Those who persecuted
them supposed of course that they were
but Christianity can be defended in
no such way. It
forbids all persecution all persecution for
the sake of religion.
Force cannot possibly propagate the
truth or produce the
faith, or promote the love in which the
Persecution can never arise from zeal
for the Gospel as truth
from zeal for the Gospel properly
ever due to zeal in any measure, and not to
anger, ambition, and other hateful lusts
... It must be to a
zeal which is in alliance with error.
... The men (atheists)
therefore, who, by their courage
and endurance were specially
instrumental in convincing
their countrymen that
persecution for the avowal and
advocacy even of atheism
is a folly and a crime, have really
rendered a service to
the cause of Christian truth, and
their names will not
be recorded without honor when the
history of our century
is impartially written. Baird
R. Flint, D.D., Professor of Divinity,
A few days later the brief holiday
ended, and father and daughter were both hard at work
again in London. They had crossed from Antwerp
by night and had reached home about ten o’clock
to find the usual busy life awaiting them.
Tom and Aunt Jean, who had been very
dull in their absence, were delighted to have them
back again; and though the air was thick with coming
troubles, yet it was nevertheless a real home coming,
while Erica, in spite of her hidden sorrow, had a
very real enjoyment in describing her first foreign
tour. They were making a late breakfast while
she talked, Raeburn being more or less absorbed in
the “Daily Review.”
“You see, such an early newspaper
is a luxury now,” said Erica. “Not
that he’s been behaving well abroad. He
promised me when we started that he’d eschew
newspapers altogether and give his brain an entire
rest; but there is a beguiling reading room at Florence,
and there was no keeping him away from it.”
“What’s that? What
are you saying?” said Raeburn, absently.
“That very soon, father, you
will be as absent-minded as King Stars-and-Garters
in the fairy tale, who one day, in a fit of abstraction,
buttered his newspaper and tried to read his toast.”
Raeburn laughed and threw down the “Daily Review.”
“Saucier than ever, isn’t
she, Tom? Well, we’ve come back to a few
disagreeables; but then we’ve come back, thank
man! To roast beef and Turkey towels, and after
kickshaws and table napkins, one knows how to appreciate
“We could have done with your
kickshaws here,” said Tom. “If you
hadn’t come back soon, Erica, I should have
gone to the bad altogether, for home life, with the
cook to cater for one, is intolerable. That creature
has only two ideas in her head. We rang the changes
on rice and stewed rhubarb. The rhubarb in its
oldest stage came up four days running. We called
it the widow’s curse! Then the servants
would make a point of eating onions for supper so
that the house was insufferable. And at last
we were driven from pillar to post by a dreadful process
called house cleaning in which, undoubtedly, life
is not worth living. In the end, Mr. Osmond took
pity on me and lent me Brian’s study. Imagine
heretical writings emanating from that room!”
This led the conversation round to
Brian’s visit to Florence, and Erica was not
sorry to be interrupted by a note from Mr. Bircham,
requesting her to write an article on the Kilbeggan
murder. She found that the wheels of the household
machinery would need a good deal of attention before
they would move as smoothly as she generally contrived
to make them. Things had somehow “got to
wrongs” in her absence. And when at length
she thought everything was in train and had got thoroughly
into the spirit of a descriptive article on the Irish
tragedy, the cook of two ideas interrupted her with
what seemed, in contract, the most trivial matters.
“If you please, miss,”
she said, coming into the green room, just as the
three villains in black masks were in the act of killing
their victim, “I thought you’d wish to
know that we are wanting a new set of kitchen cloths;
and if you’ll excuse me mentioning it, miss,
there’s Jane, miss, using glass cloths as tea
cloths, and dusters as knife cloths.”
Erica looked slightly distracted,
but diverted her mind from the state of Ireland to
the state of the household linen, and, when left alone
once more, laughed to herself at the incongruity of
the two subjects.
It was nearly a fortnight before Brian
returned from Switzerland. Erica knew that he
was in the well-known house on the opposite side of
the square, and through the trees in the garden, they
could see each the other’s place of residence.
It was a sort of nineteenth-century version of the
Rhine legend, in which the knight of Rolandseek looked
down upon Nomenwerth where his lady love was immured
in a convent.
She had rather dreaded the first meeting,
but, when it came, she felt nothing of what she had
feared. She was in the habit of going on Sunday
morning to the eight o’clock service at the church
in the square. It was nearer than Charles Osmond’s
church, and the hour interfered less with household
arrangements. Just at the corner of the square
on the morning of Trinity Sunday, she met Brian.
Her heart beat quickly as she shook hands with him,
but there was something in his bearing which set her
entirely at her ease after just the first minute.
He looked much older, and a certain restlessness in
look and manner had quite left him, giving place to
a peculiar calm not unlike his father’s expression.
It was the expression which a man wears when he has
lost the desire of his heart, yet manfully struggles
on, allowing no bitterness to steal in, facing unflinchingly
the grayness of a crippled life. Somehow, joining
in that thanksgiving service seemed to give them the
true key-note for their divided lives. As they
came out into the porch, he asked her a question.
“You are an authority on quotations,
I know; my father wants to verify one for his sermon
this morning. Can you help him? It is this:
’Revealed in love and
The Holiest passed before
One and the same, in threefold
“It is Whittier, I know,”
said Erica, promptly; “and I think it is in a
poem called ‘Trinitas.’ Come
home with me, and we will hunt for it.”
So they walked back together silently,
and found the poem, and at Raeburn’s request
Brian stayed to breakfast, and fell back naturally
into his old place with them all.
The following day Raeburn had to attend
a meeting in the north of England; he returned on
the Tuesday afternoon, looking, Erica fancied, tired
“Railway journeys are not quite
the rest they once were to me,” he confessed,
throwing himself down in a chair by the open window
while she brought him some tea. “This is
very beguiling, little one; but see, I’ve all
these letters to answer before five.”
“Your train must have been very late.”
“Yes, there was a block on the
line, and we stopped for half an hour in the middle
of a bean field bliss that a Londoner can’t often
“Did you get out?”
“Oh, yes, and sat upon the fence
and meditated to the great delectation of my olfactory
Erica’s laugh was checked by
a knock at the door. The servant announced that
a gentleman wanted to see Miss Raeburn.
“Some message from Mr. Bircham,
I expect,” said Erica to her father. “Ask
him upstairs, please. I only hope he doesn’t
want me to write another article at the eleventh hour.
If it’s the little Irish sub-editor, you must
be very polite to him, father, for he has been kind
But it was no message from the “Daily
Review” office; a perfect stranger was shown
into the room.
He bowed slightly as he entered.
“Are you Miss Erica Raeburn?” he asked,
coming toward her.
“I am,” she replied. “What
is your business with me?”
“I have to place this document in your hands.”
He gave her a paper which she rapidly
unfolded. To her dying day she could always see
that hateful bit of foolscap with its alternate printing
and writing. The words were to this effect:
Writ Subpoena Ad Test, at Sittings
of High Court. In the high court
of justice, queen’s bench
division. Between Luke Raeburn, Plaintiff,
and William Henry Pogson, Defendant Victoria,
by the Grace of God, of the United kingdom of Great
Britain and Ireland, Queen, Defender of the Faith,
To Erica Raeburn, greeting. We command you to
attend at the sittings of the Queen’s Bench
division of our High Court of Justice to be holden
at Westminster on Tuesday, the Twentieth day of June,
18__, at the hour of half past Ten in the forenoon,
and so from day to day during the said sittings, until
the above cause is tried, to give evidence on behalf
of the Defendant. Witness, etc., etc.
Erica read the paper twice before
she looked up; she had grown white to the very lips.
Raeburn, recognizing the form of a subpoena, came
hastily forward, and in the merest glance saw how matters
were. By no possibility could the most malicious
of opponents have selected a surer means of torturing
“Is this legal?” asked
Erica, lifting to him eyes that flashed with righteous
“Oh, it is legal,” he
replied bitterly “the pound of flesh was legal.
A wife need not appear against her husband, but a
daughter may be dragged into court and forced to give
evidence against her father.”
As he spoke, such anger flashed from
his eyes that the clerk shivered all down his backbone.
He thought he would take his departure as quickly
as might be, and drawing a little nearer, put down
a coin upon the table beside Erica.
“This fee is to cover your expenses, madame,”
“What!” exclaimed Erica,
her anger leaping up into a sudden flame, “do
you think I shall take money from that man?”
She had an insane desire to snatch
up the sovereign and fling it at the clerk’s
head, but restraining herself merely flicked it back
across the table to him, just touching it with the
back of her hand as though it had been polluted.
“You can take that back again,”
she said, a look of scorn sweeping over her face.
“Tell Mr. Pogson that, when he martyrs people
he need not say: ‘The martyrdom will make
you hungry here is luncheon money,’ or ’The
torture will tire you here is your cab fare!’”
“But, madame, excuse
me,” said the clerk, looking much embarrassed.
“I must leave the money, I am bound to leave
“If you leave it, I shall just
throw it into the fireplace before your eyes,”
said Erica. “But if indeed it can’t
be sent back, then give it to the first gutter child
you meet do anything you like with it! Hang it
on your watch chain as a memento of the most cruel
case your firm every had to do with!”
Her color had come back again, her
cheeks were glowing, in her wrath she looked most
beautiful; the clerk would have been less than human
if he had not felt sorry for her. There was a
moment’s silence; he glanced from the daughter
to the father, whose face was still pale and rigid.
A great pity surged up in the clerk’s heart.
He was a father himself; involuntarily his thoughts
turned to the little home at Kilburn where Mary and
Kitty would be waiting for him that evening. What
if they should ever be forced into a witness box to
confirm a libel on his personal character? A
sort of moisture came to his eyes at the bare idea.
The counsel for the defense, too, was that Cringer,
Q. C., the greatest bully that ever wore silk.
Then he glanced once more at the silent, majestic
figure with the rigid face, who, though an atheist,
was yet a man and a father.
“Sir,” he said, with the
ring of real and deep feeling in his voice, “sir,
believe me, if I had known what bringing this subpoena
meant, I would sooner have lost my situation!”
Raeburn’s face relaxed; he spoke
a few courteous, dignified words, accepting with a
sort of unspoken gratitude the man’s regret,
and in a few moments dismissing him. But even
in these few moments the clerk, though by no means
an impressionable man, had felt the spell, the strange
power of fascination which Raeburn invariably exercised
upon those he talked with that inexplicable influence
which made cautious, hard-headed mechanics ready to
die for him, ready to risk anything in his cause.
The instant the man was gone, Raeburn
sat down at Erica’s writing table and began
to answer his letters. His correspondents got
very curt answers that day. Erica could tell
by the sound of his pan how sharp were the down strokes,
how short the rapidly written sentences.
“Can I help you?” she asked, drawing nearer
He hastily selected two or three letters
not bearing on his anti-religious work, gave her directions,
then plunged his pen in the ink once more, and went
on writing at lightning speed. When at length
the most necessary ones were done, he pushed back his
chair, and getting up began to pace rapidly to and
fro. Presently he paused and leaned against the
mantel piece, his face half shaded by his hand.
Erica stole up to him silently.
“Sometimes, Eric,” he
said abruptly, “I feel the need of the word
‘devil!’ My vocabulary has nothing
strong enough for that man.”
She was too heartsick to speak; she
drew closer to him with a mute caress.
“Eric!” he said, holding
her hands between his, and looking down at her with
an indescribably eager expression in his eyes, “Eric,
surely now you see that this persecuting religion,
this religion which has been persecuting innumerable
people for hundreds of years, is false, worthless,
rotten to the core. Child! Child! Surely
you can’t believe in a God whose followers try
to promote His glory by sheer brutality like this?”
It was the first time he had spoken
to her on this subject since their interview at Codrington.
They had resolved never to touch upon it again; but
a sort of consciousness that some good must come to
him through this new bitterness, a hope that it must
and would reconvince his child, impelled Raeburn to
break his resolution.
“I could sooner doubt that you
are standing here, father, with your arm round me,”
said Erica, “than I could doubt the presence
of your Father and mine the All-Father.”
“Even though his followers are
such lying scoundrels as that Pogson? What do
you make of that? What do you think of that?”
“I think,” she replied
quietly, “that my father is too just a man to
judge Christianity by the very worst specimen of a
Christian to be met with. Any one who does not
judge secularism by its very best representatives,
dead or living, is unfair and what is unfair in one
case is unfair in another.”
“Well, if I judged it by you,
perhaps I might take a different view of it,”
said Raeburn. “But then you had the advantage
of some years of secularism.”
“Not by me!” cried Erica.
“How can it seem anything but very faulty when
you judge it only by faulty people? Why not judge
it by the life and character of Christ?”
Raeburn turned away with a gesture of impatience.
“A myth! A poetic creation
long ago distorted out of its true proportions!
There, child, I see we must stop. I only pain
you and torture myself by arguing the question.”
“One more thing,” said
Erica, “before we go back to the old silence.
Father, if you would only write a life of Christ I
mean, a really complete life; the one you wrote years
ago was scarcely more than a pamphlet.”
He smiled, knowing that she thought
the deep study necessary for such an undertaking would
lead to a change in his views.
“My dear,” he said, “perhaps
I would; but just see how I am overdone. I couldn’t
write an elaborate thing now. Besides, there is
the book on the Pentateuch not half finished though
it was promised months ago. Perhaps a year or
two hence when Pogson gives me time to draw a long
breath, I’ll attempt it; but I have an idea
that one or other of us will have to be ‘kilt
intirely’ before that happy time arrives.
Perhaps we shall mutually do for each other, and reenact
the historical song.” And, with laughter
in his eyes, he repeated:
“There once were two cats of
Kilkenny, Each thought there was one cat too many,
So they quarreled and spit, and they scratched and
they bit, Till, excepting their nails and the tips
of their tails, Instead of two cats, there weren’t
Erica smiled faintly, but sighed the next minute.
“Well, there! It’s
too grave a matter to jest about,” said Raeburn.
“Oh, bairn! If I could but save you from
that brute’s malice, I should care very little
for the rest.”
“Since you only care about it
for my sake, and I only for yours, I think we may
as well give up caring at all,” said Erica, looking
up at him with a brave smile. “And, after
all, Mr. Cringer, Q. C. can only keep me in purgatory
for a few hours at the outside. Don’t you
think, too, that such a cruel thing will damage Mr.
Pogson in the eyes of the jury?”
“Unfortunately, dear, juries
are seldom inclined to show any delicate considerateness
to an atheist,” said Raeburn.
And Erica knew that he spoke truly enough.
No more was said just then. Raeburn
began rapidly to run through his remaining correspondence
a truly miscellaneous collection. Legal letters,
political letters, business letters requests for his
autograph, for his help, for his advice a challenge
from a Presbyterian minister in the north of Scotland
to meet him in debate; the like from a Unitarian in
Norfolk; a coffin and some insulting verses in a match
box, and lastly an abrasive letter from a clergyman,
holding him responsible for some articles by Mr. Masterman,
which he had nothing whatever to do with, and of which
he in fact disapproved.
“What would they think, Eric,
if I insisted on holding the Bishop of London responsible
for every utterance of every Christian in the diocese?”
“They would think you were a
fool,” said Erica, cutting the coffin into little
bits as she spoke.
Raeburn smiled and penciled a word
or two on the letter the pith of a stinging reply.