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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Inside Of The Cup - Volume 8 - Chapter 27. Retribution
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The Inside Of The Cup - Volume 8 - Chapter 27. Retribution Post by :shaulb Category :Long Stories Author :Winston Churchill Date :May 2012 Read :1363

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The Inside Of The Cup - Volume 8 - Chapter 27. Retribution



The Bishop's House was a comfortable, double dwelling of a smooth, bright red brick and large, plate-glass windows, situated in a plot at the western end of Waverley Place. It had been bought by the Diocese in the nineties, and was representative of that transitional period in American architecture when the mansard roof had been repudiated, when as yet no definite types had emerged to take its place. The house had pointed gables, and a tiny and utterly useless porch that served only to darken the front door, made of heavy pieces of wood fantastically curved.

It was precisely ten o'clock in the morning when Hodder rang the bell and was shown into the ample study which he had entered on other and less vital occasions. He found difficulty in realizing that this pleasant room, lined with well-worn books and overlooking a back lawn where the clothes of the episcopal family hung in the yellow autumn sun, was to be his judgment seat, whence he might be committed to trial for heresy.

And this was the twentieth century! The full force of the preposterous fact smote him, and a consciousness of the distance he himself had travelled since the comparatively recent days of his own orthodoxy. And suddenly he was full again of a resentful impatience, not only that he should be called away from his labours, his cares, the strangers who were craving his help, to answer charges of such an absurd triviality, but that the performance of the great task to which he had set his hand, with God's help, should depend upon it. Would his enemies be permitted to drive him out thus easily?

The old bishop came in, walking by the aid of a cane. He smiled at Hodder, who greeted him respectfully, and bidding him sit down, took a chair himself behind his writing table, from whence he gazed awhile earnestly and contemplatively at the rugged features and strong shoulders of the rector of St. John's. The effect of the look was that of a visual effort to harmonize the man with the deed he had done, the stir he had created in the city and the diocese; to readjust impressions.

A hint of humour crept into the bishop's blue eyes, which were watery, yet strong, with heavy creases in the corners. He indicated by a little gesture three bundles of envelopes, bound by rubber bands, on the corner of his blotter.

"Hodder," he said, "see what a lot of trouble you have made for me in my old age! All those are about you."

The rector's expression could not have been deemed stern, but it had met the bishop's look unflinchingly. Now it relaxed into a responding smile, which was not without seriousness.

"I am sorry, sir," Hodder answered, "to have caused you any worry--or inconvenience."

"Perhaps," said the bishop, "I have had too much smooth sailing for a servant of Christ. Indeed, I have come to that conclusion."

Hodder did not reply. He was moved, even more by the bishop's manner and voice than his words. And the opening to their conversation was unexpected. The old man put on his spectacles, and drew from the top of one of the bundles a letter.

"This is from one of your vestrymen, Mr. Gordon Atterbury," he said, and proceeded to read it, slowly. When he had finished he laid it down.

"Is that, according to your recollection, Mr. Hodder, a fairly accurate summary of the sermon you gave when you resumed the pulpit at the end of the summer?"

"Yes, sir," answered the rector, "it is surprisingly accurate, with the exception of two or three inferences which I shall explain at the proper moment."

"Mr. Atterbury is to be congratulated on his memory," the bishop observed a little dryly. "And he has saved me the trouble of reading more. Now what are the inferences to which you object?"

Hodder stated them. "The most serious one," he added, "is that which he draws from my attitude on the virgin birth. Mr. Atterbury insists, like others who cling to that dogma, that I have become what he vaguely calls an Unitarian. He seems incapable of grasping my meaning, that the only true God the age knows, the world has ever known, is the God in Christ, is the Spirit in Christ, and is there not by any material proof, but because we recognize it spiritually. And that doctrine and dogma, ancient speculations as to how, definitely, that spirit came to be in Christ, are fruitless and mischievous to-day. Mr. Atterbury and others seem actually to resent my identification of our Lord's Spirit with the social conscience as well as the individual conscience of our time."

The bishop nodded.

"Hodder," he demanded abruptly, leaning forward over his desk, "how did this thing happen?"

"You mean, sir--"

There was, in the bishop's voice, a note almost pathetic. "Oh, I do not mean to ask you anything you may deem too personal. And God forbid, as I look at you, as I have known you, that I should doubt your sincerity. I am not your inquisitor, but your bishop and your friend, and I am asking for your confidence. Six months ago you were, apparently, one of the most orthodox rectors in the diocese. I recognize that you are not an impulsive, sensational man, and I am all the more anxious to learn from your own lips something of the influences, of the processes which have changed you, which have been strong enough to impel you to risk the position you have achieved."

By this unlooked-for appeal Hodder was not only disarmed, but smitten with self-reproach at the thought of his former misjudgment and underestimation of the man in whose presence he sat. And it came over him, not only the extent to which, formerly, he had regarded the bishop as too tolerant and easygoing, but the fact that he had arrived here today prepared to find in his superior anything but the attitude he was showing. Considering the bishop's age, Hodder had been ready for a lack of understanding of the step he had taken, even for querulous reproaches and rebuke.

He had, therefore, to pull himself together, to adjust himself to the unexpected greatness of soul with which he was being received before he began to sketch the misgivings he had felt from the early days of his rectorship of St. John's; the helplessness and failure which by degrees had come over him. He related how it had become apparent to him that by far the greater part of his rich and fashionable congregation were Christians only in name, who kept their religion in a small and impervious compartment where it did not interfere with their lives. He pictured the yearning and perplexity of those who had come to him for help, who could not accept the old explanations, and had gone away empty; and he had not been able to make Christians of the poor who attended the parish house. Finally, trusting in the bishop's discretion, he spoke of the revelations he had unearthed in Dalton Street, and how these had completely destroyed his confidence in the Christianity he had preached, and how he had put his old faith to the test of unprejudiced modern criticism, philosophy, and science...

The bishop listened intently, his head bent, his eyes on he rector.

"And you have come out--convinced?" he asked tremulously. "Yes, yes, I see you have. It is enough."

He relapsed into thought, his wrinkled hand lying idly on the table.

"I need not tell you, my friend," he resumed at length, "that a great deal of pressure has been brought to bear upon me in this matter, more than I have ever before experienced. You have mortally offended, among others, the most powerful layman in the diocese, Mr. Parr, who complains that you have presumed to take him to task concerning his private affairs."

"I told him," answered Holder, "that so long as he continued to live the life he leads, I could not accept his contributions to St. John's."

"I am an old man," said the bishop, "and whatever usefulness I have had is almost finished. But if I were young to-day, I should pray God for the courage and insight you have shown, and I am thankful to have lived long enough to have known you. It has, at least, been given one to realize that times have changed, that we are on the verge of a mighty future. I will be frank to say that ten years ago, if this had happened, I should have recommended you for trial. Now I can only wish you Godspeed. I, too, can see the light, my friend. I can see, I think, though dimly, the beginnings of a blending of all sects, of all religions in the increasing vision of the truth revealed in Jesus Christ, stripped, as you say, of dogma, of fruitless attempts at rational explanation. In Japan and China, in India and Persia, as well as in Christian countries, it is coming, coming by some working of the Spirit the mystery of which is beyond us. And nations and men who even yet know nothing of the Gospels are showing a willingness to adopt what is Christ's, and the God of Christ."

Holder was silent, from sheer inability to speak.

"If you had needed an advocate with me," the bishop continued, "you could not have had one to whose counsel I would more willingly have listened, than that of Horace Bentley. He wrote asking to come and see me, but I went to him in Dalton Street the day I returned. And it gives me satisfaction, Mr. Holder, to confess to you freely that he has taught me, by his life, more of true Christianity than I have learned in all my experience elsewhere."

"I had thought," exclaimed the rector, wonderingly, "that I owed him more than any other man."

"There are many who think that--hundreds, I should say," the bishop replied.... "Eldon Parr ruined him, drove him from the church.... It is strange how, outside of the church, his influence has silently and continuously grown until it has borne fruit in--this. Even now," he added after a pause, "the cautiousness, the dread of change which comes with old age might, I think, lead me to be afraid of it if I--didn't perceive behind it the spirit of Horace Bentley."

It struck Holder, suddenly, what an unconscious but real source of confidence this thought had likewise been to him. He spoke of it.

"It is not that I wouldn't trust you," the bishop went on. "I have watched you, I have talked to Asa Waring, I have read the newspapers. In spite of it all, you have kept your head, you have not compromised the dignity of the Church. But oh, my friend, I beg you to bear in mind that you are launched upon deep waters, that you have raised up many enemies--enemies of Christ--who seek to destroy you. You are still young. And the uncompromising experiment to which you are pledged, of freeing your church, of placing her in the position of power and influence in the community which is rightfully hers, is as yet untried. And no stone will be left unturned to discourage and overcome you. You have faith,--you have made me feel it as you sat here,--a faith which will save you from bitterness in personal defeat. You may not reap the victory, or even see it in your lifetime. But of this I am sure, that you will be able to say, with Paul, 'I have planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase.' Whatever happens, you may count upon my confidence and support. I can only wish that I were younger, that my arm were stronger, and that I had always perceived the truth as clearly as I see it now."

Holder had risen involuntarily while these words were being spoken. They were indeed a benediction, and the intensity of his feeling warned him of the inadequacy of any reply. They were pronounced in sorrow, yet in hope, and they brought home to him, sharply, the nobility of the bishop's own sacrifice.

"And you, sir?" he asked.

"Ah," answered the bishop, "with this I shall have had my life. I am content...."

"You will come to me again, Hodder? some other day," he said, after an interval, "that we may talk over the new problems. They are constructive, creative, and I am anxious to hear how you propose to meet them. For one thing, to find a new basis for the support of such a parish. I understand they have deprived you of your salary."

"I have enough to live on, for a year or so," replied the rector, quickly. "Perhaps more."

"I'm afraid," said the bishop, with a smile in his old eyes, "that you will need it, my friend. But who can say? You have strength, you have confidence, and God is with you."


Life, as Hodder now grasped it, was a rapidly whirling wheel which gave him no chance to catch up with the impressions and experiences through which it was dragging him. Here, for instance, were two far-reaching and momentous events, one crowding upon the other, and not an hour for reflection, realization, or adjustment! He had, indeed, after his return from the bishop's, snatched a few minutes to write Alison the unexpected result of that interview. But even as he wrote and rang for a messenger to carry the note to Park Street, he was conscious of an effort to seize upon and hold the fact that the woman he had so intensely desired was now his helpmate; and had, of her own freewill, united herself with him. A strong sense of the dignity of their relationship alone prevented his calling her on the telephone--as it doubtless had prevented her. While she remained in her father's house, he could not...

In the little room next to the office several persons were waiting to see him. But as he went downstairs he halted on the landing, his hand going to his forehead, a reflex movement significant of a final attempt to achieve the hitherto unattainable feat of imagining her as his wife. If he might only speak to her again--now, this morning! And yet he knew that he needed no confirmation. The reality was there, in the background; and though refusing to come forward to be touched, it had already grafted itself as an actual and vital part of his being, never to be eliminated.

Characteristically perfecting his own ideal, she had come to him in the hour when his horizon had been most obscure. And he experienced now an exultation, though solemn and sacred, that her faith had so far been rewarded in the tidings he now confided to the messenger. He was not, as yet, to be driven out from the task, to be deprived of the talent, the opportunity intrusted to him by Lord--the emancipation of the parish of St. John's.

The first to greet him, when he entered his office, was one who, unknown to himself, had been fighting the battle of the God in Christ, and who now, thanks to John Hodder, had identified the Spirit as the transforming force. Bedloe Hubbell had come to offer his services to the Church. The tender was unqualified.

"I should even be willing, Mr. Hodder," he said with a smile, "to venture occasionally into a pulpit. You have not only changed my conception of religion, but you have made it for me something which I can now speak about naturally."

Hodder was struck by the suggestion.

"Ah, we shall need the laymen in the pulpits, Mr. Hubbell," he said quickly. "A great spiritual movement must be primarily a lay movement. And I promise you you shall not lack for opportunity."


At nine o'clock that evening, when a reprieve came, Hodder went out. Anxiety on the score of Kate Marcy, as well as a desire to see Mr. Bentley and tell him of the conversation with the bishop, directed his steps toward Dalton Street. And Hodder had, indeed, an intention of confiding to his friend, as one eminently entitled to it, the news of his engagement to Alison Parr.

Nothing, however, had been heard of Kate. She was not in Dalton Street, Mr. Bentley feared. The search of Gratz, the cabinet-maker, had been fruitless. And Sally Grover had even gone to see the woman in the hospital, whom Kate had befriended, in the hope of getting a possible clew. They sat close together before the fire in Mr. Bentley's comfortable library, debating upon the possibility of other methods of procedure, when a carriage was heard rattling over the pitted asphalt without. As it pulled up at the curb, a silence fell between them. The door-bell rang.

Holder found himself sitting erect, rigidly attentive, listening to the muffled sound of a woman's voice in the entry. A few moments later came a knock at the library door, and Sam entered. The old darky was plainly frightened.

"It's Miss Kate, Marse Ho'ace, who you bin tryin' to fin'," he stammered.

Holder sprang to his feet and made his way rapidly around the table, where he stood confronting the woman in the doorway. There she was, perceptibly swaying, as though the floor under her were rocked by an earthquake. Her handsome face was white as chalk, her pupils widened in terror. It was curious, at such an instant, that he should have taken in her costume,--yet it was part of the mystery. She wore a new, close-fitting, patently expensive suit of dark blue cloth and a small hat, which were literally transforming in their effect, demanding a palpable initial effort of identification.

He seized her by the arm.

"What is it?" he demanded.

"Oh, my God!" she cried. "He--he's out there--in the carriage."

She leaned heavily against the doorpost, shivering.... Holder saw Sally Grover coming down the stairs.

"Take her," he said, and went out of the front door, which Sam had left open. Mr. Bentley was behind him.

The driver had descended from the box and was peering into the darkness of the vehicle when he heard them, and turned. At sight of the tall clergyman, an expression of relief came into his face.

"I don't like the looks of this, sir," he said. "I thought he was pretty bad when I went to fetch him--"

Holder pushed past him and looked into the carriage. Leaning back, motionless, in the corner of the seat was the figure of a man. For a terrible moment of premonition, of enlightenment, the rector gazed at it.

"They sent for me from a family hotel in Ayers Street," the driver was explaining. Mr. Bentley's voice interrupted him.

"He must be brought in, at once. Do you know where Dr. Latimer's office is, on Tower Street?" he asked the man. "Go there, and bring this doctor back with you as quickly as possible. If he is not in, get another, physician."

Between them, the driver and Holder got the burden out of the carriage and up the steps. The light from the hallway confirmed the rector's fear.

"It's Preston Parr," he said.

The next moment was too dreadful for surprise, but never had the sense of tragedy so pierced the innermost depths of Holder's being as now, when Horace Bentley's calmness seemed to have forsaken him; and as he gazed down upon the features on the pillow, he wept.... Holder turned away. Whatever memories those features evoked, memories of a past that still throbbed with life these were too sacred for intrusion. The years of exile, of uncomplaining service to others in this sordid street and over the wide city had not yet sufficed to allay the pain, to heal the wound of youth. Nay, loyalty had kept it fresh--a loyalty that was the handmaid of faith...

The rector softly left the room, only to be confronted with another harrowing scene in the library, where a frantic woman was struggling in Sally Grover's grasp. He went to her assistance... Words of comfort, of entreaty were of no avail,--Kate Marcy did not seem to hear them. Hers, in contrast to that other, was the unmeaning grief, the overwhelming sense of injustice of the child; and with her regained physical strength the two had all they could do to restrain her.

"I will go to him," she sobbed, between her paroxysms, "you've got no right to keep me--he's mine... he came back to me--he's all I ever had...."

So intent were they that they did not notice Mr. Bentley standing beside them until they heard his voice.

"What she says is true," he told them. "Her place is in there. Let her go."

Kate Marcy raised her head at the words, and looked at him a strange, half-comprehending, half-credulous gaze. They released her, helped her towards the bedroom, and closed the door gently behind her... The three sat in silence until the carriage was heard returning, and the doctor entered.

The examination was brief, and two words, laconically spoken, sufficed for an explanation--apoplexy, alcohol. The prostrate, quivering woman was left where they had found her.

Dr. Latimer was a friend of Mr. Bentley's, and betrayed no surprise at a situation which otherwise might have astonished him. It was only when he learned the dead man's name, and his parentage, that he looked up quickly from his note book.

"The matter can be arranged without a scandal," he said, after an instant. "Can you tell me something of the circumstances?"

It was Hodder who answered.

"Preston Parr had been in love with this woman, and separated from her. She was under Mr. Bentley's care when he found her again, I infer, by accident. From what the driver says, they were together in a hotel in Ayers Street, and he died after he had been put in a carriage. In her terror, she was bringing him to Mr. Bentley."

The doctor nodded.

"Poor woman!" he said unexpectedly. "Will you be good enough to let Mr. Parr know that I will see him at his house, to-night?" he added, as he took his departure.


Sally Grower went out with the physician, and it was Mr. Bentley who answered the question in the rector's mind, which he hesitated to ask.

"Mr. Parr must come here," he said.

As the rector turned, mechanically, to pick up his hat, Mr. Bentley added,

"You will come back, Hodder?"

"Since you wish it, sir," the rector said.

Once in the street, he faced a predicament, but swiftly decided that the telephone was impossible under the circumstances, that there could be no decent procedure without going himself to Park Street. It was only a little after ten. The electric car which he caught seemed to lag, the stops were interminable. His thoughts flew hither and thither. Should he try first to see Alison? He was nearest to her now of all the world, and he could not suffer the thought of her having the news otherwise. Yes, he must tell her, since she knew nothing of the existence of Kate Marcy.

Having settled that,--though the thought of the blow she was to receive lay like a weight on his heart,--Mr. Bentley's reason for summoning Eldon Parr to Dalton Street came to him. That the feelings of Mr. Bentley towards the financier were those of Christian forgiveness was not for a moment to be doubted: but a meeting, particularly under such circumstances, could not but be painful indeed. It must be, it was, Hodder saw, for Kate Marcy's sake; yes, and for Eldon Parr's as well, that he be given this opportunity to deal with the woman whom he had driven away from his son, and ruined.

The moon, which had shed splendours over the world the night before, was obscured by a low-drifting mist as Hodder turned in between the ornamental lamps that marked the gateway of the Park Street mansion, and by some undiscerned thought--suggestion he pictured the heart-broken woman he had left beside the body of one who had been heir to all this magnificence. Useless now, stone and iron and glass, pictures and statuary. All the labour, all the care and cunning, all the stealthy planning to get ahead of others had been in vain! What indeed were left to Eldon Parr! It was he who needed pity,--not the woman who had sinned and had been absolved because of her great love; not the wayward, vice-driven boy who lay dead. The very horror of what Eldon Parr was now to suffer turned Hodder cold as he rang the bell and listened for the soft tread of the servant who would answer his summons.

The man who flung open the door knew him, and did not conceal his astonishment.

"Will you take my card to Miss Parr," the rector said, "if she has not retired, and tell her I have a message?"

"Miss Parr is still in the library, sir."


"Yes, sir." The man preceded him, but before his name had been announced Alison was standing, her book in her hand, gazing at him with startled eyes, his name rising, a low cry, to her lips.


He took the book from her, gently, and held her hands.

"Something has happened!" she said. "Tell me--I can bear it."

He saw instantly that her dread was for him, and it made his task the harder.

"It's your brother, Alison."

"Preston! What is it? He's done something----"

Hodder shook his head.

"He died--to-night. He is at Mr. Bentley's."

It was like her that she did not cry out, or even speak, but stood still, her hands tightening on his, her breast heaving. She was not, he knew, a woman who wept easily, and her eyes were dry. And he had it to be thankful for that it was given him to be with her, in this sacred relationship, at such a moment. But even now, such was the mystery that ever veiled her soul, he could not read her feelings, nor know what these might be towards the brother whose death he announced.

"I want to tell you, first, Alison, to prepare you," he said.

Her silence was eloquent. She looked up at him bravely, trustfully, in a way that made him wince. Whatever the exact nature of her suffering, it was too deep for speech. And yet she helped him, made it easier for him by reason of her very trust, once given not to be withdrawn. It gave him a paradoxical understanding of her which was beyond definition.

"You must know--you would have sometime to know that there was a woman he loved, whom he intended to marry--but she was separated from him. She was not what is called a bad woman, she was a working girl. I found her, this summer, and she told me the story, and she has been under the care of Mr. Bentley. She disappeared two or three days ago. Your brother met her again, and he was stricken with apoplexy while with her this evening. She brought him to Mr. Bentley's house."

"My father--bought her and sent her away."

"You knew?"

"I heard a little about it at the time, by accident. I have always remembered it.... I have always felt that something like this would happen."

Her sense of fatality, another impression she gave of living in the deeper, instinctive currents of life, had never been stronger upon him than now.... She released his hands.

"How strange," she said, "that the end should have come at Mr. Bentley's! He loved my mother--she was the only woman he ever loved."

It came to Hodder as the completing touch of the revelation he had half glimpsed by the bedside.

"Ah," he could not help exclaiming, "that explains much."

She had looked at him again, through sudden tears, as though divining his reference to Mr. Bentley's grief, when a step make them turn. Eldon Parr had entered the room. Never, not even in that last interview, had his hardness seemed so concretely apparent as now. Again, pity seemed never more out of place, yet pity was Hodder's dominant feeling as he met the coldness, the relentlessness of the glance. The thing that struck him, that momentarily kept closed his lips, was the awful, unconscious timeliness of the man's entrance, and his unpreparedness to meet the blow that was to crush him.

"May I ask, Mr. Hodder," he said, in an unemotional voice, "what you are doing in this house?"

Still Hodder hesitated, an unwilling executioner.

"Father," said Alison, "Mr. Hodder has come with a message."

Never, perhaps, had Eldon Parr given such complete proof of his lack of spiritual intuition. The atmosphere, charged with presage for him, gave him nothing.

"Mr. Hodder takes a strange way of delivering it," was his comment.

Mercy took precedence over her natural directness. She laid her hand gently on his arm. And she had, at that instant, no thought of the long years he had neglected her for her brother.

"It's about--Preston," she said.

"Preston!" The name came sharply from Eldon Parr's lips. "What about him? Speak, can't you?"

"He died this evening," said Alison, simply.

Hodder plainly heard the ticking of the clock on the mantel.... And the drama that occurred was the more horrible because it was hidden; played, as it were, behind closed doors. For the spectators, there was only the black wall, and the silence. Eldon Parr literally did nothing,--made no gesture, uttered no cry. The death, they knew, was taking place in his soul, yet the man stood before them, naturally, for what seemed an interminable time....

"Where is he?" he asked.

"At Mr. Bentley's, in Dalton Street." It was Alison who replied again.

Even then he gave no sign that he read retribution in the coincidence, betrayed no agitation at the mention of a name which, in such a connection, might well have struck the terror of judgment into his heart. They watched him while, with a firm step, he crossed the room and pressed a button in the wall, and waited.

"I want the closed automobile, at once," he said, when the servant came.

"I beg pardon; sir, but I think Gratton has gone to bed. He had no orders."

"Then wake him," said Eldon Parr, "instantly. And send for my secretary."

With a glance which he perceived Alison comprehended, Hodder made his way out of the room. He had from Eldon Parr, as he passed him, neither question, acknowledgment, nor recognition. Whatever the banker might have felt, or whether his body had now become a mere machine mechanically carrying on a life-long habit of action, the impression was one of the tremendousness of the man's consistency. A great effort was demanded to summon up the now almost unimaginable experience of his confidence; of the evening when, almost on that very spot, he had revealed to Hodder the one weakness of his life. And yet the effort was not to be, presently, without startling results. In the darkness of the street the picture suddenly grew distinct on the screen of the rector's mind, the face of the banker subtly drawn with pain as he had looked down on it in compassion; the voice with its undercurrent of agony:

"He never knew how much I cared--that what I was doing was all for him, building for him, that he might carry on my work."


So swift was the trolley that ten minutes had elapsed, after Hodder's arrival, before the purr of an engine and the shriek of a brake broke the stillness of upper Dalton Street and announced the stopping of a heavy motor before the door. The rector had found Mr. Bentley in the library, alone, seated with bent head in front of the fire, and had simply announced the intention of Eldon Parr to come. From the chair Hodder had unobtrusively chosen, near the window, his eyes rested on the noble profile of his friend. What his thoughts were, Hodder could not surmise; for he seemed again, marvellously, to have regained the outward peace which was the symbol of banishment from the inner man of all thought of self.

"I have prepared her for Mr. Parr's coming," he said to Hodder at length.

And yet he had left her there! Hodder recalled the words Mr. Bentley had spoken, "It is her place." Her place, the fallen woman's, the place she had earned by a great love and a great renunciation, of which no earthly power might henceforth deprive her....

Then came the motor, the ring at the door, the entrance of Eldon Parr into the library. He paused, a perceptible moment, on the threshold as his look fell upon the man whom he had deprived of home and fortune,--yes and of the one woman in the world for them both. Mr. Bentley had risen, and stood facing him. That shining, compassionate gaze should have been indeed a difficult one to meet. Vengeance was the Lord's, in truth! What ordeal that Horace Bentley in anger and retribution might have devised could have equalled this!

And yet Eldon Parr did meet it--with an effort. Hodder, from his corner, detected the effort, though it were barely discernible, and would have passed a scrutiny less rigid,--the first outward and visible sign of the lesion within. For a brief instant the banker's eyes encountered Mr. Bentley's look with a flash of the old defiance, and fell, and then swept the room.

"Will you come this way, Mr. Parr?" Mr. Bentley said, indicating the door of the bedroom.

Alison followed. Her eyes, wet with unheeded tears, had never left Mr. Bentley's face. She put out her hand to him....

Eldon Parr had halted abruptly. He knew from Alison the circumstances in which his son had died, and how he had been brought hither to this house, but the sight of the woman beside the bed fanned into flame his fury against a world which had cheated him, by such ignominious means, of his dearest wish. He grew white with sudden passion.

"What is she doing here?" he demanded.

Kate Marcy, who had not seemed to hear his entrance, raised up to him a face from which all fear had fled, a face which, by its suggestive power, compelled him to realize the absolute despair clutching now at his own soul, and against which he was fighting wildly, hopelessly. It was lying in wait for him, With hideous patience, in the coming watches of the night. Perhaps he read in the face of this woman whom he had condemned to suffer all degradation, and over whom he was now powerless, something which would ultimately save her from the hell now yawning for him; a redeeming element in her grief of which she herself were not as yet conscious, a light shining in the darkness of her soul which in eternity would become luminous. And he saw no light for him--He thrashed in darkness. He had nothing, now, to give, no power longer to deprive. She had given all she possessed, the memorial of her kind which would outlast monuments.

It was Alison who crossed the room swiftly. She laid her hand protectingly on Kate Marcy's shoulder, and stooped, and kissed her. She turned to her father.

"It is her right," she said. "He belonged to her, not to us. And we must take her home with us.

"No," answered Kate Marcy' "I don't want to go. I wouldn't live," she added with unexpected intensity, "with him."

"You would live with me," said Alison.

"I don't want to live!" Kate Marcy got up from the chair with an energy they had not thought her to possess, a revival of the spirit which had upheld her when she had contended, singly, with a remorseless world. She addressed herself to Eldon Parr. "You took him from me, and I was a fool to let you. He might have saved me and saved himself. I listened to you when you told me lies as to how it would ruin him.... Well,--I had him you never did."

The sudden, intolerable sense of wrong done to her love, the swift anger which followed it, the justness of her claim of him who now lay in the dignity of death clothed her--who in life had been crushed and blotted out--with a dignity not to be gainsaid. In this moment of final self-assertion she became the dominating person in the room, knew for once the birthright of human worth. They watched her in silence as she turned and gave one last, lingering look at the features of the dead; stretched out her hand towards them, but did not touch them... and then went slowly towards the door. Beside Alison she stopped.

"You are his sister?" she said.


She searched Alison's face, wistfully.

"I could have loved you."

"And can you not--still?"

Kate Mercy did not answer the question.

"It is because you understand," she said. "You're like those I've come to know--here. And you're like him.... I don't mean in looks. He, too, was good--and square." She spoke the words a little defiantly, as though challenging the verdict of the world. "And he wouldn't have been wild if he could have got going straight."

"I know," said Alison, in a low voice.

"Yes," said Kate Mercy, "you look as if you did. He thought a lot of you, he said he was only beginning to find out what you was. I'd like you to think as well of me as you can."

"I could not think better," Alison replied.

Kate Mercy shook her head.

"I got about as low as any woman ever got," she said

"Mr. Hodder will tell you. I want you to know that I wouldn't marry--your brother," she hesitated over the name. "He wanted me to--he was mad with me to night, because I wouldn't--when this happened."

She snatched her hand free from Alison's, and fled out of the room, into the hallway.

Eldon Parr had moved towards the bed, seemingly unaware of the words they had spoken. Perhaps, as he gazed upon the face, he remembered in his agony the sunny, smiling child who need to come hurrying down the steps in Ransome Street to meet him.

In the library Mr. Bentley and John Hodder, knowing nothing of her flight, heard the front door close on Kate Marcy forever....

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