Obrazy na stronie
PDF
ePub

When he was left alone, with his little mystery solved in so commonplace a fashion, Basil was conscious of a curious disappointment. It was an anti-climax. .

He had no narrow objection to the theatre. Now and then he had been to see famous actors in great plays. His occasional visits to the theatres of Irving or Wyndham had given him pleasure, nevertheless he had always felt a slight instinctive dislike to the trade of a mime. All voluntary sacrifices of personal dignity affect the average English temperament in this way more or less. However much the apologists of the stage may cry "art" or “ beneficial influence,” your British thinker is not convinced that there is anything very worthy in painting the face and making the body a public show for a wage. And there is sometimes a kind of wonder in the heart of a sincere Christian who attends a theatre as he remembers that the body is the Temple of the Holy Spirit.

Still Basil was tolerant enough. But this case which had thrust itself before him was quite different. He knew that the burlesque, the modern music play, made, first and foremost, a frank appeal to the senses. Its hopeless vulgarity and coarseness of sentiment, its entire lack of appeal to anything that was not debased and materialistic, were ordinary indisputable facts of every-day life. And so his lady of evensong was a high-priestess of nothing better than this cult of froth and gaudy sensuality. More than all others, his experiences of late had taught him that women of this class seemed to be very nearly soulless. Their souls had dissolved in champagne, their consciences were burnt up by the feverish excitement and pleasure of their lives. They sold themselves for luxury and the adulation of coarse men.

His very chagrin made him bitter and contemptuous more than his wont.

Then his eye lit upon a photogravure hung upon the opposite wall. It was the reproduction of a quaint, decorative, stilted picture by an artist of the early Umbrian school, and represented St. Mary Magdalene.

The coincidence checked his contemptuous thoughts.

He began to reconstruct the scene in his brain, a favourite and profitable exercise of his, using his knowledge and study of the old dim times to animate the picture and make it vivid.

They were all resting, or rather lying, around the table, the body resting on the couch, the feet turned away from the table in the direction of the wall, while the left elbow rested on the table.

And then, from the open courtyard, up the verandah step, perhaps through an antechamber, and by the open door, passed the figure of a woman into the festive reception-room and dining-hall. How had she gained access? How incongruous her figure must have been there! In those days the Jewish prejudice against any conversation with women-even those of the most lofty character-was extreme.

The shadow of her form must have fallen on all who sat at meat. But no one spoke, nor did she heed any but One only.

The woman had brought with her an alabastron of perfume. It was a flask of precious foliatum, probably, which women wore round the neck, and which hung over the breast. The woman stood behind Him at His feet, and as she bowed reverently a shower of tears, like sudden summer rain, “ bedewed His feet.

Basil went through the whole scene until the final, Go into peace" not go in peace, as the logical dogmatics would have had it.

And so she, the first who had come to Him for spiritual healing, went out into the better light, and into the eternal peace of the Kingdom of Heaven.

Basil tore up the vulgar little photograph and forgot that aspect of the dancer. He remembered rather the dim figure by the font.

There was a sudden furious knocking on the outer door of the chambers, and he went to open it.

CHAPTER XII

POWERS OF GOOD AND EVIL

GOM

it now.

ORTRE felt certain that his vicar stood without.

His knocking was full of militant Christianity. The tumultuous energy of the man without communicated its own stir and disturbance to Basil's brain by the most subtle of all forms of telepathy—that “telepathy" which, in a few more years, will have its definite recipes and formulæ.

Father Ripon refused to live by any standard of measured time. He refused -so he said to believe that a wretched little clock really knew what the great golden sun was doing. He had found it impossible to call on Gortre before this late hour, and he came regardless of

He wished to see Basil, and he came now with a supreme and simple carelessness of conventional time.

As usual, the worthy man was hungry, and the débris of supper on the table reminded him of that. He sat down at once and began to eat rapidly, telling his story between mouthfuls.

I bring you news of a famous opportunity,” he said. • If you go to work in the right way you may win a soul. It 's a poor demi-mondaine creature, a dancer at the theatres. She came to me in her brougham, her furs, and finery, and had a chat in my study. I gave her tea and a cigarette-you know I always keep some cigarettes for the choir-men or teachers when they call. All these women smoke. It's a great thing to treat these peo.

6

out. Lity uni

the my" apes

men,

eas

at 2 den lon s of

ple with understanding and knowledge, Gortre. Don't

come the priest' over them, as a coster said to me last week. When they realise that one is a man, then they are fifty times more willing to allow the other and more important thing

Well, this poor girl told me all about it, the same
very sordid story one is always hearing. She is a favour-
ite burlesque actress, and she lives very expensively in
those gorgeous new flats — Bloomsbury Court. Some
wealthy scoundrel pays for it all. A man ‘in a very high
position,' as she said with a pathetic little touch of pride
which made me want to weep. Oh, my dear fellow, if
the world only knew what I know! Great and honoured
names in the senate, the forum, the Court, unsullied be-
fore the

eyes
of

And then these hideous establish-
ments and secret ties! This is a wicked city. The
deadly lusts which war against the soul are great, power-
ful, and militant all around us.

This poor woman has been coming regularly to church on Sundays. The first time was when you preached your capital sermon on the Resurrection. Now, she is dying from a slow complaint. She will live a year or two, the doctors think, and that is all. It does not prevent her from living her ordinary life, but it will strike her down suddenly some day.

"She has expressed a wish to see you to talk things over with you. She thinks you can help her.

Go to her and save her. We must.'

He handed Gortre a visiting-card, on which he saw the name of Gertrude Hunt with a curious lack of surprise.

"Well, I must be off," said Father Ripon, rising from the table with a large hunk of bread and cheese in one hand.

“Go and see this poor woman to-morrow evening.

vith

me.

S of

be

uid. ul. Ethe

LIS,

tea

tes

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors][merged small]
« PoprzedniaDalej »