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passionate, yet strangely firm and sweet. Looking into the grave eyes of this woman, you would have said she was some saint, some beautiful madonna ; looking at her mouth and lips, you would have said it was the mouth of Cytherea, alive with the very fire of love.
She sat motionless, still gazing upward on the soft milky azure, flecked with the softest foam of clouds. Her face was bright and happy, patient yet expectant; and when the low sounds of the night were wafted to her ears, she sighed softly in unison, as if the sweetness of silence could be borne no longer.
Suddenly she started listening, and at the same moment her horse, with dilated eyes and nostrils, trembled and pricked up his delicate
Clear and distinct, from the distance, came the sound of another horse's feet. It came nearer and nearer, then it ceased close to the abbey wall ; and almost simultaneously, the white steed threw forth its head and neighed aloud.
The woman smiled happily, and patted his neck with her gloved hand.
A minute passed. Then, through the great archway slowly came another rider, a man. On seeing the first comer, he rose in the saddle and waved his hand; then leaping down, he threw his reins over an iron hook fixed in the wall, and came swiftly through the long grass.
A tall man of about thirty, wrapt in a dark riding cloak and wearing a broad-brimmed clerical hat. He was clean shaven, but his black hair fell about his shoulders. His eyes were black and piercing, his eyebrows thick and dark. The head, with its square firm jaw and fine aquiline features, was set firm upon a powerful neck and shoulders. His cloak, falling back from the throat, showed the white neckcloth worn by English clergymen.
The white horse did not stir as he approached, but turning his head, surveyed him calmly with an air of recognition. He came up, took the rein and patted the horse's neck, while the woman with a cry of welcome leapt from her seat.
“Shall I fasten your horse with mine?” he asked, still holding the rein. “No, let him ramble among the grass.
He will come at my call."
Released and riderless, the horse moved slowly through the grass, approaching the other in a leisurely way, with a view to a little equine conversation. Meantime the man and woman had sprung into each other's arms, and were kissing each other like lovers—as indeed they were,
" You are late, dearest,” said the woman presently, when the first delight of meeting was over. “I thought perhaps you could not come to-night."
Her voice was deep and musical-a soft contralto—with vibrations of infinite tenderness. As she stood with him, fixing her eyes fondly upon him, it almost seemed as if she, not he, were the masculine, the predominant spirit; he the feminine, the possessed. Strong and passionate as he seemed, he was weak and cold compared to her; and whenever they clung together and kissed, it seemed as if her kisses were given in the eagerness of mastery, his in the sweetness of self-surrender. This, seeing her delicate beauty, and the powerful
determined face and form of the nian, was strange enough.
“ I could not come earlier,” he replied gently. “I had a call to a dying man which detained me. I left his bedside and came straight hither."
“ That is why you look so sad," she said, smiling and kissing him. “Ah, yes-death is terrible!”
And she clung to him fondly, as if fearful that the cold cruel shadow even then and there might come between them.
“ Not always, Alma. The poor man whose eyes I have just closed-he was only a poor fenman-died with a faith so absolute, a peace so perfect, that all the terrors of his position departed, leaving only an infinite pathos. In the presence of such resignation I felt like an unholy intiuder. He went away as calmly as if Our Lord came to him in the very flesh, holding out two loving hands, and indeed --who knows ? His eyes were fixed at last as if he saw something, and then .. he smiled and passed away.”
They moved along side by side through the deep shadows. She held his hand in hers, drawing life and joy from the very touch.
" What a beautiful night!” he said at last, gazing upwards thoughtfully. “Surely, surely, the old argument is true, and that sky refutes the cry of unbelief. And yet men perish, generations come and go, and still that patient light shines on. This very place is a tomb, and we walk on the graves of those who once lived and loved as we do now."
“ Their souls are with God," she murmured ; "yes, with God, up yonder !”
“ Ainen to that. But when they lived, dearest, belief was so easy. They were not thrust into a time of doubt and change. It was enough to close the eyes and walk blindly on in assurance of a Saviour. Now we must stare with naked eyes at the skeleton of what was a living truth."
“ Do not say that. The truth lives, though its face has changed."
“ Does it live? God knows. Look at this deserted place, these ruined walls. Just as this is to habitable places, is our old faith to the modern world. Roofless, deserted, naked to heaven, stands the Church of Christ. Soon it must perish altogether, leaving not a trace behind; unless”
“ Unless, with God's aid, it can be restored," he replied. “Even then, perhaps, it would never be quite the same as it once was in the childhood of the world; but it would at least be a Temple, not a ruin.”
“ That is always your dream, Ambrose." “ It is my dream ; and my belief. Meantime, I am still like a
. man adrift. O Alma, if I could only believe, like that poor dying man !”
“You do believe," she murmured; "only your belief is not blind and foolish. Why should you reproach yourself because you have rejected so much of the old superstition?”
“Because I am a minister of the Church, round which, like that dark devouring ivy, the old superstitions still cling. Before you could make this place what it once was, a prosperous abbey, with happy creatures dwelling within it, you would have to strip the old walls bare ; and it is the same with our religion. I am not strong enough for such a task. The very falsehoods I would uproot have a certain fantastic holiness and beauty ; when I lay my hands upon them, as I have sometimes dared to do, I seem to hear a heavenly voice rebuking me. Then I say to myself that perhaps, after all, I am committing an act of desecration ; and so—my life is wasted.”
She watched him earnestly during a long pause which followed. At last she said :
"Is it not, perhaps, that you think of these things too much? Perhaps it was not meant that we should always fix our eyes on what is so mysterious. God hid Himself away in the beginning, and it is not His will that we should comprehend Him.”
The clergyman shook his head in deprecation of that gentle suggestion.
"Then why did He plant in our souls such a cruel longing ? Why did He tempt our wild inquiry, with those shining lights above us, with this wondrous world, with every picture that surrounds the soul of man? No, Alma, He does not hide Himself away—it is we who turn our eyes from Him to make idols of stone or flesh, and to worship these. Where, then, shall we find Him? Not among
the follies and superstitions of the ruined Church at the altar of which I have ministered to my shame!”
His words had become so reckless, his manner so agitated, that she was startled. Struck by a sudden thought she cried :
“Something new has happened? O Ambrose, what is it?"
“Nothing," he replied ; " that is, little or nothing. The Inquisition has begun, that is all."
“What do you mean?”
, of Torquemada. The weasel is akin to the royal tiger. My Christian congregation wish to deliver me over to the moral stake and faggot ; as a preliminary they have written to my Bishop."
“Of what do they complain now?"
“That I am a heretic," he answered with the same cold laugh. “Conceive the ridiculousness of the situation ! There was some dignity about heresy in the old days, when it meant short shrift, a white shirt, and the auto da fé. But an inquisition composed of Summerhayes the grocer, Hayes the saddler, and Miss Rayleigh the schoolmistress; and instead of Torquemada, the mild old Bishop of Darkdale and Dells !”
She laughed too, but somewhat anxiously. Then she said tenderly, with a certain worship:
“You are too good for such a place. They do not understand
His manner became serious in a moment.
“I have flattered my pride with such a thought, but after all have they not right on their side? They at least have a definite belief ; they at least are satisfied to worship in a ruin, and all they need is an automaton to lead their prayers. When they have stripped me bare, and driven me from the Church
“O Ambrose, will they do that?”
Certainly. It must come, sooner or later; perhaps the sooner the better. I am tired of my own hypocrisy-of frightening the poor fools with half-truths when the whole truth of unbelief is in my heart.”
“But you do believe," she pleaded; "in God and in our Saviour !”
"Not in the letter, dearest. In the spirit, certainly !"
“I shall not try. To attempt to do so would be another hypocrisy. I shall resign."
· And then? You will go away?”
“ Yes." But you
will take me with you?” He drew her gently to him ; he kissed her on the forehead.
“Why should you share my degradation ?” he said. “A minister who rejects or is rejected by his Church is a broken man, broken and despised. In these days martyrdom has no glory, no honour. You yourself would be the first to feel the ignominy of my situation, the wretchedness of a petty prosecution. It would be better, perhaps, for us to part.”
But with a look of ineffable sweetness and devotion, she crept closer to him, and laid her head upon his breast.
“We shall not part,” she said. “ Where you go I shall follow, as Rachel followed her beloved. Your country shall be my country, dearest, and your God my God!”
All the troubled voices of the night responded to that loving murmur. The moon rose up luminous into the open heaven above the abbey ruins, and flashed upon the two clinging frames, in answer to the earth's incan: ition.
What's an old letter but a rocket dark-
To the Right Reverend the Bishop of Darkdale and Dells. Right REVEREND SIR,–We the undersigned, churchwardens and parishioners of the church of St. Mary Flagellant, in the parish of Fensea and diocese of Dells, feel it our duty to call your lordship's attention to the conduct of the Rev. Ambrose Bradley, vicar of Fensea aforesaid. It is not without great hesitation that we have come to the conclusion that some sort of an inquiry is necessary. For many months past the parish pulpit has been scandalised by opinions which, coming from the pulpit of a Christian church, have caused the greatest astonishment and horror ; but the affair reached its culmination last Ascension Day, when the Vicar actually expressed his scepticism as to many of the Christian miracles, and