Obrazy na stronie
PDF
ePub

his words might possibly convey, neither could bring himself to a deliberate question. Nor did Llwellyn appear to invite it. During the whole of their talk he had sedulously avoided any religious questions. He had dealt solely with historical aspects.

His position in the religious world was singular. His knowledge of Biblical history was one of its assets, but he was not known definitely as a believer.

His attitude had always been absolutely noncommittal. He did the work he had to do without taking sides.

It had become generally understood that no definite statement of his own personal convictions was to be asked or expected from him.

The general consensus of opinion was that Sir Robert Llwellyn was not a believer in the divinity of Christ; but it was merely an opinion, and had never been confirmed by him.

There was rather a tense silence for a short time.
The Professor broke it.

“Let me show you," he said, taking a gold pencilcase from his pocket, "a little map which I published at the time of the agitation about Gordon's Tomb. I can trace the course of the city walls for you."

He felt in his pocket for some paper on which to make the drawing, and took out a letter.

Gortre and the vicar drew their chairs closer.

Suddenly a curious pain shot through Basil's head and all his pulses throbbed violently. He experienced a terribly familiar sensation—the sick fear and repulsion of the night before his illness in the great library. The aroma of some utterly evil and abominable personality seemed to come into his brain.

For, as he had looked down at the paper on which the great white fingers were now tracing thin lines, he had seen, before Llwellyn turned it over, a firm, plain signature, thus :

Constantine Sehuabe

With some excuse about the heat of the room, he left it and went out into the night.

His brain was busy with terrible intuitive forebodings, he seemed to be caught up in the fringe of some great net, the phantoms of his illness came round him once more, the dark air was thick with their wingsvague, and because of that more hideous.

He passed the lighted kiosk at the Casino entrance with a white, set face.

He was going home to pray.

CHAPTER IX

INAUGURATION

IT

T was at Victoria Station that Basil said good-bye to

Helena. Spence had been back again in London for a fortnight. Mr. Byars and his daughter were to go straight back to Manchester the same day, and Gortre was to take possession of his new quarters in Lincoln's Inn and enter on his duties at St. Mary's without delay.

It had been a pleasant holiday, they all agreed, as the train brought them up from Newhaven ; how pleasant they had hardly realised till it was all over. They had been all brought more intimately together than ever before. Gortre had come to know Mr. Byars with far more completeness than had been possible during their busy parochial life at Walktown. The elder man's calm and steadfast belief, his wide knowledge and culture, the Christian sanity of his life, were never more manifest than in the uninterrupted communion of this time of rest and pleasure.

He saw in his future father-in-law such a man as he himself humbly hoped that he might become. The impulsiveness of an eager youth had toned down into the mature judgment of middle age. The enthusiasms of life's springtime had solidified into quiet strength and force, and faith and intellect had combined into a deep and immovable conviction. And Mr. Byars's was no simple, childlike nature to whom goodness and belief were easy, a natural attribute of the man. He was subtle rather, complex, and the victory over himself had cost him more than it costs most men. So much Gortre realised, and his love and admiration for the vicar were tempered with that joyous awe that one fine nature is privileged to feel at the contact with another.

To Helena also this time of holiday had been very precious. To mark the fervour of her chosen one, the energy he threw into Life, Love, and Religion, to find him a man and yet a priest, to follow him in thought to the ivory gates of his Ideals—these were her uplifting occupations; and to all these as they walked and talked, listened to the music at the Casino, explored the ancient forest and castle at Arques, or knelt with bowed heads as the sacring bell rang and the priests moved about the altar —these had been the united bond of the great knowledge and hope they shared together.

After the farewells had been said in the noisy station, and Basil's cab drove him rapidly towards his new home, he felt wonderfully ready and prepared for his new work.

The moving panorama of Victoria Street, the sudden stately vision of Palace Yard, the grandeur of the Embankment-all spoke to the young man of a vivid, manycoloured, and pulsating life which was waiting for him and his activities. Here, indeed, was a fine battlefield and theatre for the Holy War.

The cab moved slowly up Chancery Lane and then turned into the sudden quiet of Lincoln's Inn. It was almost like going back to Oxford, he thought, with a quick glow of pleasure to see himself surrounded by mellow, ancient buildings once more.

All his heavy personal effects had been sent up from Walktown some days before, and when he had carried up his two portmanteaus he knocked at the “oak” outside door of the chambers, which was shut, and waited for a response. He saw that his name

" or

was

freshly painted on the lintel of the door under the two others :

MR. HAROLD M. SPENCE.

MR. CYRIL HANDS.

REV. BASIL GORTRE.

In a minute he heard footsteps. The inner door was opened and he saw a tall, thin man, bearded and brown, peering at him through spectacles.

“Ah! Gortre, I suppose," said the other. “We were expecting you. I'm Hands, you know, home for another month yet. Give me these bags. Come in, come in."

He followed the big, stooping fellow with a sense of well-being at the cheery bohemianism of his greeting.

He found himself in a very large room indeed, panelled from floor to ceiling, the woodwork painted a sage green. Three great windows, each with a cushioned seat in its recess, looked down into the quadrangle below. Curtained doors faced him on all sides of the room, which was oddly shaped and full of nooks and angles. Books and newspapers covered two or three writing-tables and were piled on shelves between the doors. A bright fire burned in a large grate and the mantel above was covered with Oxford photographs, pipes, and tobacco jars. There was a note of comfort everywhere, of luxurious comfort though not of luxury. The furniture was not new and bore the signs of long use no less than careful choice. Bohemia it was, but not a squalid Bohemia. If a room can have a person. ality, this was a gentlemanly room. One saw that gentlemen lived here, men who, without daintiness or a tinge

« PoprzedniaDalej »