'ead in for yer if
yer don't.  This 'ere's my job."  And he clutched at the lantern which
illuminated the music-book on the required occasions, and kicked his
weaker brother on the shin.

"Silence, boys," said Mr. Derrick, in his best manner; "don't fight
with that lantern now."

"Orl rite, guv'nor, but it's my job.  Don't yer 'member me larst tyme?
Yer said I 'eld it steady and yer give me a copper."

"I got 'ere fust"--shrilly, from the other.

"There, there, my lad, give it up.  This boy usually holds it.  No
struggling, please.  That's better.  You can help with the harmonium
afterwards if you like."

(The smaller boy recedes into the background snuffling.  Throughout the
first part of the meeting he is trying to kick the elder, jar the
lantern, or otherwise molest its holder.  After the second hymn, Edith
intervenes with a penny.  The smaller boy exits triumphantly.)

Paul, from his somewhat rickety chair, surveyed the little scene with a
definite sense of exultation in his heart.  The last trace of
nervousness dropped from him with his first half-dozen sentences.  He
had the voice of an orator, a singularly attractive, arresting voice,
that penetrated easily the furthest recesses of the Court and even
brought in a few passers-by from the street.  The only son, he was, as
his parents often told him, the child of prayers, and he was named Paul
that he might be an apostle.  He would have been a dreadful prig if he
had not been so tremendously convinced and in earnest.  Radiant on that
mission chair beneath the garish lamp-light, he bared his head and
lifted his eyes to the heavens above him.  Had they opened, with a
vision of the returning Christ escorted by the whole angelic host, he
would quite honestly not have been surprised; indeed, if anything, he
was often surprised that they did not.  Christ waited there as surely
as he stood beneath to pray and preach.  His young enthusiasm, his
vital faith, stirred the most commonplace of the little group about
him, and no wonder, for he added to it an unconscious and undeveloped
but undoubted power.  To-night, the last night of the series, the last
night, perhaps, for ever there, he drew on all his gifts to the utmost.
It was small wonder that such as Hilda came to listen and such as Mrs.
Reynolds stayed to pray.  There fell even on Theodore Derrick a sense
that the Acts of the Apostles might after all be true.

They began by singing "Tell me the old, old story."  Before the hymn
was half over Paul had his audience under his influence as if they had
been little children and he a beloved master, or an orchestra and he
the efficient conductor.  He laughed at them for not singing.  He made
them repeat the chorus in parts, women a line, men a line, children a
line, and then the last line all together.  He made them triumph it to
God, and then whisper it to their own hearts.  He stayed them
altogether impressively, and would not have those sing who could not
say whole-heartedly:

  Remember I'm the sinner
  Whom Jesus came to save....


Then he prayed.  No one there could pray as Paul prayed, and Paul
himself might have wondered how long he would be able to pray so.  An
agnostic rarely interrupted Paul's meetings.  There might be no sure
knowledge of God, but it was plainly useless to tell that to Paul after
you had heard him pray.  Also, incidentally, there were few, however
rough, who did not feel that it would be a brutal thing to do.

A hymn again--the "Glory Song," by request--and Paul announced his
text, his farewell message, their last word to Lambeth Court for many
months.  It was the kind of text which, in his mouth, took on that
irresistible logic that he loved, and which, in his own heart, glowed
and beat like the throb of an immense dynamo.  "The Cross," so he
proclaimed, "is to them that are perishing foolishness, and to them
that are being saved the power of God."  Telling anecdotes, however
commonplace, hammered in his points.  It was not the Cross that was on
trial; it was his hearers who were then and there being judged by the
Cross.  Was all this to them foolishness, or was it the power of God?
An easy question!  Each one knew well enough for himself.  And the
inevitable followed; indeed, in Paul's eager soul, could not be
gainsaid.  His hearers to a man were being saved--the speaker's face
lit up with the honest joy of it;--or--or--_perishing_.  The whispered
word reached the far corners of the Court.  It even reached Reynolds.
He stirred uneasily, and wished he had more beer.

The boy on the chair announced that they would sing as a last hymn "God
be with you till we meet again."  The haunting lilt, the genuine poetry
and life there is in it, overcame the crude composition, the tortured
air which was the best the old harmonium could do, the vulgar
surroundings, the banal words.  At the third verse, Paul held up his
hand.  A little hush fell on the whole Court, which deepened as he
spoke.  Paul had not learnt the tricks that it was possible for him to
play with his oratorical power, but it was a naturally clever thing
that he did.  The tone of his voice wholly changed.  All hardness,
logic, conquest, argument, had gone from him, and it vibrated with
tenderness, was all but broken with honest emotion.  He begged, by the
pity and gentleness of the Saviour, that they might meet at His feet.
They had, he said, all of them, to travel down the long roads of life;
none knew where such might lead; would that all their diverse ways
might at least lead home--home to the one safe shelter, home to the one
sure haven, home to Jesus' feet.

The little band moved off out of the Court, the loungers' eyes looking
curiously at Paul.  He stopped again and again to shake hands, and, at
the Mission Hall, found the instrument, books, chair, and the rest of
the paraphernalia already put away.  He said good-bye to one and
another.  Edith held out her hand.

"Are you alone?" he asked.  "May I see you home?"

"I don't like to trouble you," she said.

He smiled at her eagerly.  "I believe you know I'm glad of the chance,"
he replied.

She lived some way off and scarcely in his direction, but young
Vintner, who usually escorted her home, saw the arrangement, and
surrendered her to Paul without a question.  Still he wished Miss
Ernest had been there; then, of necessity, the vicar's son saw the
curate's daughter home.  Under those circumstances, he usually secured
Edith, who fell to him likewise, more often than not, on school-treats
or C.E. excursions or riding back on summer evenings with the Members'
Cycling Club.  But there was nothing tangible between them, and he was
devoted to Paul like all the rest of their circle.  So the two leaders
went off together.

They said little at first.  Their way lay down a long wide well-lit
main street with many people about, if few vehicles seeing that it was
Sunday evening.  There was a sense of triumph in Paul, a sense growing
steadily now that the service was over and other less personal
influences laid for awhile aside, and he saw the commonplace street as
a vista of magic and wonder.  They passed a darkened church, all locked
at this late hour, which was little thought of in their circle as
lacking in evangelical zeal.  At a street corner, under a banner with a
text upon it, another open-air service from the local Wesleyan chapel
was in progress, and a speaker with a harsh voice was thundering
torrential salvation.  Paul glanced at the girl by his side with a
smile.  "'Peace be to all them who love our Lord Jesus Christ in
sincerity,'" he quoted quietly.

She nodded.  "But the Wesleyans are so noisy," she said, "and I don't
see why they need have left the Church."

"We shall right all that," said Paul, utterly unconscious of boasting.
"The Evangelicals in all the churches must come together.  I don't know
why there is any delay.  They want someone to make a move.  When I'm
ordained I shall go and preach in Nonconformist chapels and invite them
to my church no matter what the Bishop says.  'We must obey God rather
than man.'"

The girl looked up at him.  "Why does everything you say ring so
unanswerably true?" she demanded with a little smile.

"Does it?"

"Yes.  Everyone thinks so.  Do you know you frighten me sometimes."

"Frighten you!  Why in the world?"

"Because you're irresistible.  Do you remember last week's prayer
meeting?  Maud said to me afterwards: 'He'll make us all foreign
missionaries.'"

"I wish I could," said Paul, quite gravely.  "Why not?"

"That's just it," she replied.  "When you say 'Why not?' there doesn't
seem to be any answer.  But my father would find one quickly enough."

They turned off into the first of a network of darker side-streets of
villas leading to her road.  A sedate suburban air brooded there, and
except for a wandering couple and a distant policeman, no one else was
in sight or hearing.  The night was clear and sweet.  A little moon was
climbing into the sky.  Paul and Edith slowed down instinctively.

Paul did not pursue the complication.  Mr. Thornton was a photographer
in Edward Street, a highly respectable person, a member of his father's
church, but not within the circle of his father's actual friends.  The
mention of him gave Paul a slight jar about Edith.  He knew well enough
that if he had been seeing Madeline home, his mother would have been
highly delighted, but that she would be slightly uneasy at hearing that
he had been with Edith.  But he was just discovering Edith.  He liked
Madeline--she was far too pretty, with her fair hair and big eyes and
nicely-tempered lady-like admiration, not to be liked.  At the last
school-treat--oh well, but he hadn't said anything really.  And it was
in the return train that very day that he had, so to say, discovered
Edith.  He had found himself in her carriage, having strayed from that
reserved for his father and mother to shepherd some late arrivals, and
she had been opposite him the whole way.  She was quiet--he had noticed
that first; but when he did succeed in drawing her out a little, he had
found a very attractive creature.  It was hard to say why, but still,
as he analysed her, she was frank, gay, and yet unexpectedly deep.  And
she, too, was pretty.  He had seen her home from the station, for the
first time, and discovered that his mother was just a little annoyed.

"Do you know," he said now, continuing the subject, "I can't make up my
mind what I want exactly.  There seems such a lot to do in England, and
yet of course I'm pledged to be a foreign missionary."

"I see," she said.

"Well, what do you think?" he demanded.  "It makes me burn to see the
deadness and disunion among Christians at home, and yet the heathen,
dying daily without Christ--how can one stay in England for a moment
longer than is necessary?"

"God will surely show you what you must do," said the girl quietly.

There was a depth of sincerity in the simple words that struck him.  It
was the kind of thing Madeline would never have said, and would not
have meant if she had.  He eyed her with a sudden wish to see more of
her.  "Do you know I go to Cambridge on Tuesday?" he asked.

She nodded.

"It's going to cut me off from things here," he went on.  "I shall have
to work in the vacs., you know.  And I'm tingling to get there.  I'll
have time to write a bit, and I expect editors will look at stuff that
comes from the 'Varsity."

"I read that bit of yours in _The Record_," she said.

The implied praise pleased him.  "Did you?" he cried.  "Did you like
it?  I'm longing to be able to write as well as preach.  I want God to
have my pen as well as my tongue."

"Oh you are lucky!" she exclaimed involuntarily.

"Lucky?  Why?"

"You've so much to give.  I've nothing."

He was extraordinarily touched by her humility.  He wanted to take her
arm, but he did not like to do so.  They turned another corner, and
were in her street.

"Don't say that," he said.  "You've yourself--give that.  No one can
give more."

"I'm not sure," she said, with a nervous catch in her voice, "that I
can give that."

"Why not?" he asked.

She did not reply directly.  "I wonder what you will be like after a
term at Cambridge," she said, inconsequently.

"It won't change me at all," said Paul.

The girl made little stabs with her umbrella at the pavement.  "It
will," she said.  "I wonder if you'll come back the least bit the same.
Oh, I know!  You'll have new friends and new interests, and you'll
think us all just a little cheap.  You'll go away in the holidays,
abroad very likely, and even our country won't seem the same to you."

Paul was surprised at her vehemence, and he came to a sudden
resolution.  "Do you know," he said, "I'm going to take a last bike
ride to-morrow round Hursley Woods and Allington, just to say good-bye.
I meant to go alone, but do you think you could come too?  I'd love it.
We'd be able to talk, up there in the heather.  Will you?"

The girl slowed down still more; they were very near her home.  She was
so glad that he had asked her that she could hardly speak.  "Yes," she
said; and then, with a burst of confidence: "Do you think we ought to?"

"Why not?" he queried, frowning.  "Well, we'll risk it anyway.  Look
here, let's meet at the bottom of Coster Lane--say at eleven.  Shall
we?  That will give us two hours, lots of time."

She nodded without speaking, and put her hand on the latch.

"You won't be late--Edith," he said, calling her, on the impulse, by
her Christian name.

She flushed in the kindly dark.  "No," she said softly.  How could she?
she asked herself as she let herself in.

It was half-past ten when Paul climbed the steps of his father's house
and rang the bell.  The little family had finished supper and were
waiting prayers for him.  "Where have you been, Paul?" questioned his
mother.  "It's very late, dear."

"I saw Miss Thornton home, mother," said Paul.

"Oh, Paul!  Was no one else going her way?"

"I did not think to ask," replied Paul frankly.

"Dear, you ought to take care.  Such a lot is expected of your father's
son.  Did you go in?"

"No, mother."

"Well, dear, go and take your boots off while Annie brings the cocoa
in.  And don't be long, Paul.  I don't want you to miss prayers on your
last Sunday."

He went out, closing the door.  Mrs. Kestern looked across at her
husband, stretched out in his arm-chair, tired after a heavy day, and
gazing into the glowing coals.  "Father, I think you ought to say
something to him," she said.  "That girl is very attractive, and quite
clever enough not to run after him too obviously."

The clergyman stirred.  "I don't know, dear," he said.  "You know well
enough we have never had any trouble of that sort with him, and Paul is
not without ballast.  God, Who redeemed me from all evil," he added
gently, "bless the lad."



(3)

In truth Mr. Kestern was both right and wrong.  The next morning,
departing on his bicycle with a mere statement that he wanted a last
ride, Paul was very conscious of doing something he had never done
before.  He had no sister, and his girl friends were mainly a family of
cousins so closely interested in each other, that, although they were
friendly enough and admitted him to the family circle on long summer
holidays together, he was not really intimate with any one of them.
Nor had he wanted any girl in his life.  He and his father were great
friends, and the two shared pleasures and work with a rare
companionship.  Paul, with his natural gifts, had thus been drawn into
active religious life much earlier than is common, and he was naturally
studious, fond of nature and of a literary bent.  What with one thing
and another, his life was full.  With his father he departed on
Saturday afternoons for the woods and the ponds, and Sunday was the
best day of the week to him despite its strict observance in that
Evangelical atmosphere.  But nature is not easily defeated.  He rode,
now, to meet Edith, with a virgin stirring of his pulses.

She was wearing a little fur cap that sat piquantly on her brown hair,
and was flushed and eager.  Her slim figure, neatly dressed in a brown
cloth coat and skirt, pleased him, with the tan stockings and shoes
below at which he scarcely dared to glance.  As they spun along the dry
road together, under the autumnal trees whose brown twisted leaves
fluttered to the ground with every breath that crossed the pale blue
sky flecked with little white clouds above, she seemed to him a fitting
part of the beauty of the world.  Near the woods, the sun caught the
slim trunks of the silver birches in a spinney there, and their silver
contrasted exquisitely with the stretch of dying bracken beyond.  A
lark cried the ecstasy of living in the untroubled spaces of light and
air.

The road climbed steeply to the woods, and they walked to the summit,
he pushing her machine.  They hesitated at the leafy glade that invited
to the undulating heathery expanse of Hursley, but the artist in Paul
decided against the temptation.  "No," he said, "don't let's go in
there.  Everyone goes there.  Let's coast down to Allington, and turn
to the left.  I know a lovely place up there where there will be no
trace of Saturday afternoon's visitors.  What do you say?"

She shot a look at him, and made a grace of submission.  "Just as you
like," she said.

So they mounted on the crest and were away down the long hill together.
Oaks leant over the road at first, but beyond them the tall hedges were
lovely with scarlet October hips and haws, masses of trailing Old Man's
Beard, and sprays of purple blackberries.  To the right the fields
stretched away to a far distant ridge scarred with chalk where one
might dig for fossils.  Ahead clustered the old roofs of Allington, and
the little church that stood below estates linked for centuries with
Lambeth and Canterbury.

"After Lambeth Court, Allington Church," cried Paul gaily.  "Let's go
in."

They left their bicycles at the lych-gate and walked into the silent
clean-swept place.  She followed him in silence, and marvelled inwardly
that he seemed to know so much.  "That," he said, towards the end of
the inspection, "is the coat of arms of Archbishop Whitgift.  He was a
poor man's son and had no armorial bearings, so he took a cross and
inserted five little Maltese crosses for the Five Wounds of Christ,
quartering it with the arms of Canterbury.  It's very lovely here,
isn't it?"

She glanced dubiously at the two candles and the cross on the altar.
"It's rather 'high,' don't you think?"

He looked judicially at the simple neat sanctuary.  "There is no harm
in the things themselves," he said.  "After all, they make for a sort
of beauty, don't they?  It's the Spirit that matters.  When I'm
ordained, I shall be willing to preach in a coloured stole if I can
preach the gospel."

The daring heresy of it secretly astonished her.  But it was like Paul,
she thought.  He stepped into a pew, and moved up to make room for her.
"Let us pray a little, shall we?" he said simply.

She knelt by his side, her heart beating violently.  In the hush of the
place, it sounded so loud to her that she thought he must hear.  She
dared not look at him, but she knew what he was doing.  Kneeling erect,
his eyes would be open, seeing and yet not seeing.  She felt very
humble to be allowed to be there.  That in itself was enough just now.
She wished they might be there for ever and ever, just they two, and
God.

Ten minutes later, in the heart of the deserted woods, he flung himself
on the moss at her feet.  "I love to lie like this and look right away
into the depths of the trees," he said.  "If you come alone and lie
very still, rabbits come out and squirrels, and you begin to hear a
hundred little noises that you never heard before.  And I love the tiny
insects that crawl up the blades of grass and find a world in a single
tuft.  Edith, how wonderfully beautiful the world is, isn't it?"

She did not want to speak at all, but he seemed to expect it.  "Not
everyone can see all that," she said.  "But it is like you to feel it.
And when you talk, I feel it too.  Always, when you talk, you show me
wonderful things."

"Do I?" he queried dreamily.  "I don't mean to particularly.  It's all
so plain to me."

"That's just it," she said.

In a thicket close at hand, a thrush broke out into song.  His praise
ended, he flew down to a soft bit of ground and began busily to look
for worms.  Paul moved his head ever so slightly, and the bird and the
boy looked at each other.  The thrush eyed him boldly, summed him up
with a quick little pipe, and flew away.

Paul sighed.  "I almost wish I were not going to Cambridge," he said.

"Why?" she asked.

He reached out for a broken stick and began to play with it.  "Oh, I
don't know," he said restlessly.  "Perhaps because it's so good to be
here.  Cambridge is a new world.  I want to do great things, of course,
but it's leaving things that I can do behind.  Suppose I fail?  I wish
I could be ordained to-morrow and go to the Mission Hall to work at
once.  Or no, I'd like to go to Africa at once.  Do you remember that
man who came and spoke for the South American Missionary Society?"

"Yes."

"Well, I carried his bag to the station.  He had pleaded for
missionaries, and had said that he had been speaking at meetings for
six months up and down the country, asking for help, and had not had a
single volunteer.  He was about to go back alone.  So, on the station,
I offered to go.  I said he should not say again that he had had no
offer of service.  I was sixteen."

"What did he say?"

"Oh, the usual things.  That I must be trained first.  I asked what
more was necessary than that one loved Jesus, and had been saved, and
wanted to serve."

"Yes?"

"Well, I thought he half believed that I was right.  But he didn't dare
say so, like all the rest of them.  I must wait God's time, he said.
God's time!  He meant man's time."

She said nothing.  "It's so hard to wait," he added restlessly.

"I'm glad you didn't go," she ventured.

"Why?"

"Many of us are," she equivocated.

"Why?" demanded Paul again, looking boldly at her.

She disdained further subterfuge.  "You have made God real to me," she
said, "and if you had gone, you would have had no opportunity to do
that."

His eyes shone.  "I'm very glad," he said softly.  "Will you pray for
me, Edith?"

She wanted to fling herself down beside him, to hide her flushed face
in his coat, to shed the tears that would stupidly start behind her
eyes for no reason at all, to tell him that she hardly dared to breathe
his name, but that, when she prayed, she could think of scarcely anyone
else; but she could not.  Every instinct in her cried for
him--religion, sex, passionate admiration.  But she only clenched one
little gloved hand tightly and said that she would.  A daughter of
Claxted could hardly do otherwise.

The minutes slipped by.  Paul rolled over on his back and took out his
watch.  "My word," he exclaimed, "we ought to be going!  We shall be
late as it is.  But what a topping morning it has been.  Come on."  And
he jumped to his feet.

She got up slowly, and he dusted a few dry leaves from her skirt.
Straightening himself, he stood looking at her.  "I've known you such a
little while," he said.  "I wonder why?"

"Do you know me now?" she asked.

"Much better.  When I come back, shall we have more rides like this?"

"I don't know," she said.

"What do you mean?"

"You may not want them.  Your mother might not like it.  And" (Eve will
out, even in an Evangelical) "nor will Miss Ernest."

He flushed.  "I shall do as I please," he said.  "And I know I shall
want you."

She lifted her dark eyes to his face.  "Will you?" she cried.  "Oh I
hope you do!  I can't help it.  It means so much to me.  Ask me just
sometimes, Paul."

"Will you write to me at Cambridge?" he demanded.

She shook her head.  "No," she said decidedly, "not yet, anyway.  I
can't write good enough letters for one thing, and for another you
mustn't waste your time on me."

Paul stood considering her.  He had an idea, but he was in truth rather
frightened of it.  It seemed to be going too far.  But his desire won
the battle with his caution.  "Would you give me a photograph of
yourself to take to Cambridge?" he asked.

"I haven't a good one," she said.

"But you've something--a snapshot, anything," he pressed eagerly.

She smiled radiantly and suddenly.  "I've a rubbishy old thing they
took on the river at Hampton Court last August," she said, "but my hair
was down then."

"That'll be lovely!" he cried.  "Do give me that."

"How?  Shall I send it you?"

Paul's letters were not many, and fairly common property at the family
breakfast table.  He sought for an escape from that.  "Will you be at
the prayer meeting to-night?" he asked.

"Yes," she said.

"Well, so shall I.  In fact, I'm leading it.  Write me a little letter
and give it me afterwards, will you?"

She nodded.  Neither of them were aware of incongruity.  Possibly they
were right, and there was none.



(4)

Paul's bedroom was a big attic at the top of the Vicarage, running the
whole width of the house.  It was entirely characteristic of him.  In
one corner was a large home-made cage for a pair of ring-doves, with a
space in front for their perambulations, fitted with convenient
perches.  Under the window was what had been an aquarium, but was now,
after many vicissitudes, temporarily doing duty as a vivarium.  It was
a third full of sand and pebbles and soil, and contained plants and a
shallow pool of water, constituting, in its owner's imagination, a
section of African forest for three water-tortoises, a family of green
tree-frogs, and some half-developed tadpoles.  Above a writing-desk was
a bookshelf full of cheap editions of the English classics, purchased
largely with prize money won by literary efforts in his school
magazine.  The books are worth reviewing, for his father's well-stocked
shelves of Evangelical theology held none such.  The great English
poets were all there, with Carlyle, Emerson, Lamb, Machiavelli, Locke,
Macaulay, and a further miscellaneous host.  A smaller bookshelf held
MSS. books--three slim volumes of his own verse, one of acrostics
suitable for children's addresses, several of sermon notes, another of
special hymns, choruses and tunes, and two of essays and short stories
which had not seen the light in printer's ink.  Paul would have added
"as yet."  Bound volumes of his school magazine shone resplendent in
leather, and were sprinkled interiorly with his verse and prose.  There
were fencing sticks in a corner, and framed shooting and cadet groups.
A cabinet contained glass jars and medicine bottles of chemicals, and a
much-prized retort stood above it.  The mantelpiece was fairly full
with phials of spirit that had a home there, and in which had been
preserved an embryo dog-fish, a newt with three legs, a small
grass-snake, a treasured scorpion (the gift of an African missionary),
and the like.  Lastly, over the bed was a text.  That, principally of
all these treasures, was to go with its owner to Cambridge.

Paul that night sat on his little bed and looked around him.  The last
minutes of the eve of the great to-morrow had really come at last.  He
well remembered the hours in this room, during which the things that
were now largely accomplished had seemed to him overwhelming obstacles
in the race.  The open scholarship, the school exhibitions, the Little
Go--all these were past.  There stretched ahead the Tripos and the
Bishop's Examinations, but in imagination these were lesser
difficulties than those already surmounted.  Linked with them were his
other ambitions, his writing, his preaching, and a vista of endless
years.  Like a traveller who has reached a hill-top, he viewed the
peaks ahead.

Paul looked down on the letter in his hand.  The ill-formed sprawling
handwriting addressed it to P. Kestern, Esq., with several
underlinings.  He turned it over curiously, not in the least aware that
the amazing thing was that this should be the first of its kind for him
to handle.  Then he broke the envelope and drew out first the
photograph.

It had been badly and amateurishly snapped on a sunny day.  The shadows
were under-exposed, the lights far too strong.  It showed part of a
punt moored beneath the trees of a river bank, and one girl wholly,
another in part, who lay stretched out at the far end.  She in part, he
decided, was Maud.  Edith lay laughing unrestrainedly, one hand above
her head gripping an overhanging branch, the other trailing in a black
shade that was undoubtedly (from the context, so to speak) water.  A
plait of her hair lay across her shoulder.  She did not look
particularly pretty, but she did look jolly.  Paul turned the
photograph over.  On the back he read: "From A. V."  The inscription
jarred on him.  From Albert Vintner.  Mentally, he could see Albert, in
white flannels, a collar, a made tie, and brown shoes, taking it.  A
thoroughly good fellow, converted, earnest, but----  Yet he loathed
himself for that "but."

He opened the half-sheet of paper that had enwrapped it.  He was
distinctly curious to see what she would say.  He did not guess for a
moment how long she had taken to say it.


"Here is the snap" (she had written, without introduction).  "I look a
lanky thing, and did not know that ('he' erased) it was being taken
just then.  Do you remember that you had gone on up the river, rowing
your father and mother and Mr. and Miss Ernest?  I did so wish I had
been in your boat!  And at tea you pretended I was not to have a cream
bun!  But it was a jolly day, wasn't it? and if the photo helps you to
remember _that_ and think kindly at Cambridge of all of us at Claxted,
I am glad for you to have it.

  "Yours sincerely,
      "EDITH."


Paul smiled.  Then he frowned.  He re-read the letter several times and
looked again at the photograph.  Then he folded the one in the other,
and placed them in the inner recess of a new pocket-book.  Then he
reached for a Bible from which to read his evening Scripture Union
portion.



CHAPTER II

CAMBRIDGE

We no sooner get into the second Chamber, which I shall call the
Chamber of Maiden-Thought, than we become intoxicated with the light
and the atmosphere; we see nothing but pleasant wonders, and think of
delaying there for ever in delight.  However ... this Chamber of
Maiden-Thought becomes gradually darkened, and at the same time, on all
sides of it, many doors are set open--but all dark--all leading to dark
passages.  We see not the balance of good and evil--we are in a
mist--we feel the "burden of the Mystery" ...--KEATS: _Letters_, May,
1818.

  I asked for Truth--
    My doubts came in
    And with their din
  They wearied all my youth.
            D. M. DOLBEN: Requests.

His Name will flee, the while thou mouldest thy lips for
speech.--JELLALUDIN.



(1)

"Yes, sir; this is the gentleman's keepin' room, sir.  A bit small, but
cosy and 'omelike, as I allus told pore Mr. Bruce wot was haccidental
shot in Scotland last Haugust.  I keeps my bit o' brooms and cleanin'
things in that cupboard, sir--bedder's room they calls it, though it
ain't much of a room.  Through that there door is the bedroom, and that
might be bigger, that's sartin sure.  But I don't know as 'ow it much
matters to the young gentlemen, sir.  If so be they can lay down in it,
and 'as room for a chest o' drawers and a bath on the floor, that's
about all has they want.  But you'll need to take a bit o' care in the
bath, sir, if I may make bold to say so.  Mr. Bruce, 'e fair soak 'is
blankets now an' agin.  Ah, that couch now, sir!  Springs be broken, I
will say.  But then, lor, sir, how the young gentlemen bangs on 'em!
They will 'ave their bit o' fun, sir, same as what you did in your day,
I daresay.  Still it's a bin like that for years, an' p'rhaps a new one
would be a good thing.  Expensive?  Ah yes, sir.  Things his dear.  Let
it stand over a bit, so to say.  P'rhaps in 'is second year, with 'is
friends an' all a-coming hup, it might be done.  That all, sir?  Thank
you, sir, thank you kindly.  Mr. Mavis is 'is gyp, sir, an' 'e'll be
about soon I daresay, though 'e's none too fond of work, is Mavis.
'E'll tell you all you wants to know, sir.  Good afternoon, sir."

Mrs. Rover departed, and shut the door behind her.  Mr. Kestern smiled.
"She's a talker, Paul," he said, "but a good sort, I daresay.  The race
of bedders doesn't seem to have changed since I was up.  Well, what do
you think of it?"

Paul glanced round again with shining eyes.  The little attic room was
practically square.  On the left as you entered, two high windows in
the thick ancient wall, each allowing you to sit there and gaze through
its mediæval aperture, looked out over a narrow college garden to the
river.  Since this staircase was only the second from the main entrance
in the First Court, the room's occupant had a view as well down the
narrow old-world street which crossed the river here by a bridge and
twisted away past overhanging ancient houses.  In the near distance
rose the spire of St. Lawrence's Church.  Chestnuts, bare now, guarded
the river-front, and trailed their lower boughs in the leaf-strewn
stream.

Between the windows was a fireplace with a bamboo overmantel.
Opposite, the right wall met a sloping roof which just allowed a
bookcase to stand beneath it and was pierced by two more windows which,
however, looked out on to the inner battlemented wall of the First
Court, and permitted no more than a glimpse of St. Mary in her turret
over the chapel on the farther side.  The little room itself was bare
save for a square table in its centre; a couch, quite obviously much
the worse for wear, against the wall immediately opposite the door; and
a couple of chairs.  A faded red paper covered the walls.  A still more
faded red carpet lay on the floor.  Yet Paul saw his own room, the goal
of years of work; he saw in imagination his little desk already in a
corner, his books on the shelves, himself in an arm-chair before a fire
with leisure to read, to write, to think.  And he saw something else
too, which might immediately materialise.

"It's splendid, dad--just what I wanted.  I'm glad to be high up; the
view's so good.  But I'll do one thing right away, first of all.  Sit
down for a minute, will you?"

He placed on the table a brown paper parcel he had been carrying
beneath his arm, and hurriedly tore off the wrapping.  A framed text
revealed itself.  Then, mounting precariously on the couch, he sought
and found a nail from which the last occupant had hung some picture,
and there he hung his challenge, right in the centre of the wall,
exactly opposite the door, placed in such wise that no one could enter
without seeing the words.  He stepped off and surveyed the effect.  A
touch made the frame finally level.  Their capital letter entwined with
spraying daffodils, the multi-coloured words proclaimed plainly an
insistent and dogmatic legend: "One is your Master, even Christ."

"That takes possession, dad, somehow.  And everyone will know at once
Whose I am and Whom I serve."

The short elderly kindly clergyman nodded proudly, but with a little
mist before his eyes.  "Ay, ay, Paul laddie," he said, "I'm glad you
thought of that.  But it's easy to hang a text, Paul; it's harder to
live up to it.  Let us ask the help of the Master, my son, here and
now, at the beginning of your college life."

So the two knelt, with the simplicity of children.  Outside, listening
at the door, Mrs. Rover heard, and expressed herself strongly
thereafter to Mr. Mavis.  "Left hattic is one o' the pious sort,
Mavis," she said.  "Put a text hup, 'e 'as.  Ought ter be a soft job
for you."

But Mavis was in his own way a philosopher, and an observer of life.
"Is 'e?" he queried.  "Well, I'm glad to hear it.  May 'e stay so.  But
I dunno; I've seen a few o' them pious ones, and they often turns out
more mischievous than the other young devils.  Seems ter me we ought'er
'ave put new screws in them winder bars."

Arm in arm, father and son went out to do some shopping.  Paul, used to
hard economy, was highly pleased with his father's generosity.
Crockery marked with the arms of St. Mary's was an unexpected joy; two
arm-chairs, and only one of them second-hand; a few groceries, cakes
and biscuits; two framed prints of Landseer's dogs, to brighten things
up, as his father said; even a toasting-fork, a lamp, a side-table, a
tablecloth--all these, and a hearthrug, and the room seemed furnished.
He unpacked a box, and graced his mantel-shelf with photographs, a
presentation clock from the children of the Mission Hall, and a couple
of ancient candlesticks, in the form of metal storks upholding hollowed
bulrushes, from his bedroom at home.  Then it was time for his father
to return, and the boy saw him to the station.

Paul wandered back in the dusk: his hands in his pockets turning a
final gift of a new sovereign, his mind on fire.  He peered curiously
in at the gateways of unknown colleges, examined the gay shops,
lingered over the bookcases of the numerous booksellers.  A bell was
ringing in St. Lawrence's steeple as he passed, and he stepped for a
minute into the church.  It was a dark gloomy place, but a couple of
lighted candles on the altar showed him a crucifix and six more tall
lights behind.  He came out quickly, conscious of a little flush of
anger.  People of that sort were betraying the Faith.

He mounted the two flights of wooden stairs light-heartedly however,
and entered his own room.  Mrs. Rover had kindled a fire, and its ruddy
glow welcomed him.  Then he saw that there was a man standing by the
fireplace.  He paused, a little bewildered.

"Oh, I say," said the other breezily, "I'm glad you've come in.  I
thought I'd wait a few minutes.  There's nobody up yet you know, except
a few of us freshers.  I heard about you from the Dean, and I thought
I'd call at once.  My name's Donaldson.  You're going to be a parson,
aren't you?  And so am I.  How do you do?"  He held out his hand.

Paul warmed to the cheery greeting.  "Topping of you to call," he said.
"My name's Kestern."  Then he remembered it was on the door, and he
felt a fool.

"Yes.  Are you busy?  My things haven't all come yet, and your room's a
damned sight more cheerful than mine."

"Do sit down," said Paul.  "Take the new armchair.  You're the first
person to sit in it."

"They call 'em pews here," rejoined the other, sinking into the seat.
He had a pipe in his hand, which he lit.  "You smoke?" he queried.

"No," said Paul.

"Well, I do.  Always have.  I can't read without it.  I mean to row if
I can, and I don't know how I'll get on when we train.  What are you
going to do?"

"I'm not sure," said Paul cautiously, not sure either what the other
really meant.

"Well, row then.  The boat captain's up already.  I saw him after
lunch.  I'll tell him you want to tub, shall I?  It'll be sporting if
we get in a boat together."

"Yes," said Paul, kindling at the proffered friendship.

Sitting opposite across the fire, Paul took stock of his companion who
did the major part of the talking.  Donaldson was a busy personage and
an unfamiliar type to Paul.  It soon appeared that he held a missionary
bursarship from a society which Paul called "high church"; that he was
not, however, at all keen on a missionary vocation; that the fact that
he was to be a "priest" (as he put it) did not proscribe his pleasures
to any great extent; and that he was very sure of himself.  Much of his
conversation was unintelligible to Paul, but he was friendly, and the
boy was more lonely than he knew.  They went down to Hall together
seemingly the best of friends, but Paul was already aware that he was
wading in unfamiliar waters.

His first Hall was responsible for a series of indelible impressions.
The lovely old room, lit only by candles in great silver sconces, with
its sombre portraits, its stone-flagged floor, its arching roof, made
him unutterably proud.  The few shy freshers in an oasis of light,
emphasised the dignity of the place.  This was his Hall.  A solitary
fellow at the high table read a Latin grace in which Paul understood
only the Sacred Name, and that was repeated with what struck him as a
familiarity, an indifference, to which he was wholly a stranger.
Accustomed to the simplest meals, the dinner (rather unusually good at
St. Mary's), and the many waiters seemed grand to him.  The comparative
ease of his companions, who nevertheless, being all freshers, eyed each
other curiously, made him self-conscious to a degree, and Donaldson,
more at his ease than anyone, seemed in his eyes to be bold and daring.
Next him, on the other side, sat a quiet man sombrely dressed, who, he
gathered, had been a day-boy like himself at a lesser public school,
and who introduced himself as Strether.  He kept in the Second Court.
The three came out together, and Strether asked them up to his rooms
for coffee.

The clock in the Elizabethan gable above the Hall was striking eleven
as he and Donaldson, the ritual of that first coffee ended, came out
into the starlight.  Below, in the First Court, they stood a moment to
say good-night.  Lights gleamed in a few windows and a soft radiance of
moonshine fell on the armorial bearings in the great oriel of the Hall.
The few street noises seemed very remote.  There was an air of
seclusion, of peace, about the place, and Paul drew in the night air
with great breaths.  "How unutterably lovely it all is!" he exclaimed.

The other glanced round carelessly.  "Yes," he said, "I say, that
fellow Strether wants taking in hand."

"Oh?" queried Paul dubiously.

"Good God, yes.  Did you ever see such boots?  And his bags!  But he's
got some money, I should say.  Still, one can't be seen with him till
he gets something decent to wear."

"I liked him," said Paul shortly.

"Oh so did I.  But look here, let's pinch his boots and make him buy
some decent brogues."

Paul was tickled.  "All right," he said, laughing.  "But how?"

"Easily enough.  Wait till he's out.  Come to brekker to-morrow, and
arrange a plan of campaign."

"What time?"

"Any time you like.  Say nine.  There's no chapel and no lekkers yet.
Will that do?"

"Right-o," said Paul.  "Good-night."

"Good-night.  Doesn't matter if you're a bit late."

In his room, Paul lit a candle.  Then he climbed into one of his
window-seats and stared out at the moonlit, slow-moving river, the bare
chestnuts, the empty street.  "How too lovely," he whispered to himself
again, and sat long ere he got down to go to his little bedroom.  As he
did so, the flickering candlelight showed him his multi-coloured text
with its white background.  The words stared at him silently, and he
repeated them to himself with something already of the air of a
stranger.



(2)

Paul acclimatised with astonishing rapidity.  Within a fortnight his
"square" was gloriously "bashed," no one thundered more boisterously up
and down the stairs, and few strolled into Hall with more nonchalance.
He tubbed daily and promisingly.  He was poor, but he was learning to
make his own porridge and fry his own breakfast eggs and bacon without
an apology to Mrs. Rover.  Donaldson and Strether (in brogues now) had
taken to foregathering in his rooms as a regular thing.  He was known
at large to be "pi," but among the freshers he was shaping for a place
which would discount that to some extent.  A few literary men of his
own year had already heard some of his verses and read a short story or
two, and the three friends had begun to conceive of "The Literary
Lounge," a free and easy club which was to gather from time to time for
the encouragement of amateur talent.  Cambridge was moulding him far
more speedily than even Edith had expected.

The Chapel had been an unforgettable experience.  His first Sunday, at
the early service, Paul saw a vision of beauty which he had never
associated with religion before.  The small clean Gothic sanctuary,
with its old oak stalls, its fourteenth-century chalice, its air of age
and quiet, was a new thing to him.  The Dean, with his flaming scarlet
hood, "took up" the Eastward position it is true; but his reading was
so scholarly, his rendering of the service so reserved, that Paul knew
that here was an atmosphere which, if utterly familiar to most of the
men, was completely foreign to himself.  Fervour, loud congregational
singing, intense pietism, all had gone; but in their stead had come a
sober solemn figure of austere beauty who was a new interpreter in
religion to him.  The change entranced even while it repelled him.
Robed in his white surplice in his stall, he was aware of a historic
past which had scarcely concerned him religiously heretofore, and he
was awed into reverence.  Back in his own room, it is true he was
chiefly conscious of a lack somewhere, a lack which, however, was made
up to him by the Cambridge Intercollegiate Christian Union with its
prayer meetings and its evening sermon to first year men in St.
Saviour's Church.  But even these struck a new note.  There was an
emphasis on the intellectual side of belief.  That had been all but
entirely absent in Claxted.

His growing friendship with Manning emphasised all this.  Manning was a
second year man who had rowed in his first year Lents and Mays, and was
now coaching the new freshers.  Paul had tubbed late one evening, and
he and Manning had left the boathouse together.  They bicycled back in
company, and in the porch of the college, the great man invited Paul in
to tea.  He would scarcely have dared to refuse.

The other had ground-floor rooms, much finer and bigger than Paul's.
They had been redecorated; a baby grand stood in one corner; a
revolving bookcase by the fire held a terra-cotta Winged Victory; two
or three gilt-framed pictures graced the white-papered walls.  "Take a
pew," said Manning carelessly, and shouted at the door for the kitchens.

He ordered "oils" and cakes lavishly, and when the buttered buns had
duly arrived and tea was well forward, Paul ventured a word of praise.

"What topping rooms you have," he said.

"Yes.  They are rather jolly, aren't they?  That's a genuine Corot over
there which I bamboozled the governor into letting me bring up.  Are
you fond of art?"

"Very," said Paul, "but I know so little about it.  Literature's more
in my line.  I'm awfully keen.  I say, I wonder if you'd come to 'The
Literary Lounge' one night?"

The other smiled.  "That's the new freshers' effort, isn't it?  Still,
I don't mind.  What night?"

Paul was hugely delighted, and began to expand.  "I'd love to know what
you think of some of my things," he said.

"You should show them to Tressor.  He'd help you."

"Great Scott!" exclaimed Paul, "I shouldn't dare."

"Why not?  Not that I think much of Tressor's stuff myself.  Of course
he can write rattlin' English, and it all flows placidly enough, but
there's nothing much in it.  It's extraordinary what the public will
read.  He has huge sales.  I know him quite a lot you know.  Knew him
at Winchester."

"He reads my essays, of course," said Paul, "but I never thought to
show a don my verse, let alone a fellow with a reputation like
Tressor's."

"Well, he's the man to help you obviously.  And he would too.  He's a
jolly decent sort is Tressor.  I spent a week last vac. at his place.
He's got some rippin' stuff."

"Has he?" said Paul, eyeing with astonished awe the man who had stayed
with a foremost literary lion and actually dared to criticise him.

"Yes, jolly fine.  And it's a lovely old house and grounds, under the
South Downs.  I read quite a lot there, and we had some toppin'
motoring and a little rough shooting.  He keeps a good cellar, too,
which is something these days.  By the way, have you tried the college
port?"

"No," said Paul shortly.  He wondered if he ought to say that he was a
teetotaler for life.

"Well, you should.  It's damned good.  Have a cigarette."

"I don't smoke," said Paul.

"Wise man," said the other.  "By the way, there's a company bringing up
_The Mikado_ and _The Gondoliers_ this term, a good crowd, I think.  I
know a girl in it.  Gilbert and Sullivan's stuff's great, I think.
Don't you?"

"I'm afraid I haven't seen any," said Paul, who had never been to a
theatre in his life.  He began to wish he had got out of coming to tea,
but he need not have done so, for the other seemed curiously
unsurprised.

"Haven't you?  Then you've a treat in store for you," he said.  And he
plunged into gossip in which Paul heard great names bandied
about--Ibsen, Bernard Shaw, Galsworthy--almost for the first time in
conversation.  He said Yes and No at intervals; and if he had no
contribution of his own to make, he was at least very obviously
interested.  Manning was attracted by the boy.  He told Tressor, later,
that Kestern knew nothing and had been nowhere, but that he had
possibilities and was at any rate not consciously a prig.  As for Paul,
there opened before him a new heaven and a new earth.  When he had
departed, carrying volumes of the _Plays Pleasant and Unpleasant_, he
found it hard to settle down to his books.  In half an hour, he was,
indeed, repolishing some verses entitled "The Backs in Autumn" with a
view to getting Manning to read a fair copy.

At lunch next day, there came a knock on his door.  "Come in," he
called, expecting the arrival of Donaldson to fetch him for the river.

The door opened, and a stranger entered.  "Kestern?" he said
enquiringly, standing in the doorway.  "How do you do.  I must
introduce myself--I'm Hartley of Jesus.  Possibly you may know my name
as I'm on the Committee of the C.I.C.C.U.  I meant to call before, for
I heard you were up at St. Mary's and you ought to be a great strength
to us."

Paul got eagerly to his feet.  "Do come in," he said.  "Have you had
lunch?  Oh well, do have some.  It's only a scratch affair, but there's
enough to go round."  (He burrowed in the cupboard for plates and a
knife.)  "I'm tubbing early, so I have to hurry.  Awfully good of you
to call.  Of course I've heard of you."

The other took a seat at the table.  He had frank keen eyes and paused
a second for grace.  Paul was suddenly aware that he himself had said
none.  He pushed the cheese towards his guest and began to cut bread.

"I'm glad you're up here," said Hartley.  "We haven't a college
secretary in St. Mary's and I hope you'll take it on.  Then I've been
wondering if you'd help me with something on Sunday.  I run a
children's service at St. Saviour's schools in the mornings, and I'd be
awfully grateful if you'd lend me a hand.  The Committee want to put
your name down too for the open-airs on Parker's Piece.  They hold one
there every Sunday night, you know."

Paul smiled warmly.  The atmosphere of Claxted had come in with the
visitor.  "I'll be delighted to help," he said, "but you've outlined a
pretty tall programme for the first five minutes."

"Oh no," said Hartley.  "You're used to all that kind of thing, I know."

"How did you come to hear of my being up?" queried Paul.

"I was on a Children's Seaside Mission at Eastbourne last August, and
met Mr. Ernest.  He told me you were coming up.  Miss Ernest played for
us sometimes.  She sang your praises sky-high."

Paul blushed, but it was very pleasant to hear of the home folk this
way.  They were deep in talk when a clamour of ascending feet sounded
on the stairs and Donaldson was heard without shouting breezily:
"Kestern!  Kestern!  Four, you're late!  Damn it all, sir" (bursting
open the door), "you're late again.  Oh--I beg your pardon."

"May I introduce you?" said Paul.  "Mr. Hartley of Jesus, Mr. Donaldson
of this college."

"How do you do?" said Donaldson, smiling characteristically.  "Awfully
sorry.  Didn't know anyone was here."

"Oh, that's all right," replied Hartley.  "I was just going.  You are
both tubbing, are you?  Well, Kestern, Sunday at eleven, eh?  Will you
give the address?"

"Right," said Paul.  "Ten minutes?"

"Yes--not longer.  Cheerio.  Good luck on the river."  And he went out.

"Who's that?" demanded Donaldson.  "Pal of yours?  He looks a bit of an
ass to me."

Paul explained, reaching for his cap and stick.

"Gosh!  So you're preaching on Sunday, are you?  He won't get me,
anyway."

"Don't suppose he'll ask you," said Paul.  "Where's Gus Strether?"

"Gussie?  Waiting below, I expect.  He was ordering tea for three at
the kitchens when I came up."

"Well, let's go.  We haven't much time if we're walking down together."

The three friends foregathered in the Court, Donaldson chaffing
Strether whom he had christened "Gus" by way of a comical allusion to
the other's very undandified dress.  He himself wore socks and ties
that proclaimed themselves, a Norfolk jacket of a light tweed and a
fancy waistcoat.  As they went, Paul was a little silent.  He was
wondering whether he liked Donaldson.  And if so, why?  He was aware
that the meeting with Hartley had been significant, that the two would
never get on together, that he was proposing to get on with both.  It
was puzzling....

By Jesus Bridge they chanced to meet a girl.  Donaldson smiled at her,
after the manner of his kind, and she smiled back at him after the
manner of hers.  Strether snorted after a fashion of his own.
Donaldson took up his parable.

"I say, Kestern, did you see that?  Gus, that girl made eyes at you.
Yes, by Jove, she's looking back at you.  Oh I say, Gussie, this won't
do, my boy!  It's those new brogues of yours.  I've seen her along here
before, and I bet she's on the lookout for you.  Here, you aren't
tubbing; go and pick her up, and tell us all about it at tea."

Strether snorted again.  "Opprobrious conduct," he muttered stormily.

Donaldson roared with laughter and Paul could not help smiling.
Strether loved long words, and it was characteristic of him that he
made odd noises.  He retorted now, fiercely.  "Don't bray like an ass,"
he said.  "Do you want all the street to hear you?"

"Gus, you'll be the death of me!  Opprobrious conduct!  But did you see
her ankles--pretty little ankles and a neat little waist.  I must say
you've got quite good taste."

"Some hussy of a shop-girl," growled the other.  "Disgusting, I call
it.  Why can't you leave females alone?"

Paul chuckled again.  "Come on you two," he said.  "Let him alone,
Donaldson.  We've still to change, and it's past two now."

Next day the intrigue so lightly begun developed.  Manning had
consented to tea with Paul, and Donaldson, who was there, told him the
story with certain emendations natural to him.  Manning was highly
amused.  "Write Strether a letter," he suggested, "pretending that it
comes from the girl and asking him to meet her on Jesus Bridge some
night.  Very likely he'll bite out of sheer funk of what she might do
if he does not.  You can go and watch.  He'll walk up and down
snorting.  It'd be rather a joke."

"By Jove, we will," cried Donaldson.  "It'll be no end of a rag.  But
look here, he knows our handwriting.  Will you write it?"

"Yes, if you like.  Give me some paper, Kestern."

Paul got up for the materials with some reluctance.  "But I like old
Strether," he objected.  "He may be an ass, but he's a good sort.  It
mustn't go further."

"The more the merrier," said Donaldson.  "Don't spoil sport."

Paul shook his head, hesitating.  But Manning supported him.  "You're
right, Kestern," he said.  "We'll keep the joke to ourselves.  You
three are pretty thick, and it would be low down to split on a pal."

So the letter was written and posted, and Paul was at breakfast next
morning when Strether came in with it.  He flung himself into an
arm-chair and tossed the note on the table.  "Who wrote that?" he
demanded savagely, his limbs sprawling all over the place.

Paul, feigning surprise, opened it.  "'Elsie Dawson,'" he read, as one
bewildered.  "Great Scott, Gussie, I shouldn't have thought you'd have
had a correspondence with girls!  Why, she's the girl we met yesterday!
Good Lord--'Will you meet me to-night at 9.30 on Jesus Bridge?'  What
are you going to do?  My aunt, fancy her having the cheek!"

Strether kicked out at a footstool.  "I don't know the girl," he
exclaimed bitterly.

For the life of him, Paul couldn't help playing up to the game now that
the victim had risen so well.  He got up and went over to the fire.
"But look here," he said seriously, "she's seen you and she's plainly
after you.  Well, hang it all, man, we don't want her sort hanging
about whenever we go down to the river.  You'd better meet her once and
choke her off.  Take Donaldson with you; he'll take her off your hands."

Strether growled, muttered, and kicked out at the footstool again, the
while Paul, intensely amused but outwardly serious, gathered at last
that he was cursing Donaldson, declining to tell that worthy a thing
about the letter, and demanding how the girl could have learnt his name.

"She overheard Donaldson saying it, I expect," invented the resourceful
Paul.

He was cut short by the noise on the stair that usually heralded that
gentleman's approach.  "Give me the letter," said Strether hurriedly,
"and don't say anything."

"If you go, come in here afterwards and tell me what happens," replied
Paul quickly, tossing it him.  The other nodded.

"Has he got it?" demanded Donaldson eagerly, as soon as they were alone
at the boathouse that afternoon.

Paul nodded.

"Oh my holy aunt, what a spree!  What did he say?  What's he going to
do?"

Paul explained, smiling.  "You're not to know.  I kidded him all right,
and I think he's going to-night."

"Lor! what an ass!  Well, we'll be there anyway.  Wonder if Manning
would care to come?"

"Don't ask him," said Paul.  "After all Gussie's our pal, and Manning's
not our year.  I wish he knew nothing about it."

Donaldson stared.  "He's a damned good sport, anyway."

"May be," retorted Paul.  "So's old Gussie, if it comes to that."

"All right," conceded the other.  "But we'll go.  We'll go out at nine.
It'll need a bit of reconnoitring."

Paul showed admirable strategy by suggesting to Strether that he, Paul,
should take Donaldson out of college before the arranged hour for the
rendezvous to avoid any awkward questions as to the other getting away
from them.  In the shadow of a tree, with coat collars turned up, they
watched their victim arrive, cross and recross the bridge nervously;
advance, obviously fuming, some way into the Common; return; look at
his watch; fume some more; stamp about for a quarter of an hour; and
finally make off for home.  The conspirators returned another way, and
Donaldson went to his own room.  Paul found Strether in his, awaiting
him.

"Hullo!  Back?" queried Paul.  "What happened, Gussie?"

No answer.

"Oh come on," said Paul, "what did she say?  Did you get rid of her
easily?"

"All this fuss about beastly females," muttered Strether.  Then he
flung himself back in his chair and half bellowed: "She wasn't there!"

Paul could have screamed.  It was irresistibly comic, but he maintained
his composure by an effort.  "Not there!" he exclaimed.  "What do you
mean?"

The other explained.  Paul suggested that she might have been kept at
home.  Hadn't he, Strether, left the Bridge a bit too soon?  Strether
emphatically thought not, and gloom descended upon him.  What if she
wrote again?  What if the porters spotted her hanging around?  What
if--but further speculation was cut off, the wooden stairs betraying
approaching visitors.  Manning and Donaldson came in together.

"Hullo, Gus Strether," cried the latter noisily, "where've you been?
We've been searching the place for you."

"Shut up," growled Strether suspiciously.

Manning smiled at both of them.  "What a bally row you do make,
Donaldson," he said.  "Can you give us some coffee, Kestern?  Look
here, I thought those verses of yours the other night jolly good."

The talk drifted into literature, but ten minutes later there was a
further knock on the door.  "Come in," called Paul.

The door opened, and "old Sam," an under-porter, put in his head.  He
was an ancient mariner, short, red-faced, with smiling eyes, a genial
old boy and popular, since he was ready for anything that included a
tip.  "Beggin' your pardon, sir," he said to Paul, "but is Mr. Strether
'ere?  I couldn't find 'im in 'is rooms."

Strether made a noise of some sort, indicative of his presence, from
his chair.  His face was a study.

"Oh there you are, sir.  'Xcuse me, but there's a young lady in the
porch a-arskin' after you."

Pandemonium.  Donaldson attempted to rush out and Strether closed with
him.  Manning sprang to the lamp, laughing so much that he could hardly
hold it.  An arm-chair was overturned.  Paul caught Donaldson, and
Strether freed himself.  Sam beamed beneficently on them all and closed
the door with a wink as Strether went out.

"Oh my holy aunt," roared Donaldson.  "Gussie will be the death of me.
Did you see his face?  But what's the next move, Manning?"

"Wait for him to come back.  Then pull his leg."

They waited a long ten minutes, and then went off to Strether's rooms.
His oak was sported, and no amount of banging, not even Donaldson's
uproarious "Gus Strether!  Open, you old blighter.  Come on, Gussie!
Pull up your socks.  Who's your lady friend?" echoing through the
night, was of any use.

The three departed together, Donaldson to Manning's rooms for a drink.
But Paul refused the invitation.  He climbed his stairway, a bit
conscious-stricken, and sported his own door.  He glanced round the
little room, and drew consolation from its remote comfortable air.
Then he remembered that it was Saturday night and he had an address for
the morrow to prepare.  He sighed and sat down to think.



(3)

The children's service proved to be a small affair compared with his
own at Claxted and requires no further notice, but the open-air meeting
on Parker's Piece was a different matter.  When Paul at last found
himself on a chair beneath the central lamp-post, it was with feelings
he had never had before.  A big crowd of townsfolk surrounded him, but
among them were 'Varsity men, some members of the C.I.C.C.U., but
others who were not.  Paul realised himself and his position as he had
never done in Lambeth Court.  He was not merely preaching repentance to
obvious and ignorant sinners; he was challenging life and thought which
could meet him on equal terms.  The sense of it surged through him as
he stood there and read the curious faces, yellow in the lamplight,
that ringed him round against the foggy gloom behind.  Even these
town's men were a new audience to him.  They had caught something of
the criticism, the independence, of the University; and they were also
sarcastic, as Mr. Mavis and Mrs. Roper might be, having seen in their
day many things.  This particular young gentleman's whim was religion,
just as another's might be the breaking of windows, or the purchase of
a certain kind of picture, or some form of sport, or highly coloured
socks.  One had to take these phenomena philosophically, thankful if
one's own young gentleman had the more harmless crazes.

The sensitive Paul was aware that this was the temper of the greater
part of his audience, while the lesser part would be critical, amused,
or ragging undergraduates.  He faced the crowd uncertainly for a few
moments.  And then the blinding conviction in which he had been
nurtured swept down on him that, after all, these were but sinful souls
needing the Saviour, their very complexity but making the more
necessary His divine simplicity.  Indecision went to the winds.  As he
wrote home later to his father, he, thereafter, "preached unto them
Jesus."

When the circle broke up, a man bore down upon him.  Paul saw him,
started, hesitated, blushed and would have escaped.  But it was too
late.  "Comin' back now?" queried Manning with a smile.  "I was
returning from calling on some people who live across the Piece, and
saw you.  We might as well walk back together and I'll brew some
coffee.  You'll want it after that effort."

Reassured to some extent, Paul thanked him, exchanged a word or two
with Dick Hartley in explanation, and set off with the other.  Clear of
the crowd, they fell into step.  "I congratulate you on your sermon,
Kestern," said Manning.  "It was a great effort."

Paul thought he detected a note of mockery in the words.  He pulled
himself together and mustered up all his courage.  He must not, he told
himself, be ashamed of his Master.  "I spoke what I believe with all my
heart," he said simply.

The senior man was instantly aware of the other's implied reproach.  He
slipped his arm into Paul's familiarly.  "Exactly," he said.  "No one
with a grain of sense could doubt that.  If you don't mind my saying
so, it was a sincere, genuine and remarkable performance.  It was,
honestly, the best sermon I've heard for a long time."

Paul warmed naturally to the praise.  The friendly appreciation cheered
and encouraged him.  "That's jolly good of you," he exclaimed boyishly.
"I thought at first you were pulling my leg."

"My dear fellow, I know true art when I see it," protested Manning.

"Art?" queried Paul, bewildered.

"Yes, art.  Skilful execution.  A fine art, too, for your imagination
was at work.  And I'm inclined to think that you have a great gift of
imagination, Kestern.  You felt strongly, you saw vividly, and you knew
instinctively how to express yourself.  In the superlative, that's
genius.  That's how the great pictures come to be painted, the great
books to be written, and the great orations to be made.  The
interesting thing about you is that one is not yet sure which you will
do."

Paul was silent.  He was at once elated, bewildered and disappointed.
Gradually the humbler feeling predominated.  He had never thought of
himself as an artist, and as an evangelist he knew instinctively that
he had failed with Manning.  "The Gospel is not a work of art," he said
shortly, and shrewdly.

"But your presentation of it was a distinct _tour de force_," said
Manning.

Paul took his courage in both hands.  "You praise the presentation, not
the thing," he said.  "What is the Gospel to you, Manning?"

The other smiled genially.  "Ah well," he said, "if I invite an
evangelist to coffee, I suppose I must expect to be asked if I am
saved."

"Don't!" cried Paul.  "You laugh at it.  I cannot do that."

"You're wrong there," replied the other quickly.  "I do not laugh at
it.  A man is a fool who does that.  It is impossible to deny that
Christianity was, and probably is, a great dynamic in the world's
affairs.  You cannot dismiss St. Paul, Augustine, Francis of Assisi, or
even Luther and Wesley or Moody, with a gesture.  But I confess that
to-night's affair interested me most as an observer of men.  You
interest me more than your religion.  But here we are.  Let's talk over
coffee."

Paul, in his arm-chair by the fireplace, glanced round the now familiar
room with an air of hostility of which his subconscious more than his
conscious mind was aware.  But he had had tea that day with Hartley,
and he definitely compared his friend's room at Jesus with this, for
the first time.  He had yet to discover that he was sensitive to an
"atmosphere," but he was already well on the road to that discovery.
Hartley's room was big and rather bare.  He was athletic, and the
wall-space was almost wholly given up to a number of oars, and a dozen
or so plainly-framed groups with a cricket cap hanging from the corner
of one.  The exceptions were two other photographs, one of the service
on the sands at Eastbourne (in which Paul had discovered Madeline) and
one of the Cambridge University Missionary Campaigners in some Midland
town.  The mantelshelf was overcrowded with photographs of men,
snapshots of children, and the cards of a variety of chiefly religious
societies and activities among which a Bump Supper menu seemed out of
place.  The electric lights were naked; the window-curtains
commonplace; the tea had been homely.  The room focussed activities.
It had made Paul feel instinctively "keen," as they said at the
Christian Union.

Manning, kneeling before the fire, was carefully pouring boiling water
into a Turkish coffee-pot of burnished copper.  Delicate china
coffee-cups stood by a silver cigarette-box on an Indian lacquered
table.  A diffused light filtered through silken lamp-shades, and two
wall-sconces of candles lit the pictures with a faint radiance.  The
corners and distances of the room were heavy with shadows.  Bronze
chrysanthemums stood in a tall vase on an otherwise bare overmantel.
The chairs the big footstools, the lounge, the carpet--all were soft,
rich, heavy.  The firelight glinted on the tooled leather bindings of
books in a case opposite him.  The room made him feel comfortable and
introspective.  Parker's Piece seemed to belong to a different world.

He pulled himself together, and deliberately continued the
conversation.  "But it is Christ Who matters, Manning," he said with
real bravery.

The other replaced the kettle and set the coffee-pot on the table.  He
selected a cigarette and lit it over the lamp.  Then he settled himself
comfortably on the lounge.  "Matters?" he queried.  "Your
technicalities are new to me, Kestern."

But Paul was not going to shirk issues.  "Yes," he said, "matters to
your soul, for life or death."

"That, then," said Manning, "is my business.  My soul is my own, at any
rate."

"No," said Paul, "it was bought with a price.  'Ye are not your own.'"

"I was not aware that I had put mine up for sale," retorted Manning,
"and if it was purchased, on your own showing, some nineteen hundred
years before it came into my possession at all, it seems to me that I
don't get much of a chance."

"Christ bought you to set you free," said Paul, and he mentally
recalled a favourite anecdote of his concerning a travelling Englishman
and a freed slave.  For the first time, perhaps, he decided not to use
it in this connection.

"Thanks," said Manning drily.  "Then I claim my freedom."

"But," capped Paul, "you have to choose whom you will serve."

Manning flicked off his cigarette ash with a little gesture.  "Look
here," he said, "words are words.  They serve a purpose, but they are
not ends in themselves.  St. Paul used Jewish and Rabbinic phraseology,
and appealed to his day with metaphors.  Thus--it's as old as the
hills--if you talk of purchase, you imply a seller.  Did Christ buy me
from Satan or from Almighty God or from whom?  So far as I am aware,
the point is not even yet settled.  Nor is it meant to be settled.  It
implies a conception of the universe generally that is outworn.
Neither you nor I are ancient Jews.  A good deal of water has flowed
under the bridges since Habakkuk."

Paul said nothing.  In point of fact, he hardly understood.  This was
all new to him.

"Well, I see God in art and beauty.  He has given me a soul that finds
Him there, rather than in sacrifice of the fat of rams and the thunder
of Sinai.  I take it, even you do not regard Him as tied to pitch-pine,
corrugated iron and Moody and Sankey's hymns.  He is not to me a tribal
deity, needing propitiation and ordering the slaughter of women and
children, flocks and herds.  'Nothing but the Blood of Jesus,' sounded
all right on Parker's Piece and offers an emotional stimulus to
uneducated people.  But when you come to definitions, the thought of
the Old Testament leaves me rather cold.  How in the world can blood
wash me clean?"

"But you believe in the Bible, surely?" queried Paul, puzzled and
honestly grieved.

"My dear fellow, what in the world do you mean by 'believe in'?  I
believe in Browning.  Personally, I believe in the present Government.
As a matter of fact, I believe in you."

Paul flushed.  "But the Bible is the 'verbally inspired Word of God,'"
he ventured to quote.

"Which of the ten-score different versions?" queried Manning calmly.
"By the way, have you shown your verses to Tressor yet?"

If his visitor accepted the change of subject, it was because he was,
for the moment, clean bowled.



(4)

Paul had left a note asking Strether to breakfast, and he rather
wondered if, after the previous day's rag, his friend would come.  But
he came.  To mark the occasion, Paul had fish and an omelette sent up
from the kitchens, and over these burnt sacrifices he made his apology.

"Look here, Gussie," he said, "I'm sorry that rag ended as it did.  I
had no idea the others had arranged it with old Sam like that, and I
couldn't help Donaldson kicking up all that row on the stairs.  That
was beastly, I admit.  I'm awfully sorry.  Hope it won't make any
difference to our friendship."

Strether growled in his throat.  "Who bagged my boots?" he demanded,
with a sense of humour.

Paul laughed.  "Let's rag Donaldson somehow," he suggested, "and I'll
give them back."

Strether smiled.  Then frowned.  "Always talking about girls," he
muttered.  Then, dropping the subject for good and all, "Come to _The
Mikado_ this week," he invited.

"I've never been to the theatre," said Paul frankly.

The other nodded slowly in his meditative fashion.  "So?" he queried.

"Yes," said Paul.  "My people are against it.  They say the stage is
immoral.  I don't know...."

"Then so are newspapers," said Strether, "and so's Cambridge too for
the matter of that."

"That's different," objected Paul.

Strether laid down his knife and fork.  "Going to the P.M., Sunday?" he
queried.

"Yes, I expect so," said Paul.  "Why?"

"I'll come with you, if you'll come with me to _The Mikado_.  I've
never been to a P.M.  My people say prayer meetings make religion too
emotional."

Paul got up dubiously.  He looked out of the window.

After all, there were, it seemed, many points of view in the world.
Ought he to see none other than his father's?  And besides, if this
would get Gus Strether to a prayer meeting ...

"I'll go," he said.  "I see that it is certainly foolish to condemn a
thing you haven't seen."

That night, over his fire in his own beloved room, he got out a secret
and personal diary which an evangelical missioner had urged him to
keep, and sat thoughtfully over it, pencil in hand.  Then he wrote
slowly: "Nov. 13.  I have decided to go to a theatre, since it is
obviously unfair to condemn anything unseen.  I wish to be sure of the
spirit in which I go and for what I ought to look.  Therefore I shall
ask myself afterwards three questions, and I write these down now to
make certain that I do not forget:

  1. If Christ came while I was there, should I mind?
  2. Do I see anything bad in this play?
  3. Has it helped my Christian life?"


Years later he turned up his old answers, written late on the Wednesday
night of the play, and smiled at their amazing and yet serious
youthfulness.  "1. I should mind Christ's advent while I was in the
theatre no more than I should mind His coming while I was laughing over
a humorous novel," so ran the first answer.

"2. Honestly, I see nothing bad in the play.  It was beautiful, the
colour and music bewitching, and the only fault, overmuch foolishness.
But in the bar and lounge, one felt that the men about were mostly of
the sort who are careless about their souls.  Query: But what about a
bump supper or a smoking carriage?

"3. No, it has not helped my Christian life, but it has not, so far as
I can see, hindered it.  Indirectly, it has perhaps helped me, just as
exercise, music, poetry and ordinary conversation, may be said to do.

"_Note_.  Honestly, I have never enjoyed myself more in all my life."

Poor Paul!



(5)

But he was to enjoy himself still more that memorable term.  Towards
its close, as a scholar, he received an invitation to the big college
Feast of St. Mary's, a commemoration to which some distinguished
outsider was always invited and which celebrated itself with the aid of
a classic menu and some historic music.  Neither Strether nor Donaldson
were asked, for neither had achieved scholarship fame, and Manning was
separated from the fresher by an impassable gulf of table.  Paul, in
fact, sat between Judson and the wall farthest from the High Table.
Judson, cox of his boat, was a genial person, but no particular friend
of Paul's, and Judson, moreover, was frankly there to eat and drink.
Paul functioned merely automatically in regard to these.  It was the
splendour, the glamour, that he feasted upon, and his imagination saw
to it that neither lacked.  Even the sheer beauty of the shining plate,
the silver candelabra, the ancient hall and the glittering tables,
touched, here and there, with the orange and yellow and green and gold
of the piled dessert, was all but forgotten as he read his list of
distinguished names, caught the gleam of ribbons across this and that
shirt-front, listened to the clever short speeches, delighted in the
historic music, shared, timidly, in the ceremonies of toast and
loving-cup.  He saw a world worth entering.  He was intoxicated, though
he drank no more than a shy glass of lemonade.  If, in the dark
shadowed gallery away from the bustling waiters, there lingered
understanding spirits, as like as not Paul Kestern was the most
entertaining person present.

In the library, the great Tressor singled him out.  "Well, Kestern," he
said smiling, "what did you think of it all?"

The boy looked at him gravely.  "It was all rather wonderful to me,
sir," he said.

"It was a good feast, certainly," said the other.  "By the way, I fear
I can't get away from all this now, but I wanted to say a word to you
about those verses of yours.  They are very distinctly good, I think.
The shortest is the best--_The Spent Day_.  You'll do much better work,
but in its own way, it's a perfect poem."

Paul could hardly believe his ears.  "It is awfully good of you to read
them," he managed to say.

"Oh not at all.  I'm delighted.  Look here, are you engaged to-morrow?
Come to luncheon, will you?  You row, don't you? so you'll want to
leave early.  I won't invite anybody else, and we can discuss them
then.  Good-night."

The big man, with the heavy eyebrows, slightly bowed shoulders and
kindly eyes, smiled, nodded, and passed on.  Manning followed him up to
Paul.  "What did he say?" he asked.

Paul hardly liked to tell him.  It seemed fantastic as he said it.

Manning nodded.  "I thought as much," he said, smiling.  "Remember me,
Kestern, when you're a big man.  I at any rate put one of your feet on
the ladder."

Paul mumbled something, and soon escaped.  His fire was out in his
room, but it mattered little; he could not sit down to read or think
quietly after all this.  Up and down he paced, repeating Tressor's
words: "In its own way, it's a perfect poem."  A perfect poem!  And
Tressor had said it!  Said it after those songs, those speeches; said
it in that company.

Then, as the boy passed and repassed, his eye fell on his text.  He
looked at it critically: the frame and flowers and lettering were so
extraordinarily bad.  A few weeks ago he had not remarked that.  Still,
it was the words that mattered.  What would the Master have thought of
the college feast?  Cana of Galilee?  Yes, but He would have been but a
visitor.  Could He have had a real part in it?

Paul swung into a new train of thought.  He considered the cost of it
all.  Why, when he had refused the first cigar, Judson had said _he_
never refused a half-crown smoke.  Half a crown for a cigar!--the thing
was monstrous to evangelical Paul.  The smokes of the dinner alone
would have kept a catechist in India for a year!  Probably the wines
would have paid the annual salary of a white missionary in China.  And
with every tick of the clock, a heathen soul passed into eternity.  How
often he had said it!  What, then, was he doing among such things?
What part had he in such extravagance?  "One is your Master, even
Christ."

Paul sighed, and reached for his diary.  "The feast was wonderful (he
wrote), extraordinarily beautiful I thought....  But..."  Then he went
to bed.

Wonder on wonders.  The morning's post brought him a letter from the
editor of _The Granta_, accepting, magnanimously, a short story of an
imaginative nature that he had placed in Egypt with the aid of a
Baedeker.  The editor asked, interestedly, if he had been there.  He
supposed that Paul must have been, for the descriptions were so vivid.

Paul's porridge grew cold.  He sat on with the letter in his hand.
Donaldson found him so, calling to go with him to a distant lecture.
"Hullo," he said, "not finished brekker?  You're late again, four!"

"I say," said Paul, "_The Granta_'s taken that yarn of mine about
Egypt."

"By Jove, that's topping."  Donaldson spoke enviously, staring at him.
"But I told you it was jolly good, didn't I?"

"You did," said Paul, "but I say, what do you think Tressor said last
night about my verse?"

"Can't say," said Donaldson.

Then Paul told him.

His friend whistled.  "Damn it all, Paul," he said--"by the way, let me
call you 'Paul,' may I?--I should chuck all those preaching and praying
stunts of yours now."

"Why on earth----" began Paul, utterly surprised.

"Oh well, do as you think best.  But it'll spoil you for literature.
Didn't Tressor tell you the other day that your essays were too like
sermons?  And if you get in with Manning and all that set, Hartley and
his crowd won't be of any use."

Paul got up slowly and walked to the fire.  He stood still awhile,
gazing into it.  The other fidgeted.  "Come on now, anyway," he said.
"We shall be late for that lekker."

"I shan't go this morning.  I shall cut it."

"Right-o.  Good-bye.  I'm off," retorted the other, and departed, a
little huffed.

Mrs. Roper came in to clear away.  "Aren't you a-going to finish your
breakfuss, sir?" she asked.

"I've done, thanks," said Paul.  "I don't want any more."

"Off 'is feed," said Mrs. Roper outside to her "help."  "'Ad too much
at that there feast, I expect.  'Ere, you can 'ave them eggs."

As for Paul, he mounted his bicycle and rode out into the country.  A
wintry sun lay on the bare woods and stubble fields, and it was all
very lovely.  Even the close-cropped hedges were beautiful.  The fallen
beech-leaves were a spread of old gold under the trees by Madingley.



CHAPTER III

CHRISTMAS CAROLS

  ... Doubt, which, like a ghost,
    In the brain's darkness haunted me,
  Was thus resolved: Him loved I most,
    But her I loved most sensibly.
  Lastly, my giddiest hope allow'd
    No selfish thought, or earthly smirch;
  And forth I went, in peace, and proud
    To take my passion into Church;
  Grateful and glad to think that all
    Such doubts would seem entirely vain
  To her whose nature's lighter fall
    Made no divorce of heart from brain.
        COVENTRY PATMORE: _The Angel in the House_.



(1)

Paul, walking home from Claxted Station down Edward Street and past Mr.
Thornton's "Elite Photographic Studio," was puzzled.  Some bewildering
spell had fallen upon Claxted in a couple of months.  The suburban
station had a strange respectable air that sat ill on it, and whereas a
station may smell of dirt or smoke, it should not smell of stale paint.
Edward Street was horribly tidy, and gaped.  The Town Hall and its
Libraries, once majestic centres of learning and authority, had been
cheapened.  And the familiar road to his home appeared to have been
newly washed and to have shrunk in the process.

His father's house had only escaped the snare by a miracle, and Paul
was obsessed by a sense of that miracle.  The case of stuffed birds in
the hall, the gilt presentation clock in the drawing-room, the old
arm-chair in the dining-room, the yards of commentaries and sermons in
the study, with the illuminated addresses above them, were miraculously
pleasant.  For days after his return, he kept looking at them, and
marvelling inwardly that they were just the same.  The furniture of
Manning's and Mr. Tressor's rooms had already made him feel that in his
home recollections there must be some mistake.  But he knew now,
staring about him, that there was not.  And he was still quite glad,
and a little subdued.

"Oh, Paul," cried his mother, hurrying into the hall to meet him, "how
well you're looking!  Are you glad to be back?"

"Very glad, mother darling," said Paul, kissing her.  "Where's dad?"

"It's the Band of Hope night, dear, don't you remember?  He's not back
yet.  But he said he wouldn't be late for supper.  Sit down over there
where I can see you, and tell me all about Cambridge."

Paul laughed.  "That's a big order," he said.  "I don't know where to
begin."

"Tell me about your children's service and the open air meetings,
Paul," said his mother.  "Is Mr. Hartley nice?  Your father and I are
so glad you've made such friends."

Paul thrust "The Literary Lounge," the College Feast, the Theatre,
Donaldson, Strether and Manning, into the back of his mind, and told
her.

"And do you find the lectures hard?" she queried.

Paul laughed gaily.  What a topsy-turvy notion of Cambridge his mother,
after all, must have!

His father's key grated in the door and Paul ran out into the hall.
The clergyman came in, followed by Mr. Derrick.  "Ah, Paul," he said,
"it is good to see you home again.  Come in, Mr. Derrick.  Paul's just
back.  I'll get you the books at once."

He entered the study, and Mr. Derrick held out his hand.  Paul took in
the dapper little man, from his spotless tall linen collar to his neat
black boots.  "How are you?" he said genially.  "How goes things?"

"How do you do, Mr. Paul," said Mr. Derrick nervously.  "We are all
very well, thank you.  Have you had a good time at college?  How short
the terms are!  You seem scarcely to have gone away at all."

"Eh?" queried Paul, momentarily astonished.  Then he recollected.
"Yes," he confessed, "I suppose they do seem short.  We read more in
the vacs. than in the terms, you know."

"I hope you will still be able to lend us a hand, however," said his
visitor.

"Rather," said Paul.  "Who's taking the children on Sunday?"

"I am, unless you'd rather."

"I put Paul down for the evening," said his father, returning.  "I
rather hope he'll go to church with his mother in the morning.  She'd
enjoy having him.  You know what mothers are, Derrick."

"Yes, yes, to be sure," said the little man quickly.  "I should have
thought of it.  But I expect we shall see a good deal of you, Mr. Paul."

"Rather," said the young man again.  "Are all the folk going strong?"

"Yes.  Mr. Vintner is secretary of the Missionary Committee in your
place.  He's coming on well."

"Vintner!" exclaimed Paul.  But he was ashamed of his instinctive
thought the next moment.  "Splendid," he said.

Mr. Derrick nodded.  "He gave a most helpful address on Henry Martyn
last week....  Thank you, Mr. Kestern.  Are those the books?  I'll go
through them to-night and let you have them on Sunday.  I don't suppose
it'll take me long.  Good-night.  Good-night, Mr. Paul."

The clergyman thanked him and saw him out.  "Capital fellow," he said,
entering the dining-room.  "Wait till you're ordained, Paul, and you'll
know what such lay help means to a clergyman.  Well, dear boy, and how
are you?  Really I think you've grown.  What do you think, mother?"

"I've been admiring his fancy waistcoat," said Mrs. Kestern.  "Where
did you get it, Paul?"



(2)

Paul was soon aware that he was in for a delightful vacation.  Not many
young men in their circle went to the University, and none at all,
naturally, from among "the workers."  Paul was, therefore, lionised.
It was impossible for him not to be aware of it.  He had always been a
kind of natural leader, but he was now something more.  A glamour sat
about him.  It was possibly Miss Ernest who made him aware of it first.

She was to play at the Mission Hall that first Sunday night, and Paul
called for her to take her down through the dark, slummy streets.  She
kept him waiting some minutes, and when she came down, she was most
unusually resplendent even for her.

"How do you do?" she said, shaking hands and smiling.  "Do you know, I
hardly dare call you Paul now?"

"Why ever not?" he asked, closing the house door behind her.

"You're so much older," she said.

"Two months, Madeline," he protested, using her name deliberately.

"Is that all?  It seems to me that you've been away ages."

Paul glanced at her.  She was entirely demure, and did not look at him.

"Well," he confessed, "it seems a long time to me too.  It's curious
how quickly Cambridge changes things.  I hardly feel the same as I did
two months ago."

"I suppose you've met all sorts of ripping people."

"Rather.  Do you know Mr. Tressor's at our college, and I've shown him
my verses.  He said--he was awfully nice about them.  And _The Granta_
has taken a story of mine."

"I'm not surprised," she said.  "I always thought you had it in you."

Paul was a little piqued that she took it so easily, though on
reflection he perceived that this was a compliment.  "It is impossible
not to write at St. Mary's," he said.

"Is it very lovely?" she asked softly.

"Oh, exquisite.  You must see.  Do you think you could come up in the
summer term?  My rooms are small and high up you know, but perfect I
think.  And the Hall and Chapel thrill me every time I see them.  If
you could see the moonlight on our First Court!"

"Doesn't Claxted bore you after all that?"

Paul laughed.  "It's rather quaint," he confessed.  "It's really rather
like another world.  Do you know, I've been to the theatre."

"Have you?  Oh how splendid!  I'd love to go."

"Don't tell anyone," said Paul, cautiously.

"Of course not.  What did you see?"

"The Mikado."

"Oh don't--I can't bear it.  You make me so jealous.  There you are,
leading your own life, and I'm tied down to this.  You don't know how
things bore me at times."

Paul grew suddenly grave.  "I think perhaps I am beginning to," he
said, and lapsed into silence.

A lay-reader took the service, and Paul, in cassock and surplice on the
platform of the little mission church, had leisure to observe.  He had
been there a thousand times; very dear memories linked him to it; but
not till now had he looked about him critically.  The place was an iron
building of good size, garishly lit with gas, and at one end was a
platform which could be screened off from the body of the hall.  The
curtains were drawn apart for this service, and Paul from where he sat,
stared sideways at the varnished Table within the encircling wood
railings; at the text above it; at the harmonium opposite him, with the
back of Miss Ernest visible, and the side of her face, under its big
hat, when she occasionally glanced at the lay-reader who was taking the
prayers and announcing the hymns.  Below her sat the choir of working
men, and near them a couple of forms of girls who "strengthened" their
efforts.  Paul scanned their faces surreptitiously with amusement.
There, against the wall, was old Miller who invariably started each
verse a word ahead of the rest, and got steadily more flat as the hymn
continued.  Among the girls, he was surprised to see Miss Tillings.  He
supposed she had been converted in his absence.  In the front row was
Hodgson, a police-sergeant and a thoroughly good fellow.  Next him,
McArthur, who played a cornet when he knew the tune.  And then the
congregation, among them Mrs. Reynolds.  If Edith Thornton were
present, he could not see her.  But he looked.

The lay-reader was occasionally doubtful about his aspirates.  He also
read an unduly large selection of collects.  His voice, too, got on
Paul's nerves.  He read for the hundredth time the short, staring gilt
text above the Table.  "Till He Come."  Except for the hymn notices,
there was nothing else to catch the attention.  Oh yes, I.H.S. in a
monogram under the text.  Paul wondered if the lay-reader knew what the
letters meant.  He wondered if any of them knew what they meant.  Then,
as the reader began the prayer for Parliament, if anyone knew what
anything meant.  Mrs. Reynolds, for example.  "That all things may be
bordered and settled by their hendeavours, upon the best and surest
foundations...."  "Amen"--very loudly from old Miller.  But he had
heard that old Miller was a strong Conservative and concerned with
politics in his off hours.  Curious; it struck Paul suddenly that "the
workers" never seemed to have politics.  Oh, at last--Hymn 148.

Afterwards, they were all very kind.  He shook hands with the departing
congregation, including Hilda Tillings.  Hodgson was unfeignedly glad
to see him back.  But outside, while Paul was smilingly making his way
back to the platform by which Madeline was standing drawing on her
gloves, the sergeant was rebuffed by old Miller.

"Good sermon, Miller," he said.  "He's a fine young chap, and I'm glad
he's back."

"Eh, eh, sergeant, but I dunno as I 'olds with all this 'ere
book-larning.  'E's got more grammar nor ever, and, seems ter me, less
grace."

"Doesn't it all seem rather queer to you now?" asked Madeline, as they
walked home.

Paul shrugged his shoulders.  "They're rattling good people," he said,
enigmatically.

"Yes, of course.  By the way, do you remember that the Sale of Work is
to be this week.  You will help me decorate our stall, won't you, Paul?"

"Rather.  Is it this week?  I'd forgotten.  Do you want all that muslin
stuff tacked up again?"

"Yes.  But we'll get you a step-ladder this year.  The boxes collapsed
last time--remember?"

He nodded, amused.  "But why don't you try a new idea?" he suggested.
"Why always keep to the same old muslin?"

Madeline sighed.  "We do always keep to the same old things, don't we?
But what could we do?  Suggest something."

"Have a background of palms and cover the framework with ivy."

"That'd be lovely.  But how could we get the ivy?"

"Leave that to me.  I'll get it for you."

"Will you?  Thanks so much.  Could I help?"

Paul glanced at her carefully.  She walked gracefully, but with her
eyes on the pavement.  He admired her fair hair and her new hat, her
trim figure.  After all, why not?

"Bicycle out with me on Friday and get some," he suggested.  "There's
lots at Hursley."

Her voice was even as ever as she replied.  "That would be delightful,"
she said.  "Come in now and ask father, will you?  Perhaps he'd come
too.  And I say, do let me read your verses.  I'd like to so much."

Paul was suddenly shy.  "Oh they're nothing," he said.

She smiled.  "Mr. Tressor did not think so," she retorted.  "Paul, I
wonder if you're going to be a poet."

"I'm going to be a foreign missionary," he said.

"Well, you can be both.  I expect abroad you would have no end of
inspiration.  You're not likely to be sent among utter savages.  You're
more likely to be made the head of some college or another, perhaps in
India.  You could write too.  I should think Calcutta or Delhi, or some
place like that, would be heavenly.  And you'd go to the mountains in
the summer.  It makes me envious to think of you.  You'll have a
glorious life."

Paul grew grave.  "I'd prefer to be among savages," he said.

"Why?  Besides, do you think that's altogether right?  God didn't give
you your gifts for you to waste them.  And they want the other sort of
missionary just as much."

"I suppose they do," said Paul.  "And if I lived that sort of life, I
should marry.  One could.  I've always doubted if a pioneer missionary
ought to marry."

Madeline nodded.  "I think you're right.  And besides, the wives of
that sort of missionary do get so awfully dowdy.  I suppose it doesn't
matter what you wear among savages, and so they don't care any more
about dressing.  I'm afraid I could never be so good as all that."

Paul laughed.  "Honestly, I can't see you dowdy, Madeline," he said.

She smiled, but said nothing.  He glanced at her shyly.  "Summery
frocks and Indian Society would suit you," he said.

"Do you think so?" she said easily.

"Yes.  By the way, you just must come up for the Mays.  Will you
promise?"

"I'll come if I possibly can," she said, "and thank you ever so much
for asking me.  Here we are.  Now come in and settle with father about
the ivy, will you?"



(3)

The Annual Sale of Work was the parochial Feast of Claxted.  A
distinguished visitor was always invited to open it; the stalls through
which one wandered, were so many courses, so to speak; and in the
evening, there were always songs, a few speeches, and light
refreshments.  So far as the Mission Hall of the church was concerned,
only the more superior members were expected to put in an appearance,
and these chiefly in the evening.  Thus Hodgson always came, but not
old Miller.  The Christian Endeavour arranged little side-show concerts
from six o'clock onwards, at half-hour intervals, but even the
Endeavourers were not seen in the afternoon.  During those sacred
hours, the carriages drew up outside the Parish Room in Edward Street,
and there descended from them the elite and the wealthy of the
congregation.  These, entering the half-empty room, caused a ripple of
comment to run through the stall-holders proportionate to their
importance.  "Old Mrs. Wherry," Mrs. Ernest would whisper
enthusiastically to Madeline.  "Oh, my dear, try to get her here at
once.  She always spends such a lot, and she's so blind, she can't see
what she buys.  She just decides to spend so much, I believe, and when
it's spent, no one can get another penny out of her.  Do fetch her
here."

"How can I, mother?" retorted Madeline, on this occasion.

"I'll try," said Paul, good-humouredly, and strolled off in her
direction.

"Madeline, I saw you fastening that ivy with Paul," said Mrs. Ernest,
as he went.

"Well, mother?"

"My dear, anyone might have seen.  I thought I saw Mrs. Cator watching.
And you know what she is likely to say."

Madeline tossed her pretty head.  "I know what I am about, mother," she
said.

"I hope you do," sighed Mrs. Ernest.  Her husband was a good man, but
without distinction, and truth to tell, she was tired of living on a
curate's stipend.

Paul came up with Mrs. Wherry.  The old lady had been genuinely glad to
see him, and, since her own sons had been at Cambridge, she showed him
caustic good humour.  "You want me to spend my money here, I suppose,
do you?  Well, it doesn't much matter to me.  Good afternoon, Mrs.
Ernest.  I see you've adopted a system of pickets.  Or is it Miss
Ernest?  Still everything's fair in love and war, and certainly a Sale
of Work is war.  What have you?  I shall only buy things that I can
send elsewhere."

Paul stood chatting with Madeline again while the old lady did her
shopping.  A little hum of talk covered their conversation, which was
broken now and again as someone nodded and spoke to him, or he was sent
off by his father on some trivial errand.  He was not as bored as
usual, but drifted back to the ivy-hung stall fairly regularly.  At
half past four he suggested tea.  "You can go, Madeline," said Mrs.
Ernest.  "I'll wait a little.  Someone must watch the stall."

"Come on then," said Paul, catching Madeline's eye, and she moved off
with him.

Formerly it had been hard to get Madeline for tea.  Young men, who had
recently started going to the City, used to drop in about this time and
take her off.  There were one or two about now, but she had no eyes for
them.  He piloted her into a corner, and went to get the tea from the
buffet which was presided over by Mrs. Cator herself.  She kept him
chatting while a fresh pot was made, and he was steering his way back
to Madeline with the little tray when he saw Edith.

It was early for her, for she arrived, as a rule, with the rest of the
Endeavourers.  There she was, however, with her mother in a black dress
and a bead bonnet.  Mrs. Thornton was well known in the congregation.
She aspired to rather a high estate, which was impossible for her,
socially, with her husband's shop in Edward Street.

Paul watched Edith bring her in.  The girl was quiet and
self-possessed, and did not, apparently, see him.  She steered her
mother to a little table and sat down by her.  One of the Miss Cators,
acting waitress, went up for the order.

"Here's the tea," said Paul.  "Sorry I was so long.  You must want it."

"I do.  Oh, and you've got eclairs!  How delicious; I love them."

"I remembered that you did at the school-treat last August."

"That terrible day!  Do you remember how Mrs. Thornton would have lunch
at our table?  Look--there she is.  I do hope she doesn't see you.
She's sure to come over if she does.  ''Ow do you do, Mr. Paul, and 'ow
do you like Cambridge?  We're glad to see you back, I'm sure.'"

Paul sat down deliberately in such a position that he could see Edith.
"Don't, Madeline," he said.  "She's a thoroughly good sort really, and
means well."

"Paul, you know perfectly well you used to laugh at her as much as any
of us."

"Did I?  Then I was wrong.  I'm beginning to see that the world is full
of queer sorts of people, and that the only real test is their
sincerity."

"Well, then, some sincere people are impossible.  You know they are.
At any rate I'm sincere enough to tell you that I think so."

Ethel Cator came up to them.  She was a brunette, tall and thin, and in
a cap and apron she looked pretty.  She was one of Madeline's friends.
"Hullo, Madeline," she said.  "How are you two getting on?  Have some
more tea?"

"My dear, aren't you worn out with this tea business?  Can't I give you
a hand?  It's a slack time at the stall."

"Oh no.  It's all right.  But it's our busy time, of course.  Have some
more eclairs.  We're running a bit short, but I can get some for you."

"I couldn't.  Really, I couldn't.  Will you, Paul?  I say, Ethel, are
you going to the school dance?  Grace said yesterday she didn't know
what you had decided.  Do come, my dear.  I've said I'll go, and you
must be there.  I've positively got a new frock for it."

"Look here," said Paul, laughing, "this is no place for me.  I'm off.
I'll tell your mother to expect you in half an hour, Madeline.
Good-bye.  Good-bye, Miss Cator.  Your tea's topping.  I'll send in
everyone I see."  And he walked off.

Madeline glanced quickly across the room; Mrs. Thornton and Edith were
making their way to the door; Paul caught them up as she watched.  She
flushed slightly.  Ethel Cator slipped into the empty place by her
side, and dropped her voice a little.  "He's not keen on that girl,
surely," she said.

Madeline shrugged her shoulders.  "How should I know?" she asked, with
an assumption of indifference.

Ethel laughed.  "Well, my dear, of course it's not my business, but I
thought you saw a good deal of him."

"Well, naturally, seeing what our fathers are."

"Has Cambridge changed him?  I should have thought he'd have dropped
the Mission Hall now."

Ethel's tone was a little contemptuous, and it roused Madeline to the
defensive.

"My dear, you don't know Paul," she said coolly.  "He doesn't play at
religion.  He probably wants to speak to Miss Thornton about the
Christian Endeavour.  It would take more than a term at Cambridge to
make Paul throw that over.  And I like him for it."

Her friend got up.  "I must go," she said.  "I didn't mean to be a cat,
Madeline.  Everybody knows Paul's a born parson, and of course he'll
make a good one."

"He wants to go to India," said Madeline, mollified and inconsequent,
and not realising that she lied.  "He'll be a bishop one day, I expect."

Ethel looked envious, and rewarded her.  "India!" she exclaimed, and
sat down again for a minute or two.  The girls fell to discussing Simla
with a suburban imagination.

Mrs. Thornton had asked him "'Ow he liked Cambridge?" and Paul had
replied at length.  But she had gone off at last, and left him with the
tall girl whose brown eyes had been alight with a flicker of amusement
the while he had talked to her mother.  They were standing near the
platform at the top of the room, and a not yet opened "fishpond" with
its appurtenances screened them slightly.  He was able to look her full
in the face now and realise how good she looked, though the little fur
hat was slightly out of place there, and her coat a little shabby.

"Mother's a dear," she said.

He nodded.  "I know.  Edith, I've longed to see you again.  Why weren't
you at the Mission Hall on Sunday?"

"I couldn't go.  I was ever so sorry."

"Really?"

She nodded.  "I knew you were preaching.  Mr. Derrick told us.  But I
had to stay and help mother with the kiddies."

Paul saw a mental vision of the little rooms over the shop and the
three small Thornton children sprawling everywhere.  Once or twice he
had been in on business for the Society, and he knew it well.  Edith in
that setting had always puzzled him a little.  She did not seem quite
to belong to it, and yet she moved about household jobs with a quiet
dignity that did not in the least suggest resentment or incongruity.

"You'll be here to-night?" he questioned.

She shook her head.  "That's why I've come this afternoon."

"When are we going to meet then?  I do so want to talk to you.
Cambridge is wonderful, Edith.  There's heaps to say.  I don't know
why, but I want to tell you things."

He couldn't know that she had to make a little effort to steady her
voice.  "Do you, Paul," she said.  "That's awfully good of you."

He studied her a minute, thinking rapidly.  "Tell me what you're doing
this week," he demanded.

"Oh, the usual things.  Band of Hope, a committee Thursday, prayer
meeting Friday, and Saturday, some cousins of ours are coming over."

"Sunday?"

"You silly!  You know as well as I do!"

Paul reflected.  He would have to call for Madeline for the children's
service.  Afternoon Sunday school--no good, he knew.  Evening, his
mother would be going down to the Mission Hall.  He shrugged his
shoulders impatiently.  "Monday?" he queried.

She smiled.  "Monday's the first night of carol singing," she said.

"No!" he cried eagerly.  "I'll come.  What time do you start?"

"You know you _never_ come," she said laughing.  "Have you learned to
sing so much better at Cambridge?"

A little thrill of pleasure at her laughter ran through him.  "You
shall hear," he said.  "I shall be there.  And when we've finished, I
shall see you home."

"I half promised Mr. Vintner," she said, "but perhaps----  There's
mother looking for me.  I must go."

And Paul, alone, could not get Albert Vintner out of his mind while he
discoursed of the University to his father's senior churchwarden.

Mrs. Kestern left before the conclusion of the proceedings, and Paul
stood by the table alone, watching his father, Mr. Derrick and a warden
make neat piles of silver and gold, enter totals on slips of paper and
finally arrive at the exact figure taken.  Conversation among the
waiting onlookers died down while the final immense calculation was
being made, and it was in a solemn silence that at last Mr. Kestern
stood erect, beaming and triumphant, to announce that the result
exceeded by five pounds, seven and fourpence the previous year's
figure, and to say that he thanked all who had in any way assisted at
this magnificent result with all his heart.  They would now join in
singing the Doxology.  Madeline went to the piano; "Thank God from whom
all blessings flow," they sang.  Paul joined in heartily, but a little
self-consciously.  It was odd, but the familiar words did not come as
naturally as they had used to do.  Five pounds, seven and fourpence!
But his father was a saint, Paul thought, as he looked at him.



(4)

Paul, Mr. Kestern and Miss Bishop walked home together, the latter a
great friend of the Church.  She was angular, tall, a little caustic
and an able speaker, and she had a great reputation for knowledge.  She
felt deeply and expressed herself strongly.  Paul liked her immensely.

She led the conversation now, in her clear, incisive, deep voice.  It
appeared that a newly-appointed neighbouring vicar had accepted the
offer of a cross and two candlesticks for the Holy Table in his church.
It was known, at last, that he had definitely accepted; it was not
known, yet, what would be done about it--whether appeal would be made
by some aggrieved members of the congregation against the granting of a
faculty, or whether Mr. Kensit would be called in.  Miss Bishop was
wholly in favour of this latter.

"What is the good of faculties and appeals?" she demanded.  "They
always confuse the real issue.  Kensit knocks the nail on the head
anyway.  It's not a case of legal or illegal ornaments; it's a case of
Rome.  Do they take us all for fools?  Church after church has begun
that way, and ended with Mass and the confessional!"

"Mr. Duncan," observed Mr. Kestern mildly, "is entirely against all
that.  This is a mistake, of course, but he seems to me a sincere,
earnest evangelical at bottom."

"Then what," continued Miss Bishop decisively, "has he to do with a
cross and candlesticks?  It's all very well, Vicar, but that's the thin
end of the wedge.  You know it as well as I do.  His work is the saving
of souls, and that sort of thing never saved a soul yet.  Is that not
so?"

"I'm afraid you're only too right," admitted Mr. Kestern.  "It's a
great pity--a great pity."

"A pity!  I should call it something worse than that," retorted the
lady.

Paul's mind was busy.  He was recalling the chapel at St. Mary's in the
early mornings, and the remote, austere, moving little service enacted
there on Sundays before a cross and candlesticks.  For the life of him
he had to say something.

"Miss Bishop," he said, "do you think, nowadays, a cross always leads
to Rome?  There is one on the Table at St. Mary's."

"And how much Gospel have you heard preached there?" she demanded,
shrewdly.

"Yes, Paul, that's the test," said his father.

The boy hesitated.  Then he equivocated.  "But the cross is the sign of
our faith," he said.

"Is it?" Miss Bishop was emphatic.  "I do not know that it is--not, at
any rate, in the sense people use the phrase.  'Christ is Risen':
that's Christianity."

"The empty cross symbolises that," said Paul.

"Then put a cross on the steeple, in the porch, over the pulpit even.
Why on the Table?  You know as well as I do that the thing is
Pre-Reformation, Roman usage."

"A little earlier," retorted Paul.

"But not early enough.  Did Paul have a cross in the catacombs?"

"Possibly," said Paul, nettled.

Miss Bishop uttered an indignant exclamation.  "Not of that sort," she
said.

Mr. Kestern linked his arm in Paul's.  "The lad doesn't mean to defend
Ritualism," he said kindly.  "I know my boy too well.  Keep to the Word
of God, Paul, and you won't go wrong."

"But, father," began his son----

Mr. Kestern pressed his arm.  "That will do, Paul," he said.  "I want
to ask our friend something.  The theatre service for the last night of
the year is definitely settled, Miss Bishop; will you say a few words?"

Miss Bishop did not at once reply.  Then: "I hate the place, Vicar,"
she said; "you know I do.  I don't believe in using it.  The whole
atmosphere reeks of the devil.  Last year I could hardly bring myself
to go inside."

"Perhaps, possibly--but if we can perhaps draw the people there----"

"Yes, show them the road in, and maybe they'll go again."

"We hope not," said the clergyman meekly, "by the grace of God."

She shot a swift glance at him.  They were outside her own door now,
and the light fell on the kind, gentle face of the man before her.  Her
sharp face changed a little.

"I will speak, Mr. Kestern," she said, "if you wish it."

Paul and his father walked on a little in silence.  Then the elder
sighed.  "It's not easy, Paul," he said, "to combine the Master's
charity and the Master's zeal."

"You do, dad," cried Paul, moved more than a little, and meant it.

But as the days sped by, Paul was aware that at every turn he was
confronted with a contrast that gradually deepened into something
approaching a question.  Moving with his father cheerily about the
parish; walking the familiar streets with his mother, so absurdly and
yet so lovably proud, by his side; stepping again into the round of
parochial activities, yet always now, as one who had no permanent place
among them; Paul had constantly to check within himself a certain
critical outlook that had never been his before.  He criticised, too,
in more than one direction.  There was the incident, for example, of
the Christmas decorations at the Mission Hall.  Red Turkey twill, as
usual, had he and Madeline inserted into the panels of the Commandments
and the Lord's Prayer behind the little altar, for a brief while
escaping from the domination of their gilt lettering.  Ivy tendrils,
likewise, had they set twining here and there across them, but, at this
orthodox conclusion, Paul had slipped back discontented.

"It still looks bare, Madeline," he said.  "Let's put a big vase of
white chrysanthemums on the ledge behind."

"Rather," she said; "that will improve things."

They made it two vases and surveyed the result.  Madeline shrugged her
pretty shoulders.  "Of course I'm not high," she said, "but I must say
I like flowers on the altar--always."  And Paul, looking at her,
agreed.  But he was still his father's son.  "If you don't call it an
altar," he said, smiling.  Madeline smiled back.

Early Christmas morning, however, his father ordered their removal, and
with them sundry woven paper chains and flowers that Sergeant Hodgson,
with great enthusiasm, had erected with the aid of old Miller, after
Mrs. Kestern and Paul had left the night before.  The gaily-coloured
paper had indeed been incongruous against the natural flowers, and Mrs.
Kestern had exclaimed at it.  Her husband had been ruthless likewise.
But Paul had criticised their edict.

"Father," he had said, with his direct logic, "ought you to take away
old Miller's chains?  He thinks them beautiful.  They're his offering
to our Saviour.  Surely God looks at the devotion more than at the
thing.  And you abolish my flowers too.  Surely there's nothing Popish
in a vase or two of chrysanthemums!"

Mr. Kestern had been, however, obdurate.  "We cannot have paper chains,
Paul," he said, "not even to please you.  I should have thought you, a
budding poet, would have especially disliked them!  And as to flowers
behind the Table, you know it's not our custom."

Paul, as usual, persisted.  "Of course I don't like the paper," he
said, "but that's not the point.  And if a custom is good, why refuse
it because Mohammedans or heathens, let alone Catholics, practice it?"

"Don't argue with your father, my son," begged Mrs. Kestern, timidly.
She hated argument.  Besides Mr. Kestern was above criticism.



(5)

That Christmas night, there was a last carol singing.  Dr. Barnardo's
Homes had already benefitted heavily as a result of the Endeavourers'
efforts, and, truth to tell, the band of young people went singing that
evening under the twinkling, frosty sky more because they liked each
other's company than for charitable reasons.  Mr. Derrick had been
outvoted, and, true Christian democrat, he had given in.  They went
towards a new, wealthy suburb of Claxted, not far from the edge of the
country and Hursley Woods, and they sang here and there with great
success.  At last, as, far off, the Town Hall clock boomed eleven, Mr.
Derrick nervously declared for home.  It was cold, he said, and he was
sure they were all tired.  In the deserted street of curtained and
mysterious villa windows, the moon glittering on the frosty road, the
little knot of young people prepared to go their several ways.

Paul, wrapped to the ears in his overcoat, stood by Edith altogether
delightful and attractive in her furs.  Albert Vintner was collecting
hymn-books.  He came up to them and hesitated.  "May I see you home,
Miss Thornton?" he asked.

"It's out of your way, Vintner," said Paul.  "I can do it."

The young shop-assistant ignored him.  "It's the last night of the
carols," he said to Edith.

The girl flushed, ill at ease.  Paul realised, suddenly, that they were
at a crisis.  For a second or two it seemed to him that the small group
about them stood still watching, that the very stars listened.  Then he
made up his mind and descended into the arena.

"Well, Miss Thornton," he said easily, "you must choose between us, it
seems.  We can hardly both of us see you home.  Which is it to be?"

Edith turned to the other and held out her hand.  "I practically
promised Mr. Kestern before," she said.  "Good-night, Mr. Vintner, and
thank you for asking me."

The young fellow took her hand with a muttered good-evening, and turned
away.  Paul felt reproached.  "Good-night, Albert," he said, with a
ring of friendliness.  "I'm sorry I was before you.  Another time,
perhaps."

Vintner moved off after the others, and Edith and Paul walked a little
up the road.  Their turning lay on the right, but at the corner Paul
hesitated.  "It will only take a quarter of an hour longer," he said.
"Let's go home by the field-path to Coster Lane.  Probably your people
won't expect you till midnight."

She nodded without words, and the turn to the left hid them in a minute
from the least chance of observation by the others.  Before them the
road ran straight ahead in the clear night, till the villas thinned,
and it became a scarcely-used way, and finally a half-country footpath
by a couple of fields.  Paul drew her arm through his in silence, and
they fell into step together.  They had been singing a carol with a
haunting refrain about a night of wonder, a night of grace.  It rang in
his head now, and he could have sung as they walked.  Every yard
deepened a sense of exaltation in him.  This serene Christmas night, he
and Edith alone in it, the world wide and wonderful--oh, it was good to
live.

The paved footpath became a gravelled walk, and the walk, a mere track.
They were on the far edge of the town.  Across the stubble, a line of
not yet doomed elms stretched delicate bare twigs clear in the
moonlight, and the stars swung emmeshed in their net.  A half-built
house flung a deep shadow across their path, and Paul stopped without
warning on its verge.  He had realised suddenly that his companion was
very silent and he wanted to see her.  A little swing of his arm
brought the girl face to face with him, and he looked down into her
eyes.  So he looked a minute, and then very slowly he bent his head,
and, still with his eyes on hers, their lips met.  At that soft, warm,
fragrant, unaccustomed touch, his heart leapt and great waves of
emotion surged and tore within him.

"Oh!" cried Edith, and fell back from him.

The two stood quite still.  Paul swallowed once or twice before he
could speak.  Then: "Edith," he whispered foolishly, and again: "Edith."

"Oh, Paul!" she cried, "Paul!  Paul! ... Oh, I never meant to let you
do it!"

Her words recalled the boy to his senses.  He took her two hands, and
she did not stay him.  "Edith," he said exultantly, "you're mine, now,
mine!  Christmas night, too!  Oh, it's wonderful, just wonderful!"

"No, no, _no!_" she cried, almost fiercely.

"No?" he queried, bewildered.  "What do you mean?  You let me kiss you.
You love me, Edith, don't you?  You must!  You couldn't have kissed me
like that if you hadn't loved me!"

"Don't, don't, Paul!" she cried again, and bent her head, trying to
release her hands.

Something that was almost anger surged up in him.  He drew her to him.
"What do you mean, Edith?" he demanded.  "I love you, do you hear?  I
see now, I have been loving you for a long time.  I love you with all
my heart.  Don't you love me?"

At that new note in his voice, she faced him bravely.  "Paul, dear,"
she said, "listen.  I do love you, God knows I do, but--but--well, your
people would hate it if they knew.  (Paul made an angry movement, but
she checked him.)  No, listen.  They would say you're too young; that
you ought not to think of such things now; that--that----  Oh, you
know.  Don't make it hard for me.  Your mother would hate you to marry
a girl like me."

Paul stared into her sad young face in silence for a moment, but his
heart sank.  Then: "Mother hardly knows you," he said miserably.

"But she knows my mother," said the girl, simply.

Paul knew exactly what she meant.  Vividly, he saw it all.  His gift of
keen imagination aided him.  He saw his mother's surprised, pained,
worried look; his father's perplexity.  But he pushed it from him.
"Look here," he began.

"One minute, Paul, dear.  Oh, Paul, do listen to me!  I know what
you're going to say, and I love you for it.  Perhaps, one day, I'll let
you say it.  After all, in the end, that will be for us to decide.  But
still I ought not to have kissed you.  No, really I ought not.  You've
got your work to do.  You don't know what God will call you to.  You're
so wonderful, Paul, dear--you with all your power of speaking and
writing and learning.  You don't know how wonderful you are to me,
Paul.  I don't see why you like me a bit.  But _I_ won't stand in your
way.  You must go on, and find out what God wants you to do, and go and
do it.  And then, then, perhaps--later on----  Oh, Paul, say something!
I--I can't say--any more."  The tears stood in her eyes.  Her voice
choked.

He drew her to him and put one arm round her.  She made a little
movement to resist, but in doing so, shot a glance at him and at what
she saw let him have his way.  Then, in the luminous winter dark, he
peered down at her, and took her hand, and studied the oval of her
face, and her little ears, and the stray hair that escaped from her fur
cap.  Love at any rate has this in common with true religion, that it
awes a man.

"I can't tell you all I feel," he declared at last, speaking very
slowly.  "Edith, _I_ don't know you yet.  You're very, very wonderful,
little girl.  And you're such heaps bigger than I--that's what I see
most clearly.  Edith, will you at least let me see you and talk to you?
I'm beginning to be worried, and I believe you're just the person I've
been wanting to talk to about it all.  Will you let me?  And will you
tell me just what you think?  Shall we have it as a secret between us,
that you help me like that?"

"Oh, Paul!  Could I?  May I?"

"It's _will_ you," he said, smiling.

"You know I will.  I think there's nothing I wouldn't do for you,
Paul," she said.

He kissed her again, then, gently, and she suffered him.

They made an odd couple as they walked home together.  For a reason he
could not have explained, Paul saw so many things clearly--or thought
he saw--that Christmas night under the stars.  He put into words the
growing criticism he was feeling of his father's traditional outlook on
life and religion.  Explaining things to her, they became clearer to
himself.  He set before her, one by one, the straws that had been
blowing past him on the wind.  And he had chosen well, for Edith
Thornton understood.

"I don't see why evangelicalism should be all pitch-pine and Moody and
Sankey," he grumbled.  "I don't see why things good in themselves
should be wrong simply because even Roman Catholics do them.  I don't
love our Lord less because I rather like to see chrysanthemums behind
the Holy Table."

"Do you love Him more if they are there?" she asked.

"No, of course not.  At least--no; I _will_ say no.  Not that, at all.
But the beauty of things reflects Him somehow.  It's easier to worship
in an atmosphere of beauty, Edith.  Or it is for me.  And surely that
can't be wrong!"

"But suppose He comes to us with His face so scarred that there is no
beauty that we should desire Him?"

Paul frowned a little.  "That's not exactly what I mean," he said.
"There's no point in our making things ugly."

"No.  But--oh, I hardly like to say it to you!--but don't you think,
somehow, one rather forgets about all that, seeing Him?"

In silence they reached the bottom of her street, and stood a moment.
"Edith," he exclaimed impulsively, "you're heaps better than I.  Pray
for me, darling, won't you?"

"Oh, Paul, of course.  And you mustn't say that."

"I shall.  It's true....  Edith, when shall I see you again?"



(6)

The days sped by.  They made a curious kaleidoscope as each morning
gave a new twist to life.  Paul read most mornings; spent an afternoon
and evening or two in town with Strether who lived in South Kensington;
and mostly took his share in parochial gaieties and more serious
business for the rest of the time.  He did not find it in the least
dull.  He could still sit in a clothes' basket slung on a stout pole
between two chairs, and dust four others precariously with the aid of a
big stick, amid the tumultuous laughter of a Mothers' Meeting Tea.  Or
he decorated the Infants' Christmas Tree, distributed sweets at the
Sunday School Treat, boxed with boys at the Lads' Brigade, conducted a
prayer meeting at the Christian Endeavour, called for Madeline on
Sunday mornings and took her in to supper at sundry parties.  Except at
the latter, he met Edith frequently and revelled in the understanding
there was between them.  Moreover there was hardly the suspicion of any
rift between him and his father.

Yet, once or twice, both Paul and Mr. Kestern were aware that things
were not wholly unchanged.  And possibly the last night of the old year
offers the best example.

The Vicar had taken the Mission Hall Watch Night Service, and his son
had gone into the vestry to seek him when it was over.  He had entered
without knocking as he was used to do, and found his father facing a
stained, unshaven, ragged tramp in the little wood and iron room, with
its incandescent light, photographs of previous vicars, shelf of hymn
and prayer books, and illuminated texts.  He apologised, and made to go
out.

"Come in, Paul," said his father.  "Our brother here is seeking the
Lord while He may be found and you can help us both.  Sit down a
minute, will you."

Paul watched, while his father endeavoured to penetrate the other's
bewildered intelligence.  The boy saw at once that the fellow was
maudlin with drink, but he did not estimate the extent to which "A few
more years shall roll," and the hot air of the crowded hall, were also
entering into the process of conversion.

"My brother," said his father again, earnestly, "it has all been done
for you.  You have only to accept.  Don't take my word for it; let us
see what God says.  Listen.  (He turned the pages of his Bible
impressively as though he did not know the texts by heart; but he was
wholly unconscious of posing.)  'Though your sins be as scarlet, they
shall be as white as wool....  Him that cometh to Me I will in no wise
cast out....  The Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all.'  And
what then?  The Apostle sums it up: '_Therefore_, being justified by
faith, we HAVE PEACE with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ.'  That is
all.  Claim God's free, perfect salvation, and you HAVE PEACE with God."

"Aye, aye, mister, but I bain't be no scholard.  I've not bin so bad as
some blokes I knows on.  A glass o' beer now and agin, Gawd Almighty 'E
carn't send a bloke to 'ell for that.  Can 'E now, mister?  I want ter
be saved, that's wot _hi_ want.  Ter be saved.  An' Gawd's truth, I
don't know wot'll do fur a doss ternight, Gawd's struth, mister...."

"Let us pray," said the clergyman suddenly.

The tears stood in Paul's eyes, as, his face hidden in his hands
against the rough wooden bars of his chair, he heard his father wrestle
with his God for the man's soul.  He never heard his father pray thus
without seeing a mental picture from an old Bible of his childhood,
wherein Jacob, an ill-drawn figure in a white robe girt up about his
waist, twisted back with his shrunken sinew from an angel with an odd
distorted face like the one that a crack in the ceiling made with the
wall in the candle-light above his bed.  Even now, he saw it again.
"Lord, we will not let Thee go except Thou bless us.  Have mercy upon
this poor storm-tossed soul.  Give him joy and peace in believing.  Let
there be joy in the presence of the angels of God this night over one
sinner returning."

Out in the sharp air, he took his father's arm.  "Daddy, he was
half-drunk.  Do you think he understood?"

"Nothing is impossible with God, Paul, always remember that.  If the
Master could save the dying thief, He can save him."

A dozen silent paces, and then: "But, father, suppose he were run over
and killed on his way to the lodging house, this night, as he is, do
you think he would go straight to heaven?"

"Yes, Paul, I do--by the infinite grace of God.  Drunk as he was, I
believe he knew what he said when he repeated: 'Just as I am--I come,'
after me."

"But--but----"  Paul found it hard to put his new thought into words.

"Well, Paul, laddie, out with it."

"Well, dad, I don't see how that could have made him fit for heaven."

His father's hand tightened on his arm.  "Nor I, Paul, nor any man.
But do you suppose that God will go back on His pledged and written
Word?"

And then, just then, a memory had shot through Paul's mind.  "Which of
the ten score different versions?" Manning had queried again, coolly.



CHAPTER IV

FATHER VASSALL

God, if there be any God, speaks daily in a new language, by the
tongues of men; the thoughts and habits of each fresh generation and
each new-coined spirit throw another light upon the universe, and
contain another commentary on the printed Bibles; every scruple, every
true dissent, every glimpse of something new, is a letter of God's
alphabet; and though there is a grave responsibility for all who speak,
is there none for those who unrighteously keep silence and conform?  Is
not that also to conceal and cloak God's counsel?--ROBERT LOUIS
STEVENSON: _Lay Morals_.



(1)

Mr. Tressor had not yet returned from lecturing, the man said in
response to Paul's knock, but he had left word that he would not be
more than a few minutes late.  Would Mr. Kestern come in?  Mr. Manning
was also coming to luncheon.

As the door of the don's keeping-room closed behind him, Paul looked
round eagerly.  He walked over to the fireplace and stood on the rug,
with his back to the fire as if he owned the place.  His eyes roved
round the remembered room.  There were the bookshelves, with the hid
electric lights at the top of them as he knew, in which, during just
such a moment of waiting, he had once looked for Mr. Tressor's own
works and found none.  There were the few odd vivid little
pictures--the amateur photograph of Tressor himself with a leaping pack
of dogs, the cartoon from Vanity Fair, the water-colour of the old
house in the Weald, Loggan's print of the College, an impression of the
gorge at Ronda, and a pencil sketch of the Chelsea Embankment.  There
were the few big comfortable chairs; the little table with its fat
cigarette-box, a new book or two, the ivory paper-cutter; the tall
firescreen, not used now, of faded tapestry; the window-seat.  He
glanced through the high wide windows.  The bare trees of the Fellows'
garden were wet and dismal in a January mist, but seen so, Paul had an
odd feeling that they were quiet and dignified.  In short, it was the
old room, with its air of serene, silent waiting, in which the boy had
already seen visions and dreamed dreams.

Mr. Tressor came in, big, slow, kindly.  He shook hands with Paul,
smiling upon him.  "Well, glad to be up again?  Been writing more
verses in the Vac., eh?"

Paul shook his head.  "I could not write at home, somehow," he said.

"Why not?"

"I don't know.  I was too busy, perhaps, for one thing."

"Reading?"

"No, not much."  (Paul hesitated.  Then he spoke out.)  "You see
there's no end to do in a parish, Christmas-time."

The other nodded with a comprehension at which Paul wondered slightly.
"I know.  School treats, socials and prayer meetings.  I admire the
people who do them enormously.  I suppose you had your full share?"

"Yes," said Paul, and was silent, remembering Edith.  It was
odd--Tressor and Edith.  And he liked both.

Manning was announced.

Manning entered easily, nodded to Tressor, apologised for being late,
and greeted Paul.  "Hullo, Paul," he said, "had a good Vac.?"

"We were just talking of his manifold activities," said Tressor, "but I
expect luncheon is ready.  Let's go in."

Paul felt a little out of it during the meal.  The others talked so
easily of places, people and things which were foreign to him.
Personalities were mentioned of whom you never heard at Claxted.  He
felt an absurd desire to retaliate in kind and tell of a restaurant
lunch with Gipsy Smith after a big meeting in Westminster Chapel and of
veteran Mr. Henry Hutchinson's visit to his father.  But quite possibly
neither Tressor nor Manning had ever heard of the World's Conference of
Christian Endeavour or of the Children's Special Service Mission.
Also, though he knew what to do at table of course, he was rather on
his guard.  He was self-conscious when he had to help himself from the
dishes with which the man served him.  At home, helpings were handed to
you.

They went back to the study for coffee, and it was then that Manning
remarked disconnectedly to the don: "I hear Father Vassall is coming
into residence at the Catholic Church this term."

"Yes.  He's a great preacher in his way.  Have you heard him?"

"No, but I shall go.  Catholicism interests me.  There's so much more
to be said for it than for any other form of religion it seems to
me,--and just as much to be said against it."

Tressor laughed, and looked across at Paul.  "What do you say to that,
Kestern?" he asked.

Paul glanced from one to the other, and flushed slightly.  "There seems
to me nothing in the world to be said for it," he said bravely.

"There you are, Manning," laughed Tressor kindly.  "And I must say I
agree with Kestern in the main."

Manning crossed his legs, and lit a cigarette.  "Do you?" he said, in
his cool, attentive, but cynical way.  "I suppose you would.  But I
shall divide my foes, after the Apostolic manner.  You do not believe
in dogma; Paul does."

"Surely----" began Paul, and stopped, wishing he had not begun.

"Well?" queried Tressor.

Paul took the plunge.  "Well, you believe in our Lord, sir, don't you?
And surely the Atonement and the Resurrection stand for dogmas."

Manning and Tressor exchanged a glance.  Manning laughed.  "'Now the
Sadducees say there is no resurrection,'" he quoted.

Paul looked bewildered; the elder don a little grave.  "I expect we do
not both interpret the story in quite the same way, Kestern," he said.

"But, sir," said Paul earnestly, "what two ways can there be?  The
whole of Christianity is based on our Lord's Resurrection.  'If Christ
be not raised, your faith is vain.'"

Manning settled himself into his chair.  "Do go on," he said.
"Theology interests me enormously.  I told you, Tressor, that Paul here
would convert you if he could."

The boy felt uneasy.  He did not want to argue and could not bring
himself to speak to the don as Manning did, though he was well aware
that Tressor would not in the least have resented it.  But he felt he
must say something, and his evangelical upbringing taught him what to
say.  "Surely the Bible story is simple enough," he said.

Tressor moved, for him, a trifle impatiently.  "You think so, do you?"
he said.

"Oh, yes," said Paul, much more sure of his ground now.

"I confess I do not.  What of the discrepancies in the story?  What of
the late additions to the text?  And what, still more, of the
atmosphere in which it was written?  But I grant you, in a different
sense, that the Bible picture is simple enough.  Jesus is to me a
simple, brave, kindly man whose gospel has never been transcended and
whose spirit will never die.  If you allow for Eastern imagination and
Catholic reductions, it is indeed simple enough."

Paul heard bewildered.  He knew, of course, that Higher Critics
existed, a strange, disloyal, un-Christian few, mostly to be found in
Germany--and left there by sensible people.  It ought, perhaps, to be
explained that he had taken a scholarship in history and was reading
for that Tripos.  At Claxted, a theological degree seemed unnecessary.
The Gospel was so simple that the Bishop's examination, to be taken in
due course, was training all sufficient for a Christian minister.
Gipsy Smith, for example, knew little theology.

"But," he stammered, "our Lord was God.  He died to save us.  If He had
not been God, what power could there have been in the Cross?  What
merit in His Blood?"

A little silence fell on them all.  Tressor, after his fashion, was
smoking cigarettes in hasty puffs, extinguishing one after another in
his ash-tray half burned.  Manning stared thoughtfully and a little
cynically into the fire.  Paul's questions hung in the air, and his
listeners' silence answered them.

"I wonder how long you will believe all that," queried Tressor gravely.

"All my life," answered Paul resolutely, his embarrassment gone.  "I
hope to spend it preaching the Gospel.  It seems to me there is nothing
else worth doing.  What good is there in"--(he nearly said "all this,"
but checked himself in time)--"in learning, comfort, art, music,
anything, except as aids to this?  What else matters besides this?
Sir, surely you see that!"

It was odd that the don should echo Maud Thornton, but he did.  "You
would make us all foreign missionaries, I suppose," he said.

Only for a moment did Paul hesitate.  Then: "Yes," he said simply, "I
suppose I would.  Not all are called to the same sort of work, of
course, but it should be all to that end."

Again his listeners exchanged glances, but this time they could afford
to smile.  "I fear I should make a poor missionary," said Tressor.

Paul looked at him, distressed.  He had not meant to bring the
conversation to such a head, but what else could he have said?  The don
saw his uneasiness, and rose, smiling.

"Well, Kestern," he said, "don't think I mind in the least your saying
what you think.  Besides you are flattering; I confess no one yet even
thought he saw a potential missionary in me.  But however tight you sit
to your dogmas, I should give ear to the other side also, if I were
you.  After all, you are up here for that, aren't you?  And now I'm
walking with the Master this afternoon, and I fear I've got to go.
Come again sometime.  Look in any evening.  If I'm busy, I'll say so.
And bring me some more verses.  Good-bye."

Paul, on his feet, ventured however one more direct question.
"Good-bye, sir," he said, "but it worries me.  Do tell me one thing.
Do you honestly mean that, as you read your Bible, you do not think
Christ dogmatic?"

"Honestly, I do not," said Tressor, and nodded kindly.  "Good-bye," he
said again.



(2)

It was Manning who enlightened Paul on the other's attitude, however,
much later in the term.  Spring had made an unexpectedly early
appearance, and they took a Canader to paddle up the Backs.  The
sunlight lay soft and lovely on the mellow walls, the slow-moving black
river, the willows just breaking into new green, and the trim lawns.
Paul as yet, however, had not begun to attempt to find refuge in beauty
and to rest his soul upon it.  He even surveyed the Spring flowers on
the banks of Trinity Fellows' garden with dissatisfaction.  Tressor's
kindly but obviously unmoved criticism of a rapture of his read to him
the night before on the parallel of natural and supernatural
resurrection, had occasioned more immediately his present attitude.  "I
don't understand it at all," he remarked to Manning, digging his paddle
ferociously into the water and forcing his companion to lean hard on
his in the stern to escape striking the centre arch of Trinity Bridge.

"Well, let us avoid a collision anyway," said Manning good-humouredly.
"But look here, Paul, Tressor's position is simple enough.  You read
the Bible as if it were yesterday's _Times_; he doesn't.  He considers,
first, the difficulty of choosing between the variations in the many
texts; then the difficulty of getting back behind fifth-century
manuscripts to the original; then the difficulty of knowing how much
the original owes to the unscientific mind and Eastern imagination of
the writer.  Heavens!  You read history!  Do you not do the same thing
with Bede and the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle and all the rest of the musty
stuff?  Well, then, in his mind the Christ shrinks to shadowy
proportions.  He remains possibly the most interesting and arresting
figure in history, but that is all.  You see, resurrection or no, all
those events are nineteen hundred years behind us."

Paul leant back in his canoe and forgot to paddle.  "Oh," he said at
last, "I see."

The other looked at him curiously.  "You're an odd fish, Paul," he
said.  "What do you see?"

"I see the difference between Tressor's Christianity and--and my
father's."

"Which is?"

"Tressor reads about Christ, but my father knows Him.  He is more real
to my father, Manning, than I am."

The curious look died out of Manning's face, but an affectionate ring
crept into his voice.  "Lord, Paul, you're a rum ass, you know," he
said, "but you are rather an interesting one."

Paul was due at Dick Hartley's for tea, and as soon as they had landed,
he rushed round to his friend.  It was odd, he thought as he went, how
one suddenly saw things, by some curious indefinable process, which one
had known, one thought, for years.  After all, he had preached on the
Blind Beggar in St. John's Gospel a score of times one way and another,
yet he had never really understood it until this afternoon.  He had
"known" Christ ever since he could well remember, but somehow it was
the Christ of the printed page that he had known.  Alive to-day, yes,
but not alive in such a way that His living actually solved
intellectual doubts.  To Paul, the Cambridge streets had suddenly
become the streets of a New Jerusalem.  From old gables to modern
shop-fronts, they had all at once become intimate and tender.  He
thought, even as he ran, that just as he had come to dwell tenderly on
a mental image of Edward Street because Edith lived, moved, and had
association there, so now the whole world was transfigured before him.
Christ moved in it, and he knew Christ.

He rattled up the wooden stairs to his friend's room and burst in
almost without knocking.  Dick was reading in an arm-chair and a kettle
hissed on the hob.  He looked up from his book.

"Heavens!  What's the matter?" he asked, smiling.

Paul slowed down, shut the door, and came over to the fire, his face
shining.  "I say, Dick," he said, "do you realise what it means that we
know Christ?"

The older man stared, as well he might have done.  Then a rather
envious expression crept into his face.  Wistfulness was scarcely what
one thought of in connection with matter-of-fact, athletic,
sober-minded Dick Hartley, but it was there at that moment.

"Ah," he said shortly, and was silent.

"Of course I thought I did," poured out Paul excitedly, walking up and
down, "but I begin to think I never have till this afternoon.  I see,
now, what's the matter with Tressor and Manning and all the rest of
them.  They think Christ is a story out of a book, Dick.  Even I" (all
innocent of self-righteous priggishness was Paul), "even I thought of
Him only as emotionally alive, so to speak.  But He lives, Dick, He
lives!  We know Him!  We aren't worried by criticism or any of their
intellectual doubts, because we know Him.  Don't you see?"

Dick closed Harnack's _Acts of the Apostles_ and put it on one side.
"You have a great gift of faith, Paul," he said.

"Faith!  It isn't faith!  It's sight, I tell you.  Why, man, look here,
if Manning were to come gravely to my room to-night and argue that you
were a myth, what the blazes do you think I should say?  I should laugh
in his face!  'Why, I had tea with him this afternoon,' I should say!
And it's the same with Jesus.  Dick"--the eager voice hushed a
little--"we're having tea with _Him_ this afternoon."

Hartley did not laugh.  He half glanced round.  "Can one act on that
altogether?" he queried.

Paul flung out his hand with an eager gesture.  "Why not?" he cried.
"One should act on it absolutely I think."

Hartley spoke slowly.  "Well, but would Christ stay here, read Harnack,
take in a newspaper" (his eyes roved the room), "row, get new
window-curtains, and--and fall in love?"  His gaze rested on a portrait
on the mantelpiece.

Paul's hand fell to his side.  He, too, glanced round the simple,
commonplace, in the opinion of most people severely plain room.  Then
he dropped into a chair.  "You must ask Him," he said slowly.

"Suppose I have?"

"Then you must do what He says."

Dick was altogether more slow, more solid, than Paul.  He began to make
tea.  "It's odd," he said, busy over the cups, "but I'm not sure that I
know."

"Ah," said Paul, still triumphant and impetuous, "I asked you if you
really knew Him, Dick."



(3)

In Hursley Woods that vacation, Paul explained it all to Edith.  They
were seated side by side on a fallen log, and all around them the fresh
blue of the wild hyacinths was unstained as Paradise.  They lit the
dull day with a radiance of their own.  Brown and green and grey blent
about them and faded into distance, and he held her hand.  The two had
just kissed with a solemn virginal innocence.  They were glad, but not
gay.  Francis of Assisi would have wondered at them, had he been there.
As it was one of his brethren, a big blackbird with a bright enquiring
eye, emphatically did so.  It probably struck him that these restrained
humans were out of place in such a vivid, tingling, riotous life as
that of a wood in spring.  He hopped off to look for a worm.

Paul renewed the conversation that the kissing had interrupted.  "You
see, Edith, dear," he said, "it's so illogical to believe one thing and
act another.  What are the realities of life?  God, and a lost world,
and Christ our Saviour.  What does anything matter beside them?  Both
Dick and I feel that everything--_everything_--ought to be surrendered
to Him.  Even things good in themselves must go down before the awful
necessity of preaching the Gospel.  Mind you, I don't speak of learning
quite as I did.  I see, for example, that if I get a first in my
History, it will be of use in the Church.  But all the rest--do you
see?"

She nodded slowly.  "Yes, in a way," she said.

"Look here"--he jumped up eagerly--"I'll give you an illustration.
It's a silly one, in a way, but it's all the better for that.  It's the
commonplace things people won't see.  In my rooms, last term, Donaldson
and Strether and I--oh, and a man called Hannam--were discussing dress.
Donaldson was saying that there was no reason why a Christian shouldn't
wear decent socks--clocked, gay things like his own.  There was nothing
wrong in them, he said.  I agreed, but I couldn't help it; I said:
'Would Christ have worn them?  Would He have spent an extra shilling on
a yellow stripe in His socks when that shilling would send a Testament
to China?'  Would He?  What do you think?"

"He would not," she said.

"Exactly."  In his triumph, Paul sobered and sat down.  "There's no
escape," he said.

Edith leant forward and prodded the soft earth with a stick.  "Then
you'd wear the oldest clothes and live on just anything and have no
home and go about preaching," she said.

"Exactly," said Paul again.

"But what would happen to the world if everyone did that?" queried
Edith.

"That is not our concern," said Paul gravely.  "I do not know and I do
not care.  But this I do know, if Christians started in to do that,
they'd--they'd--well, they'd turn the world upside down.  Which is
exactly what the world said Paul and Barnabas were doing."

"And so it stoned them."

"So it stoned them.  You're quite right.  It was the Apostles' lives or
their own.  Heathen Rome saw the issue admirably.  Heathen England
doesn't.  Why not?  Because Christians are no longer Apostolic."

The girl turned wide eyes on him.  "But oh! Paul," she cried, "think
what that means!  It would mean giving up everything; it would mean
death!"

"'I can do all things through Christ that strengtheneth me'," quoted
Paul gravely.

The girl looked away.  The heart of the rich woods grew dim before her.
She fumbled for her handkerchief.

Very tenderly the boy put his arm about her.  "Edith, darling," he
said, "don't think I don't love you.  I don't think I've ever loved you
more than I do now.  But if Christ told us to put our love aside,--for
a while, down here perhaps,--could we refuse Him?"

All the woman in her revolted.  "I don't know!" she sobbed.  "I don't
mind giving up everything else.  But I could help you."

Paul's own eyes clouded.  "Dear, darling Edith," he said, "I know you
could.  And you would help too.  I expect you will.  Oh, I hope so--you
don't know how much!  But we ought to face the full bitterness of the
Cross, and then, if God makes it possible, take what He gives us very
gratefully.  Surely you see that?"

The girl dabbed at her eyes and rolled her handkerchief into a hard
ball.  Then she looked up at him with a wintry smile.  "I shouldn't
love you so much if you weren't so awfully right always, Paul," she
said.



(4)

In his new eagerness, Paul sprang a mine on his father.  He went up to
town to meet Strether who had taken a couple of tickets for a matinée
of _Peter Pan_, with which play his friend's curious personality was
violently intrigued.  The artist in Paul revelled in the fairy tale,
and deep called to deep before the boy who would not grow up.  But his
passionate creed would not let him alone.

"It's all very well, Gus Strether," he said, arm in arm in Regent
Street, "but do you think a girl ought to dress up like that in boy's
clothes?  And what good does it do?  It's like sitting down to play a
round game while the house is on fire!"

Strether grunted.  He was between the devil and the deep sea.  He loved
Peter Pan with a deep love that was all the fonder for being buried so
deep in his queer hidden self, but he hated Pauline Chase--at least on
the picture postcards.  That, then, he passed over.  But the other he
would not pass.  "You row, and eat chocolate biscuits in my rooms while
the house is on fire," he retorted.

"Only while waiting to get to work," persisted Paul.

"Might be at a prayer meeting," growled the other.

Paul assented sadly.  "I admit that's logical," he said.

Strether lengthened his ungainly stride.  "Balderdash," he muttered.
"If you tried to live at prayer meetings, you'd soon cease to live at
all.  Go and see Peter Pan while you're waiting to get to work."

"It's a bad example.  People wouldn't understand.  But it's awfully
jolly."

"Thought you'd got a bloomin' text up in your rooms to make 'em
understand."

Paul stopped in the middle of Regent Street.  "I've got it," he cried
excitedly.  "I'll put a cross up as well--a big, plain, empty cross
over my writing-table."

"Thought that was Popish."

"I don't care if it's Popish or not.  It's a symbol of Christ.  The
shadow of it ought to lie everywhere and touch everything.  Come on,
let's go and get one now.  Mowbray's have them.  Come on.  There's time
before tea."

The odd pair explored the premises of the Margaret Street shop.
Secretly, Paul was moved by the beauty of the crucifixes, though his
soul was stirred by a host of Madonnas which should have been painted,
he said, quoting a Protestant tract, as if the Virgin were a woman of
fifty, and were not.  Strether lurched around, grunting to himself.  He
was curious over most things.  Paul bought a big plain cross for his
rooms, and, on second thoughts, a small silver one for his watchchain.

"Thought you ought to give all your money to the Chinese," said
Strether.

Paul laughed.  "Old ass," he said; "this is missionary work."

Miss Bishop happened to be at his home as he unrolled his parcel.  She
was caustic and cynical.  "My experience is that if you wear the cross
on your watch-chain, you soon cease to bear it in your heart," she said.

Paul retorted hotly.  "Why?" he demanded.  "It's that kind of saying
that we have got to disprove.  Christ is real to me.  I want to feel
Him at every turn.  I want to give up all my life to the Cross.  This
is only the sign of it, I know, but why should you argue that my
wearing of the sign will make the thing itself unreal to me, just
because some people wear it and have forgotten its meaning?"

"But is it necessary, Paul?" queried his mother gently.

"You don't understand, mother," said Paul.  "Is it necessary to put up
your portrait in my rooms at Cambridge?  Can't I remember you without?"

His mother sighed; that was so like Paul.  His father looked troubled.
"It's the thin end of the wedge, laddie," he said, "so often.  We
don't, of course, object to the thing itself; it's only that we hate
the religion that has destroyed the truth of Christ while it has decked
itself out with crosses.  Isn't the Saviour without the symbol enough
for you, my boy?  The old devil is so cunning, Paul, lad."

"And the cocksure folk are the people he gets first," added Miss Bishop.

"Then," said Paul shrewdly, "you ought to look out, Miss Bishop."

"Paul," said his father sternly, "you forget yourself."



(5)

Yet one might almost have supposed that Miss Bishop had indeed stirred
the devil into action.  She would have said that he was positively
waiting for cocksure Paul that very first afternoon of the May term.
His emissary was a youthful-looking man, rather small, light and quick
in movement, fair of complexion, with alert, keen, grey-blue eyes that
perpetually brimmed over with humour, although the home of it was low
down in them, out of sight.  He was decorously dressed in black, but
with a rather shabby buttoned frock-coat, for he was careless of
appearances, and when he spoke at first to strangers, or if he were
unusually moved, there was often a little stammer in his voice.  He
was, in short, the Rev. Father Vassall, a Popish priest.

Paul found him in Hannam's rooms, Hannam being the new acquaintance of
the previous term.  He kept in the rooms below Paul, who did not care
for him particularly, and had, indeed, done no more than call the first
term.  But Hannam was a lonely individual, of somewhat eccentric
tastes, one of which was for verse.  He, therefore, admired Paul and
Paul's writings, and latterly the two had seen more of each other.
Paul knew, that he was a Catholic, but as one did not exactly associate
religion of any sort with Hannam, who, nevertheless, was tolerant of
Paul's ardent faith, this fact had not obtruded as one might have
expected.

Thus, then, it chanced that Kestern arrived at St. Mary's a day before
Manning, and by an earlier train than that of any of his more intimate
friends.  He was chaffing old Tom about four of the clock in the First
Court, and on his way to his rooms knocked by an impulse at Hannam's
door.

"Hallo, Kestern," cried Hannam joyfully as he entered, "glad you're up
early.  Want some tea?  Do come in.  Let me introduce you--Father
Vassall, Mr. Kestern of this college."

Paul found himself shaking hands with the Popish priest.  He did it
nervously, but with obvious interest.  Odd as it may seem, Popish
priests were as rare and as strange to Paul as Buddhist monks.  The
stranger seemed to appreciate the fact.  His eyes twinkled.
"H-H-Hannam has t-told me a little about you, Mr. K-Kestern," he said.

Paul laughed engagingly, and much more pleasantly than one ought to do
with the devil.  But then there was an air about this priest that was
amazingly boyish, eager and attractive.  You felt at once, as it were,
his radiant personality.  Besides there were no hypocrisies about
Father Vassall, and he always came straight to the point.  His tone
suggested to Paul what he meant.

"That I am a fierce Protestant, I suppose you mean," smiled Paul.

"And a p-p-poet," stammered the little priest, "which is very much
nicer, Mr. Kestern."

"You two ought to have a lot in common," put in Hannam with lazy
interest.  "Father Vassall was once a Protestant, Kestern, and he is
still a poet."

"Much b-better P-P-Protestant than p-p-poet," exploded the accused
merrily.

They drew round the fire with their tea.  Conversation ranged over
their doings in the vacation and the prospects of the term, and Paul
learned that Father Vassall had been a wet Bob at Eton and cox of his
college crew at the University.  Absurdly enough, he had never
associated such healthy doings with Papistry.  But Father Vassall had
been a Protestant then.  This amazing fact held Paul's mind.  It
staggered him to think that Protestants could ever become Catholics.
He looked on the priest with amazement and real sorrow.  For one thing
he could never have known Christ....

Hannam asked Paul if he had been to the theatre; Paul confessed to
_Peter Pan_; Father Vassall said that above all things he would like to
see it.

"Why don't you go then?" enquired Paul carelessly.

"P-priests are forbidden to go to p-plays," said Father Vassall.

"What!" cried Paul.  Ridiculously, it was his first shock.  He had
always understood that actors, actresses and Roman Catholics owned the
same master and were as thick as thieves, and here was a priest
professing to be forbidden by his Church to go to the theatre at all!
Father Vassall explained.  "But we can go to m-m-music halls," he
stammered, his eyes alight with mischief.

"Kestern prefers missionary meetings," said Hannam.

"Why," exclaimed the priest eagerly, his stutter all but disappearing
in his enthusiasm; "you should come and hear Father Kenelm then, Mr.
Kestern.  He has been t-thirty years in South America, and is utterly
devoted to our Lord and the Church's work out there.  He is over here
arranging for the publication of the B-Bible in one of the native
tongues and is speaking in Cambridge this week."

"The Bible!" cried Paul aghast.  "But the Roman Catholic Church does
not allow people to read the Bible!"

Hannam grinned, and threw himself back in his chair.  He anticipated
enjoyment.

"Father Kenelm has himself translated, published and distributed some
half-million B-Bibles in two or three l-l-languages," retorted the
priest.

"But, Father," said Paul, utterly serious, copying Hannam's mode of
address and scarcely noticing it in his eagerness, "you can't deny that
your Church burnt Bibles openly in St. Paul's Churchyard at the
Reformation."

"Never one," said Father Vassall.

Paul stiffened angrily, though his anger relaxed into bewilderment at
the other's laughing face.  The priest leant forward.

"Have you ever seen a copy of what we did b-burn?" asked the other.

Paul shook his head.

"Well, I could show you one at the Presbytery.  We burnt P-Protestant
copies of the Holy Scripture which had been mutilated by the removal of
whole books and made worse than valueless by the bias of the
translation and the m-marginal notes that had been added."

"Ah," said Paul, relieved, "I see.  But that depends on what view you
take of the notes."

"Excuse me," retorted the other, "it does not.  We burnt annotated and
mis-translated portions of the Scriptures, not the Holy Bible.  Those
are indisputable historical f-facts.  The annotation cannot be denied
and the mis-translation is proved even by your own Revised Version.
And as for motive, may I ask what you would advise a heathen convert of
yours to do who was given a Bible containing notes which taught
T-Transubstantiation and M-m-mariolatry?"

"Burn it," said Paul instantly.

The little priest laughed.  "Q-q-quite so," he exploded.

"He has you, Kestern," put in Hannam; "admit it.  Have a cigarette,
Father."

Paul glanced from one to the other.  "I do," he said frankly.  "But,
Father, you interest me enormously."  (He hesitated.)  "May I speak
frankly?"

The priest nodded, with a little quick gesture, his eyes searching the
other's face.

"Well, you don't speak of Christ and--and so on, one little bit as I
expected a Roman Catholic to speak.  Missionaries too--I hardly knew
you had any.  And--well, aren't they nearly always political?  Aren't
Catholic conversions nearly always forced?"

The priest no longer smiled.  He looked away into the fire.  "Do you
suppose it was force," he queried solemnly, "which made South American
Indians dig up their buried treasures valued at two hundred and fifty
thousand pounds to give to Father Kenelm for the conversion of
P-Protestant England?"

There was magic in Father Vassall, and Paul's imagination saw a story
in which, had the boot been on the other foot, he would have gloried.

A little silence fell on the conversation.  Suddenly: "What about the
Inquisition?" he queried.

"You read h-history?" the priest asked, a trifle sharply.

Paul nodded.

"Then you ought to know that the Spanish Inquisition was political and
national, not Catholic.  You ought to know that some of the most
disreputable Popes protected such people as the Jews from the fury of
fanatics.  You ought to know that the long-suffering of the average
Bishop in heresy trials was amazing.  Read Gairdner.  But waive all
that.  See here, would you hang a murderer?"

"Of course."

"Then if you honestly b-believed that the teaching of heresy was the
murdering of innocent souls, and if you had the power, what would you
do to heretics?"

Paul's silence was sufficient answer to the old dilemma.

"As to actual penalties, the age did not see or feel as ours does.
Torture was English law, remember, and boiling alive or pressing to
death or breaking on the wheel ordinary legal p-punishments."

"Perhaps," said Paul, "but such things were the punishments of crime.
Mary burnt Protestants for religion."

"Elizabeth r-racked and hung and disembowelled more Catholics than Mary
Protestants," retorted Father Vassall.  "Besides, ten times, no, thirty
times as many suffered for Catholicism under Henry VIII. and Edward VI.
than for Protestantism all the way through English history."

Paul looked hopelessly round the little room.  He saw himself, as it
were, hemmed in and overwhelmed by inexorable fact.  Besides, it was
all so unexpected.  Did Claxted know nothing of these as of other
things?  Why, indeed, had he himself never seen them in this light?

"P-Protestantism," went on Father Vassall, "taught that it belonged to
every man to pick and choose for himself among doctrines, and it
therefore had no m-manner of reason for what it did.  Calvin's burning
of Servetus at Geneva really outrages d-d-decency.  And the P-Pilgrim
Fathers burnt more witches in a year in New England than the Catholic
Church heretics in pre-Reformation England in a c-century."

Paul drew a long breath.  "I--I must think," he said confusedly.  "I
had no idea there was anything on your side."  He moved restlessly.
"But tell me one thing, don't you teach that all Protestants go to
hell?"

Hannam laughed outright.

But the priest did not.  He glanced up sharply.  "Don't you
evangelicals teach," he demanded with the quickness of a rapier thrust,
"that all unbelievers go to hell?"

Paul's face was a study.  Father Vassall chuckled youthfully as he
looked at him.  Then his own face changed and his eyes grew tender.
"I'm s-sorry," he said, stammering again.  "That wasn't q-quite fair.
But we do not teach that, and I think you do.  No; when you get to
P-Purgatory, I'll say to St. Peter: 'Let K-Kestern in; he's a g-g-good
boy!'"

He stood up and reached for his hat and stick.  "Are you going home?"
asked Paul.  "Might I walk a little way with you?"

The priest nodded, and turned for a word with Hannam as Paul went to
the door.

They were an odd pair as they walked together through the streets.
Paul was a good deal taller than his companion, and very serious.  The
little priest was gay again, and chattered about odd subjects and
Cambridge topics.  When a don nodded to Vassall, it struck the
undergraduate as something he had scarcely realised, that his new
acquaintance had a great and growing reputation.  But not until they
were at the door of the Catholic church could Paul speak his mind.

"I must g-go in here now," said Father Vassall.  "I've got to hear the
confessions of a lot of nuns much holier than I should be if I lived
for a c-century."

Later on, Paul realised what an amazing light that threw upon the
Sacrament of Penance, but just at present he was too much occupied to
consider it.  "Father," he said abruptly, "will you forgive me if I ask
you one thing?  It isn't a usual thing, I know, and it's awfully
personal, but I can't help it."

The elder looked into the flushed, serious face of the undergraduater
and kept his eyes upon him.

"W-what is it?" he asked.

"Do you believe in the reality of Christ, here and now, on earth?
Could you say you know Him?"

"With all my heart," said the priest simply and unhesitatingly.

"Then may I call and see you some time?" asked the boy, with a little
catch in his throat.

Father Vassall named a day and time.



(6)

Paul's new friendship soon became the dominant interest of the term for
him.  Even the prospects of the May eight in which he rowed were less
prominent in his mind.  His father's letters vigorously denouncing any
intercourse with a Papist at all, only aroused his hostility.  Of what
use was he, if by this time he was not able to defend evangelical
religion?  Besides, he had rapidly become whole-heartedly aware that
there was no sort of question that Father Vassall loved Christ with a
sincerity not exceeded by that of his own father.  Paul grew ever more
certain of that.  He wrote as much to Mr. Kestern, but Mr. Kestern
would not admit the other's sincerity at all.  At best, the priest was
a deluded, scheming fanatic out to trap his son.  The home letters grew
passionate; Paul the more bewildered.  Authority and experience were at
their first serious conflict within him, though he never phrased it so.
Instead he opened his heart to the priest, who was enormously more
charitable to the boy's father than Mr. Kestern was to him.  And Paul
read books, and talked to Dick.

Possibly he reached a spiritual climax as early as that bright
midsummer day that the two of them took on the Upper River.  They had
started in a Canader, and got as far as Haslingfield.  They had
stripped among the gold of buttercups, and plunged down into the cool,
clear water where the mazy reeds twisted this way and that in the slow
current.  They had lunched, and bathed again, and lying side by side in
the sun on the grass, had fixed up in common a good deal of the coming
Long Vacation.  Then, settling into the canoe, they had drifted slowly
down-stream, Dick on his back lazily dipping a paddle now and again to
avoid an obstacle, and Paul reading.  Now the latter tossed the book
down, and spoke.

"Dick," he said vehemently, "I can't help it.  They're right."

"Who are?"

"Roman Catholics."

"Don't be an ass."

"I'm not an ass, or at least not over this.  Besides I don't mean that
all they say and do is right.  Some things obviously can't be.  I shall
never be a Catholic.  But there is no way out of the difficulty about
authority."

"No?  Well, chuck me over that toffee, and for goodness sake don't say
so at Port o' Man."

"But I say, Dick," said Paul earnestly, "do listen.  It's worrying me
no end.  You can't answer the dilemma, either."

"Don't want to," ejaculated the other.

Paul stared at him.  "But why not?" he demanded.  "Your attitude amazes
me, and oddly enough, you are not unlike my father.  But anyway that
_attitude's_ plainly wrong.  There must be a way out.  The fellow who
says: 'I'm an evangelical, and I won't discuss the question or hear
another side,' _must_ be wrong."

Dick grunted.

"Listen.  The very first time I called on Father Vassall, he had me.
He was frightfully kind; he understood about our Lord being real as
next to nobody seems to do, and he was entirely sympathetic about the
Cross just dominating everything.  In fact, he was evangelical over it.
He admitted he was.  He said Catholics were at one with evangelicals on
that point, and that their Religious Orders were composed of people who
simply lived the Gospel life.  But let's waive that.  He went on to ask
me how, despite all that, I knew what our Lord had meant by His words.

"I said: 'Because it's in the Bible.'

"He said: 'Granted.'  (Notice there's nothing of Manning or Tressor
about him, belittling the Bible.)  'But' (he went on) 'let's be
definite.  Take a text: _This is My Body_--what does it mean?'

"I said: 'It means the bread represents His Body broken for us.'

"He said: 'How do you know?  At any rate for fifteen hundred years
nobody thought so.'

"I said: 'By prayer, by reason, and by the guidance of the Holy Spirit.'

"And then he said: 'That's what Luther said, and taught
Consubstantiation.  That's what Calvin said and denied it.  That's what
Wesley said and taught the Real Presence, but not Consubstantiation or
Transubstantiation.  That's what Spurgeon said and denied all three.
And that's what General Booth said and dispensed with sacraments
altogether.  If you care to shut yourself up with your Bible and pray,
you will probably arrive at some further opinion.  There are about
three hundred and sixty-five Protestant sects, and there is no reason
why there should not be three hundred and sixty-six.'"

"None at all," said Dick; "and I say, sit steady, or you'll upset this
bally canoe."

"But look here, Dick--hang it all, be serious.  He's right.  The Bible,
being nineteen hundred years old and a written book, _is_ open to
scores of different interpretations.  Mere praying obviously does not
prevent such differences of opinion; it almost seems to increase them.
And consequently, if there is not some one authoritative voice to
interpret, we might as well not have the Bible at all.  Or, like
Tressor, we must chuck dogma overboard.  Either way our position goes."

"And so?"

"Well, so, if you will have it, we've got to find some better reason
than our view of the Bible for condemning the Catholic Church.  We've
got to find some further basis for our position."

Dick sat up and fell to paddling.  Paul watched him anxiously.  After a
while, his companion began to whistle, and at that Paul could stand it
no more.  "Dick," he cried, "do you mean to say you don't see it at
all?"

Dick Hartley trailed his paddle behind him and laughed a little.  "Look
here, Paul," he said, "you're too logical.  Religion is not a primary
textbook.  You and I know and love Christ, and we know that Roman
Catholicism is not His Gospel.  The thing is so obvious that it isn't
worth discussion.  Chuck it, then.  Pitch that book overboard and say
your prayers."  And he recommenced to paddle.

Paul flushed beneath his summer tan.  He leant back and stared up
through the weave of leaves and twigs above them, and when he spoke, he
was deliberate and cool.  "Dick," he said, "Christ is the truth, and
your attitude to truth seems to me simple blasphemy."

Dick laughed again.  "You're a nice old ass," he said.

Paul's letters were full of the burning subject, and he wrote at length
to his father and to Edith.  His father was both incredulous and
indignant at the boy's attitude, and his replies threw his son into
despair.  The elder man would admit nothing at all.  He declined to
argue; he refused even to consider what seemed to Paul reasonable
historical evidence.  Rome was the great Babylon, the Scarlet Woman,
Anti-Christ; it had lied, tricked, tortured and sold its Master all
down the centuries.  "I would sooner see a son of mine dead," wrote Mr.
Kestern, "than a Roman Catholic."

Paul, in an agony of doubts and fears, lived a tempestuous life.  To
Edith he unburdened at length, and she, though utterly bewildered at
these new things, was at least sympathetic and understanding.  The
burden of her cry was: "How can it be, dear?" but with the
undercurrent--"You must face it"; "your father is wrong to denounce
your honesty"; but "Don't be rash or act in a hurry."  To her, then,
the boy turned as to a new anchorage.



(7)

Donaldson and Strether saw the conflict only superficially; Manning
more truly, but as a cynic.  Thus one riotous night of a meeting of the
new Literary Society, Paul had had something of an ovation.  His little
room--its text still on the wall and the cross over the writing bureau
in the corner--was beginning to reflect the growth of his artistic
sense.  Landseer's pictures had gone, and in their place hung some
engravings, rescued from old books dug out of the boxes in Charing
Cross Road, in neat ebony frames.  A "Falkland" graced one side of the
mantelshelf, and quite a good "Melanchthon" by Holl the other.  The
room was lit with candles, and tobacco smoke drifted thickly, since a
childish rule of the society enforced smoking out of churchwardens.
Paul, as president, had been overruled, and now always smoked one pipe.
On this particular occasion, he was smoking a second in great
exultation, having just read his last and lengthiest poetical effort to
a really appreciative audience.  Not without significance, it dealt
with an Indian legend of the search for the white bird of truth.

"By Jove, damned good," burst out Donaldson.  "Paul, you've the makings
of a real poet.  What do you think, Manning?"

"He may do stuff worth reading yet, if he'll take good advice."

"Which is?" asked Paul.

Manning lit a cigarette, cigarettes being allowed after the solemn
preliminaries.  "You won't like it, Kestern," he said, "but here it is.
Burn that.  Get rid of it.  It's been good practice, and I should judge
it's not at all bad, but don't sit tight to it.  Anything good in it
will stick and come out again; the second and third rate had better go
up in smoke."

"Oh, cheese it all, Manning!  Show it to Tressor and get it pushed into
some magazine"; and chorus of assent from the members backed Donaldson
up.

Manning shook his head.  "I know I'm right," he said.  "Pass the cake,
Strether."

Strether disengaged his long form from the chair he occupied, and
passed it.  "More coffee?" he grunted at Paul.

Paul was watching Manning closely.  Then, suddenly: "You are right," he
said, and with a swift movement tore the thing in halves.

Donaldson swore.

"Well, I'm damned!" put in a member.  "You silly blighter!"

Manning finished his cake, and stood up.  He looked round amusedly,
stretching himself.  "I reckon that finishes the sitting anyway," he
said.  "Come over to my rooms a little later, Kestern, will you?
Good-night, you people."

The company dispersed, all save Strether, who sat on imperturbably, his
eyes on the ceiling.  He refused to smoke, and had returned to dull
suits and heavy boots, with an occasional concession to society in the
shape of a tie or waistcoat.  Paul, having seen the last down the
stairs, and exchanged a fusillade of sugar with the departing
Donaldson, re-entered the room.  He shut the door and looked round
dispiritedly.  A candle was guttering on the bureau; heavy smoke hung
in the air; dirty plates and cups littered the table; one picture was
awry.  He walked to the window and opened it wide, to let in the clear
night air.  Stars shone serenely aloft and mirrored themselves in the
still river.

"Another letter from my pater to-day, Gussie," he said at last, turning
back to the fire.  "He'll not see, or understand."

Strether grunted.

"It's so odd," went on Paul wearily.  "In some ways, he's the gentlest
and most lovable of men.  He's full of the love of God.  He is a
hundred times better than I shall ever be.  But over this, he's mad,
rabid.  He seems to picture Father Vassall as a mixture of Torquemada
and Judas Iscariot.  If only I could get them to meet...."

"Going to the joss-house again, Sunday?"  Strether had his own
picturesque and blasphemous slang.

Paul smiled, understanding him.  "Why?" he demanded.

"I'll come with you.  It's more amusing than the 'Ciccu' or chapel.  Is
there a wander round with candles this week?"

"Gussie, you're incorrigible.  But, heavens, what a tangle it all is!
Does this look like the room of a Christian?  Look at it!"  Paul made a
sweeping gesture.

Strether pushed back heavily from the fire.  "Beastly cheap cake this
evening, anyway."

Paul hurled a cushion at him.  The two friends went down and out
together.

"What's worrying you especially?" asked Manning, half an hour later.

"Oh, nothing much.  At least, that's not right; it is much to me.
Manning, it's awful.  It's my father's attitude towards Catholicism."

"Ah!  No time at all for it?"

"No.  And he doesn't _understand_."

"Complain in verse," said Manning, handing him a Swinburne, "and read
that.  'E'en the weariest river winds somewhere safe to sea.'  Leave
the wise to wrangle.  Your line is going to be literature, my son."



CHAPTER V

VACATION

  The sticks break, the stones crumble,
  The eternal altars tilt and tumble,
  Sanctions and tales dislimn like mist
  About the amazed evangelist.
  He stands unshook from age to youth
  Upon one pin-point of the truth.
                  ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON.



(1)

Paul lay very still in the heather.  An occasional bee buzzed past his
face, and, high aloft, a towering hawk regarded him severely, until,
satisfied that he was alive, it gave its wings an imperceptible tilt
and glided swiftly away.  The sun drew out the sweet scents from
flowers and bracken, and a small wind brought up, now and again, a
whiff of the sea.

Far below, Port o' Man nestled peacefully in its bay.  A sort of toy
town even in reality, from this height it appeared to the watcher as if
modelled by a child in coloured clays, so remote and still and small it
was.  It looked no more than a thin moon of buildings between the
fields and the sea.  No sound came up so far, but now and again there
was a sparkle on the edge of the brown rocks when the surf ran up a
shade higher than usual, and in the wide expanse of sea itself, green
and blue changed the one with the other perpetually.  Moreover Paul's
sharp eyes could detect a vivid spot of scarlet on the sands that was
never still either.  He knew it to be the banner of the Children's
Special Service Mission, flapping in the wind.

He ought, of course, to have been there, and when he had announced to
Mr. Stuart, the leader, his intention of playing truant for one whole,
golden morning, he had been received with frowns.  But that had not
daunted Paul.  It took a good deal more than a Mr. Stuart, in fact, to
daunt him.  And so he had risen before the sun and taken his stick and
his breakfast, and departed for a long, solitary climb up South
Barrule.  Dick Hartley had offered to come as well, but Paul had
refused.  In the first place he wanted to be alone; in the second, he
really did not want Dick of all people, however much he loved him, just
then; and thirdly, he had still a sense of missionary responsibility,
and he declined to deplete the staff for a single day by another worker.

Nevertheless, he was there himself on that day because he was rapidly
reaching a frame of mind which would probably make the C.S.S.M., and
many other evangelical activities, finally impossible.  Mr. Stuart, for
example--he reflected on Mr. Stuart.  He was a nice, big, old gentleman
whom parents liked.  He had no visible vices of any sort.  He liked a
really big dinner in the midday on Sunday.  He played cricket on the
sands with a kindly smile and the aptitude of a rhinoceros.  He told
impossible school stories fifty years old when preaching on the sands,
and the moral of them all was the same--the necessity for a clean
heart.  As for his own heart, he was quite sure that it was clean.  He
was Church of England, but he had only one definite theological
belief--Salvation was by Faith Alone without Works.  But he had one
strong negation--he believed that Confirmation was unbiblical and
wrong.  And, instructively enough, it was over Confirmation that Paul
was beginning to jib.

Possibly it is necessary, at this point, to say something as to the
methods and devices of a C.S.S.M.  There may yet be the uninitiated.
In the first place, then, a staff of voluntary workers, female and
male, is drawn together during a summer month at some popular seaside
resort, which should, if possible, have sands rather than a beach, and
be to some extent "select."  This latter is partly due to the fact that
the Mission aims more especially at the children of the better classes,
but also because, whereas the C.S.S.M. can compete with the more
ordinary nigger-minstrel troupe and itinerant show, nowadays these
things are done, at the bigger holiday places, upon so lavish and
Satanic a scale, that the funds of the Mission are scarcely large
enough to provide adequate equipment for honest competition with them.
However, if the staff be wisely chosen--a blue or two, or at least some
men in recognised blazers, are necessary, as well as ladies with good
voices--much may be done.  On an ordinary day, after a prayer meeting,
this staff proceeds to the sands.  Some members wander up and down the
seashore distributing attractive cards of invitation to children, and
engaging parents in amiable conversation where possible.  The others,
chiefly the masculine section, throw off coats, and with hearty
enthusiasm commence to build a pulpit.  Some roving children will
inevitably be persuaded to help, and the crowd grows as the pulpit is
decorated with seaweed, flowers, shells, and stones, with a suitable
text outlined upon it.  "JESUS only," or "God is Love"; but
occasionally the unusual is worth trying--"Ephphatha" or "Two Sparrows"
or "Five Smooth Stones."  And finally the banner is hoisted and the
service merrily begins.

Choruses with variations play a large part--"Let the sunshine in," "Let
the sunshine out," "Let the sunshine all round about"; "Step by step
with Jesus"; "We are building day by day" (and there are actions in
that); but the Scriptures are read to sword drill ("The Word of God is
sharper than any two-edged sword"), and the addresses are short and
breezy.  The notices always take a long while.  Walks for the girls,
games for the boys, sports for both--excursions, picnics, competitions;
cheery exhortations to "Watch for the Banner," or "Come to the House";
and lastly, special services for boys and girls indoors in the
evenings.  These latter are the ultimate hook.  At them, many a man and
woman has accepted Christ in youth with real sincerity and
determination.

Paul threw himself heart and soul into all this.  He did a great part
in making religion seem to the holiday-makers what it was truly and
happily to himself, the central joy and inspiration of life.  If any
were inclined to think that attendance at a mission might be a poor way
of spending a holiday, they had only to watch Paul for a while.  He was
in love with Christ, and he was indifferent to the world's opinion that
it might be indecent to show it as brazenly as a pair of Cockney lovers
on the top of a motor-bus.  In which conclusion both Paul and the
lovers are undoubtedly and altogether right.

And yet Paul was troubled.  Mr. Stuart's bland piety was new to him;
the workers' robust ignorance had him by the throat; above all the
scorning of a ceremony (he would not have said a sacrament) which he
had come to feel had behind it the authority of an Institution that he
was finding increasingly necessary to the interpretation of the Bible,
while it might be a small thing in itself, worried him.  And it worried
him the more because nobody else--not even Dick--was worried; while
behind everything, lay the ever-deepening shadow of his father's
refusal to see one particle of evidence or necessity for the Church.

But still another influence had laid fingers on Paul's life, although
he knew it not yet.  He had come out that morning definitely to seek
something, definitely to rest himself on something.  Paul had always
loved nature; he had always "been one" (as his mother would have said)
for a country walk; and he had written verses to chestnut-trees in May
and beech-trees in Autumn.  Yet for all that, the beauty of the world
had ever been a secondary thing--something you enjoyed because you were
satisfied.  But that morning he had come to it because he was not
satisfied.  And he lay now, almost immovable, introspective, peering at
the tiny heather-bells, taking definite note of a fragment of moss,
seeing with delight the veins of colour in the small stones.  Things
were beautiful, he told himself, beautiful in themselves; also they
were unfathomable; and the joy of them was a caress to his troubled
spirit.

Presently he sighed, and rolled over on his back, staring up and away
into the vast, distant blue, watching, as the minutes sped, a pin-point
of white come out of nothing, gather, build itself with others, form a
tiny cloud, and trail off across the sparkling sea.  Paul felt himself
incredibly small; saw himself, definitely, less than nothing, for the
first time in his life.  And was content.



(2)

When he entered the dining-room of the "House," the others were already
at lunch.  The Mission party were housed in a typical, tall
flat-chested house on the front, of the kind that one finds inevitably
along all the shores of Britain, houses of apparently one period, as if
the English middle-class had found the sea simultaneously in a
generation.  That, indeed, did happen.  The room itself was threadbare.
Everything in it from the furniture to the wall-paper, was thin, and
aped solidity.  The very linen on the table knew that it was cheap.
Only where a scarlet fuchsia flamed in an earthen pot on the
window-ledge, was there depth.

Mr. and Mrs. Stuart, and the ladies, were not lodged there.  The men of
the party had it as much to themselves as the admiring followers of
Henderson (who had played cricket for his county) and Leather, a Church
Missionary Society Islington missionary from India, would allow them.
But besides these two, and Dick, and a lad of seventeen whom Henderson
tutored, a stranger was at lunch that day.  Dick introduced him.

"Hullo, Paul," he said, "you're not so late as you might be.  Let me
introduce you to Mr. Childers."

"How do you do?" said Paul correctly, eyeing him.

The newcomer rose easily, and held out his hand.  He was fair, slight,
a little bowed, and perhaps forty.  But it was hard to say his age.  He
took Paul's hand firmly, and met his glance with a curiously remote
frankness.

"Mr. Childers is a storybook uncle from foreign parts, Paul," said
Dick.  "Aileen Childers introduced me this morning, and I persuaded him
to come in to lunch.  He is just back from India."

Paul, not in the least understanding why, was suddenly aware that there
was hostility in the room, but it did not come from the stranger.  He
glanced round.  Leather, who had finished his cold mutton, had pushed
his plate back slightly after his manner, and was looking puzzled and a
little annoyed.

"To escape the nephews and nieces," said Childers smiling, "and to meet
Mr. Leather."

"How jolly," said Paul eagerly, taking his seat.  "What part of India
were you in?"  He was always eager to hear of heathen lands.

"I've travelled pretty extensively," returned the other, "but recently
I've been living in Bombay for some months."

"In the native quarter," said Dick, playing with his fork.

Something in his tone caught Paul's attention again.  He looked more
closely at the visitor.  "Were you doing missionary work?" he asked.

Childers shook his head.  "No," he said; "indeed, on the contrary, I
went to learn."

"The language?" persisted Paul, still at sea.

"I learnt that at Cambridge years ago," said Childers.

"You don't say so.  Did you take Oriental Languages, or whatever they
call it?"

"No.  The fact is, Mr. Kestern, I learnt it from Indian students, and I
was out in India studying Indian religious mysticism."

"Oh!" said Paul, and glanced swiftly again at Leather.  He understood
at last.  Little as he knew of the subject (though he had heard Father
Vassall speak of it), he knew that a man who studied Indian mysticism,
and the Rev. Herbert Leather, C.M.S., Benares, would not have much in
common.  Leather could play most games and preach a "downright" Gospel
sermon, but the Apostles were the only mystics in whom he believed and
he would not have called them by that title.  Even less than Dick was
he metaphysical, and even more than Paul at his worst was he dogmatic.

He spoke now.  "As a matter of fact we are having a bit of an argument,
Kestern," he said.  "Mr. Childers seems to believe in Hinduism."

"I never said that, Mr. Leather," put in Childers.

The other shrugged his shoulders.  There was something of contempt in
the gesture, and the stranger seemed to read a challenge there.

"I did say that we often did the Brahmin less than justice, and that
the Yogi adept had usually true spirituality," he said.

"Do you mean the fellows who sit on spikes and swing from hooks on
festivals?" enquired Dick, bewildered.

The other laughed a little, pleasantly.  "That is not all they do, and,
put like that, it certainly sounds foolish, but still those who are
genuine among them, do sometimes show the complete power of spirit over
matter in that way," he replied.

"A pack of liars and scoundrels," said Leather hotly, brimming over.

Childers' eyes flamed suddenly, and as suddenly the light in them died
down.  He kept his temper perfectly.  "I do not think so," he said with
serene control.

"But you do not mean that they have any power which Christians have not
got, surely?" queried Paul.

"I do indeed," said Childers, "if you mean by Christians the average
followers of Christ."

Leather drummed with his fingers on the table.

Paul stared into the other's face.  There was something so subdued and
yet so powerful about it, that he was very deeply interested.  "Will
you explain a little?" he asked.  "We don't hear of these things from
that point of view."

"Well, Mr. Kestern, I do not know that there is much to explain.  After
all, prayer and fasting have a prominent place in all forms of
Christian thought, have they not?  And by prayer and fasting these men
so subdue the body that the spirit in them can live almost
independently of bodily aids, and even of itself affect material
things."

"Prayer to a false god never did that for a man," retorted Leather.

"We should probably differ in our definition of false," returned
Childers courteously.

"But look here,"--the missionary leant over the table--"do you mean
you've ever seen them do anything that was not a clever conjuring
trick?"

"Most certainly," said Childers.

Leather threw himself back.  "You can do the same yourself, I suppose,"
he sneered.

"A little," said Childers, "though I am really a mere novice."

The other completely lost his temper.  "Show us then," he said curtly.

"Oh yes, do," cried Paul, but in a wholly different tone.

The elder man glanced from one to the other, and then back again to
Paul.  He hesitated.  "I would rather not," he said.  "One ought not to
play tricks."

"Exactly," cut in Leather.  "Tricks."

Childers tightened his lips, and once again fire flashed in his eyes.
"Oh, I say," cried Dick, and stopped.  A little silence fell on them.
The situation was distinctly strained.

It was odd, Paul thought afterwards, how time seemed to stand still.
The little storm had come up so suddenly, and the commonplace meal and
room had so swiftly taken on a new aspect.  Leather was insufferably
rude.  It struck Paul that here, again, was the harsh dogmatic attitude
that would not even allow that there could be anything else to see or
to believe.  He felt suddenly that he must end it.  "Mr. Childers," he
said, "if you could show us what you mean we should be very glad."

The eyes of the two met once more across the table, and Childers made
up his mind.  "I dislike this sort of thing," he said, "but perhaps
sometimes it may be of value.  Has Mr. Leather a pin?"

Leather got up and took one from a painted satin pincushion that hung
on the wall by the fire.  They were all so supremely grave that no one
saw the humour of it, especially the visitor, who would have seen none
in any case.

Childers pushed his chair back a few feet from the table.  "Mr.
Kestern," he said, "would you clear a place on the table?  I would
rather touch nothing myself.  And then perhaps Mr. Leather would set
the pin there.  Let it lie on the cloth, please."

Bewildered, Paul obeyed.  The others drew in eagerly.  No one knew what
was to be attempted, but all were eager to see.  Even Leather showed
keen interest.

Paul pushed back the potatoes and a tablespoon, and swept a few crumbs
to one side.  Leather dropped the pin into the cleared space, threw
himself back into his chair, and thrust his hands into his pockets.
Dick leant his elbows on the table and stared at their visitor.

"Now," said Childers, "would you mind keeping quiet?  I will not ask
you to keep your eyes wholly on the pin, or you will say you have been
hypnotised or something of that sort, but please watch it and me, and
do not speak."

In the tense quiet that followed, Paul threw a look at his companions.
Dick was puzzled, Leather sceptical and attempting indifference,
Henderson and his pupil a-quiver with equal curiosity.  Only Childers
sat on serene, his eyes on the commonplace pin that lay so still on the
table.  From without, the sea's murmur came softly in.  There was a
patch of sunlight on the white cloth.  The pin lay clearly in the very
centre of it.  It lay quite still, naturally, and shone in the light.

Still?  Was it still?  Paul caught his breath.

For then, as they watched, as the clock ticked the minutes loudly on
the mantelshelf, as the boy beside him breathed hard, and Paul himself
clasped and unclasped his hands, the tiny shining thing stirred,
trembled, flickered as it were, made spasmodic movements, and finally
rose, trembling, to stand on its point.  Paul swallowed in his throat,
and Leather cried out.  "It's a trick," he exclaimed sharply.  The pin
fell back silently.

"Oh no, how could it be?" said Childers quietly.  "I am not so good a
conjurer as all that."

"How on earth----" began Dick.

Leather stood up.  "I am playing cricket at three," he said abruptly.
"I fear I must go.  I--I beg your pardon if I was--was rude, Mr.
Childers.  But--but----"

"That is quite all right.  Perhaps I should not have said what I did.
But there is nothing really strange in what you have seen, Mr. Leather.
I hope I have not put you off your game."

All that afternoon, Paul and the visitor sat by the sea on the sand and
talked together.  The elder man was a quiet, serious, thoughtful person
who made no attempt whatever to destroy any of his young companion's
beliefs, and really very little to instruct him.  But Paul was
inexorable.  His inchoate eyes fastened on the other, he heard of auras
and astral bodies and familiar spirits with an ever-deepening
amazement.  It was not that the things themselves made much of a
contribution to his mind; he was not, perhaps, ready for them; but it
was Childers himself, especially in contrast to Mr. Stuart, Leather,
Henderson, Dick, who affected him profoundly.  It was his first contact
with a true but alien spirituality, his first lesson in comparative
religion.  He saw at once how closely a scheme of things that allowed
for transition planes of spiritual life, the interweaving of the
material and spiritual, and the help of unseen beings, fitted in with
Catholicism.  Here, from another source, came confirmation of his new
surmises.  And above all, here was lacking that ignorant, dogmatic
temper of evangelicalism, indifferent to beauty and living, with which
he was finding himself increasingly at odds.

Towards the end of the afternoon, he ventured the supreme question
which had been on his lips for long, but which he was more than
half-afraid to speak.

"Mr. Childers," he asked, "what do your spirit-guides say of Christ?"

The clear blue eyes looked into his serenely.  "They do not say much,"
he said.

"But why not?"

"He was strikingly adept," said Childers, "and has advanced far beyond
us.  But we shall see Him at some distant time, if we continue steadily
to progress."

"But we know Him," objected Paul, "here and now."

"You feel the influence of His Spirit, for all spiritual living has
left its impress which those who follow after may enjoy along the road."

"Along the road?"

"Yes.  Prayer, Fasting, Self-discipline.  It is very hard."

Paul shook his head.  "'My yoke is easy and My burden is light,'" he
quoted.

"That was not all He said," said Childers gravely.

And Paul, stricken by a host of texts, sat on very still.

"Do you yourself find God?" he asked at last.

"He is very far above us," replied Childers.  "It is scarcely a
question of God."

"'He that hath seen Me, hath seen the Father,'" returned the boy
eagerly.

"And what precisely does that mean?" asked Childers, rather tenderly.

Paul leapt to his feet.  "Ah, what!" he cried.  "I see that that's the
question.  But I will not believe that God is far, Mr. Childers; He is
near, very near, in the Person of His Son."

After a moment, Childers, too, got up.  He had decided not to speak.
He linked his arm in the other's affectionately.  "Let us go," he said.



(3)

The month drew to its close; fair success attended the Mission; and one
day Dick and Paul said good-bye to the rest, and to a smiling, cheering
crowd of children on the station platform, setting off in the toy train
which steamed importantly by the fuchsia-hedges and the old tin mines,
to Douglas and civilisation.  They were off to Keswick, for the great
Convention.  Paul had long wanted to go, and was all eagerness for it.
His companion had been several times before, and, as always, was the
more steady and self-contained.  At Liverpool they stayed a night with
friends, and were walking through the little Westmoreland town the
following evening.

The streets were fairly full.  Clergymen in semi-clerical dress--black
coat and grey trousers, or vice versa--and moustaches abounded, but
still more, young earnest men in grey flannels and bright smiling young
women.  Little parties moved up and down the street, frequently singing
or humming hymns.  Fragments of hymn-tunes drifted out of open windows,
and a party leisurely rowing shorewards, were singing well in unison.
Paul began himself to sing.  "'Oh that will be Glory for me,'" he
hummed, his head high, scenting the pine-woods.

"You old crow," said Dick.

"Well, if I can't sing," retorted Paul, "I can at least make a joyful
noise."

"Well, then, make it in company where it's drowned, and not alone,"
said Dick, grinning at him.

Next morning Paul did sing in company.  The friends stayed at a house
taken regularly for the period of the Convention by an elderly lady,
and charitably filled with missionaries, ordinands, and young
clergymen.  She called them all her "boys," and they took it in turns
to conduct family prayers.  Moreover they went with her in a body
wherever she went, and, truth to tell, she was rather proud of them.
One carried her umbrella, another her Bible, a third her hymn-book, and
so on.  This year two of them were coloured.  Thus went Paul and Dick
to the big tent for the first morning's meeting.

It was packed with several thousand people drawn from a large variety
of Protestant denominations, and the speakers were a Church of England
bishop, a Baptist layman, and a Methodist missionary.  An Adventist led
in prayer, or at least Paul gathered that he was an Adventist from the
intimate information he volunteered in the course of it, as to the
details and date of the Second Coming of Christ.  The vast congregation
adopted many attitudes for prayer, but, chiefly, that of the half-bend;
the chairman announced that he trusted the utmost unity and harmony
would prevail throughout the several meetings; it was understood that
the subject of the Sacraments and such-like controversies was to be
avoided; and a motto in red and white burgeoned immense over the
platform: "ALL ONE in Christ Jesus."

Throughout the week, Paul followed the usual course of a member of the
Convention.  He bought a new hymn-book of "The Hymns of Consecration
and Faith," and a new Bible, a "Baxter," whose leaves were also neatly
cut away in index form to facilitate the finding of the more minor
Minor Prophets.  He also bought a small text framed in straws for his
mother, but, the exultation of the moment which had prompted the
purchase having worked off, gave it away next day.  He went to Friar's
Crag by moonlight, and sang (in company) "There'll be no shadows," and
"When the mists have rolled away."  On the Sunday he went to outdoor
meetings.  There was an official Convention open-air, but the
market-place was quite full of other open-airs, conducted by people
whose ideas were not sufficiently expressed in the central one; and
there was also to be seen a somewhat dirty, very ragged and unkempt
prophet who had come all the way from the South on foot to denounce
modern Christianity in the cause of Humanitarian Deism, and whose rabid
sincerity attracted Paul.  Finally he went (out of curiosity) to a
meeting for men only addressed by a prominent evangelical lady whose
subject was "The Personal Devil," and to a series of meetings in which
a new baptism of the Spirit was being taught, the idea of the pastor
who conducted them being that if one only claimed the promise, one
would become full--the emphasis lay there--full of the Holy Spirit.
These meetings continued sometimes until midnight and were occasionally
noteworthy for the Gift of Tongues.  But as there were not found any
who could interpret, the authorities, remembering St. Paul, rather
cold-shouldered them.

Two days before the friends were to leave, as they were coming from a
service in the tent, they ran straight into Edith Thornton.  Paul gave
a shout of surprise and ran forward eagerly.  "You here!" he exclaimed.

She turned, and he saw that her sister Maud was with her.

"Oh, Mr. Kestern," cried the elder girl, "we wondered if we should see
you!  We heard that you were coming on to Keswick after Port o' Man,
but it was only just the other day that we got the chance of coming
ourselves."

"But how topping to see you," said Paul, delighted, shaking hands.  "I
say, do let me introduce my friend.  Mr. Hartley; Miss Thornton, Miss
Edith Thornton.  Where are you staying?"

"At 'The Pines.'"

"I know--the Y.W.C.A. house.  When did you arrive?"

"Saturday.  We might have met before, only really there are so many
girls in the house, and the Matron arranges a full programme for us
each day.  Where are you staying, Mr. Hartley?"

Paul turned more directly to Edith, who had scarcely spoken.  "What
luck!" he exclaimed, his eyes sparkling.

Edith glanced cautiously at her sister, who was talking now animatedly
to Dick.  "Paul, isn't it?" she said.  "And I do want to see you so
much."

"We must fix up something.  What are you doing this afternoon?"

"We're all going for a picnic on the lake."

"Then we'll come too."

She laughed.  "You can't, you know.  Unless you come and be introduced
to Matron and she invites you.  And that she won't do unless you please
her immensely--which I fear is not likely."

"Oh, I say--why ever not?"

The girl flushed, and laughed again.

"Why?" cried the intrigued Paul.

"I shan't tell you."

"Oh, do!"

"Well, if you must know, because you won't behave.  You give yourself
away too openly.  Girls, staying at the Y.W.C.A. in Keswick Week, are
supposed to--to--to----"

"To what?"

"To get on without men, anyway.  Unless they're properly engaged."

"But aren't you ever free?"

"I might be."

"When?  I know--to-morrow morning, early.  We'll cut the prayer meeting
for once, and go and walk by the lake."

"Oh, Paul, if we could!"

"Will you try?"



(4)

And so, on that last day, Paul and Edith wandered off in the early
morning by the road that leads along the lake, and exchanged
impressions.  It was a cold summer that year in the North, and there
was a drifting mist over the water which the sun had not yet dispersed.
High above it, the great hills lifted themselves, and there was a sound
of tinkling water on the air, for it had rained heavily the night
before and the little rills were full.  The sky, too, was alive with
soft lights of grey and white and blue.  Where the road bends out of
sight of the last houses, Paul took the hand that swung by the girl's
side, and, remote and virginal, they walked together hand in hand.

"Well, Paul dear," she said, "tell me everything."  And Paul tried to
tell her....

"And Keswick," he said at last, "only sums it all up.  You can't escape
from it, Edith.  People believe all sorts of different things even
here.  'All one in Christ'--but they aren't.  And how can they be,
unless there is some voice to interpret Him to us?"

"But it can't be the Church of Rome, Paul!" she cried, in real distress.

"You say that," said Paul, "but why?  Because you've a distorted notion
of the Church of Rome.  Look here, Edith, we won't go into it now, but
I tell you that _everything_ I was told about Rome, turns out to be
wrong.  The more I see, the more I hear, the more I think, the more
reasonable it is."

"But you can't, can't, can't, give up all you've believed and taught
about Jesus."

"Dear, one isn't asked to give up anything.  Father Vassall believes in
Him just as much as you or I or my father.  Indeed, he believes more,
Edith.  I feel that in this place.  These people say they believe in
Him, but they don't think out what they mean.  He is God, Edith, truly,
really, altogether God.  And if the Baby in the cradle could be God,
why shouldn't the Sacrament be Jesus?  Why shouldn't he choose that
veil as He chose the other?  And see what it would mean!  There He
would be, for our worship, our service, really, bodily, spiritually
too.  As He was in Bethlehem, He would be the same there for ever.  And
there is His Church speaking for Him, guarding Him."

"How can it speak for Him?"

Paul made a characteristic gesture.  "'He that heareth you, heareth
Me,'" he quoted.  "And the first Council--'It seems good to the Holy
Ghost, and to us.'  Think of the arrogance of that!  And St. Paul--'The
Church, the Pillar (that is the Upholder), and the Ground (that is the
Basis) of the Faith.'  The Church, not the Bible.  And: 'We have the
Spirit of God.'"

"Mr. Irving said that of us all in the tent last night."

"I know.  But 'by their fruits ye shall know them.'  Have we unity?
And who was teaching Mr. Irving's particular gospel of the fulness of
the Spirit, a hundred, no, ten years ago?  Whereas the Catholic
Church----"

He broke off, and loosed her hand.  They stood on the fragrant, peaty
soil, strewn with brown pine needles, under the crags above the lake,
and the further rocks were just breaking through the mist.  A faint
sound of early singing floated over to them.  They listened.

  Let me come closer to Thee, Jesus,
    Yes, closer day by day;
  Let me lean harder on Thee, Jesus,
    Yes, harder all the way.


"Do you know who wrote that?" Paul queried.

"No."

"A monk, who believed that our Lord was in the Sacrament on the Altar."

"Oh, Paul!"

"It's true.  It's a kind of omen.  Edith, do you know I see a sort of
vision nowadays.  I see Jesus, planning, choosing, endowing His little
band, and making them His Church.  'As the Father hath sent Me, even so
send I you.'  I see that same Church growing all down the years, always
misunderstood, always persecuted, always other-worldly at bottom, and
always teaching the same one faith.  Its voice, His voice; its power,
His power; its heart, His heart.  And I seem to see Jesus beckoning me
there."

"Oh, Paul, don't, don't.  Pray, pray!"

"I have prayed, dear, and as I pray--oh, Edith, I don't know!  But
nothing _stops_ my seeing.  It just gets clearer.  Everything fits.
Little things sort of seem to come my way.  If it's wrong, surely our
Lord Whom I _do_ love, Edith, and Whom I have tried to serve, won't let
me go wrong."

"But suppose,--suppose it's a temptation?"

"I know.  Dad says it's the Devil.  Exactly.  'They called the Master
of the House Beelzebub, and how much more they of His Household?'
_Everything_ fits."

"Oh, Paul," she cried, "there you go again!  I can't argue with you.
I----"

"No, because it's unanswerable.  And it's been so for two thousand
years."

"Paul, Paul, do _pray_!"

"Darling, I do pray.  But what can I do?  Mother says: 'Cling to the
Book--Don't let go the Word,' but the Word itself seems to me to point
that way.  I can't help it; it does.  I don't _want_ to be a Roman
Catholic.  I'd _hate_ to be.  But, Edith, oh Edith, Edith, why is there
no _answer_ when one prays?"

"Paul, there is, there is!"

He turned on her.  "Then you pray.  Now.  Here.  God will answer you,
perhaps."

"Oh, I can't, Paul.  Not with you here.  I wouldn't dare."

He caught her hands.  "Oh, darling, do.  I'm so tired of begging and
crying for light.  I seem always to have to be the leader, and I do so
want to be led."

The girl's eyes filled with swift tears.  "Paul, darling," she
whispered....  "Well, I will."

They knelt in the shadow of the pines, unashamed, and in the air there
was a tremble of a sound--the ripple of the tiny wavelets on the beach
beneath, and the sough of the pines above.  They knelt hand in hand,
like two children; and after a moment or two she prayed aloud, in a
hushed whisper.

"Oh God" (she said), "Thou canst see us.  Thou art here.  Do, do, show
Paul--show us both, what is right and true, and what we ought to do.
Don't let us be led astray from Thee.  Don't let us be frightened of
following Thee.  Just let us--let us draw closer to Thee and lean
harder on Thee, all the way.  For Jesus Christ's sake."

Sobs choked her Amen, and Paul, his eyes wet, put his arm about her.
So clasped they knelt.  And the little waves rippled on the shore and
the wind soughed in the pines above.

They walked home soberly.  At the entrance to the town, Edith put
another question.  "Paul," she said, "tell me, haven't you _liked_
Keswick?"

He was silent for a moment.  Then: "Edith, shall I tell you the truth?"

"Yes--and always."

"Well, I've loved it so much that I've almost hated it.  Our friends
are so sincere, so good, and I seem to know it all so well.  It's my
_home_, but I'm beginning to feel myself a stranger among my own
people."

The girl swallowed that stupid lump that would keep rising in her
throat.  "Dear," she said, "will you promise me one thing?"

"What?"

"Promise."

"You must tell me what it is first.  I can't tie my hands, even for
you."

"Well, promise that whatever happens to you, you'll never laugh at all
this."

They were at her corner, and the boy looked into her grave face.  "I
won't," he said.  "I promise.  I owe it too much.  But, Edith, one
thing I won't promise.  I won't promise that, if I ever see it to be
false, I won't fight it with every weapon on which I can lay hand."

And she dropped her eyes from his, forlorn, for she saw that it was not
in him to say more.



(5)

Paul went to Ripon, and Dick, saying good-bye for some time, to the
South.  He was to be ordained in September, and had to interview his
prospective Vicar, somewhere in North London.  Paul was staying with
Judson for a few days, that Judson whom he had hardly known at the
college feast, but who had come rather more intimately into his life of
late.

Judson was a Congregationalist, and his father was a minister of the
denomination in Ripon.  He himself was a short, bullet-headed sort of
person, whom Paul usually thought of as a bullet.  At any rate, there
did not seem to be much room for emotionalism or sentiment in his
make-up, and he had a bullet-like way of boring into things.  He had
bored straight into Paul.  Blunt, definite, ready, he had liked Paul,
and had started to call and to demand to be called upon.  His rooms
reflected in a negative way his personality.  Being poor, they remained
poorly furnished, but even on tuppence-halfpenny they might have been
less hard.  On either side of the mantelpiece were two humorous
coloured plates out of _Printers' Pie_.  Paul thought they symbolised
the man.  How anyone could look at the same two jokes for ever, one on
each side of the mantel-piece, used to strike him as an incredible
mystery.  He thought at first that it meant that Judson had no soul at
all.

It was when he discovered his mistake that he began to like the man.
For Judson had a soul.  He went regularly, without any advertisement of
it, to a Congregational chapel.  He addressed Congregational meetings
in villages at considerable inconvenience and quite unobtrusively.  He
and Paul alone at St. Mary's had the sin of public preaching to their
charge.  And Paul was beginning to find out that he alone neither
mocked at nor disregarded his own religious struggles.  Judson surveyed
the Catholic Church with a shrewd eye.  He left Paul to make enquiries,
but he took them seriously.  In his rooms he wore carpet slippers and a
blazer, and smoked an ugly pipe, but, feet on his mantelpiece and hands
in his pockets, he was prepared to admit that there were many points of
view.

Hearing, then, that Paul was going to the Isle of Man and Keswick, he
had persuaded him to come for a few days to Ripon on his way South.  It
was inconvenient that, at the time, a Congregational conference was
taking place in Ripon, but as money for train fares was a consideration
to both friends, Paul's visit was not delayed.  He himself was glad, as
a matter of fact, that the conference was sitting.  Congregationalism
was not immediately on his road, but he thought he would turn off to
see a little of it as he passed.

Three ministers were staying in the house, and the friends were out of
it most days.  They made sundry excursions, and lunched away.  That
first afternoon, Paul was taken to his friend's father's chapel.  He
was shown affectionately round.  Judson opened the door of the roomy,
clean, pitch-pine vestry with an air, and took obvious pride in a new
pulpit of considerable dimensions.  He explained the heating apparatus
with the same sponsorial solicitude that a priest takes when he shows a
visitor a new altar.  He opened and played the new American organ.  He
exhibited, in short, an unhushed genial interest in and affection for a
series of what already seemed to Paul incredibly ugly and unattractive
things.  For Paul had never admired his own mission hall.  He had never
even thought of admiration, or the reverse, in connection with it.  It
had stood for use, not for ornament.  But Judson evidently saw in his
chapel beautiful and holy ground.  He did not take off his shoes,
because he was not a ritualist and that was not his way, but he liked
the heating apparatus to shine brightly and to burn the best coal.

It was much the same in the Minster.  There had been a time when Paul
had thought all cathedrals "high" and tending to Popery.  Now he saw in
Ripon a lovely thing misused and defaced.  The choir was full of cane
chairs, rank on rank, for it alone was chiefly used.  They stood in
platoons on the wide, dignified steps leading up to the altar, steps
the stone of whose very approach was all but entirely concealed by an
expensive red Turkey carpet, presented, they were impressively
informed, by a lesser Royalty, when staying with the Bishop who had
been popular at Court.  The altar frontal had the appearance of red
plush, with a multi-coloured Maltese cross worked upon it, flanked by
lilies.  It had cost seventy-five pounds sixteen shillings.  They were
told so.  Also the two shades of red were locked in a violent argument.

They saw the high, oak-roofed Lady Chapel, which was lined with
never-opened books, called a library, and used for a choir vestry.  The
light streamed through its lovely window upon dog-eared piles of
Tallis's chant-books.  And in the North Transept, they stood in front
of an immense and decorated Georgian memorial for which pillars had
been broken and carvings cut away, a memorial which was approached
still by ancient altar steps, and on the top of which reposed a
Georgian figure in coloured stone who reclined upon his side, one elbow
propping up his bewigged head, and one hand, with lace at the wrist,
frozen for ever in a timeless pat upon a bulging stomach.

Judson saw pleasant humanity in the effigy, the verger magnificence,
Paul an artistic and religious abomination of desolation, and they all
three ascribed their own feelings to the all-seeing deity.  The
sunlight continued to dapple the stone which ever way it was.

They went, also, to Fountains Abbey.  Judson expressed contempt for the
decadent English aristocracy, excited thereto by some subtle influence
arising from the well-cut, trim lawns, and much admired the view of a
classical temple which is to be seen through a well-placed gap.  He
admired it to the extent of a pipe upon the spot.  Within the ruin,
Paul sat on a fallen stone, and fell on silence.  Returning from a tour
of inspection, Judson surveyed him with amusement.

"Are you brooding upon a sonnet, Kestern?" he enquired, feeling for his
matches again.

Paul's tragic youth forbade him to reply.

"Well, those blessed monks of yours did themselves proud, anyway,"
continued his companion.  Puff-puff.  "Wonder if we could get up a
picnic here."

The distant hoot of a char-a-banc appeared more or less to answer him.

"Thank God it's a ruin," said Paul savagely; "let's go."

"Wonder how long it took 'em to build it," remarked Judson as they
walked away.

"Generations," said Paul.  "When they first came, they starved in the
forest on berries while they ploughed and planted lands, and lived in
daub and wattle huts.  Slowly, piece by piece, they raised all that, to
the honour and glory of God.  The place was a prayer in stone."

"They knew how to choose a site," remarked the practical Judson.
"Wonder if it could be repaired?"

"And I wonder if it was answered," said Paul.

"What?"

"The prayer.  Does the ruin look like it?"

"You're a rum ass," said Judson affectionately.

Paul kicked a stone savagely from his path.  "I'm sick of being called
a rum ass by everyone," he said.  "I see nothing rum or asinine in what
I said."

"You wouldn't," said Judson.  "But then we aren't all poets," he added.

"Nor am I," retorted Paul gloomily, "and anyhow what I said had nothing
to do with poetry."

"Well, let's get lunch at that place by the gate.  The poetry in a ham
sandwich is what I want at present."

Paul returned to earth.  "I could do with two," he echoed with
enthusiasm.



(6)

That night, over and after a "high" Yorkshire tea, Paul was able to
study Congregational ministers.  A round dozen of them sat in Mr.
Judson's study beneath a large engraving of the late Mr. Spurgeon in
the act of preaching from the pulpit of his Tabernacle.  Paul was
interested in their apparently infinite variety.  There was the type he
knew well in the Church of England Claxted circles, the sincere,
lovable, earnest, bearded sort who do not smoke and are rather silent
in a general conversation.  There was the hearty, bluff, unclerical
sort, who do smoke and who talk a good deal and tell humorous
anecdotes.  One such related with great good humour how he had been
knocked up one rainy night in mistake for a High Church parson, and
asked to bicycle five miles to baptize a dying baby a few hours old.  A
young man in a corner, in a Roman collar and a frock coat, asked if he
went.

"Go?  Not I!  D'you suppose I'd go out on a cold night to sprinkle half
a dozen drops of water over a baby?  I told the fellow I was sorry, but
that if he was wise, he'd go home to bed, as I proposed to go.  And I
shut the window before he answered."

Two or three laughed, Paul could not see why.  "That's like you, Joe,"
said Mr. Judson.

"I should have gone," said the young man in the corner gravely.

"More fool you then," retorted Joe, apparently living up to his
reputation for bluff good humour.

"I do not think so," said the young man.  "The ceremony may mean a
great deal to the mother, and the Church ought to be human enough to
cater for all.  That kind of attitude gives people a wrong impression
of Nonconformity."

"Not so wrong as the impression you'd give," put in a third missionary
hotly.  "The Church of Christ cannot cater for sacerdotalism."

"What did you think of the Moderator's address?" asked Mr. Judson of
the company in general, a little too quickly, Paul thought.  But he
thought also that he had seen yet another type in ministerial
Congregationalism.



(7)

Rolling Londonwards, watching the speeding fields and the quiet sleepy
Midland villages, Paul turned over the kaleidoscope of his vacation and
realised that he was approaching a return to Claxted with something
like dismay.  Dismay, however, did not last long.  He was determining
at all costs to preach something of the new spirit that was in him, and
to show Lambeth Court and Apple Orchard Road that with broader
sympathies and a more theological outlook could also march all the zeal
and fervour of evangelicalism.  The train slowed down for Leicester.  A
figure of outstanding dress and height detached itself from the little
throng of waiting passengers, and selected his compartment.  The
newcomer carried an attaché case, a leather package of odd and awkward
size, a suitcase, and a box of lantern slides, and he was moreover
encumbered with a travelling rug, a silk hat, an overcoat, and a stick.
Paul assisted with these, and the stranger sat down opposite him.
Paul's eyes took in his gaitered legs and his silk apron, and rested
even more enquiringly on his purple stock.  It was his first personal
meeting with a bishop.  They two were alone in the carriage.

"Thanks," said the Bishop.  "I'm sorry to be hung about with things
like this, but I don't seem able to dispense with any of them."

He sounded quite human, and even friendly.  Paul wondered who he was
and if he ought to introduce "my lord" at once into the conversation.
However he blackballed the idea.  "I know," he said.  "I always seem to
accumulate heaps of things myself."

"Well," said the other, a twinkle in his eye, "it's a nuisance, you
know, being a bishop, and especially a bishop from abroad, home on
leave.  You've got to fit in so much.  There's lecturing and passing
proofs and preaching, and a bishop has to carry so many things around
with him."

"Does he?" said Paul, smiling and meeting the other's mood, "I fear I
don't know what he wants.  But--er--may we introduce ourselves--er--my
lord?"

The big, clean-shaven, young-looking prelate chuckled pleasantly.
"Certainly," he said.  "I'm the Bishop of Mozambique, and as I'm only a
colonial, you needn't call me 'my lord,' you know, unless you like."

Paul looked at him with increased interest.  Of course; he ought to
have recognised him.  He was an extreme High Church bishop, not unknown
to controversial fame.  "I'm Paul Kestern, of St. Mary's," he said.

"Oxford?"

"No, Cambridge.  I'm sorry.  Or at least I'm not really."

The other laughed outright.  "We'll agree to differ, and get on
famously," he said.  "And where do you come from just now, Mr. Kestern?"

Paul determined in a moment to be quite frank.  "A Children's Special
Service Mission in the Isle of Man, the Keswick Convention, and the
Congregationalist Congress in Ripon," he said, very gravely.

"Good," said the other.  "From which I gather you are a Nonconformist
candidate for the ministry."

"Wrong," said Paul.  "I'm Church of England, or I think I am still.
And I'm going to be a missionary, or"--and suddenly for the first time
he saw, clearly, the gulf that might be ahead--"I pray God that I am."

The Bishop's smile died away, but his tone was none the less kindly
when he spoke after a few minutes' quiet scrutiny of the other's face.
Then: "Mr. Kestern," he said, "I take it, if you won't think me rude,
that you are going through the mill like the rest of us have had to do."

And Paul, impulsively, nodded, and in a few minutes was opening his
heart, while the miles slipped fast away and the train rushed as easily
as destiny along its railed road.

"You can't be a Roman Catholic," said the Bishop decisively when Paul
had finished.

"Why not?"

"Because you know too much history to believe in the Pope."

"Honestly," said Paul, "I see no reason in history to disbelieve in the
Pope."

"His infallibility?"

"_Vox corporis, vox capitis_," retorted Paul; "and if the Church has no
head, no ultimate authority, how can it speak?"

"The Church has ultimate authority.  It resides in the whole college of
bishops dispersed throughout the world.  The Papal power is a growth
due to various human circumstances, and in its final definition is
contrary to the true Catholic faith."

"Surely that's what every heretic has said of every definition.  That's
what was said when every creed came to be formulated in order to
safeguard the faith against the increasing theorising of men.  That's
what the Congregationalists say about the Sacraments."

"But the test lies in the acceptance of the new statement by the whole
Catholic body."

Paul nodded eagerly.  "And for four hundred years at least the whole
Catholic body accepted Pope Leo's definition of the Papacy, which is
good enough to justify it, and, sir, has the whole Church accepted your
theory?  Have even the English bishops accepted it?  Are you not almost
alone on the bench in your views?"

"Well, but judge for yourself.  Read your Bible and pray.  Is there a
Pope in the Holy Scriptures?  Wasn't the First Council of Jerusalem a
meeting of the college of bishops?"

"And that," retorted Paul, "is what they said at Keswick.  'Read your
Bible and pray.'  Only, let alone the Pope, most of them don't see even
a bishop at Jerusalem!"

The big man took it in good part.  "Someone has been prompting you,
young man," he said kindly.

"Father Vassall," replied Paul instantly.

"Ah!  Have you ever been abroad?"  The elder man's voice hardened
subtly.

"No."

"Well, don't judge Roman Catholicism by its appearance in England.
It's at its best here.  It wears Sunday clothes.  Priests don't keep
mistresses in England, and the worship of the saints is not quite the
idolatry it is in Italy."

Paul flushed suddenly, but sat silent.

"Concubinage is a regular thing in Spain," went on the other suavely.
"In France they're very dubious about the Pope.  In England, below the
surface, they are as disunited pretty nearly as we are.  In South
America, the people would have more religion if they were still
heathen."

Paul recalled, in a swift flood of memory, his meeting with Father
Kenelm at Cambridge.  He recalled his stories of immense adoring
crowds, of persecution willingly endured, of heroic self-sacrifices for
the propagation of the faith.  Still more he remembered how the father,
eagerly talking to him, had seemed to take it for granted that he was a
Catholic; and how he, feeling that he must be honest, had said he was
not; and how instantly, across the crowded drawing-room, without a
trace of nervousness or any sense of indecorum, the sudden stab of the
poignant question had flashed--"Oh, but Mr. Kestern, surely you love
our Lord?"  Would such a man condone immorality?

The boy's face hardened.  "There was an Iscariot among the Apostles,
Bishop," he said.

"Yes, one.  Not eleven out of twelve."

The train began to slow down, and the Bishop stirred to gather his
traps.  "My lord," said Paul, curt in his ardour, "you merely propound
a dilemma.  Either the Holy Ghost has kept silence as to the essential
central authority of the Church till He showed it to Anglo-Catholics
seventy years ago, the devil triumphing meanwhile, or--or----"

"Eh?" queried the astonished Bishop.

"Or it is all a lie."



CHAPTER VI

MOUNT CARMEL

Thou art a God that hidest Thyself.--ISA. xlv.

Then Job answered and said: "Oh that I knew where I might find
Him."--JOB xxiii.

There is no proof of God's existence, and you must first of all believe
in it if you want to prove it.  Where does he show himself?  What does
he save?  What tortures of the heart, what disasters does he turn aside
from all and each in the ruin of hearts?  Where have we known or
handled or embraced anything but his name?  God's absence surrounds
infinitely and even actually each kneeling suppliant, athirst for some
humble personal miracle, and each seeker who bends over his papers as
he watches for proofs like a creator; it surrounds the pitiful
antagonism of all religions, armed against each other, enormous and
bloody.  God's absence rises like the sky over the agonising conflicts
between good and evil, over the trembling heedfulness of the upright,
over the immensity--still haunting me--of the cemeteries of agony, the
charnal-heaps of innocent soldiers, the heavy cries of the shipwrecked.
Absence!  Absence!  In the hundred thousand years that life has tried
to delay death, there has been nothing on earth more fruitless than
man's cries to divinity, nothing which gives so perfect an idea of
silence.--HENRI BARBUSSE: Light (translated by Fitzwater Wray).



(1)

In Mr. Kestern's study the curtains were close drawn and no gas had
been lit.  They were heavy crimson curtains, thick and old-fashioned,
and they hung motionless, completely screening the windows.  A fire
flickered fitfully in the grate, with so little light that the army of
dancing invading shadows rushed even more and more tempestuously and
overwhelmingly forward towards it.  They leapt over the sombre-backed
books in their close rows on the shelves around the room, flicking a
letter tooled in gold here and there as they passed.  In the corners
they already ruled supreme.  High upon the walls they hung, like
gathered clouds.  Only immediately before the grate, where the big
_secretaire_ stood with its roll-top lid pushed back, was their kingdom
not yet.

The little light showed the open desk, its half-filled and
neatly-labelled pigeon-holes, its inkstand, blotter and loose papers.
Left and right of the centre, the big drawers were all shut, save one,
that gaped half-open.  The heavy piece seemed almost as it were to
brood over that drawer.  It was seldom open.  It held Paul's old school
reports and essays and some ancient sermon notes, chiefly things he did
not guess were still in existence.  A few of them, disordered, lay half
in, half out, tossed down there by a quick movement.  One lay on the
floor, white in the gloom, as it had fallen from the reader's hand.

The reader himself had slipped from his seat.  The revolving chair in
which he had been sitting, was pushed slightly back, and he himself was
kneeling, head forward, face hid in his hands.  Mr. Kestern often
prayed there thus, busy at his sermons, and there was a footstool below
the desk for him to kneel upon.  But he was not kneeling on it now.
His was no premeditated praying.  He had dropped the manuscript, turned
the gas hastily out, and fallen forward there, in one swift motion,
some half-hour or more ago.  The fire had thus begun to die, but he
paid no heed.  His head, with its hair already more nearly white than
grey, had scarcely moved in his hands for all that time.

Yet if the man's bowed shoulders were all but motionless, the rapid
agonised thoughts lanced this way and that without ceasing through his
tortured soul.  Now they were flying back down the years, revealing,
like lightning flashes, other great moments in the drama of his son:
the moment he had knelt praying--good God, how he had prayed!--and
waiting for the news of the birth in the room above; the moment when
he, and his wife with him this time, had knelt and wrestled with God in
an agony for the life of the lad upon whom the consulting doctors were
even then pronouncing a final decision.  In each case, there had been
steps at last outside announcing what had seemed and what he had
acclaimed to be a veritable miracle.  But now--ah! now....

"'Father, if it be possible...' 'The Lord, Who hath redeemed us from
all evil, bless the lad...' 'Lord of All power and might...'
'Master...'"--it was in broken phrases that he prayed.  It was, indeed,
a prayer not truly of words at all.  Mr. Kestern, stricken as he had
never dreamed he could be stricken, flung his racked and aching soul at
the feet of his God.

And it was all so still: the silent dance of the shadows, the silent
existing of the heavy curtains and old-fashioned furniture, the silent,
broken man.  It was still outside in the suburban street, dank and
unlovely in the dull December evening.  It was still high up where the
lowering clouds, heavy with snow that year, hid the moon.  And God on
His throne sat still.

"Oh, my God, spare me this thing....  Thou knowest....  Let not Satan
triumph over me....  The boy is Thine--given, dedicated, bought;--save
Thou my son, my only son.  Yet not my will, but Thine be done....  Ah,
but it cannot be Thy will--this deceit, this lie!  O God of Truth, open
his eyes that he may see wondrous things out of Thy Word...."

Knives, lances--each broken sentence was one such.  And truly Mr.
Kestern would have counted his heart's blood a light offering if
thereby he might have saved his son.  His heart's blood!  He was
offering even more as he knelt there now.  His faith and love were
breaking his soul upon the wheel, and not one blow would he spare
himself.

And within, without, above, silences, interwoven silences, a
veil--inscrutable.

But God must be made to hear...  "'Father, if it be possible....'"


The handle of the door turned, futilely since the door was locked.  Mr.
Kestern rose slowly, and opened it.  Mrs. Kestern came in.  "Father!"
she exclaimed.  "Your fire's nearly out!  And no gas?  Whatever--  Oh,
father dear, what is it?  How long have you been here alone?  Why
didn't you call me in?  Let me light the gas for you."

She walked over and lit the yellow jet, turning again to the man who
stood, silent and motionless, by the table.  Her eyes took in the drawn
face, the haggard brow, even the signs of a man's difficult tears.  She
moved swiftly to him.  "Father!" she cried again, "what is it?  Has
anything happened to Paul?"  One hand reached up to his shoulder and
the other was pressed hard on her heart.

"No, no, Clara," said the man.  "He's written, that's all.  In advance
of his coming, I suppose, so as to prepare us.  You had better read
what he says."

His wife detected the bitter, hopeless pain that underlay the words.
Her glance, too, read aright the open drawer and the disordered papers.
Mechanically she reached out for the letter.  "He's still our boy," she
cried, inconsequently.

The old Puritan straightened himself.  "A son of mine a Roman
Catholic!" he cried.  "What is my sin that God should bring this upon
me?  Would God he had died first!"

"Father!--no!--oh, don't say that!  I can't bear it, I can't bear it.
Oh, God help us, God help us----"  She sank heavily into a chair, her
body shaken with sobs.

Mr. Kestern moved over, and laid his hand on her shoulder.  It was an
utterly pathetic gesture that he made, as if, whatever her grief, they
were both of them powerless before it.  "He's not taken the step yet,"
he said as one catching at a straw.  Then, bitterly, "Or he says not.
He wishes to consult us first.  But you can read that his mind is made
up.  They have trapped my boy."

Through her tears, his wife asked for the letter to be read.

"It's quite short," said Mr. Kestern heavily, as he recrossed the room
and seated himself in his chair, and then, with that new bitterness,
"short and sweet.  You can read between the lines.


"'MY DEAR, DEAR FATHER,

"'I know that what I am going to say will give you terrible pain, and
believe me, it is only after hours of real agony in prayer for light
that I have come to something of a decision.  Not by the way that I
have really come to a decision at all, for I shall take no step, now or
at any time, without consulting you first.  Please, please, believe
that.  But I feel I must tell you definitely that it seems to me very
likely that I shall make my submission to the Church of Rome.'  ('Make
his submission!'--do you notice that?  Submit to the Devil!  Our Paul!)
'I do not love our Lord one whit less than I ever did; indeed I think I
love Him more.  It is because I love Him that I shall take this step,
if I feel it to be finally right.  If I go, I shall go because it seems
to me to be His Will and that the Catholic Church is His one True
Church.  I know you will find it all but impossible to understand, but,
dear father, for God's sake believe me when I say that I believe I go
to Him because He is the Truth and because I believe that that is His
Truth.'"


"'Truth!'  That tissue of lies and Devil's deceits!  Oh, the power of
the old Enemy!  I would never have believed it possible of our boy, the
son of our prayers, our Paul.  But no son of mine----"

"Father, father, don't!  For my sake, stop.  He won't go--he can't go.
You will be able to talk to him.  He knows the Word of God too well to
be led so awfully astray.  Don't get angry, dearest, don't, I beg you.
It--it'll pass, this trial.  It breaks my heart to see you look like
that."

"My heart is broken already, I think, Clara.  'His one true Church!'
If anyone had told me that Paul, Paul----"

"Father, let's pray.  God will help us.  He won't allow the Devil to
take our boy.  Let's pray, and trust Him, dearest.  He's never failed
us yet.  Do you remember when Paul was so ill----"

And once more, this time together, father and mother cried upon their
God.



(2)

That night, too, as if the odd development of life wished to make a
secret jest of it, Edith Thornton made her great resolve.  She put on
her coat and hat, made an excuse about some Christmas shopping, and
went out into the foggy air.  The shop-fronts were gay and tempting,
but she had no eyes for them to-night.  Edward Street was full of
hurrying foot passengers, intent on their own business, but cheerful
with the good-will of the season when they blundered into each other or
dropped their parcels.  She steered through them scarcely aware that
they were there.  Her own eyes, if any had looked into them, would have
revealed a tension of spirit and a high purpose which accounted for all
that.  Deep down in her, unreasoning and unreasonably, she knew that
she was about no light adventure.  Yet it was all so absurdly simple
and commonplace.

In Wellington Road the stripped trees dripped gloomily in the dark.
Little sharp pats of falling moisture were distinctly audible on the
carpet of dead leaves that strewed the long old-fashioned gardens on
either side.  This street, but little used, was almost deserted, and
the lamps gleamed at rare intervals.  Edith lived, as it were, from
lamp-post to lamp-post.  She bade her unwilling feet reach that next
one, and that next, and that next; and so she passed.

Within St. Patrick's Roman Catholic Church lights shone gaily.  The
building, of no great size, laid no claim to architectural glory and
harboured no air of mystery or double-dealing.  But Edith's heart beat
fiercely as she went up the path.  In the porch, she stared at the
untidy notice-board stuck with black-edged funeral cards requesting
prayers for the dead, at the poster of a New Year whist drive, and at
the stoup of holy water.  This Christ's Church!  But even as she
looked, her simple mind swiftly adjusted values.  Paul's letters, and
her own secret reading, had taught her to do so.  She understood how
one might, for example, come to believe in prayers for the dead, and
how, if so, there would be nothing against printed reminders, and how,
if so, such reminders would naturally be placed in the church and
might, equally naturally, get a little dirty.  Holy water too; well, it
was in the Old Testament, more or less, and its saving logic adumbrated
in the New.  But the whist drive was a stickler.  Would the Apostles
have tolerated cards? ... But she would go through with her visit of
enquiry now.

She pushed open the door and looked in.  Then, with a quick little
gesture, entered, and let it swing to behind her.  And there she stood,
looking curiously round the place, with that unreasoning fear taking
ever more steadily possession of her heart.

The altar was lit with many candles.  She stared at it almost literally
with a sort of horror, as if it were a monstrous thing.  The statues
about, the odd pictures, the praying people here and there, even the
entry of a man into a confessional and the fleeting glimpse of the head
and shoulders of the priest, were small things.  That altar stood to
her for everything.  Authority, logic, history--what were they to a
girl?  Oh, well, these had a place, perhaps; she liked to hear Paul
speak of them; she assented to what he had to say; but one thing more
than any other had gripped her, how or why she knew not, in all this
strange talk of this incredible religion.  The Baby in the Manger, the
Sacrament on the altar--suppose that were true?  And she had come to
see; come up out of Galilee of the Gentiles to Jerusalem that is from
above; come up from afar like the Wise Kings.  Where is He that is born
King of the Jews? she asked, trembling, in her heart.  Here!  What,
among those candles, under that strange canopy--He?

So she stood hesitating.  An old woman, bent, clean, made a deep
curtsey in the aisle and came noisily down to the door.  As she passed
Edith, she looked up, surveyed her for a moment, and smiled.  "A happy
Christmas, honey," she said.  "Go forward, and sit down.  Himself is
waiting you."

Edith smiled an answer, mechanically.  She did not question the odd
saying.  Neither then nor later did she doubt that the thing was a
miracle.  She went forward.  "Himself is waiting you," she repeated
wonderingly.  It was as if a deep musical bell had pealed within her,
and a whole sweet carillon broken out.  "Himself is waiting you,
Himself is waiting you, Himself is waiting you," rang the merry bells.
She actually flushed a little.  She sat down in a pew and stared at the
altar.

Amid a host of confused unknown objects which shone and blended the one
in the other, she perceived a kind of box.  It had curtains, she saw,
and they were drawn.  Why drawn?  Her eyes wandered upwards.  She
perceived that from the four corners sprang metals which met above
after an interval and upheld a cross.  The little gold, shining thing
held her for a moment.  Then she looked into the space beneath.
Candlelight gleamed, sparkled, leapt, on a brilliant, glittering
something not unlike a vase filled with scintillating flowers.  In the
very heart of the flowers gleamed a living white.  She stared at it.
And then, suddenly, all untaught, she knew.

"Himself is waiting you; Himself is waiting you; Himself is waiting
you"--lower and even lower, a faint whisper of music, the little peal
rang on.  But she did not believe ... Yet for centuries on centuries,
Paul had said, men had thought ... Martyrs had died ... Saints had
seen....  He?  Well, a Baby....  Like her last-arrived sister, tiny,
puckered, remote, dear.  He?  Suppose that that small white circle was
a little window, through which her soul could pass; could pass and
pass; to His embrace, His tone, His heart....  Slowly, very slowly,
Edith Thornton, who envied dear, eager, clever Paul since he had so
much to give, slipped forward en her knees, and closed her eyes.

And then, in the fragrant, gleaming silence of her mind, there arose a
little fear.  She watched it come.  It was very small at first, like a
man's hand.  Only it grew and grew, till it filled all her gaze and
thundered in her soul's ear.  Wave on wave it thundered, thundered and
broke, this overwhelming mastery of fear.  And she knew quite well why
she was afraid.  Her soul had passed through the little door, but it
was lonely there.  "Paul, Paul, dear, dear Paul!" she cried, striving
so hard to see him.  "Paul!"--the echoes went wandering down the
corridors of her soul, and came reverberating back to her.  She was
alone--alone.  And the light died, and the music died, and she was very
sore afraid.

And then He came.  Walking through the dark He came, seeking her.  She
saw Him, only there was no sight.  The very scent of His robes was
sweet, only there was no smell.  He spoke, too; clearer than the noise
of the water-floods that drowned her, louder than the great winds
roaring through the lashed Hursley pines, she heard Him, only there was
no sound.  And she knew what He said, only there was no thought.  "It
is I," He said, "I, I; be not afraid."

She gripped the feet of Him, and marvelled as she did so that they
should tread her down so ruthlessly, so immeasurably happy.  And she
cried up to Him--"Paul, Paul!  Oh, Master, give me Paul!  Don't take
Paul away!  I can't live without Paul!"

"Daughter," He said, "it is I--I; be not afraid."

She sobbed; she choked with sobs.  "Paul!" she tried to cry, "Oh
Master, dear dear Master, give me Paul--Paul!"  And the sound, that was
no sound, echoed away and away and out on great mountain places, vast
and bare.  The White Feet slowly died between her hands.  She looked
up.  "It is I," He whispered, bending over her.  She looked right into
His eyes, down, down, down.  She had not thought death could be so
unutterably sweet.

She felt a hand on her shoulder.  "Can I do anything for you?" said a
man's voice.  "Please excuse me asking, only you seemed in trouble."

She felt ashamed because her face was wet with tears.  Also she did not
know what to say.  Long afterwards, she realised that what she had said
was a second miracle.  "Father, please," she said, like a child, "I
want to--to come in."



(3)

Paul himself that night, whose soul's welfare was already so great a
trouble to so may diverse persons, was, almost for the first time, not
thinking of religion at all.  To his lips the gods were early lifting
the immortal chalice in whose draught lies utter bitterness.  That
which had been to him a kind of visionary thing, a holy grail floating
on light between heaven and earth, had taken form between his hands.
He had, indeed, hoped for something one day of the sort, but not that
the laurel leaves should be plucked for his head before he had even
taken his degree.  True, they were as yet in shadow rather than in
substance, but others were seeing that crowning shadow even more than
he.

He was by this time in his last year, in the first autumn term of it,
and that very term a firm of publishers had accepted his first book of
poems.  Tressor's name had brought it within the range of practical
politics, but since then one or two critics had read the boy's verse
and offered the usual qualified praise.  But in the qualifications ran
a sincere note.  It had impressed the publishers.  They had consented
to publish at their own expense, and had even offered a royalty after a
sale which they had estimated at the outside possible probability.  For
Paul's first cheque bugles should blow--in fairyland.

But then Paul was already in fairyland.  Manning had suggested that the
success of "The Literary Lounge" warranted an annual dinner, and
Donaldson had added the corollary that this triumph of the club's first
president ought to be celebrated in town.  The idea suggested, it had
seemed obvious and inevitable.  Term over, Paul had gone down to
Manning's home in Oxfordshire for a fortnight or so, and now both had
come up together for the celebration.  Paul was Manning's guest at the
Balmoral for the night, and a private dining-room had been engaged at
an hotel on the river side of the Strand.  Finally, that there should
be no lack of glory, Tressor himself was the guest of the evening.

The evening Manning and Paul arrived there was a wonderful sunset, as
if the heaven itself would fling an earnest of the boy's success across
the world.  From the Strand, the great golden glow seemed to burn
behind the Admiralty Arch, far off, behind the Park and the great
Palace.  The spire of St. Martin's and the incredible globe on the top
of the Coliseum caught its radiance, and, looking east, the whole
façade of the busy street shone with that unimaginable radiance.  The
great central column of the Square burgeoned black and monstrous
against it.  Whitehall was an avenue of glory washed with fairy gold.

Yet it was things undistinguished and unbeautiful in themselves that
gave the best effects.  Slipping through back streets to Leicester
Square, the two friends were now and again brought to a complete stop.
Between the great bulk of a towering house utterly blocked in with
shadow and some tawdry outpost of a spreading theatre splashed with
advertisement, they would see a patch of sky twisted into writhen
cloud, royal, amber, impenetrable.  Some Titan, striding through the
heavenlies, had flung his Bacchic scarf from him.  Stained with the
purple of his feast, it fell across the world, an orange symbol of
drunken ecstasy.

Said Paul: "Manning, God gave us eyes to see that."

The other's face remained immobile.  It was odd to see how that
splendour shone on his hair and eyes, odd, Paul thought, because his
friend's face was hard, and no less hard for that caress.  "Surely you
must think so!" he exclaimed.

"'I am all that has been and that is and that shall be, and no mortal
has ever raised my veil,'" quoted Manning.

Paul looked up and away.  "We cannot even touch it," he said suddenly.
"I've never thought of that."

A suggestion of the after-glow still hung suspended in the sky as he
bathed and dressed.  He ran his blind up to see it as he stood in his
shirt-sleeves before the glass.  But even the poet in him could not be
holden by such beauty to-night.  The earth was too real beneath his
feet.  It was so wonderful that he, Paul Kestern, should be standing
dressing there.  Memories came and went like meteors through his mind.
He remembered his first sonnet.  He remembered how, for the first time,
in the harsh atmosphere of a school class-room and through the, to him,
uncertain medium of a Latin poet, the first glimpse of fairy lands
forlorn had come to him, and the magic casement opened.  A new master
had found them plodding wearily through Horace and had, by an impulse,
stayed the halting construe of--of--(yes, it was old Lammick; he
thought he had forgotten Lammick!)--of Lammick, to render the thing
himself.  As he spoke, it was plain that he had forgotten the boys, and
so far as Paul was concerned, he had very soon forgotten the master.
Only he saw the old Roman singing woven words of music about
unutterable things.

And he saw himself going up for his scholarship exam.  He had
painstakingly read Macaulay's essays in the train for style.  He
remembered putting his old Waterbury on the desk before him so that
each question might have fifteen minutes.  He remembered--oh, he
remembered the look of the commons on his first breakfast table, a
ploughed field the first time he walked to Coton, the stained glass in
the Round Church East window seen from the Union writing-room, villas
in the Cherry Hinton Road, a print on David's stall in the
market-place, rain on Garret Hostel Bridge, Clare Avenue one very early
morning.  Then he saw, suddenly, grotesquely stretched bodies and legs,
sprawled fervently by praying men in the Henry Martyn Hall.  He heard
one of them speak: "O God, make all slack men _keen_."  Paul chuckled
to himself, because he loved it so.

Then he wished vividly and acutely that he had finally rewritten that
line in the proof of his book.  It was about brown withered ivy on the
trunk of a pine in Hursley Woods.  There was a little curl of brown
hair too that slipped always under Edith's ear.  He would give her the
first copy himself, if he had to go to Claxted personally and
especially to do it.  He would give it her in Hursley Woods.  No he
wouldn't; he would give it her in Lambeth Court.  He would take her for
a walk.  They would go past the "South Pole."  They would walk up to
the lamp-post, and he would hand her the book.  "That's yours," he
would say, "all of it.  And I still want to preach in Lambeth Court
though I did write it.  Now what do you say?"

Paul began to sing the Glory Song.

Manning put his head in.  "Great Scott, Paul," he said, "what's all the
noise about?"

Paul flushed guiltily.  Then he laughed.  "I can't help it, Manning,"
he said.  "I feel too bucked for words.  I know I'm quite mad, but I
can't help it."

And it was jolly threading the busy Christmas streets in a taxi,
arriving at the hotel door, having a man in uniform open it for you so
importantly, hearing the girl in the office tell the page to take the
gentlemen to the Literary Lounge dining-room, and the finding of it
full of men awaiting them.  There was Donaldson, explosive but genial,
warmed with excitement already.  "Hullo, Kestern!  Damned glad to see
you again.  I say, I congratulate you, you know, but didn't I always
say you'd do it?"  And Strether, looking big and ungainly in his black
clothes that never fitted particularly, but smiling grimly.
"Felicitations, Kestern, and all that sort of thing."  ("By Gad,
Gussie, felicitations!  Keep that for your speech, old horse.  What's
that?  Always making a row?  Ha, ha, ha--that's damned good!  Good old
Gussie!")

Tressor put Paul at his ease.  He was so big and smiling; he talked so
easily; it was all so natural to him.  He was on Paul's right, of
course, and Paul could look past him, down the table, at them all,
Manning at the other end, glancing up now and again, with a reassuring
nod.  Judson, by the way, was there, for he had insisted on admission
to the club and had turned out the coolest critic of them all.  Paul
smiled to see how he enjoyed himself; and he drank his unaccustomed
wine and leaned back in his chair at last, when he had made his speech,
with all self-consciousness gone from him.

But it was hard to sit still and listen to Tressor.  The chief guest of
the evening rose to respond to the toast in his slightly heavy way, but
he smiled down the disordered table and met the eyes turned to him as
if he were no more than an undergraduate himself.  He talked of the
college and of literature, as he was in duty bound to do; he introduced
an anecdote or two; at last he turned slightly to Paul.  Well, at any
rate, they had reason to hope great things from the president.  He
might perhaps say there that from the first he had detected in the
verses the president had been good enough to show him, the true mark,
the real spirit of a poet.  He was very grateful for the part he had
been able to play in advising and reading, but it was genuine
recognition that had led to the acceptance for publication of the book
which they all expected so eagerly.  It was a first book, and a
youthful book, but he was not exaggerating when he said that he looked
forward to the day when they would all be proud of having been among
the first to recognise the author's undoubted genius and greet his
first appearance in print.  He anticipated that, in the days to come,
they would remember this night with real pride.  He thanked the club
for having invited him to share in that.  They had been good enough to
say that they were honoured by his presence, but he assured them that
he felt honoured to be there.

They toasted him.  They toasted Paul.  They toasted each other.
Excitement, the toasts, the ring of friendly faces, the hot room, his
own achievement--all these things intoxicated Paul.  Tressor left.
Donaldson proposed a music hall; Paul hardly realised that he agreed.
In Leicester Square, people smiled as they tumbled out of their taxis,
and the lights were blurred.  Paul scarcely knew where he was till he
found himself in the stalls.

Then came the gradual awakening.  They were too near the footlights for
one thing.  The orchestra blared and crashed at them, and the solemn,
tired faces of the men behind the fiddles began to obsess Paul.  They
laughed at no jokes, these fellows.  They had heard them all a score of
times before.  There was no honest laughter on the stage, and
Donaldson, next him, lolled about and held his sides at a painted
travesty of humour.  When a turn allowed, these performers crept out by
a small black hole and returned presently wiping their lips.  Of
course, it was, it had to be, a business, but Paul saw it all through
innocent eyes.  Essential glory had glowed upon him from the sky;
genuine tributes had blessed him on Tressor's lips; this began to shape
itself as a horrible thing.

The great curtain went up and down inexorably.  In the dazzling glow of
the searchlights a couple of dancers pirouetted before him, painted,
half-naked.  His own face flushed; he glanced guiltily round.  "By Gad,
look at that girl's thighs," whispered Donaldson.  Strether was bolt
upright, cynical, his lips pursing in a way he had.  The light glowed
red, shadowed.  In and out of the shadows, while the music rose and
fell, those white legs twinkled and danced.  Now back, now out again.
A twirl of short skirts, and in a cascade of white, one throws herself
backward in a man's arms.  Paul seemed to meet her eyes as she looked
out across the footlights, with the powder and rouge on her cheeks and
her bosom all but bared.  Thunder of applause; smiles, bows, a
hand-in-hand appearance in the naked light of the great hall; Donaldson
half on his feet, staring; even Judson clapping vigorously.

Paul turned to Manning.  "I'm going," he said thickly.  "I must,
Manning."

The other looked at him closely.  "I'll come too," he said, and rose.
"I don't want to see any more."

"No, no," said Paul, vehemently, "I'd rather go alone.  Do you mind,
Manning?  I'm all right, only I'd like to walk back."

Manning nodded.  "I see," he said.  "We'll meet at breakfast.
Good-night."

"Oh, I say, damn it all, you can't go, Paul.  'Tisn't done, my dear
chap.  Eyes in the boat, four!  Sit still, sir."

"Shut up," whispered Paul savagely.  "Everybody can hear you.  Let me
get out of this."

The loungers in the promenade looked at him curiously.  A girl nudged
against him; "Get me a drink, dear," she said in a low tone, and even
half-rested a hand upon his arm.  A feeling of all but physical
sickness nauseated the boy.  In the cloak-room, he thought that the
attendant leered at him.  In the street he dared not look at the folk
lingering and passing below the steps.

Swiftly, drinking great draughts of the night air, he set off home.  It
was drizzling slightly, but he did not notice it.  Staring straight
ahead, he found himself hardly able to think, only dimly aware of
street-lamps and great, black, velvet spaces.  He was plainly not to be
accosted in Piccadilly.  In Knightsbridge, the streets emptier, he
began to feel released.  But not till he was in his own room at the
hotel, and had thrown off his coat and bathed his face and sunk by his
bed with his head in his hands, was he able to formulate his thoughts.

Then they came, in a torrential flood.  He, Paul Kestern, called of
God, destined for the ministry, even now at odds in his own inmost
heart and with his best-beloved parents for the truth of Christ, had
been drunk and had gone to a music hall.  He was all superlatives and
saw no door of escape for his soul.  But to do him justice, it was not
his own soul that he worried about.  He scarcely thought of himself.
He had indeed been thinking of himself most of the evening, but now he
thought of his Master.  "One is your Master, even Christ."  His
tortured conscience painted vividly to him the scene upon which he had
dwelt often enough--the open courtyard; the fire in the corner, where
the light leaped and danced on wall and gate; the sudden opening of a
door; the buzz of voices, cries, torch-lights; the coward Apostle
starting to his feet, while the guard felt for spears and came to
attention; the passing of a young erect Figure with set face, Whose
cheek was already reddened with a blow; and the turning of the head, so
that the eyes of prisoner and betrayer met on an instant.  He, Paul,
had forgotten his Master.  He, Paul, had denied his Master.  He, Paul,
had been shown the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them, and had
fallen at the feet of the tempter.

Peter had gone out and wept bitterly, with the memory of a look.

Paul, then, tried to pierce the darkness and see.  He did not sit by
the fire and wait; he was up, in his soul, and out, searching for Him.
In broken sentences, he was crying his confession, renewing his
pledges, seeking for pardon.  But it was to-night as though for long he
sought in vain.  "Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow," he prayed,
and Manning's voice came echoing back: "How in the world can blood wash
me clean?"  He turned to stray phrases of the old hymns: "While others
Thou art saving, do not pass me by," and Mr. Stuart presented himself
before him, suave, smiling, and with the ghost of a voice: "Well, dear
boys, have you given your hearts to Jesus?  Is there one here who has
not?"

He writhed upon the rack.  He hated himself for all that he would not
allow himself to think.  Somehow Father Vassall crept into his mind,
sitting in his old arm-chair at the presbytery in his ancient cassock,
smoking a cigarette, looking at him with kindly eyes through the smoke.
"Concubinage is a regular thing in Spain," said a clear, scholarly
voice, with just that suspicion of veiled triumph in it that had goaded
the boy to madness in the train.

"She has g-g-gentle fingers that nevertheless d-d-draw men to God."
Father Vassall had quoted the words once, with his little stammer that
somehow did away with all suspicion of effeminacy.  The specks of light
ceased to dance before Paul's closed eyes.  It was as if he was in a
very wide room.  He grew still.  His mind settled down to the great
question.  Did God really will that men should come to Him that way?
What if he took a step forward?  "Faith is a step in the dark."  In the
dark?  But this was light!  That glare over the footlights, that
searching limelight, that had been darkness.  In an audible whisper,
his face hidden in his hands upon his bed, Paul made his experiment.

"Hail Mary" (he whispered) "full of grace, the Lord is with thee;
blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb,
Jesus."  Well, but that was merely a confession of faith that he might
have made at any time.  There was more.  Should he dare it?

"Holy Mary"--it was like a solemn oath--"Mother of God, pray for us
sinners, now, and in the hour of our death.  Amen."

Silence, above, about, beneath.  A veil of silence.  But there was
peace in the silence, surely, surely, the peace of God.

In the silence, Paul Kestern crept into bed, and believed himself
comforted.



(4)

A few hours before, at Claxted, Madeline Ernest had been sitting alone
by the fire, putting a few finishing touches to a blouse.  It was a
Christmas present for Ethel Cator, and it had to be finished that
night.  That was the worst of making Christmas presents.  In a way it
was rather fun, but before you had finished, the days had nearly always
all but run out and you had to go on working when you were tired.
Madeline was tired, but she wished she could afford to buy presents.
Also to buy a few more things for herself--some silk stockings, for
example; she put her head on one side to consider that.  She looked
very pretty as she did so.  The lamplight shone on her fair abundant
hair and her white skin.  Big eyes, too, she had, and lovely lashes.
It was a pity there was nobody more appreciative than the old purring
tabby by the fire to see her.

She dabbed with her needle once or twice, and lifted the shining stuff.
Through her pretty head a current of thoughts was flowing
inconsequently.  Then the door opened, and Mrs. Ernest came in.

Mrs. Ernest was short, comfortably stout, a little bent.  She had been
pretty, and she was growing grey.  She was almost always tired, and
with good reason.  Mr. Ernest was not even a Vicar, and, truth to tell,
she had ceased to hope that he ever would be.

"Still working, Madeline?"

"Yes, mother.  I must finish this.  Ethel always sends me something and
I must remember her."

"Have you put the clean things away?"

"No.  I'm so sorry.  I'll go at once.  I forgot all about them."

"Never mind.  Sit down a minute.  Madeline, have you heard about Paul?"

"What, mother?"  Madeline bent earnestly over her work.

"He's written a book of poems and it's going to be published early next
year.  Mrs. Kestern told me this afternoon."

"Mother!  You don't say so.  How splendid!"  The girl flushed with
genuine pleasure and excitement.

"Yes, dear.  He is clever, is Paul.  I expect he'll do great things one
day."

The eyes of mother and daughter met.  "I always thought so," said
Madeline.

Mrs. Ernest sat down in an arm-chair, and reached for her work-basket.
She opened it with a little sigh.  There were always socks or stockings
in it, and no more than her daughter did she like mending them.  She
threaded her needle, and fitted the wooden heel into a sock.  "Father
had a talk with Mr. Kestern this morning," she said, vaguely.

Madeline straightened out her work.  "Yes?" she queried, critically, as
if to the blouse.

"Yes.  Mr. Kestern is troubled about Paul."

"Really?  Why?"

"He's getting High Church."

"Well, what about it?  I like things a bit higher than father and Mr.
Kestern myself."

"I know.  You are so musical.  I wish Tom didn't wear out his socks
quite so fast.  But Paul's getting very High Church."

"Very?"  Madeline looked up meditatively.

"Yes, very.  Of course your father would not wish you to know anything.
Mr. Kestern told him privately.  He's very worried about it."

"It's that Father Vassall," said Madeline.

"How do you know about Father Vassall?"

"Paul told me.  He likes him very much."

"Well, I'm sure it would be too dreadful for the Kesterns if Paul
became a Roman Catholic."

"It won't matter much if he's a poet."

"Madeline!  It would.  I'm sure Roman Catholicism is very
dreadful--there's the confessional.  Though I must say it's worse for a
woman than a man.  And the Pope too.  But that's the point.  Suppose
Paul became a priest.  They'll get him if they can.  Jesuits always try
for clever young men."

Madeline laughed.  "Mother!  As if Paul would be a Roman Catholic
priest!"

"Why not?  Father says he would not be surprised."

"Well, I should.  Paul!  He's so very evangelical."

"I know.  But----" (There was a little pause.) "Madeline, does he see
much of that girl, Edith Thornton?"

The girl put down her work and looked into the fire.  She was silent.
"Oh, I don't know," she exclaimed suddenly.

"Well, dear, I've thought once or twice he looked at her rather as if
he liked her.  I'm sure I don't know what he can see in her.  But of
course if he's a priest, he won't be able to marry at all."

"No, mother, I suppose not."

"Well, my dear, I think it would be terrible for the Kesterns, Paul
doing so well and all.  Just too terrible.  I am sure all their friends
ought to try and prevent it.  And if he becomes an author too, he's not
likely to be a missionary after all.  He ought to be a great preacher
one day, and if he writes as well, I suppose it would help a great
deal."

"Yes, I suppose it would."  The girl propped her head on her hands, and
stared into the flames.

Mrs. Ernest finished her sock.  "What's the time?" she asked.

The girl looked up.  "Ten o'clock," she said.

"Dear, you ought to be going up.  You look tired.  Give me a kiss,
Madeline."

For once, the girl got up at once and went over to her mother.  Mrs.
Ernest put her arms round her, and smoothed back her hair.  She sighed.
"I do hope you'll be happy," she said.  "I'm sure I don't want anything
except the best for my girl."

"I know, mumsie.  Don't worry, darling."

"No, dear, I won't.  Only----  Dear girl, I expect Paul is very easily
led.  That Father Vassall now.  And a good woman can have such an
influence on a man, Madeline."

The girl kissed her again, and hid her face on her shoulder.

"Your father and I have prayed for you ever since you were a wee girl,
darling, that you might marry the right man.  Good-night, dear child."

"Good-night, mumsie.  Is daddy in the study?"

"Yes, dear.  Tell him it's ten, will you?  Paul comes home to-morrow,
Madeline."

"Does he?"

"Yes.  Take those cards round to the Kesterns in the afternoon, will
you.  If you see him, tell him how pleased we are about the book."

"Yes.  Good-night, mother."

"Good-night, dear.  Sleep sound."

Madeline undressed slowly.  Then she slipped on her dressing-gown and
knelt by her bed.  She habitually said the prayers that she had said
since she was a little girl, and she said them now.  But she said them
a little more slowly than usual, and when she had finished, she did not
jump at once between the sheets as she usually did.  She knelt on,
thinking.

She did not want to be a clergyman's wife anywhere really, in England
or abroad.  Yet she couldn't tell God that.  But she did want to be a
successful author's wife, only she could not tell God that either.  She
had never even told God properly about Paul, partly because she had
never known quite what to tell.  Now, however, she was realising just
what it would mean to her if he became a Roman Catholic priest, utterly
preposterous as it seemed.  Besides, in her heart of hearts, it did not
seem quite so preposterous as she had said.  Paul was like that.  Also,
he was rather nice.  Such a boy.  Much to good for that Edith Thornton,
only that also you couldn't tell God.

And then, quite suddenly, she did begin to tell God things.  She really
prayed.  She said she was sorry for lots of things and that she would
give them up.  She prayed not to be always wanting nice clothes, and
she prayed to have more faith.  It was an expression, and she used it
as such.  For more grace too, she prayed, not really knowing what grace
might be.  And she meant that also.  But her soul, not very big, at the
best, truly immolated itself, and she did the very utmost she could
with it.  And when she had leaped upon the altar as well as she was
able, and had gashed herself with great horrid knives of renunciation,
she preferred her request.  "Make Paul love me, O God," she whispered,
"and make me love him very, very much."

So, then, at last, the pall of deep night settled down on half the
world.  Even Donaldson got to bed somehow.  Manning, like Paul, walked
back under the stars, whistling gently to himself in the more empty
stretches.  The dancer who had looked at Paul across the footlights
slept, and the girl who had asked for a drink.  Yet dancing and
drinking and praying never cease altogether, nor does the voiceless cry
of the world ever cease to echo through the silences.



CHAPTER VII

THURLOE END

  MADMAN.

  The wild duck, stringing through the sky,
  Are south away.
  Their green necks glitter as they fly,
  The lake is grey.
  So still, so lone, the fowler never heeds.
  The wind goes rustle, rustle, through the reeds.

  * * * * *

  Not thus, not thus are the wild souls of men.
  No peace for those
  Who step beyond the blindness of the pen
  To where the skies unclose.
  From them the spitting mob, the cross, the crown of thorns,
  The bull gone mad, the Saviour on his horns.
                            JOHN MASEFIELD: _Good Friday_.



(1)

"Mr. Kestern, sir?" enquired the man, outside the little country
station.

Paul nodded.  "Yes," he said; "are you from Father Vassall?"

"Yes, sir.  Been waiting 'arf an hower, sir.  Trains that late.  We've
five mile to drive, sir, so if you'll get in...."

Paul deposited his suitcase in the dog-cart and climbed on to the seat
alongside the driver.  He was in the heart of the Midlands, and the
lamps on the little country station were already being dimmed to save
the Company's oil, since the next and last train of the day was not due
for several hours.  Outside the station enclosure, lights behind the
red blinds of an inn threw a glow on the hard road, and from a cottage
window or two came here and there a flicker; but these passed, they
were speedily out into the open country.  Trees loomed up against
frosty stars; but for the most part high hedges hid even the fields on
either side the narrow lane.  A small moon, low on the horizon, swung
up and down over them like a child's toy.  The beast between the shafts
kept up a steady trot, though now and again the steam of his exertion
rose mistily in the radiance of the poor lamps of the dog-cart as he
ploughed uphill at a walk.  By his side, Paul's driver soon relapsed
into the monotonous silence of the country.  Paul himself, muffled up
on his high seat, swaying a little with the motion, had time to think.

He was actually on his way to stay with Father Vassall, and he was
aware that he was in doubt as to the issue of his journey.  The last
Christmas vacation and the ensuing Lent term had goaded him to the act.
Christmas had been almost impossible at home, and the Lent term had
shown him, every day more clearly, that he could not profess
evangelical Anglicanism as a minister and a missionary.  Claxted had
stung him into that conclusion on every side.  The atmosphere of the
Mission Hall, sincere, earnest, zealous as it was, left him gasping now
as a fish out of water.  He had stood on its platform and not known
what to say.  The illogical inconclusiveness of the old attitude stared
at him so starkly that he could no longer repeat the old shibboleths.
The sermon in which one expounded a text as if the phrases of it and
the entire context had dropped, verbally complete, like the image of
the great goddess Diana, from the skies, and then exhorted, in words
made as vivid and as practical as possible, to the vague sensationalism
of "Come to Jesus" or "Accept Salvation," was now beyond him.  The
thing, left thus in the air, had become meaningless to him, and his
very sincerity forbad his preaching anything in which he did not
wholeheartedly believe.  The Church and Sacraments, the old truths set
in a practical system, these seemed necessary to the Gospel salvation.
Yet a more thoughtful worker or two had already been offended by the
vague and tentative phrasing in which he tried to hint at it.

Or again, though this he tried to suppress, the gorge of the poet in
him would rise now against Moody and Sankey or Torrey and Alexander.
Metre and rhyme had come to be things that he could not help
subconsciously analysing, but it does not do to analyse mission
hymn-books.  Nor can one make a really successful evangelist if one is
affected almost to desperation by a cornet out of tune, or tracts for
distribution that are neither English nor common sense.

Lastly, the home atmosphere was electric with disagreement.  He was out
of tune with it all.  There seemed no longer anything to talk about at
table.  Mr. Kestern was not interested in literature and art; with his
politics Paul, feeling after Socialism, was in violent collision; the
parish was no longer his world; and even into talk of the Second Coming
of Christ would creep the voice of criticism, or into the Islington
Conference the question of Rome.  It was, of course, a common-place
tragedy, but that did not make it the less tragic.  The man had stood
still, and the boy had gone on.  Also, at the fork roads, he had taken
the unfamiliar turn.

Full of it all, then, he was coming to stay with Father Vassall.  He
had determined to do that this once at least.  He must talk things out
with his friend.  But should they come to a conclusion, and if so to
what conclusion and with what results, that was the question.

"That's the 'ouse, sir."

Paul peered eagerly ahead.  He could make out a dark, vague outline,
and a wall on the left.  "Wo-up, beauty," cried his driver to the
horse.  They came to a standstill before a big iron gate between tall
red-brick gate-posts.

Paul climbed stiffly down, and swung his bag out.  He found himself on
a flagged path that ran up to a door set in a shallow portico in the
front of a long, low, mellow Queen Anne house.  It was not too dark to
see a solid cornice and parapet.  "The bell's on the right, sir," said
the voice at the gate.  "I'll drive on round to the stable."

Paul pulled the wrought-iron bell-pull, and somewhere in the black
recesses a bell jangled.  He heard a door open and the sound of feet.
"All right, Bridget," called a familiar voice; "I'll let him in."  A
door opened somewhere.  A faint glimmer of moving light shone through
the glass panes and drew nearer.  The front door swung open.  Paul
blinked in the light.

The priest stood with a lantern in his left hand.  He wore his cassock,
and was muffled in a cloak, with a black skull-cap on his head.  His
merry smiling face was turned up to Paul, clean shaven, youthful
looking, the hair a little tumbled.

"Good evening, Father," said Paul.  "Sorry I'm late.  I've been longing
to get here."

"H-how are you?" exploded the priest.  "C-come in.  It's splendid, your
c-coming."

Paul passed in.  He had the odd thought that it was all part of a
dream.  The passage was stone-flagged and the hall beautifully bare.
An oak bench ran along one wall.  There were a few carvings and weapons
and curios about.  A sombre print or two hung opposite: St. Francis
Xavier in a high biretta, and an Entombment.  The figure in black
putting up the latch by the light of the lantern was mediæval and
fantastic.  Yet it was all real, and it was real that he, Paul Kestern,
was there at last, in the house of a Catholic priest.

"Come in," said Father Vassall again.  "You must be cold.  Come and get
warm before supper.  There's a t-t-topping fire in the p-parlour."

He led the way, bustling forward with a swish of cassock, welcoming,
kind.  Paul entered the long low library, hung with panels of green
cloth, and took in its satisfactory furnishing at a glance.  The room
rested quietly, waiting for him.  With a swift mental comparison, he
saw himself arriving at Claxted instead.  Then he, too, laughed
eagerly, and moved forward to the big open Tudor fireplace.

A log burned there brightly, the "royal flames" leaping in the iron
grate behind a high screen.  A deep green-brocaded arm-chair stood back
in an ingle, a litter of papers on the rug near by, a shaded candle in
a tall twisted candlestick throwing a pool of light down upon them.
Above the fireplace stood unfamiliar incongruous objects: a white
skull-cap that had been Pius IX.'s, in a glass-fronted box, and a black
Madonna hung with beads.  There was an unframed water-colour too, and a
pencil sketch.  From the rug, he turned to survey the room.  Its bare
wood floor reached out into the shadows, save where a goat-skin caught
the light.  Bookcases with white shelves stood out from the walls.  On
a stand in a window recess were tall lilies growing in a pot.  The
marble head of Bernard of Clairvaux, wrapt in contemplation, stood on a
bracket; he could just see the aquiline nose, and downcast eyes.  There
was a solid narrow oak table with a chest below.  In a corner there was
a hanging lamp, burning dimly, so that one could see to move over
there.  It glinted on a grand piano.  A comfortable chintz-covered
chair or two stood about.

His host pulled forward an arm-chair whose elbows ended in carved
griffin-heads.  "Sit down," he reiterated, "and toast yourself.  It is
jolly to see you here.  How's C-Cambridge?"

Paul drew a deep breath and seated himself.  "Fine," he said.  "I
suppose it exists, by the way," he went on, with a laugh.  "We went up
four in the Lents.  I say, this is just heavenly."

"Good man.  Have a cigarette.  Supper won't be long."

"Are you very busy, Father?  We miss you awfully at Cambridge.  When's
the next book to appear?"

"I'm so b-b-busy I don't know what to do.  Preaching nearly every
Sunday, and lectures.  I've got to l-lecture to Anglicans on
M-Mysticism in t-town on Monday.  Oh, I say, they are coming in.  Two
conversions last week, both c-clergymen and such good fellows.  And
it's such fun here.  There's heaps to do yet.  You shall see to-morrow."

"Yes?"

He nodded, wrapping his hands in his cloak and laughing merrily.  "Of
course, when I came I built a chapel.  It's an old barn, much older
than the house, thirteenth century they say.  It must have been a
chapel before, I think; it feels like it.  Well, all the village
talked, of course.  P-Popish treason and p-plot!  Bridget told me, and
Tim; all the servants are Catholic you know.  But I wouldn't let anyone
see it, for I'm not here regularly enough to start a new church like
that.  Perhaps we'll have another priest one day, and a Mission.  Of
course, if they enquire, that's another story.  So, last week when
several of them came to Tim and got him to ask me to have a service on
Sunday evening, I did.  It was full; p-packed.  The Wesleyan local
preacher came too.  We had B-Benediction.  Oh, you ought to have been
here, my dear.  They all sang 'Star of the Sea' b-b-beautifully!"

It was so like Father Vassall, Paul thought.  He was as eager as a boy,
and the Faith was a glorious kind of adventure with him.  There was no
checking his enthusiasm.  In his company Paul always felt as if he were
living in the times of the Apostles when Christians were a little
persecuted, defiant, daring band, but the Cross and the Resurrection
things of but yesterday.  And although he always had a sense that the
world of thought and action in which the priest lived was utterly
remote from the world of the average man, still he had come to see that
there was nothing of the poseur in his friend.  He did not pose as a
mediævalist; he simply was one.  And he did not adapt his religion to
the world; he adapted his world to his religion.

It was on that platform that the two met so readily.  Paul was utterly
accustomed to that point of view.  Only at Claxted there was a
different religion.

So now, at once, the little priest shot his swift question quite
simply.  "And how is it with you?" he asked.  "Have you decided to
l-l-let yourself g-go?"  Not so differently does a Salvationist ask a
sinner at the penitent form if he is saved.

Paul moved uneasily.  "Don't, Father," he said; "don't ask me that yet.
I can't say.  I'm pulled all ways.  Whenever I sit down to think, a
great tangle grows and weaves in my mind till I'm in despair at ever
deciding anything."

Father Vassall nodded.  "I know," he said.  "So it was with me.  You're
on the r-rack.  Every n-nerve gives you pain.  You've thought enough.
You know enough really.  If you went on reading and talking and arguing
till d-d-doomsday, you'd get no c-clearer.  You must turn simply to our
Lord and do His W-Will."

"If I knew it!"

The priest watched him in silence.  Then he rose and felt for a
cigarette.  "You do know it," he said.  "What you don't know is whether
you dare do it."

"My father says I'm too young to make such a decision.  He wanted me to
go and see Prebendary----"

Father Vassall interrupted him.  "See no one," he said.  "Don't see me
if you like.  Go away alone and ask our Lord, in the light of what He
has shown you.  Oh, my dear!  It's as plain as the n-n-nose on your
f-f-face!"

"My father says I'm utterly unstable and always changing my mind."

"That's not t-t-true.  See here: I know exactly what's happened to you."

"What?"

"You began, as a boy, by turning to our Lord with all the love of which
your heart was capable.  You vowed to be His lover.  And He weighed
you, looked you through and through, and accepted you.  Step by step He
led you on.  He showed you new things about Himself as you were ready
to bear them.  He trusted you.  He never left you.  And now at last, He
has shown you Himself in His Church.  You know He's there.  I believe,
in your heart of hearts, you have faith.  And you hang back because you
are afraid.  You ought to be a Catholic.  You ought to be a religious,
a R-Redemptorist, I think.  You're stamped and marked out for it.
There!  I've never said as much to anyone.  God help you."

He ended abruptly, utterly earnest, and stared at the fire, stretching
a hand out to it.

"I shall break my father's heart.  How can I?" cried Paul, all the
bitter agony of days at home and hours of prayer, sweeping down upon
him.

The priest made a gesture.  "Excuses.  You know that too.  'He that
loveth father or mother more than Me...'  And would you break His
heart?"

"It's so cruel, so awfully hard."

"Of course it's cruel.  Wasn't the Cross cruel?  Do you think
Christianity is a d-drawing-room g-game?  It's fire.  It's a sword.
It's death or life.  Good Lord, what else has it been from the first
martyr to the last, yesterday?  And you k-k-know it."

"It's more than I can bear," the boy burst out.

"It's n-n-not," stuttered the priest instantly.  "Our Lord never offers
anyone a heavier cross than he can b-b-bear."

The passion of the declaration silenced Paul.  But only for a few
seconds.  Then the full force of what it would mean to his people
overcame him.

"You don't know my father," he half whispered.  "He says he would
rather see me dead.  Oh, he says terrible things!  Father, he will see
nothing, nothing.  And he always harps on the strain of my past
religious experiences.  I deny them, he says, if I become a Catholic."

"You do no such thing.  What does he himself think, for example,
happened at your Communions?  He thinks Christ came to you spiritually
and fed your s-s-soul with His S-Spirit.  And so He did.  The Church
doesn't deny that.  The Church says you will receive something within
her that outside they do not even pretend to give.  You are not asked
to deny one whit of the past.  And you know that too."

Paul sprang to his feet.  "With you, it looks inevitable.  You
hypnotise me into believing.  But there are heaps of things to be said.
I do see the need for authority; I do understand the reasonableness of
the whole philosophy--from the Incarnation to relics and
indulgences--it's reasonable enough, it's logical; but is it true?  Is
Peter true?  Is the Church what you say?  Come to that, is the Gospel
story itself true?  Is it?  Is it?  Oh, my God, I would give everything
to know!"

He stood there, hands flung out, his whole soul in his face.  And as
his tense voice ceased, the silence of the room hemmed them in.

Slowly Father Vassall got, too, to his feet.  They faced each other
across the rug, and the black Madonna, hung with dripping beads, thrust
her Son out before them.

"Oh, my dear, I'm afraid for you!" whispered the priest, staring.

"Afraid?"

He nodded.  "You see, you have the soul of a r-religious and that's no
t-t-trifle.  And there you dare to stand, asking if the story of
B-Bethlehem and C-Calvary is true!"

"Well?"  Paul was defiant.

The priest crossed the room, and came back from a little search on the
table with a paper in his hand.  All the merriment had died out of his
face; it looked years older, wan.  "I w-want you to p-promise me
something," he said, stammering much again in his emotion.

Paul leant back against the mantelpiece, wearily.  "What, Father?" he
asked; "I'll do anything I can."

"You c-c-can do this, ea-easily.  Don't let's argue any more all the
time you're here.  Don't read books, except the N-N-New T-T-Testament.
And promise me to pray this every day in the chapel before the
S-Sacrament with all your heart."

He held out a paper.  "I've w-w-written it out for you," he said.

Paul took the half-sheet of notepaper, written in the clear print of
the priest's hand.  He read it through once, and then he read it
through again, only, this time, the letters were a little blurred.
Then he looked up at his friend.

"Father," he said, "I can't help it.  I know this, whatever anyone
says.  You bring our Lord to me as no one and nothing else has ever
done."

"Ah, then," cried the priest, "if you turn back now!"

Bridget put her head in.  "Supper's ready, your reverence," she said.

Father Vassall nodded swiftly at her.  "You promise?" he said, turning
to Paul.

"Oh, yes.  And you'll pray for me?"

Father Vassall laughed meaningly.  "Come to supper," he said gaily.
"It's p-p-pork and b-b-beans.  But I can give you a glass of
Sp-Sp-Spanish B-B-Burgundy!"



(2)

In the chapel that night Paul prayed his prayer for the first time.
The priest walked in before him and showed him to his chair and a
prayer-desk with a courtly little gesture.  The three servants sat
behind.  A candle was already lit for Paul, and one burned also for the
priest in his corner.  There was a white sanctuary lamp before the
altar, and a red one on the left.  Otherwise there was no light.

Prayers began with Scripture reading.  Father Vassall had announced the
fact with his odd air of almost playing with the thing.  "We read the
B-B-Bible every night," he had said.  "Do you m-m-mind?  We read for
t-t-ten m-m-minutes!"

Paul had said, smilingly, that he did not mind.

So now he sat back in his chair and composed himself to listen and to
look.  The priest opposite, a little black hunched-up figure, half
turned on one side to allow the candlelight to fall on his book, had
announced: "The Acts of the Holy Apostles" and begun in a
matter-of-fact, rather rapid tone, to read.  As when he preached, so
when he read, he did not stammer, being shortly utterly engrossed in
his subject.  He read on, chapter after chapter, without break or
division.  Paul grew interested in the manner of it.  The narrative
rolled out before him as a whole, a simple, nervous, obvious story
which singularly held even the attention of a listener who could have
gone on, pretty well, wherever the reader had cared to stop.  But after
a while the boy allowed his eyes to rove.  This story of Peter's
doings--odd, how Peter dominated the early chapters--did not somehow
seem out of place here.  He began to apprise the details of the
building and its furniture.

It was plainly a barn.  It had a barn roof of ancient unstained timber,
and a stone floor.  The windows were irregular, uncurtained; he saw his
little moon again, steady now, shining through the bare casement, just
touching rough beams that spanned the irregular rectangle as a
rood-screen.  In the centre rose a cross with flanking figures.  They
were rudely carved, by the priest himself, but there was death in the
white nude body of the Christ and passionate life in the upturned head
of the Mary.  John stood acquiescent; Paul wondered at his attitude.
It hid him; perhaps there was conflict in his heart.  Perhaps he
understood.  Perhaps, if one understood, conflict died down to peace.

The thin supports of the rood dropped down through the shadows to the
floor.  A little figure stood half-way up one of them.  Oh, and in the
corner, between the far support and the wall, stood another statue.
Paul stared at it.  Something writhed in the candlelight.  Then he saw
that it should do so.  St. Michael trod down the dragon there.

Paul looked through the rood to the altar.  High hangings ran up into
the canopy, but it and they were lost in the shadows.  In the centre, a
cartoon was appliquéd upon them; a Madonna and Child; it was just
visible.  There were four candlesticks, silver; the candles were burned
low in them.  A silver figure hung on an ebony cross--or it looked like
ebony.  The tabernacle was a blur of white silk.  A white cloth
glimmered there; and below, under the altar, a row of painted carven
shields.  Paul could not distinguish more, but he knew them.  He had
seen Father Vassall at work upon them in his study at Cambridge.  They
emblazoned symbols of the Passion.

Then he began to concentrate on the gloom to the left, where the red
light burned.  The shadows were all confused and blurred.  There were
irregular outlines, streaks, shadowy lines.  He puzzled out a small
altar, with tiny candlesticks and a biggish case upon it, that shone
fitfully.  The lines radiated from the case, stuck through it, behind
it, as though they were a bundle of spears.  Spears!  It was a spear;
he could see, now, a gleam on the blade.  Another was headed with a
bunched object.  And then he knew.

A small ladder, a sponge on a reed, a spear, a shorter stick dripping
with the knotted cords of a scourge; these he could see now.  And he
knew too what the reliquary held.

If it was true, that little heavily guarded splinter within had once
been stained with the Blood, the real, literal Blood, about which he
had so often preached and sung.  Just such thongs as those had bit into
the reddening flesh, curled and twisted and hissed on white thighs and
shoulders that shrank to the utmost limit of the cords in the human
writhe and agony of Christ....  "But Peter and the Apostles answering,
said" (the reader read on): "We ought to obey God rather than men.  The
God of our fathers hath raised up Jesus, whom you put to death, hanging
Him upon a tree.  Him hath God exalted with His right hand to be Prince
and Saviour, to give repentance to Israel and remission of sins.  And
we are witnesses of these things: and the Holy Ghost, whom God hath
given to all that obey Him."

Paul stared out before him motionless, with set lips.  Before him,
plain, far far too plain against the dim wall, the twisting whips rose
and fell.

"'In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost, Amen,'"
said Father Vassall, and there was a little shuffling as they all knelt
down.

Acts of Faith, Hope, Charity and Contrition; the Creed; Our Father,
Hail Mary, Glory Be; odd-Englished prayers for night protection; more
shuffling; now Paul and the priest were alone.  It grew utterly still.
Paul fumbled for his slip of paper and drew it out.  The rustling
dominated the whole chapel; it even seemed to stir the shadows that
shifted always, silently, in the candlelight.  He spread the paper on
the desk before him.  Slowly he prayed each sentence.


  AN ACT OF CONSECRATION.

  O Lord JESUS Christ, Who art the Way, the Truth and the Life,
      Without Whom no man cometh to the Father,
      No man is free,
      And no man lives eternally,
  Unite me wholly to Thyself that I may walk in light and truly live.

  But Thy Way must be the Way of Sorrows,
      Thy Truth sharper than scourges,
      And Thy Life a losing of my own....

  Give me therefore Grace--or rather Thyself, the Fount of Grace;
      Carry me, for I cannot walk alone;
      Enlighten me, for I am all darkness;
      Live in me, for I cannot live except in Thee.

  Let me count all things loss but Thee, since Thou didst count all
            things loss except my love.
      For me Thou didst leave the joys of heaven;
      For me Thou wast born in cold and nakedness;
      For me Thou didst bear the contempt of Thy creatures and
            hadst not where to lay Thy head;
      For me Thou didst die daily in the souls of those that
            rejected Thee, and in the souls of them that loved Thee;
            die therefore in mine that Thou mayst live and I in
            Thee;
      For me Thou didst suffer Thy Mother to be pierced with
            swords, Who wast Thyself pierced with nails; pierce me
            then too, and nail me to Thy Cross.

  I offer myself wholly and without reserve to Thee Who didst count
            nothing greater than my love:
      My flesh is weak, as Thou knowest Who didst bear it,
      But my spirit is willing, though sorrowful as Thine even
            unto death.

  Unite me then, body and soul with Thy Divinity;
      My sins to Thy Redemption;
      My weakness to Thy Strength;
      My abyss of nothingness to Thy Plenitude.

  I give myself to Thee, stained, shrinking and afraid;
  Give Thyself to me, O my crucified God, and make me Thine.
  Dear JESUS!  Be to me not a Judge, but a Saviour!


"Dear Jesus!  Be to me not a Judge, but a Saviour!"

He cried it again, and again.  Tears blinded him.  He choked them back.
It was so still that he could not break the silence even with a sob.



(3)

The Truce of God held.  It held so truly that for a brief succession of
days Paul banished the major part of his doubts and haunting fears in
the vivid atmosphere of Thurloe End.  They did not sleep; they fled.
He was not quiescent, but rather overwhelmingly alive.  He drank a
largely new and intoxicating drink.

It must be remembered for what, exactly, Claxted stood.  Quite apart
from the rights or wrongs of religion, there was a life in Claxted that
was a sheer antithesis to this.  It was an antithesis in small things
as well as in big, in utterly unreasonable and stupid things as well as
in vital ones.  Thus, at Claxted, one never, at dinner or supper, sat
down to boiled beans and bacon; if one had, it would not have been
regarded as an adventure; moreover one never did sit down without
potatoes.  It is extraordinarily easy to make a mock of it, but there
was a hid parable there.  Food was food at Claxted; at Thurloe End it
was a sacrament, and a merry sacrament of life.  Nor was it less life
because to Father Vassall it was Catholic life.  Thus Father Vassall
even ate fish and maigre soup on Fridays, and enjoyed disliking it.
Most mornings there chanced to be early spring sunshine, and breakfast
was served out of doors.  Breakfast out of doors at Claxted would have
seemed to verge on the profane, almost on the immoral.  Tea, out of
doors, in midsummer, yes; prepared for, with guests.  At Thurloe End
they ran in hastily for a little tea because they were so busy
gardening, and the lights were not long.  At Claxted wine was a mocker;
at Thurloe End, the cask of Spanish Burgundy having just arrived, they
bottled it with zest and solemnity.

At Claxted, again, the rooms were elect to their various ends.  The
drawing-room was for callers, tea and Sunday afternoons.  The study was
for sermons.  The dining-room was the room in which one dined; in which
Mr. Kestern rested for an hour after dinner; in which, after supper,
all duly remained, with books or work, till prayers and bed.  Moreover,
there was routine order at Claxted, a pleasant, simple, kindly routine,
but routine.  A Puritan routine, too, it was of course.  It had never
struck Paul before, but no one laughed much at Claxted.  The family was
anything but solemn; possibly, temperamentally, it was inclined to be
grave; but, then, on the other hand, it never, never _rioted_.  Oh,
except at a Christmas party, at hide and seek and blind man's buff.
And now that one was grown up, one did not play such games.

On the other hand, at Thurloe, humour raced unrestrainedly.  The
morning's post brought laughter (and tears) with it always.  The day's
work was a perpetual surprise.  Father Vassall would announce his
intention of doing something with as solemn a determination as Mr.
Kestern would have given to a month's holiday.  "I shall wr-wr-write on
the v-v-verandah all the morning," he would announce firmly.  Or: "I
shall r-r-read in the p-p-parlour for t-t-two hours."  Sometimes he
would go to his room, and not reappear till luncheon.  Sometimes he
would return to the chapel after breakfast for just as long.  In the
evenings, before the fire, he would read what he had written during the
day, or Paul would read to him.  Or they would make tapestry, or
wood-carve, or Father Vassall would play the piano; or sit still,
occasionally talking, but much more often sitting silently, while peace
dripped slowly in on Paul's soul.  One never did nothing at Claxted.
He himself, in the mornings, usually strolled round till some corner
seemed inevitable for a letter, a book, or a poem, or the little table
in his bedroom beckoned inexorably to work.  In a sentence, the day
arranged itself; perhaps better, it presented itself arranged; at
Claxted, as it was in the beginning, so it was, and ever would be.

Then again, at Thurloe End, the house was invested with a personality.
Paul used to wander around at first, making friends.  The rooms stood
back, gravely, but with a smile hidden in them.  The furniture belonged
to the house, and had been selected by it, he felt, with care.  It had
chosen unvarnished oak, for the most part, because its tall, clear
windows were looking up always to the light, and old oak is wise about
light, taking its measure and passing the rest on enriched.  Its
chairs, forms, tables, bookcases, were like open hands, holding much
graciousness.  Moreover it was gravely proud of itself, and not ashamed
of its wide walls and the pools of its floors.  Where it held out a
picture or a print, it did so with a curious restraint, yet with a kind
of courtesy.  It wore pictures like a beautiful woman wears jewels.

At Claxted there was no house at all.  There was a middle-class home.
Everything that the family had ever possessed, for three generations,
was collected in it.  The Kesterns said about a new possession that it
would "go" there or there, and new possessions constantly poured
in--testimonials, seasonable gifts, kindly presents from workers after
summer holidays, another antimacassar after the Sale of Work,
photographs, texts, missionary curios.  Things overflowed on to each
other: an occasional table on a rug; a crochet mat on a table; a pot on
the crochet mat; a fern in the pot; a cover about them both; a picture
above the fern; framed photographs below the picture; as like as not,
in the end, a small basket under the table.  Small baskets were always
so useful for putting odds and ends in.  And all the furniture and
carpets and mats and pictures, jostled each other, and cried to heaven
that here was no continuing city.  Which, of course, is quite true, for
we seek one to come.

Clocks were all over the house at Claxted; at Thurloe End there was one
over the stable that struck the hours with much solemnity.  Moreover it
had its own views as to correct time-telling which, as Father Vassall
said, was wholly right, since t-t-time was r-r-relative.

Paul told himself that religion had nothing to do with all this; that
there were Catholic middle-class homes, and Protestant houses.  He was
not such a fool as not to know, too, that his own temperament liked the
one and disliked the other, but was not necessarily right or wrong
because of that.  Yet after all we are all of us concerned with things
as we meet them, and religion and philosophy, speaking in generalities,
do shape people's houses, occupations and dress.  Here, then, came the
Greeks bringing gifts, generous gifts for which he felt he had been
searching, at one time blindly, lately more definitely, all his days.
If the gifts were of God, they would leave little room for doubt.

The days of truce, however, were not without event.  The pair of them
did portentous things.  Up the centre of the garden ran an ancient
overgrown hedge, tangled, vast; and through it, with axe and saw, they
cut a leafy tunnel.  In old flannel trousers, and shirts without
collars, they laboured in the sweat of their brows, and cut their hands
and scratched their faces and lost their way and despaired of finishing
and finally attained.  Just before sunset they emerged one warm
delirious day, the scent of rising sap overflowing from the broken
twigs and boughs about them, a mellow light on the wall across a small
green ahead.  Father Vassall cut the last impeding growth away, as was
fit, but Paul dragged it behind.  They stepped out together.  The
little priest looked about him with triumph, excitement and discovery
on his face.  So Bilboa hailed the Pacific, and Pizarro climbed the
Andes.  And so, also, Father Vassall had some such thought as they.

"A cross, just here, in the middle of that green," he cried.  "One will
b-burrow through the tunnel, and find the c-cross at the end!"

And then, suddenly, the merriment died out of his face, and the two
looked at each other.

"I will go for the saw and the hammer," said Paul, after a second.

"Yes," cried Father Vassall, animation again.  "I know of two
s-saplings which will just do."

Paul turned back.  "N-N-No!" spluttered his friend; "n-n-not through
the tunnel now!"

So Paul went back another way.

Or, intermittently, they laboured at a rockery.  The priest had been
engaged upon it, but he took a dislike to the job soon after Paul's
arrival.  One day, after half an hour's work, he flung down his spade.
Paul grounded a loaded wheelbarrow, and laughed.

"What in the world is the matter?" he demanded.

"I will not have a r-r-rockery in my garden," said the priest, "not a
made rockery anyway.  I knew it was a bad idea."

"Why ever?" asked Paul, frankly puzzled.

"The d-d-devil makes r-rockeries," said Father Vassall, "not G-G-God."

One evening Paul related at length the incidents of the Port o' Man
mission, and particularly that of Mr. Childers.  Father Vassall heard
him gravely.  At the close he asked: "Do you know David Etheridge?"

Paul shook his head.

"Ever heard of him?"

"No.  Who is he?"

"We'll go and see him to-morrow.  Shall we?  You'll like him.  He lives
about two miles off."

"Good," said Paul, smiling.  "But who in the world is he?"

"He's a Catholic.  He was a Spiritualist.  He became converted because
it was the d-d-devil."

"Oh, I'd love to meet him then," cried Paul.

They went, then, luncheon being over, the priest in his rusty country
ulster, a little bent, preoccupied, grave; Paul swinging along in a
tweed jacket eagerly.  The few passers-by saluted the priest, and a
clergyman on a bicycle looked at Paul intently.  "He's the V-V-Vicar,"
said Father Vassall, bubbling with laughter.  "He's a g-g-good man; I
like him; but I expect he'd like to r-r-rescue you!"



(4)

David Etheridge lived in a small cottage, and he was pottering about
the garden when they arrived.  Paul had received no description of him
and had no reason to expect one thing more than another, but the
ex-Spiritualist's short, rather tubby figure and round, smiling, pink
face, tickled him.  He looked the last man in the world to have met
with the devil.  Anyway he seemed to have come well out of the
encounter.

He greeted the priest eagerly, and was introduced to Paul without
explanations.  First he must show them round the garden.  He had bulbs
in the grass, and others hidden cunningly among tree-roots, and these
he discovered with triumph.  New green had been made, he declared,
since yesterday, and in one spot there were six tiny thrusting points,
when the brown leaves were raked away with discerning fingers, where at
the last visit there had been but five.  They bent lingeringly over
them.  "Wonderful, wonderful," cried Etheridge, in a subdued ecstasy.
"I don't care how many times one sees them, they're wonderful!"

Paul looked from the face of the priest to that of his friend.  There
was genuine awe written on them both.  It was odd, he thought, the
outlook of everyone down here.  He himself loved the beauty of that new
determined virginal life, but these two saw more.  They saw holy things.

Back in the cottage at tea, Paul's visit was frankly expounded.  "I
b-brought K-K-Kestern to see you, Etheridge," said Father Vassall,
"because he's met a clairvoyant and seen a m-m-miracle.  He's
impressed, naturally.  And the fellow talked to him no end.  I want him
to hear your side of the c-case."

"What was it you saw, Mr. Kestern?" asked Etheridge.  "Was it at a
séance?"

"No," said Paul, "and that's what seems to me particularly interesting.
It was in a very ordinary house at a very ordinary luncheon, and in the
presence of four or five men who, as certainly as anything is certain,
were neither accomplices nor credulous nor open to hypnotic influence.
And it happened in broad daylight in about two minutes, while we all
sat round and watched."

"What happened?" queried Mr. Etheridge, with a serious air that did not
go so strangely with his face as a stranger would suppose.

"A pin, an ordinary pin, wobbled on a white tablecloth and stood on
end, all by itself."

"W-W-Wobbled?" exploded Father Vassall, earnestly.

Paul, looking at him, loved him suddenly with a great passionate
movement towards his childlike sincerity and profound faith.  "Yes,
Father," he said as gravely, "wobbled."

"Do you mind telling me all about it?" put in their host.  "You've
really begun at the wrong end of the stick, you know, Mr. Kestern."

And Paul told him.  He told him everything, including the clairvoyant's
statement that God was very far off.

When he had finished, David Etheridge nodded.  "That would be it," he
said.  "So much of truth, so much of plausibility, a little release of
power, and the grain of error that would, without God, crack even
Peter's rock."

"But the p-pin?" asked Father Vassall.  "How did he do that?"

"It's simple, Father.  He was perfectly right.  It is no miracle,
really, as he himself said.  There is psychic power.  It is as real a
thing as that of my muscles, perhaps in a sense more real because more
fundamental.  All ultimate power may be psychic.  And what he did with
a pin, all the mystic saints have done, when necessary, again and
again.  Only they have done so under God and at His direction.  Maybe
God Himself, incarnate, only made use of some such hidden human power
of His creation, when He walked the waves."

"Then Childers was right?" asked Paul, glancing at the priest however.
Etheridge seemed to be contradicting the verdict of his friend.

"Right, and from our standpoint wrong too, Mr. Kestern.  So far as his
explanation of the pin went, he was right, but he was in the wrong
since he was playing with a power only to be exercised along the lines
revealed; and he was deluded by Satan when he spoke as he did of God."

"By Satan?"

"I have no doubt at all.  It always begins so.  He lies in wait to
deceive."

"I don't understand," said Paul, bewildered.  "Childers was a man of
prayer and of great reverence.  He spoke very kindly even of
Catholicism."

"That," said Etheridge gravely, "I fear the most."

Paul studied his face intently.  He was looking out of the cottage
window at the broad high-road, his features very set and grave, and
with a strange mask of pain lying upon their cheery commonplace
exterior that was not good to see.

He seemed to become aware of the other's examination, and turned to
him.  "It is like this," he said.  "God has marked out the spiritual
way.  He has hedged and protected it.  Souls may go safely there very,
very far, even here, towards the celestial city.  But if they stray off
that path for any reason, why, Mr. Kestern, in the woods and hollows
lurk enemies that let none escape."

"How do you know?" burst out Paul, vehemently.  "Does the Church
definitely say so?"

Etheridge nodded towards the priest, with a faint smile that only
lingered a second however.  "That's a question for his reverence," he
said, "but I can offer you an authority, if you like."

"Please," said Paul.  There was something in the other's tone that awed
him.

"Well, Mr. Kestern, there was a young man who knew nothing of that
divine road save that, by Providence, his feet were placed upon it at
his baptism.  But he was enticed aside.  He was shown a seemingly fair
and direct path to the same bourne.  He followed it.  At first all went
well.  To be precise, he, too, obtained something of the powers of
which you have seen a sample.  He became adept at seeking escape in
trance.  The pencil wrote for him automatically, and wrote good and
wise things.  He made the practice of these things his life, and
finally they dominated him.  He became all but their slave."

"Yes--and then?"

"Well, first, the character of the messages changed a little.  His
friends in the _gnosis_ warned him of mischievous spirits, even of bad
ones, but he was not to be afraid.  He would not be afraid.  For a
while the good returned--and riveted his chains more firmly.  Then the
shadow crept in again.  He was told of a new morality, led on to seek
relief in stimulants, encouraged to voyage far and often in trance.  At
last only there, in trance, was there full escape.  He loathed himself,
but his waking life was beset with devils, prurient curiosity,
perverted sensuality, a desire to inflict pain.  He struggled, but in
vain.  But in the trance-sleep he was free."

A motor car hummed up the hill and buzzed over the crest.  Etheridge
"waited till the sound died away.  Neither of his listeners moved.

"And then one day, Mr. Kestern," went on the narrator at last evenly,
"having gone over in trance, he found his return barred.  He could see
his own body on the couch and he longed to re-enter it.  But he could
not.  A Watcher stood on the Threshold.  For an eternity there seemed
no possibility of return."

Paul moistened dry lips.  "A watcher?" he managed to ask.

"Yes.  Beyond telling.  Do you loathe anything?  Have you ever felt
Fear?  Do you shrink from corruption, its scent and sight?  You cannot
imagine all those incarnate, but it was that."

"My G-G-God," said Father Vassall.  "That's enough, Etheridge."

"But you are here," cried Paul.  "What saved you?"

"The grace of God, which is beyond telling, at the moment, and, under
Him, Father Vassall afterwards.  He may tell you if he please."

Paul glanced at the priest.  But he shook his head.  "I t-t-told you it
was the d-d-devil," he said.

"Father Vassall, perhaps, can hardly speak of it, Mr. Kestern.  He
fought for my soul.  He held me all one night, and a crucifix in my
hands, while Satan shook my body, my bed, the very room, but could not
prevail."

And silence drew in and sat between the three of them.

Paul broke it.  He sighed.  "Forgive me," he said, "but what is one to
believe?  You explain one thing by an unknown force; why not so explain
this?  And--I don't mean to be rude, Mr. Etheridge--I suppose we all
have a side to our character which, supposing it were for any reason
developed and released, might do terrible things."

The ex-Spiritualist bowed slightly.  "You are quite right," he said
tranquilly.  "That is one explanation.  You can explain the Gospels and
the Incarnation and Lourdes and--and Spiritualism that way.  Men even
explain man.  If there were no explanation possible, there would be no
need of faith."

"But I haven't----" began Paul.

Father Vassall made a quick gesture.  "'_Si scires donum Dei_,'" he
said.  "Don't t-t-tempt God, Kestern."

Etheridge rose as if he had not heard.  "Let us walk in the garden a
little," he said, "and breathe clean air."

That evening, Father Vassall varied the order of night prayers
somewhat.  He crossed over the chapel to Paul, after the Scripture
reading, and put a little manual in his hand.  It was not wholly
unfamiliar to the boy, but for the first time the real significance of
the Office of Compline dawned on him.  He saw the long dark corridors
leading from chapel, the silent shut-off monastic cells, the peasant on
his lonely road home, the soldier on sentry guard while the camp slept.
He saw that the night had been alive to such, and that their faith had
made these prayers for a shield.  And he was not sorry for that shield
himself that night.

  Grant us, O Lord, a quiet night and a perfect end.
  Your adversary the devil, goeth about as a roaring lion seeking
      whom he may devour.
  Thou shalt not be afraid for the Terror by night,
  For He shall give His angels charge over thee.
  Visit this house, we beseech Thee, O Lord.  Drive far from it
      all snares of the enemy.  Let Thy holy angels dwell therein....


All his imagination astir, Paul listened, in his secret heart, for the
drift of pinions.  Nor, then, did he wonder that he failed to hear
them; he only marvelled a little at the impenetrability of
clay-shuttered doors.



(5)

Thus, then, came Paul Kestern to his last night at Thurloe End.  Judge
ye, who may.  This, at least, was the manner of it.

The Father had read aloud _The Holy Grail_, and Paul _The Hound of
Heaven_.  He had himself chosen it; he had no one to blame for that.

  Ah, fondest, blindest, weakest (he read),
  I am He Whom thou seekest;
  Thou drivest Love from thee, Who drivest Me.


He shut the book.  The little priest was nursing his knees against the
tall fender, and the boy looked from him to the candlelight on the
white of the uncanonised saint's hat on the mantelshelf.  It rather
fascinated him, that round skull-cap.  It was a child's trick to put it
there, the little white satiny thing in its glass-fronted box--a
child's trick, lovable.  He looked at the priest again.  The other
stirred.

"My dear," he said, stammering badly, "you g-g-go to-m-m-morrow.  And
we've kept the tr-truce."

Paul nodded.

Silence.

The priest spoke again.  "I don't know," he said.  "I can't stick my
fingers into your soul.  I d-d-don't want to.  Only God's been good to
you, you know.  And--and He's a j-j-jealous God."

"Oh, I don't know," burst out the boy.  "Father, I don't know.  There's
so much for and against.  And I've prayed and prayed and prayed,
and--and God hides Himself."

"He's given you all the l-l-light you need.  He's shown you!  He's sent
His Son and appointed His Church and p-p-put it b-b-bang in your
p-path.  What else do you want?  Do you want a special r-r-revelation?"

"Oh, I don't know," wailed Paul.  "I don't KNOW."

His voice broke a little.  Father Vassall dropped his knees and jumped
up, catching his robe about him.  His eyes shone, though his face was
grave.  "L-look here," he said.  "Here's a bit of paper.  I'll put here
all the things that make for the Church, unless you feel honestly, in
your own mind, that the balance of evidence on a point puts it on the
other side.  Now."

When the paper was written it appeared thus:

  WHICH is TRUE?

  _R.C._                               _Anglican._

  Emotions in Catholic Church.         Emotions at Claxted, Keswick,
                                         etc.
      Reason?
      History?
      Which Works?
      Scripture?
      Tradition?
      Catholic Idea?
      Consistency?
      Gospel of the Poor?
      Beauty?
      Common sense?
      Miracles?
      Peter?


(After the first, Paul had objected: "But Christianity may not be
reasonable at all."  "T-t-that hardly makes for Anglicanism," retorted
Father Vassall.  "Is _it_, the Via Media, reasonable?"  And Paul had
been silent thereafter.)

"That's enough, Father," said Paul, in a still voice.

"It is, only this."  (He added, last on the list--Peter.)  "Now, here
you are.  To-morrow, after breakfast, go into the chapel, put this
before you, and pray.  Pray.  PRAY.  Hear?  I'll say no more, now or
ever.  You're alone, you know, you must be....  If it's 'yes,' after
that, come and tell me, and I'll get the faculties and receive you.  If
it's 'no,' then don't say anything.  Just 'good-bye.'  And G-God bless
you, anyway."

He had his way.  The boy went almost silently to bed, heard Mass, ate
breakfast quietly, went into the chapel, and knelt down.  He propped
his papers before him.  He chose to kneel before the red lamp.

He read his paper, but he could not think.  Confused

images buzzed through his head, and voices.  "I'd rather see a son of
mine dead," said Mr. Kestern.  "God is very far off," said Childers.
"He was deluded by Satan," said David Etheridge.  "Oh, don't break your
father's heart, Paul," cried his mother.  "Concubinage is a regular
thing in Spain," said the Bishop of Mozambique.  "Christ is the most
arresting figure in history," said Manning coolly.  "He's a j-j-jealous
God," said Father Vassall.

Paul shut his eyes.  He was so tired.  He turned deliberately away and
thought of Edith.  He remembered Hursley Woods, and the little brown
cap, and the brown leaves, and the blue sky.  A thrush, too, that
looked at them out of beady eyes.  And here he was, in a Popish chapel,
Father Vassall's chapel.

He looked up.  In the clear morning light, the chapel was all so plain.
In front of him, as plain as plain, was a sponge on reed, a spear, a
ladder, a scourge.  He noticed that they were a little dusty.  The
glass reliquary reminded him of wax flowers under a glass case
belonging to his great-aunt Sophie; no, it did not remind him of the
flowers, it was just the case, with its plush fringe, that it brought
ridiculously to his mind.  But inside the case was that small splinter
the priest had described, a fragment splintered from Calvary with its
sweat and turmoil and blood.

It had been, of course, like that figure on the rood.  He had hung
dead.  Dead.  Drained of blood.  Dead.

Dead?  A little to the right the white tabernacle veil hung in the
folds to which Father Vassall had adjusted it this morning.  And behind
lay the mystery.  If only he KNEW.

And then, suddenly, he saw it all as clearly as the day through the
chapel window: his broken home, his mother's tears, Edith lost to him,
his ambition to write poetry blocked out, and instead, instead--that
silver Cup behind the white curtain thrust into his hand.  A
half-remembered line shot into his head:

            And down the shaft of light
  Blood-red...


And suppose, after all, it were _not_ true....

If it were true, surely God would show him.  If He were a Father,
surely, surely...



(6)

That, then, was the manner in which Paul Kestern grew afraid.  The
utter silence of the chapel grew on him, bore down on him, wave on
wave.  Was it not time for the trap?  Oh, but they would call him.
Meantime, why wouldn't God speak?  Just a word, a flicker of a
curtain....  It was all so still.  Not even a wind.  The silence
listened, that was the awful thing; it listened for him to pray.  And
if he prayed--oh, if he prayed, he would break down like a baby, and
surrender, and he would never really have known.

Then Paul knew he could not pray.

But he shut his eyes; he groped into the blackness; he pressed against
the silence; he knew he was alone, all alone; he knew if he could have
fled, he would have done so, but that he could not move.  He must fight
it out alone, endure alone; and though that awful silence terrorised
his very thought, he must still try to think....

"It's t-t-time to go," whispered a voice in his ear.

He got up, and stumbled out.  "Thank you so much, Father," he said.
There was utter terror in his soul, but that was what he said.  He saw
the other's face, tender and grave, and his quaint black gown, and the
bare hall, and the little flagged path, and the iron gate, and the
trap.  Oh, he was glad to see the trap.  He mustn't be afraid; it was
absurd; he could walk out.  "Really I've loved being here," he heard
himself saying.

"C-come again s-s-some t-time," stammered Father Vassall.

"Thanks, I will, Father.  Good-bye."

"G-g-good-bye."

He balanced himself as the horse started forward, and then turned and
waved.  The little priest waved too.  They swung round the turn.

Paul looked at the clouds, moving serenely across the sky.  He peered
into the bare twigs of an oak.  Some palm was in bloom, soft, yellow,
feathery.

"Truth, it's real mild spring, sir," said Tim.

"Yes," said Paul.  "I must say I'm glad summer is coming."

"London, single," he said through the wicket at the booking office.  It
was real, that funny little window, and odd, how absurd the man looked,
peering at him!  A couple of turns up the platform, a good asphalted
platform, with staring advertisements, rather jolly--about pens, Easter
in Normandy, Nestle's Milk.  And there was the train at last, swinging
merrily round the corner, noisy, fussy, _real_.

Third class, smoker, empty, that would do.  Paul flung himself into a
far corner.  "Thank God," he said to himself, "thank _God_."

A tall dark girl walked up the train.  She looked in at Paul's window.
He didn't see her, but she saw him, hesitated a moment, and decided,
after all, she wouldn't travel to town with him.  If perhaps, the next
compartment was empty, she would prefer that.  It was.  She got in and
shut the door.  She had a newspaper and a novel to read, but she
settled herself to stare out of the window instead.  The country was so
unimaginably lovely.



CHAPTER VIII

JUDGMENTS

I am certain of nothing but of the holiness of the heart's affections,
and the truth of Imagination.  What the Imagination seizes as Beauty
must be Truth....  The Imagination may be compared to Adam's dream;--he
awoke and found it truth.--KEATS: _Letters_, November 22, 1817.



(1)

"Well," queried Tressor, "and what's the next move?"

He was seated at his desk in his study, pen in hand, a pile of
correspondence before him, and Paul, who had not been able to remain
still for five minutes since he had heard the news, was leaning at the
moment against the open window opposite.  June had come in
full-throated.  The trees in the Fellows' Garden were thick with green,
and the roses in the parterres flamed in the sun.  Everything flamed in
such a sunlight as had never been before, nor, in its own way, would be
again.  Miracles of that sort are not so uncommon in life as might be
thought, but each one stands by itself.  So to-day Paul was inwardly if
only half-consciously marvelling at the world, seeing that it was
transfigured before him.

The don, watching him thoughtfully, was well aware of it.  His own
experiences of a quarter of a century before, rose like a kindly ghost
before him.  He knew in what a turmoil of suspense the boy must have
wakened, but yet how a kind of dear regret had lingered with him at
breakfast, the last breakfast of the true undergraduate stage, the
stage in which the future is all possibility, the die still unread even
if cast.  He guessed how he and his friends had talked about everything
and thought only about one thing; how they had strolled round to the
Senate House; how a glamour had been there upon the ugly unimposing
dull building that he, the don, knew so well; how anxiety had spurred
the spirits of the men in the gallery; how the first names had been
greeted with relieved cheers.  And he knew how Paul had heard his own
in the First Class Honours List of the History Tripos with a sense,
first, of utter unreality, and then of triumph that had given him for a
fleeting hour the carriage of a god.

Paul had come into King's Parade with his friends a new man.  A light
had fallen on his ways, and at first, as always, he had been blissfully
ignorant of the bitter that lurks in all earth's sweets.  He had been
ignorant for about as long as it took him to walk to the post office.
There, when Donaldson had said that there was no good his sending a
telegram, he had seen real envy in the eyes of a friend, and when the
clerk had read the flimsy paper without the flicker of an eyebrow, had
realised that the world is mighty big and cares nothing.  Ah well, Paul
had thought as he hastened back to college, that made no difference to
the fact that he, Paul Kestern, had got a First, which nothing could
ever destroy and which would remain a title to respect among all sorts
and conditions of men.  Differ with him as men might and would, he had
entered set and recognised lists and ridden a triumphant course.

And Tressor was genuinely pleased that the boy had come bursting in to
him, scarcely waiting to knock, greeting him with the eyes of a
grateful friend.  "I've got it," he had cried, "I've got it, Tressor!
A First after all!  Thanks to you more than to anyone.  I can hardly
believe it's true."

Paul had walked about the study to tell his news.  "Donaldson got a
third, Strether a second.  I wish Gussie had got a first.  I say, my
father will be pleased.  How many?  Oh there were only five given, out
of a hundred and thirty, I think.  You know I never could have written
a decent line if it hadn't been for you.  As it was I thought that
Special Period would dish me.  I say--does it sound beastly?--I'm most
glad of all for one thing.  Whatever I become, no one will ever be able
to say that if I'd known a little history I'd have been different!"

And so on, disjointedly, as the sense of it soaked in, and thoughts
rose in his mind like bright bubbles--rose and burst.  Tressor
understood it all.  And he liked the way the boy peered at a picture,
picked up a paper-knife and examined it as if it were something rare,
looked out at the roses, shot a questioning glance at him, and so on.
All these things were so many signposts to the eager mind.  Tressor
felt again his own keen interest as to what that mind would do.  And so
he had at last asked his question.  "Well," he had said, "and what's
the next move?"

"Ah!" said Paul, and leant up against the open window-frame all at
once, very still.

"I'm only twenty-one," he said at last.

Tressor turned the statement over.  Then he understood.  "Two years
before you can be ordained," he said.

"Yes, thank God," said Paul, sincerely.

"Oh! Has it come to that?"

Paul's restlessness fell on him again, like a mantle.  He straightened
himself, thrust his hands into his pockets, looked round, and flung
himself into a chair.  "I suppose I've known it all the term," he said,
"but I've never realised it till now."

Tressor laid down his pen and leaned back.  He was frankly curious.
The term had been so busy for both of them that this was the first
vital conversation, although, at odd intervals, he had thought a good
deal about the boy.  Thus he knew of the visit to Thurloe End, but not
of any details.  He knew of conflicts, not of decisions, if there had
been any.

"Yes," said Paul, "it has.  I know one thing.  I cannot be ordained in
the Church of England unless my mind changes a great deal between this
and then."

"That is odd to me," said Tressor meditatively.  "That is one of the
things I could do."

"You?"

"Yes.  The Anglican ministry stands for an orderly, decent, restrained
religious profession, but it does not commit the priest to dogmatic
extravagance."

"I see," said Paul.  "The Church of England appeals to you on those
grounds exactly which make it impossible for me, at least as yet."

"But why?  No bishop would refuse you on account of moderation."

"Quite so.  But the Apostle had a word to say on that to the Church of
Laodicea."

Tressor frowned slightly.  He disliked Paul in that mood.  "Surely you
see now," he said, "that you cannot determine the universe by a single
text."

Paul threw his leg over the arm of his chair.  "That is precisely what
I do see," he said.  "I'm one immense note of interrogation."

The don smiled.  "That's admirable, anyway, and that, I suppose, blocks
Rome.  I'm unfeignedly glad.  I confess I saw you go to Thurloe End
with some fear.  You're impressionable, and Father Vassall has a
magnetic personality."

A shadow gathered in Paul's face, gathered and deepened.  "But I played
the coward there," he said.

"Tell me," said Tressor, "if you can, that is."

"I'd like to."  Paul was emphatic.  Also the thing was very vivid to
him and had lost nothing in retrospection.  His hearer saw the
situation as he unfolded it, saw it almost as vividly as Paul had seen
it, but his wonder grew almost more quickly than his interest.  He
found himself scarcely listening, impatient of the final details.  "So
you see," concluded Paul, "I was afraid to pray.  I knew that if I gave
way an inch I should give way altogether.  And in the end, I--I fled."
There was death in his voice.

"Well," retorted Tressor, "I congratulate you with all my heart.
Honestly, Paul, I did not think you had so much in you.  Really, you
interest me enormously."

"What!" cried the genuinely astonished Paul.

"Of course.  The whole thing was consummate staged emotionalism.  And
you came through it, and Vassall's overwhelming hypnotic personality,
by the sheer force of your own will.  No, honestly, I never dreamed you
had it in you.  I am most extraordinarily glad."

Paul returned his leg to a normal position.  He stared at the speaker
for appreciable seconds without a word.  Then he laughed.  "Well," he
said, "well----  And of course you may be right."

"I should say there can be no room for doubt....  But, if that's Rome,
why not the Church of England?  Orders and a fellowship--writing,
lecturing, preaching.  It would suit you admirably."

"It would not," retorted Paul decisively.  "I should never be content.
Besides, what should I preach?  For what should I stand?  I cannot see
the Bible without the Gospel, and I can preach, in Christ's name,
nothing but that."

The don knit his brows.  "Then what's the matter with an evangelical
ministry?"

Paul jumped up.  He prowled about restlessly.  Suddenly he made a
couple of gestures, one to the well-lined shelves, the other to the
garden.  "That and that," he said.

"I'm afraid you go beyond me," said Tressor politely.

"Oh, I say, I'm sorry," cried Paul.  "But--but--can't you see?
Doubtless it's sheer presumption, but evangelicalism seems to me
utterly divorced from reason and knowledge.  It has no logical basis at
all.  Rome may be wrong, but it's logical.  It's a conceivable theory.
Evangelical Protestantism just won't _do_....  Look here, the Church
might be infallible, divine.  It's just possible.  I don't _know_ ...
but it's _possible_.  But the Bible is not infallible--we know
that--and what is more, it would be useless if it were without an
explicit interpretation.  That's certain, final."

Tressor glanced at his correspondence.  He ought to attend to it, but,
on the other hand, an idea was forming in his mind.  The more he
thought of it, the more he liked it.  The letters might wait.  He got
up and moved over towards the bookshelves.  Paul, behind him, went on
abstractedly.

"And then there's the other reason.  That seems to me less honourable,
less convincing, but--I can't help it--it's overpowering.  Put it like
this.  Could I possibly put on the scarlet jersey of the Salvation Army
and follow the band?  _Could_ I?  Well, I couldn't.  That--that's an
insult to--to beauty, a blasphemy against--against--oh, I don't
know--against a summer's day, I think.  And an evangelical ministry
means a red jersey, you know--or something like it.  The Mission Hall,
for example; the Religious Tract Society....  I say, am I a--a damned
fool?"

Tressor had taken a little book off the shelves, and was half
mechanically turning the leaves.  Immature, of course, weak in places,
but----  He put it back.

"Eh?" he queried, smiling.  "A red jersey?  No, I rather agree.  But
the morning's going.  Where are you lunching?  Have some with me?"

"I'd love to," said Paul.

"Right.  Give me half an hour for these letters.  And at luncheon I'll
tell you what's come into my head."  He smiled, affectionately.

"Thanks," said Paul, getting up.  Then he remembered his First again,
overwhelmingly.  "I think I'll just go and see," he said boyishly,
"whether there are any telegrams for me."

Tressor turned to his desk.  "Do," he said.  "One o'clock."



(2)

Paul walked across the Second Court whistling.  In the screens he met
Strether.  "There's only one other first," growled his friend.
"Judson.  Shows what egregious asses the examiners were."

Paul hit him in the ribs.  "Where is he?" he demanded.  "I must go and
congratulate him."

"He's in the garden, reading telegrams.  I believe there are some for
you.  It's a sickening sight, but I'll come with you if you like."

Paul took his arm and they marched off.  "I'm sorry you didn't get one,
Gussie," he said.  "You deserved it."

The other snorted.  "Rot," he grunted.  "Never stood a look in.  Lucky
to get a second.  But I always thought you'd score."

Between the First Court and the river, under the chestnuts, were a
couple of deck-chairs and a rug.  Judson in flannels sprawled there,
with Hannam, Donaldson and one or two others.  Somebody tossed Paul
half a dozen orange envelopes.  He threw himself down, and tore them
open.  Mr. Kestern wired that he and Mrs. Kestern were coming up
to-morrow.  Then an uncle had wired, and a grandfather.  Mr. Ernest
also.  There was one from school, and that intrigued Paul.  It was
jolly to think that the Head and the rest of them had been expecting
the occasion, thinking of it, caring.  Pleasant, too, that he had
conferred honour on the school.  He stared out at the shining river,
and saw the old hall, the cut and mutilated forms, the honour boards,
the dais, the rows of shuffling schoolboys, and himself amongst them.
Announcements were made after prayers.  To-morrow, probably, then, the
Head would say precisely: "I am sure the school will be glad to learn
that Paul Kestern, who went up to St. Mary's, Cambridge, in ... has
..."  The school would cheer, sensing a possible half-holiday in
connection therewith.  Well, he'd look in next month, towards the end
of July, and then----  It was really rather pleasant.

He reached for the last telegram, speculating idly who had sent it.  He
could not know that Mr. Kestern had told the news to every possible
person in the street as he himself went to the post office.  "I'm so
glad--Edith," he read.

He read it again and again.  He glanced up covertly at the others.
Then he folded the thin paper, slipped it back in its envelope,
stretched himself out at full length and stared up into the blue sky.
Fragments of conversation from the men about him drifted in and out of
his mind, and now and again he had to respond to a remark addressed
point-blank to him.  He was still pleasantly aware of achievement and
pride that must be hid.  But he was wrestling all the while with an
enigma.

He had seen the girl once only after his visit to Thurloe End, during
the brief week-end of the vacation that he had spent at home.  They had
walked deviously home from Sunday evening service, and he had poured
out his heart to her.  He had been full of the contrast between Claxted
and Thurloe End, as well as the growing impossibility he was
experiencing in these occasional returns to service in the evangelical
atmosphere.  There had been reaction, too, in his outlook after the
relief of escape from Father Vassall, and what with one thing and
another he had been meditating--he spoke to her as if he were
meditating--a return and a surrender.  And she had astounded him: she
had utterly refrained from suggesting that he should not do so.  Indeed
she had done more; she had brought to bear upon the problem the mind
of, as it were, a Claxted Catholic, though, since nothing had as yet
come of it, she had said nothing of her visit to St. Patrick's.

The witchery of Thurloe End had been meaningless to her.  Claxted was
still to her dear and simple.  She saw nothing whatever to alter in her
own home or in his.  Barns, and shrines, and carven shields, merely
bewildered her.  He had felt, as he talked, that so far as externals
went, she would have preferred the incandescent lights in rows, the red
drugget and the pitch-pine of the Mission Hall.  Perfectly simply,
then, she had said:

"Paul, dear, if Jesus calls you, you must do what He says."

Parrot-like, he had answered her with the old cry: "But I don't know!"

He could feel now her fingers on his arm, clutching a little more
tightly.  "Don't, Paul," she had said.  "It seems to me quite plain.
Jesus doesn't hide Himself.  He speaks plainly enough in our hearts,
and you--you 'know His voice.'"

He had stared hard at her in the light of a street lamp as they passed:
the firm little face rather sedate; the precise, neat dress; her gloved
hand; the little hymn and prayer book she carried which he had given
her, surreptitiously.  Intuitively he saw that she belonged to Claxted;
yes, though he knew that he had modified her views not a little,
Claxted was bone of her bone and flesh of her flesh.  Life was
amazingly simple to her.  She might question the form in which the
things of religion reached her--the authority of Christ, His presence
in the Sacrament; she might become High Church in practice; but nothing
in Claxted rubbed her up the wrong way.  And he saw suddenly just what
it meant that her home was in Edward Street and her father a
photographer.  She was unobtrusive, trim, conventional.  He had wanted
to seize her almost roughly, shake her, drag her out, and he had not
been able to do it at all because she would not have understood the
first syllable of explanation.  Come to that, did he?  Perhaps, that
very day, he had come to see more plainly the point.  The scarlet
jersey--well, it was just a scarlet jersey to Edith Thornton.  You put
it on, if Christ said so.  Why not?

Lying there then, in the flush of success, blue shining sky above,
clear shining river hard by, her words in his pocket, no, in his heart,
Paul nevertheless saw a shadow athwart the sky.  He had known long that
an impermeable curtain was slowly dropping between him and his people;
he had known that their very voices sounded odd--familiar, arrestingly
familiar, but as those who speak another tongue; and he had known that
the change lay in him and not in them.  There were notes in the past
that no longer struck response, that reached him muffled, through the
curtain.  And he saw plainly enough that Edith belonged to that side.

There was a shadow then even on this bright day.  He loved her so.  One
moment, was it quite that?  Was it not rather that he wanted to love
her so much, wanted that they should speak and walk together, and knew
they could not?  Inexorably, hate it as he might, the irresistible
tides were sweeping them apart.  He was being moved on and out, protest
as he would and did.  Yet he could not protest altogether as he would,
for his very heart was shaken.  There was a "war in his members"--the
old, old phrase rose unbidden in his mind.  And, serene and far as that
blue sky, God seemed to be.

Thus a thoughtful Paul went in to luncheon, yet wholly unaware of the
new flood that was even then gathering to its height and was about to
overmaster him.  For a while the two talked inconsequently, on small
things.  Then, when the coffee was on the table, Tressor reopened the
conversation of the morning.

"So, honestly, you don't quite know what to do next?"

"No.  But I suppose I shall teach for a year or two, if possible do
some private coaching.  I must earn money; I shall have to say no
definitely to the theological college next year, not this."

"Literature?"

"Well, of course, wherever I am I shall write.  I can't help it.  But
could I make a living with my pen?  I don't suppose so, and I can't ask
my father for money.  And even if I could, I doubt awfully if I could
do occasional journalism."

Tressor shook his head emphatically.  "Don't try," he said.  "It's an
impossibility for you, I should say--not your line at all."

Paul suddenly realised what a problem he was up against.  He sighed.
"It's awfully hard," he said.  "I suppose I must teach."

"No," said Tressor, "not yet anyway.  I want you to give your own
literary taste a chance.  Write poetry.  Do another play--more
carefully this time."

Paul smiled ruefully.  In the Lent Term he had had an inspiration.
Dropping his reading, cutting his lectures, burying himself in his
rooms, he had begun and written a play.  And Tressor had lectured him
for the first, threatened dire things for the second, and finally and
utterly turned down the last.

"I'd love to," said Paul, "but--I couldn't write a line in Claxted
anyway."

"I know," said Tressor equably.  "I don't suppose you could, and I'm
not suggesting it.  But what about Fordham?"

"Fordham?" queried Paul, puzzled.

The other nodded.  "Fordham--my house."

"But--but----"

"Yes; as you know, I have a house to which I go occasionally.  My
friends sometimes consider it an unnecessary luxury since I'm only
there two or three times a year.  But it's rather a nice house, and it
wants living in.  It would do it good to have someone living in it and
looking after it a little.  There are some cottages, and some rough
shooting, and a garden.  I bought the place because of the garden;
you'd like it.  You might write poetry in it, and a play, or half a
dozen, seeing how quickly you write.  What do you say?"

He had talked slowly on to give Paul time.  The boy's face was a study.
Even then, he hardly took it in.

"Do you mean go--go--as your--your guest?" he stammered.

"No," said Tressor, "not exactly as my guest.  Have some more coffee?
You see, I want you to do some work.  Go as my agent, let us say.  My
housekeeper will look after you, and be glad of it, and I'll give you a
small salary.  You'll keep yourself, and, I think, you'll write.  To be
honest, I think you'll write well."

"Oh, I say!" cried Paul, only when it came to the point he had nothing
to say.

"I take it that's settled then?"

Words came with a rush.  "I'd like it more than anything on earth.  It
would be absolutely too good to be true.  I can't thank you enough.
I--I----"

"Right, then.  Thank me by writing good poetry.  By the way, Manning is
coming down with me in August; do you think you could join us, and
remain on?"

"I must consult my father, of course," said Paul, "but I'm certain I
can say yes.  How perfectly too glorious.  Oh, I say, you're just too
good to me, sir."

"Let's go and smoke a cigarette in the Fellows' Garden."

On the way Paul remembered that another Children's Special Service
Mission had been in the air for that August.  Dick Hartley had urged
it.  Well, it was no longer in the air.



(3)

Paul met his parents on the station platform.  Mr. Kestern shook his
hand firmly; his mother kissed him with tears of pride in her eyes.
"Oh, Paul," she whispered, "I'm so glad.  Father's just delighted."

"The Lord has given you brains, sonnie," said the clergyman.  "I pray
that you will use them always in His service."

"Yes, father," said Paul.  "I say, I've such news for you."

"So have we, Paul," said Mrs. Kestern.  "Madeline and Mr. Ernest are
coming up to see you take your degree."

"Are they?  How jolly!  We'll have a picnic up the river.  But you'll
never guess what I've got to tell you.  Wait till we're in the cab.
Porter, lend a hand with these traps, will you?  I've got rooms for you
quite near St. Mary's, mother."

"Yes, dear.  Oh, Paul, I can't believe you're grown up!  It's so funny
to have my little son taking rooms for me."

Paul took her arm.  "But, mater dear, I wish you would remember how old
I am."

Mrs. Kestern sighed.  "We don't want to lose you, dear," she said
wistfully.

They were on thin ice, he thought.  "Come on, this way.  That cab will
do for us.  In you get, mother."

"Well, Paul, and what's the great news?" asked his father as they drove
off.

Paul studied his face.  He could not tell how he would take it.  He
would be disappointed, but he might be rather proud.  Anyway, he must
plunge.

"Mr. Tressor, father, wants me to go down to Fordham, nominally as his
agent, really to have a year at least in which to write.  He thinks I
shall be able to do some good stuff.  It will cost me nothing; he will
even give me a small salary; and I shall really and truly be able to
write at last."

"Paul!" cried his mother, and glanced swiftly at his father.

His father was not looking at him.  "I take it, then," he said, "that
this project--possibility--of joining the Church of Rome, is
postponed--indefinitely?"

"Yes," replied Paul, suddenly astonished.

"Thank God," said Mr. Kestern, "thank God."  (He paused a second,
swallowing in his throat.)  "May I be forgiven for doubting that our
Lord ever failed to hear and answer prayer."

A little burst of anger flashed in Paul's heart.  "At Thurloe End," he
said, "I should have become a Roman Catholic if--if----"  He remembered
Tressor's comment, and stopped.  If!  If what?  His mother supplied a
further example of the diverse possible interpretations of that
incident.

"Oh, my son," she said, "you will never know how your father agonised
in prayer for you.  All the time you were in that terrible place----"

"That will do, mother," put in Mr. Kestern quickly.  "The lad has been
saved, as it were, out of the mouth of the lion.  That is enough.
Thank God, thank God.  And when do you go to Fordham, Paul?"

Enthusiasm had died in the boy.  "In August, father," he said heavily.

"For a year, Paul?  You will be able to go to Ridley Hall afterwards?"

"I don't know, mother.  Or at least----  It all depends, anyway."

"Mr. Tressor must take a great interest in you, dear.  Shall we meet
him?  Your father and I would like to thank him for his great kindness
to our boy."

"He is coming to lunch," said Paul.  "Mrs. Roper is probably getting it
ready now.  Manning and Strether are coming too.  It'll be a bit of a
tight fit, but I think we can all squeeze in somehow."

It was two years since his parents had last been in his rooms.  His
father's first look was for the text.  It hung there still, Paul having
stubbornly refused to take it down.  The man remembered that first
prayer, and again saw the hand of God upon him for good.  Then he
espied the writing-desk; by this time it was a crucifix that hung
there.  He looked quickly away; it were best to say nothing.  His wife
took that cue from him.  Besides, she had eyes for the oar that hung
immense the length of the wall.  "Is that your oar, dear?" she asked.
"Did you row with it?"

Paul smiled.  "No, mummie," he said with affectionate raillery, "I used
it for a walking-stick."

She glanced at him incredulously.  Then smiled.  "You shouldn't laugh
at me," she said.  "Paul, where did you get the pictures!"

She was examining his prints.  "Do you like them, mother?" he asked
proudly.

"Fairly, Paul.  But I think I liked those dogs you had best.  You
always were an odd boy.  Do you remember your doves, and your newts?
Nasty things."

He laughed outright.  "Oh, mother," he said, "my poor prints!  But I've
got the Landseers stored in the Gyp-room and I'll bring them home for
you."

"Thank you, dear.  I think they'd do nicely in your old bedroom, and
they'll remind you of college when you come home."

Paul was not required to answer.  Manning knocked, came in, and was
introduced.

The days that followed were unforgettable.  For one thing, they were to
be the last in the old town and each one had to be savoured to the
full.  For another, only a few men, waiting for degrees, were up, and
Paul had to take his people through colleges and churches and chapels
that were not wholly deserted, but in which, nevertheless, beauty
reigned supreme in unaccustomed silence.  He had a new pride in lawn
and court and hall.  In a little, he was to be a part of the ancient
place, an admitted son, and a son, moreover, who could, so to speak,
look his foster-mother fairly in the face.  Each separate street and
building, too, held a remembered association.  It was odd to recall how
he had peered through the gate of Christ's and wondered if it were St.
Mary's; wandered through Trinity, not quite sure that he had a right to
be there; bought his first cake in that little grocer's; swept, one rag
night, triumphantly down Pety Cury in a hurrying host with proctors
hard in the rear.  Then he had to show the Henry Martyn Hall, Parker's
Piece, St. Saviour's, and he even dared greatly and pointed out the
creeper-fronted Catholic presbytery.

Besides, the days gave him a new intimacy with his parents.  A barrier
had gone, now that the spectre of the Scarlet Woman no longer peeped
out of every conversation.  Also the furnishings of Claxted at least
were not here.  His father, it is true, occasionally probed him to see
how far the original impulse to take Anglican Orders really remained,
but the thrusts were easily parried.  His mother was more of a
difficulty.  In Great St. Mary's she had laid a hand on his arm.  "I
wonder if I shall ever see my son preach in that pulpit," she said
wistfully.

Paul had no heart to shatter her dream.  "I wonder," he replied
lightly.  But he knew that he did not.

The Ernests came up the day before the great occasion.  In the
afternoon, the five of them went to a tea garden on the Upper River.
Paul refrained from asking any other men for two reasons: for one,
there was no one up, unless it were Strether, who would mix with his
father and Mr. Ernest; for the other it was rather a wonderful Madeline
that he met on the station platform.  He never guessed how
perseveringly the visit and the garnishings had been schemed for,
planned and prepared.  He only knew that she wore an amazingly simple
frock and a big hat from whose shade the regular beauty of her face
looked out at him.  In the shaded sunlight, her big eyes, under the
dark lashes striking and unusual in so fair a blonde, laughed up at
his.  "I say, Paul," she said, "you've no idea how proud we are of you."

"Don't," he cried, "you'll make me horribly nervous."

"Rubbish, you never are," she challenged.  But it was not that that
made her look away content.

Strether saw them together, and found occasion to make enquiries in his
own fashion.  "Who's the girl?" he growled.

Paul told him, gaily.

"Humph!  Disgustin'.  Better tell her there's no vicar's wife job going
beggin'."

"You old ass," said Paul.

But he told her, all the same.  After tea, the elders sat on in the
dappled shade, and Paul dug out a punt and put the girl into it.  They
floated gently into "Paradise," and he pulled in under a spreading
tree.  "By Jove, it's hot," he said.  "I think we'll lay up, if you
don't mind."

"Of course.  Come and sit down."  She moved her skirt and shifted a
cushion.  She had no doubt whatever where he was to sit.

He threw himself down beside her.  "May I smoke?" he asked.  Claxted
seemed impossibly far.

"Of course.  I love it, you know.  I don't see why you shouldn't."

He tapped his cigarette on his case.  "No," he said vaguely.  It was so
trifling an incident, but it was one among many.  Madeline at Cambridge
was, somehow, a new Madeline.  He was aware how much he liked the
change, and he resolved to take Strether's advice.

"Do you know what I'm going to do next year?" he asked.

"No.  Ridley?"

He told her.

She lay quite still.  Then she heaved a little sigh.  She couldn't help
it.  For one thing, Paul was rather delicious in his collarless shirt
and blazer, the pillar of his throat good to see.  For another, there
was utter charm about them: the soft-flowing river, the whisper of the
water under the punt's stern, the tall trees that met high overhead and
interlaced in their delicate beauty, the bright sunlight on the green
fields and swifter flow yonder, without the brooky tunnel.  And
besides----

"I prayed about it, Paul," she said simply.  She meant it.  In her own
way, she meant it absolutely.  Honestly, too, she was too glad to think
for a moment, as she might have done, that perhaps this was the very
best opening of them all.  Yet, after all, it was not.

"_You_ prayed," queried Paul, frankly astonished.

"Yes.  I thought you liked that horrid Father Vassall too much.  I
thought you'd become a Roman Catholic as sure as fate.  Mother said----
But never mind.  You won't now anyway.  Oh, Paul, will you write a real
play?"

"Look here," he said grimly, "I don't suppose I'll ever be a parson."

"Of course not.  You can do much bett----  No," (she was very honest)
"that's not right.  I admire clergymen ever so much.  But you know,
Paul, almost anyone can be a clergyman."

"Can they?  Yes, I suppose you're right.  It looks rather like it
anyway."

"Of course they can.  Ethel Cator's brother is going to be a clergyman;
you know him: he sings rather nicely.  But just fancy writing a play!
Paul, I don't care what they say at Claxted: you must give me a box the
first night."

Paul suddenly thought he would.

She looked up at him dreamily.  "You might even be an actor yourself,"
she said.  "Do you remember those charades that Christmas at the
Gators'?"  Then a trifle hastily: "Talking of them reminds me."

She had taken off her hat.  Her hair was so much sunshot silk.  And
Paul understood all about the charades at the Gators'.  He had
extemporised the whole affair, scene by scene.  It was the one thing he
loved at parties.  And one scene had been the deck of a ship in the
evening, a piano playing in the background, she in a chair, he, playing
the lover, leaning on the bulwark.  They had played it rather too well,
if anything, though the Gators were not the sort of people, even at
Claxted, to mind.  And afterwards, Paul remembered, they had been
chaffed over it, in a jolly kind of way, and he had been flattered, and
they had gone on playing they were lovers, especially going down to
supper, on the stairs.  It was rather nice of her to remember.

He leant a little towards her.  "I remember," he said, looking down
into her face.

"We shall never see you after you go to Mr. Tressor's."

"You certainly will," he vowed.  "I shall jolly well come.  And I say,
perhaps you and your father might even come to see me, at Fordham."

"Oh," she breathed, "that _would_ be jolly.  But it won't be possible,
you know, unless----"

"Unless what?"

She looked up swiftly, and away.  A spirit moved in Paul, but then,
after all, he was not going to be a parson.  He reached out and took
her hand.  "Unless what?"

She laughed.  "But perhaps you'll come back and preach occasionally at
the Mission Hall," she said.  "The workers will miss you, Paul.  Mr.
Derrick, Albert Vintner and Edith Thornton."

Paul gave no sign, or he thought he did not.  She studied him.  The
temptation to probe a little further was irresistible.  "Miss
Thornton's getting quite High Church," she said.  "Her people are
rather worried about it."

"Well," said Paul, rapidly mastering himself and speaking deliberately
now, "I'm inclined to be High Church myself, come to that.  The
Catholic religion's rather wonderful, Madeline.  Father Vassall thought
I ought to be a Redemptorist."

"What's that?"

"A friar.  A member of the religious order of the Redemptorists.  They
preach missions--a sort of Catholic evangelists."

"Is Father Vassall a Redemptorist?"

"Oh, no.  He's a secular priest."

She nodded.  "Yes, that's it.  _He_ isn't a monk or a friar, but he'd
like you to be one.  I know.  I've heard father talk about it."

Paul detected the sneer.  He was perfectly cool now.  More than that,
he was getting angry.  But he still held her hand, and she noticed
nothing.  "Edith Thornton," he said, "is rather wonderful."

Madeline shifted a little.  "Is she?" she questioned.  "I can't say I
know her very well.  She's full of good works, of course.  I expect
she'd make a splendid wife for a curate.  She'd rather like to marry a
clergyman, Paul."

"Wouldn't you, Madeline?"

She smiled slowly.  "I think I'd rather marry a--a----"

For the life of him he couldn't help it.  "An actor, perhaps," he said,
"or an author."

She flushed.  "I don't know," she said in an undertone.

He laughed suddenly.  "Well, Madeline," he said, "I'll remember.  I
expect I'll be able to introduce you to ever so many.  And I'm sure
they'd want to marry you anyway.  There'll be no need to pray about
that."

He let go her hand and stood up.  "By Jove," he said, "I think we ought
to be getting back."



(4)

So, then, the great day came and went.  Scarlet splashed the streets.
Self-conscious young men moved about them in rabbit-skin hoods and
undergraduate gowns and fluttering bows of white, girls walked beside
them in conscious surrender of one day at any rate to superior claims,
and parents brooded majestically in the background.  The files of
neophytes lined up on the crowded floor of the Senate House in an
atmosphere of subdued whispering talk, peering over heads and round
shoulders in an endeavour to see what was going forward at the far end.
One had occasional glimpses of a rather bored-looking personage in
robes on a raised chair, dons with sheafs of papers in the vicinity,
and some young man or another kneeling in stiff self-consciousness.
Other colleges' undergraduates went up, applauded by compatriots,
disdained by the rest.  Paul was vividly rejoiced that he came from St.
Mary's and not from Emmanuel or Cats.; an Emmanuel rowing-blue,
arriving a little late, shouldered past him with a glance that shouted
aloud the absurdity of those half-dozen St. Mary's men.  An usher gave
them their signal.  Paul found himself in a cleared space, and saw
Tressor looming large on its edge.  He was aware that he had to kneel
in a feudal attitude and that the Vice-Chancellor was murmuring Latin.
The indifference of the majority about him made the whole ceremony
oddly impersonal.  And now they were all out again, and there was the
façade of the Library, and the buttresses of King's Chapel, looking
stained and grey against a grey sky.

That evening, Paul had an odd encounter.  He had seen his people to
their rooms, and, returning, hesitated to ring the bell and enter
college.  It had become a jolly night of stars, with a fleeting mist on
the river, and he was going down for good the very next day.  He
thought he would walk through the old town for the last time, in the
ways he had walked so many times during the past three years, his mind
in a whirl of thought.  So he strolled over the bridge, and down past
spectral St. Laurence's, and round the corner by portentous John's, and
so on to Trinity.  And as he drew near to Trinity, the sound of bolts
being withdrawn in the great gateway came to his ears in the stillness.

The door opened, and a tall figure emerged.  "Good-night, my lord,"
said the porter's voice, subservient, deferential.

"Good-night," replied the other cheerfully, and strode briskly forward.

Paul smiled to himself.  When the black-gaitered figure came abreast,
he, too, spoke.  "Good evening, my lord," he said.

The Bishop of Mozambique halted and stared through the night at his
interlocutor curiously.  "Good evening," he said.  "I fear I don't
recognise you."

"Naturally," said Paul.  "Do you remember a railway carriage?"

"What!  The sampler of Keswick Conventions and Wesleyan--was
it?--Conferences.  A rather dogmatic and assertive young man, if I
remember rightly.  Of course.  How are you?"

"Very well, thanks.  I've stayed up to take my degree."

"Good.  Congratulations.  What class did you get?"

Paul told him.

"Splendid," said the other, looking down more closely.  "And now what's
the next move?  Have you made up your mind yet?  How's Father Vassall?"

Paul was wide awake and in a state of mental exaltation.  The other's
voice was kindly and cheerful, and somehow invited confidences.  He
thought rapidly, that, after all, here was an adviser to hand whose
point of view would be interesting hearing.  Probably they would never
meet again, and instinctively he knew that this big, almost boyish
bishop would spare him five minutes and respect his confession.
Moreover, though the Bishop of Mozambique could hardly be said to be in
any way representative of the Church of England, at any rate he was an
Anglican bishop with authority and Paul was still of his communion.

It was a rapid and impulsive decision, but once made, he acted
immediately upon it.  "Are you in a hurry?" he asked.

"Not particularly," said the Bishop, "but I'm lodging at Selwyn and
must get back pretty soon."

"May I walk up with you?  I wanted a stroll.  It's my last Cambridge
night, and it would be jolly through the Backs."

"Delighted.  Shall we get on?"

They paced off together, a few steps in silence.  Then Paul explained.

"I've decided what to do, temporarily at least.  It doesn't matter what
just now, but it means a rejection of Orders, for a time at any rate,
and also of the Church of Rome.  Now I came to that conclusion at
Father Vassall's house down at Thurloe End last vac., but it has
troubled me, more or less, ever since.  I've heard several opinions
upon it, none of which agree with my own, and I'd very much like yours.
You see, you're the only bishop I know, and--and--you're Church of
England too."

The big man laughed.  "Excellent," he said.  "'I'm Church of England
too.'  Well, well....  But I suppose I am, and if I can do anything
I'll be delighted.  Not particularly for that reason though."

Paul sensed humour, but he could not see it.  The other's voice,
however, was very friendly.  And when the Bishop thrust his hand into
his arm and bade him get on with it, he did so.

Once more again, then, this time under the shadowy high trees, as they
paced in the scented dark past Fellows' gardens and placid sleeping
lawns, Paul told of his conflict in the little chapel.  The Bishop
heard him very gravely.  He asked a question or two as the story was
told, but for the most part heard in silence.  And when the boy
finished, they walked a good hundred yards before he spoke.  Then,
looking straight before him, weightily, gently, he delivered his
verdict.

"Kestern," he said, "I will tell you what I think, and I am pretty sure
of it because, though I've seen so little of you, I feel fairly sure of
you.  I believe you love our Lord with all your heart.  I believe you
wish to serve Him.  And therefore I can tell you what I think of that
experience in the chapel."

Paul said nothing.  Perhaps the other waited for him to speak, perhaps
he did not.  At any rate, at last he spoke again.  Indirectly he passed
his judgment.  "'He shall give His angels charge concerning thee'," he
quoted, "'to keep thee in all thy ways.'"

And once more Paul could not believe his ears.

In silence the two finished their walk.  They stood for a few minutes
outside of Selwyn Lodge, the tall big man looking into the boy's face
with oddly troubled eyes.  "But----" he said at last.  He broke off
abruptly.  "I won't say it," he said.  "It's not my job.  You've asked
me one thing, and given me one confidence; I can say no more.  You must
settle your own life."

"That's what Father Vassall says," put in Paul.

The other nodded.  "He knows, of course," he said, as one professional
might speak of another.  "But look here: we could do with you in
Mozambique if you care to come."

Paul was interiorly shaken by that more than a little.  It was so
sudden.  In a flash, he saw a path before his feet.  A clergyman, a
missionary; not quite as he had imagined, but suppose the Bishop, after
all, were right?  Catholicism without the Pope, Catholicism in a sense
with a kindlier, less definite cross.  Fordham suddenly menaced him.
What if it meant, well, well--betrayal, a cleverly hid, intriguing,
attractive scheme, but betrayal.  He hesitated.

"Think it over," said the Bishop.

He did not, could not know, of course, but the word tipped the scale.
Think!  Paul had thought till he could think no more.  For a while he
was done with thought.  Fordham meant a year's rest, a year's solace.

"Thank you ever so much," he said.  "I won't forget it.  And thanks
awfully for hearing me.  But I'm booked for a year at least.  Good-bye."

"Good-bye," said the Bishop.  "God bless you."

Paul walked off to St. Mary's alone, if a man who walks with a thousand
fears, doubts, desires, hopes and loves legioned in his heart, ever
walks alone.

In the morning he breakfasted with Manning.  His friend was
enthusiastic over the possibility of Fordham, and utterly and wholly
delighted.  He himself, having spent a fourth year in research work,
was off to Central Africa in September to shoot big game and
incidentally study tropical medicine, but he would see Paul at the
Manor before he went.  He was an odd mixture, and Paul rather envied
him.  Money, or the lack of it, did not hamper him; in his own subject,
he was distinctly brilliant; yet his science was a plaything in his
life.  He did not sit lightly to the serious subjects that worried
Paul, but he rode them on the curb with easy mastery.  Paul was
increasingly aware that he wanted, nowadays, to talk to Manning.

Thus, then, that the second post and not the first brought him his
letter, mattered not a little--perhaps.


"MY DEAR" (Father Vassall wrote),

"I'll be quite honest; I don't like it.  It seems to me that you are
going down to Fordham as Jonah took ship for Tarshish.  God grant
there's a storm--and a whale!  I shall pray for it anyway, so look out.
Of course, after your visit here, I've no right to judge, for I believe
you did not play tricks.  But it beats me....  Honestly, I'd rather,
far rather, hear that you were going to be a PROTESTANT CLERGYMAN!

"However, I'm here if you want me."


Paul, Mr. and Mrs. Kestern, Mr. Ernest and Madeline caught the 11.20 to
town.  They were all a bit subdued, especially Madeline.



CHAPTER IX

FORDHAM

  Foot after foot ye go back and travail and make yourselves mad;
  Blind feet that feel for the track where highway is none to be had.
  Therefore the God that ye make you is grievous, and gives not aid,
  Because it is but for your sake that the God of your making is made.

  * * * * *

  Cry out, for his kingdom is shaken; cry out, for the people
          blaspheme;
  Cry aloud till his godhead awaken; what doth he to sleep and
          to dream?
  Is not this the great God of your sires, that with souls and with
          bodies was fed,
  And the world was on flame with his fires?  O fools, he was God,
          and is dead.
                      ALGERNON CHARLES SWINBURNE: _Hymn of Man_.

Le silence éternel de ces espaces infinis m'effraie.--PASCAL: _Pensées_.

  And that inverted Bowl we call the Sky,
  Whereunder crawling coop't we live and die,
    Lift not thy hands to It for help--for It
  Rolls impotently on as Thou or I.
                                  OMAR KHAYYÁM.



(1)

Ursula Manning stared out at the rods of rain.  Chanctonbury Ring was
all but blotted out; she could just see the crown of beeches when the
mists were blown aside for a few moments, and that was all.  The woods
below stood heavy and motionless, and the fields between them and the
cottage lay stretched out, drinking it in.  It had been a hot dry
summer, and the whole world was rejoicing in the rain.  That decided
Ursula.  She turned back into the bedroom, opened a wardrobe, and took
out an old tweed skirt and jumper.  Then she took off most of her
clothes and assumed these.  She let down her hair, twisted it into a
long black plait, tied it firmly, and swung the heavy mass over her
shoulder with a defiant jerk.  Then, bareheaded, she went downstairs
humming a little song, and selected a stick in the hall.  She looked
about eighteen, dressed so.

Her mother came out of the sitting-room.  "Ursula," she cried, "you're
not going out!"

"Yes, mother, I am.  Why not?  The rain's heavenly, and the woods have
spread out their hands to it.  And I want to get soaked."

The elder lady stood irresolute, a ludicrous expression of dismay in
her face.  The girl looked at her and laughed.  "Oh, mother," she
cried, "say it if it's any help!"

Mrs. Manning, at that, smiled ruefully.  "Ursula," she said, "it's all
very well, but you are trying.  You'll probably catch your death of
cold."

Ursula opened the door and stepped into the porch.  She looked up into
the leaden sky and down at the runnels of water on either side of the
little garden path to the gate.  Then she glanced back at her mother,
smiled at her, waved her hand, and stepped into the downpour without a
word.

Her mother gave a little scream.  "Ursula!  Where's your mac.?"  The
muffled click of the latch at the gate answered her.

It opened into a little lane that ran down on the left to a main road
and up on the right towards the woods below Chanctonbury.  Up this
then, she went, swinging her stick, swinging out.  The rain fell
steadily around and upon her, and ever and again she lifted her face to
it and smiled slowly to herself at the kiss and sting of it.  In a
little the winding track became a mere footpath and debouched into an
old chalk-quarry, cut from the side of the hill, fringed with immense
beech-trees and an occasional oak.  The girl ran a few steps up a
sodden low bank and stood for a moment looking down into the great
bowl.  A continual patter and sough of rain came up to her, though
here, under the giant trees, less of the actual downpour reached her.
The white chalk shone through the misty air.  A miniature torrent
poured as a little waterfall over the far brink and splashed below on
to bushes and brambles.  A warm, rich, wet fragrance rose all about
her, and every living green thing seemed stretched out and motionless
in an utter ecstasy of enjoyment.

The girl drew a deep breath.  Unconsciously, she was registering it
all.  All the grey monotones, all the myriad little drips and
splashings, all the washed leaves and grasses around and underfoot, and
all the tall upreaching brown trunks that rose against the teeming sky,
were impressing themselves upon her mind.  She knew it as an instinct
and stood there to miss nothing.  And one day Ursula Manning would
paint just such a picture, and people would wonder how she did it, and
the critics talk of her unique gift.

But at the quarry she turned to the left.  The high soaked grasses
reached to her knees; last year's litter of leaves clung to her feet;
sprays of bramble clutched at her short skirt; but she moved slowly and
persistently on.  Her eyes, that looked at you always without a tremor,
glanced quietly right and left as she went.  By field-path and coppice,
and now in a sunken lane that skirted an old wall behind which rose
Fordham Manor, she made her way.  She was drenched through and through,
but it was warm rain, and besides the exercise kept her warm.  The
pores of her skin, like those of the woods and the plants, opened to
the joyous quickening benison of it.  Rain dripped from her plaited
hair and shone on her face.  And still she moved steadily through it,
with the erect carriage and proud swing of her, and those resolute
eager eyes.

Just past the old wall, where it turns to run up to the coach-house and
stables and barns against which fruitful ancient fig-trees grow, she
crossed a field diagonally to her left.  Its boundary hedge was thick
and she moved along to the right seeking an opening.  Not until she was
all but at the corner did she find it, and there, pushing back a tangle
of old man's beard and bryony, she leapt through and out on to the
carriage-drive running by the park up to the house.  And just then a
car turned the corner and swept past her.

There were three men in it besides the driver.  One sat next him, his
hat pulled down, muffled in an overcoat, but she knew him.  Of the
others, one turned and waved cheerfully over the back as the car went
on.  She knew him, too, just as she knew that he was arriving that day
to stay with Mr. Tressor.  The third man she did not know.  She smiled
suddenly to herself.  It was plain they had been caught in the open car
by the sudden storm, driving up from Brighton probably.  What fun!  Her
cousin hated rain.

Manning turned back to Paul.  "My cousin Ursula," he said.  "She lives
just here, when she's not in town.  Possibly you know the name.  She
paints, and has rather a growing reputation."

"Oh," said Paul.  "What in the world was she doing out in this then?
She looked drowned."

"I know.  She loves that sort of thing.  I wonder what you'll think of
her, Paul."

"Why?"

"I don't know.  She's rather unusual.  Not your sort at all I should
imagine.  But--well, I don't know.  It will be rather amusing to see."



(2)

Ursula went on down the drive, her thoughts idle, her appreciation
vivid.  Arrived in the macadamised road of civilisation, she followed
it without giving a thought to the fact that girls, soaked to the skin,
hatless but happy, are rareties along even country roads.  The surface
had been rapidly softening under the downpour, but little she cared for
that either.  Blackberries gleamed scarlet, purple, black in every
hedge; thrushes, in the now gentle rain, were already out on the
war-path for worms; and the sweep of the South Downs on her right was
visible through the dripping trees.  Ursula began to sing to herself as
she went, breaking off to nod friendlily to a carter who knew her, and
picking up her song again without troubling whether or not he was out
of earshot.  That was her way.  She had always seen clearly and scorned
muddle-headed conventionalities; at first, while her father lived and
she was still in her teens, with a certain submission to authority, but
since, after her twenty-first birthday, quite openly and frankly.  Her
mother, who never had had much of a will of her own, gave in to her
daughter as she had to her husband.  Thus, at Ursula's suggestion, they
had taken the old cottage under Chanctonbury on the edge, but actually
part of, Mr. Tressor's estate, and Mrs. Manning had been forced to
admit the advantage of the change from the big establishment which Mr.
Manning had maintained as befitted a banking magnate.  Then, a rather
lonely aunt coming to live with them, the girl had announced her
intention of having a flat and studio in town, and since she had her
own money and moreover made more, nothing in the world was able to
prevent her.  She came and went now between the two, with intervals of
wandering abroad.  She had a big circle of her own acquaintances of
whom her mother knew little, chiefly however, it must be confessed,
because she did not understand more than about a third of what they
said and did when they came down to Sussex with her daughter; but she
had only a few friends.  These her mother knew less than the rest,
retaining enough spirit to avow definitely that she did not want to
know them.  They professed views and took part in movements which were,
frankly, beyond toleration.  There was Muriel Lister, for example, who
preached in churches and actually led a campaign for the admission of
women to the priesthood.

Yet Ursula herself took active part in no movements or campaigns.  On
account of this it was perhaps odd that the leaders of them should be
her friends.  But then a subtle reason underlay that.  For Ursula was
rather a good person to talk to, and a very good person to have coffee
with by night in her studio after the fatigue of committees, inclined,
as is the way of committees, to be a little heavy in hand.  She was
sympathetic, understanding, entirely capable of giving an opinion, but
she did not say much.  Also she was clean-handed, so to speak.  It was
a little irritating, possibly, at times, that she was so resolutely
unimpassioned when a reactionary bishop insulted women or ministers
took back by some Civil Service Regulation what the Removal of Sex
Disabilities Act had given.  But one knew it was Ursula.  And one knew,
moreover, that at a crisis neither bishop nor ministers mattered to her
a toss of her present rain-soaked plait.

For Ursula, with her quiet, good-humoured resolution and her
unquestioned art, not only saw life from an enviable angle, but quietly
acted as if that were the only one from which it should be seen by
reasonable people.  Her cousin had once said of her that she "pressed
towards the goal" with apostolic conviction.  Not that it was a wholly
good definition because, unlike the apostle, she tried to make no
proselytes, seeing the world about her as a very lovely satisfying
thing with which she was content to be satisfied.  Constitutionally,
and from environment, no lost cause had as yet come vividly her way.

Two days later she was introduced to Paul.  Manning and he were doing
the round of the park, Manning with a gun under his arm, Paul,
metaphorically, with a pencil in his hand.  In other words, he was
realising what a lovely place it was.  The wide sweeps of grass, the
clumps of trees, the views of the Downs, and the utter quiet of this
little Sussex backwater were already exercising their magic upon him.
The two of them had come along the northern boundary of the estate and
were now skirting the lake.  It was a wild overgrown place, with
nothing formal about it, a big irregular sheet of water with a tangle
of weeds and lilies at one end and a regiment of great elms closing it
in.  An avenue of limes led from it to the house, an odd avenue that
only appeared as an avenue when you came upon its entrance, suddenly,
in the middle of grassy park-land.  Thus it started nowhere in
particular, and, from a distance, had no particular object, since the
water itself lay low at the far end of it behind a raised bank.  Paul
already loved that.  You wandered down from the garden and saw,
suddenly, the green guarded road of it running away into the park.
Intrigued, you entered, and sauntered carelessly up it.  Then, at quite
a long last, you climbed the slope of the bank and suddenly saw before
you this still enchanted refuge where the fish leaped in the gathering
dusk and white swans sailed friendlily up in the heat of the sun.  Here
and there a fallen trunk lay half in and half out of the water.  In
places there was no coming at the brink for forests of reeds.  But, at
its deepest corner, a promontory of hazels that was almost an island,
thrust out into its serenity.

The friends leaped from stone to tussock and tussock to log and landed.
A suggestion of a path led them through the few yards of undergrowth.
And there, hidden by a screen of green, with the water at her feet, sat
Ursula on the flat prow of a punt.  She was making a little
water-colour, palette in one hand, brush in the other, a little
impressionist study of a pine that stood by himself on the bank
opposite, his brown roots reaching down into the lake.

"Hullo, Ursula," said Manning, "we didn't see you.  Let me introduce
Paul Kestern.  He's going to be a near neighbour, so you've got to know
him."

The girl looked up but did not move.  Paul found himself staring across
a tiny strip of water into clear brown eyes, a pale oval face, and a
frame of black hair, all set on a tall pillar of white throat and neck.
She was wearing a brilliant yellow jumper, without adornment, and a
short blue skirt.  She was long-limbed, and he realised vaguely that
her white bare arms and black stockinged legs were shapely and lissom
and good to see.  "How do you do," he said properly.

"I've seen you before somewhere," she replied.

Paul was puzzled.  He shot a glance at Manning, but he was fiddling
unconcernedly with his gun.  Left to his own resources, he continued to
be polite.

"It's awfully rude of me," he said, "but I'm afraid I don't remember."

"Neither do I," she said.

He smiled.  So did she.  "Let's call it quits," he suggested.

"I'm afraid I must, but I shall hope to remember yet," she retorted
whimsically.

"Possibly it was at Cambridge," suggested Paul.

"Rather not," put in Manning, restoring his piece to his arm, "Ursula
never comes to see me."

"Of course not," she returned equably, "why should I?"

Manning laughed.  They were good friends, these two.  "Why, indeed," he
said, "but you needn't rub it in.  And you might be so nice as to come
and have dinner in the immediate future and make up a four at bridge."

"You must first," she said, "extract a nice note of invitation from Mr.
Tressor, and it must include mother and auntie.  In addition you must
call upon us.  Call this afternoon, and bring Mr. Kestern.  Meantime
you're just a little bit of a nuisance at the moment.  I want to paint."

"Kestern's a poet," remarked Manning gravely.

The girl nodded.  "'_Leaves in Autumn_,'" she said.

Paul flushed.  "You've read it?" he cried excitedly.

She smiled slowly.  "I've even painted it," she said.

"What?"

"Painted it.  That is, there was one poem especially I couldn't forget.
I saw it rather vividly."

"Oh," said Paul, with a deep breath.  Somehow the fact that she knew of
his work and had appreciated it to that extent, seemed to him the
biggest praise that he had had yet.  He could not take his eyes off
her.  "Which one?" he asked at last.

She considered him a moment Then: "I'll show you the sketch," she said,
"and you shall guess which it is meant to illustrate."  She got up as
she spoke and turned round for a case that lay behind her in the punt.

"Oh, do," cried Paul, starting forward.

Manning laughed.  "She's not got it there," he said.

Something in his tone--a faint trace of mockery, it seemed to
Paul--struck them both.  Paul looked guilty of foolishness and the girl
stood arrested.  They both of them looked at Manning.  That instant
pose remained with Paul long afterwards as the key-note of their
meeting.  It was symbolic, somehow, as if Manning would always be
faintly contemptuous of them.  But why, the boy had no idea.

"Well," said Ursula, and she spoke so soon that it was as if there had
been no pause, "I have not, it is true.  I was only going to pack up
because I can paint no more just now, thanks to you, Arnold, you old
rotter.  But I will do more now.  Mr. Kestern, will you walk back with
me, and see your picture?"

"May I?" asked Paul eagerly.

Manning thrust his hand into his arm.  "What about the Mill cottage?"
he asked banteringly.

"Oh, I clean forgot," said Paul, and hesitated.

His friend laughed.  "Good Lord, Paul," he said, "a pretty sort of an
agent you'll make!  I was taking him to see his first job," he
explained.  "Old Morley wants a new roof, or something of that sort.
But, of course, it doesn't matter.  I was only rotting.  We'll walk up
with you, Ursula.  That'll be the call, and on my own responsibility
I'll invite you and my dear aunt in to bridge after dinner this very
day."

"So he's going to be Mr. Tressor's agent," said Ursula, busy over her
painting materials.

"Well," said Paul honestly and a little awkwardly, "it's only an
excuse, I fear."

"Paul's to prove himself a poet," said Manning, "and incidentally to
settle the theory and content of revelation.  Perhaps you'll help him."

"Perhaps," said the girl serenely.  "I hope so."

They strolled back together, Manning in the middle, and it was Manning
who did most of the talking.  He chatted on, occasionally asking a
question, but for the most part taking it for granted, apparently from
experience, that Ursula would listen rather than speak.  Paul, too, was
not much included in the conversation, which concerned the Manning
family and their friends and the girl's work.  Thus he gathered from
the bantering talk a good deal concerning her life here and in London,
her art and her friends.  It interested him profoundly.  She was a new
type altogether in his experience, one of which he had heard rumours,
so to speak, at Claxted (where such strange goings-on were occasionally
mentioned with scandalised horror), but which one would equally fail to
find at Thurloe End or St. Mary's.  Glancing past his friend from time
to time, he watched her face.  She turned her head but little, walking
steadily and silently forward.  But he noticed how she kept her eyes
up, and how she had a trick of staring at a tree or a cloud or a beast
in the lush pasture with a kind of untroubled wonder.  It was easy to
understand that here was an artist.

They came then to the cottage and Paul was introduced to the mother and
aunt.  Ursula stood by while the usual things were said, and then
turned to him.  "Now, Mr. Kestern," she said, "will you come this way?"

Her mother glanced up, but said nothing, and Paul, since no one else
moved, followed her alone.

She led the way upstairs and into a room over the porch, the room from
which she had watched the rain.  It was big and airy and light, half
studio and half bedroom.  The bed itself stood in an alcove, curtained
with a vivid cretonne, blue in the main, on which rioted a bold design
of orange and yellow and scarlet fruit, with apple-blossom and leaves.
The curtain was half drawn, and the still Puritan Paul felt a little
that he ought not to look that way.  Ursula, quite obviously had no
such views at all, for she crossed the room to the alcove, pulled the
curtain yet further back, and sought for a portfolio that lay in a
little recess near the head of the bed.

Paul stood hesitatingly.  He did not quite know what to do.  The girl
called to him over her shoulder.  "Sit down, will you," she said,
"anywhere."

He walked over to a couch by the window and sat down, looking out over
the gay garden to the Downs.  Hollyhocks marched as an army with
banners in a bed beneath the window.  Chanctonbury's crown, clear and
bright in the sunlight to-day, rose into the pale blue sky above.

"What a glorious window-seat," he said, with a little note of content
in his voice.  She threw him a glance, but did not speak.  She was
searching through the portfolio.

"I think," observed Paul meditatively, "I'm the luckiest man alive to
get a chance of a year here."

"Yes?"

"I can't make up my mind what to do, you see," he said.

"I should have thought there was absolutely no doubt."

"No?" queried Paul in genuine astonishment.

"Of course not.  You've got to write great poetry."

"I've also got to live," said Paul, with a flicker of a smile.

"Naturally.  What about it?"

"Well, I've got to earn money."

Ursula found what she was looking for.  "Here it is," she said, coming
over to him.

And then, carrying on the conversation: "I think those of us who can
see and express things, ought to think first of that," she said.
"After all, one lives somehow."

But Paul hardly heard.  He was staring at the little picture, and was
very silent.

She broke the silence.  "Well, can you guess the poem?" she demanded.

"'Spent,'" he whispered, half to himself.

Her silence told him he was correct.  It was the short thing, since
then slightly renamed and improved, that Tressor had, of all he had
written, praised superlatively.  Of all he had written, but, as he
looked at this, astonishment welled up in him.  "But this is not what I
wrote," he said.

It was a picture of dull-red angry sunset tones over a bare stony plain
and a dimly-outlined ragged track.  A solitary figure of a man lay
there, just as he had stumbled forward and fallen at the last step.
The light glowed on his sunburnt nude back, his face in shadow; and on
one other object, for, some short way beyond him, was a dimly-seen
ruined shrine, with the statue of a god, half overthrown.  The stone
effigy reeled insecurely against a broken pillar, and the glow of the
dying sun caught on its upcast face.  The girl had copied some Greek
masterpiece, and there, in that lone waste, as if to mock the beaten
human figure, a regular, perfect, immobile brow and eyes and nose and
lips turned upwards to the sky.  In the fallen man was life, beaten and
despairing, but life; in the fallen god was death, serene and lovely,
but death.

"This is not what I wrote," repeated Paul again.

"But you instantly named it."

"It alone, of the pieces in the book, fitted at all," he said.

"I suspect that was not all.  I should not be in the least surprised if
you had more in your mind than you knew.  Anyway, your spent day struck
me so."

Paul started, and looked at her almost with awe.  He saw it all so
plainly.  He had sat down to write one evening after a dull heavy day
when all the growing doubt and despair in his soul had been surging
around him.  He had written of a dying sun, a barren waste, a wearied
walk, a lost hope; yet he had not seen this--no, no, not this.

"It was an ordinary day," said Paul.

"To you perhaps.  To me it meant a life."

"But it's wrong of life," he said.

She hesitated.  "Speaking generally, I agree," she answered, "but why
do you say so?"

"That fallen god, that empty temple," he urged, suddenly, almost
passionately moved, he could hardly say why.

"I see."  She was quite deliberate.  "I remember what Arnold said.  You
have still an idol in the shrine."

"God," said Paul reverently, "only He is no idol."

"There is no god," said Ursula.

If she had lashed him with a whip, he could not have been more
startled, more outraged.  There, in that sunny window, looking out over
that gay garden, this attractive, striking, interesting girl, for whose
work and thought he had already a youthful generous impulse, had
suddenly blasphemed.  And she had done it so coolly, so unemotionally.
"There is no god," she had said, exactly as if she had passed a
detached criticism on art or verse.

And yet no ringing affirmation, no dogmatic assertion to equal hers,
sprang to his lips.  Conflict and pain had done more in his heart than
he had guessed.  "Oh, there must be, there must be!" was all that he
could cry, as if he hoped against hope.

Ursula took the picture from his hand and their eyes met.  Even in his
distress, he saw the miracle.  Hers were utterly serene.  He knew his
own to be inchoate, baffled, grieved.  And yet in her serenity, too,
was a touch of kindliness, and a kind of deep wonder of understanding
as if, despite her empty heaven, she looked on mystery.

Something deep down in him stirred before those eyes of hers.  He
forgot that he had only known her half a morning.  He forgot that he
was a man and a Christian, and she was a girl and a heathen.  And he
forgot entirely that it was the fool who said in his heart there is no
god.  "Oh," he cried, "you've no idea how down and out I am!"

She smiled and put out her hand.  "I'll help," she said, "and I put it
badly, too, just now.  Peradventure there is a god, but, you know, we
don't know even his Name and--and--he seems asleep."

They were odd words, he thought vaguely, but somehow there was
tenderness and strength hidden in them.  Paul Kestern knew suddenly how
much he wanted both.  And so he reached out, too, and put his hand into
hers.



(3)

The impression of Ursula's personality was indeed strong enough to veil
the full significance of what she had said for several days.  In part,
moreover, the influence of Tressor and Manning, and still more, the
business of adjustment to his new environment made for this.  Paul
always sensed the atmosphere of houses and places in rather a cat-like
way, wandering about a little, twisting, as it were, in the new bed,
until it was familiar and friendly.  And Fordham Manor was so different
from any other house in which he had ever stayed, let alone lived, that
the process took time.

It was a very beautiful place, of more than one date, but the front had
been wholly rebuilt in the early Georgian period, while the back had
been left Jacobean.  The result was singularly arresting.  Strong,
severe, plain, dignified, yet not pompous and over heavy, a circular
drive ran up to the entrance hall.  On either side equally matched
buildings--the servants' quarters and the like--pushed out, each with a
little cupola and gables.  Wide open high iron gates led to a gravelled
drive with a balustrade, a slope, and below a big herbaceous border.
Below that again there was a further walk, a low railing, and a full
wide sweep of park-land where, away to the right and but trees from
here, ran the avenue.  But when one skirted or passed right through the
house, one came out on a herb garden and box-trimmed walks; and from
the beds of rosemary, lavender and thyme one looked back to the sweet
smiling red brickwork and wide windows of the earlier building, with an
irregular roof and high dormer windows.

Within, the house had in fact many faults.  The rooms were much too
small for its size for one thing.  But while this would have mattered
to a family in residence, if anything it added to its suitability for
Tressor, a bachelor and only an occasional visitor.  Besides there was
at least one feature which admirably fitted now.  There was a large
partially divided hall into which descended a wide dignified staircase.
This hall particularly pleased Paul.  It was rather a stately obvious
hall as one entered from the front, but one skirted the stairs, and
behold its aspect changed.  The big fireplace behind was Jacobean.
There was a bookcase full of new books meant to be read.  There were
long low chairs and a plenty of rugs and footstools.  And the portraits
in the front portion gave way to a picture or two which he was
beginning to love.  One was a Dutch landscape, sombre, mysterious, and
the other ploughlands and three strong horses that climbed a ridge in a
gale of driving wind.

The men were already settling down.  They met at breakfast, and
thereafter Tressor departed to his study and was no more seen till
lunch.  Manning and Paul, however, gaily wasted half a morning.  They
smoked a pipe in the gardens, and picked up the newspapers in the
lounge hall on their way to work afterwards, Paul usually reading or
glancing through anything he had done the day before.  In the
afternoon, they rode or motored or walked, found tea waiting them on
their return, and separated for a couple of hours' more serious going
before the dressing bell.  In the evening things seemed to fall out
with easy content, though Tressor would withdraw to his study again as
often as not.  It was all rather leisured and easy.  Expressed in
colour, Paul thought of Claxted as having none; of Thurloe End as black
and white and scarlet; of Fordham as blue and old gold within and brown
and green without.

As for duties, as yet he had none worth the mention.  Old Mrs. Bird,
the housekeeper, and he, already loved each other.  It was obvious that
she proposed to take charge of him.  Rider, who combined the functions
of valet and butler and chauffeur, had instructions to take Paul over
when Tressor was away, and seemed gravely imperturbed.  Timothy, the
head gardener and an institution, appeared actually prepared to teach
him a little; and as for the gamekeeper, who lived at the lodge, he
talked dogs and horses with Manning by the hour, and accepted Paul
because he could listen with grave attention.  In a word, the
establishment was plainly ready to accept him, and he was, as he should
have been, profoundly grateful.

It was thus, then, after a morning stroll, while Manning was
perfunctorily looking through _The Times_, that Paul broached the
agnosticism of Ursula.  The ladies had dined at the Manor the previous
evening, and she had sung.  Paul had had no conversation out of the
ordinary with her, and yet once again the strength of her personality
had impressed him.  So now, as he stood by the carved and decorated
mantelpiece and looked out through the open window to the sunny garden,
sniffing the fragrant scent of herbs and box that wafted in, the girl
was vividly in his mind.  "Arnold," he said.

"Yes?  What's up now?"

"I say, I like your cousin."

Manning folded the paper carelessly and tossed it aside, feeling for
his tobacco pouch.  "I'm sure I'm very pleased," he said.

"Don't rag.  She worries me."

"I thought you said you liked her."

"So I do, but it is exactly that that worries me.  She's an atheist."

"True.  It runs in the family in this generation.  A reaction perhaps.
Her father was a churchwarden, and her mother likes the vicar to call
once a month."

Paul shifted uneasily.  "It isn't a subject for joking to me," he said.
"You know that, very well you know it.  I may be in difficulties, but I
believe in God with all my heart."

Manning leaned back easily in his chair and lit his pipe.  "You think
you do," he said, between the puffs.

Paul rounded on him eagerly.  "But I do," he insisted.  "To be honest,
it is an utter mystery to me how you do not.  I can't conceive of it at
all.  I know we've never discussed the point before--it hasn't seemed
to me worth discussion, the existence of God, I mean--but I want to
now."

"Ahl And why now?"

"Because, impossible as it seems to me in your or anybody's case, that
your cousin should say 'There is no god' utterly staggers me."

"When did she say that?"

Paul told him.

He smoked thoughtfully.  "Humph," he said at last, dubiously, "but I
doubt if Ursula is as much an atheist as an agnostic.  She probably put
it that way because her god, whatever she thinks, has nothing worth
mentioning in common with any idea of God in your mind."

Paul regarded him for a moment in troubled silence, weighing his words.
Then he sighed.  "It is utterly beyond me," he said.  "How, in the face
of things as they are, you or anyone can fail to believe in a Creator,
an Inspirer, a Supporter, I do not see.  It may be old-fashioned, but
even _Paley's Evidences_ seem good enough to me.  Allow evolution if
you like, allow anything, you've got to get back to _something_.  There
must have been a beginning, even if it was all the most tenuous of
spiral nebulæ.  Well, who made that?"

"I haven't the remotest notion," said Manning.

"Well, but...."

"Yes?"

"Well, if God didn't create it, how did it come?  What other hypothesis
is possible?  It's not conceivable, thinkable even at all, that matter
is eternal.  Why, eternity, backwards or forwards, is unthinkable."

"Exactly.  Yet you ascribe this unthinkable attribute to God."

Paul knit his brows.  "One must," he objected.

"No," said Manning, sitting up sharply, "that's exactly where you're
wrong.  One most emphatically must not."

Complete bewilderment settled down on Paul.  He made a characteristic
little gesture at last.  "I suppose I haven't the intelligence
necessary to follow you," he said almost bitterly.

"Paul," said Manning, "you have, that's the rub.  More, I shouldn't be
in the least surprised if you did.  You've been God-ridden all your
life, obsessed, bound, but you've broken steadily away from the chains.
It seems inevitable to me that sooner or later you will break with this
also.  If I've said nothing much so far, it's because, in a way, I'm
not interested.  I like you too much to want to see you rot up your
life with Roman Catholicism or any arrant nonsense of that sort, but
I've always thought you had better keep your God till--till----"  He
hesitated.  Then: "Possibly till the right person came along to deliver
you."

"You mean your cousin, I suppose," Paul said slowly.

"Indeed I do not," replied Manning quickly.  "I had no idea you two
would seriously broach the subject.  But it is interesting that it has
come that way.  You're in good hands, though Ursula keeps more of the
cargo than I can carry."

"Precious little, I should think," retorted Paul.

"Well, you can discuss that with her.  As for myself----"

"Yes, then, as for yourself."

"You honestly want to know?"

"I do."

"Sit down then.  Don't prowl about.  I've got to be steadily serious
and profound for at least ten minutes, and I need help."

Paul perceived a hassock at his feet and dropped on to it.  "Carry on,"
he said, smiling a little as the other had meant him to do.

But Manning was in no hurry to begin.  Before he began to speak,
Timothy came past the window, saw the two sitting silently, and went on
again, shaking his head and muttering to himself.  And when Manning did
begin to speak, he was abrupt, and there was a hard note in his voice.

"Look here, Paul," he said, "the root of the matter is just this: God
is a guess in the dark.  You are driven back and back and back, as you
say, till you can't go further, but then you begin to invent
meaningless words to cover your inadequacy.  You talk about infinite
and eternal and almighty, words which are no more than scraps of
mathematical logic.  The mind knows that it's beaten, that for some odd
reason it cannot travel back beyond certain bounds.  It's like space:
you cannot conceive of something that ends, without your demanding what
comes next.  Something, you say, must come next, and next, and next.
And there can't be a last; and yet there must be a last, an end..."

He stopped, as if he was trying once more himself to beat back against
the reeling thought.  Paul remained immovable.

"Well, now, the mind hates a vacuum.  It must round off things.  Thus,
then, at that extreme limit of comprehension, when no further logical
sequence is possible, it gets out of the difficulty by creating a
conception upon which it can rest.  Thought demands a beginning, an
end, a supreme power, a reason, and the imagination of man, when his
mind can no more, simply jumps in the dark.  'All right,' it says,
'there is One Who is Eternal, Almighty, Infinite--God.'  A guess in the
dark, you see."

Paul stared into that shifting black abyss.  The horror of it rose into
his eyes.  Waves and seas, inexorable, heartless, rolled in upon him,
and he felt himself sinking, sinking.  The sensation was almost
physical, and he had literally to moisten his lips to speak.  "We have
Christ," he said.  "He was not in the dark.  He knew."

Manning shrugged his shoulders at that, and said nothing.

"Arnold," cried Paul again, "He knew!"

Manning got up.  "Look here, Paul," he said, "we've worked over that
ground.  Christianity is a matter of evidence.  God Almighty, you know
something of it!  'By what authority?'"  He relit his pipe and tossed
the match through the window.

Paul turned the question over in his mind.  Of course, that was the
question.  He saw it, like a flaming note of interrogation, burning in
upon him.  That unanswerable question: "By what authority?"  Father
Vassall----

His friend interrupted him.

"And," Arnold burst out, "ultimately, that is evidence we can test for
ourselves.  What did Christ say of God?  Take one thing: that He was a
Father, who heard and answered and cared for His creatures, for the
least of them.  Well, does He--I ask you, does He?  Come, now, be
honest.  You know He doesn't.  There is not a flicker of evidence in
the whole vast universe that God hears or answers or cares.  There are
laws, great driving laws, that's all.  Shove your finger in and you'll
get hurt; jump right in and you'll be killed.  Inevitably.  Always.
Screaming to God won't save you.  Some bloody war's on, and a woman
implores God to save her lover.  Well, does He?  If He turn a single
bullet aside, He must disarrange the whole cosmic law.  _Does He_?  I
ask you--does He?"

Paul hid his face.  He saw the past three years white as an open road
before him....  "Does He?"

But Manning did not seem to notice.  "There's no _fatherly_ control,
that's the point.  Even religion squirms before the obviousness of
that, and invents excuses.  God maketh His rain to fall on the just and
on the unjust.  Pish, He does no such thing.  He has nothing to do with
the fall of rain, or He abdicated His power before the dawn of history."

"But Somebody _must_," cried Paul.

Manning dropped back into his chair.  "Stop," he cried.  "If we are to
go on talking you must not say that.  You surrender to the savage when
you say that.  He, poor devil, sees the lightning hit his hut:
'Somebody must be angry,' he says.  Experience comes along and shows
even unscientific minds the irrefragable laws of thunderstorms, and
your poor fellow bleats: 'Then somebody must have caused them.'
Science comes along and demonstrates without a doubt the unity of
matter and the existence of the electron, and the dear Christian folds
his hands: 'But God is the First Cause, the Creator.'  Guesses, all of
them.  Guess if you want to, Kestern, but not to me.  I won't.  That's
flat."

Paul could stand it no more.  He jumped up and paced restlessly about.
"I see what you mean," he cried....  "Oh, and I see what she meant,
too....  It was beautiful, beautiful, but a marble statue after all;
and it's the end of the day; and it's fallen--fallen....  Well, the
traveller has fallen too....  No wonder....  Oh, no wonder...."

Manning smoked steadily.  He had been unusually vehement, and was a
trifle ashamed of himself.  "I say, Paul," he said at last, "pull
yourself together.  You're not a fool."

Paul stopped in his walk and stood regarding him.  But he did not make
an answer to that.  "If you don't guess, what happens then?"

Manning smiled languidly.  "Well, you don't guess, that's all.  It's
quite simple.  Perhaps there is a god; perhaps He is all that is said
about Him.  Perhaps....  Only we are reasonable men and we have to go
upon facts, and the facts are that there is no trace of Him."

"Unless very existence is a sign--the fact that things are," said Paul,
catching at a straw.

"Oh, very well, have it if you will.  But of what or of whom is
existence a sign?  I know it's sentimental twaddle to talk of the
cruelty and so on of Nature, and I won't.  But you know and I know
there are laws, and what sort of laws?  To what sort of mind can you
argue from Nature's laws?  Think."

Paul thought.  He thought of the regularity and beauty of ice-crystals
which no one can see without a microscope.  Why always regular?  Why
beautiful?  He thought of the evolution and the extinction of the
dinosaur, the pterodactyl and the rest.  Why?  Necessary?  Useful?
"Did the hand, then, of the Potter shake?"  He thought of the laws that
calmly allow men and women to bring forth congenital idiots or children
loathsomely diseased in body or in soul.  Laws!  He flamed suddenly
with rage.  "The mind of a devil!" he cried.

"Rubbish," retorted Manning.  "Good heavens, Paul, pull yourself
together!  But there, I suppose it takes time."

"An idiot, then."

"Oh, chuck it.  I've some work to do.  Go and read Tennyson."

"Well, what other sort of personality could it be?"

"You dear old ass, there's NO personality in it at all.  That's the
whole argument.  You will _guess_.  Talk about the high hills!  You go
skipping on from point to point--in imagination.  Existence exists so
far as we can tell.  Relatively to us it exists, anyway.  But that is
the end of the argument.  You can go no further.  Nothing imaginable
can have created it--nothing--nothing."  And forgetting Tennyson, he
pushed his arm through Paul's and led him out into the garden.

The sweet warm sun was releasing a thousand scents.  Paul drew trailing
fingers through a spiky host of lavender.  Butterflies fluttered their
apparently aimless dance over the beds, and bees, more obviously
purposeful, dived into flowerets.  Even the ancient flags on which they
stood were cracked and broken by the impetuous thrust of tiny tendrils
one could destroy with a pinch.

Arnold Manning took up his parable.  "'Consider the lilies,'" he
quoted.  "Christ took a far step forward, anyway, Paul.  The savage
only saw horror, and made his grinning abomination as an image of God.
The Jew saw, for some reason, the beauty of law and unity, and Elijah
mocked the poor leaping priests of Baal and cried out on Jehovah.
Christ saw beauty and tenderness, and invested His God with a still
higher personality.  'Ye know not the Father,' He said.  And we, we
poor moderns, we see it all, Paul, and we see that all--all--those
conceptions were just shadows of ourselves."

Paul was gazing up towards the Downs with a far-away look in his eyes.
Little fleecy floating clouds were racing shadows of themselves across
the rich green turf.  "I see," he said sadly.

They strolled up and down.  "Go and write a poem about this," said
Manning with unusual gentleness.  "That will buck you up."

Paul slowly shook his head.



(4)

It would be foolish to pretend that a couple of conversations shattered
the faith of years, and yet, in life, it often seems so.  Under the
surface, the insidious work goes on, and perhaps there is never a
crisis for which there has not been preparation.  So it was with Paul.
The ground had been steadily slipping from beneath his feet.  Upon a
proffered rock, for good or ill, he had not climbed.  Now, with all the
thunder and confusion of a cataclysm, the elaborate structure fell.

Manning's cool challenge, as much or more than his logic, had brought
about the ruin.  Does God hear? he had asked, and deliberately awaited
the answer.  Once Paul would have been as swift and as assured in his
reply.  In Lambeth Court, on Parker's Piece, even at Port o' Man, he
would instantly have answered yes.  But those days had gone.  He fought
the conclusion, wrestled with it, even still prayed earnestly against
it, but could not escape the only possible deduction, as it seemed to
him.  There had been no answer at all, absolutely and literally none;
or else, as Father Vassall would have it, he had been heard and led,
led deliberately and as he could bear it, to the threshold of the
Catholic Church.  But his father, than whom none prayed more earnestly,
said that that was the devil, and the Bishop of Mozambique that there
the angels of God had been set about him for deliverance.  Which was
right?  He had been tossed like a shuttlecock among them.

Out of that dilemma, Tressor's quiet reasoned judgment had opened up a
way of escape.  Fordham Manor had seemed so plainly the best and wisest
refuge.  His father, again, had approved.  Besides, if he could write
verse, that was a gift of God given him for improvement.  And it was
not that he did not pray even now, and read the Bible, too, as he had
been taught.  Only the Bible pointed, if anywhere, where they who
advised him most to read it would not admit there was any conceivable
possibility of going.

No, the arches of the years had led Paul irresistibly on.  One by one,
soaring unseen before him, they had closed down at the end of each span
an appreciable march nearer to the brink of the precipice.  He stood
there now, peering into its depths, discerning no path at all,
suspecting that the plunge into the abyss was only a matter of weeks,
or days.  Does God hear? demanded Manning, and Paul had no answer but
the echo of Job's old cry: "Oh that I knew where I might find Him!"

Small wonder that he could not write poetry.  Poetry!  There was no
meaning in life if God were not--no reasonable end, no conceivable
beginning, nothing worth while.  Arnold might grub about with his
science; Paul sought the spirit of things.  And when he turned to
Tressor, the don utterly failed him.

It was odd, Paul thought, how entirely he failed him.  Paul was coming
daily to love more and more this kindly pleasant man, but he was
beginning to see joints in his harness.  The three of them would talk
of an evening, for Paul could not do otherwise, and he would drag a
somewhat unwilling Manning into it; but Tressor answered the younger
man not at all.  He clung to a refuge that was not yet, at any rate,
storm-proof for Paul.  Logic, said Tressor, failed at a point.  The
heart of man universally had need of God, and it would not crave if
there was nothing to crave for.  Tressor relied on intuition and
instinct.  Instinct and intuition, said Manning, were the result of
training and environment.  Psychology could dissect and label both,
almost as easily as physiology the bones and muscles of a man.  There
was mystery before and behind, said Tressor, but God was fatherly, and
in the end the weary soul would fall back upon His heart and rest.

"Sir," Manning cried one evening, goaded for once out of his habitual
calm, "if your principles had been applied in science, man would be
still in the Stone Age!"

Tressor had flicked an eyelid and looked hurt.  He had shortly gone off
to his study, and Manning had as shortly gone after him to apologise.
He had returned a little flushed.  "He's a jolly good chap," he said to
Paul.  "It's beastly of me to hurt his feelings."

Feelings!  As if, Paul thought, feelings mattered.  He walked
bareheaded in the avenue and stood on the edge of the sleeping lake,
and he cried out of the depths of his tortured soul to God.  One
syllable of an answer, one solitary sign out of the still night, one
resolute conviction even, if God preferred that secret way, among the
changing shifting doubts that racked his soul, and he would be ready to
drink any kind of cup and be baptized with any baptism.



(5)

Tacked on to the very house, was a peculiar feature of the place.  The
parish church was also the private chapel.  The parish had dwindled all
but to the inhabitants of the park and grounds, and one clergyman
served Fordham and held as well the living of the considerable village
that lay beyond; but, occasionally, once a month for each service,
Communion was celebrated, Evensong sung, so near to them that it was
difficult even for unsympathetic guests not to go.  Besides, Tressor
liked one to go, and that was enough for Manning and Paul.

The last Sunday in the month, then, Paul went to Evensong.  All the
servants were there: dear old Mrs. Bird in a bonnet that tinkled with
jet, with service-books the treasured gifts of her master; Timothy, for
the most part crouched in his pew, expressionless; Rider, precise and
understanding; the maids, strange in Sunday outdoor garments.  The
three friends occupied a pew discreetly not in the front, flatteringly
not too far behind.  And Mr. Prideaux took the service and preached.

There had, it appeared, but lately been a serious controversy in the
Church.  A dean had preached at Westminster on the earlier chapters of
Genesis, had depreciated their historic value, and had welcomed the
teachings of Professor Darwin.  A bishop had retorted in the
_Guardian_, and Catholic-minded clergy taken the matter up in the
_Church Times_.  The _Record_ had said that it had long told the public
that this would be the result of ... And so on.

Mr. Prideaux, an able, energetic, zealous man, preached upon the
subject.  He believed in dealing with subjects of current interest,
besides (though he did not say so), unless you are very High Church,
the month of August is singularly desert in regard to festivals.  He
may also have thought that here his small select congregation did at
any rate contain a proportion of listeners who would be more interested
in such matters than the average villager.  And he was quite right in a
sense.

Only the Vicar could not know that there was a veritable gulf fixed
between his comfortable reasoned theology and the devastating vivid
modernism of either Manning or Paul.  The priest said that, "of
course," Darwinism was not proved; an increasing host of scientists
disagreed with it.  Besides, Darwin had never taught Darwinism.  Again,
if he had, there was nothing inherently hostile to the true teachings
of the Church in the theory of evolution.  There was nothing of
revelation as to the precise point at which the ape-man became the
man-ape with a soul.  And it was only those who had forgotten the true
relation of Church and Bible who found any difficulty in Genesis.  The
devout churchman only saw in these inspired fragments of ancient legend
illustrations of the eternal groping of the soul of man after truth,
and, he might say, an unique witness to the guiding hand of God....

Mr. Prideaux came to supper afterwards, and played a couple of rubbers
of bridge.  He was genial, and hoped, when he learned of Paul's taking
up of residence at Fordham, that Paul would come to see him.  He was a
bachelor, and it would be delightful if they could see a good deal of
each other.

Paul went up slowly to his room at last.  He opened the window and
looked out towards the avenue and the lake.  The trees stretched grey
and ghostly in a dim misty starlight, but they were not friendly or
inviting to-night.  Something had gone from the face of earth and sky.
Darwin, evolution, science, ape-men, the interpretations of texts--what
jargon!  Where was God now, and why would He not speak?  What else
mattered?  He was silent; He had been eternally silent it seemed; it
was but the promptings of their own imagination which men had taken for
His voice.

No, he could not go and write poetry any more.



CHAPTER X

"THE BLIND BEGGAR"

The only strength for me is to be found in the sense of a personal
presence everywhere, it scarcely matters whether it be called human or
divine; a presence which only makes itself felt at first in this and
that particular form and feature....  Into this presence we come, not
by leaving behind what are usually called earthly things, or by loving
them less, but by living more intensely in them, and loving more what
is really lovable in them; for it is literally true that this world is
everything to us, if only we choose to make it so, if only we "live in
the present" because it is eternity....--RICHARD LEWIS NETTLESHIP:
_Lectures and Memories_, Vol. I., p. 72.

He hath made everything beautiful in its time; He hath also set the
world in their heart, and yet so that man cannot find out the work that
God hath wrought from the beginning even unto the end....--ECCLES. iii.

"Fool," said my muse to me, "look in thy heart and write."--SIR PHILIP
SIDNEY.



(1)

August drew to its sunny close, and Manning and Tressor departed,
leaving Paul to superintend the reroofing of old Morley's Mill cottage,
the building of an extra poultry house, the laying-out of a new flower
bed, the cutting down of a few trees and the letting of an empty
cottage.  They also left him to write poetry; and whereas, without
assistance, he would have cut a poor figure at any of the practical
jobs, he felt that he was doing even worse as a poet.  September found
him, then, alone and perturbed; but October came, heralded with the
gleam of crimson and gold banners among the beeches of Chanctonbury,
and found him alone and desperate.

He was the more overwhelmed by it all as he was totally unprepared.
Hitherto his days had been more full than he could manage, for, besides
talk and friends and all the incidents of life at Cambridge, he had had
his degree for which to work.  Hitherto verse had been a refuge, a joy
which he had allowed himself with a kind of grim deliberation.  He
would want to write, feeling that strange, deep, indefinite hunger
within him that all who have in any degree the gift of a creative art
know so well, and he would permit himself to leave his books and sit by
the fire or in the window-seat with a pencil for an hour, a measured
hour only.  Or hitherto there had been other difficulties in the way,
from Donaldson's tramp on the stairs to the disturbing furniture at
Claxted--little things, things over which one ought to be able to
triumph, but things which ordinarily triumph over us all.

There, then, lay the sting of it.  He had now time and to spare.  He
had now both loneliness, and, on the other hand, the company of beauty
both within and without doors.  He had, in the well-trained servants of
the house and estate, the very best of human help towards that respect
and leisure and comfort that our rather pitiable souls do need.  He had
Prideaux at the Vicarage, the best of fellows, for a companionable pipe
and chat, and he had Mrs. Manning and Miss Netterly, her sister, only
too ready to give him tea in their drawing-room and be kind.  The
disturbing element was wholly withdrawn.  Ursula had gone to London on
a whim of her own in August, and on an ill-defined visit thereafter,
and had at last returned so absorbed in a picture perhaps, so possibly
deliberately remote, that, if he saw her, it was only to pass the time
of day, or watch her face immobile as he rested in the evening in her
mother's drawing-room.

In despair, he had abandoned the attempt to write for one to read.  The
possibility of reading had been one of the attractions of Fordham.  At
Claxted he had done but little more than learn the names of classical
English authors, at Cambridge but snatched odd moments for them.  He
was peculiarly unfamiliar with the work of the great poets and he had
soaked himself in none of the moderns.  He had longed so eagerly for
the chance really to read Swinburne, Francis Thompson and the like, and
now that it had come he could not.  The malignancy of his own
particular devil followed him even in this.  He would walk to
Storrington and tramp back over the Downs to curl himself up in the
lounge with the _Hound of Heaven_ in his hands, only to find his eyes
wandering from the page and his feet stirring restlessly towards the
gardens where old Timothy would be pottering about.  Not, of course,
that old Timothy helped at all, and he would perhaps take a hand with a
spade or listen to a discourse on manners for half an hour or so, and
then turn unsatisfied to the towering strength of the animophilous
lime-trees in the avenue and the quiet assurance of the sleeping water
in the lake.  Old Timothy would look after him and shake his head.  He
had small opinion of strapping young men who could not dig for a
morning and be thankful.



(2)

Half-way through October Paul came near to the climax.  A morning
unusually wretched had led to an afternoon's honest endeavour with the
foresters in the park, and he had returned to bath and change with a
more comfortable feeling in his heart and pleasurably tired muscles.
But even as he dressed, the shadows crept in again.  He came down the
wide stairs to the hall slowly, a haunted man.  Its very quiet and
peace and air of waiting kindly readiness to help, exasperated him.  A
friendly touch, where one looks for love, is worse than indifference to
a lover.  And brooding there, he had determined to write to Tressor and
tell him that the experiment was a failure and that he must leave.

After dinner, the company of his thoughts intolerable, he told Rider
that he was going out and walked across the park to the cottage below
the Downs.  Mrs. Manning was always glad to see him, and he knew he
would like to sit in an arm-chair and listen to her placid chat.  She
understood just nothing at all, that was the best of her.  Prideaux
would understand sufficient to irritate but not enough to help; the
Manor had an air of understanding but of keeping its own placid secret.
Mrs. Manning would talk about her fowls and ask him if he did not think
Mr. Lloyd George too terrible.  And in the morning he would write to
Tressor.

Ursula was there.  It appeared that her picture was nearing completion,
and that she was, as it were, standing aside for a day or two to be
quite sure of the necessary final touches.  She sat idly, watching her
mother at work.  He studied her profile as she sat, deliberately
telling himself that this and that might have been improved,
deliberately conscious that he would not have altered a line.  Sure
strength lingered on her face in some subtle way.  She was oddly
remote, splendidly active, he felt,--the other side of a veil.  Of that
veil she was in supreme command.  Not that it mattered; he did not want
her to lift it.  He was too preoccupied, too much on the rack to care.

When he had gone, the girl sat on silent for a little.  Then, without
moving, she asked a question or two of her mother.

"Mother, did you see much of Mr. Kestern while I was away?"

"Yes, dear, a good deal.  He and Arnold came several times, and when
Arnold went, he kept up the habit of dropping in."

"Does he ever talk much?"

"No, not much.  He's a quiet man, I think."

Certain vivid little scenes formed themselves in Ursula's mind.  She
had seen him walking and talking with Manning, had heard him with
Tressor.  And she remembered his face by the lake and in her room.  A
quiet man?  Eager, ardent, she had thought him.  And there was his
verse, too.

"He's absorbed in his work, I expect," went on her mother, her head on
one side as she touched her embroidery deftly.  "Mr. Tressor said he
thought he would do a great deal.  He said he was very prolific, I
remember.  They use such odd words."

"He's all alone up there now, isn't he?"

"Yes, dear.  But Mr. Prideaux calls, and he goes to see him."

"Mr. Prideaux?  Does he like him?"

"Very much, dear, I believe.  But the Vicar is not at all gossipy, you
know."

"Do you like him, Ursula?" asked Miss Netterly curiously.

The girl smiled.  "I scarcely know him, auntie," she said.

"Well, dear," said her mother, folding her work, "I think it's bedtime.
You must be tired, too."

Mrs. Manning always thought one must be tired.  Curiously enough, she
was so nice about it that one forgot to be irritated.

In her own room Ursula uncovered her picture and had a look at it.  She
read a little.  Then she sat on awhile, staring out of the window.
Then she got up, fetched her portfolio and looked through its contents.
When she reached the little water-colour she had done to illustrate
Paul's poem, she put it on one side--thereafter by itself on her
mantelpiece.  Then she went to bed.

In the morning she announced the intention of taking a walk.  Everyone
placidly agreed, as they did from force of habit where Ursula was
concerned, and her mother came to the gate with her and watched her
away in her yellow jumper, with a green scarf and skirt.  Mrs. Manning
was very proud of her daughter.  She did not ask where she was going,
however.

Paul, after a late breakfast, strolled out on to the terrace.  He was
turning over the phrases of his letter to Tressor when he saw the girl
coming up the drive.  He went to meet her.  It crossed his mind that
she might be bringing a message from her mother.

"Hullo," he said, when he was within speaking distance.  "Good morning.
How are you?"

"Very well," she said.  "Busy?"

"Not particularly," replied Paul ruefully.  "I was just about to write
a beastly letter."

She looked him frankly in the face.  "How's the poetry going?" she
asked.

He did not think to be surprised.  "It's not going at all," he said.

She nodded.  They were standing still there, on the drive.  She looked
away from him, as if she had seen all she wanted, looking out over the
park alive in the sun.

"I've written nothing for ages," he went on impulsively.  "I can't.
And I can't read either."

"Come for a walk," she said.

"Now?  With you?  Where?"  It was only afterwards that he realised that
this was not the politest reply.

"At once, with me, on the Downs," she replied smiling.

His face lit up.  He saw in a flash how good a walk with her would be.
"Oh, good," he cried, "I'd love to.  May I get a stick and a hat?  Will
you come in a moment?"

"I'll wait here," she said.  "Don't be long."

"I won't be two minutes," he replied, and ran up the steps.

She led the way, down the drive, past the lodge, up to the right, up a
little path that skirted the hedges and ran through the woods at the
foot of the great hill, and then up still more, by a winding track that
serpentined out into the open downland at the top.  The ring of
Chanctonbury was away on their right; a dew-pond ringed with a stony
beach just in front, its waters reflecting the blue of the autumn sky
and ruffled with a wind from the sea.  Before them they could see
Cissbury in the distance and follow the coast line past Worthing, hid
behind a down, to Shoreham, with Lancing Chapel set up above it, and
Brighton.  It was so clear to-day that the gleam of white on the cliffs
beyond Rottingdean was distinctly visible.

They had said little as they climbed, as one does, for it is a climb,
but now they turned to the left and walked slowly along the
close-cropped ride through the tufted hummocky grass, skirting that
ridge below which Fordham and Steyning nestle and a down winds to the
sea.

"Now," she said, "what's the matter?  Don't you think you'd like to
tell me?"

"I would," cried Paul eagerly, "I'd love to.  Besides----"   He broke
off, puzzling at her as they walked.

"Well?"

"I say, how did you know anything was the matter?"

"I saw last night," she said imperturbably.  "It struck me that you
were down and out, and hadn't a soul to speak to."

"You're right.  But why do you bother with me?"

She walked on deliberately.  "I'm not bothering.  You see, I like you,
and I like your verse, and you're the sort of person it's worth while
talking to in life."

"That's very good of you," said Paul.  "But I don't deserve all that.
I'm an awful fool, and I've floundered about till I've got fairly well
bogged."

"I thought so.  Tell me."

"I don't know where to begin.  Yes, I do though.  After all, it's you
who bogged me really."

He smiled at her ruefully, but she took no notice, her eyes on the
landscape below.  "You said there was no God," went on Paul, "and I
couldn't forget it, and spoke to Arnold about it at last.  Then he
rubbed it in.  For three years, now, I've been seeking to get at the
truth about God.  You don't know how I've tried.  I've tried to hear
His voice, to know what He wants, and I've got no nearer.  Or I think I
haven't.  It hadn't struck me till you spoke and Arnold pushed it home
that perhaps the reason is that--that--there isn't a God at all."

"Do you honestly feel that three years is a long time?"

"Well--it's three years, anyway."

"It is.  Three years."

Her tone arrested him.  He knew what she meant.  They walked a hundred
yards while he turned it over.  He had a sudden vision of the
generations of seekers that had gone before him seeking.  He saw
vividly that where the mystics, saints and doctors had spent lifetimes,
three years was not much.  But as he saw, he flamed out.  The
floodgates were loosened.  At last, like the psalmist, he spake with
his tongue.

"Yes.  Three years.  Oh, I know it's a drop in the bucket.  But they're
the three best years up to now of my life, and they are my life.
They're all I've had to give.  And if God is a Father to us, if He
cares at all, He must be big enough to be interested even in my three
years."

"And instead of that----?"

"He doesn't care at all.  He is silent, always silent.  You were right:
He must be asleep.  There's never any voice nor any that answers.  And
so all the light's gone out of life.  What's the good of anything?
What's the meaning of anything?  Before, everything in the world seemed
to have a secret joy behind it, and it was wonderful to feel part of a
great plan, to be able to lend oneself to it and work for it.  It was
wonderful to feel that Christ knew and was our Master and Friend.  Oh,
I loved Him so!  And He's gone, He's hidden.  And with Him has gone all
the light and joy in living."

She said nothing.  "I tell you it's gone!" he cried again, and it was
an exceeding bitter cry.

They were walking on the edge of a beech spinney.  The tall dainty
trunks towered up towards the sun and their wide crown of leaves moved
together with smooth billowy swaying motions.  And where their
spreading branches reached out towards the slope of the Down, a rich
wreath of colour was growing among them.  Ursula stretched up her hand
as they walked and broke off a spray of golden glory.  She held it out
to Paul without a word.

He took it mechanically.  "Lovely," he said, unthinkingly.

"Oh, no," she replied calmly.  "It's dull and ugly and useless and a
combination of so many chemical elements that you can read all about in
the books.  It's perfectly plain.  What is more, the leaves are already
in decay."

Paul heard her at first in blank amazement.  He glanced from her face
to the bough in his hand, and from the bough to her face.  He could
read nothing there.  He looked up at the spinney from which she had
broken it, and as he looked anew its brown and green and grey and gold
cleared before his eyes.  It was as sudden as a song.  Some little
hidden chain snapped inside him.  "Please go on," he said, like a child.

"You're not worth it.  You're as blind as a bat.  And you, with your
verse and your talk, you pretended to see!"

The scorn of her voice lashed him.  She humbled him pitifully.  And yet
she said so little.  It was the tone of the biting words that did it,
and the fact that she was so seemingly unmoved.

"I've tried to," he said, "you don't know how I've tried."

"Tried!  That's exactly what you would do.  Tried!  One has to try so
very hard to see the sunlight."

They walked on in silence.  It was very odd; as they walked Paul began
to study the short green grass and the delicate curving tendrils of
moss as if he had never seen them before.

"Paul," she said at last, and he was past thinking it strange, "if one
is blind one cannot see.  If one has eyes, one can't help seeing."

He made an effort to recover his position.  "But it's God that
matters," he said, "it's not the things themselves.  And if God is not
there, why, then----"

"Why, then, the rose is still red to-day as it was yesterday, and still
sweet, sweet in its life and sweet in its death.  And a new one is on
the way.  Who are you to talk about God Whom you do not and cannot
understand?  Talk about the things that you see, that is your business.
Smell the scent of the rose, pick it, love it, worship it.  Are you
mad?"

"God is silent," he reiterated sullenly.

"You see," she flashed instantly back.

"But the mind matters.  It's the first principle of philosophy.  You
can't get away from that."

She stopped and lay a hand upon his arm.  "Listen," she said in a new
voice.  A lark was singing somewhere in the far blue empyrean.  "Look,"
she said.  The wide open country of field and coppice and lane lay
spread before them.  And so they stood awhile.

"Paul," she went on presently, "it's too lovely for you and me to
spoil.  Let the priest and the philosopher go their own ways.  It's
their vocation; perhaps they must, poor souls.  Meanwhile, the beauty
of the world is beyond argument.  God!"  (She spoke softly and rather
wonderingly.)  "God!  Oh, I know nothing of God.  Perhaps He is not,
perhaps He is.  The God they talk about, anyway, is not here.  But the
earth is here, light and colour are here, beauty is here, and beauty is
enough for you to sing and for me to paint, all our days."

Paul looked about him with eyes that had grown wider with a new
amazement as she spoke.  "Oh," he said as softly as she, "I see, I see."

"I knew you would," she said, and dropped her hand.

"But why did I never see it before?" he asked softly.

She shrugged her shoulders, smiling at him.  "Let's go," she said.

They walked down to Steyning by the steep path that drops over the hill
and skirts the big bosom of the Down.  Paul plucked sprays of leaves,
laughed, swung his stick, sang.  She laughed back at him.  "Madcap,"
she said.

"Oh, I know.  I'm mad.  No, I'm not.  But I have been mad, you know.
But, I say, you must teach me more.  We must talk about this.  Will
you?"

"Yes.  But you don't need teaching, you know.  You're a poet.  You'll
teach."

"I know what I am," he cried, stopping suddenly, "I know what I am!"

"What?" she queried, amused.

"I'm the blind beggar-man.  'One thing I know: once I was blind, but
now I see.'  Remember?"

She nodded at him, sensing something of the old evangelical years in
his quotation.

"Oh, it's wonderful!  Heavens, what a poem!  No: I'll write a play
about it.  You see it, don't you?  How was he made to see, eh, how?"

She laughed outright.  "There you are!  I don't know.  How?"

"Why, clay touched his eyes, common clay--and he saw!  You understand:
it was just common clay that he had been walking upon, blind as a bat,
for all his days.  And he saw!"

She saw the parable, grave all at once.  "Paul," she said, "I told you
a moment ago that you would teach."

"Come on," he shouted, plunging down the hill, "I want to write.
Heavens, how I want to write!  Ursula, I shall read it to you bit by
bit.  And you shall paint a picture of it.  We'll do it together.  'The
Beggar-Man.'  Shall we?"

"Rather.  Begin to-day.  Come and read to me to-night."

"You don't mind?"  He stopped again abruptly.

"Mind?  Of course not.  What a boy!"

"Then we're real friends, are we?"

"Of course," said Ursula.  "I saw that last night."



(3)

Thus, veritably, was born "The Beggar-Man."  The general public knew
nothing of it till the play was staged, more than twelve months later,
after the usual intolerable delays and the appearance of the author's
second book of verse, and then, for all the interest it aroused in this
new author, and for all the heavy bookings, few ever knew the details
of its origin and working out.  It was, as staged, a children's
mystery.  They loved the Beggar-Man, and shouted with glee at his gay
sallies and his new-born wonderment in wooden stools, his rickety hut
and the weeds about his door.  They loved his adventure with the King,
the stupid old King who was as blind as--as a beggar-man.  But grown-up
people went, too, and they smiled a little wistfully when the children
laughed, and looked a little sadly at glittering Herod.  It was not a
biblical play in a sense, and yet, as a critic said, it was a chapter
or two of St. John's gospel that had not previously been written.

As to Paul, in these days, that Beggar-Man moved into Fordham Manor and
lived with him.  He and the boy became inseparables.  He inspired a
thousand songs that did not mention his name, but he related incidents
and preached parables that Paul would retail as wholly his own.  Ursula
was their confidante.  Mrs. Manning, at first bewildered, at length
perforce tolerant, got used to the arrival of Paul on a morning
breathless from a race across the park.  "Good-morning, Mrs. Manning,"
he would shout, "where's Ursula?"

"Good-morning," she would say.  "In the studio, painting."

"I'll go up, if I may," he would reply, and dash up the stairs.

Ursula, at her easel, would smile gravely and call "Come in" almost
before he knocked.

"Oh, I say," Paul would cry gaily, "what do you think the Beggar-Man
told me last night?  He says that, after the cure, he went off to his
house without his stick.  Without his stick.  He could hardly believe
so simple a thing as that as he went, but it was true.  For the first
time, then, he saw his home--a poor enough shanty, but his own home,
that he saw for the first time.  He was still rubbing the tears out of
his eyes, when there came a knock at the door.

"He opened it.

"'Excuse me,' said the man without, trembling with eagerness, 'but is
there any more of that clay?  I don't want all yours, of course, only
just a little....  Or if you could tell me where to get it....'

"'Good heavens!' roared the blind man (asserting himself for the first
time in history, Ursula), 'it was clay, man, good honest clay!  Look at
it!  Turn round and look at it!  There's miles of the holy precious
stuff.  Go down on your miserable knees, as I did, and thank God for
it.  _I_ didn't make it.  _I_ can't give it to you.  God thrusts it at
you.  Were you born blind?'"

Or Paul would ascend the stairs more quietly, and knock.

"May I come in?" he would say, opening the door gently.

"Yes, you old silly.  What is it now?"

Paul would throw himself into the window-seat and look gravely at her.
"I say, do you know, in the long run, they all said that he was still
blind!"

"What?"

"They all said he was still blind.  The people, you know, and the
Pharisees.  The people said: 'But, look here, how could clay open a
man's eyes?  The thing's ridiculous.  There must be more in it than
that.  Come now, He said a magic word, didn't He, that Jesus?  He had
some secret medicine, eh?  You're hiding something, you know you are!
What was it?'

"'It was clay out of the street,' said the Beggar-Man, 'just clay.'

"'Rubbish,' said the people, 'you're as blind as a bat to believe that
twaddle.'"

Ursula would lean back thoughtfully, studying him.  "And the
Pharisees?" she asked softly.

"Ah, the Pharisees!"  Paul jumped up and began to walk restlessly
about.  "You see, Ursula, when he was blind they were rather satisfied
with him.  He saw so plainly what good, wise, holy men they were.  He
saw plainly that they were meant to be masters in Israel, and it is
right and proper for beggars to see that.  But when they were up
against his sight, and showed plainly that ultimately they knew no more
than he did, and, indeed, not so much, about God or Jesus or miracles
or clay or anything, he began to think that they, too, must have been
born blind."

"I see," said the girl, "I see, Paul.  And what then?"

"Oh, they turned the Beggar-Man out of the temple," said Paul.

"Ah, and what then?"

"He tells me, he went, Ursula, he just went.  And--and he's never gone
back."

Silence between them.  He was staring out of the window now, and she
leaning back in her chair, playing with her brushes.

"Ursula."

"Yes?"

"Do you know, the disciples thought him blind, too."

"Why?"

"Well, they were so sure about Jesus.  They made a whole religion up
about him.  And the Beggar-Man never could do that.  'He took the clay
that he and I were standing on,' he would say, 'and I saw.  That's all
I have to tell.  One thing I know: whereas I was blind, now I see.'"

"'Love him, then,' said the disciples.

"'Good heavens, do you think I don't?' cried the Beggar-Man.

"'Worship him, then,' said the disciples.

"'Of course,' said the Beggar-Man, 'as I worship my mother and my wife
and the little blue spring lilies on the hills of Galilee.'

"'No,' they said.  'He's the Second Person of the Trinity.  He's the
Logos.  He's Eternal, Invisible, the Only Wise----'

"And the Beggar-Man used to interrupt them.  'Stop,' he used to say,
'that's beyond me.  I can't follow that.  One thing I know: whereas----'

"'We've heard all that,' said the disciples, 'that's not enough.'

"'I'm sorry,' said the Beggar-Man.  'It is for me.'"

"Well?" queried Ursula.

And Paul turned round from the window, his eyes meeting hers.  "They
turned the Beggar-Man out of the Church," he said gravely.

And she would nod back at him, with a little smile.  "He went on
seeing, though," she would say.

"You're a dear, Ursula," cried Paul.

Despite his eagerness that October morning, Paul did not then, all at
once, write his play.  He said that he and the Beggar had got to get to
know each other.  And before he got to the actual draft, he wrote down
a few definite incidents in the later life of the Beggar-Man.  He
brought the manuscript round to Ursula one day the following Spring
when the new flowers were out on Chanctonbury very much as they had
been when they sprang into vivid flames of being before the
newly-opened eyes of the blind Beggar on the hills of Galilee that he
had loved so much.  He brought it round to her very early, while the
family at the cottage were still at breakfast, which did not perturb
him at all.

After greetings, he looked across at Ursula.  "Can you come for a long
walk this morning?" he asked.

"Yes," she said.

"At least, not a very long walk.  I want you to come to that little
wood on the crest of the Downs above Steyning--you know--and let me
read this to you."

Mrs. Manning's eyes travelled from one to the other a little anxiously.
Really, these two ... But perhaps this time ... Well, if the girl knew
her own mind....

"All right," said Ursula.  "I'll get a coat."

"Don't forget it's only Spring," said Mrs. Manning at the door.  "Don't
catch cold."

"We'll remember, mother," said Ursula, and they set out.

At the remembered spot, Paul spread a mackintosh on the ground.
"There," he said, "sit down.  I'm going to read to you.  Do you mind?"

She smiled her own silent slow smile at him, and drew her knees up, and
clasped her hands round them, and stared down at the sleepy little town
nestling far below.

Paul read.  It was the last stage before the actual and now famous
play.  He had written without introduction as if he were about a short
story, and, in main, it was this that was dramatised.



(4)

Paul finished.  Ursula, who had hardly moved, put out a hand and laid
it gently on his arm.

Paul drew a breath of relieved content, being satisfied now that he
knew her so well.

"Now," he said, "I shall begin that play."

"God is silent," said Ursula quizzically.

"But I see," cried Paul eagerly.

"What do you see?"

"I see the wonder and beauty of things as they are.  I see that they
satisfy.  I see that that's enough, that--that they're a kind of avenue
down which a man can go forward.  And at the end, perhaps, he will
find, not all the secret, but a still living lovely lake of water into
which he will plunge, content."

"Water?"

Paul nodded, with bright eyes.  "The water of life," he said.

"And what is that, do you think?"

"I don't know.  It's sure to be beautiful, though."

"Very, Paul, I think," replied Ursula, speaking very quietly as she
often did.

Paul studied her face.  "I would like you to be there," he said, a
little restlessly.

"Would you?" she said.  "Well, we shall see."

Next morning, Ursula went up to town and took up residence again in her
flat.  Mrs. Manning had fluttered about her all the afternoon, and
learned nothing.  Her daughter seemed wholly unaware that she might
have any question to ask, and Mrs. Manning did not dare ask her
anything directly.  But she thought she might learn more from Paul.
So, when her daughter's car had driven off, she and her sister walked
round to the Manor with a note Ursula had left for Paul.

They found him at work.  He got up, pen in hand, and a look in the back
of his eyes that Mrs. Manning saw in her daughter's when she was very
busily painting.

"Ursula's gone to town," said her mother, "and she's left you this
note."

"Has she?" queried Paul.  "She didn't tell me she was going."  He tore
it open, and read it quickly.  It only took him a few seconds to read
and he smiled as he finished.

"That's all right," he said.  "It's nothing much, Mrs. Manning, only
about my work."

"Well, we won't interrupt you now," she said politely.  "Come in when
you can."

At the end of a long morning's work, Paul picked up the note as if he
had not seen it before, and re-read it.  "I'm off to town," she had
written.  "I've had a sudden notion.  Give my love to the Beggar-Man.
You and he have got your work to do together just now, and I should
only interrupt, but call me in at the finish and I want a box the first
night.  URSULA."  Having read it, Paul smiled again.  He was still
preoccupied with the beauty of the budding limes that arched the avenue
of Sight.



CHAPTER XI

URSULA

If you teach a man to keep his eyes upon what others think of him,
unthinkingly to lead the life and hold the principles of the majority
of his contemporaries, you must discredit in his eyes the authoritative
voice of his own soul.  He may be a docile citizen; he will never be a
man.  It is ours, on the other hand, to disregard the babble and
chattering of other men better and worse than we are, and to walk
straight before us by what light we have.  They may be right; but so,
before heaven, are we.  They may know; but we know also, and by that
knowledge we must stand or fall.  There is such a thing as loyalty to a
man's better self; and from those who have not that, God help me, how
am I to look for loyalty to others? ...

Although all the world ranged themselves in one line to tell "This is
wrong," be you your own faithful vassal and the ambassador of
God--throw down the glove and answer "This is right."  Do you think you
are only declaring yourself?  Perhaps in some dim way, like a child who
delivers a message not fully understood, you are opening wider the
straits of prejudice and preparing mankind for some truer and more
spiritual grasp of truth; perhaps, as you stand forth for your own
judgment, you are covering a thousand weak ones with your body;
perhaps, by this declaration alone, you have avoided the guilt of false
witness against humanity and the little ones unborn.  It is good, I
believe, to be respectable, but much nobler to respect oneself and
utter the voice of God.--ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON.

      You see deeper?  Thus saw he,
  And by the light he saw, must walk: how else
  Was he to do his part?
            ROBERT BROWNING: _Saviour of Society_.



(1)

The day had come at last, and had all but ended.  The busy writing,
that had been but an interlude, as it seemed afterwards, to the work of
curtailing, altering, lengthening and finally staging the play; the
alternating moods of despair and hope; the weeks of rehearsals; the
immediate days before the performance, spent in town, half lived at the
theatre, spent in a new bewildering atmosphere of critical interested
faces, critical indifferent faces, toadying sycophant faces, stupid
careless faces; all these were over.  Arnold and Ursula had stood by
him all the time, Arnold giving him sanctuary in his rooms, Ursula
ready for his moods, the clearing-house of his thoughts and emotions.
Paul had grown ever more clearly aware what good friends these were,
and now, for the first night, they two and Tressor had been with him in
the box.

He was very tired; that seemed to stand out more clearly than anything
else.  He was utterly tired of his own work, and utterly tired of the
whole dreary business of staging.  He had seen the curtain go up
chiefly with a kind of dull wonder that anyone should be there to watch
the fantastically familiar and now boring thing.  He had looked down
with the rest, across the footlights, into that Eastern street where
passers by came and went, and mules and asses, where a radiant sun
shone blindingly, where tall white houses and the gaudy booths of
merchants filled the scene; but he had a sudden odd sense of
Chanctonbury and dark pines and the cool mellow wind, and a feeling
that the beggar-man had no place there.  Yet the beggar-man was duly at
his corner crouching in the dust, whining, shrinking from the
Pharisee's robe, the merchant's stick.  Paul found himself staring with
aroused interest--his blind beggar-man!  And then there had been that
confused murmur off the stage; the sudden emptying of the street; that
cry of the Son of David, startlingly clear, that had fetched the
beggar-man to his feet and drawn him groping off, leaving the deserted
stalls, the glaring dust and a tethered beast or two for the audience
to study the while the noise without died down, and leaped again into a
sudden shout as the miracle was accomplished.  That had been his idea,
his only, and his the new striding in of that alert figure, thronged,
jostled, questioned, who made his resolute revolutionary way back to
his old seat for his bowl and his stool ere he marched off home--seeing.

With the fall of the curtain, an eager manager had pushed his way in.
"Capital, capital, Mr. Kestern.  It's going like a bell.  Thoroughwood
is here, and he's very impressed, very impressed indeed.  I was not
sure of him, you know, but if he says the right thing, the play's made.
I congratulate you, Mr. Kestern, I do indeed."

Paul had stared at him.  Then he bowed and murmured a conventional
reply, and sat down heavily by Ursula.  She had put her hand on his arm
and smiled.  "That's all right," she said.  "Don't mind him.  People
will see the right thing, if he doesn't."

"Will they?" he had questioned.

"Boy," she said, "I've never had a doubt.  There's no denying sight."

And so it had been.  The thing was sight.  Even a first-night London
theatre audience, attracted by the advertisement of an unusual thing,
had seen that.  The play as a play was good, but the play as a parable
was something more.  The clay had touched more eyes than those of the
blind beggar that night.  When the last curtain fell, it had fallen on
a silent house.  The weaving of the spell had been complete.  Art,
poetry, drama and successful staging, all had been there, but the
spirit of something more had stolen into the place.  Several thousand
men and women had looked on truth in its beauty, stripped of the shams
and conventionalities of orthodox religion, and the utter loveliness of
it had gone straight to their hearts.

Of course, the applause had come, had grown, had begun as a breath of
relief and had risen to a crescendo of tumult.  People had invaded the
box.  The manager had gestured towards a sea of upturned faces, looking
their way.  Paul had gone behind, shaken hands with a sudden grateful
eagerness with the men and women who had played in his success, and
appeared for a moment before the curtain.  He had said something, and
bowed, and felt suddenly utterly carried away, so that he had waved his
hand boyishly and had, apparently, done just the right thing, whatever
that was.  At present he had no recollection.  But even Ursula had been
smiling when he rejoined them.

"Come on," cried Arnold, "the taxi's waiting and we'll get out of this."

"Right," said Paul.  "Which way? ... What is it?  Lend me a pencil,
will you?  There, will that do?"

Arnold thrust his arm into his.  "Look here," he said, "for heaven's
sake don't start signing programmes now.  On you go, Ursula.  We'll
follow."

The porter in his little box smiled at him.  The manager appeared again
and smiled at him.  ("Oh, I say, don't go.  Do stay for supper...."
"Thanks awfully, but I've got a show fixed up, I fear.  Another
night....")  A little crowd at the door smiled at him and thrust
forward.  A policeman even smiled at him, and thrust back.  Ursula got
in; Paul was vividly aware of the dark night, a muddy street, a yellow
flare of light over the way, the tail of a poster: "----AR-MAN," and
the gleam of the girl's white opera-cloak.  Then he too was in, in the
dark confined little space, sitting down by her, fumbling to move her
wraps a little, stowing his legs away to make room for Arnold.  And
then Arnold, lingering momentarily to bid the driver make all speed,
was in too, and the door banged, and the first performance was over.

"Thank God," said Arnold.  "Give me a cigarette, somebody."

"Did you see Muriel?" asked Ursula.  "She was in front.  She waved to
me.  I took it to mean that she'd go on."

"Where's Tressor?" demanded Paul.

Arnold laughed.  "Hear that, Ursula?  Still, I suppose it's excusable.
Personally I should have been drunk before this.  You're really a
marvel, Paul."

"What in the world are you talking about?  Ursula, do explain."

Her eyes danced at him.  "Oh, it's nothing," she said.  "We're all of
us too excited to talk sense.  Paul, isn't it absolutely priceless?"

"I can't tell you what I feel," said Paul.

"Tressor shook hands with you, and said good-night and that he'd clear
off, and you were to let him know when you were going down to Fordham,"
explained Arnold belatedly.

"Oh, yes, so he did.  I say, Mortimer did 'Herod' well, didn't he?  And
d'you know, that finish is good, isn't it?  It was wonderful to-night.
In the end, it seemed to me that I hadn't written it, hadn't even seen
it before."

"Magic of an excited house," commented Arnold.  "Well, you ought to be
a happy man.  You're a lucky one, anyway."

"I know.  I am.  I am both.  And I'm awfully grateful to you two."

Arnold put his head out of the window.  "Here we are," he cried, half
in and half out of the taxi.  "We've done nothing."

Paul turned suddenly to the girl.  "You did everything," he said, with
vivid realisation.

It had been Ursula's wish to give Paul a triumphant supper at her flat
the night of his success.  It was not to be a big affair, the three of
them and Muriel Lister only, and Paul had eagerly assented, realising a
little how intolerable any other programme would be.  So now Ursula
went ahead upstairs, and when Paul and his friend came in, was drawing
her gloves off before the fire and chatting with her friend.  "Here he
is," she cried.  "Now Muriel."

Muriel Lister took an eager pace forward and held out her hand.  "Mr.
Kestern," she said, "I don't know how to congratulate you.  You've done
far more than devise a successful play, far more than write some
wonderful poetry.  You've preached a new religion, do you know that?
You're rightly called Paul; you're an apostle."

Paul laughed.  "That's the one role I've sought all my days," he said,
"but I thought I should never play it."

"Well, you have.  All London will know it to-morrow.  You've said the
thing the churches are afraid to say.  You've said what we've been
trying to preach for years.  And what's more, you've said it in such a
way that people will listen and see.  Oh, I do congratulate you!"

"My dear Muriel," said Arnold, "you're intolerable.  A parson is bad
enough, but a woman parson is worse.  Whatever you girls may feel, I'm
dying for eats and drinks, and I bet the successful author is too,
only, probably, he's too shy to say so.  Let's eat first and talk it
over afterwards."

Muriel chuckled and turned to Ursula.  "What a pig he is," she cried,
"but perhaps he's right.  We're all four too exalted for life at
present.  Let's eat, and we shall grow sane.  It's a parable.  Come on,
my dear; shall I dole out chicken?"

They gathered round the table in a corner of the big studio and fell
to, talking reminiscently and mostly all at once the while.  Finally
Paul pushed his chair back a little and laughed aloud.

"What is it now?" mumbled Arnold, still busy.

"Oh," cried Paul, "I can't believe it, you know, I can't believe it!
We four, here, and I the author of a play that--that (I know it's
conceited, but I can't help it) that perhaps half London will be
talking about in a week!"

His little gesture took them all in: Arnold opposite, consuming trifle;
Ursula on his left, tall, dark, leaning back in her chair, playing with
a spoon, smiling; Muriel on his right, keen-faced, upright, fair; the
bare table littered with pleasant things of glass and silver;
dishes--the white débris of chicken, the shattered orange of a jelly;
the shadowed spaces of the studio about them; the blue curtains; the
faded Persian rug; easel; worn, easy chairs; model's throne; a shelf in
the corner gleaming with the hammered copper of Ursula's collection of
antique Arab coffee-pots and bowls; a standard lamp shaded with blue
and old gold; a bookcase with its owner's carefully selected volumes,
among which were a couple now bearing his name.  And the three looked
at him and read his face for a second or two in silence.  They all knew
what he meant.  It was rather wonderful when one considered the Paul
Kestern of Lambeth Court.

Muriel Lister broke the little silence.  "It's like you not to believe
it yet," she said.

Paul studied her and grew puzzled.  "Why do you say that?" he asked.

She threw a glance at Ursula.  The two were great friends and confided
in each other.  Then she laughed.  "You're still a bit blind, you
know," she retorted.

"Why?" queried Paul.  "I don't see."

"Exactly," nodded the other.  "But come on, let's talk."

Paul chose the big footstool, which, in the studio, had come to be
regarded as his special right.  Arnold sprawled on a couch.  Muriel
Lister sat on a chair by Paul.  Ursula had a pile of cushions in the
corner between Arnold and the fire, and said little as was her wont.

"You've got to preach that new religion of yours," went on Muriel when
they were settled.  "I hope you realise that."

Paul frowned.  He liked Miss Lister, but not especially her rather
parsonic manner.  "I don't know that I can," he said.

"You must.  Why shouldn't you?"

"I'm not sure that I see it like that myself yet."

"Surely you do.  Don't you see it's just what the world is waiting for?
Men and women have outgrown that old pious talk of a god that is no
more than a glorified human being, and especially they've outgrown all
those grave-clothes the Greek philosophers and Eastern gnostics wound
about the figure of the prophet of Nazareth in order to present to the
world a conception, a Jesus of the Nicene Creed.  But somehow there was
no way out.  We all speculated as to the personality of God, except a
few, who were agnostics, but you get nowhere with negations."

"I know," said Paul gravely.  "That God of theirs is asleep.  The
oracle is silent.  I know."

"Yes, and now by some stroke of genius you've put your finger on the
thing that matters.  Sight.  The beauty of the world.  'He's good,
omnipotent, a father'--that's what the theologians have said.  'It's
beautiful,' say you, and that's enough."

"The gospel of sheer slothful material sentimentalism," put in Manning
lazily.

She flashed on him.  "Rubbish," she cried.  "That's not the gospel of
the Beggar-Man, is it, Mr. Kestern?"

"No," said Paul, "no, no, no; it's not that."

"No, the glory of this is that it is positive.  It strides forward.  It
builds; it----"

"It builds what?  Let's be practical.  That sort of talk, up to the
present anyway, has mostly built Agapemones."

Muriel Lister frowned.  "No," she said.  "The Temple of Common Things."

Arnold sucked his pipe.  "I fear I can't follow so quickly," he
retorted cynically.

"You wouldn't.  But, don't you see?  This creed doesn't seek an
æsthetic hybrid sensual beauty.  When the beggar-man had his eyes
opened, what was it seemed beautiful to him?  Eh, what?"

Paul smiled.  "His three-legged stool," he said, "and his little hovel."

"Exactly.  Clay.  The beauty of gold-brown earth."  And Miss Lister
relapsed into silence.

"I still don't see the gospel," said Arnold.

"You're born blind, then," retorted the girl.

"Well," returned Arnold, "be a little more explicit.  Get on with it."

"A gospel that origins and ends don't matter and that we ought to be
influenced by them not at all; that God is veiled, but the veil is
good; that we are kin to all that is; that barriers are of our own
making; that the urge of life within us is our guide; and that
moralities and revelations and false spiritualities have themselves
made sin.  And," she added slowly, "that the true spiritual life
consists in the pursuit of learning, experience and beauty, according
to vocation, without fear and for themselves alone."

"Fear?" queried Arnold.

"Yes, without fear.  The gospel of the Beggar-Man banishes fear.  He
knows right values.  He knows he cannot be robbed of anything that
matters.  He fears no man; all men are brothers; all are blind beggars
with potential sight; he has nothing but pity for your aristocrat, your
millionaire."

"'News from Nowhere'," chuckled Arnold.

"True--with the path blazoned to it," she exclaimed.

"It appears to be you and not Paul who is preaching anyway," put in
Ursula, staring into the fire.

"He will live it, and he will sing it--and you will paint it," cried
Muriel.

"Which reminds me," said Paul gravely, "that I've to go down to Claxted
to-morrow."

"Claxted?"

"Yes, to my people.  I've utterly neglected them lately.  They don't
even know I've written a play."

"They will to-morrow," said Arnold, "if they read the newspapers."

"Yes," Paul replied slowly, "I think they will."  And was suddenly
silent, with a silence that the little company knew to be significant.
The firelight danced on his face.  Ursula turned her head slowly and
studied him.



(2)

Paul went back with Arnold, and next morning the two friends packed up
and parted, Arnold going to Cambridge, Paul to Claxted.  The latter was
to spend some weeks with his people and was restless over the prospect.
He did not say much, however; Arnold was almost incapable of
understanding just what Claxted meant.  He knew that the Kesterns were
"old-fashioned" and "strait-laced"; what he could not know was the
sincerity, the earnestness on the one hand, and the fierce fanaticism
on the other, of their faith.  But Paul knew, or thought so.  Perhaps
he should have realised even more than he did, but the years of partial
separation and the mellow influence of Fordham had dulled his memory to
some extent.

He had hardly left Claxted station, however, before he got an inkling
of what was to be.  In Edward Street he ran into Miss Bishop.  Now Miss
Bishop was Miss Bishop, a unique product of divine providence, but
beneath all her angularity and sectarianism ran a kindly current which
had hitherto embraced Paul.  He therefore smiled at seeing her, shifted
a suitcase to his left hand and held out his right.  "Why, Miss
Bishop," he said, "how do you do?"

The woman's lips compressed and her eyes flashed.  "You can be as
cheerful as that, can you?" she said.  "Do you realise the evil you
have done?  But I suppose you don't.  May God open your eyes in time,
that is all I have to say.  Good-day."  And she passed on, without
taking his hand.

Paul's astonishment and dismay were almost ludicrous.  A passing small
boy with a street urchin's keen perception, perceived vaguely that he
had hit on a lucky incident.  His arrested whistle and wide grin
recalled Paul to his senses.

"Fair cop, mister?" queried the small boy, hopefully.

Paul ignored him, caught a glimmer of the humour of the situation,
changed his grip on his suitcase again, and passed on.  But as he went,
he turned her words over in his mind.  Increasingly he could see no
sense in them.

Taking the cinder-path that skirts the railway, the kindly touch of
familiar things which have ceased to have power to perplex or terrify
came to his aid.  It was along this path that he had gone to the
Mission Hall Sunday by Sunday, the waters of his soul troubled with the
frenzy of apostleship, but it was along this path that he had returned
often and again arm in arm with a tender kindly Mr. Kestern who had
shared all his son's enthusiasms and sympathised in his distresses.
Here, as a schoolboy, he had counted trains or trudged eagerly home
from school for a Saturday afternoon excursion.  Here, more adult, he
had been first conscious of sex stimulus (though then and now he did
not so label it) in the company of Madeline and Edith.  Edith!  Yes, it
was of Edith that he thought mostly as he walked home.  She had been
reserved and sorrowful on his going to Fordham, had replied more and
more tardily to letters, had finally ceased to write at all.  But he
too had ceased.  Anyone as sensitive as Paul to surroundings would have
felt an incongruity between Edith Thornton and Fordham Manor, and then,
too, he had been going through an emotional stress big enough to
dominate his mind.  But now, back here in the home atmosphere, he
thought very warmly of her.  He longed for her simplicity, her naïve
faith.  It did not seem to him a barrier between them.  After all, with
the sight of the Beggar-Man, it was easy to enfold her in tenderness
and understanding.

Thus, then, he came at last to his father's door, waited impatiently
for the maid to open it, dropped his bag in the little hall, and turned
impulsively to the figure of Mr. Kestern irresolute in the study door.

"Dad," he cried, "it is good to see you again!  How are you?  How's
mother?"

"Oh, Paul!"

The love, the sorrow, the yearning of Mrs. Kestern's cry stabbed him
suddenly and unexpectedly to the heart.  She had rushed past her
husband and flung her arms about his neck.  Emotion welling up in him,
he bent his head to kiss her, and felt the hot tears on her cheek.

"Oh, my boy, my boy....  You've come at last, Paul.  Oh, my son, you'll
never doubt your mother's love for you, will you?  Kiss your father,
Paul.  I cannot lose either of my men."

Paul was already bewildered.  The pathos of her grip on his arm, and
the significance of her eagerness to see the greeting between him and
his father, were not lost upon him.  His mother clinging to him, he
turned to his father, who had not stirred.

"Of course I've come, mother darling," he said.  "But I've been
terribly busy, you know.  And it's awfully jolly seeing you and daddy
again.  (He used the childish word unconsciously.)  How are you,
father?"

The man moved a little and brushed his son's lips.  Paul perceived in a
moment that he had aged.  Fear slipped suddenly into his mind.  He
peered a little to see his father's eyes, and then, with something like
a catch in his heart, and with a deliberate blindness, pushed them
before him into the study.  "Oh, it is jolly to be back," he cried
again, but with simulated enthusiasm now, refusing to admit what he had
seen, stifling his growing apprehension.

Mr. Kestern seated himself in his revolving chair in front of the
bureau.  His Bible lay open upon it.  Paul caught a glimpse of the
underlinings, the "railway-lines," the added red and black of the
almost microscopic notes in the neat handwriting he knew so well.  He
looked swiftly round.  The case of stuffed birds, the books, the framed
portraits, a print of John G. Paton, missionary in the New
Hebrides--nothing had changed.  His eye fell on a text, the letters of
which had been cut out separately with a fretsaw, hung on an invisible
thread, and draped on the wall above the bureau.  "Jesus Himself drew
near and went with them."  That was new; and yet, yet, how old!  The
old Claxted; the old faith; the old obstinate unchanging evangelicalism
that was already a lifetime old to him.

"How are all your new friends?" asked his father.

The hidden note of bitterness stung Paul for the first time to
something like anger.  He choked it down, however.  "Very well indeed,
thanks," he said evenly.  "I had supper with them last night, and saw
Manning off to Cambridge this morning."

"The very newspaper told us that much," said Mr. Kestern, with a
gesture towards the _Morning Post_ that lay folded on a side-table.
"After the theatre, I understand."

The harshness of the man's voice was too obvious to allow of any
further equivocation.  Paul moved over to the fireplace, and his
mother, seated in an arm-chair, held out a hand appealingly to him.

"Paul, dear," she entreated, "don't anger your father.  You know what
he feels about the theatre."

"But I've said nothing, mother," cried Paul miserably.

"Nothing!" exclaimed Mr. Kestern, wheeling round on him, no longer able
to restrain himself, "nothing!  Do you think it is nothing that my boy
should write a play?  My son, photographed with a stage-manager,
appearing--what is your word?--'called' before the curtain!  Oh, God,
what have I done that my son should come to this!"

"Father, father, don't!" cried Mrs. Kestern.  "Of course Paul must take
his own place----"

"Mother, you don't know what you say.  His own place!  But that is the
son we gave to God, that is the son of our hopes and prayers, that is
the boy for whom we contrived and saved that he might go to college,
and now--now, he writes plays!  The bitterness is more than I can bear.
I have lost my son."

The grim comedy of it was lost on the three of them.  Mrs. Kestern
burst into tears.  "Father, dear," she sobbed, "don't say such terrible
things.  Oh, I can't bear it!"

Something awoke and flared up in Paul.  The thing had come so quickly,
with such an appearance of inevitability that he had been taken wholly
unawares.  He had hoped for a reasonable talk about the theatre, and at
least a comfortable agreement to differ.  But he had been conscious
during the last few minutes of utter helplessness before this
incredible attitude, and now the cruel absurdity of it all flamed
before him.

"Father," he burst out, "you've no right to speak so.  You've no right
to judge the theatre as you do.  You know nothing about it.  You've not
seen my play."

"I haven't, thank God, I haven't.  But I've read about it.  I've read
about it with utter shame and dismay.  Yet I can't, I won't at least,
believe all that the paper hints at.  Is it true that you have parodied
the Gospel?"

"Parodied?"  Paul was utterly bewildered again.

"Yes, parodied.  I gather you have taken a story that you learned as a
boy at your mother's knee, upon which I have even heard you preach, and
have reset it, rewritten it, pushing the Master into the background,
denying, so far as I can see, the Son of God."

"Father----" sobbed Mrs. Kestern.

"Mother, that will do.  Paul and I must thrash this thing out.  Tell
me, Paul, once and for all, what is Jesus Christ now to you?"

Paul stared at him.  Mr. Kestern, flushed, vehement, terrible, was the
father of the old Catholic controversial days, the father from whom he
was divided by an impassable gulf.  What could he say?  How could he
explain?  He made an involuntary hopeless gesture that was immediately
misunderstood, and turned back to the fireplace.

"Ah," cried Mr. Kestern, "you will not answer.  This is what your
Catholic friends have done for you!  I told you so, but you would never
believe me.  Rome was so reasonable and fair, wasn't it?--an angel of
light.  Father Vassall believed in Christ as earnestly as I did--did
you not say that?  But this is the end!  You deny the Master who bought
you with His own blood!"

The utter injustice of that charge broke down Paul's last reserve.  He
turned swiftly back, as vehement as the other, the true son of his
father if the elder could only have seen it.  "You don't know what you
say," he cried.  "This is utter madness, utter childish folly.  Father
Vassall has nothing whatever to do with all this.  How could he?  Do
you think he wanted me to go to Fordham, though you did.  Why, if he
had had his way, I should be a Catholic priest by now, or well on the
way to it."

"Just so," stormed his father, "a Catholic priest indeed!  Then he
would have trapped you finely.  As it is, baulked in that, he will send
your soul to hell by another road!"

"Oh, I can't bear it, I can't bear it," cried Mrs. Kestern, rocking
herself to and fro.

Paul clenched his fists.  "You've no right to speak so," he retorted
passionately.  "How dare you insult Father Vassall in that way?  Is it
like Christ to talk so?  If that is all your evangelicalism can do for
you, I am well quit of it."

"So you admit you are quit of it?  You turn your back on your father's
and mother's faith?  You have no use for the Scripture of Truth?"

The boy might, in a saner moment, have caught the tone of invincible
bigotry that had crept into his father's words.  "Of course I've use
for it," retorted Paul again, contemptuously.  "Haven't I written a
play under its inspiration?  But I must make my own judgment on
religion."

Mr. Kestern sobered suddenly and terribly.  He spoke biting words with
slow deliberation.  "You must, sir," he said, "only it is blasphemy to
speak so of inspiration.  And you will be good enough to tell me what
is your judgment on the Master Who alone is served in this house."

Paul gazed at him a minute.  Phrases rose to his lips.  Then he
realised how useless they would be.  His anger died as quickly as it
had arisen.  "You would not understand," he said hopelessly.

"I know I have not the new learning of my son," retorted Mr. Kestern
bitterly, "but I think I can understand that much.  Will you answer a
plain question?  Are you still on the Lord's side, or not?"

"Of course he is," wept Mrs. Kestern.  "Father, how can you ask?
Speak, Paul, and tell him you still love and serve the Lord Jesus?"

Mr. Kestern studied his son's face.  "Speak, then," he said slowly.

Paul hesitated.  Then he drew himself up.  "I love and respect and
admire Jesus of Nazareth with all my heart," he said.  "His teaching it
is that has opened my eyes, and his gospel of compassion and
brotherliness is as noble as any that the world has yet heard.  But I
cannot call him God as you do, and as Catholics do."

The anger died in Mr. Kestern's face.  The look of an old and broken
man crept into it.  He turned back to his desk and picked up his Bible.
"Do you perhaps remember what this says?" he demanded.  "Listen."  (He
fumbled with the leaves.)  "'He that confesseth not that Jesus Christ
is come in the flesh is not of God, and this is the spirit of
antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now
already is it in the world.'"

The words lingered in the little room.  The three of them, each in his
or her own way, quailed before the stark decisiveness of them.  Mrs.
Kestern it was who first could bear it no longer.  "Father, he is your
son," she cried.  "Nothing can alter that!"

Mr. Kestern was on his feet, two thousand years of Christianity
stripped from him, the spirit of the Old Testament glowing in his face.
"What saith the Scripture?" he cried.  "'Cursed be he that setteth
light by his father or his mother.'  'Cursed be he that maketh the
blind to wander out of the way.'  Or our Master Himself: 'He that
loveth child more than me is not worthy of me.'  And you, Paul, have
done both these things.  My grey hairs you would bring down in sorrow
to the grave, but that is not enough.  Here, into this very parish of
which I am pastor, you have brought your devil's doctrine and broken up
one family of Christ's flock already.  Shall I spare my son any more
than our brother spared his daughter?  You will leave this house, and I
do not want to see your face till you come as a penitent again."

Mrs. Kestern buried her face in her hands and cowered in her chair with
an inarticulate cry of woe so bitter that both father and son shrank
before it.  The clergyman stepped quickly over to her.  "Mother,
mother," he cried, "the dear Lord knows.  He will save the boy yet.
But how can we have such in this house?"

"My son, my son," she wailed.  Then, breaking free from her husband,
"Oh, Paul, say you don't mean it!  Paul, Paul, would you break your
mother's heart?  Say you don't mean it, Paul, say you don't mean it!"

She flung her arms round his neck, but the boy put her away.  He was
piecing this and that together, and was no more only the boy.  "What do
you mean," he demanded, "when you say I have broken up a family in this
parish?  What charge is that?  Tell me, if you have any justice left in
you."

"You know," said his father sternly; "don't pretend you do not."

"I do not know," cried Paul passionately.  "I begin to think you are
mad, all mad.  My God, if this is the religion of Christ, Christ would
not know it!"

His father started, and for a moment it was almost as if the old man
would strike his son.  Then, with a gesture, he strode to the door.
"Go," he said, "go.  Only last month I had to comfort Mr. Thornton when
his child, Edith, left his house to become a Papist through you.
Papist or atheist, it is all one to me.  I will not have such within my
house."

"Edith!" cried Paul, utterly dumbfounded.

His tone, and the use of the girl's name, braced Mrs. Kestern.  "Oh,
Paul," she cried, "you knew of it, don't pretend you didn't!  How you
could have acted so behind our backs I can't think.  Poor, poor girl!
Oh, you had better go now.  It would be better for us all.  May our
Father have mercy on us, and may you be spared the agony that your
parents know."

His mother's action brought Paul to his senses.  He looked from one to
the other of them in consternation.  "You don't mean it," he cried,
"surely you don't mean it!"

"Don't go like that, Paul," sobbed Mrs. Kestern, breaking down again,
"I can't bear it."

Paul pulled himself together.  "But, mother, father," he said, "this is
sheer madness.  We are not living in the Middle Ages.  This isn't
melodrama.  I--I differ from you in religion, I know; I can't help it;
I must do what seems right to me.  But surely, because of that----"

His father opened the study door.  Broken and old, there was a certain
dignity now in his face.  "Paul," he said, "we talk different tongues,
but nothing alters the fact that you have turned utterly from the
religion of your parents to serve another.  'As for me and my house, we
will serve the Lord.'  You have no place here.  Go now, lest we say in
our anger what ought not to be said."

Paul looked again heavily round the room.  "You have said it already,"
he replied, and left the house.



(3)

Paul walked down the street like a man in a dream.  Once he stopped,
turned, and walked a few paces back, telling himself that it could not
be true, that it was too theatrical to be true.  But his father's face
rose before him as he went, and still more the terror of his mother's
tears.  He recalled the history of a friend of his in training for the
Baptist ministry, who had decided he could not accept the doctrine of
the deity of Christ and had been cursed by his widowed mother and
turned into the street with eighteenpence in his pocket.  Somehow it
had never seemed possible that it could happen to him.  Yet, in the
throes of the Catholic stage of his soul's pilgrimage, it had been
plain enough that something of that sort would happen if he made his
submission to the Church.  Once more, the horror of his parents' grief
as he had seen it when he knelt in Father Vassall's chapel gripped his
heart.  And now, and now, suddenly, so ironically, so futilely, so
childishly, this thing had swept down upon him.  He, Paul Kestern, had
been turned from his father's house.  The thing was true.

Then, into the stream of his thoughts, drifted the memory of what had
been said of Edith Thornton.  Of all the incredible happenings of an
incredible morning, that, perhaps, was ultimately one of the most
incredible.  Edith a Catholic!  He thought of her face under the
lamplight in Lambeth Court--oh, incredible!  But one moment: he thought
of her prayer under the pines at Keswick, of her answer to his dilemma
after his return from Thurloe End.  Gradually he began to piece
together the mosaic of her simple reasoning, her resolute faith, her
ardent love; it was exactly of such souls that Catholic saints are
made.  That, then, had been the inner meaning of her sorrow over his
going to Fordham and of her silence thereafter.  This resolution, this
terrible domestic retribution, had come crashing down on her head, and
she, too, had been driven out alone.

Once more the flame of anger flickered in his heart.  As he thought it
over, his indignation grew.  He pictured her, as he loved best to do,
in the quiet neat simplicity of that brown dress of hers, with her
clear, trustful eyes.  And they had turned her out, had they, to what,
he should like to know?  Good God, and this was in England to-day!  He
saw Mr. Thornton, rotund, bald, very respectable, and realised that if,
at bottom, he was as bigoted a Protestant as any of them, business was
mixed up with religion.  The man had never really loved his daughter,
Paul thought, he, with his commercial soul, his respectable tradesman's
boot-licking servility, his front pew in the side aisle never empty on
a Sunday.  And as he thought of it all, he came to a resolution.  He
gripped his stick more firmly and turned off to Edward Street.

A girl assistant came forward.  Paul did not know her.  Could he see
Mr. Thornton?  She would enquire.  What name?

"Mr. Kestern," said Paul, a little grimly.

A flutter of surprise and then of understanding crossed the girl's
face.  Would he sit down.  She would tell Mr. Thornton.

She disappeared behind a screen and opened a door.  Paul, looking round
the suburbanly-fashionable shop, knew that she stood in front of a
solid, highly polished desk in that little inner sanctum, and wondered
if she would say more than his name.  If not, it would be his father
who would be expected.  The immediate appearance of Mr. Thornton round
the screen, bowing, smiling, rubbing his hands, showed him that she had
not.  He walked forward.  As the photographer started in surprise, he
spoke.

"How do you do, Mr. Thornton?  I've come to ask if I may see Edith."
(Better to put it that way: the man would not know how much he had been
told.)

Edith's father stood and looked at him in amazement.  Paul, out of the
corner of his eye, saw the interested friendly smile of the girl
behind.  Possibly Mr. Thornton saw it reflected in the young man's
face, for his own flushed angrily.  He stumbled for words.  "You,
you----" he spluttered.  "How dare you, sir?"

Paul surveyed him coolly.  He was sure of his ground now.  "Really, Mr.
Thornton..." he said.  "Your daughter and I were very good friends in
the Mission, and I have not seen her for some time."

"Look here," burst out the man, "you may be a clergyman's son, and you
may think to come it over me, but I tell you you were responsible--I
know you were responsible.  Broke her mother's 'eart, she has, and
you----"

He realised suddenly that he was in the shop.  Anyone might come in.
The girl was there.  He took a grip of himself and prepared for a more
cold-blooded battle.  "Ah," he said conventionally, "I'm very glad
you've called.  Will you please to come inside a moment."

Paul entered the lion's den.

The little man was still more reassured by the weight and prosperity of
his office furniture.  He sank into his chair, and motioned Paul to a
seat.  One glance to see that the door was shut behind him, and then:

"I'm _very_ glad you've called.  If there was a just law in this land,
I ought to be able to prosecute you, I ought.  You made my girl a
Catholic, you did,--a Papist, _my_ girl!  You go to college to learn to
be a minister, and you come sneaking back pervertin' a girl like my
Edith.  And where is she now, I ask you, where is she now?  In a
convent, _that's_ where she is.  Fair broke her mother's 'eart it has.
A convent!  Going to be a nun!  And what tricks they'll play on her
there, what dirty tricks them Jesuits will be up to----"

Paul cut in decisively.  "Mr. Thornton," he said, "that will do.  That
is utter rubbish, you know.  What is more, it is beastly.  I won't hear
it."

Mr. Thornton knew education and the manner of gentlemen.  He had all
the Claxted respect for them.  So now this peremptory young man
momentarily shut him up.  "Er--er--I----" he stuttered.

Paul leaned coolly back and waited.  He was desperately angry, and he
was beginning to be aware of a sense of bitter loss, but both, here,
only made him cool.  And his coolness enraged the photographer even as
he stammered under his set-back.  His sense of outrage, of personal
injury, came rapidly to the fore again.  It grew every second, and at
last:

"Well, I've lost my girl, anyway, I have, and through you.  What had
you got to do with her, anyway, that's what I want to know?  Walkin'
out with her--as good as--I hear now----"

Paul flushed.  There it was, the naked truth, as Alf Vintner and Maud
and half the parish probably saw it.  He bit his lip.  "Mr. Thornton,"
he said, "I wanted to marry your daughter."

Marry!  The man gaped on him.  Somehow he had not thought that.  He had
never thought that Mr. Kestern's son, at Cambridge too, doing so well,
going to be a minister, had thought seriously of marrying his daughter.
Heavens, what they had missed!  And this young man apparently thought
he had missed something, too.  After all, then, he couldn't have
persuaded her to seek a convent.  This was a new development.

"You don't say so, now, Mr. Kestern, sir," he said.  "Well, Edith was a
dear good girl, the best of the lot I always said.  Whatever made her
take up with that Catholikism, I can't tell.  She never heard it in
this house, I know.  And seeing that you were going High Church, mother
and I, we thought..."

"What happened, Mr. Thornton, can you tell me that?"

"Well, sir, she outs with it one evening, six months or so ago it was.
Says she's going to be received into the Church--those were her very
words.  Going to be received into the Church!  It made me very hot, Mr.
Kestern, it did.  No member of our family has ever been a Catholic,
thank God, and I said as I wouldn't have a child of mine a Catholic in
a good church-going evangelical house like this.  Said it out plain and
straight, I did.  And she ups and walks out of the door that very
night."

"You mean you turned her out, I suppose."

"Well, sir, I was hot, I admit.  She provoked me, too, knowing better'n
her father.  'If you can't go to my church, out you go,' I said.  'You
mean that, father?' she asks.  'Yes,' I said, standing on my dignity,
and she just walks off.  Her mother in tears, too.  'You go to
communion with me, or you're no daughter of mine,' that was what I
said, Mr. Kestern, and your father, he supported me in it afterwards."

"And you turned her out that night, as she was?"

"As she was, she walked out, Mr. Kestern.  Went straight to the
Catholic Convent, I believe.  Her mother saw her there once.  And where
she is now, _I_ don't know.  No, I don't _know_.  She was going to be a
nun, she said, and it seems, she being over-age, nobody can't stop her.
If there was a law in this so-called Christian land, Mr. Kestern----"

Paul got up.  The look on his face checked the photographer.  "I
understand, Mr. Thornton," he said, "despite your words.  Your
Christianity was such that you drove your daughter from your house for
the sake of her new faith.  I should hardly have thought it possible,
but I fear I understand only too well.  And I will tell you what I
think of it, Mr. Thornton.  It was a cowardly, mean, base, unchristian
thing of you to do, and that Jesus, in whose name you did it, would
never have lent his authority to any such thing.  It is utterly foreign
to his gospel.  As for Edith, I hope to God she knows her own mind,
that is all, and in my own sorrow, I can only find heart to be glad
that at least she is not here.  Good-day."  And Paul, not waiting for
the other to recover, walked out of the shop.

At the corner of Edward Street and Wellington Road, scarcely reasoning
as to what he was about to do, he hailed a cab and drove to the
convent.  He had bearded the nun who opened the door and was in the
parlour waiting to see the Reverend Mother before he realised the
futility of his action.  Still, he was there now, and he looked
curiously about him.  It was while he waited in that parlour that he
came to a realisation of how far from the religion it represented he
had moved.  Plainly furnished with a table, a few stiff chairs, a
foreign-looking so-called couch with an antimacassar, and a cheap
bookshelf with old-fashioned books in it, an oleograph of Pius IX. hung
over the mantelpiece, beaming blandly, half a crucifix behind him.  A
Madonna in coloured plaster stood on a shelf, and on the mantel-piece
at one end a cast of Christ pointing to his bleeding dripping heart,
and at the other another of St. Theresa gazing seraphically upwards.  A
crucifix stood between them, the Christ meeting St. Theresa's gaze with
agonised eyes, white girt about the waist with a heavy plaster
loin-cloth.  The table was covered with a faded red cloth.  It held an
inkstand and a blotter.  In the corner a _prie-Dieu_ was tucked out of
the way.

The Reverend Mother was kind and polite.  Did he come from the family?
No, and Paul hardly cared to explain.  Well, of course, he could not,
in any case, see Sister Edith.  Nor was she there in fact.  She had
been admitted to the novitiate, and, during training, the rules were
strict.  She could not promise that a letter would be given; it
depended on the letter.  Paul understood that it would be read.  The
sister was very happy, however, much happier than she had been on the
night she arrived alone and in tears, turned out from her father's
house....

That was all, of course.  He might have known it.  But one thing after
another....  Paul Kestern suddenly took stock of his own heart.

Where, indeed, was he even to sleep that night?  In the street, he
turned the question over.  And afterwards, what was he to do?  Manning
was at Cambridge; well, Fordham....  But suddenly he hated Fordham.  He
saw it, proud, aloof, and utterly failing to understand such troubles
as were his.  Tressor, too, would be there, and Paul shrank from
Tressor's dignified quiet kindliness.  He suddenly knew himself to be
alone.  He knew himself to be beaten, bruised, lonely; yes, he, with
the morning's paper full of his triumph.  Apples of Sodom....  For this
he had made the great exchange.  This was what it all came to: he was
down and out and alone.  Ursula?



(4)

He took train to town, engaged a room for the night at the Grosvenor as
being the nearest hotel, and took a taxi to her flat.  Two at a time he
mounted the stairs; damn the lift.  He knocked.  "Come in," she called.

It was eight o'clock and the lights were on, of course.  She was
sitting alone in an easy-chair by the fire, clad in a loose simple
dress of a rich deep orange that became her well.  She was reading, and
looked up almost expectantly from her book at his knock.  A little fire
leaped in the grate, and the room was still, familiar, kind.  She
smiled enquiringly as she saw him.  "Why, Paul," she said.

Paul moved slowly over to her, closing the door behind him.  On the rug
before the fire, he came to a standstill, looking down into her
upturned face with its clear unafraid open eyes, set in its ring of
black hair, taking in her regular definite features, her white throat.
She smiled at him again as he stood there, tenderly.

"Ursula, Ursula!" he cried, took a hasty step forward, dropped on his
knees before her, and buried his face in the kindly flame of her dress.

She reached a hand out and laid it on his head, stroking his hair.  For
a little neither moved.  Then: "I understand, Paul," she said without
more words; "I thought it might be so.  Your face told me last night."

He looked up.  "You're very wonderful," he said slowly.  "How could you
guess?  But it's not only my people, Ursula.  That, of course, was just
too terrible.  Father simply drove me out.  Not a word of explanation
would he allow.  It happened so quickly, too; at first I hardly
understood....  But I think it was worse afterwards when I did.  Edith
has gone to be a nun."

"Edith?"

"Yes."  (Words came quicker now.)  "Of course you don't know about her
though.  I was in love with her.  Ursula, she was such a dear.  Somehow
or another I see now what I've lost, desolatingly.  Do you know--of
course, it sounds absurd--but in my mind she is, as it were, in the
balance against the theatre.  She was so different.  She was so
unspoilt, so simple, so loving.  Oh, she was a dear, Ursula.  And she's
gone to be a nun, and it was I who made her."

"You who made her?"

"Well, I set her thinking about the Catholic Church, I suppose.  Of
course I don't know in the least what brought her to it in the end, but
still I can see, somehow.  She was made to be a nun."

"Then she could hardly have been made for you."

"Oh, I don't know.  She was such a dear.  You don't know," he cried
bitterly.

Ursula smiled.  "You odd, impetuous, eager creature," she said.

"But, Ursula, I'm utterly sick and miserable to-night.  I can't put it
into words properly.  I see what I've lost.  My people--of course,
they're ignorant, almost mad, but they've got something that I've lost.
Their faith is wonderful.  Christ is so real to them.  They live in an
odd world, but it isn't shallow, it isn't a sham, and our world is such
a sham, Ursula.  I feel that at the theatre so much.  You never know
what people really think and mean.  And afterwards, in the morning
light, so to speak, it's all made-up and painted and false."

She said nothing, only shifted her eyes to the fire.

"And then there's Edith.  You can't see Edith, Ursula, as I do.  She
was like a flower.  She was so utterly simple and childish and true.
She was just the opposite to all this.  She saw through things.  That's
why she's become a nun, of course; just walked straight forward into
it.  And our world _never_ walks straight forward."

"Our world?"

The tone of her voice held him.  She had shaded her face with her hand
now and did not look at him.  "Our world, Paul?" she queried again.

"What do you mean?"

She did not at once reply.  Then, suddenly, she turned and looked at
him.  "What are you going to do now?" she asked.

"I don't know.  There seems nothing to do."

"I thought the blind beggar saw beauty so wonderfully.  Didn't it fill
his life?"

He shrugged his shoulders and said nothing.  The room hung very still.

"Then you don't know what you're going to do?" she asked again at last.

"No."

"Come with Muriel and me to Africa."

"_What?_"

"I thought that would startle you.  We only fixed it definitely this
morning.  Muriel's brother is an assistant commissioner or something of
that sort in Basutoland, and he's given her an open invitation to visit
him.  Yesterday, too, she was asked to go out and address some series
of meetings in the Cape and Natal.  I should like to see the country
and paint.  So we settled this morning to go together--about June.
Come too."

"Could I?"

"Of course."

"But what about Muriel?"

"She'd love it.  And one more in a South African house doesn't matter."

Paul turned it swiftly over.  With his books and his successful play he
knew he could raise enough money.  He drew a deep breath.  "Oh," he
said, "I'd love it."

"Good," she said, "that's settled.  We're travelling East Coast.  And
now, why not go down and stay with mother for a little?"



CHAPTER XII

ZANZIBAR

    Lo, winged with world's wonders,
      With miracles shod,
    With the fires of his thunders
      For raiment and rod,
  God trembles in heaven, and the angels are white with the terror
            of God.

  * * * * *

    Thought made him and breaks him,
      Truth slays and forgives;
    But to you, as time takes him,
      This new thing it gives,
  Even love, the beloved Republic, that feeds upon freedom and lives.
                              ALGERNON CHARLES SWINBURNE: _Hertha_.

  High sat white Helen, lonely and serene.
    He had not remembered that she was so fair,
  And that her neck curved down in such a way;
  And he felt tired.  He flung the sword away,
    And kissed her feet, and knelt before her there,
  The perfect Knight before the perfect Queen.
                              RUPERT BROOKE: _Menelaus and Helen_.



(1)

Paul was staring over Ursula's shoulder at her nearly finished
water-colour, and she, leaning back a little, was putting quick touches
to it.  Her chair was against the rail on the shady side of the boat
deck; and just below, the endless procession of natives who had begun
carrying coal from lighters alongside to the coal bunkers of the ship
since but an hour or two after anchor had been dropped the night
before, and who were still apparently as busy as ever, toiled, each man
in it naked to the waist-cloth, sooty and perspiring, in the blazing
sun.  The dingy, clumsy, rough-hewn boats in the utterly clear water
through which you could see almost to their keels, were bathed in that
vivid light, while, between burning blue above and sparkling blue
beneath, the chanting labourers passed up with full baskets and bent
shoulders and down with empty ones and laughter.  Now and again a fussy
launch, usually with a gay flag fluttering in the breeze of its
passage, chunked or chortled by.  Across the flow, a big P. and O.
steamer moved slowly into the Canal, its crowd of emigrants leaning
over the side, staring, shouting, talking.  On their own ship, people
were mostly clustered at the gangways chaffering with pedlars, or
dispersed ashore or below.  Paul himself was back from a visit to Simon
Artz and carried packages under his arm.

"There," Ursula said, holding the block out before her.  "Will that do?"

He did not at once reply.  She twisted round a bit and glanced up at
him.

"Well?" she queried again.

"You've hit it absolutely," he said.  "But the whole thing says
something besides.  It says it plainly, too.  It's stupid of me not to
be able to put it into words.  I shall in a minute."

The boys' monotonous chant came steadily up to them, and a siren
shrieked.  The P. and O. mail was lost behind a big Jap steamer, and
from half a dozen ships about them came the sound of striking bells.
As the noise of the last of them died away, Paul spoke.

"I know," he said slowly.  "You've got the incredible contrast there.
Naked, sweating, tired natives, working endlessly for a mere trifle at
a boring weary job in a living world of light and colour, and--and
being jolly over it.  They are jolly.  Look at that chap's face,
looking up at us.  And that one, chipping his neighbour."  (He
indicated two figures in the sketch.)  "It's just sheer animal spirits."

Ursula said nothing.

"Paganism, too," said Paul.

"Paganism?"

"Yes.  It's in the sketch as you've painted it.  A fierce
vehemently-lived to-day, and no to-morrow or yesterday."

"Write that."

"I shall.  Do you realise I've written like blazes since we've been on
this stunt?"

She stared over the side, hunching herself up a little.

"I have," Paul went on.  "You've made me.  You're a perpetual
inspiration, Ursula."

Her body relaxed, and she laughed a little, happily.  "The next book,
please," she said.  "'To Ursula: An Inspiration.'"

He moved forward a pace or two, and leaned over the rail, looking out
and over the gimcrack shore buildings with their staring, blatant, ugly
modernity.  "It's all very well," he said, "for you to take it lightly,
but it happens to be so amazingly true.  I'm always seeing things with
you."

Ursula studied his shoulders in her silent way for a minute or two.
Then she got up.  "I've to wash for luncheon, Paul," she said, as she
moved away, "and don't forget we go ashore afterwards."

He half turned.  "Shall I take your things?"

"Oh, no.  Besides, you've got your own.  Coming?"

"Five minutes," he said.  "I haven't been painting, you know."

Left alone, he looked away again over the town.  In the middle
distance, a minaret rose into the hot air.  His gaze rested on it, and
the train of thought he had had running through his mind more or less
consciously all the morning since he had passed beneath its shadow in
the street and stared in through the little entrance to the vestibule
that was not screened from view, re-occurred to him.  It concerned
their whole journey.  They had come overland to Marseilles, and had
stopped twelve hours in Paris as Muriel wanted to do some shopping.
Leaving the girls, then, he had gone up to Montmartre with the old
ecclesiastical interest still keen in his mind, and thereafter had come
down to Notre Dame.  And in the two churches, a beginning to the lesson
that the voyage seemed to be reading him, had been made.

The great modern church, with its flaunting colour and electric light
and garish decorations, had been offered first.  Herein the religious
half of twentieth-century France placated God.  At the door, great
lists of names, business-like, methodical, were a perpetual prayer for
the dead, the sick, specially needy souls, children, neophytes of the
priesthood and all the other classes of that Catholic world.  Under the
blown bubble of the dome, worshippers came and went with eager faith.
Without, the great carven figure of the Sacred Heart looked out across
the city that this new temple was to save.  Beneath, Paris laughed, and
shopped, and went about its business in the more hidden streets and
houses with French alacrity.

Notre Dame seemed to him an already half-deserted backwater.  All the
pageantry of the Middle Ages--bishop and cardinal, noble and king,
peasant and soldier--had flowed in and out again through its great
sombre austere doors, here, where massive pillars and narrow windows
shut out the sun.  The ancient stone effigy of the Mother of God was
blackened and a little disreputable.  She still had her candles, yes;
but official France no more bowed before her, and modern France was
trying a new supplication up on the hill.  Ten thousand thousand
prayers had been prayed here.  As many broken hearts had wept here.
_Cui bono_?  For without, the Seine still slipped lazily by, and over
her bridges passed the crowd that laughed and shopped and went about
its business.

Naples had shown him Pompeii.  It had been an unforgettable day when
the three of them trod upon the old chariot-ruts in the gate of the
ancient city.  The roofless houses, the winding ways, the shops and
baths and theatres, had been alive and peopled again in Paul's
imagination.  Neither the dust nor the tireless sun could daunt him as
he toiled with his ultimately protesting companions in and out and up
and down.  He had seen the patrician roll by in his chariot, the
gladiator boast and drink in the tavern, the slave girl laugh with her
friends at the street corner, the Greek merchant jostle his way through
the crowd with perspiring porters bearing his merchandise behind him.
And then, in the temple of Apollo, he had seen the swaying crowd, the
sacrosanct priest, the incense, the offering, the smiling god.  A place
of prayer again; older now; more ruined; an ancient outworn faith, but
still the eternal place of prayer from which men had cried to the
heavens above for the Kingdom of God on earth.  Well, and in the
streets of Pompeii, Americans laughed, and Cook's tourists bought
spurious curiosities, and Neapolitan guides went about their business.

Here, in Port Said, at the door of the immemorial East, he had seen
Jewish synagogue, Mohammedan mosque, Koptic chapel, Catholic cathedral
and Anglican church.  A thousand tongues of prayer, and all about them
Port Said: courtesan, merchant, material, tawdry Port Said.  British
and French and Egyptian; Levantine and Syrian and Greek; American and
Jew and cosmopolite, how they went about their business!  They all
wooed their gods one way and another, thought Paul, all but perhaps
Ursula's nigger boys whose job was the hardest and dirtiest of all, and
who laughed in the sun.

And then Paul laughed, and went below to luncheon.

They left at sunset, and after dinner, as in duty bound, the three of
them drew chairs forrard the wind-screen and watched the steady blaze
of the white searchlights as the ship's great eyes stared ahead at the
narrow waterway, the steep engineered banks and the flat endless sands.
Here and there dahabeeyahs, moored for the night, stood out for a few
minutes with their thin spars black and graceful against that infinite
white glare, and then slipped into the shadows behind.  Dredging barges
loomed monstrous and distorted, and dropped silently behind.  Once a
lonely Arab on a camel stood revealed in every detail, motionless, on
the bank above, and once a long string of mules passed, padding through
the night.  And always there were the stars, and low down the Cross
that Paul saw for the first time.  The majority of their
fellow-passengers stood and chatted for a few minutes and then went
below for music or cards.  But Ursula, Muriel and Paul sat on.

"Amazing thing," said Muriel at last.  "I suppose the Children of
Israel crossed somewhere about here.  Moses has always seemed to me a
slightly humorous person, but I don't think he will again."

"And to me," said Paul reflectively, "he has always seemed immensely
impressive.  I don't think he will again."

Ursula laughed quietly.

"Why not?" queried Muriel aggressively.  She and Paul on the whole got
on very well together, but they nearly always sparred.  "All this makes
the Exodus so extraordinarily real.  One can see it happening."

"Yes," assented Paul, "but don't you see, it makes it also
extraordinarily small.  Good Lord, look at those immemorial sands.
Israelites!  Why Egyptians and Assyrians and Ethiopians and Greeks and
Romans and scores more whose names are forgotten have passed here.  I
was taught that the Exodus was the central act of the play, but it's
merely an interlude for the shifting of scenery."

"In the play called Kismet," put in Ursula.

Muriel, who was sitting between them, glanced from one to the other.
Then she settled herself back in her chair.  "Oh, go on, you two," she
said contentedly.  "I love to hear you.  You're both of you making your
own lives more than any other two people I know, and you both of you
pretend you're not."

Ursula laughed again.  "We're marionettes right enough," she said, "but
by some odd chance we're alive, and we can thoroughly enjoy the play."

Paul drew a deep breath of content.  "I wish this bit of it would
continue for a very long time," he said happily.  And while the great
vessel glided on almost silently with its impression of relentless
irresistible purpose, the three sat silent, staring at the stars.

The Red Sea unfolded itself.  They saw a dawn in Port Suez.  Paul was
first on deck in his pyjamas; and with but one glance around rushed
excitedly down to the cabin that Muriel and Ursula shared between them.
Their door stood on the latch.  He thumped on it vigorously.

"Come in," called Ursula at once.

Paul fumbled with the lock and pushed aside the curtain.  Ursula was
sitting up in bed reading, her hair about her, her thin silk nightdress
exposing her shoulders and neck.  In the bunk above, Muriel, on her
side, covered with a sheet, only half awake, opened her eyes sleepily.

It is odd how moments of understanding come in life, not to be hurried,
not to be gainsaid.  Paul Kestern had travelled with these two for some
days now with all their opportunities of intimacy, and in her own flat
he had seen Ursula Manning robed for the evening or making a belated
breakfast even more revealingly dressed than now.  He might, so to
speak, have known himself in love with her fifty times.  But not till
this minute did his hand clutch with a sudden nervousness at the
nearest thing about him (which happened to be the curtain), and his
breath catch in his throat.  Not till this minute did she seem to him
utterly desirable for himself alone, and--for that is the deviltry of
love--so supremely lovely that she must be unattainable.  Or all but
unattainable.  Men dare great adventures with a kind of godlike
effrontery.  But in nothing are they more godlike that when, realising
the awe and majesty of love, they conceive deliberately that they may
win to it.

Would they, though, if, more often than not, the woman did not divine
their thought and hold out the sceptre from her throne?  That, at any
rate, is another deviltry.

So Ursula.  "Hullo, Paul," she said, very unconcerned, her eyes resting
softly on him, "what's up?  Ship on fire?"

"No," stammered Paul, "I say, are you awake?  That is, I mean--well, of
course, I see you are!  I say, come on deck.  The sunrise is too
heavenly for words."

"It's also hot," said Muriel, sitting up in her bunk and leaning over
to look at Ursula.  "Hullo!  Good-morning.  You reading?"

Paul looked at Muriel.  She, too, wore a thin silk nightdress, but at
the sight of her he recovered his assurance.  "Well, do come up, both
of you," he said.  "It's far too good to miss."

Ursula closed her book and drew her knees up, preparatory to getting
out of the bunk.  "Coming," she said.  "Paul, tell the steward we'll
have tea on deck."

He departed on his errand, humming to himself with sudden elation.  In
the passage he ran into Major Jardine.  On such occasions heretofore as
a fourth person had been demanded of necessity, Jardine had filled that
position, and had seemed increasingly to relish it.  He was in the
King's African Rifles, returning from leave to his companies in
Zanzibar.  He grinned at Paul, but with a certain gloom born of the
tropics and the hour.

"Morning," he said.  "You're devilish early and musical, Kestern."

Paul laughed.  "Come and see the sunrise, Major," he said.  "It'll
cheer you up.  We're having tea on deck."

Then the other visibly brightened.  "Good," he cried with alacrity.
"I'll tub later.  Shan't be a jiffy."  And he disappeared into his
cabin to get rid of his impedimenta.

On the boat-deck, then, the four gathered.  Muriel dispensed tea,
assisted by the Major, and lit cigarettes.  Ursula and Paul drew a
little apart.  She leant a hand on the davits of one of the boats, and
Paul stood back a little by her side.

Brown and orange and yellow and burnt brick-red, the sandstone hills
and sandy wastes grew startlingly and swiftly clear as they watched.
The new sun rose over the desert, over the rocky hills, a great golden
orb, instantly alive.  Magically the shadows drew off the sea or faded
in its depths; the blue of it lightened, grew transparently clear,
translucent.  "Look," said Ursula, in a half whisper, and pointed down.

Paul took a step forward, and peered where she indicated.  In the still
water a great shark followed by a small replica of itself moved lazily
through the watery world about it.  Its gentle sinuous movements were
scarcely noticeable; it glided by undisturbed with just fanning tail.
Slate-grey, mottled with black, it was so near the surface that one
could fancy one saw its wicked little eye inspecting the silent monster
of the ship lying there at its ease so invulnerable and great.

"It's gone," said Paul.  "My first shark!  Even it was beautiful,
Ursula."

"But that faery town," said the girl softly, who had raised her eyes
from the sea.

White and picturesque, with the green of palms flecked here and there
upon it, Port Suez sparkled in the now risen sun.  With its tumbled
flat-roofed houses, its occasional minaret, its fringe of gardens, it
was a painted thing, a bit of the veritable East, for all the heat and
dust and smells and commonplaceness of day in its streets.

Paul stood motionless by her side, gazing.  "Do you suppose we can go
ashore?" he asked at length.

"No."  She shook her head.  "Nobody ever seems to here.  Besides you'd
much better not, Paul."

"I'd love to.  I know what you're going to say, but I don't believe it.
I like dirt and smells.  They're just as mysterious and magical as
colour and scent."

"Rubbish," said Muriel, who had come up behind them.  "Eh, Major?"

"Gad, yes.  Poet or not, Kestern, you wouldn't like Port Suez."

Ursula glanced at them.  "For all that, Paul's right," she said.  And
she smiled at him.

A sort of fierce flame leapt in Paul at that.  He had hard work to
control himself.  The hid passion of his nature was asserting itself.
He threw his head back and laughed.  Then he caught Ursula by the hand.
"Oh, come on!" he cried.  "Ursula, I'll race you round the deck."

"Can't," she said laughing, "in a nightie.  But I might manage to walk."

She slipped her hand into his arm, and they strolled off.  For the
moment it was enough for Paul that they two walked together.

That morning's sun, as it set at last over Egypt, lit up the peninsula
of Sinai with fierce red flames.  The hot day had drawn slowly out, and
most people were in deck chairs, with their books on their laps as the
sun went down.  Even the Major had been reading, a novel by Mr. Charles
Garvice.  Earlier on, the three had merrily attacked him for his
choice, and he had stoutly defended himself.  "That's all very well,"
he said, "but the sort of stuff they put in novels these days, beats
me.  I don't want to read a bally sermon--can't understand it
either--and half the rest a fellow's ashamed to read in ladies'
company.  Now this chap, what's his name?" (he looked back to the
cover--"Never can remember authors' names")--"Garvice, you always know
what you've got with him."

"Milk and honey," said Muriel in her abrupt way, staring out over the
peninsula in the direction of the Promised Land.

"Eh?" queried the Major, hopelessly at sea.

Muriel laughed.  "Yes, and there are the Ten Commandments," she said,
"over there."

Jardine still looked puzzled.  He liked Muriel, against his will as it
were.  Ursula, he told Paul, was so damned quiet, but Muriel said
things a feller couldn't understand.  Odd pair.  Pretty though.  And
deuced attractive.  What did Kestern think?

So now.  "That's where you get me," he said.  "But, I say, what about a
sundowner?  Coming, Kestern?"

Paul rose.  Ursula looked up.  "Bring two more and come back," she said
lazily.

"Right, Miss Manning.  You and Miss Lister can discuss the Commandments
for five minutes exactly.  Then you must forget them."

"But there's nothing about sundowners in the Decalogue, Major," said
Paul gaily, as he moved off.  "Or I shouldn't----" They went out of
hearing.

Muriel glanced at her companion.  "It's odd," she said.  "Paul's lost
sight of God, but he still thinks he can keep morality."

Ursula fixed her gaze on the darkening mountains.  "I don't agree, my
dear," she said.

"How?"

"He's not so much lost sight of God.  He's seeing Him truly at last."

Muriel considered this.  "You mean His veil of beauty that you're so
fond of talking about, and painting," she said.  "Well, perhaps....
But still he thinks he keeps orthodox morality."

"He simply hasn't thought of that," said Ursula.

Muriel found a marker and shut her book.  Her motions suggested that
she was about to open a conversation, but she did not speak at once,
though she put her book down and stretched herself out in her chair.
But at last she spoke deliberately.

"Dear," she said, "I know what you think about all that....  Now Paul's
in love with you, whether he knows it or whether he doesn't."  (A
little pause.)  "You know it anyway.  Also you're high priestess of his
new religion."

She stopped.  She seemed to think the other would say something, but
that was not Ursula's way.  Not for the first time, despite their
friendship, Muriel found it irritating.  "Look here, Ursula," she said,
sitting up, "what's going to happen when he does begin to think about
morality?"

A look grew in Ursula's face.  Her friend studied her intently.  "I
say, Ursie," she said, but in a changed softened tone, "it's playing
with fire.  Paul's not quite an ordinary man."

Ursula made no direct reply.  But the other understood her.  "He's like
a person who has glimpsed Paradise through the bars," she said.

"Yes?" queried Muriel.

"The gate's open," said Ursula simply, as the men came back.



(2)

But Paul was to fulfil Muriel's prediction sooner than she expected.
The little _Gaika_ meandered in her slow and steady way down the Red
Sea.  At the close of a sweltering day, she drew into Port Sudan, and
it was at Port Sudan that Paul Kestern began first to think about
morality in the light of his opened eyes.  It happened this way.

The three were sitting over coffee in the saloon when the Major, who
had finished earlier and had gone up on deck, re-entered and crossed
over to them.  "I say," he said, "the skipper says we shall be here all
night and can go ashore if we like.  You three care to come?"

"By Jove, yes," cried Paul excitedly, jumping up.

"It's a dull place, you know," said the Major, as if it were his duty
to apologise for it.  "A wharf, a railway station and sand, mostly.
But it's rather interestin'.  It's going to be the main port for
Khartoum and Upper Egypt one day."

"Is there nothing else to see but sand, Major?" queried Muriel, smiling.

"Oh, there are some native stores, Miss Lister, and an hotel where we
can get a drink.  And it will be cool on shore in the night air."

"That settles it," said the girl.  "Coming, Ursie?"

"Rather," said Ursula.

"Hurrah," cried Paul.  "Shall I get your scarves?"

It was necessary to row across the harbour in a native boat.  The men
handed the girls in and sat beside them on the rough seats.  A "boy" in
a red fez, with his shirt hanging loose over his cotton drawers, who
was to act as guide, directed operations.  Two grinning negroes, their
muscles knotted beneath their flimsy vests, drove the boat over the
dark waters with long sweeps of oars.  There was no moon, but the stars
gave a soft light.  And as the blunt prow cut the sea, a thousand
molten ripples broke in little waves left and right, silver streamers
melted into the darkness on either side, while the blades of the oars
turned up liquid fire.  Every little drop that fell from them was a
diamond of light.  As they looked over the side, gleaming flights of
living silver gems of fish fled before their approach.  Over the black
waters ahead, shone a yellow flicker or two from lanterns on the quay.

They landed, laughing and joking, and found themselves on a roadway
that was, as the Major had said, all sand, except for granite
curbstones that ran ahead into the night and marked its course.  Now
and again, a board announced the site of a church or hotel; and at a
cross-road in the waste, building operations had been begun for a big
shop, a theatre and a restaurant.

"Piccadilly Circus here," said Jardine, "all in good time!"

"Which way now?" laughed Muriel.

"Down towards those lights.  There are makeshift stores there, and the
native quarter.  I expect we might find a native café and music hall
going strong."

"What fun," said Ursula.  "Lead on, Major."

Their guide jabbered in Swahili and Jardine interpreted.  "He says
there's a theatre," he said smiling, "if the ladies care to see it."

"A theatre!" ejaculated Paul.  "Heavens above!  What in the world do
they show here?"

"There'll be a cinematograph," said the Major judicially, "and a band,
and dances, and songs screeched loud enough to drown even the band.  We
might look in.  If it's a bit too much for the ladies, we can leave."

As if in ready answer, the sound of a chorus was borne on the night air
to them.  The party stood still and stared at each other.  Then they
broke into mutual laughter.  There was no mistaking it: Africa was
singing in what it called English: "I'm a bro-ken doll."

"Come on, come on," cried Paul, recovering himself.  "We shall miss
half the fun."

"Oh, no, we shan't," said Jardine.  "Take it easy, for goodness' sake.
They'll keep it up till morning, especially as there's a ship in."

As they approached, the glares and shadowy buildings ahead resolved
themselves into more recognisable objects.  They stopped at length on
the edge of a crowd that was sitting at trestle tables in a half-light
that faded into the dark night around.  Everyone was looking towards a
big ramshackle building that held out an open-air stage.  Kerosine
flares and oil lamps illuminated it.  A band, in tattered crimson
tunics, blared and beat below, but rather out of the way to the right
to permit of the artistes descending into the auditorium, and on it, at
the moment, a stout dark-haired Greek woman was singing.  Her voice
reached them only at intervals, for, harsh and loud and discordant as
it was, the band beat it most of the time.  Suddenly, with a gesture,
she commanded the chorus.  The audience took it up.  Ragged
Africans--Sudanese, Fellahin, Swahilis; Indians, and half-castes;
frowsy Greeks and Levantines; and a sprinkling of white-ducked, more
respectable looking, but distinctly dark Europeans; they all sang,
shouted, beat time.  It was obviously a popular item.  Ursula laughed
heartily.  "Oh," she cried, "how priceless!  Can't we go nearer the
stage and sit down, Major?"

Jardine looked doubtful.  "Oh, I don't know," he said.

But the guide had caught some of the English words.  "Seet down?" he
queried.  "Yas, sar.  Plenty room up there.  Missy, come thees way."

"Right," said Ursula, smiling.  "Lead on, Jacob."

The boy showed all his white teeth.  "Me Abdullah, mees," he said.
"You follow me."

"For goodness' sake, keep to the other side of the band," urged Muriel.

The boy leading, the girls following, the Major and Paul were bound to
go.  Paul was eager enough.  Jardine was less ready, and, with some
knowledge, more apprehensive.  "Good God, Kestern," he said, "this is
more than I bargained for.  You never know what you're in for here."

It was impossible, however, to draw back easily now.  The proprietor
himself, an oiled smiling Syrian in evening dress, had come forward.
With a magnificent gesture, he indicated a small table for four on the
left, and waved Abdullah into the surrounding blackness.  Jardine
nodded to some ship's officers at a little distance, and seemed more
relieved when he saw a sprinkling of women about them and even a group
of ladies from the ship on the edge of the shadows.  But they were too
noticeably prominent for his liking.  It was too late to move, however,
and he bowed to the inevitable, giving orders for drinks to the Indian
waiter, but with audible misgivings over that.

"I'll order wine," he said.  "We can see that the cork hasn't been
tampered with, and that's less likely to poison you than anything else."

"You're mighty cheerful, Major," laughed Muriel.

"Well, Miss Lister, we're in for it now, anyway.  Don't blame me."

"I wouldn't have missed it for the world," put in Paul
enthusiastically.  "By Jove, Ursula, just look at that band!  Did you
ever see anything more comic in your life?"

Paul shortly forgot the stage, or nearly so.  It was the audience that
interested him, and the great glow of light that lost itself in the
black desert about and shone on strange Eastern faces that came and
went on the shadow-line of its edge.  It was unusual, too, to sit with
that fantastic noise in one's ears and yet to be able to look out to
the silence yonder under the serene stars.  There were two
semi-European women at a table near, also, to whom his eyes constantly
if surreptitiously returned.  Fat, bulging, in tawdry lace and
imitation jewels, they were nevertheless smiling, gay, human, he
thought, and one of them kept a motherly eye on a child of seven or
eight in a sailor suit who would wander from her side.  He leant
forward to draw Ursula's attention to them.  And then he saw that her
eyes were fixed on the stage.

Into the garish light, heralded with clashing cymbals, advanced three
African girls with elaborately dressed woolly hair, thick rouged lips,
bright laughing eyes.  Their legs and feet were bare.  Short coloured
skirts reached only to the knee, and scarcely to that.  Above the waist
they wore only tiny bodices of vivid colour, red and yellow, which were
bound tightly across breasts firmly outlined beneath them.  Gaudy
necklaces of beads and coins sparkled around their necks, and a host of
jingling bangles decorated their bare arms.  Each carried a tambourine,
and to the accompaniment of native drums, they postured and danced.

It was no more than a _danse du ventre_, but it was at least a new
experience for Paul.

A tense stillness settled gradually down on the audience, it seemed to
him.  The edge of the broken irregular circle of light filled up with
faces, a grey and black wall of them, a fence of gleaming staring eyes.
The drums beat in a wild rhythm, and shrill native pipes broke in.
Wilder and wilder grew the dance.  The protuberant posturings, the
voluptuous writhings of which he hardly guessed the meaning, the
extraordinary wheelings in swift steps during which the three
performers shook their heavy buttocks brazenly at the gazing crowd,
glancing over their shoulders the while, were abandoned for more
reckless tossing of arms and legs, more shrill, more cacophonous music.
Paul grew white.  The Major leaned over towards the ladies.  "Er--er,"
he stammered, red-faced.  "I think perhaps it's getting late.  Hadn't
we better be going?"

"Certainly," said Muriel, getting up at once.  Paul followed suit.

"Wait till this is over," said Ursula, coolly.  "You can't leave in the
middle of a turn."

Paul moistened his lips.

And then, from the wings, into the blaze and noise, danced a swift
figure.  The girl was perhaps an Abyssinian with maybe French blood in
her veins;--she was known at any rate to the crowd who cheered as one
man and shouted her name.  Regularly featured, superbly framed, her
raven-black hair flowed loose about her, crowned with a scarlet flower.
Her skirt was diaphanous and spangled; a sort of loose white scarf was
held by a clasp between her breasts but floated in a cloud around her
as she moved.  Her shapely back bare, her curved and lithesome body
firm, her twinkling little feet light, her colour too was at any rate
white by comparison with the previous performers.  The barbaric clamour
of music died down.  The three negro girls collapsed on one side.  The
audience subsided with tense expectancy.  She danced in silence and
alone.

She utterly held her audience.  Born of mixed parentage, better not
named, where, how, God knows, probably she was dirty, certainly she was
as coarse, as savage, as animal, as she well could be.  But she held
her audience.  She weaved a spell of romance, of poetry, of magic,
there, in those garish lights and in that rough rude place.  She was
incarnate grace, and she was lovely, say what you would.  Entreating,
forbidding, abandoning, desiring, she was wild pagan love.  The
negresses, too, had danced a passion that had grown old, very, very
old, a forced, a thought-out thing; she danced passion, but the passion
of the Song of Songs, of Dionysus young in Attic fields, of youth
itself.  And as she finished, she disengaged her flower with a swift
movement from her hair, and tossed it to--Paul.

He caught it instinctively.  And then he realised that he had caught
it.  He held it in his fingers, felt its stem firm between them, and
knew that he was himself and awake.  He realised that he had been
standing and that the four of them were in a prominent position.  He
realised, too, that he had been charmed against his will, caught away,
and that his face had shown it; that she had seen it; that she had, in
her wanton way, chosen him....  He uttered an exclamation and dropped
the bloom.

"For God's sake, let's get out," said Jardine, somewhere.  Lights swam
before Paul.  He heard dimly a burst of cheering, voices speaking in a
moment of less noise, a little laughter, then more cheers.  He stumbled
among chairs.  Perspiration stood on him so that he fumbled for his
handkerchief to wipe his face.  His brain cleared a little in doing so.
He saw a bloated face that leered up from a table and realised that the
man was speaking to him.  With his hasty gesture of refusal, his brain
cleared a little more, and he began to understand.  He began to
understand, above all, how and why he had liked the dance.

They were outside an infinity later and walking through the cool night.
He glanced down, still rather stupidly, feeling his feet on sand, and
saw that his shoes were covered with it, and the black turned-up ankles
of his evening trousers.  Looking ahead, he saw Jardine was on in front
with Muriel.  He turned his head to steal a glance at Ursula, and cried
out on the instant.

"Ursula!  You're wearing it!"

"Why not?  You dropped it rather rudely."

He marvelled at her level voice.  She was perfectly cool, he noticed,
looking straight ahead in her direct way as they walked.  And the
flower was a trumpet-shaped hibiscus that burned in the opening of her
evening frock even against the white skin of her neck.  He suddenly
understood his confused memories.  They had laughed at him, and cheered
her when she had picked it up.

"Give it me, Ursula!" he cried.  "Throw it away!  You can't wear it!"

"Why ever not?"

"Well, she ... That girl!"  Then, swiftly, with a kind of brazen anger:
"She was practically naked!"

"Yes.  She had one of the most lovely bodies I've ever seen."  Ursula
turned her head and looked up at him with a faint twinkle of amusement
in her eyes.

"But--but----"  Paul stammered for words.  Yet even so, the girl by his
side, with her serene smile, began to master his excitement by her mere
cool presence.  "But, Ursula, it was a disgraceful thing."

"Oh?  You didn't seem to think so while you watched.  Personally, I
thought it was wonderfully beautiful."

"But in that place!"

"Exactly.  Like a fresh flower on a dust-heap.  Naturally I picked up
her gift."

"But you can't justify it," he protested in bewilderment that grew with
every sentence.  "It was grossly immoral."

"Immoral?"

"Yes.  You know it."  Paul was emphatic.

"What was immoral then?  The flower?  The dust-heap?  The girl's body?
The dance?  Ugly or beautiful, perhaps, but immoral?  What do you mean?"

"Well, it appealed to the worst passions in everyone, to the animal in
us, in--in me."

"It appealed to you sensually no doubt.  Your mind, informed by your
senses, appreciated the animal grace and beauty.  Why not?  Are animals
immoral?"

"That was a girl though, a human being, a--a----"

"And isn't a girl an animal?  Are you and I not animals?"

"We've souls anyway."

"Are you so sure animals haven't souls?  How do you know?  What is a
soul, Paul?"

"A soul?" queried Paul.  "Well..."  (He stumbled desperately.)  "The
immortal part of us, the home of the spirit, a bit of God."

"God?"

Her tone instantly arrested him.  There, in the night, picking their
way down the road-to-be over the sand of the desert, the blare of the
music behind them in the distance, he was arrested again.  He was quick
enough to see it with the swiftness of thought.  God!  Everything came
back to God.  And where was God?  And if there was no God, where was
morality?

Ursula put her hand on his arm.  It was rather like Chanctonbury all
over again, he thought instantly, and smiled involuntarily at the
thought.  Here, in Egypt, in the whirl of new experience, her touch on
his arm brought back the song of the lark and the vision of the English
sun on the fields and woods round Steyning.  And she knew it.

"You old dear," she said.  "What about the beggar's clay?  Is clay
magical in plants and flowers, and sinful in human bodies?"

"But that sort of thing outrages the moral law," he objected, soberly.

She laughed a very little.  "Has God spoken His laws so clearly, Paul?"
she said.  "I thought you had come to the conclusion that He was rather
silent."

"But there must be a moral law!  Why, good heavens..."

"Then where is the moral Lawgiver?" she demanded, instantly.

_Where is the moral Lawgiver?_

"Where!"  The word echoed in his consciousness, and he knew that he had
no answer.  Tramping over the sand, tramping through the night, he saw
to what he had come, or thought he saw.  Thus soon was Muriel answered.

Ursula laughed a little again.  "Poor old Paul," she said.  "Look here,
dear, the girl gave us the best she had to give, and what she gave had
real beauty.  Isn't that enough for you and me?"

He made no answer, and they walked a little further in silence.  Then
her hand on his arm tightened.  "Doesn't the blind beggar see?" she
queried, smiling up at him in the dark.

"I'm not quite sure, Ursula," he said.

"There is clay that has not touched his eyes then," she replied gently.

Paul caught her hand.  A glimmer of her meaning danced before him, but
as a whole it still eluded him as yet.  It eluded him, but there was
something in her voice that made his blood run swift and hot as it had
but just now in the _café chantant_.  "Ursula, darling," he whispered.

She checked him.  "You see, Paul," she said gently, "you were angry not
because she was probably half a slave, or ill-treated, or ignorant, or
as like as not solely out for your money.  You didn't think of those
things.  No, you were angry because she was naked.  _That_ was beastly,
immoral--that being what she was she gloried in her body and her grace.
Well, it was not beastly to me, especially in her.  What else had she
to glory in?  Why should she not have gloried in her body?  Is a
beautiful body beastly?  She danced natural passion--is natural passion
immoral?  I cannot follow your theology.  She was lovely and she gave
us her best, and--well, I was glad to be able to thank her for it."

Paul's grip tightened on her hand.  "Why, Ursula," he said huskily, "it
was I who was beastly, priggish----"

She shrugged her shoulders.  Then she laughed lightly.  "Let that
pass," she said.  "Will you wear your flower now?"

"Give it me," cried Paul.

She peered up at him.  Then she loosened her hand and took the bloom
from her dress.  "Here it is," she said, presenting it.

He held it in his fingers a moment or two, studying its fresh
loveliness in the dim starlight.  Its faint scent came to his nostrils.
She stood smiling and looking at him.

He looked up suddenly.  "May I drop it in the sea as we row back?" he
asked.

She read in his eyes what he meant, and if he had not been quite so
blind and stupid and seeming rich he would have read in hers that the
gate of Paradise stood open before him, as she had said to Muriel.  But
she saw that he had not read that yet, and if she was not quite
content, she was at least very wise.  "Because the sea is cool and
lovely?" she asked.

"And forgiving," he said.

She nodded, understanding.



(3)

Paul told himself as he went to sleep that he would ask Ursula to marry
him in the morning.  But he did not.  He may have been at one time a
budding evangelist and he was certainly now a poet, but he was still
the son of Claxted, and he found it hard to escape from all that that
meant.  He had ideas as to proposals, and this was a serious proposal
of marriage.  He waited his chance, then; and missed a good many
through waiting to be quite sure that the right moment had indeed come.
Thus and thus is it ever likely to be, even when we sleepers awake, and
all roads lead to "Nowhere."

But in Zanzibar he had his way.  Aden came and went, and Kilindini, and
that first walking through tropical bush to the old fort by the sea
that has dreamed so many hundred years away since the remnant of its
Portuguese garrison was crucified on its walls.  Not even in Mombasa,
sitting on the shore at the entrance of the river, did he speak, for
there is a golf links of sorts hard by and the Major and Muriel were
going round.  Even more wonderfully, not even that night at sea did he
speak, though the surface was like a sheet of polished dark glass that
now and again shivered into an untellable pool of liquid silver as a
school of flying fish shattered its quietude into phosphorescent fire.
Yet, possibly, his silence then was not so wonderful after all.  It was
such a night of wonder that he could hardly speak at all, even although
he thought himself in love.

Zanzibar, however, sufficed.  Here they were to leave the Major, and
here, naturally, he showed them round before they sailed.  He had a
bungalow out past Mnazi Mmoja, before the barracks, overlooking the
sea, and his car met him at the landing-stage.  So they were driven
slowly past the front of the Sultan's palace and through the native
town to the tidal creek that washes the base of Livingstone's house
twice a day; up the creek road then, past the English Cathedral with
its tall thin spire rising above what was once the whipping-post of the
slave market, rising out of a sea of scarlet-flowering flamboyants that
surround it and were in full bloom to greet them; up the road that
skirts the English Games Club; past the German Club; past the cemetery
where waxen frangipanni and purple bougainvillaea shed their blossoms
the perpetual summer.  Down a private way to the right now, and there,
on a grassy knoll fronting the sea-beach, a grove of palms behind, the
still strait across which lay the hills of Africa in a haze before,
stood Major Jardine's bungalow.

They had but the day and the evening, and the Major suggested a run
across the island to the beach at Chuaka where the surf of the Indian
Ocean beats all day and a cool wind blows even in the hot season.
Zanzibar, he said, was but a bigger Mombasa so far as the native town
went, but nowhere else on the coast would you find tangle of banana and
orange and lime and coconut and mango and almond and areca and date,
with here and there a grove of cassuarinas or cloves, to match this.
He was right.  They skirted the banks of low swampy rivers lovely with
blue water-lilies and reeds and scarlet dragon-flies; ran through
plantations of grey austere coconut trees through which the sunlight
trickled down on to thin sparse olive grass; left clusters of brown
huts set in small patches of delicately-leaved red-stemmed muhoga;
climbed the two hundred feet of the Liliputian hill of coral that makes
the backbone of the island; came out on to that plain at its summit
where English bracken grows and a sweet yellow shrub that might, at a
distance, be English gorse; and descended at last through groves of
orange trees, the fruit scattered in lavish profusion on the very road,
to the collector's house at Chuaka.

He was a polite Goanese, and he made them tea, serving them himself on
his barazza which was hung out from the first floor over the very beach
beneath, where the white coral sand glistened in the sun and the surf
beat in perpetually.  Thereafter they strolled off, theoretically to
look for shells, though no one did much looking: Jardine because he did
not care for shells; Muriel because, after her kind, she wanted
honestly to reach a distant point and see what lay beyond; Ursula
because she was utterly entranced by the stretch of the foreshore, with
the riot of vegetation ever invading the sands and ever, in its
outposts of mangrove, the very sea itself; and Paul because he was
beginning to realise that he cared about collecting nothing except
Ursula.  Muriel and the Major were thus soon out of sight.  Ursula and
Paul, having wasted half an hour watching the antics of a naked kiddie
in a miniature outrigger canoe which he finally ran ashore with
consummate ease and made fast with the skill of an ancient mariner,
found a great mass of coral rock which overhung a pool that was one
enchanted garden of colour and life.  They both waded in till Ursula
had her skirts high above her knees, and Paul's uprolled trousers
showed a good couple of inches of soaked territory.

"Look!" she cried.  "Paul, do you see that sea-urchin?  Look!  In
there.  Oh, my dear, do you see its spines?  Satiny brown, spotted with
blue and red.  Could you get it?"

"If I die in the attempt," said Paul manfully, giving a fresh tug to
his trousers and moving cautiously forward.  Here was promise of the
Claxted vivarium at last!

"Good lord, this coral," he groaned.  "Why don't some of the blighters
who write about African seas say coral is as sharp as--ugh!--needles!"
He reached forward at length and plunged his arm deep into the pool.

"Oh, go on," laughed Ursula, "another inch....  Your trousers don't
matter.  That's it....  Got it?"

"Damn!" cried Paul.  "Oh, I say I'm sorry, but those spines are sharp.
Lor, I'm soaked.  But there, just look at him.  Look at him trying to
walk on my hand.  Come on out, and let's put him in shallow water and
watch him move."

They bent together over the lovely thing and watched it walk slowly but
purposefully away.  And while they stood there, motionless, barefoot,
side by side on the sand in some six inches or so of the warm water, a
fleet of tiny sky-blue fish invaded the shallows.  Ursula caught Paul's
hand, and there they stood, hardly daring to breathe, while the little
living fragments of sapphire poked their tiny noses about their toes.
Then, suddenly, Paul laughed tempestuously, and they fled.

"Oh, you rotter," cried Ursula, smiling at him.  "They'll never come
again."

"I couldn't help it," said Paul a little ruefully, stooping to rub his
foot.  "That fellow was actually bedding down between my foot and
yours, and he tickled so."

"Well, anyway, we've got to put on shoes and stockings now.  It'll be
sunset in next to no time.  Paul, did you ever imagine anything quite
as lovely as all this?"

Paul stood, and let his gaze wander around.  There was not a soul to be
seen in the curve of the bay in which they were.  A little way off, the
outrigger, rough-hewn and brown, lay on its side.  King crabs were
beginning to emerge from their holes in the sand and stand on their
spidery legs and survey the evening world from their castles of eyes.
Far out at sea feathery pink clouds were floating down to a barred
horizon of emerald and gold.  All around and about them a soft light
glowed from which the fierce vividness of the day had died away.

He turned and put his arm in hers.  "Let's sit in the outrigger and put
on our things," he said.

They sat side by side, and Paul was aware again, as he had been lately,
of the girl's loveliness.  Unconcerned, gaily, she towelled her feet on
his handkerchief, drew on her stockings, fastened them, smoothed down
her skirt.  She finished before him, since she had dried first, and sat
waiting for a second or two, her face resting on her hands, her eyes on
the ever-deepening sunset colours.  He too finished, and followed her
gaze seawards.

Then: "Do you want anything more than that?" she asked softly.

And at her question Paul understood quite suddenly.

Absurdly enough, knowledge came to him just then, like a revelation.
There was no apparent reason why it should not have come before, and he
did not move for a little pondering his dulness and the surpassing
wonder of things.  For this awakening was not a bit as he had imagined
such things would be.  He was not excited or passionate, not now at any
rate.  He wanted indeed to touch her, but tenderly, he could scarcely
tell himself how tenderly.  He put his arm gently about her waist.
"Yes, Ursula, you, you," he whispered.

She turned with a swift movement and faced him.  "I!" she cried, her
eyes alight, "I!"

Then, for Paul Kestern and Ursula Manning, for both of them, the
kingdoms of this world and the glory of them passed away, and there was
vision of a new heaven and a new earth.

After a little, Paul disengaged himself from her arms.  There was an
odd expression of wonder written on his face, very plain to see.
Ursula tried to read it, but was puzzled.  "What is it, Paul darling?"
she whispered.

"Why," he said slowly, "do you know what I was thinking?  All my years
of worry and doubt, all that talk about religion----"  He broke off.

"Yes?"

He hesitated.  Then he laughed merrily like a child and flung his arms
about her again, eagerly, boisterously.  "Of course," he managed to say
at last, "it was all awfully important.  _Really, truly_, Ursula."



Printed in Great Britain by Billing and Sons, Limited, Guildford and
Esher.





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