He is a man both loving
A tender heart, a will
Luke Raeburn had been lecturing in
one of the large manufacturing towns. It was
the hottest part of a sultry day in June. He was
returning home, and sat in a broiling third-class
carriage reading a paper. Apparently what he
read was the reverse of gratifying for there was a
look of annoyance on his usually serene face; he was
displeased with the report of his lecture given in
the local papers, it was calculated to mislead very
Other matters, too, were harassing
him just then and he was, moreover, paying the penalty
of his two years’ campaign, in which his almost
superhuman exertions and the privations he had voluntarily
endured had told severely upon his health. Possessed
of a singularly well-regulated mind, and having in
an unusual degree the inestimable gift of common sense,
he nevertheless often failed to use it in his personal
affairs. He had no idea of sparing himself, no
idea of husbanding his strength; this was indeed great,
but he treated himself as if it were inexhaustible.
The months of trouble had turned his hair quite white;
he was now a more noticeable-looking man than ever.
Not unfrequently he made friends with
the men with whom he traveled; he was always studying
life from the workingman’s point of view, and
there was such a charm in his genial manner and ready
sympathy that he invariably succeeded in drawing people
out. But on this day he was not in the humor
for it; instead, he thought over the abusive article
and the mangled report in the “Longstaff Mercury,”
and debated within himself whether it were worth an
action for libel. His love of fighting said yes,
his common sense said no; and in the end common sense
won the day, but left him doubly depressed. He
moved to the shady side of the carriage and looked
out of the window. He was a great lover of Nature,
and Nature was looking her loveliest just then.
The trees, in all the freshness of early June, lifted
their foliage to the bluest of skies, the meadows
were golden with buttercups, the cattle grazed peacefully,
the hay fields waved unmown in the soft summer air,
which, though sparing no breath for the hot and dusty
traveler, was yet strong enough to sweep over the
tall grasses in long, undulating waves that made them
shimmer in the sunlight.
Raeburn’s face grew serene once
more; he had a very quick perception of the beautiful.
Presently he retired again behind a newspaper, this
time the “Daily Review,” and again his
brow grew stern, for there was bad news from the seat
of war; he read the account of a great battle, read
the numbers of his slain countrymen, and of those who
had fallen on the enemy’s side. It was
an unrighteous war, and his heart burned within him
at the thought of the inhuman havoc thus caused by
a false ambition. Again, as if he were fated
that day to be confronted with the dark side of life,
the papers gave a long account of a discovery made
in some charity school, where young children had been
hideously ill-treated. Raeburn, who was the most
fatherly of men, could hardly restrain the expression
of his righteous indignation. All this mismanagement,
this reckless waste of life, this shameful cruelty,
was going on in what was called “Free England.”
And here was he, a middle-aged man, and time was passing
on with frightful rapidity, and though he had never
lost an opportunity of lifting up his voice against
oppression, how little had he actually accomplished!
“So many worlds, so much to
do, So little done, such things to be!”
That was the burden of the unuttered
cry which filled his whole being. That was the
point where his atheism often brought him to a noble
despair. But far from prompting him to repeat
the maxim “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow
we die!” it spurred him rather to a sort of fiery
energy, never satisfied with what it had accomplished.
Neither the dissatisfaction, however, nor even the
despair ever made him feel the need of any power above
man. On the contrary, the unaccountable mystery
of pain and evil was his strongest argument against
the existence of a God. Upon that rock he had
foundered as a mere boy, and no argument had ever
been able to reconvince him. Impatience of present
ill had in this, as in many other cases, proved the
bane of his life.
He would write and speak about these
cases of injustice, he would hold them up to the obloquy
they so richly deserved.
Scathing sentences already took shape
in his brain, but deeper investigation would be necessary
before he could write anything. In the meantime
to cool himself, to bring himself into a judicial frame
of mind, he took a Hebrew book from his bag, and spent
the rest of the journey in hard study.
Harassed, and tired, and out of spirits
as he was, he nevertheless felt a certain pleasurable
sensation as he left St. Pancras, driving homeward
through the hot crowded streets. Erica would be
waiting for him at home, and he had a comparatively
leisure afternoon. There was the meeting on the
Opium Trade at eight, but he might take her for a turn
in one of the parks beforehand. She had always
been a companion to him since her very babyhood, but
now he was able to enjoy her companionship even more
than in the olden times. Her keen intellect, her
ready sympathy, her eagerness to learn, made her the
perfection of a disciple, while not unnaturally he
delighted in tracing the many similarities of character
between himself and his child. Then, too, in his
hard, argumentative, fighting life it was an unspeakable
relief to be able to retire every now and then into
a home which no outer storms could shake or disturb.
Fond as he was of his sister, Mrs. Craigie, and Tom,
they constituted rather the innermost circle of his
friends and followers; it was Erica who made the home,
though the others shared the house. It was to
Erica’s pure child-like devotion that he invariably
turned for comfort.
Dismissing the cab at the corner of
Guilford Square, he walked down the dreary little
passage, looking up at the window to see if she were
watching for him as usual. But today there was
no expectant face; he recollected, however, that it
was Thursday, always a busy day with them.
He opened the door with his latch
key, and went in; still there was no sound in the
house; he half paused for an instant, thinking that
he should certainly hear her quick footsteps, the
opening of a door, some sign of welcome, but all was
as silent as death. Half angry with himself for
having grown so expectant of that loving watch as to
be seriously apprehensive at its absence, he hastily
put down his bag and walked into the sitting room,
his calm exterior belying a nameless fear at his heart.
What the French call expressively
a “serrement de coeur” seized
him when he saw that Erica was indeed at home, but
that she was lying on the couch. She did not
even spring up to greet him.
“Is anything the matter, dear?
Are you ill?” he asked, hurriedly crossing the
“Oh, have you not seen Aunt
Jean? She was going to meet you at St. Pancras,”
said Erica, her heart failing her a little at the prospect
of telling her own bad news. But the exceeding
anxiety of her father’s face helped her to rise
to the occasion. She laughed, and the laugh was
natural enough to reassure him.
“It is nothing so very dreadful,
and all this time you have never even given me a kiss,
father.” She drew down the grand-looking
white head, and pressed her fair face to his.
He sat down beside her.
“Tell me, dear, what is wrong with you?”
“Well, I felt rather out of
order, and they said I ought to see some one, and
it seems that my tiresome spine is getting crooked,
and the long and the short of it is that Mr. Doctor
Osmond says I shall get quite well again if I’m
careful; but” she added, lightly, yet with the
gentleness of one who thinks merely of the hearer’s
point of view “I shall have to be a passive
verb for a year, and you will have to be my very strong
“A year?” he exclaimed in dismay.
“Brian half gave me hope that
it might not be so long,” said Erica, “if
I’m very good and careful, and of course I shall
be both. I am only sorry because it will make
me very useless. I did hope I should never have
been a burden on you again, father.”
“Don’t talk of such a
thing, my little son Eric,” he said, very tenderly.
“Who should take care of you if not your own
father? Besides, if you never wrote another line
for me, you would help me by just being yourself.
“Well, I’ve made you look
as grave as half a dozen lawsuits,” said Erica,
pretending to stroke the lines of care from his forehead.
“I’ve had the morning to ruminate over
the prospect, and really now that you know, it is
not so very dreadful. A year will soon pass.”
“I look to you, Eric,”
said her father, “to show the world that we
secularists know how to bear pain. You won’t
waste the year if you can do it.”
Her face lighted up.
“It was like you to think of
that!” she said; “that would indeed be
Still, do what she would, Erica could
not talk him back to cheerfulness. He was terribly
distressed at her news, and more so when he found that
she was suffering a good deal. He thought with
a pang of the difference of the reality to his expectations.
No walk for them in the park that evening, nor probably
for many years to come. Yet he was ignorant of
these matters, perhaps he exaggerated the danger or
the duration; he would go across and see Brian Osmond
Left once more to herself, the color
died out of Erica’s cheeks; she lay there pale
and still, but her face was almost rigid with resoluteness.
“I am not going to give way!”
she thought to herself. “I won’t shed
a single tear. Tears are wasteful luxuries, bad
for body and mind. And yet yet oh, it is hard
just when I wanted to help father most! Just when
I wanted to keep him from being worried. And a
whole year! How shall I bear it, when even six
hours has seemed half a life time! This is what
Thekla would call a cross, but I only call it my horrid,
stupid, idiotic old spine. Well, I must try to
show them that Luke Raeburn’s daughter knows
how to bear pain; I must be patient, however much I
boil over in private. Yet is it honest, I wonder,
to keep a patient outside, while inside you are all
one big grumble? Rather Pharisaical outside of
the cup and platter; but it is all I shall be able
to do, I’m sure. That is where Mr. Osmond’s
Christianity would come in; I do believe that goes
right through his life, privatest thoughts and all.
Odd, that a delusion should have such power, and over
such a man! There is Sir Michael Cunningham,
too, one of the greatest and best men in England, yet
a Christian! Great intellects and much study,
and still they remain Christians ’tis extraordinary.
But a Christian would have the advantage over me in
a case like this. First of all, I suppose, they
would feel that they could serve their God as well
on their backs as upright, while all the help I shall
be able to give the cause is dreadfully indirect and
problematical. Then certainly they would feel
that they might be getting ready for the next world
where all wrong is, they believe, to be set right,
while I am only terribly hindered in getting ready
for this world a whole year without the chance of
a lecture. And then they have all kinds of nice
theories about pain, discipline, and that sort of
thing, which no doubt make it more bearable, while
to me it is just the one unmitigated evil. But,
oh! They don’t know what pain means!
For there is no death to them no endless separation.
What a delusion it is! They ought to be happy
enough. Oh, mother! mother!”
After all, what she really dreaded
in her enforced pause was the leisure for thought.
She had plunged into work of all kinds, had half killed
herself with work, had tried to hold her despair at
arms’ length. But now there was no help
for it. She must rest, and the thoughts must come.