Skepticism for that century we must
consider as the decay of old ways of believing,
the preparation afar off for new, better, and
wider ways an inevitable thing. We will not
blame men for it; we will lament their hard fate.
We will understand that destruction of old forms
is not destruction of everlasting substances;
that skepticism, as sorrowful and hateful as
we see it, is not an end but a beginning. Carlyle
One June evening, an elderly man with
closely cropped iron-gray hair, might have been seen
in a certain railway carriage as the Folkestone train
reached its destination. The Cannon Street platform
was, as usual, the scene of bustle and confusion,
most of the passengers were met by friends or relatives,
others formed a complete party in themselves, and,
with the exception of the elderly man, there was scarcely
a unit among them. The fact of his loneliness
would not, of course, have been specially remarkable
had it not been that he was evidently in the last
stage of some painful illness; he was also a foreigner
and, not being accustomed to the English luggage system,
he had failed to secure a porter as the train drew
up and so, while the others were fighting their way
to the van, he, who needed assistance more than any
of them, was left to shift for himself. He moved
with great difficulty, dragging down from the carriage
a worn black bag, and occasionally muttering to himself,
not as a peevish invalid would have done, but as if
it were a sort of solace to his loneliness.
“The hardest day I’ve
had, this! If I had but my Herzblattchen now,
how quickly she would pilot me through this throng.
Ah well! Having managed to do the rest, I’ll
not be beaten by this last bit. Potztausend!
These English are all elbows!”
He frowned with pain as the self-seeking
crowd pushed and jostled him, but never once lost
his temper, and at length, after long waiting, his
turn came and, having secured his portmanteau, he was
before long driving away in the direction of Bloomsbury.
His strength was fast ebbing away, and the merciless
jolting of the cab evidently tried him to the utmost,
but he bore up with the strong endurance of one who
knows that at the end of the struggle relief awaits
“If he is only at home,”
he muttered to himself, “all will be well.
He’ll know where I ought to go; he’ll do
it all for me in the best way. Ach!
Gott in himmel! But I need some one!”
With an excruciating jerk the cab
drew up before a somewhat grim-looking house; Had
he arrived at the himmel he had just been speaking
of, the traveler could not have given an exclamation
of greater relief. He crawled up the steps, overruled
some question on the part of the servant, and was
shown into a brightly lighted room. At one glance
he had taken in the whole of that restful picture
so welcome to his sore need. It was a good sized
room, lined with books, which had evidently seen good
service, many of them had been bought with the price
of foregone meals, almost all of them embodied some
act of denial. Above the mantel piece hung a
little oil painting of a river scene, the sole thing
not strictly of a useful order, for the rest of the
contents of this study were all admirably adapted
for working purposes, but were the reverse of luxurious.
Seated at the writing table was the
master of the house, who had impressed his character
plainly enough on his surroundings. He looked
up with an expression of blank astonishment on hearing
the name of his visitor, then the astonishment changed
to incredulity; but, when the weary traveler actually
entered the room, he started up with an exclamation
of delight which very speedily gave place to dismay
when he saw how ill his friend was.
“Why, Haeberlein!” he
said, grasping his hand, “what has happened to
“Nothing very remarkable,”
replied Haeberlein, smiling. “Only a great
wish to see you before I die.” Then, seeing
that Raeburn’s face changed fearfully at these
words, “Yes, it has come to that, my friend.
I’ve a very short time left, and I wanted to
see you; can you tell me of rooms near here, and of
a decent doctor?”
“Of a doctor, yes,” said
Raeburn, “of one who will save your life, I
hope; and for rooms there are none that I know of except
in this house, where you will of course stay.”
“With the little Herzblattchen
to nurse me?” said Haeberlein with a sigh of
weary content as he sank back in an arm chair.
“That would be a very perfect ending; but think
what the world would say of you if I, who have lent
a hand to so much that you disapprove, died in your
house; inevitably you would be associated with my
views and my doings.”
“May be!” said Raeburn.
“But I hope I may say that I’ve never refused
to do what was right for fear of unpleasant consequences.
No, no, my friend, you must stay here. A hard
life has taught me that, for one in my position, it
is mere waste of time to consider what people will
say; they will say and believe the worst that can
be said and believed about me; and thirty years of
this sort of thing has taught me to pay very little
regard to appearances.”
As he spoke he took up the end of
a speaking tube which communicated with the green
room, Haeberlein watching his movements with the placid,
weary indifference of one who is perfectly convinced
that he is in the right hands. Presently the
door opened and Erica came in. Haeberlein saw
now what he had half fancied at Salzburg that, although
loving diminutives would always come naturally to
the lips when speaking of Erica, she had in truth
lost the extreme youthfulness of manner which had
always characterized her. It had to a great extent
been crushed out of her by the long months of wearing
anxiety, and though she was often as merry and kittenish
as ever her habitual manner was that of a strong,
quick temperament kept in check. The restraint
showed in everything. She was much more ready
to hear and much less ready to criticize, her humorous
talk was freer from sarcasm, her whole bearing characterized
by a sort of quiet steadfastness which made her curiously
like her father. His philosophical calm had indeed
been gained in a very different way, but in each the
calmness was the direct result of exceptionally trying
circumstances brought to bear on a noble nature.
“Herr Haeberlein has come here
to be nursed,” said Raeburn when the greetings
were over. “Will you see that a room is
got ready, dear?”
He went out into the hall to dismiss
the cab, and Haeberlein seized the opportunity to
correct his words.
“He thinks I shall get better,
but it is impossible, my Herzblattchen; it is only
a question of weeks now, possibly only of days.
Was I wrong to come to you?”
“Of course not,” she said
with the sort of tender deference with which she always
spoke to him. “Did you think father would
let you go anywhere else?”
“I didn’t think about
it,” said Haeberlein wearily; “but he wouldn’t,
Raeburn returned while he was speaking,
and Erica went away quickly to see to the necessary
preparations. Herr Haeberlein had come, and she
did not for a moment question the rightness of her
father’s decision; but yet in her heart she
was troubled about it, and she could see that both
her aunt and Tom were troubled too. The fact was
that for some time they had seen plainly enough that
Raeburn’s health was failing, and they dreaded
any additional anxiety for him. A man can not
be involved in continual and harassing litigation
and at the same time agitate perseveringly for reform,
edit a newspaper, write books, rush from Land’s
End to John O’Groat’s, deliver lectures,
speak at mass meetings, teach science, befriend every
unjustly used person, and go through the enormous
amount of correspondence, personal supervision, and
inevitable interviewing which falls to the lot of
every popular leader, without sooner or later breaking
Haeberlein had come, however, and
there was no help for it. They all did their
very utmost for him, and those last weeks of tender
nursing were perhaps the happiest of his life.
Raeburn never allowed any one to see how the lingering
expectation, the dark shadow of the coming sorrow,
tried him. He lived his usual busy life, snatching
an hour whenever he could to help in the work of nursing,
and bringing into the sick room the strange influence
of his strength and serenity.
The time wore slowly on. Haeberlein,
though growing perceptibly weaker, still lingered,
able now and then to enter into conversation, but for
the most part just lying in patient silence, listening
with a curious impartiality to whatever they chose
to read to him, or whatever they began to talk about.
He had all his life been a man of no particular creed,
and he retained his curious indifference to the end,
though Erica found that he had a sort of vague belief
in a First Cause, and a shadowy expectation of a personal
existence after death. She found this out through
Brian, who had a way of getting at the minds of his
One very hot afternoon she had been
with him for several hours when about five o’clock
her father came into the room. Another prosecution
under the blasphemy Laws had just commenced. He
had spent the whole day in a stifling law court, and
even to the dying man his exhaustion was apparent.
“Things gone badly?” he asked.
“Much as I expected,”
said Raeburn, taking up a Marechal Niel rose from
the table and studying it abstractedly. “I’ve
had a sentence of Auerbach’s in my head all
day, ’The martyrdom of the modern world consists
of a long array of thousands of trifling annoyances.’
These things are in themselves insignificant, but
multiplication makes them a great power. You
have been feeling this heat, I’m afraid.
I will relieve guard, Erica. Is your article
“Not quite,” she replied,
pausing to arrange Haeberlein’s pillows while
her father raised him.
“Thank you, little Herzblattchen,”
he said, stroking her cheek, “auf wiedersehen.”
she replied brightly and, gathering up some papers,
ran downstairs to finish her work for the “Daily
A few minutes later Brian came in for his second visit.
“Any change?” he asked.
“None, I think,” she answered,
and went on with her writing with an apprehensive
glance every now and then at the clock. The office
boy was mercifully late however, and it must have
been quite half an hour after she had left Haeberlein’s
room that she heard his unwelcome ring. Late
as it was, she was obliged to keep him waiting a few
minutes for it was exceedingly difficult in those
days to get her work done. Not only was the time
hard to obtain, but the writing itself was a difficulty;
her mind was occupied with so many other things, and
her strength was so overtasked that it was often an
effort almost intolerable to sit down and write on
the appointed subject.
She was in the hall giving her manuscript
to the boy when she saw her father come downstairs;
she followed him into the study, and one look at his
face told her what had happened. He was leaning
back in the chair in which but a few weeks before
she had seen Haeberlein himself; it came over her
with a shudder that he looked almost as ill now as
his friend had looked. She sat down on the arm
of his chair, and slipped her hand into his, but did
not dare to break the silence. At last he looked
“I think you know it,” he said. “It
is all over, Erica.”
“Was Brian there?” she asked.
“Happily, yes; but there was
nothing to be done. The end was strangely sudden
and quite painless, just what one would have wished
for him. But oh, child! I can ill spare
such a friend just now!”
His voice failed, and great tears
gathered in his eyes. He let his head rest for
a minute on Erica’s shoulder, conscious of a
sort of relief in the clasp of arms which had so often,
in weak babyhood, clung to him for help, conscious
of the only comfort there could be for him as his
child’s kisses fell on his lips, and brow, and
“I am overdone, child,”
he said at length as though to account for breaking
down, albeit, by the confession, which but a short
time before he would never have made, that his strength
All through the dreary days that followed,
Erica was haunted by those words. The work had
to go on just as usual, and it seemed to tell on her
father fearfully. The very cay after Haeberlein’s
death it was necessary for him to speak at a mass
meeting in the north of England, and he came back
from it almost voiceless and so ill that they were
at their wits’ end to know what to do with him.
The morrow did not mend matters for the jury disagreed
in the blasphemy trial, and the whole thing had to
be gone through again.
A more trying combination of events
could hardly have been imagined, and Erica, as she
stood in the crowded cemetery next day at the funeral,
thought infinitely less of the quixotic Haeberlein
whom she had, nevertheless, loved very sincerely than
of her sorely overtasked father. He was evidently
in dread of breaking down, and it was with the greatest
difficulty that he got through his oration. To
all present the sight was a most painful one and,
although the musical voice was hoarse and strained,
seeming, indeed, to tear out each sentence by sheer
force of will, the orator had never carried his audience
more completely with him. Their tears were, however,
more for the living than for the dead; for the man
who was struggling with all his might to restrain his
emotion, painfully spurring on his exhausted powers
to fulfill the duty in hand. More than once Erica
thought he would have fainted, and she was fully prepared
for the small crowd of friends who gathered round her
afterward, begging her to persuade him to rest.
The worst of it was that she could see no prospect
of rest for him, though she knew how sorely he longed
for it. He spoke of it as they drove home.
“I’ve an almost intolerable
longing for quiet,” he said to her. “Do
you remember Mill’s passage about the two main
constituents of a satisfied life excitement and tranquillity?
How willingly would I change places today with that
Tyrolese fellow whom we saw last year!”
“Oh! If we could but go
to the Tyrol again!” exclaimed Erica; but Raeburn
shook his head.
“Out of the question just now,
my child; but next week when this blasphemy trial
is over, I must try to get a few days’ holiday
that is to say, if I don’t find myself in prison.”
She sighed the sigh of one who is
burdened almost beyond endurance. For recent
events had proved to her, only too plainly, that her
confidence that no jury would be found to convict
a man under the old blasphemy laws was quite mistaken.
That evening, however, her thoughts
were a little diverted from her father. For the
first time for many months she had a letter from Rose.
It was to announce her engagement to Captain Golightly.
Rose seemed very happy, but there was an undertone
of regret about the letter which was uncomfortably
suggestive of her flirtation with Tom. Also there
were sentences which, to Erica, were enigmatical,
about “having been so foolish last summer,”
and wishing that she “could live that Brighton
time over again.” All she could do was to
choose the time and place for telling Tom with discrimination.
No opportunity presented itself till late in the evening
when she went down as usual to say good night to him,
taking Rose’s letter with her. Tom was in
his “den,” a small room consecrated to
the goddess of disorder books, papers, electric batteries,
crucibles, chemicals, new temperance beverages, and
fishing rods were gathered together in wild confusion.
Tom himself was stirring something in a pipkin over
the gas stove when Erica came in.
“An unfallible cure for the
drunkard’s craving after alcohol,” he said,
looking up at her with a smile. “‘A thing
of my own invention,’ to quote the knight in
‘Through the Looking Glass.’ Try some?”
“No, thank you,” said
Erica, recoiling a little from the very odoriferous
contents of the pipkin. “I have had a letter
from Rose this evening.”
Tom started visibly.
“What, has Mr. Fane-Smith relented?” he
“Rose had something special
to tell me,” said Erica, unfolding the letter.
But Tom just took it from her hands
without ceremony, and began to read it. A dark
flush came over his face Erica saw that much, but afterward
would not look at him, feeling that it was hardly fair.
Presently he gave her the letter once more.
“Thank you,” he said in
a voice so cold and bitter that she could hardly believe
it to be his. “As you probably see, I have
been a fool. I shall know better how to trust
a woman in the future.”
“Oh, Tom,” she cried. “Don’t
He interrupted her.
“I don’t wish to talk,”
he said. “Least of all to one who has adopted
the religion which Miss Fane-Smith has been brought
up in a religion which of necessity debases and degrades
Her eyes filled with tears, but she
new that Christianity would in this case be better
vindicated by silence than by words however eloquent.
She just kissed him and wished him good night.
But as she reached the door, his heart smote him.
“I don’t say it has debased
you,” he said; “but that that is its natural
tendency. You are better than your creed.”
“He meant that by way of consolation,”
thought Erica to herself as she went slowly upstairs
fighting with her tears.
But of course the consolation had
been merely a sharper stab; for to tell a Christian
that he is better than his creed is the one intolerable
What had been the extent of the understanding
with Rose, Erica never learned, but she feared that
it must have been equivalent to a promise in Tom’s
eyes, and much more serious than mere flirtation in
Rose’s, otherwise the regret in the letter was,
from one of Rose’s way of thinking, inexplicable.
From that time there was a marked change in Tom; Erica
was very unhappy about him, but there was little to
be done except, indeed, to share all his interests
as much as she could, and to try to make the home
life pleasant. But this was by no means easy.
To begin with, Raeburn himself was more difficult
than ever to work with, and Tom, who was in a hard,
cynical mood, called him overbearing where, in former
times, he would merely have called him decided.
The very best of men are occasionally irritable when
they are nearly worked to death; and under the severe
strain of those days, Raeburn’s philosophic calm
more than once broke down, and the quick Highland temper,
usually kept in admirable restraint, made itself felt.
It was not, however, for two or three
days after Haeberlein’s funeral that he showed
any other symptoms of illness. One evening they
were all present at a meeting at the East End at which
Donovan Farrant was also speaking. Raeburn’s
voice had somewhat recovered, and he was speaking
with great force and fluency when, all at once in the
middle of a sentence, he came to a dead pause.
For half a minute he stood motionless; before him
were the densely packed rows of listening faces, but
what they had come there to hear he had not the faintest
notion. His mind was exactly like a sheet of
white paper; all recollection of the subject he had
been speaking on was entirely obliterated. Some
men would have pleaded illness and escaped, others
would have blundered on. But Raeburn, who never
lost his presence of mind, just turned to the audience
and said quietly: “Will some one have the
goodness to tell me what I was saying? My memory
has played me a trick.”
“Taxation!” shouted the people.
A short-hand writer close to the platform
repeated his last sentence, and Raeburn at once took
the cue and finished his speech with perfect ease.
Every one felt, however, that it was an uncomfortable
incident, and, though to the audience Raeburn chose
to make a joke of it, he knew well enough that it
boded no good.
“You ought to take a rest,”
said Donovan to him when the meeting was over.
“I own to needing it,”
said Raeburn. “Pogson’s last bit of
malice will, I hope, be quashed in a few days and,
after that, rest may be possible. He is of opinion
that ’there are mony ways of killing a dog though
ye dinna hang him,’ and, upon my word, he’s
not far wrong.”
He was besieged here by two or three
people who wanted to ask his advice, and Donovan turned
“He has been feeling all this
talk about Herr Haeberlein; people say the most atrocious
things about him just because he gave him shelter at
the last,” she said. “Really sometimes
the accusations are so absurd that we ourselves can’t
help laughing at them. But though I don’t
believe in being ‘done to death by slanderous
tongues,’ there is no doubt that the constant
friction of these small annoyances does tell on my
father very perceptibly. After all, you know
the very worst form of torture is merely the perpetual
falling of a drop of water on the victim’s head.”
“I suppose since last summer
this sort of thing has been on the increase?”
“Indeed it has,” she replied.
“It is worse, I think, than you have any idea
of. You read your daily paper and your weekly
review, but every malicious, irritating word put forth
by every local paper in England, Scotland, or Ireland
comes to us, not to speak of all that we get from
On their way home they did all in
their power to persuade Raeburn to take an immediate
holiday, but he only shook his head.
“‘Dree out the inch when
ye have thol’d the span,’” he said,
leaning back wearily in the cab but taking care to
give the conversation an abrupt turn before relapsing
At supper, as ill luck would have
it, Aunt Jean relieved her fatigue and anxiety by
entering upon one of her old remonstrances with Erica.
Raeburn was not sitting at the table; he was in an
easy chair at the other side of the room, and possibly
she forgot his presence. But he heard every word
that passed, and at last started up with angry impatience.
“For goodness’ sake, Jean,
leave the child alone!” he said. “Is
it not enough for me to be troubled with bitterness
and dissension outside without having my home turned
into an arguing shop?”
“Erica should have thought of
that before she deserted her own party,” said
Aunt Jean; “before, to quote Strauss, she had
recourse to ‘religious crutches.’
It is she who has introduced the new element into
Erica’s color rose, but she
said nothing. Aunt Jean seemed rather baffled
by her silence. Tom watched the little scene with
a sort of philosophic interest. Raeburn, conscious
of having spoken sharply to his sister and fearing
to lose his temper again, paced the room silently.
Finally he went off to his study, leaving them to the
unpleasant consciousness that he had been driven out
of his own dining room. But when he had gone,
the quarrel was forgotten altogether; they forgot
differences of creed in a great mutual anxiety.
Raeburn’s manner had been so unnatural, he had
been so unlike himself, that in their trouble about
it they entirely passed over the original cause of
his anger. Aunt Jean was as much relieved as
any one when before long he opened his door and called
“I have lost my address book,”
he said; “have you seen it about?”
She began to search for it, fully
aware that he had given her something to do for him
just out of loving consideration, and with the hope
that it would take the sting from her aunt’s
hard words. When she brought him the book, he
took her face between both his hands, looked at her
steadily for a minute, and then kissed her.
“All right, little son Eric,”
he said, with a sigh. “We understand each
But she went upstairs feeling miserable
about him, and an hour or two later, when all the
house was silent, her feeling of coming trouble grew
so much that at length she yielded to one of those
strange, blind impulses which come to some people
and crept noiselessly out on to the dark landing.
At first all seemed to her perfectly still and perfectly
dark; but, looking down the narrow well of the staircase,
she could see far below her a streak of light falling
across the tiles in the passage. She knew that
it must come from beneath the door of the study, and
it meant that her father was still at work. He
had owned to having a bad headache, and had promised
not to be late. It was perplexing. She stole
down the next flight of stairs and listened at Tom’s
door; then, finding that he was still about, knocked
softly. Tom, with his feet on the mantel piece,
was solacing himself with a pipe and a novel; he started
up, however, as she came in.
“What’s the matter?” he asked, “is
any one ill?”
“I don’t know,”
said Erica, shivering a little. “I came
to know whether father had much to do tonight; did
he tell you?”
“He was going to write to Jackson
about a situation for the eldest son of that fellow
who died the other day, you know; the widow, poor
creature, is nearly worried out of her life; she was
here this afternoon. The chieftain promised to
see about it at once; he wouldn’t let me write,
and of course a letter from himself will be more likely
to help the boy.”
“But it’s after one o’clock,”
said Erica, shivering again; “he can’t
have been all this time over it.”
“Well, perhaps he is working
at something else,” said Tom. “He’s
not been sleeping well lately, I know. Last night
he got through thirty-three letters, and the night
before he wrote a long pamphlet.”
Erica did not look satisfied.
“Lend me your stove for a minute,”
she said; “I shall make him a cup of tea.”
They talked a little about the curious
failure of memory noticed for the first time that
evening. Tom was more like himself than he had
been for several days; he came downstairs with her
to carry a light, but she went alone into the study.
He had not gone up the first flight of stairs, however,
when he heard a cry, then his own name called twice
in tones that made him thrill all over with a nameless
fear. He rushed down and pushed open the study
door. There stood Erica with blanched face; Raeburn
sat in his customary place at the writing table, but
his head had fallen forward and, though the face was
partly hidden by the desk, they could see that it
was rigid and deathly pale.
“He has fainted,” said
Tom, not allowing the worse fear to overmaster him.
“Run quick, and get some water, Erica.”
She obeyed mechanically. When
she returned, Tom had managed to get Raeburn on to
the floor and had loosened his cravat; he had also
noticed that only one letter lay upon the desk, abruptly
terminating at “I am, yours sincerely.”
Whether the “Luke Raeburn” would ever be
added, seemed to Tom at that moment very doubtful.
Leaving Erica with her father, he rushed across the
square to summon Brian, returning in a very few minutes
with the comforting news that he was at home and would
be with them immediately. Erica gave a sigh of
relief when the quick, firm steps were heard on the
pavement outside. Brian was so closely associated
with all the wearing times of illness and anxiety
which had come to them in the last six years that,
in her trouble, she almost forgot the day at Fiesole
regarding him not as her lover, but as the man who
had once before saved her father’s life.
His very presence inspired her with confidence, the
quiet authority of his manner, the calm, business-like
way in which he directed things. Her anxiety faded
away in the consciousness that he knew all about it,
and would do everything as it should be done.
Before very long Raeburn showed signs of returning
consciousness, sighed uneasily; then, opening his eyes,
regained his faculties as suddenly as he had lost
“Halloo!” he exclaimed,
starting up. “What’s all this coil
about? What are you doing to me?”
They explained things to him.
“Oh! Fainted, did I!”
he said musingly. “I have felt a little
faint once or twice lately. What day is it?
What time is it?” Tom mentioned the meeting
of the previous evening, and Raeburn seemed to recollect
himself. He looked at his watch, then at the letter
on his desk. “Well, it’s my way to
do things thoroughly,” he said with a smile;
“I must have been off for a couple of hours.
I am very sorry to have disturbed your slumbers in
As he spoke, he sat down composedly
at his desk, picked up the pen and signed his name
to the letter. They stood and watched him while
he folded the sheet and directed the envelope; his
writing bore a little more markedly than usual the
tokens of strong self-restraint.
“Perhaps you’ll just drop
that in the pillar on your way home,” he said
to Brian. “I want Jackson to get it by the
first post. If you will look in later on, I should
be glad to have a talk with you. At present I’m
too tired to be overhauled.”
Then, as Brian left the room, he turned to Erica.
“I am sorry to have given you
a fright, my child; but don’t worry about me,
I am only a little overdone.”
Again that fatal admission, which
from Raeburn’s lips was more alarming than a
long catalogue of dangerous symptoms from other men!
There followed a disturbed night and
a long day in a crowded law court, then one of the
most terrible hours they had ever had to endure while
waiting for the verdict which would either consign
Raeburn to prison or leave him to peace and freedom.
So horrible was the suspense that to draw each breath
was to Erica a painful effort. Even Raeburn’s
composure was a little shaken as those eternal minutes
The foreman returned. The court
seemed to throb with excitement. Raeburn lifted
a calm, stern face to hear his fate. He knew what
no one else in the court knew, that this was to him
a matter of life and death.
“Are you agreed, gentlemen?”
People listened breathlessly.
“Do you find the defendant guilty, or not?”
The reaction was so sharp as to be
almost overpowering. But poor Erica’s joy
was but short-lived. She looked at her father’s
face and knew that, although one anxiety was ended,
another was already begun.