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THE HOUSE OF DEFENCE V. 2 ***




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EACH VOLUME SOLD SEPARATELY.

COLLECTION

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TAUCHNITZ EDITION.

VOL. 3971.

THE HOUSE OF DEFENCE.

BY

E. F. BENSON.

IN TWO VOLUMES. - VOL. 2.

LEIPZIG: BERNHARD TAUCHNITZ.

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COLLECTION

OF

BRITISH AUTHORS

TAUCHNITZ EDITION.

VOL. 3971.

THE HOUSE OF DEFENCE. BY E. F. BENSON.

IN TWO VOLUMES.

VOL. II.




THE

HOUSE OF DEFENCE

BY

E. F. BENSON

AUTHOR OF "DODO," "THE CHALLONERS," "THE IMAGE IN THE SAND,"
"THE ANGEL OF PAIN," "PAUL," ETC.

_COPYRIGHT EDITION_

IN TWO VOLUMES

VOL. II

LEIPZIG

BERNHARD TAUCHNITZ

1907.




THE HOUSE OF DEFENCE.




CHAPTER I.


Maud was lying in a long chair on the lawn after lunch the following
afternoon, defending Christian Science from the gibes (which were keen)
of the mockers, who were many. She had an ally, it is true, in the
person of Alice Yardly, who, in her big hat and white dress, with a blue
sash, looked like a doubtful Romney, and was smiling, literally with all
her might. The more the mockers mocked, the kinder grew her smile, and
the more voluble her explanations. Maud, for her part, would sooner have
done battle alone, for all that Alice as an ally did was, with great
precision and copious directions, to reveal to the enemy all the weak
points in the fortifications (of which, it seemed to Maud, there were
hundreds) and all the angles where an assault would probably meet with
success. Wherever, so it seemed, there was any possible difficulty in
"the scheme of things entire," as understood by Christian scientists,
there was poor dear Alice, waving a large and cheerful flag to call
attention to it.

"No, I am not a Christian Scientist, Thurso," Maud was saying, "because
I think a lot of it is too silly - oh, well, never mind. But what I told
you at lunch I actually saw with my own eyes. I will say it again. Nurse
Miles, who is optimistic, told me that Sandie was dying, and though it
was really no use, she wanted Dr. Symes to be sent for. Well, I didn't
send for him, but I went upstairs with Mr. Cochrane, and I saw Mr.
Cochrane - by means of Christian Science, I must suppose - pull Sandie out
of the jaws of death."

"Be fair, Maud," said Thurso. "Tell them what Dr. Symes said when he
came next morning."

"I was going to. He said he had known cases where the temperature went
suddenly down from high fever to below normal, and it had not meant
perforation. It meant simply what it was - the sudden cessation of fever.
Of course, such a thing is very rare, and it would be an odd coincidence
if - - "

Alice Yardly leaned forward, smiled, and interrupted violently and
volubly.

"Mortal mind had caused the fever originally," she said, "and it was
this that Mr. Cochrane demonstrated over, thus enabling Sandie to throw
off the false claim of fever and temperature, for he couldn't really
have fever, since fever is evil."

"Is temperature evil, too?" asked Thurso. "And why is a temperature of
104 degrees more evil than a normal temperature?"

Alice did not even shut her mouth, but held it open during Thurso's
explanation, so as to go on again the moment he stopped.

"Neither heat nor cold really exist," she said, "any more than fever,
since, as I was saying, fever is evil, and Infinite Love cannot send
evil to anybody, because it is All-Good. It was the demonstration of
this that made his temperature go down and let him get well. It was only
with his mortal mind, too, that he could think he had fever, since there
is no real sensation in matter, just as it was through mortal mind, and
not through All-Love, that he thought he had caught it. But Immortal
Mind knows that there is no sensation in matter, and so no disease. As
David said, 'Thou shalt not be afraid for any terror by night, nor for
the arrow that flieth by day;' and when Sandie, by Mr. Cochrane's
demonstration over mortal mind, perceived that - though he need not have
been conscious that he perceived it - the false claim of fever left him,
so, of course, his temperature went down."

Maud gave a sigh, not of impatience, but of very conscious patience,
which is very near akin to it.

"Darling Alice," she said, "you haven't understood a single word from
the beginning. Mr. Cochrane didn't make Sandie's temperature go down."

Alice's mouth was still open. She interrupted like lightning.

"No, of course not," she said. "It was not Mr. Cochrane: it was the
belief and trust in Immortal Mind that had reached Sandie. It is not the
healer who does it: it is Divine Love shining through the healer that
disperses false claims. God is good and is All, and matter is nothing,
because Life, God, Immortal Mind - - "

Maud sat up in her long chair and clapped her hands close to Alice's
face, so that she absolutely could not go on, in spite of the
omnipotence of Immortal Mind.

"I will finish one sentence - just one," she said, "whatever you say.
You don't understand a single thing. It was the subsidence of high
temperature that was the dangerous symptom. Mr. Cochrane came in after
Sandie's temperature had suddenly gone down. He had nothing to do with
bringing it down. I took him up to Sandie, because Sandie's temperature
had gone down. I am sure it is very difficult to understand, especially
if you don't believe in temperature; but do draw a long breath and try
to grasp that. It wasn't Immortal Good, God, Mind, that brought Sandie's
temperature below normal: it was all, as you would say, a frightfully
false claim. It was a symptom of dangerous illness, not a symptom of
health. I wish you would attend more. You make me feel feverish in
explaining like this, darling."

Alice's smile suffered no diminution. She was still quite ready to
explain anything.

"As I said, fever cannot be sent by Divine Love," she remarked, "and
therefore, since there is nothing really existent in the world except
Divine Love, it follows that fever cannot be real, and that the belief
in it is a function of mortal mind. No evil or pain or disease can
happen to anybody who has uprooted the false claim of mortal mind, and
no drug can have any effect, either harmful or beneficial, on anyone who
knows the truth. The drug only acts on mortal mind, which is - - "

Thurso entered the arena.

"I want to understand, Alice," he said. "Supposing I choose to drink
large quantities of prussic acid for breakfast, under the conviction
that no poison exists for Immortal Mind, shall I live to take pints more
of it at lunch? Doesn't poison exist for mortal body?"

"'If you drink any deadly thing it shall not hurt you,'" quoted Alice.

"Soufflé of nightshade for Alice this evening," said Maud cheerfully.

Theodosia had been keeping up a general chattering noise, to which no
one listened. Now she had her chance.

"My!" she said. "You'd better become a Christian Scientist at once,
Silas. Silas adores - he just adores - English beer, but he has a false
claim that it disagrees with him. Now Mrs. Yardly tells us that there's
no such thing as poison. So, Silas, just take tight hold of that, and
get a barrel. I may be left a widow, but try - just swill it."

"Theodosia," began Silas; but he was not permitted to get further.

"But intoxicant drinks are in themselves evil things," said Alice, "just
as tobacco, which is only fed upon by a loathsome worm, is evil, as you
will find in Mrs. Eddy's miscellaneous writings. She has pronounced
against them."

"But I thought there was no evil except in the false belief of mortal
mind?" said Maud.

"That is just what I have been saying," said Alice profusely. "The only
real existence is God, who is cause, source, origin, overlies and
underlies and encompasses."

Rudolf Villars joined in.

"And if Mrs. Eddy said that cream-cheese was evil, would that make it
so?" he asked politely. "Cannot she have attacks of error and mortal
mind? Is it not just possible, as Oliver Cromwell said, that she is
occasionally? I should have thought that instances might be found where
intoxicants had even saved life in cases of exhaustion or exposure."

Maud broke in again.

"You are all very flippant," she said. "It really does not matter what
Mrs. Eddy thinks about tobacco, or whether darling Alice will not answer
our questions. But I did see - and I stick to it - a man who was past
human power pulled back into life by Mr. Cochrane. How it was done I
don't know, but his own explanation was a perfectly simple one. He said
it was the direct healing power of God. After all, if we and doctors
say that there are healing powers in certain herbs which God made, why
shouldn't He heal direct?"

The throb of a motor and the sound of its wheels crunching the gravel
was heard, and Thurso got up.

"Well, we must settle something else just now," he said. "Who wants to
drive over to Windsor, and who wants to go on the river, and who wants
to do nothing?"

This broke up the conference, as it was designed to do, for Thurso felt
literally unable to stand much more: he was nervous, irritable, scarcely
in his own control. He had slept badly - indeed, he had hardly slept at
all - and this stream of balderdash that spouted from Alice was quite
intolerable. She, however, with undiminished cheerfulness, expressed a
preference for the river, and made it impossible for Villars not to
offer his companionship. Ruby and Jim had not been seen since lunch.
Theodosia and her husband went with Thurso to Windsor, and Mr. Yardly
murmured something about letters, which, rightly interpreted, meant
slumber, and hastily betook himself to the house. In consequence, Maud
and her sister-in-law, both of whom announced their intention of doing
nothing of any description, were before long left in possession of the
garden. There had been a certain design about this, though successfully
veiled, on Catherine's part. She wanted to have a talk with Maud, and
the gentlest promptings had been sufficient to make other people choose
other things.

The rest of the party dispersed in their various directions, and it was
not till the motor had hooted at the entrance to the main road and the
steam launch puffed its way past the opening in the yew-hedge that
Catherine spoke again.

"Tell me more about this Mr. Cochrane," she said.

Maud was already half immersed in her book, and had been quite
unconscious of Catherine's diplomacy. She started a little when the
question was put to her, and closed her book.

"There is really no more to tell," she said. "I think I have told you
all. Ah! no; there was one more thing, but they would all have howled so
if I had said it. It was this: he told me that he was demonstrating over
the whole outbreak of typhoid. Well, it stopped quite suddenly. The
cases had been coming in hour after hour till it ceased like a tap being
turned off. And after that there were no more deaths. Of course, it
sounds incredible, and if you ask me whether I really believe that it
was through him that it came to an end like that, I shouldn't say 'Yes.'
I don't know."

"I should like to see Mr. Cochrane," remarked Catherine.

"You can if you like. He is coming to town, he told me, some day this
month. Oh, Catherine, it is interesting, anyhow! He did cure Sandie;
also, he cured Duncan Fraser's wife. I am convinced of that. And then
the other fact of the typhoid ceasing like that! Of course, you may say
it was a pure coincidence; you may say that those other cures were
coincidences too. But when you get a set of coincidences all together
like that, you wonder if there is not - well, some law which lies behind
them, and accounts for them all."

She paused a moment.

"A lot of apples and other things fell to the ground," she said, "and
Newton deduced the law of gravity. It accounted for them all."

Catherine lit a cigarette, and threw the match away with great vigour.

"_What_ a fool darling Alice is!" she observed. "I love Alice just as
you do - you can't help loving her - but, oh, what a fool! Somehow, if a
person talks such abject nonsense as that about anything, one concludes
that the subject is nonsense too. But it doesn't really follow. And Mr.
Cochrane doesn't talk nonsense?" she asked.

"No; he isn't the least nonsensical. As I have told you, he goes and
cures people when they are ill, instead of gassing about it. He's a very
good fisherman, too."

Catherine could not help laughing. Maud mentioned this in a voice of
such high approval.

"But isn't that inconsistent?" she said. "I don't think a man whose
whole belief was in health and life should go and kill things."

"Oh yes; I think it's inconsistent," said Maud, "and so does he. But did
you ever see anybody who wasn't inconsistent? I never did, and I never
want to. He would be so extremely dull: you would know all about him at
once."

"And you don't know all about Mr. Cochrane?" she asked.

"No; I should like to know more. I think I never met anyone so
arresting. You are forced to attend, whether you like it or not."

"And I gather you like it?" asked Catherine.

"Yes, certainly. I like vigour and certainty, and - oh, well, that sort
of cleanness. He is like a nice boy at Cambridge, with all this
extraordinary strength behind."

Catherine could not help making mental comments on this.

"Ah, that attracts you?" she said. "It attracts me also. I like people
to be strong and efficient; but, oh, Maud, how one's heart goes out to
them when they are helpless and enmeshed in what is stronger than they!"

This was a clear change of subject. Mr. Cochrane was put aside for a
little, and Catherine could not help noticing that Maud seemed relieved.

"Ah, you mean Thurso?" she said quickly, letting her book slide to the
ground.

"Yes; and I want to talk to you about him, for I believe you are wise,
and I feel helpless. I don't know what to do. Last night, I must tell
you, I went straight to his room after leaving you dressing. He had just
taken laudanum, not because he had any headache, but because he longed
for it."

Maud clasped her hands together and gave a little pitiful sound, half
sigh, half moan.

"Ah, the poor fellow!" she said. "Yes?"

"And - and he lied to me," said Catherine, "and said he had not been
taking it, and there was the glass smelling of it by his side. Then he
was very angry with me for a little, and said I had spoiled everything,
but eventually he gave me the bottle and let me pour it away. I did, and
I threw the bottle into the shrubbery."

Maud's eye brightened.

"Ah! that's better," she said. "He can still fight it."

Catherine shook her head.

"That's not all," she said, "and the rest is so dreadful, and so
pathetic. I couldn't sleep last night, and it must have been about two
in the morning when I got out of bed and went to the window and sat
there a little. And I saw Thurso come along the path, and he lit a match
and found the bottle. Then he took it - it was bright moonlight; I could
see quite clearly - and literally sucked it, to see if there was not a
drop or two left."

Maud had no reply to this. If it was despicable, it was, as Catherine
had said, dreadfully pathetic.

"Advise me, dear Maud," she said at length. "I am horribly troubled
about it. The sight of him turning that damned little bottle - no, I'm
not sorry: I meant it - upside down in his mouth showed me how awfully he
wanted it. I feel one shouldn't lose a day or a minute. The desire grows
like an aloe-flower. But if he won't see a doctor, what is to be done? I
shall send for Sir James as soon as I get back to town, and tell him all
about it; but I can't force Thurso to see him. Besides - - " and she
stopped.

"Yes?"

"There is nothing in the world so hard to cure," she said. "It is
deadlier than a cancer."

"But he still wants to free himself," said Maud.

"Yes; so does a prisoner."

There was a pause.

"Or do you think I am taking too pessimistic a view?" asked Catherine.

Maud could not help seeing the bright side of things. Sunshine appealed
to her more strongly than shadow. It was more real to her.

"Yes; I think you are," she said. "He let you pour the - well, the damned
stuff away. You influenced him more strongly than his desire."

"Yes, than his satisfied desire," said Catherine with terrible
commonsense. "He had just taken it. Do you suppose he would have let me
pour it away if he was just going to take it?"

"I don't know. You are stronger than he, I think."

Maud gave a great sigh, picking up her book.

"I remember Mr. Cochrane practically offered to cure his neuralgia," she
said, "but I knew it was perfectly useless to suggest it to Thurso; nor
at the time did I believe in Mr. Cochrane. But since then - - "

Catherine looked up, and saw in Maud's face what she had suspected.

"Oh, Maud!" she said. "Are you in love with him?"

Maud leaned forward, and her book again dropped face downwards on the
gravel. She did not notice it.

"Oh, I haven't the slightest idea," she said. "Catherine, I do like him
awfully - I like him most awfully. No one has ever attracted me like
that. Good gracious! how indelicate I am! But I don't care one straw. I
should like to put all my affairs and all poor Thurso's into his hands.
I should do it with the utmost confidence, and I should then just curl
round as one does in bed, and feel everything is all right. Is that
being in love? I don't know or care. He is so strong, and so windy and
so sunny. He is surrounded by sun, and - and it is as if he had just had
a cold bath and stepped into the sun. I love that strength and wind.
Don't you like it? I want somebody who would go on playing undoubled
spades at bridge in the middle of an earthquake. He would - for a
shilling a hundred. Am I in love with him? I tell you I don't know.
Certainly this sort of thing has never happened to me before, and,
again, I certainly have never been in love. So perhaps 'these are the
ones.' Oh, do tell me! When Thurso proposed to you, was it like that?
Did you feel there wasn't anybody else who _really_ mattered? Oh dear!
poor Mr. Cochrane, to have all this put upon him! He hasn't shown the
slightest sign of doing more than admire my fishing. Lots of people
have done that. But about you and Thurso, did you feel that? Is that the
one?"

There was a fine irony about this, and Catherine, in spite of the
previous discussion on Christian Science, which laid down that all that
had any real existence was good, felt disposed to believe in the malice
that lurked in chance questions. She evaded the direct answer.

"Oh, there are as many ways of love as there are people in the world,"
she said. "But, dear, I regard you with suspicion. There are certain
symptoms - - "

"Oh, don't," said Maud.

"Very well. But I feel with you about strength. It is an adorable
quality to women. And it is that which so troubles me about Thurso. I
know - the throwing away of the bottle proves it - that he is fighting;
but is he strong enough? He was weak when he allowed himself to form a
habit that he knew was harmful."

She threw her hands wide.

"Oh, it is so awful!" she said. "One begins by saying, 'I shall do this
when I choose,' and so soon. This says, 'You shall do it when I choose.'
Personally, I always make it a rule to give anything up before I begin
to want it very badly."

There was an irony in this, too. The remembrance of what chiefly kept
her awake last night made her know that her rule was not always quite
easy to follow. But this was secret from Maud.

"You, who get all you want!" she said, speaking from outside.

Catherine got up, and began walking up and down the small angle of lawn
where they sat, bordering the deep flower-bed. All June was in flower
there, just as in herself, to the outside view, all June seemed to be
flowering. It was no wonder that Maud thought that. But all the
emotional baggage which she had consistently thrown away all her life
seemed to her to be coming back now in bales, returned to her by some
dreadful dead-letter office - at least, she had hoped it was dead - and a
sudden bitterness, born of perplexity, invaded her.

"Oh yes; everybody always thinks one is happy," she said, "if one has


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