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“ To FATHER, SON, and HOLY GHOST,
The GOD Whom Heaven and earth adore,
Be praise and glory evermore. Amen."
It ceased with suddenness. There was the satisfied silence of a second, and then the attendant helpers, assisted by the feasters, fell swiftly upon the tables. Cloths and crockery vanished like snow melting in sunlight, and as each table was laid bare it was turned up by a patent arrangement, and became a long bench with a back, which was added to the rows of seats facing the platform. As each iron-supported seat was pushed noisily into its place it was filled up at once with a laughing crowd, replete but active, smacking anticipatory chops over the entertainment and speech-making to come.
Mr. Cuthbert, a painstaking pianist, whose repertoire was noisily commonplace, opened the concert with a solo.
Songs and recitations followed. All were well received by an audience which was determined to enjoy itself, but it was obvious that the real event of the gathering was eagerly awaited.
At last the eventful moment arrived. A table covered with green baize and bearing some objects concealed by a cloth was carried on the platform, and a row of chairs placed on either side of it.
The vicar, Basil, a strange clergyman, and a little group of black-coated churchwardens and sidesmen filed upon the platform amid tumultuous cheering and clapping of hands.
Mr. Pryde, the solicitor, rose first, and pronounced a somewhat pompous but sincere eulogy upon Basil's work and life at Walktown, which was heard in an absolute and appreciative silence, only broken by the scratching pencil of the reporter from a local paper.
Then he called upon the vicar to make the presentation.
Basil advanced to the table.
“My dear friends and fellow-workers," said Mr. Byars, “I am not going to add much to what Mr. Pryde has said. As most of you know, Mr. Gortre stands and is about to stand to me in even a nearer and more intimate relation than that of assistant priest to his parish priest. But before giving Mr. Gortre the beautiful presents which your unbounded generosity has provided, and in order that you may have as little speechmaking from me as possible, I want to take this opportunity of introducing the Reverend Henry Nuttall to you to-night."
He bowed towards the stranger clergyman, a pleasant, burly, clean-shaven man.
"I am going from among you for a couple of months, as I believe you have been told, and Mr. Nuttall is to take my place as your temporary pastor for that time. My doctor has ordered me rest for a time. daughter and myself, together with Mr. Gortre, who sadly needs change after his illness, and who is not to take up his duties in London for several weeks, are going away together for a holiday. And now I will simply ask Mr. Gortre to accept this tea-service and watch in the name of the congregation of St. Thomas as a token of their esteem and good-will."
He pulled the cloth away and displayed some glittering silver vessels. Then he handed the agitated young man a gold watch in a leather case.
Basil faced the shouting, enthusiastic crowd, staring through dimmed eyes at the long rows of animated faces.
When there was a little silence he began to speak in a voice of great emotion.
Very simply and earnestly he thanked them for their good-will and kindness.
“This may be,” he said, “the last time I shall ever have the privilege and pleasure of speaking to you. I want to give you one last message. I want to urge one and all here to-night to do one thing. Keep your faith unspotted, unstained by doubts, uninfluenced by fears. Do that and all will be well with you here and here. after." His voice sank a full tone and he spoke with marked emphasis. “I have sometimes thought and felt of late that possibly the time may be at hand, we who are here to-night may witness a time, when the Powers and Principalities of evil will make a great and determined onslaught upon the Christian Faith. I may not read the signs of the times aright, my premonitions—for they have sometimes amounted even to that-may be unfounded or imaginary. But if such a time shall come, if the 'horror of great darkness,' a spiritual horror, that we read of in Genesis, descend upon the world and envelop it in its gloom and terror, oh ! let us have faith. Keep the light burning steadily. 'Let nothing disturb thee; let nothing affright thee. All passeth: God only remaineth.' And now, dear brothers and sisters in the Holy Faith, thank you, God bless you, and farewell.”
There was a tense silence as his voice dropped to a close.
Here and there a woman sobbed.
There was something peculiar about his warning. He spoke almost in prophecy, as if he knew of some terror coming, and saw its advance from afar. His face, pale and thin from fever, his bright, earnest eyes, not the glittering eyes of a fanatic, but the saner, wiser ones of the earnest single-minded man, had an immense influence with them there.
And that night, as they trudged home to mean dwell. ings, or suburban villas, or rolled away in carriages, each person heard the intense, quiet voice warning them of the future, exhorting them to be steadfast in the Faith.
Seed which bore most fragrant blossom in the time which, though they knew it not, was close at hand was sown that night.
A DINNER AT THE PANNIER D'OR
ELENA stood with her hand raised to her eyes,
close by the port paddle-box, staring straight in front of her at a faint grey line upon the horizon.
A stiff breeze was blowing in the Channel, though the sun was shining brightly on the tossing waters, all yellow-green with pearl lights, like a picture by Henry Moore.
By the tall, graceful figure of the girl, swaying with the motion of the steamer and bending gracefully to the sudden onslaughts of the wind, stood a thick-set man of middle height, dressed in a tweed suit. His face was a strong one. Heavy reddish eyebrows hung over a pair of clear grey eyes, intellectual and kindly. The nose was beak-like and the large, rugged, red moustache hid the mouth.
This was Harold Spence, the journalist with whom Gortre was to live after the holiday was over and he began his work in Bloomsbury. Spence was snatching a few days from his work in Fleet Street, in order to accompany Gortre and Mr. and Miss Byars to Dieppe. It had been his first introduction to the vicar and his daughter.
“So that is really France, Mr. Spence !" said Helena; “the very first view of a foreign country I 've
ver had. I don't suppose you ’ve an idea of what I 'm feeling now? It seems so wonderful, something I've been waiting for all my life.”