The Case of Richard Meynell
by Mrs. Humphry Ward
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She, on her part, saw plainly that he was depressed, knew well that he had suffered. As the Bishop had perceived, it was written on his aspect. But her timidity as yet prevented her from taking the initiative with him, as later she would learn to do. She felt for him at this stage partly the woman's love, partly the deep and passionate loyalty of the disciple. And it was possibly this very loyalty in her from which Meynell shrank. He felt toward himself and his role, in the struggle to which he was committed, a half despairing, half impatient irony, which saved him from anything like a prophetic pose. Some other fellow would do it so much better! But meanwhile it had to be done.

So that, charged as was the atmosphere between them, it was some time before they found a real freedom of speech. The openings, the gambits, which were to lead them to the very heart of the game, were at first masked and hesitating. They talked a little—perfunctorily—about the dale and its folk, and Mary fell without difficulty now and then into the broad Westmoreland speech, which delighted Meynell's ear, and brought the laugh back to his eyes. Then, abruptly, he told her that the campaign of slander was over, and that the battle, instead of "infinite mess and dislocation," was now to be a straight and clean one. He said nothing of Barron; but he spoke tenderly of the Bishop, and Mary's eyes swam a little.

She on her part dared to speak of Alice and Hester. And very soon it was quietly recognized between these two that Alice's story was known to Mary; and, for the first time in his life, Meynell spoke with free emotion and self-criticism of the task which Neville Flood had laid upon him. Had there been in Mary some natural dread of the moment when she must first hear the full story of his relation to Alice? If so, it was soon dispelled. He could not have told the story more simply; but its beauty shone out. Only, she was startled, even terrified, by certain glimpses which his talk gave her into his feeling with regard to Hester. She saw plainly that the possibility of a catastrophe, in spite of all he could do, was ever present to him; and she saw also, or thought she saw, that his conception of his own part in the great religious campaign was strangely—morbidly—dependent upon the fate of Hester. If he was able to save her from herself and from the man who threatened her, well and good; if not, as he had said to Mary once before, he was not fit to be any man's leader, and should feel himself the Jonah of any cause. There was a certain mystical passion in it, the strong superstition of a man in whom a great natural sensitiveness led often and readily to despondency; as though he "asked for a sign."

They passed the noisy little river by the stepping-stones and then climbed a shoulder of fell between Long Whindale and the next valley. Descending a sunny mountainside, they crossed some water meadows, and mounted the hill beyond, to a spot that Mary had marked in her walks. Beside a little tumbling stream and beneath a thicket of holly, lay a flat-topped rock commanding all the spectacle of flood and fell. Mary guided him there; and then stood silent and flushed, conscious that she herself had brought the supreme moment to its birth. The same perception rushed upon Meynell. He looked into her eyes, smiling and masterful, all his hesitations cleared away....

"Sit there, my lady of the fells!"

He led her to the rocky throne, and, wrapped in his old Inverness cloak, he took a place on a lesser stone at her feet. Suddenly, he raised a hand and caught hers. She found herself trembling, and looking down into his upturned face.

"Mary!—Mary darling!—is it mine?"

The question was just whispered, and she whispered her reply. They were alone in a lovely wilderness of fell and stream. Only a shepherd walked with his flock in a field half a mile away, and across the valley a ploughman drove his horses.

At the murmur in his ear, Meynell, this time, put up both hands, and drew her down to him. The touch of her fresh lips was rapture. And yet—

"My rose!" he said, almost with a groan. "What can you make of such an old fellow? I love you—love you—but I am not worthy of you!"

"I am the judge of that," she said softly. And looking up he saw the colour in her cheeks fluttering, and two bright tears in her eyes. Timidly she took one hand away from him and began to stroke back the hair from his brow.

"You look so tired!"—she murmured—"as though you had been in trouble. And I wasn't there!"

"You were always there!"

And springing from his lowly seat, he came to the rock beside her, and drew her within the shelter of his cloak, looking down upon her with infinite tenderness.

"You don't know what you're undertaking," he said, his eyes moist, his lips smiling. "I am an old bachelor, and my ways are detestable! Can you ever put up with the pipes and the dogs? I am the untidiest man alive!"

"Will Anne ever let me touch your papers?"

"Goodness! what will Anne say to us! I forgot Anne," he said, laughing. Then, bending over her, "We shall be poor, darling!—and very uncomfortable. Can you really stand it—and me?"

"Shall we have a roof over our heads at all?" asked Mary, but so dizzily happy that she knew but vaguely what she said.

"I have already bespoken a cottage. They are going to make me Editor of the Modernist. We shall have bread and butter, dearest, but not much more."

"I have a little," said Mary, shyly.

Meynell looked rather scared.

"Not much, I hope!"

"Enough for gowns!—and—and a little more."

"I prefer to buy my wife's gowns—I will!" said Meynell with energy. "Promise me, darling, to put all your money into a drawer—or a money-box. Then when we want something really amusing—a cathedral—or a yacht—we'll take it out."

So they laughed together, he all the while holding her close crushed against him, and she deafened almost by the warm beating of a man's heart beneath her cheek.

And presently silence came, a silence in which one of the rare ecstasies of life came upon them and snatched them to the third heaven. From the fold of the hill in which they sat, sheltered both by the fell itself, and by the encircling hollies, they overlooked a branching dale, half veiled, and half revealed by sunny cloud. Above the western fells they had just crossed, hung towers and domes of white cumulus, beneath which a pearly sunshine slipped through upon the broad fell-side, making of it one wide sunlit pleasance, dyed in the red and orange of the withered fern, and dotted with black holly and juniper. Round the head of the dale the curtain of cloud hung thicker, save where one superb crag tore it asunder, falling sheer into the green gentleness of the fields. In the silence, all the voices of nature spoke; the rising wind, which flung itself against the hill-slopes at their feet; the insistent flow of the river, descending from the reservoirs far away; and the sharp chatter of the little beck leaping at their side from stone to stone. Passionately, in Meynell's heart the "buried life" awoke, which only love can free from the cavern where it lies, and bring into the full energy of day.

"One goes on talking—preaching—babbling—about love," he said to her; "what else is there to preach about? If love is not the key to life, then there is no key, and no man need preach any more. Only, my Amor has been till now a stern God! He has in his hands!—I know it!—all the noblest rewards and ecstasies of life; but so far, I have seen him wring them out of horror, or pain. The most heavenly things I have ever seen have been the things of suffering. I think of a poor fellow dying in the pit and trying to give me his last message to his wife; of a mother fading out of life, still clasping her babes, with hands twisted almost out of human shape by hard work; or a little lad—" his voice dropped—"only last week!—who saved his worthless brother's life by giving him warning of some escaping trucks, and was crushed himself. 'I couldn't help it, sir!'—apologizing to me and the foreman, as we knelt by him!—'I knew Jim had the drink in him.' In all these visions, Love was divine—but awful! And here!—here!—I see his wings outspread upon that mountain-side; he comes clothed, not in agony, but in this golden peace—this beauty—this wild air; he lays your head upon my breast!"

Or again:

"There is a new philosophy which has possessed me for months; the thought of a great man, which seizes upon us dull lesser creatures, and seems to give us, for a time at least, new eyes and ears, as though, like Melampus, we had caught the hidden language of the world! It rests on the notion of the endless creativeness and freedom of life. It is the negation of all fate, all predestination. Nothing foreknown, nothing predestined! No necessity—no anangke—darling!—either in the world process, or the mind of God, that you and I should sit here to-day, heart to heart! It was left for our wills to do, our hearts to conceive, God lending us the world, so to speak, to work on! All our past cutting into—carving out—this present; all our past alive in the present; as all this present shall be alive in the future. There is no 'iron law' for life and will, beloved—they create, they are the masters, they are forever new. All the same!"—his tone changed—"I believe firmly that this rock knew from all eternity that you and I should sit here to-day!"

Presently, Mary disengaged herself. Her hat was not what it had been; her hair had escaped its bounds, and must be rigorously put to rights. She sat there flushed and bareheaded, her hands working; while Meynell's eyes devoured her.

"It is January, Richard, and the sun is sinking."

"In your world perhaps, dear, not in mine."

"We must go back to mother." She laid a hand on his.

"We will go back to mother!" he said, joyously, with a tender emphasis on the word, without moving however. "Mary!—next to you I love your mother!"

Mary's sweet face darkened a little; she buried it in her hands. Meynell drew them tenderly away.

"All that affection can do to soften the differences between us, shall be done," he said, with his whole heart. "I believe too that the sense of them will grow less and less."

Mary made no reply, except by the slight pressure of her fingers on his. She sat in an absorbed sadness, thinking of her mother's life, and the conflict which had always haunted and scorched it, between love and religion; first in the case of her husband, and then in that of her daughter. "But oh! how could I—how could I help it?" was the cry of Mary's own conscience and personality.

She turned with painful eagerness to Meynell. "How did you think her?—how does she strike you?"

"Physically?" He chose his words. "She is so beautiful! But—sometimes—I think she looks frail."

The tears sprang to Mary's eyes. She quickly threw herself upon his misgiving, and tried to argue it away, both in herself and him. She dwelt upon her mother's improvement in sleep and appetite, her cheerfulness, her increased power of walking; she was insistent, almost resentful, her white brow furrowed with pain, even while her hand lay warm in Meynell's. He must needs comfort her; must needs disavow his own impression. After all, what value had such an impression beside the judgment of her daily and hourly watchfulness?—the favourable opinion too, so she insisted, of their local doctor.

As they walked home, he startled her by saying that he should only have three days in the valley.

"Three days!" She looked her remonstrance.

"You know the trial begins next week?"

Yes, she knew, but had understood that the pleadings were all ready, and that a North-Western train would take him to London in six hours.

"I have to preach at St. Hilda's, Westminster," he said, with a shrug, and a look of distaste.

Mary asked questions, and discovered that the sermon would no doubt be made the opportunity for something like a demonstration; and that he shrank from the thought of it.

She perceived, indeed, a certain general flagging of the merely combative forces in him, not without dismay. Such moments of recoil are natural to such men—half saints, half organizers. The immediate effect of her perception of it was to call out something heroic and passionate in herself. She was very sweet, and very young; there were eighteen years between them; and yet in these very first hours of their engagement, he felt her to be not only rest, but inspiration; not only sympathy, but strength.

When they neared the little ivy-covered house, on their return home, Mary broke from him. Her step on the gravel was heard by Catharine. She came quickly to the door and stood awaiting them. Mary ran forward and threw herself into the tender arms that drew her into the shadows of the passage.

"Oh, mother! mother!—he does love you!" she said, with a rush of tears.

If Catharine's eyes also were dim, she only answered with a tender mockery.

"Don't pretend that was all he said to you in these two hours!"

And still holding Mary, she turned, smiling, to Meynell, and let him claim from her, for the first time, a son's greeting.

For three blissful days, did Meynell pitch his tent in Long Whindale. Though the weather broke, and the familiar rain shrouded the fells, he and Mary walked incessantly among them, exploring those first hours of love, when every tone and touch is charged, for lovers, with the whole meaning of the world. And in the evenings he sat between the two women in the little cottage room, reading aloud Catharine's favourite poets; or in the familiar talk, now gay now grave, of their new intimacy, disclosing himself ever more fully, and rooting himself ever more firmly in their hearts. His sudden alarm as to Catharine's health passed away, and Mary's new terror with it. Scarcely a word was said of the troubles ahead. But it was understood that Mary would be in London to hear him preach at St. Hilda's.

On the last day of Meynell's visit, Catharine, greatly to her surprise, received a letter from Hester Fox-Wilton.

It contained a breathless account of an evening spent in seeing Oedipus Rex played by Mounet Sully at the Comedie Francaise. In this half-sophisticated girl, the famous performance, traditional now through two generations of playgoers, had clearly produced an emotion whereof the expression in her letter greatly disquieted Catharine Elsmere. She felt too—a little grimly—the humour of its address to herself.

"Tell me how to answer it, please," she said, handing it to Meynell with a twitching lip. "It is a language I don't understand! And why did they take her to such a play?"

Meynell shared her disquiet. For the Greek conception of a remorseless fate, as it is forever shaped and embodied in the tale of Oedipus, had led Hester apparently to a good deal of subsequent browsing in the literature—the magazine articles at any rate—of French determinism; and she rattled through some of her discoveries in this reckless letter:

"You talked to me so nicely, dear Mrs. Elsmere, that last evening at Upcote. I know you want me—you want everybody—'to be good!'

"But 'being good' has nothing to do with us.

"How can it?—such creatures, such puppets as we are!

"Poor wretch, Oedipus! He never meant any one any harm—did he?—and yet—you see!

"'Apollo, friends, Apollo it was, that brought all these my woes, my sore, sore woes!—to pass.'

"Dear Mrs. Elsmere!—you can't think what a good doctrine it is after all—how it steadies one! What chance have we against these blundering gods?

"Nothing one can do makes any difference. It is, really very consoling if you come to think of it; and it's no sort of good being angry with Apollo!"

* * * * *

"Part nonsense, part bravado," said Catharine, raising clear eyes, with half a smile in them, to Meynell. "But it makes one anxious."

His puckered brow showed his assent.

"As soon as the trial is over—within a fortnight certainly—I shall run over to see them."

* * * * *

Meynell and Mary travelled to town together, and Mary was duly deposited for a few days with some Kensington cousins.

On the night of their arrival—a Saturday—Meynell, not without some hesitation, made an appearance at the Reformers' Club, which had been recently organized as a London centre for the Movement, in Albemarle Street.

It was no sooner known that he was in the building than a flutter ran through the well-filled rooms. That very morning an article in the Modernist signed R. M. had sounded a note of war, so free, lofty, and determined, that men were proud to be on Meynell's side in such a battle. On the following Tuesday the Arches Trial was to begin. Meynell was to defend himself; and the attention of the country would be fixed upon the duel between him and the great orthodox counsel, Sir Wilfrid Marsh.

Men gathered quickly round him. Most of the six clergy who, with him, had launched the first Modernist Manifesto, were present, in expectation of the sermon on the morrow, and the trial of the following week. Chesham and Darwen, his co-defendants in the Arches suit, with whom he had been in constant correspondence throughout the winter, came to discuss a few last points and understandings; Treherne, the dear old scholar in whose house they had met to draw up the Manifesto, under the shadow of the Cathedral, pressed his hand and launched a Latin quotation; Rollin, fat, untidy and talkative as ever, could not refrain from "interviewing" Meynell, for a weekly paper; while Derrick, the Socialist and poet, talked to him in a low voice and with eyes that blazed, of certain "brotherhoods" that had been spreading the Modernist faith, and Modernist Sacraments among the slums of a great midland town.

And in the voices that spoke to him, and the eyes that met his, Meynell could not but realize a wide and warm sympathy, an eagerness to make amends—sometimes a half confessed compunction for a passing doubt.

He stood among them, haggard and worn, but steeped in a content and gratitude that had more sources than they knew. And under the kindling of their faith and their affection, his own hesitations passed away; his will steeled itself to the tasks before him.

The following day will be long remembered in the annals of the Movement. The famous church, crowded in every part with an audience representing science, literature, politics, the best of English thought and English social endeavour, was but the outward and visible sign of things inward and spiritual.

"Can these dry bones live?"

As Meynell gave out the text, there were many who remembered the picture of Oxford hanging in Newman's study at Edgbaston, and those same words written below it.

"Can these dry bones live?"—So Newman had asked in despair, of his beloved University, and of English religion, in the early years after he had deserted Anglicanism for Rome. And now, more than half a century afterward, the leader of a later religious movement asked the same question on the eve of another contest which would either regenerate or destroy the English Church. The impulse given by Newman and the Tractarians had spent itself, though not without enormous and permanent results within the life of the nation; and now it was the turn of that Liberal reaction and recoil which had effaced Newman's work in Oxford, yet had been itself wandering for years without a spiritual home. During those years it had found its way through innumerable channels of the national life as a fertilizing and redeeming force. It had transformed education, law, science and history. Yet its own soul had hungered. And now, thanks to that inner necessity which governs the spiritual progress of men, the great Liberal Movement, enriched with a thousand conquests, was sweeping back into the spiritual field; demanding its just share in the National Church; and laying its treasures at the feet of a Christ, unveiled, illuminated, by its own labour, by the concentrated and passionate effort of a century of human intelligence.

Starting from this conception—the full citizen-right within the Church of both Liberal and High Churchman—the first part of Meynell's sermon became a moving appeal for religious freedom; freedom of development and "variation," within organized Christianity itself. Simpler Creeds, modernized tests, alternative forms, a "unity of the spirit in the bond of peace,"—with these ideas the Modernist preacher built up the vision of a Reformed Church, co-extensive with the nation, resting on a democratic government, yet tenderly jealous of its ancient ceremonies, so long as each man might interpret them "as he was able," and they were no longer made a source of tyranny and exclusion.

Then, from the orthodox opponent in whose eyes the Modernist faith was a mere beggarly remnant, Meynell turned to the sceptic for whom it was only a modified superstition. An eloquent prelude, dealing with the preconceptions, the modern philosophy and psychology which lie at the root of religious thought to-day—and the rest of the sermon flowed on into what all Christian eloquence must ultimately be, the simple "preaching of Christ."

Amid the hush of the crowded church Meynell preached the Christ of our day—just as Paul of Tarsus preached the Christ of a Hellenized Judaism to the earliest converts; as St. Francis, in the Umbrian hills preached the Lord of Poverty and Love; as the Methodist preachers among the villages of the eighteenth century preached the democratic individualism of the New Testament to the English nascent democracy.

In each case the form of the preaching depended on the knowledge and the thought-world of the preacher. So with Meynell's Christ.

Not the phantom of a Hellenistic metaphysic; not the Redeemer and Judge of a misunderstood Judaism; not the mere ethical prophet of a German professorial theology; but the King of a spiritual kingdom, receiving allegiance, and asking love, from the free consciences of men; repeating forever in the ears of those in whom a Divine influence has prepared the way, the melting and constraining message: "This do in remembrance of me."

"'Of me—and of all the just, all the righteous, all the innocent, of all the ages, in me—pleading through me—symbolized in me! Are you for Man—or for the Beast that lurks in man? Are you for Chastity—or Lust? Are you for Cruelty—or Love? Are you for Foulness or Beauty? Choose!—choose this day.'

"The Christ who thus speaks to you and me, my brethren, is no longer a man made God, a God made man. Those categories of thought, for us, are past. But neither is he merely the crucified Galilean, the Messianic prophet of the first century. For by a mysterious and unique destiny—unique at least in degree—that life and death have become Spirit and Idea. The Power behind the veil, the Spirit from whom issues the world, has made of them a lyre, enchanted and immortal, through which He breathes His music into men. The setting of the melody varies with the generations, but the melody remains. And as we listen to it to-day, expressed through the harmonies of that thought which is ourselves—blood of our blood, life of our life—we are listening now, listening always, as the disciples listened in Nazareth, to the God within us, the very God who was 'in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself.'

"Of that God, all life is in some sense, the sacramental expression. But in the course of ages some sacraments and symbols of the divine are approved and verified beyond others—immeasurably beyond others. This is what has happened—and so far as we can see by the special will and purpose of God—with the death-unto-life—with the Cross of Christ....

"The symbol of the Cross is concerned with our personal and profoundest being. But the symbol of the Kingdom is social, collective—the power of every reformer, every servant of men....

"Many thinkers," said the preacher, in his concluding passage, while all eyes were fixed on the head sprinkled with gray, and the strong humanity of the face—"many men, in all ages and civilizations have dreamed of a City of God, a Kingdom of Righteousness, an Ideal State, and a Divine Ruler. Jesus alone has made of that dream, history; has forced it upon, and stamped it into history. The Messianic dream of Judaism—though wrought of nobler tissue—it's not unlike similar dreams in other religions; but in this it is unique, that it gave Jesus of Nazareth his opportunity, and that from it has sprung the Christian Church. Jesus accepted it with the heart of a child; he lived in it; he died for it; and by means of it, his spiritual genius, his faithfulness unto death transformed a world. He died indeed, overwhelmed; with the pathetic cry of utter defeat upon his lips. And the leading races of mankind have knelt ever since to the mighty spirit who dared not only to conceive and found the Kingdom of God, but to think of himself as its Spiritual King—by sheer divine right of service, of suffering, and of death! Only through tribulation and woe—through the peirasmos or sore trial of the world—according to Messianic belief, could the Kingdom be realized, and Messiah revealed. It was the marvellous conception of Jesus, inspired by the ancient poetry and prophecy of his nation, that he might, as the Suffering Servant, concentrate in himself the suffering due from his race, and from the world, and by his death bring about—violently, "by force"—the outpouring of the Spirit, the Resurrection, and the dawn of the heavenly Kingdom. He went up to Jerusalem to die; he provoked his death; he died. And from the Resurrection visions which followed naturally on such a life and death, inspired by such conceptions, and breathing them with such power into the souls of other men, arose the Christian Church.

"The Parousia for which the Lord had looked, delayed. It delays still. The scope and details of the Messianic dream itself mean nothing to us any more.

"But its spirit is immortal. The vision of a kingdom of Heaven—a polity of the soul, within, or superseding the earthly polity—once interfused with man's thought and life, has proved to be imperishable, a thing that cannot die.

"Only it must be realized afresh from age to age; embodied afresh in the conceptions and the language of successive generations.

"And these developing embodiments and epiphanies of the kingdom can only be brought into being by the method of Christ—that is to say, by 'violence'.

"Again and again has the kingdom 'suffered violence'—has been brought fragmentarily into the world 'by force'—by the only irresistible force—that of suffering, of love, of self-renouncing faith.

"To that 'force' we, as religious Reformers, appeal.

"The parables of the mustard seed and the leaven do not express the whole thought of Christ. When the work of preparation is over, still men must brace themselves, as their Master did, to the last stroke of 'violence'—to a final effort of resolute, and, if need be, revolutionary action—to the 'violence' that brings ideas to birth and shapes them into deeds.

"It was to 'violence' of this sacred sort that the Christian Church owed its beginning; and it is this same 'violence' that must, as the generations rise and fall, constantly maintain it among men. To cut away the old at need and graft in the new, requires the high courage and the resolute hand of faith. Only so can the Christian Life renew itself; only so can efficacy and movement return to powers exhausted or degenerate; only so 'can these dry bones live!'"

Amid the throng as it moved outward into the bustle of Westminster, Flaxman found himself rubbing shoulders with Edward Norham. Norham walked with his eyes on the ground, smiling to himself.

"A little persecution!" he said, rubbing his hands, as he looked up—"and how it would go!"

"Well—the persecution begins this week—in the Court of Arches."

"Persecution—nonsense! You mean 'propaganda.' I understand Meynell's defence will proceed on totally new lines. He means to argue each point on its merits?"

"Yes. The Voysey judgment gave him his cue. You will remember, Voysey was attacked by the Lord Chancellor of the day—old Lord Hatherley—as a 'private clergyman,' who 'of his own mere will, not founding himself upon any critical inquiry, but simply upon his own taste and judgment' maintained certain heresies. Now Meynell, I imagine, will give his judges enough of 'critical inquiry' before they have done with him!"

Norham shrugged his shoulders.

"All very well! Why did he sign the Articles?"

"He signed them at four-and-twenty!" said Flaxman hotly. "Will you maintain that a system which insists upon a man's beliefs at forty-four being identical with his beliefs at twenty-four is not condemned ipso facto!"

"Oh I know what you say!—I know what you say!" cried Norham good-humouredly. "We shall all be saying it in Parliament presently—Good heavens! Well, I shall look into the court to-morrow, if I can possibly find an hour, and hear Meynell fire away."

"As Home Secretary, you may get in!"—laughed Flaxman—"on no other terms. There isn't a seat to be had—there hasn't been for weeks."

The trial came on. The three suits from the Markborough diocese took precedence, and were to be followed by half a dozen others—test cases—from different parts of England. But on the Markborough suits everything turned. The Modernist defendants everywhere had practically resolved on the same line of defence; on the same appeal from the mind of the sixteenth century to the mind of the twentieth; from creeds and formularies to history; from a dying to a living Church.

The chief counsel for the promoters, Sir Wilfrid Marsh, made a calm, almost a conciliatory opening. He was a man of middle height, with a large, clean-shaven face, a domed head and smooth straight hair, still jetty black. He wore a look of quiet assurance and was clearly a man of all the virtues; possessing a portly wife and a tribe of daughters.

His speech was marked in all its earlier sections by a studied liberality and moderation. "I am not going to appeal, sir, for that judgment in the promoters' favour which I confidently claim, on any bigoted or obscurantist lines. The Church of England is a learned Church; she is also a Church of wide liberties."

No slavish submission to the letter of the Articles on the Liturgy was now demanded of any man. Subscription had been relaxed; the final judgment in the Essays and Reviews case had given a latitude in the interpretation of Scripture, of which, as many recent books showed, the clergy—"I refer now to men of unquestioned orthodoxy"—had taken reasonable advantage; prayer-book revision "within the limits of the faith," if constantly retarded by the divisions of the faithful, was still probable; both High Churchmen and Broad Churchmen—here an aside dropped out, "so far as Broad Churchmen still exist!"—are necessary to the Church.

But there are limits. "Critical inquiry, sir, if you will—reasonable liberty, within the limits of our formularies and a man's ordination vow—by all means!

"But certain things are vital! With certain fundamental beliefs let no one suppose that either the bishops, or convocation, or these Church courts, or Parliament, or what the defendants are pleased to call the nation" [one must imagine the fine gesture of a sweeping hand] "can meddle." The animus imponentis is not that of the Edwardian or Elizabethan legislation, it is not that of the Bishops! it is that of the Christian Church itself!—handing down the deposition fidei from the earliest to the latest times.

"The Creeds, sir, are vital! Put aside Homilies, Articles, the judgments and precedents of the Church Courts—all these are, in this struggle, beside the mark. Concentrate on the Creeds! Let us examine what the defendants in these suits have made of the Creeds of Christendom."

The evidence was plain. Regarded as historical statement, the defendants had dealt drastically and destructively with the Creeds of Christendom; no less than with the authority of "Scripture," understanding "authority" in any technical sense.

It was indeed the chief Modernist contention, as the orator showed, that formal creeds were mere "landmarks in the Church's life," crystallizations of thought, that were no sooner formed than they became subject to the play, both dissolvent and regenerating, of the Christian consciousness.

"And so you come to that inconceivable entity, a Church without a creed—a mere chaos of private opinion, where each man is a law unto himself."

On this theme, Sir Wilfrid—who was a man of singularly strong private opinions, of all kinds and on all subjects—spoke for a whole day; from the rising almost to the going down of the sun.

At the end of it Canon Dornal and a barrister friend, a devout Churchman, walked back toward the Temple along the Embankment.

The walk was very silent, until midway the barrister said abruptly—

"Is it any plainer to you now, than when Sir Wilfrid began, what authority—if any—there is in the English Church; or what limits—if any—there are to private judgment within it?"

Dornal hesitated.

"My answer, of course, is Sir Wilfrid's. We have the Creeds."

They walked on in silence a moment. Then the first speaker said:

"A generation ago would you not have said—what also Sir Wilfrid carefully avoided saying—'We have the Scriptures.'"

"Perhaps," said Dornal despondently.

"And as to the Creeds," the other resumed, after another pause—"Do you think that one per cent of the Christians that you and I know believe in the Descent into Hell, or the Resurrection of the Body?"

Dornal made no reply.

Cyril Fenton also walked home with a young priest just ordained. Both were extremely dissatisfied with the later portions of Sir Wilfrid's speech, which had seemed to them tainted in several passages with Erastian complacency toward the State. Parliament especially, and a possible intervention of Parliament, ought never to have been so much as mentioned—even for denunciation—in an ecclesiastical court.

"Parliament!" cried Fenton, coming to a sudden stop beside the water in St. James' Park, his eyes afire, "What is Parliament but the lay synod of the Church of England!"

During the three days of Sir Wilfrid's speech, Meynell took many notes, and he became perforce very familiar with some of the nearer faces in the audience day after day; with the Bishop of S——, lank and long-jawed, with reddish hair turning to gray, a deprecating manner in society, but in the pulpit a second Warburton for truculence and fire; the Bishop of D——, beloved, ugly, short-sighted, the purest and humblest soul alive; learned, mystical, poetical, in much sympathy with the Modernists, yet deterred by the dread of civil war within the Church, a master of the Old Latin Versions, and too apt to address schoolgirls on the charms of textual criticism; the Bishop of F——, courtly, peevish and distrusted; the Dean of Markborough, with the green shade over his eyes, and fretful complaint on his lips of the "infection" generated by every Modernist incumbent; and near him, Professor Vetch, with yet another divinity professor beside him, a young man, short and slight, with roving, grasshopper eyes.

The temperature of Sir Wilfrid's address rose day by day, and the case for the prosecution closed thunderously in a fierce onslaught on the ethics of the Modernist position, and on the personal honesty and veracity of each and every Modernist holding office in the Anglican Church, claiming sentences of immediate deprivation against the defendants, of their vicarages and incumbencies, and of all profits and benefits derived therefrom "unless within a week from this day they (the defendants) should expressly and unreservedly retract the several errors in which they have so offended."

The court broke up in a clamour of excitement and discussion, with crowds of country parishioners standing outside to greet the three incriminated priests as they came out.

The following morning Meynell rose. And for one brilliant week, his defence of the Modernist position held the attention of England.

On the fourth or fifth day of his speech, the white-haired Bishop of Dunchester, against whom proceedings had just been taken in the Archbishop's Court, said to his son:

"Herbert, just before I was born there were two great religious leaders in England—Newman and Arnold of Rugby. Arnold died prematurely, at the height of bodily and spiritual vigour; Newman lived to the age of eighty-nine, and to be a Cardinal of the Roman Church. His Anglican influence, continued, modified, distributed by the High Church movement, has lasted till now. To-day we have been listening again, as it were, to the voice of Arnold, the great leader whom the Liberals lost in '42, Arnold was a devoutly orthodox believer, snatched from life in the very birth-hour of that New Learning of which we claim to be the children. But a church of free men, coextensive with the nation, gathering into one fold every English man, woman and child, that was Arnold's dream, just as it is Meynell's.... And yet though the voice, the large heart, the fearless mind, and the broad sympathies were Arnold's, some of the governing ideas were Newman's. As I listened, I seemed"—the old man's look glowed suddenly—"to see the two great leaders, the two foes of a century ago, standing side by side, twin brethren in a new battle, growing out of the old, with a great mingled host behind them."

Each day the court was crowded, and though Meynell seemed to be addressing his judges, he was in truth speaking quite as consciously to a sweet woman's face in a far corner of the crowded hall. Mary went into the long wrestle with him, as it were, and lived through every moment of it at his side. Then in the evening there were half hours of utter silence, when he would sit with her hands in his, just gathering strength for the morrow.

Six days of Meynell's speech were over. On the seventh the Court opened amid the buzz of excitement and alarm. The chief defendant in the suit was not present, and had sent—so counsel whispered to each other—a hurried note to the judge to the effect that he should be absent through the whole remainder of the trial owing to "urgent private business."

In a few more hours it was known that Meynell had left England, and men on both sides looked at each other in dismay.

Meanwhile Mary had forwarded to her mother a note written late at night, in anguish of soul:

"Alice wires to me to-night that Hester has disappeared—without the smallest trace. But she believes she is with Meryon. I go to Paris to-night—Oh, my own, pray that I may find her!—R. M."


The mildness of the winter had passed away. A bleak February afternoon lay heavy on Long Whindale. A strong and bitter wind from the north blew down the valley with occasional spits and snatches of snow, not enough as yet to whiten the heights, but prophesying a wild night and a heavy fall. The blasts in the desolate upper reach of the dale were so fierce that a shepherd on the path leading over the pass to Marly Head could scarcely hold himself upright against them. Tempestuous sounds filled all the upper and the lower air. From the high ridges came deep reverberating notes, a roaring in the wind; while the trees along the stream sent forth a shriller voice, as they whistled and creaked and tossed in the eddying gusts. Cold gray clouds were beating from the north, hanging now over the cliffs on the western side, now over the bare screes and steep slopes of the northern and eastern walls. Gray or inky black, the sharp edges of the rocks cut into the gloomy sky; while on the floor of the valley, blanched grass and winding stream seemed alike to fly scourged before the persecuting wind.

A trap—Westmoreland calls it a car—a kind of box on wheels, was approaching the head of the dale from the direction of Whinborough. It stopped at the foot of the steep and narrow lane leading to Burwood, and a young lady got out.

"You're sure that's Burwood?" she said, pointing to the house partially visible at the end of the lane.

The driver answered in the affirmative.

"Where Mrs. Elsmere lives?"

"Aye, for sure." The man as he spoke looked curiously at the lady he had brought from Whinborough station. She was quite a young girl he guessed, and a handsome one. But there seemed to be something queer about her. She looked so tumbled and tired.

Hester Fox-Wilton took out her purse, and paid him with an uncertain hand, one or more of the shillings falling on the road, where the driver and she groped for them. Then she raised the small bag she had brought with her in the car, and turned away.

"Good day to yer, miss," said the man as he mounted the box. She made no reply. After he had turned his horse and started on the return journey to Whinborough, he looked back once or twice. But the high walls of the lane hid the lady from him.

Hester, however, did not go very far up the lane. She sank down very soon on a jutting stone beneath the left-hand wall, with her bag beside her, and sat there looking at the little house. It was a pleasant, home-like place, even on this bitter afternoon. In one of the windows was a glow of firelight; white muslin curtains everywhere gave it a dainty, refined look; and it stood picturesquely within the shelter of its trees, and of the yew hedge which encircled the garden.

Yet Hester shivered as she looked at it. She was very imperfectly clothed for such an afternoon, in a serge jacket and skirt supplemented by a small fur collarette, which she drew closer round her neck from time to time, as though in a vain effort to get warm. But she was not conscious of doing so, nor of the cold as cold. All her bodily sensations were miserable and uncomfortable. But she was only actively aware of the thoughts racing through her mind.

There they were, within a stone's throw of her—Mary and Mrs. Elsmere—in the warm, cosy little house, without an idea that she, Hester, the wretched, disgraced Hester, was sitting in the lane so close to them. And yet they were perhaps thinking of her—they must have often thought about her in the last fortnight. Mrs. Elsmere must of course have been sorry. Good people were always sorry when such things happened. And Mary?—who was eight years older—older! than this girl of eighteen who sat there, sickened by life, conscious of a dead wall of catastrophe drawn between her and the future.

Should she go to them? Should she open their door and say—"Here I am!—Horrible things have happened. No decent person will ever know me or speak to me again. But you said—you'd help me—if I wanted it. Perhaps it was a lie—like all the rest?"

Then as the reddened eyelids fell with sheer fatigue, there rose on the inward sight the vision of Catharine Elsmere's face—its purity, its calm, its motherliness. For a moment it drew, it touched, it gave courage. And then the terrible sense of things irreparable, grim matters of fact not to be dreamed or thought away, rushed in and swept the clinging, shipwrecked creature from the foothold she had almost reached.

She rose hastily.

"I can't! They don't want to see me—they've done with me. Or perhaps they'll cry—they'll pray with me, and I can't stand that! Why did I ever come? Where on earth shall I go?"

And she looked round her in petulant despair, angry with herself for having done this foolish thing, angry with the loneliness and barrenness of the valley, where no inn opened doors of shelter for such as she, angry with the advancing gloom, and with the bitter wind that teased and stung her.

A little way up the lane she saw a small gate that led into the Elsmeres' garden. She took her bag, and opening the gate, she placed it inside. Then she ran down the lane, drawing her fur round her, and shivering with cold.

"I'll think a bit—" she said to herself—"I'll think what to say. Perhaps I'll come back soon."

When she reached the main road again, she looked uncertainly to right and left. Which way? The thought of the long dreary road back to Whinborough repelled her. She turned toward the head of the valley. Perhaps she might find a house which would take her in. The driver had said there was a farm which let lodgings in the summer. She had money—some pounds at any rate; that was all right. And she was not hungry. She had arrived at a junction station five miles from Whinborough by a night train. At six o'clock in the morning she had found herself turned out of the express, with no train to take her on to Whinborough. But there was a station hotel, and she had engaged a room and ordered a fire. There she had thrown herself down without undressing on the bed, and had slept heavily for four or five hours. Then she had had some breakfast, and had taken a midday train to Whinborough, and a trap to Long Whindale.

She had travelled straight from Nice without stopping. She would not let herself think now as she hurried along the lonely road what it was she had fled from, what it was that had befallen. The slightest glimpse into this past made her begin to sob, she put it away from her with all her strength. But she had had, of course, to decide where she should go, with whom she should take refuge.

Not with Uncle Richard, whom she had deceived and defied. Not with "Aunt Alice." No sooner did the vision of that delicate withered face, that slender form come before her, than it brought with it terrible fancies. Her conduct had probably killed "Aunt Alice." She did not want to think about her.

But Mrs. Elsmere knew all about bad men, and girls who got into trouble. She, Hester, knew, from a few things she had heard people say—things that no one supposed she had heard—that Mrs. Elsmere had given years of her life, and sacrificed her health, to "rescue" work. The rescue of girls from such men as Philip? How could they be rescued?—when—

All that was nonsense. But the face, the eyes—the shining, loving eyes, the motherly arms—yes, those, Hester confessed to herself, she had thirsted for. They had brought her all the way from Nice to this northern valley—this bleak, forbidding country. She shivered again from head to foot, as she made her way painfully against the wind.

Yet now she was flying even from Catharine Elsmere; even from those tender eyes that haunted her.

The road turned toward a bridge, and on the other side of the bridge degenerated into a rough and stony bridle path, giving access to two gray farms beneath the western fell. On the near side of the bridge the road became a cart-track leading to the far end of the dale.

Hester paused irresolute on the bridge, and looked back toward Burwood. A light appeared in what was no doubt the sitting-room window. A lamp perhaps that, in view of the premature darkening of the afternoon by the heavy storm-clouds from the north, a servant had just brought in. Hester watched it in a kind of panic, foreseeing the moment when the curtains would be drawn and the light shut out from her. She thought of the little room within, the warm firelight, Mary with her beautiful hair—and Mrs. Elsmere. They were perhaps working and reading—as though that were all there were to do and think about in the world! No, no! after all they couldn't be very peaceful—or very cheerful. Mary was engaged to Uncle Richard now; and Uncle Richard must be pretty miserable.

The exhausted girl nearly turned back toward that light. Then a hand came quietly and shut it out. The curtains were drawn. Nothing now to be seen of the little house but its dim outlines in the oncoming twilight, the smoke blown about its roof, and a faint gleam from a side-window, perhaps the kitchen.

Suddenly, a thought, a wild, attacking thought, leapt out upon her, and held her there motionless, in the winding, wintry lane.

When had she sent that telegram to Upcote? If she could only remember! The events of the preceding forty-eight hours seemed to be all confused in one mad flux of misery. Was it possible that they too could be Here—Uncle Richard, and "Aunt Alice?" She had said something about Mrs. Elsmere in her telegram—she could not recollect what. That had been meant to comfort them, and yet to keep them away, to make them leave her to her own plans. But supposing, instead, its effect had been to bring them here at once, in pursuit of her?

She hurried forward, sobbing dry sobs of terror as though she already heard their steps behind her. What was she afraid of? Simply their love!—simply their sorrow! She had broken their hearts; and what could she say to them?

The recollection of all her cruelty to "Aunt Alice" in Paris—her neglect, her scorn, her secret, unjust anger with those who had kept from her the facts of her birth—seemed to rise up between her and all ideas of hope and help. Oh, of course they would be kind to her!—they would forgive her—but—but she couldn't bear it! Impatience with the very scene of wailing and forgiveness she foresaw, as of something utterly futile and vain, swept through the quivering nerves.

"And it can never be undone!" she said to herself roughly, as though she were throwing the words in some one's face. "It can never, never be undone! What's the good of talking?"

So the only alternative was to wander a while longer into these clouds and storms that were beginning to beat down from the pass through the darkness of the valley; to try and think things out; to find some shelter for the night; then to go away again—somewhere. She was conscious now of a first driving of sleet in her face; but it only lasted for a few minutes. Then it ceased; and a strange gleam swept over the valley—a livid storm-light from the west, which blanched all the withered grass beside her, and seemed to shoot along the course of the stream as she toiled up the rocky path beside it.

What a country, what a sky! Her young body was conscious of an angry revolt against it, against the northern cold and dreariness; her body, which still kept as it were the physical memory of sun, and blue sea, and orange trees, of the shadow of olives on a thin grass, of the scent of orange blossom on the broken twigs that some one was putting into her hand.

Another fit of shuddering repulsion made her quicken her pace, as though, again, she were escaping from pursuit. Suddenly, at a bend in the path, she came on a shepherd and his flock. The shepherd, an old white-haired man, was seated on a rock, staff in hand, watching his dog collect the sheep from the rocky slope on which they were scattered.

At sight of Hester, the old man started and stared. Her fair hair escaping in many directions from the control of combs and hairpins, and the pale lovely face in the midst of it, shone in the stormy gleam that filled the basin of the hills. Her fashionable hat and dress amazed him. Who could she be?

She too stopped to look at him, and at his dog. The mere neighbourhood of a living being brought a kind of comfort.

"It's going to snow—" she said, as she stood beside him, surprised by the sound of her own voice amid the roar of the wind.

"Aye—it's onding o' snaw—" said the shepherd, his shrewd blue eyes travelling over her face and form. "An' it'll mappen be a rough night."

"Are you taking your sheep into shelter?"

He pointed to a half-ruined fold, with three sycamores beside it, a stone's throw away. The gate of it was open, and the dog was gradually chasing the sheep within it.

"I doan't like leavin' 'em on t' fells this bitter weather. I'm afraid for t' ewes. It's too cauld for 'em. They'll be for droppin' their lambs too soon if this wind goes on. It juist taks t' strength out on 'em, doos the wind."

"Do you think it's going to snow a great deal?"

The old man looked round at the clouds and the mountains; at the powdering of snow that had already whitened the heights.

"It'll be more'n a bit!" he said cautiously. "I dessay we'll have to be gettin' men to open t' roads to-morrow."

"Does it often block the roads?"

"Aye, yance or twice i' t' winter. An' ye can't let 'em bide. What's ter happen ter foak as want the doctor?"

"Did you ever know people lost on these hills?" asked the girl, looking into the blackness ahead of them. Her shrill, slight voice rang out in sharp contrast to the broad gutturals of his Westmoreland speech.

"Aye, missy—I've known two men lost on t' fells sin I wor a lad."

"Were they shepherds, like you?"

"Noa, missy—they wor tramps. Theer's mony a fellow cooms by this way i' th' bad weather to Pen'rth, rather than face Shap fells. They say it's betther walkin'. But when it's varra bad, we doan't let 'em go on—noa, it's not safe. Theer was a mon lost on t' fells nine year ago coom February. He wor an owd mon, and blind o' yan eye. He'd lost the toother, dippin' sheep."

"How could he do that?" Hester asked indifferently, still staring ahead into the advancing storm, and trembling with cold from head to foot.

"Why, sum o' the dippin' stuff got into yan eye, and blinded him. It was my son, gooin afther th' lambs i' the snaw, as found him. He heard summat—a voice like a lile child cryin'—an he scratted aboot, an dragged th' owd man out. He worn't deed then, but he died next mornin'. An t' doctor said as he'd fair broken his heart i' th' storm—not in a figure o' speach yo unnerstan—but juist th' plain truth."

The old man rose. The sheep had all been folded. He called to his dog, and went to shut the gate. Then, still curiously eyeing Hester, he came back, followed by his dog, to the place where she stood, listlessly watching.

"Doan't yo go too far on t' fells, missy. It's coomin' on to snaw, an it'll snaw aw neet. Lor bless yer, it's wild here i' winter. An when t' clouds coom down like yon—" he pointed up the valley—"even them as knaws t' fells from a chilt may go wrang."

"Where does this path lead?" said Hester, absently.

"It goes oop to Marly Head, and joins on to th' owd road—t' Roman road, foak calls it—along top o' t' fells. An' if yo follers that far enoof you may coom to Ullswatter an' Pen'rth."

"Thank you. Good afternoon," said Hester, moving on.

The old shepherd looked after her doubtfully, then said to himself that what the lady did was none of his business, and turned back toward one of the farms across the bridge. Who was she? She was a strange sort of body to be walking by herself up the head of Long Whindale. He supposed she came from Burwood—there was no other house where a lady like that could be staying. But it was a bit queer anyhow.

* * * * *

Hester walked on. She turned a craggy corner beyond which she was out of sight of any one on the lower stretches of the road. The struggle with the wind, the roar of water in her ears, had produced in her a kind of trance-like state. She walked mechanically, half deafened, half blinded, measuring her force against the wind, conscious every now and then of gusts of snow in her face, of the deepening gloom overhead climbing up and up the rocky path. But, as in that fatal moment when she had paused in the Burwood lane, her mind was not more than vaguely conscious of her immediate surroundings. It had become the prey of swarming recollections—captured by sudden agonies, unavailing, horror-stricken revolts.

At last, out of breath, and almost swooning, she sank down under the shelter of a rock, and became in a moment aware that white mists were swirling and hurrying all about her, and that only just behind her, and just above her, was the path clear. Without knowing it, she had climbed and climbed till she was very near the top of the pass. She looked down into a witch's cauldron of mist and vapour, already thickened with snow, and up into an impenetrable sky, as it seemed, close upon her head, from which the white flakes were beginning to fall, steadily and fast.

She was a little frightened, but not much. After all, she had only to rest and retrace her steps. The watch at her wrist told her it was not much past four; and it was February. It would be daylight till half-past five, unless the storm put out the daylight. A little rest—just a little rest! But she began to feel ill and faint, and so bitterly, bitterly cold. The sense of physical illness, conquering the vague overwhelming anguish of heart and mind, began to give her back some clearness of brain.

Who was she?—why was she there? She was Hester Fox-Wilton—no! Hester Meryon, who had escaped from a man who had called himself, for a few days at least, her husband; a man whom in scarcely more than a week she had come to loathe and fear; whose nature and character had revealed to her infamies of which she had never dreamed; who had claimed to be her master, and use her as he pleased, and from whom she had escaped by night, after a scene of which she still bore the marks.

"You little wild-cat! You think you can defy me—do you?"

And then her arms held—and her despairing eyes looking down into his mocking ones—and the helpless sense of indignity and wrong—and of her own utter and criminal folly.

And through her memory there ran in an ugly dance those things, those monstrous things, he had said to her about the Scotch woman. It was not at all absolutely sure that she, Hester, was his wife. He had shown her those letters at St. Germains, of course, to reassure her; and the letters were perfectly genuine letters, written by the people they professed to be written by. Still Scotch marriage law was a damned business—one never knew. He hoped it was all right; but if she did hate him as poisonously as she said, if she did really want to get rid of him, he might perhaps be able to assist her.

Had he after all tricked and ruined her? Yet as her consciousness framed the question in the conventional phrases familiar to her through newspapers and novels, she hardly knew what they meant, this child of eighteen, who in three short weeks had been thrust through the fire of an experience on which she had never had time to reflect. Flattered vanity, and excitement, leading up almost from the first day to instinctive and fierce revolt—intervals of acquiescence, of wild determination to be happy, drowned in fresh rebellions of soul and sense—through these alternations the hours had rushed on, culminating in her furtive and sudden escape from the man of whom she was now in mad fear—her blind flight for "home."

The commonness of her case, the absence of any romantic or poetic element in it—it was that which galled, which degraded her in her own eyes. Only three weeks since she had felt that entire and arrogant belief in herself, in her power over her own life and Philip's, on which she now looked back as merely ludicrous!—inexplicable in a girl of the most ordinary intelligence. What power had girls over men?—such men as Philip Meryon?

Her vanity was bleeding to death—and her life with it. Since the revelation of her birth, she seemed to have been blindly struggling to regain her own footing in the world—the kind of footing she was determined to have. Power and excitement; not to be pitied, but to be followed, wooed, adored; not to be forced on the second and third bests of the world, but to have the "chief seat," the daintest morsel, the beau role always—had not this been her instinctive, unvarying demand on life? And now? If she were indeed married, she was tied to a man who neither loved her, nor could bring her any position in the world; who was penniless, and had only entrapped her that he might thereby get some money out of her relations; who, living or dead, would be a disgrace to her, standing irrevocably between her and any kind of honour or importance in society.

And if he had deceived her, and she were not his wife—she would be free indeed; but what would her freedom matter to her? What decent man would ever love her now—marry her—set her at his side? At eighteen—eighteen! all those chances were over for her. It was so strange that she could have laughed at her own thoughts; and yet at the same time it was so ghastly true! No need now to invent a half-sincere chatter about "Fate." She felt herself in miserable truth the mere feeble mouse wherewith the great cat Fate was playing.

And yet—after all—she herself had done it!—by her own sheer madness. She seemed to see Aunt Alice's plaintive face, the eyes that followed her, the lip that trembled when she said an unkind or wanton thing; she heard again the phrases of Uncle Richard's weekly letters, humorous, tender phrases, with here and there an occasional note of austerity, or warning.

Oh yes—she had done it—she had ruined herself.

She felt the tears running over her cheeks, mingling with the snow as it pelted in her face. Suddenly she realized how cold she was, how soaked. She must—must go back to shelter—to human faces—to kind hands. She put out her own, groping helplessly—and rose to her feet.

But the darkness was now much advanced, and the great snowstorm of the night had begun. She could not see the path below her at all, and only some twenty yards of its course above her. In the whirling gloom and in the fury of the wind, although she turned to descend the path, her courage suddenly failed her. She remembered a stream she had crossed on a little footbridge with a rail; could she ever see to recross it again?—above the greedy tumult of the water? Peering upward it seemed to her that she saw something like walls in front of her—perhaps another sheepfold? That would give her shelter for a little, and perhaps the snow would stop—perhaps it was only a shower. She struggled on, and up, and found indeed some fragments of walls, beside the path, one of the many abandoned places among the Westmoreland fells that testify to the closer settlement of the dales in earlier centuries.

And just as she clambered within them, the clouds sweeping along the fell-side lifted and parted for the last time, and she caught a glimpse of a wide, featureless world, the desolate top of the fells, void of shelter or landmark, save that straight across it, from gloom to gloom, there ran a straight white thing—a ghostly and forsaken track. The Roman road, no doubt, of which the shepherd had spoken. And a vision sprang into her mind of Roman soldiers tramping along it, helmeted and speared, their heads bent against these northern storms—shivering like herself. She gazed and gazed, fascinated, till her bewildered eyes seemed to perceive shadows upon it, moving—moving—toward her.

A panic fear seized her.

"I must get home!—I must!—"

And sobbing, with the sudden word "mother!" on her lips, she ran out of the shelter she had found, taking, as she supposed, the path toward the valley. But blinded with snow and mist, she lost it almost at once. She stumbled on over broken and rocky ground, wishing to descend, yet keeping instinctively upward, and hearing on her right from time to time, as though from depths of chaos, the wild voices of the valley, the wind tearing the cliffs, the rushing of the stream. Soon all was darkness; she knew that she had lost herself; and was alone with rock and storm. Still she moved; but nerve and strength ebbed; and at last there came a step into infinity—a sharp pain—and the flame of consciousness went out.


The February afternoon in Long Whindale, shortened by the first heavy snowstorm of the winter, passed quickly into darkness. Down through all the windings of the valley the snow showers swept from the north, becoming, as the wind dropped a little toward night, a steady continuous fall, which in four or five hours had already formed drifts of some depth in exposed places.

Toward six o'clock, the small farmer living across the lane from Burwood became anxious about some sheep which had been left in a high "intak" on the fell. He was a thriftless, procrastinating fellow, and when the storm came on about four o'clock had been taking his tea in a warm ingle-nook by his wife's fire. He was then convinced that the storm would "hod off," at least till morning, that the sheep would get shelter enough from the stone walls of the "intak," and that all was well. But a couple of hours later the persistence of the snowfall, together with his wife's reproaches, goaded him into action. He went out with his son and lanterns, intending to ask the old shepherd at the Bridge Farm to help them in their expedition to find and fold the sheep.

Meanwhile, in the little sitting-room at Burwood Catherine Elsmere and Mary were sitting, the one with her book, the other with her needlework, while the snow and wind outside beat on the little house. But Catharine's needlework often dropped unheeded from her fingers; and the pages of Mary's book remained unturned. The postman who brought letters up the dale in the morning, and took letters back to Whinborough at night, had just passed by in his little cart, hooded and cloaked against the storm, and hoping to reach Whinborough before the drifts in the roads had made travelling too difficult. Mary had put into his hands a letter addressed to the Rev. Richard Meynell, Hotel Richelieu, Paris. And beside her on the table lay a couple of sheets of foreign notepaper, covered closely with Meynell's not very legible handwriting.

Catharine also had some open letters on her lap. Presently she turned to Mary.

"The Bishop thinks the trial will certainly end tomorrow."

"Yes," said Mary, without raising her eyes.

Catharine took her daughter's hand in a tender clasp.

"I am so sorry!—for you both."

"Dearest!" Mary laid her mother's hand against her cheek. "But I don't think Richard will be misunderstood again."

"No. The Bishop says that mysterious as it all is, nobody blames him for being absent. They trust him. But this time, it seems, he did write to the Bishop—just a few words."

"Yes, I know. I am glad." But as she spoke, the pale severity of the girl's look belied the word she used. During the fortnight of Meynell's absence, while he and Alice Puttenham in the south of France had been following every possible clue in a vain search for Hester, and the Arches trial had been necessarily left entirely to the management of Meynell's counsel, and to the resources of his co-defendants, Darwen and Chesham, Mary had suffered much. To see his own brilliant vindication of himself and his followers, in the face of religious England, snuffed out and extinguished in a moment by the call of this private duty had been hard!—all the more seeing that the catastrophe had been brought about by misconduct so wanton, so flagrant, as Hester's. There had sprung up in Mary's mind, indeed, a saeva indignatio, not for herself, but for Richard, first and foremost, and next for his cause. Dark as she knew Meynell's forebodings and beliefs to be, anxiety for Hester must sometimes be forgotten in a natural resentment for high aims thwarted, and a great movement risked, by the wicked folly of a girl of eighteen, on whom every affection and every care had been lavished.

"The roads will be impassable to-morrow," said Catharine, drawing aside the curtain, only to see a window already blocked with drifted snow. "But—who can be ringing on such a night!"

For a peal of the front door bell went echoing through the little house.

Mary stepped into the hall, and herself opened the door, only to be temporarily blinded by the rush of wind and snow through the opening.

"A telegram!" she exclaimed, in wonder. "Please come in and wait. Isn't it very bad?"

"I hope I'll be able to get back!" laughed the young man who had brought it. "The roads are drifting up fast. It was noa good bicycling. I got 'em to gie me a horse. I've just put him in your stable, miss."

But Mary heard nothing of what he was saying. She had rushed back into the sitting-room.

"Mother!—Richard and Miss Puttenham will be here to-night. They have heard of Hester."

In stupefaction they read the telegram, which had had been sent from Crewe:

"Received news of Hester on arrival Paris yesterday. She has left M. Says she has gone to find your mother. Keep her. We arrive to-night Whinborough 7.10."

"It is now seven," said Catharine, looking at her watch. "But where—where is she?"

Hurriedly they called their little parlour-maid into the room and questioned her with closed doors. No—she knew nothing of any visitor. Nobody had called; nobody, so far as she knew, had passed by, except the ordinary neighbours. Once in the afternoon, indeed, she had thought she heard a carriage pass the bottom of the lane, but on looking out from the kitchen she had seen nothing of it.

Out of this slender fact, the only further information that could be extracted was a note of time. It was, the girl thought, about four o'clock when she heard the carriage pass.

"But it couldn't have passed," Catharine objected, "or you would have seen it go up the valley."

The girl assented, for the kitchen window commanded the road up to the bridge. Then the carriage, if she had really heard it, must have come to the foot of the lane, turned and gone back toward Whinborough again. There was no other road available.

The telegraph messenger was dismissed, after a cup of coffee; and thankful for something to do, Catharine and Mary, with minds full of conjecture and distress, set about preparing two rooms for their guests.

"Will they ever get here?" Mary murmured to herself, when at last the two rooms lay neat and ready, with a warm fire in each, and she could allow herself to open the front door again, an inch or two, and look out into the weather. Nothing to be seen but the whirling snow-flakes. The horrid fancy seized her that Hester had really been in that carriage and had turned back at their very door. So that again Richard, arriving weary and heart-stricken, would be disappointed. Mary's bitterness grew.

But all that could be done was to listen to every sound without, in the hope of catching something else than the roaring of the wind, and to give the rein to speculation and dismay.

Catharine sat waiting, in her chair, the tears welling silently. It touched her profoundly that Hester, in her sudden despair, should have thought of coming to her; though apparently it was a project she had not carried out. All her deep heart of compassion yearned over the lost, unhappy one. Oh, to bring her comfort!—to point her to the only help and hope in the arms of an all-pitying God. Catharine knew much more of Meryon's history and antecedents—from Meynell—than did Mary. She was convinced that the marriage, if there had been a marriage, had been a bogus one, and that the disgrace was irreparable. But in her stern, rich nature, now that the culprit had turned from her sin, there was not a thought of condemnation; only a yearning pity, an infinite tenderness.

At last toward nine o'clock there were steps on the garden path. Mary flew to the door. In the porch there stood the old shepherd from the Bridge Farm. His hat, beard, and shoulders were heavy with snow, and his face shone like a red wrinkled apple, in the light of the hall lamp.

"Beg your pardon, miss, but I've just coom from helpin' Tyson to get his sheep in. Varra careless of him to ha' left it so long!—aw mine wor safe i't' fold by fower o'clock. An' I thowt, miss, as I'd mak bold, afore goin' back to t' farm, to coom an' ast yo, if t' yoong leddy got safe hoam this afternoon? I wor a bit worritted, for I thowt I saw her on t' Mardale Head path, juist afther I got hoam, from t' field abuve t' Bridge Farm, an' it wor noan weather for a stranger, miss, yo unnerstan', to be oot on t' fells, and it gettin' so black—"

"What young lady?" cried Mary. "Oh, come in, please."

And she drew him hurriedly into the sitting-room, where Catharine had already sprung to her feet in terror. There they questioned him. Yes—they had been expecting a lady. When had he seen her?—the young lady he spoke of? What was she like? In what direction had she gone? He answered their questions as clearly as he could, his own honest face growing steadily longer and graver.

And all the time he carried, unconsciously, something heavy in his hand, on the top of which the snow had settled. Presently Mary perceived it.

"Sit down, please!" she pushed a chair toward him. "You must be tired out! And let me take that—"

She held out her hand. The old man looked down—recollecting.

"That's noan o' mine, miss. I—"

Catharine cried out—

"It's hers! It's Hester's!"

She took the bag from Mary, and shook the snow from it. It was a small dressing-bag of green leather and on it appeared the initials—"H. F.-W."

They looked at each other speechless. The old man hastened to explain that on opening the gate which led to the house from the lane his foot had stumbled against something on the path. By the light of his lantern he had seen it was a bag of some sort, had picked it up and brought it in.

"She was in the carriage!" said Mary, under her breath, "and must have just pushed this inside the gate before—"

Before she went to her death? Was that what would have to be added? For there was horror in both their minds. The mountains at the head of Long Whindale run up to no great height, but there are plenty of crags on them with a sheer drop of anything from fifty to a hundred feet. Ten or twenty feet would be quite enough to disable an exhausted girl. Five hours since she was last seen!—and since the storm began; four hours, at least, since thick darkness had descended on the valley.

"We must do something at once." Catharine addressed the old man in quick, resolute tones. "We must get a party together."

But as she spoke there were further sounds outside—of trampling feet and voices—vying with the storm. Mary ran into the hall. Two figures appeared in the porch in the light of the lamp as she held it up, with a third behind them, carrying luggage. In front stood Meynell, and an apparently fainting woman, clinging to and supported by his arm.

"Help me with this lady, please!" said Meynell, peremptorily, not recognizing who it was holding the light. "This last little climb has been too much for her. Alice!—just a few steps more!"

And bending over his charge, he lifted the frail form over the threshold, and saw, as he did so, that he was placing her in Mary's arms.

"She is absolutely worn out," he said, drawing quick breath, while all his face relaxed in a sudden, irrepressible joy. "But she would come." Then, in a lower voice—"Is Hester here?" Mary shook her head, and something in her eyes warned him of fresh calamity. He stooped suddenly to look at Alice, and perceived that she was quite unconscious. He and Mary, between them, raised her and carried her into the sitting-room. Then, while Mary ministered to her, Meynell grasped Catharine's hand—with the brusque question—

"What has happened?"

Catharine beckoned to old David, the shepherd, and she, with David and Meynell, went across, out of hearing, into the tiny dining-room of the cottage. Meanwhile the horses and man who had brought the travellers from Whinborough had to be put up for the night, for the man would not venture the return journey.

Meynell had soon heard what there was to tell. He himself was gray with fatigue and sleeplessness; but there was no time to think of that.

"What men can we get?" he asked of the shepherd.

Old David ruminated, and finally suggested the two sons of the farmer across the lane, his own master, the young tenant of the Bridge Farm, and the cowman from the same farm.

"And the Lord knaws I'd goa wi you myself, sir"—said the fine-featured old man, a touch of trouble in his blue eyes—"for I feel soomhow as though there were a bit o' my fault in it. But we've had a heavy job on t' fells awready, an I should be noa good to you."

He went over to the neighbouring farm, to recruit some young men, and presently returned with them, the driver, also, from Whinborough, a stalwart Westmoreland lad, eager to help.

Meanwhile Meynell had snatched some food at Catharine's urgent entreaty, and had stood a moment in the sitting-room, his hand in Mary's, looking down upon the just reviving Alice.

"She's been a plucky woman," he said, with emotion; "but she's about at the end of her tether." And in a few brief sentences he described the agitated pursuit of the last fortnight; the rapid journeys, prompted now by this clue, now by that; the alternate hopes and despairs; with no real information of any kind, till Hester's telegram, sent originally to Upcote and reforwarded, had reached Meynell in Paris, just as they had returned thither for a fresh consultation with the police at headquarters.

As the sound of men's feet in the kitchen broke in upon the hurried narrative, and Meynell was leaving the room, Alice opened her eyes.

"Hester?" The pale lips just breathed the name.

"We've heard of her." Meynell stooped to the questioner. "It's a real clue this time. She's not far away. But don't ask any more now. Let Mrs. Elsmere take you to bed—and there'll be more news in the morning."

She made a feeble sign of assent.

A quarter of an hour later all was ready, and Mary stood again in the porch, holding the lamp high for the departure of the rescuers. There were five men with lanterns, ropes, and poles, laden, besides, with blankets, and everything else that Catharine's practical sense could suggest. Old David would go with the rest as far as the Bridge Farm.

The snow was still coming down in a stealthy and abundant fall, but the wind showed some signs of abating.

"They'll find it easier goin', past t' bridge, than it would ha' been an hour since," said old David to Mary, pitying the white anxiety of her face. She thanked him with a smile, and then while he marched ahead, she put down the lamp and leant her head a moment against Meynell's shoulder, and he kissed her hair.

Down went the little procession to the main road. Through the lane the lights wavered, and presently, standing at the kitchen window, Catharine and Mary could watch them dancing up the dale, now visible, now vanishing. It must be at least, and at best, two or three hours before the party reappeared; it might be much more. They turned from useless speculation to give all their thoughts to Alice Puttenham.

Too exhausted to speak or think, she was passive in their hands. She was soon in bed, in a deep sleep, and Mary, having induced her mother to lie down in the sitting-room, and having made up fires throughout the house, sent the servants to bed, and herself began her watch in Alice Puttenham's room.

Dreary and long, the night passed away. Once or twice through the waning storm Mary heard the deep bell of the little church, tolling the hours; once or twice she went hurriedly downstairs thinking there were steps in the garden, only to meet her mother in the hall, on the same bootless errand. At last, worn with thinking and praying, she fell fitfully asleep, and woke to find moonlight shining through the white blind in Alice Puttenham's room. She drew aside the blind and saw with a shock of surprise that the storm was over; the valley lay pure white under a waning moon just dipping to the western fells; the clouds were upfurling; and only the last echoes of the gale were dying through the bare, snow-laden trees that fringed the stream. It was four o'clock. Six hours, since the rescue party had started. Alack!—they must have had far to seek.

Suddenly—out of the dark bosom of the valley, lights emerged. Mary sprang to her feet. Yes! it was they—it was Richard returning.

One look at the bed, where the delicate pinched face still lay high on the pillows, drenched in a sleep which was almost a swoon, and Mary stole out of the room.

There was time to complete their preparations and renew the fires. When Catharine softly unlatched the front door, everything was ready—warm blankets, hot milk, hot water bottles. But now they hardly dared speak to each other; dread kept them dumb. Nearer and nearer came the sound of feet and lowered voices. Soon they could hear the swing of the gate leading into the garden. Four men entered, carrying something. Meynell walked in front with the lantern.

As he saw the open door, he hurried forward. They read what he had to say in his haggard look before he spoke.

"We found her a long way up the pass. She has had a bad fall—but she is alive. That's all one can say. The exposure alone might have killed her. She hasn't spoken—not a word. That good fellow"—he nodded toward the Whinborough lad who had brought them from, the station—"will take one of his horses and go for the doctor. We shall get him here in a couple of hours."

Silently they brought her in, the stalwart, kindly men, they mounted the cottage stairs, and on Mary' bed they laid her down.

O crushed and wounded youth! The face, drawn and fixed in pain, was marble-cold and marble-white; the delicate mire-stained hands hung helpless. Masses of drenched hair fell about the neck and bosom; and there was a wound on the temple which had been bandaged, but was now bleeding afresh. Catharine bent over her in an anguish, feeling for pulse and heart. Meynell, whispering, pointed out that the right leg was broken below the knee. He himself had put it in some rough splints, made out of the poles the shepherds were carrying.

Both Catharine and Mary had ambulance training, and, helped by their two maids, they did all they could. They cut away the soaked clothes. They applied warmth in every possible form; they got down some spoonfuls of warm milk and brandy, dreading always to hear the first sounds of consciousness and pain.

They came at last—the low moans of one coming terribly back to life. Meynell returned to the room, and knelt by her.

"Hester—dear child!—you are quite safe—we are all here—the doctor will be coming directly."

His tone was tender as a woman's. His ghostly face, disfigured by exhaustion, showed him absorbed in pity. Mary, standing near, longed to kneel down by him, and weep; but there was an austere sense that not even she must interrupt the moment of recognition.

At last it came. Hester opened her eyes—

"Uncle Richard?—Is that Uncle Richard?"

A long silence, broken by moaning, while Meynell knelt there, watching her, sometimes whispering to her.

At last she said, "I couldn't face you all. I'm dying." She moved her right hand restlessly. "Give me something for this pain—I—I can't stand it."

"Dear Hester—can you bear it a little longer? We will do all we can. We have sent for the doctor. He has a motor. He will be here very soon."

"I don't want to live. I want to stop the pain. Uncle Richard!"

"Yes, dear Hester."

"I hate Philip—now."

"It's best not to talk of him, dear. You want all your strength."

"No—I must. There's not much time. I suppose—I've—I've made you very unhappy?"

"Yes—but now we have you again—our dear, dear Hester."

"You can't care. And I—can't say—I'm sorry. Don't you remember?"

His face quivered. He understood her reference to the long fits of naughtiness of her childhood, when neither nurse, nor governess, nor "Aunt Alice" could ever get out of her the stereotyped words "I'm sorry." But he could not trust himself to speak. And it seemed as though she understood his silence, for she feebly moved her uninjured hand toward him; and he raised it to his lips.

"Did I fall—a long way? I don't recollect—anything."

"You had a bad fall, my poor child. Be brave!—the doctor will help you."

He longed to speak to her of her mother, to tell her the truth. It was borne in upon him that he must tell her—if she was to die; that in the last strait, Alice's arms must be about her. But the doctor must decide.

Presently, she was a little easier. The warm stimulant dulled the consciousness which came in gusts.

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