A paleness took the
“Must I drink
here?” he seemed to seek
The lady’s will
with utterance meek.
she said, “it so must be,”
(And this time she spake
know world’s cruelty.” E. B. Browning
The trial of Luke Raeburn, on the
charge of having published a blasphemous libel in
a pamphlet entitled “Bible Miracles,” came
on in the Court of Queen’s Bench early in December.
It excited a great deal of interest. Some people
hoped that the revival of an almost obsolete law would
really help to check the spread of heterodox views,
and praised Mr. Pogson for his energy and religious
zeal. These were chiefly well-meaning folks,
not much given to the study of precedents. Some
people of a more liberal turn read the pamphlet in
question, and were surprised to see that matter quite
as heterodox might be found in many high-class reviews
which lay about on drawing room tables, the only difference
being that the articles in the reviews were written
in somewhat ambiguous language by fashionable agnostics,
and that “Bible Miracles” was a plain,
blunt, sixpenny tract, avowedly written for the people
by the people’s tribune.
This general interest and attention,
once excited, gave rise to the following results:
to an indiscriminate and wholesale condemnation of
“that odious Raeburn who was always seeking notoriety;”
to an immense demand for “Bible Miracles,”
which in three months reached its fiftieth thousand;
and to a considerable crowd in Westminster Hall on
the first day of the trial, to watch the entrance
and exit of the celebrities.
Erica had been all day in the court.
She had written her article for the “Daily Review:
in pencil during the break for luncheon; but, as time
wore on, the heated atmosphere of the place, which
was crammed to suffocation, became intolerable to
her. She grew whiter and whiter, began to hear
the voices indistinctly, and to feel as if her arms
did not belong to her. It would never do to faint
in court, and vexed as she was to leave, she took
the first opportunity of speaking to her father.
“I think I must go,” she
whispered, “I can’t stand this heat.”
“Come now, then,” said
Raeburn, “and I can see you out. This witness
has nothing worth listening to. Take notes for
me, Tom. I’ll be back directly.”
They had only just passed the door
leading into Westminster Hall, however, when Tom sent
a messenger hurrying after them. An important
witness had that minute been called, and Raeburn, who
was, as usual, conducting his own case, could not
possibly miss the evidence.
“I can go alone,” said Erica. “Don’t
But even in his haste, Raeburn, glancing
at the crowd of curious faces, was thoughtful for
“No,” he said, hurriedly.
“Wait a moment, and I’ll send some one
She would have been wiser if she had
followed him back into the court; but, having once
escaped from the intolerable atmosphere, she was not
at all inclined to return to it. She waited where
he had left her, just within Westminster Hall, at
the top of the steps leading from the entrance to
the court. The grandeur of the place, its magnificent
proportions, terminating in the great, upward sweep
of steps, and the mellow stained window, struck her
more than ever after coming from the crowded and inconvenient
little court within. The vaulted roof, with its
quaintly carved angels, was for the most part dim and
shadowy, but here and there a ray of sunshine, slanting
in through the clerestory windows, changed the sombre
tones to a golden splendor. Erica, very susceptible
to all high influences, was more conscious of the ennobling
influence of light, and space, and beauty than of
the curious eyes which were watching her from below.
But all at once her attention was drawn to a group
of men who stood near her, and her thoughts were suddenly
brought back to the hard, every-day world, from which
for a brief moment she had escaped. With a quick,
apprehensive glance, she noted that among them was
a certain Sir Algernon Wyte, a man who never lost an
opportunity of insulting her father.
“Did you see the fellow?”
said one of the group. “He came to the door
“And left his fair daughter
to be a spectacle to men and angels?” said Sir
Then followed words so monstrous,
so intolerable, that Erica, accustomed as she was
to discourtesies, broke down altogether. It was
so heartless, so cruelly false, and she was so perfectly
defenseless! A wave of burning color swept over
her face. If she could but have gone away have
hidden herself from those cruel eyes. But her
knees trembled so fearfully that, had she tried to
move, she must have fallen. Sick and giddy, the
flights of steps looked to her like a precipice.
She could only lean for support against the gray-stone
moldings of the door way, while tears, which for once
she could not restrain, rushed to her eyes. Oh!
If Tom or the professor, or some one would but come
to her! Such moments as those are not measured
by earthly time; the misery seemed to her agelong
though it was in reality brief enough for Brian, coming
into Westminster Hall, had actually heard Sir Algernon’s
shameful slander, and pushing his way through the
crowd, was beside her almost immediately.
The sight of his face checked her
tears. It positively frightened her by its restrained
yet intense passion.
“Miss Raeburn,” he said,
in a clear, distinct voice, plainly heard by the group
below, “this is not a fit place for you.
Let me take you home.”
He spoke much more formally than was
his wont, yet in his actions he used a sort of authority,
drawing her hand within his arm, leading her rapidly
through the crowd, which opened before them. For
that one bitter-sweet moment she belonged to him.
He was her sole, and therefore her rightful, protector.
A minute more, and they stood in Palace Yard.
He hastily called a hansom.
In the pause she looked up at him,
and would have spoken her thanks, but something in
his manner checked her. He had treated her so
exactly as if she belonged to him, that, to thank
him seemed almost as absurd as it would have done
to thank her father. Then a sudden fear made her
“Are you coming home?”
“I will come to see that you
are safely back presently,” he said, in a voice
unlike his own. “But I must see that man
“No, no,” she said, beginning
to tremble again. “Don’t go back.
Please, please don’t go!”
“I must,” he said, putting
her into the hansom. Then, speaking very gently.
“Don’t be afraid; I will be with you almost
He closed the doors, gave the address
to the driver, and turned away.
Erica was conscious of a vague relief
as the fresh winter wind blew upon her. She shut
her eyes, that she might not see the passers-by, only
longing to get away right away, somewhere beyond the
reach of staring eyes and cruel tongues. One
evening years ago, she remembered coming out of St.
James’s Hall with Tom, and having heard a woman
in Regent Street insulted in precisely the same language
that had been used to her today. She remembered
how the shrill, passionate cry had rung down the street:
“How dare you insult me!” And remembered,
too, how she had wondered whether perfect innocence
would have been able to give that retort. She
knew now that her surmise had been correct. The
insult had struck her dumb for the time. Even
now, as the words returned to her with a pain intolerable,
her tears rained down. It seemed to her that for
once she could no more help crying than she could
have helped bleeding when cut.
Then once more her thoughts returned
to Brian with a warmth of gratitude which in itself
relieved her. He was a man worth knowing, a friend
worth having. Yet how awful his face had looked
as he came toward her. Only once in her whole
life had she seen such a look on a man’s face.
She had seen it in her childhood on her father’s
face, when he had first heard of a shameful libel
which affected those nearest and dearest to him.
She had been far too young to understand the meaning
of it, but she well remembered that silent, consuming
wrath; she remembered running away by herself with
the sort of half-fearful delight of a child’s
new discovery “Now I know how men look when
All at once, in the light of that
old recollection, the truth dashed upon her.
She smiled through her tears, a soft glow stole over
her face, a warmth found its way to her aching heart.
For at last the love of seven years had found its
way to her.
She felt all in a glad tumult as that
perception came to her. It had, in truth, been
an afternoon of revelations. She had never until
now in the least understood Brian’s character,
never in the least appreciated him. And as to
dreaming that his friendship had been love from the
very first, it had never occurred to her.
The revelation did not bring her unalloyed
happiness for there came a sharp pang as she recollected
what he had gone back to do. What if he should
get into trouble on her behalf? What if he should
be hurt? Accustomed always to fear for her father
actual physical injury, her thoughts at once flew
to the same danger for Brian. But, however sick
with anxiety, she was obliged, on reaching home, to
try and copy out her article, which must be in type
and upon thousands of breakfast tables by the next
morning whether her heart ached or not, whether her
life were rough or smooth.
In the meantime, Brian, having watched
her cab drive off, turned back into Westminster Hall.
He could see nothing but the one vision which filled
his brain the face of the girl he loved, a lovely,
pure face suffused with tears. He could hear
nothing but that intolerable slander which filled
his heart with a burning, raging indignation.
Straight as an arrow and as if by instinct, he made
his way to the place where Sir Algernon and three
or four companions were pacing to and fro. He
confronted them, bringing their walk to an enforced
“I am here to demand an apology
for the words you spoke just now about Miss Raeburn,”
he said, speaking in a voice which was none the less
impressive because it trembled slightly as with a wrath
restrained only by a great effort.
Sir Algernon, a florid, light-haired
man of about thirty, coolly stared at him for a moment.
“Who may you be, sir, who take
up the cudgels so warmly in Miss Raeburn’s defense?”
“A man who will not hear a defenseless
girl insulted,” said Brian, his voice rising.
“Defenseless girl!” repeated
the other in a tone so insufferable that Brian’s
passion leaped up like wild fire.
“You vile blackguard!”
he cried, “what you said was an infernal lie,
and if you don’t retract it this moment, I’ll
thrash you within an inch of your life.”
Sir Algernon laughed and shrugged his shoulders.
“’Pon my life!”
he exclaimed, turning to one of his companions, “if
I’d know that Miss Raeburn
But the sentence was never ended for,
with a look of fury, Brian sprung at him, seized him
by the collar of his coat, and holding him like a
vise with one hand, with the other brought down his
cane upon the slanderer’s shoulders with such
energy that the wretch writhed beneath it.
The on-lookers, being gentlemen and
fully aware that Sir Algernon deserved all he was
getting, stood by, not offering to interfere, perhaps
in their hearts rather sympathizing with the stranger
whose righteous indignation had about it a manliness
that appealed to them. Presently Sir Algernon
ceased to kick, his struggles grew fainter. Brian
let his right arm pause then, and with his left flung
his foe into the corner as if he had been a mere chattel.
“There!” he exclaimed,
“summons me for that when you please.”
And, handing his card to one of Sir Algernon’s
companions, he strode out of the hall.
By the time he reached Guilford Square
he was almost himself again, a little paler than usual
but outwardly quite calm. He went at once to
N. The Raeburns had now been settled in their
new quarters for some weeks, and the house was familiar
enough to him; he went up to the drawing room or,
as it was usually called, the green room. The
gas was not lighted, but a little reading lamp stood
upon a table in one of the windows, and the fire light
made the paneled walls shine here and there though
the corners and recesses were all in dusky shadow.
Erica had made this the most home-like room in the
house; it had the most beguiling easy chairs, it had
all Mr. Woodward’s best pictures, it had fascinating
little tables, and a tempting set of books. There
was something in the sight of the familiar room which
made Brian’s wrath flame up once more.
Erica’s guileless life seemed to rise before
him the years of patient study, the beautiful filial
love, the pathetic endeavor to restrain her child-like
impatience of conventionalities lest scandalmongers
should have even a shadow of excuse for slandering
Luke Raeburn’s daughter. The brutality
of the insult struck him more than ever. Erica,
glancing up from her writing table, saw that his face
again bore that look of intolerable pain which had
so greatly startled her in Westminster Hall.
She had more than half dreaded his
arrival, had been wondering how they should meet after
the strange revelation of the afternoon, had been
thinking of the most trite and commonplace remark with
which she might greet him. But when it actually
came to the point, she could not say a word, only
looked up at him with eyes full of anxious questioning.
“It is all right,” he
said, answering the mute question, a great joy thrilling
him as he saw that she had been anxious about him.
“You should not have been afraid.”
“I couldn’t help it,”
she said, coloring, “he is such a hateful man!
A man who might do anything. Tell me what happened.”
“I gave him a thrashing which
he’ll not soon forget,” said Brian.
“But don’t let us speak of him any more.”
“Perhaps he’ll summons you!” said
“He won’t dare to.
He knows that he deserved it. What are you writing?
You ought to be resting.”
“Only copying out my article.
The boy will be here before long.”
“I am your doctor,” he
said, feeling her pulse, and again assuming his authoritative
manner; “I shall order you to rest on your couch
at once. I will copy this for you. What
is it on?”
“Cremation,” said Erica,
smiling a little. “A nice funereal subject
for a dreary day. Generally, if I’m in
wild spirits, Mr. Bircham sends me the very gloomiest
subject to write on, and if I’m particularly
blue, he asks for a bright, lively article.”
“Oh! He tells you what to write on?”
“Yes, did you think I had the
luxury of choosing for myself? Every day, about
eleven o’clock a small boy brings me my fate
on a slip of paper. Let me dictate this to you.
I’m sure you can’t read that penciled
“Yes, I can,” said Brian. “You
go and rest.”
She obeyed him, thankful enough to
have a moment’s pause in which to think out
the questions that came crowding into her mind.
She hardly dared to think what Brian might be to her,
for just now she needed him so sorely as friend and
adviser, that to admit that other perception, which
made her feel shy and constrained with him, would have
left her still in her isolation. After all, he
was a seven years’ friend, no mere acquaintance,
but an actual friend to whom she was her unreserved
and perfectly natural self.
“Brian,” she said presently
when he had finished her copying, “you don’t
think I’m bound to tell my father about this
afternoon, do you?”
A burning, painful blush, the sort
of blush that she never ought to have known, never
could have known but for that shameful slander, spread
over her face and neck as she spoke.
“Perhaps not,” said Brian,
“since the man has been properly punished.”
“I think I hope it need never
get round to him in any other way,” said Erica.
“He would be so fearfully angry, and just now
scarcely a day passes without bringing him some fresh
“When will the Pogson affair come on?”
“Oh! I don’t know.
Not just yet, I’m afraid. Things in the
legal world always move at the rate of a fly in a
“What sort of man is Mr. Pogson?”
“He was in court today, a little,
sleek, narrow-headed man with cold, gray eyes.
I have been trying to put myself in his place, and
realize the view he takes of things; but it is very,
very hard. You don’t know what it is to
live in this house and see the awful harm his intolerance
is bringing about.”
“In what way did you specially mean?”
“Oh! In a thousand ways.
It is bringing Christianity into discredit, it is
making them more bitter against it, and who can wonder.
It is bringing hundreds of men to atheism, it is enormously
increasing the demand for all my father’s books,
and already even in these few months it has doubled
the sale of the ‘Idol-Breakers.’ In
old times that would have been my consolation.
Oh! It is heart-breaking to see how religious
people injure their own cause. Surely they might
have learned by this time that punishment for opinion
is never right, that it brings only bitterness, and
misery, and more error! How is one to believe
that this is right that God means all this bigotry
and injustice to go on producing evil?”
“Surely it will teach the sharp
lesson that all pain teaches,” said Brian.
“We Christians have broken His order, have lost
the true idea of brotherly love, and from this arises
pain and evil, which at last, when it touches our
own selfish natures, will rouse us, wake us up sharply,
drive us back of necessity to the true Christ-following.
Then persecution and injustice will die. But
we are so terribly asleep that the evil must grow
desperate before we become conscious of it. It
seems to me that bigotry has at least one mortal foe,
though. You are always here; you must show them
by your life what the Father is that is being
“I know,” said Erica,
a look of almost passionate longing dawning in her
eyes. “Oh! What a thing it is to be
crammed full of faults that hinder one from serving!
And all these worries do try one’s temper fearfully.
If they had but a Donovan to live with them now!
But, as for me, I can’t do much, except love
Brian loved her too truly to speak
words of praise and commendation at such a time.
“Is not the love the crux of the whole?”
he said quietly.
“I suppose it is,” said
Erica, pushing back her hair from her forehead in
the way she always did when anything perplexed her.
“But just at present my life is a sort of fugue
on Browning’s line
‘How very hard
it is to be a Christian?’
Sometimes I can’t help laughing
to think that there was a time when I thought the
teaching of Christ unpractical! Do you mind ringing
the bell for me; the others will be in directly, and
will be glad of tea after that headachy place.”
“Is there nothing else I can do for you?”
“Yes, one thing more help me
to remember the levers of the second order. It’s
my physiology class tonight, and I feel, as Tom would
express it, like a ‘boiled owl.’”
“Let me take the class for you.”
“Oh, no, thank you,” she replied.
“I wouldn’t miss it for the world.”
It was not till Brian had left that
Erica, taking up the article on cremation, was struck
by some resemblance in the handwriting. She must
have seen Brian’s writing before, but only this
afternoon did she make that fresh discovery.
Crossing the room she took from one of the book shelves
a dark blue morocco volume, and compared the writing
on the fly leaf with her Ms.
“From another admirer of ‘Hiawatha.’”
There could be no doubt that Brian had written that.
Had he cared for her so long? Had he indeed loved
her all these years? She was interrupted by the
maid bringing in the tea.
“Mr. Bircham’s boy is
here, miss, and if you please, can cook speak to you
Erica put down the Longfellow and rolled up “Cremation.”
“I’m sure she’s
going to give warning!” she thought to herself.
“What a day to choose for it! That’s
what I call an anti-climax.”
Her forebodings proved all too true.
In a minute more in walked the cook, with the sort
of conscious dignity of bearing which means “I
am no longer in your service.”
“If you please, miss, I wish to leave this day
“I shall be sorry to lose you,”
said Erica; “what are your reasons for leaving?”
“I’ve not been used, miss,
to families as is in the law courts. I’ve
been used to the best West End private families.”
“I don’t see how it can
affect you,” said Erica, feeling, in spite of
her annoyance, much inclined to laugh.
“Indeed, miss, and it do.
There’s not a tradesman’s boy but has his
joke or his word about Mr. Raeburn,” said the
cook in an injured voice. “And last Sunday
when I went to the minister to show my lines, he said
a member ought to be ashamed to take service with
a hatheist and that I was in an ’ouse of ’ell.
Those was his very words, miss, an ’ouse of
’ell, he said.”
“Then it was exceedingly impertinent
of him,” said Erica, “for he knew nothing
whatever about it.”
After that there was nothing for it
but to accept the resignation, and to begin once more
the weary search for that rara avis, “a
good plain cook.”
Her interview had only just ended
when she heard the front door open. She listened
intently, but apparently it was only Tom; he came upstairs
singing a refrain with which just then she quite agreed:
Rhymes very well with jaw,
If you’re fond
And sweet procrastination,
Latin and botheration,
I advise you to go to
“Halloo!” he exclaimed.
“So you did get home all right? I like your
way of acting Casabianca! The chieftain sent
me tearing out after you, and when I got there, you
“Brian came up just then,”
said Erica, “and I thought it better not to
wait. Oh, here comes father.”
Raeburn entered as she spoke.
No one who saw him would have guessed that he was
an overworked, overworried man, for his face was a
singularly peaceful one, serene with the serenity
of a strong nature convinced of its own integrity.
“Got some tea for us, Eric?”
he asked, throwing himself back in a chair beside
Some shade of trouble in her face,
invisible to any eye but that of a parent, made him
watch her intently, while a new hope which made his
heart beat more quickly sprang up within him.
Christians had not shown up well that day; prosecuting
and persecuting Christians are the most repulsive
beings on earth! Did she begin to feel a flaw
in the system she had professed belief in? Might
she by this injustice come to realize that she had
unconsciously cheated herself into a belief? If
such things might win her back to him, might bridge
over that miserable gulf between them, then welcome
any trouble, any persecution, welcome even ruin itself.
But had he been able to see into Erica’s
heart, he would have learned that the grief which
had left its traces on her face was the grief of knowing
that such days as these strengthened and confirmed
him in his atheism. Erica was indeed ever confronted
with one of the most baffling of all baffling mysteries.
How was it that a man of such grand capacities, a
man with so many noble qualities, yet remained in the
darkness? One day she put that question sadly
enough to Charles Osmond.
“Not darkness, child, none of
your honest secularists who live up to their creed
are in darkness,” he replied. “However
mistakenly, they do try to promote what they consider
the general good. Were you in such absolute blackness
before last summer?”
“There was the love of Humanity,” said
“Yes, and what is that but a
ray of the light of life promised to all who, to any
extent, follow Christ? It is only the absolutely
selfish who are in the black shadow. The honest
atheist is in the penumbra, and in his twilight sees
a little bit of the true sun, though he calls it Humanity
instead of Christ.”
“Oh, if the shadows would but go!” exclaimed
“Would!” he said, laughing gently.
“Why, child, they will, they must!”
“But now, I mean! ‘Here down,’
as Mazzini would have said.”
“You were ever an impatient little mortal.”
“How can one help being impatient for this,”
she said with a quick sigh.
“That is what I used to say
myself seven years ago over you,” he said smiling.
“But I learned that the Father knew best, and
that if we would work with Him we must wait with Him
too. You musn’t waste your strength in
impatience, child, you need every bit of it for the
life before you.”
But patience did not come by nature
to a Raeburn, and Erica did not gain it in a day even