Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr.

The king's highway. [microform] online

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a responsibility not to be shirked, and for
which there will be a strict accounting. Wealth
is blessed and honourable, when the holders of
it understand that they are the stewards of it,
and not the owners. God gives wealth to be
employed in good and great deeds."


" But if rich men add million to million, for
their own glory and pleasure, what then, Mr.

It was Mrs. Lloyd who asked this question,
and her soft, even voice had a singular thrilling
quality. It penetrated, as soft rain penetrates
the earth; and there was a moment s pause
ere John answered :

" You have doubtless read, madam, what St.
James says of such men. Go to, now, ye rich
men, weep and howl for the miseries that shall
come upon you. Your riches are rotted, and
your garments moth-eaten. "

" Then," said Mr. Moran, replying to John s
remark, " it is a kind of calamity to be rich,
if to riches is attached a constant care of
the poor. Who wants such a disagreeable

" Nevertheless," answered John, " the rich
man is responsible, always and absolutely.
There is no such thing as irresponsible riches!
They may be buried in real estate, or in bonds,
or hidden away in the vaults of the Chemical
Bank ; but their owner will have to render an
account of their usage, even to the uttermost
farthing, and that to One who cannot be im
posed upon."

"So! So!" cried Max Lehman. "This is
very good. If this be your Christian Social-
6 81


ism, I like it ! I had no hope that you were
so wide-awake and so sympathetic."

" The poor never had a greater friend than
Christ; and there are few men more wide
awake to existing conditions than the Christian
clergy of the present day."

"I cannot believe that," replied Lehman,

"You must believe their own declarations.
The Bishop of Winchester predicts a tornado,
generated by the zones of enormous wealth
and degrading poverty. Cardinal Manning
declares that the world of capital is combining
in alarm against the world of labour. Cardinal
Gibbons warns us of a struggle, the signs of
which fill us with disquiet; because the thirst
for wealth is daily more insatiable; and the
cries of the distressed more poignant and vio
lent. Lazarus/ says the Rev. Mr. Hughes,
is no longer lying on the doorsteps of Dives,
in the quiescence of sullen despair; he is
vehemently gesticulating to hungry men at the
corners of the streets. Bishop Berry says, The
working classes are now demanding that Chris
tianity should be tried by its power to serve the
welfare physical, intellectual, and moral of
the great mass of men ; and the Bishop of
Derry says, What there is in the Gospel to
rectify the relations of human life, to elevate


the selfishness of capital and chasten the sel
fishness of labour, that will find eager listeners.
But to the men of the near future, religion will
appear a barren and worthless thing, unless it
bear the fruits of human love. "

Lehman looked irresolutely at the two ladies.
He wished to launch out his most extreme
opinions on religion and social limitations, but
was restrained by the saintly, introspective face
of Mrs. Lloyd, and equally so by the sym
pathy in the girlish countenance of Alice. It
was a relief to him when Mrs. Lloyd stood
up and said to John : " Sir, I am glad to
have heard you. If I have been a careless
steward hitherto, I will err no more." Then
Alice rose, and John rose also, and opening
the door he stood by it until the ladies had
passed out of the room. It was a wonderful
experience to him. The sway and movement
of Alice s gown deliciously troubled his senses;
and her sweet, shy glance of recognition for
service went to his heart like wine.

Lehman attacked him vehemently as soon as
the restraining influence of the ladies was re
moved, Mr. Lloyd and Mr. Moran patiently
encouraged his diatribe; they wished to hear
what extremities his class held in reserve, and
were not astonished to learn that if Com
munism was not possible, they were quite will-


ing to try " barricades and bayonets." Yet
even to these two men, who had practically
made go ld their God, there was something terri
ble in the wholesale abrogation of every divine
claim and social restriction ; and they were glad
to hear John s impetuous, ardent denial of all
Lehman s assertions.

"You are blindly mistaken, Max Lehman,"
he said. " There is no nation on the earth
willing to be without God, and without his
worship. Will men indeed ever give up their
idea of home, and purity, and their belief in
all goodness? Will men ever cease to love
their parents, and their wives and children, and
to respect all good women? No! No! No!
A thousand times, No ! "

As John uttered these words, Mr. Moran took
out his watch, and with a sombre, hurried man
ner said he " must hurry away, in order to get a
train ; " and Lehman also remembered that he
" had an engagement." Then Mr. Lloyd said
he would drive both gentlemen to the station ;
and John proposed to accompany them, but
this his host would not permit. " I wish you very
much to remain," he said. " I have some parti
cular business to talk over with you. I dare say
you will find Mrs. and Miss Lloyd in the next
room, and they will be pleased with your com
pany for an hour, I know."


The sound of a piano very softly played led
him to the apartment. Alice was alone with her
dreamy, inconsequent music, and she stopped
suddenly at John s entrance. Then they fell
naturally into a conversation about Jessie, and
the musical world in general, illustrating the
opinions and likings by a verse or a few bars from
the song or piece in discussion. Nothing puts
two strangers so readily and so surely at ease as
music, and there was indeed a most enthralling
and dangerous power in the small courtesies
and guarded familiarities of the position in which
John and Alice found themselves. Their hands
frequently touched on the ivory keys; when
John bent forward to scan or to turn an un
known page, he could not escape the sense of
delicious nearness, and in the blending of their
voices they were conscious of a still more subtle
and delightful consonance.

Finally, as Alice was looking through a musical
folio for a song she wanted, John asked, " What
melody were you playing as I entered ? It was full
of sadness. Why were you playing it? For it
really sounded as if it were an interpretation."

" I do not know what it was. I was simply
playing an accompaniment to my thoughts.
And as they were on the subject you had been
talking of during the dinner hour, is there any
wonder if they were sad ? I .should think if


Socialism has any music, it must be of the most
melancholy kind."

" Oh, no ! " he answered, with a radiant face,
" Christian Socialism has divined its triumph and
is already singing of it. If you will permit me,
I can let you hear how it sings."

Then Alice gave place with a smile that set
John s heart singing, and he struck the keys in
a few masterful chords. And nothing is more
remarkable than the way in which men acquire
music. Women spend years in its study and
practice and achieve but small results ; men
never take regular lessons, but " pick up " the
knowledge at odd hours, and yet in some occult
way attain a skill that is instantly recognised.

As soon as John evoked those few distinct, force
ful unisons, Alice knew he could make her piano
say whatever he wished it to say. Then his voice
joined the rhythmical march of melody, and Wil
liam Morris s famous inquiry was in her ears :

What is this dread sound and rumour? What is this that

all men hear ?
Like the wind in hollow valleys, when the storm is

drawing near,
Like the rolling of the ocean, in the eventide of fear ?

T is the people marching on !

Hark ! the rolling of the thunder,
Lo the sun, and lo thereunder,
Riseth wrath, and hope, and wonder,
And the host comes marching on !


The words went in swinging, ringing phrases
to the grand, magnetic, prophetic music of
" John Brown," and the enthusiasm with which
they were sung kindled in Alice a like warmth
of feeling. Unconsciously she leaned towards
the singer, just as the sunflower sways to the

They had forgotten time and place and social
circumstances ; they were but two young, sym
pathetic hearts, full of the same noble regrets
and hopes for humanity, and as yet not aware
that their love and pity for all suffering and
oppressed had found a personal interpretation
of its unselfish sweetness in their own mutual

Only for a few minutes were they permitted
this memorable experience. As John finished
the first verse, Mr. Lloyd opened the door of
the parlour, and there was an instantaneous chill
and change. John struck the last chord into
discord, and rose with a slight embarrassment,
for Mr. Lloyd s face was dark with disapproval
and he said sharply:

" That is a good song for a Labour Meeting,
but hardly for a girl s parlour. Alice, your
mother wishes to see you. You need not re
turn, for Mr. McAslin and I have now some
business to arrange."

She went away depressed and saddened. A


few moments before she would have given
John her hand and a kind "good night," but
her father s words and manner had taken all
light and confidence out of her heart. She
bowed slightly, and with a sense of wrong went
slowly upstairs. Her mother had not wished
to see her. That message was a fabrication
to secure her absence. Why had her father
thought it necessary? Had her face, her man
ner, or her voice betrayed more interest than
he approved?

Mrs. Lloyd expressed no surprise and asked
no questions. She was not, according to her
usual custom, seated before her window look
ing off into space and lost in reveries of mys
tical devotion. She was walking restlessly about
the room, with her hands dropped and clasped
in front. Her face had lost its quiescent look,
the placid pool of her soul had at last been

" If it is all true, Alice ! " she said in a voice
low and tremulous with emotion, " if it is all
true, what shall we do to be saved.? I cannot
sleep. I dare not sleep. I have tried to keep
in the Way of Holiness and not to let the sight
or even the thought of sin come near my soul.
And what if this should be the Way of Selfish
ness? You must leave me to-night. I have to
answer this question to my Maker, and I do not


know how I am to answer it ; " and she suddenly
covered her face with her hands in an abandon
ment of contrition.

Alice was not sorry to be dismissed. The
questioning and anxiety of an awakened con
science were not at that hour interesting. Her
own heart was tossed to and fro, and tumultu-
ously demanding consideration. She went to
her room without a word of protest, and for a
few minutes sat there motionless. Then she
rose and locked the door. She wanted some
tangible evidence that she was alone with the
great problem it was now imperatively neces
sary for her to settle, and that at once. Its con
sideration drew her brows together and set her
mouth firm and tight, as she went about disrob
ing. Not a muscle of her face moved, not a
smile brightened its sombre air of perplexed
thought, as she folded away her gown and then
uncoiled her long, brown hair. Many times
during this occupation her mind and feelings
dominated her so entirely that her hands ceased
their duty and fell listlessly to her knees. For
a while there would be an utter unconsciousness
of this action, then suddenly she would force
herself to resume her toilet, only once more to
fall into an idle reverie. And yet, evidently,
during this semi-lapse of physical consciousness,
she was in a state of abnormal mental activity.


In fact, she was probing her heart that night as
severely and truthfully as her mother was prob
ing her conscience.

In about half an hour it had come to a ques
tion of argument, and she talked back to herself
with a constantly increasing sense of right, and
a constantly increasing determination to do right.
Then her actions became more rapid and alert,
and her face more expressive. She abruptly
ceased brushing her hair and pinned it quickly
into its usual night coil. All her other prepara
tions for sleep were promptly accomplished, and
she finally turned the key of her jewel case, and
began to drop into it the sparkling rings that
shone upon her fingers. A letter lay, with an
almost offensive prominence, upon the upper
most velvet cushion. She looked at it fixedly
as she let ring after ring fall into its place
then she lifted the crested paper, and tore it
with slow decision into many pieces.

The letter was from Lord Medway.

We know but little of any event from its mere
name. Mr. Lloyd, in inviting John McAslin and
Max Lehman as representatives of two distinct
methods for the regeneration of society, called
the meeting a dinner. But the appellation in
no way fitted the circumstance, and its results
were very different from what had been intended.


Their effect upon Mrs. Lloyd was quickly evi
dent. When she came down to breakfast the
following morning even her husband glanced at
her with curiosity. She looked as if some one
had rudely wakened her from sleep. There was
the same startled expression, the same trem
bling uncertainty, with that forced alertness
which gradually settles into vigilant attendance
the whole attitude making a very marked con
trast to her usual abstracted manner.

No notice, however, was taken of the change
during the meal. She asked if Mr. McAslin
was to eat it with them, and Mr. Lloyd answered :
" No ; he returned to New York by a very
early train. I have engaged him as my confi
dential secretary, and he may now, therefore,
be frequently in the house. I advise both you
and Alice to talk very little to him, and not
to talk at all to him on the subject introduced
last night. It is not one for women to inquire



MR. LLOYD had spoken gruffly, and with a
decision they both understood and generally re
spected ; though at this hour, had he cared to
look at the people whom he advised, he would
have been doubtful of their acquiescence. For
at his words an electric spark leaped into Alice s
eyes, a vivid colour flashed to her cheeks, and
she assumed the erect air of one ready for an
encounter, though she did not attempt to pro
voke it. Mrs. Lloyd also remained silent, but
Alice saw on her face an unusual expression,
one which impressed her with the idea of an in
vincible purpose that might be delayed and
opposed, but which would, in the end, be uncon
querable. She remembered, when a child, see
ing the same look constantly on her mother s
face. It meant then the determined resolve to
escape from the material world into the spiritual
one, and she speculated as she drank her coffee
as to what its meaning might be in the present



After the breakfast had been removed, Mrs.
Lloyd, with the suddenness of one who knows
she touches dangerous ground and is yet de
termined to go on, said,

" Nicholas, I wish to see my lawyer."

If she had fired a pistol at her husband he
could hardly have been more unpleasantly
startled. " What the mischief do you want
with him ? " he demanded, flinging the daily
paper to the floor.

" I have a great deal of business with him.
It is a long time since I went over my affairs.
I want to know how they stand how much
money I have how much more I am likely to
have and so on."

" And so on? What does that mean?"

" Simply that I want to know whether he is
doing right or wrong, whether my money is be
ing put to good uses or bad."

" Ho ! ho ! You have got McAslin s steward
ship on your brain, I see. Well, now, get rid
of that nonsense at once. I suppose, however,
you will have to see Telford ; for of course you
will wish to settle something on Alice at her
marriage. Lord Medway and I have come at
last to an understanding on financial matters.
Have you considered the subject? Are you
prepared to name the exact sum? Such a
decision will be necessary immediately ; at any


rate before the antenuptial contract is drawn

"Father! Father!"

"What is it, Alice?"

"Are you talking of my marriage?"

" You know very well that I am talking of it."

"To Lord Medway?"

"Of course."

" I have made up my mind not to marry Lord
Medway. I do not like being bargained about.
Am I so very disagreeable that you are willing
to give a stranger and a foreigner a large sum
of money to take me away from you? "

" I am giving a large sum of money for your
benefit and ennobling. I am buying you an
earldom, and all its honours and privileges."

" You are buying me a husband, and he is
costing you millions. Of the two transactions,
I would rather be sold for millions. It would
be less humiliating to have a husband give mil
lions for me, than for you to give millions in
order to induce some titled foreigner to marry
me. I do not want an earldom, and I have
fully determined to be neither bought nor sold."

" You look very handsome when you are in
a temper, Alice; but your determination is a
little too late. I have already promised you.
The affair is being talked of throughout the
financial and fashionable world. You cannot


now draw back. It is impossible. There would
be a certain amount of personal disgrace in it,
and more humiliation than either you or I
would like to face."

" Mother, what do you say?" Alice asked
the question without any hope of her mother s
interference. She was accustomed to see her
retire from all disputes and quarrelsome deci
sions, and she was, therefore, amazed to hear
her answer,

" Unless you love Lord Medway I think you
will do wrong to marry him."

" I do not love him."

"Then, let me tell you, Alice," said Mr.
Lloyd, "you have behaved shamefully to the
young man. You accepted his attentions and
permitted him to write to you. I am confounded
by your behaviour, which places me also in a
false and shameful position. I am not going
to allow a foolish notion to ruin your life!
Nor will I allow you to make a fool of me ! I
have gone to no end of trouble to secure your
future, and I shall take very good care that
you fulfil your part of our obligation to Lord

" I have no part in any obligation to Lord

" You have. Actions speak as well as a
written bond. You have accepted Med way s


attentions yes, miss, accepted them with
smiles, and now you propose to jilt the man
you have allured on to a false position."

"Jilt! Allured! Nicholas, you ought not
to use such words to your daughter."
"She ought not to deserve them."
" I do not deserve them. You asked me to
receive Lord Medway, and try to like him. I
received him as I would any other guest of
yours. At first I even thought it might be
possible to do as you wished me. I was daz
zled, as any young girl might be, by his title,
and by the new life I might share with him.
But I never suffered him to see that I was in
fluenced by these thoughts. We walked, and
drove, and spent some hours together every day,
of course; but common hospitality to a guest
demanded so much attention and courtesy."
"He made love to you, and you accepted it."
"He said such pretty words as young men
say to young women whom they wish to please
for the sake of millions of money. I ac
cepted his compliments at my own valuation
which was less than nothing at all."
" He has not written you love letters ? "
" He has written me two letters, both within
the last four days ; that is, since he was satis
fied with the premium you have promised
him if he will only marry me. I answered


neither of the letters. I have destroyed both
of them."

"Nicholas," said Mrs. Lloyd, "we know
what a loveless marriage means. Surely you
will spare "

He would listen no longer. With a rude
anger he turned away, muttering, even while
he put on his hat and overcoat, expressions of
his passion and determination that were more
forcible than considerate or refined. Left
alone, a sudden silence fell between mother
and daughter. Alice went to the window, and
looked out with that vacant gaze which per
ceives nothing. All her being was swallowed
up in feeling. Mrs. Lloyd sat pondering the
new perplexity that had forced itself into her
already disturbed mind. She was little used
to taking the initiative, and the force of habit,
added to her uncertainty, made her now wait
for Alice to open the conversation. Alice
waited for sympathy; she was hurt that it did
not flow to her with a quick spontaneity, and
when she did speak it was in a tone of indig
nant injury.

"Thank God!" she cried, "men can no
longer bargain their daughters away like cat
tle. Mother, I wonder you could bear it !
Why did you not tell father that I was free
born, and a citizen of no mean country? I
7 97


will marry no man unless I wish to marry him.
If I love him and he loves me, I will give up
everything and dare everything, and bear every
thing for him. I want to be loved. I want to
be loved more than any other thing. I never
have been much loved. Father loves nothing
but money, and I am not good enough for you
to love, dear mother. You pity me, and you
pray for me, but how can you love me ? "

"Oh, Alice! Alice! Do not say such cruel

" Are they not true ? "

" No ! No ! I love you with all my soul."

" Then talk to me, and advise me, and com
fort me. Have I not the right to love and to
be loved? Did you not marry for love? Yes,
you did ; for you were very rich and father was
poor then. You must have loved him ! "

"There ought to be love on both sides,
Alice, or else there is sorrow enough for both.
I loved, indeed, but when love is continually
thrown back upon itself, it dies; it dies cruelly
hard, but it dies. "

"Forgive me, darling mother! Have I made
you cry? Oh, how I despise my selfishness!
I see it all now. Father has never loved you,
he cares for nothing but his business, nor for
any one but those who can help his schemes in
some way; no, not even Steve, the dear, noble


boy, whom he takes no trouble to understand.
I see, I see at this hour, the long, loveless
years that you have lived; the sad doubting,
and fearing, and hoping, and final despairing.
How did you bear it ? I wonder you did not

" I did not die because in my great sorrow I
found within myself internal light and strength
that the world knows nothing of."

" I have not found that, and I must come to
you. Shall I marry Lord Medway because
father says I must ? "

" You are the keeper of your own heart and
conscience, Alice. Do what they tell you to
do. Never throw your decisions on others ; at
the last you will take your desire or suffer in
its want."

" Is it wrong to love ? "

" It is right to love. Nearly always some
unknown force draws a girl to the one man in
the world for her. "

" Hardly any one now believes in that expe
rience, mother."

"Yet it is the only divine right on earth.
When people do not believe in it, it is because
they are incapable of such a grand passion, or
else unwilling to abide with it; for you must
know, Alice, that love in some way or other
always demands the austere sweetness of sacri-


fice. And so few dare to try the blessedness of
giving up.

" Mother, I want you to stand by me in this
matter. I do not want money; I want love.
Please do not send for Mr. Telford on my

" I am not sending for him on your account.
There has been a revolution in my soul during
the past night, Alice. The words I heard yes
terday from the two men at the dinner-table
put all my spiritual nature in disquietude and
distress. I perceived that I had been a very
selfish worshipper of God and goodness. And
just before dawn this morning a more excellent
way was shown me. I intend to take it at
once. I shall want money in order to do so.
I shall want a great deal of money. But if my
affairs have been handled honestly, I ought to
have more than sufficient, and I believe they
have. "

"Mr. Telford is a good man. Grandfather
Valliante trusted him implicitly. Mother, what
must I do about Lord Medway ? What will be
father s next move in the matter? "

"I think it will be to bring him out here.

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Online LibraryAmelia Edith Huddleston BarrThe king's highway. [microform] → online text (page 5 of 19)