There’s a brave
There’s a man
A man who is not afraid
to say his say,
Though a whole town’s
A man’s love is
the measure of his fitness for good or bad
company here or elsewhere.
Oliver Wendell Holmes.
The week at Oakdene proved in every
way a success; Raeburn liked his host heartily, and
the whole atmosphere of the house was a revelation
to him. The last morning there had been a little
clouded for news had reached them of a terrible colliery
accident in the north of England. The calamity
had a special gloom about it for it might very easily
have been prevented, the owners having long known
that the mine was unsafe.
“I must say it is a little hard
to see how such a horrible sin as carelessness of
the lives of human beings can ever bring about the
greater good which we believe evil to do,” said
Erica, as she took her last walk in the wood with
“’Tis hard to see at the
time,” he replied. “But I am convinced
that it is so. The sin is never good, never right;
but when men will sin, then the result of the sin,
however frightful, brings about more good that the
perseverance in sin with no catastrophe would have
done. A longer-deferred good, of course, than
the good which would have resulted by adhering from
the first to the right, and so far inferior.”
“Of course,” said Erica,
“I can see that a certain amount of immediate
good may result from this disaster. It will make
the owners of other mines more careful.”
“And what of the hundred unseen
workings that will result from it?” said Donovan,
smiling. “In the first shock of horror one
can not even glimpse the larger view, but later on
He paused for a minute; they were
down in the valley close to the little church; he
opened the gate and led the way to a bench under the
great yew tree. Sitting here, they could see
the recumbent white cross with its ever-fresh crown
of white flowers. Erica knew something of the
story it told.
“Shall I tell you what turned
me from an anti-theist to an atheist?” said
Donovan. “It was the horror of knowing that
a little child’s life had been ruined by carelessness.
I had been taught to believe in a terrific phantom
who was severely just; but when it seemed that the
one quality of justice was gone, then I took refuge
in the conviction that there could be no God at all.
That was a refuge for the time, for it is better
to believe in no God than to believe in an immoral
God and it was long years before a better refuge found
me. Yet, looking back now over these seven-and-twenty
years, I see how that one little child’s suffering
has influenced countless lives! How it was just
the most beautiful thing that could have happened
Erica did not speak for a moment,
she read half dreamily the words engraved on the tombstone.
Nearly sixteen years since that short, uneventful
life had passed into the unseen, and yet little Dot
was at this moment influencing the world’s history.
She was quite cheerful again as they
walked home, and, indeed, her relief about her father’s
recovery was so great that she could not be unhappy
for long about anything. They found Raeburn on
the terrace with Ralph and Dolly at his heels, and
the two-year-old baby, who went by the name of Pickle,
on his shoulder.
“I shall quite miss these bairnies,”
he said as Donovan joined them.
“Gee up, horsey! Gee up!”
shouted Pickle from his lofty perch.
“And oh, daddy, may we go into
Gleyshot wiv you?” said Dolly, coaxingly.
“Elica’s father’s going to give me
“And me a whip,” interposed
Ralph. “We may come with you, father, mayn’t
“Oh! Yes,” said Donovan,
smiling; “if Mr. Raeburn doesn’t mind a
Erica had gone into the house.
“I don’t know how to let
you go,” said Gladys, “We have so much
enjoyed having you. I think you had much better
stay here will Monday and leave those two to take
care of themselves at Ashborough.”
“Oh, no,” said Erica,
smiling, “that would never do! You don’t
realize what an event this is to me. It is the
first time father has spoken since his illness.
Besides, I have not yet quite learned to think him
well enough to look after himself though, of course,
he is getting quite strong again.”
“Well, since you will go, come
and choose a book for your journey,” said Gladys.
“Oh, I should like that,”
said Erica; “a nice homish sort of book, please,
where the people lived in Arcadia and never heard of
Early in the afternoon they drove
to Greyshot, stopping first of all at the toy shop.
Raeburn, who was in excellent spirits, fully entered
into the difficulties of Dolly’s choice.
At length a huge toy cat was produced.
“Oh, I should like that one!”
said Dolly, clapping her hands. “What a
’normous, gleat big cat it is!”
“I shouldn’t have known
what it was meant for,” said Raeburn, scrutinizing
the rather shapeless furry quadruped. “How
is it that you can’t make them more like cats
“I don’t know, sir, how
it is,” said the shopwoman; “we get very
good dogs and rabbits, and donkeys, but they don’t
seem to have attained to the making of cats.”
This view of the matter so tickled
Raeburn that he left Ralph and Dolly to see the “’normous
gleat big cat” wrapped up, and went out of the
But just outside, a haggard, wild-looking
man came up to him and began to address him in excited
“You are the vile atheist, Luke
Raeburn!” he cried, “Oh, I know you well
enough. I tell you, you have lost my son’s
soul; do you hear, wretched infidel, you destroyed
my son’s soul! His guilt is upon you!
And I will have vengeance! Vengeance!”
“My friend,” said Raeburn
quietly, “supposing your son had what you call
a soul, do you think that I, a man, should be able
to destroy it?”
“You have made him what you
are yourself,” cried the man, “an accursed
infidel, an incarnate devil! But I tell you I
will have vengeance, vengeance!”
“Have the goodness not to come
so near my daughter,” said Raeburn for the man
was pushing up roughly against Erica, who had just
come out of the shop. The words were spoken in
such an authoritative manner that the man shrunk back
awed, and in another minute the children had rejoined
them, and they drove off to the station.
“What was that man saying?” asked Erica.
“Apparently his son has become
a secularist, and he means to revenge himself on me,”
said Raeburn. “If it wouldn’t have
lost me this train, I would have given him in charge
for using threatening language. But no doubt
the poor fellow was half-witted.”
Donovan had walked on to the station
and so had missed this incident, and though for the
time it saddened Erica, yet she speedily forgot it
in talking to the children. The arrival at Ashborough,
too, was exciting, and she was so delighted to see
her father once more in the enjoyment of full health
and strength that she could not long be disquieted
about anything else. It was a great happiness
to her to hear him speak upon any subject on which
they were agreed, and his reception that evening at
the Ashborough Town Hall was certainly a most magnificent
one. The ringing cheers made the tears start
to her eyes. The people had been roused by his
late illness and, though many of them disliked his
theological views, they felt that in political matters
he was a man whom they could very ill spare.
His speech was a remarkably powerful one, and calculated
to do great good. Erica’s spirits rose to
their very highest pitch and, as they went back together
to their hotel, she kept both Raeburn and Donovan
in fits of laughter. It was long months since
her father had seen her so brilliant and witty.
“You are ‘fey,’
little one,” he said. “I prophesy
a headache for you tomorrow.”
And the prophecy came true for Erica
awoke the next morning with a sense of miserable oppression.
The day, too, was gray and dreary-looking, it seemed
like a different world altogether. Raeburn was
none the worse for his exertions; he took a quiet
day, however, went for a walk with Donovan in the
afternoon, and set off in good time for his evening
lecture. It was Sunday evening, Erica was going
to church with Donovan, and had her walking things
on when her father looked into the room to say goodbye.
“What, going out?” he
said. “You don’t look fit for it,
“Oh!” she said, “it
is no use to give way to this sort of headache; it’s
only one’s wretched nerves.”
“Well, take carte of yourself,”
he said, kissing her. “I believe you are
worn out with all these weeks of attendance on a cantankerous
She laughed and brightened up, going
out with him to the head of the stairs, and returning
to watch him from the window. Just as he left
the door of the hotel, a small child fell face downward
on the pavement on the opposite side of the road and
began to cry bitterly. Raeburn crossed over and
picked up the small elf; they could hear him saying:
“There, there, more frightened than hurt, I
think,” as he brushed the dust from the little
“How exactly like father!”
said Erica, smiling; “he never would let us
think ourselves hurt. I believe it is thanks to
him that Tom has grown up such a Stoic, and that I’m
not a very lachrymose sort of being.”
A little later they started for church,
but toward the end of the Psalms Donovan felt a touch
on his arm. He turned to Erica; she was a white
as death, and with a strange, glassy look in her eyes.
“Come,” she said in a hoarse whisper,
“come out with me.”
He thought she felt faint, but she
walked steadily down the aisle. When they were
outside she grasped his arm and seemed to make a great
effort to speak naturally.
“Forgive me for disturbing you,”
she said, “but I have such a dreadful feeling
that something is going to happen. I feel that
I must go to my father.”
Donovan thought that she was probably
laboring under a delusion. He knew that she was
always very anxious about her father and that Ashborough,
owing to various memories, was exactly the place where
this anxiety would be likely to weigh upon her.
He thought, too, that Raeburn was very likely right
and that she was rather overdone by the strain of
those long weeks of solitary attendance. But he
was much too wise to attempt to reason away her fears;
he knew that nothing but her father’s presence
would set her at rest, and they walked as fast as they
could to the Town Hall. He was just turning down
a street which led into the High Street when Erica
drew him instead in the direction of a narrow byway.
“Down here,” she said,
walking straight on as though she held some guiding
clew in her hand.
He was astonished as she could not
possibly have been in this part of the town before.
Moreover, her whole bearing was very strange; she was
still pale and trembling, and her ungloved hands felt
as cold as ice while, although he had given her his
arm, he felt all the time that she was leading him.
At length a sound of many voices was
heard in the distance. Donovan felt a sort of
thrill pass through the hand that rested on his arm,
and Erica began to walk more quickly than ever.
A minute more, and the little byway led them out into
the market place. It was lighted with the electric
light, and tonight the light was concentrated at one
end, the end at which stood the Town Hall. Instinctively
Donovan’s eyes were turned at once toward that
brightest point and also toward the sound, the subdued
roar of the multitude which they had heard on their
way. There was another sound, too a man’s
ringing voice, a stentorian voice which reached them
clearly even at that distance. Raeburn stood alone,
facing an angry, tumultuous throng, with his back to
the closed door of the building and his tawny eyes
scanning the mass of hostile faces below.
“Every Englishman has a right
to freedom of speech. You shall not rob me or
any other man of a right. I have fought for this
all my life, and I will fight as long as I’ve
“That shall not be long!”
shouted another speaker. “Forward, brothers!
Down with the infidel! Vengeance, vengeance.”
The haggard, wild-looking man who
had addressed Raeburn the day before at Greyshot now
sprang forward; there was a surging movement in the
crowd like wind in a corn field. Donovan and Erica,
hurrying forward, saw Raeburn surrounded on every
side, forced away from the door, and at length half
stunned by a heavy blow from the fanatical leader;
then, taken thus at a disadvantage, he was pushed
backward. They saw him fall heavily down the
With a low cry Erica rushed toward
him, breaking away from Donovan and forcing a way
through that rough crowd as if by magic. Donovan,
though so much taller and stronger, was longer in
reaching the foot of the steps, and when at length
he had pushed his way through the thickest part of
the throng he was hindered for the haggard-looking
man who had been the ringleader in the assault ran
into his very arms. He was evidently struck with
horror at the result of his mad enterprise and now
meditated flight. But Donovan stopped him.
“You must come with me, my friend,”
he exclaimed, seizing the fanatic by the collar.
Nor did he pause till he had handed
him over to a policeman. Then once more he forced
a passage through the hushed crowd and at last reached
the foot of the steps. He found Erica on the ground
with her father’s head raised on her knees.
He was perfectly unconscious, but it seemed as if
his spirit and energy had been transmitted to his child.
Erica was giving orders so clearly and authoritatively
that Donovan could only marvel at her strength and
“Stand back!” she was
saying as he approached. “How can he come
to while you are shutting out the air? Some one
go quickly and fetch a door or a litter. You
go, and you.”
She indicated two or three more respectable-looking
men, and they at once obeyed her. She looked
relieved to see Donovan.
“Won’t you go inside and
speak to the people?” she said. “I
have sent for a doctor. If some one doesn’t
go soon, they will come out, and then there might
be a riot. Tell them if they have any feeling
for my father to separate quietly. Don’t
let them all out upon these people; there is sure
to be fighting if they meet.”
Donovan could not bear to leave her
in such a position, but just then a doctor came up,
and the police began to drive back the crowd; and since
the people were rather awed by what had happened, they
dispersed meekly enough. Donovan went into the
Town Hall then, and gradually learned what had taken
place. It seemed that soon after the beginning
of Raeburn’s lecture, a large crowd had gathered
outside, headed by a man named Drosser, a street
preacher, well-known in Ashborough and the neighborhood.
This crowd had stormed the doors of the hall and had
created such an uproar that it was impossible to proceed
with the lecture. The doors had been quite unequal
to the immense pressure from without, and Raeburn,
foreseeing that they would give way and knowing that,
if the insurgents met his audience, there would be
serious risk to the lives of many, had insisted on
trying to dismiss the crowd without, or, at any rate,
to secure some sort of order. Several had offered
to go with him, but he had begged the audience to
keep still and had gone out alone the crowd being
so astonished by this unexpected move that they fell
back for a moment before him. Apparently his plan
would have succeeded very well had it not been for
Drosser’s deliberate assault. He had gained
a hearing from the people and would probably have dispersed
them had he not been borne down by brute force.
It was no easy task to tell the audience
what had happened; but Donovan was popular and greatly
respected and, thanks to his tact, their wrath, though
very great, was restrained. In fact, Raeburn was
so well known to disapprove of any sort of violence
that Donovan’s appeal to them to preserve order
for his sake met with a deep, suppressed murmur of
assent. When all was safe he hurried back to the
hotel where they were glad enough of his services.
Raeburn had recovered his senses for a minute but
only to sink almost immediately into another swoon.
For many hours this went on; he would partly revive,
even speak a few words, and then sink back once more.
Every time Erica thought it would end in death, nor
could she gather comfort from the looks of either of
the doctors or of Donovan.
“This is not the first time
I’ve been knocked down and trampled on,”
said Raeburn, faintly, in one of his intervals of consciousness,
“but it will be the last time.”
And though the words were spoken with
a touch of his native humor and might have borne more
than one interpretation, yet they answered painfully
to the conviction which lay deep in Erica’s heart.
“Then let me send a telegram
from the ‘Ashborough Times’ office,”
said Donovan to her in one of the momentary pauses.
“I have sent for your cousin and Mrs. Craigie
and for Brian.”
For the first time Erica’s outward
composure gave way. Her mouth began to quiver
and her eyes to fill.
“Oh! Thank you,”
she said; and there was something in her voice that
went to Donovan’s heart.