EACH AFTER HIS OWN ORDER
With the passing years new feelings had grown up in the heart of Luke
Claridge. Once David's destiny and career were his own peculiar and self-assumed
responsibility. "Inwardly convicted," he had wrenched the lad away from the
natural circumstances of his life, and created a scheme of existence for him out
of his own conscience—a pious egoist.
After David went to Egypt, however, his mind involuntarily formed the
resolution that "Davy and God should work it out together."
He had grown very old in appearance, and his quiet face was almost painfully
white; but the eyes burned with more fire than in the past. As the day
approached when David should arrive in England, he walked by himself
continuously, oblivious of the world round him. He spoke to no one, save the
wizened Elder Meacham, and to John Fairley, who rightly felt that he had a share
in the making of Claridge Pasha.
With head perched in the air, and face half hidden in his great white collar,
the wizened Elder, stopping Luke Claridge in the street one day, said:
"Does thee think the lad will ride in Pharaoh's chariot here?"
There were sly lines of humour about the mouth of the wizened Elder as he
spoke, but Luke Claridge did not see.
"Pride is far from his heart," he answered portentously. "He will ride in no
chariot. He has written that he will walk here from Heddington, and none is to
"He will come by the cross-roads, perhaps," rejoined the other piously.
"Well, well, memory is a flower or a rod, as John Fox said, and the cross-roads
have memories for him."
Again flashes of humour crossed his face, for he had a wide humanity, of
"He has made full atonement, and thee does ill to recall the past, Reuben,"
rejoined the other sternly.
"If he has done no more that needs atonement than he did that day at the
cross-roads, then has his history been worthy of Hamley," rejoined the wizened
Elder, eyes shut and head buried in his collar. "Hamley made him—Hamley made
him. We did not spare advice, or example, or any correction that came to our
minds—indeed, it was almost a luxury. Think you, does he still play the flute—an
instrument none too grave, Luke?"
But, to this, Luke Claridge exclaimed impatiently and hastened on; and the
little wizened Elder chuckled to himself all the way to the house of John
Fairley. None in Hamley took such pride in David as did these two old men, who
had loved him from a child, but had discreetly hidden their favour, save to each
other. Many times they had met and prayed together in the weeks when his life
was in notorious danger in the Soudan.
As David walked through the streets of Heddington making for the open
country, he was conscious of a new feeling regarding the place. It was familiar,
but in a new sense. Its grimy, narrow streets, unlovely houses, with shut
windows, summer though it was, and no softening influences anywhere, save here
and there a box of sickly geraniums in the windows, all struck his mind in a way
they had never done before. A mile away were the green fields, the woods, the
roadsides gay with flowers and shrubs-loveliness was but over the wall, as it
were; yet here the barrack-like houses, the grey, harsh streets, seemed like
prison walls, and the people in them prisoners who, with every legal right to
call themselves free, were as much captives as the criminal on some small island
in a dangerous sea. Escape—where? Into the gulf of no work and degradation?
They never lifted their eyes above the day's labour. They were scarce
conscious of anything beyond. What were their pleasures? They had imitations of
pleasures. To them a funeral or a wedding, a riot or a vociferous band, a
dog-fight or a strike, were alike in this, that they quickened feelings which
carried them out of themselves, gave them a sense of intoxication.
Intoxication? David remembered the far-off day of his own wild rebellion in
Hamley. From that day forward he had better realised that in the hearts of so
many of the human race there was a passion to forget themselves; to blot out, if
for a moment only, the troubles of life and time; or, by creating a false air of
exaltation, to rise above them. Once in the desert, when men were dying round
him of fever and dysentery, he had been obliged, exhausted and ill, scarce able
to drag himself from his bed, to resort to an opiate to allay his own
sufferings, that he might minister to others. He remembered how, in the
atmosphere it had created—an intoxication, a soothing exhilaration and pervasive
thrill—he had saved so many of his followers. Since then the temptation had come
upon him often when trouble weighed or difficulties surrounded him—accompanied
always by recurrence of fever—to resort to the insidious medicine. Though he had
fought the temptation with every inch of his strength, he could too well
understand those who sought for "surcease of pain".
"Seeking for surcease of pain,
Pilgrim to Lethe I came;
Drank not, for pride was too keen,
Stung by the sound of a name!"
As the plough of action had gone deep into his life and laid bare his nature
to the light, there had been exposed things which struggled for life and power
in him, with the fiery strength which only evil has.
The western heavens were aglow. On every hand the gorse and the may were in
bloom, the lilacs were coming to their end, but wild rhododendrons were glowing
in the bracken, as he stepped along the road towards the place where he was
born. Though every tree and roadmark was familiar, yet he was conscious of a new
outlook. He had left these quiet scenes inexperienced and untravelled, to be
thrust suddenly into the thick of a struggle of nations over a sick land. He had
worked in a vortex of debilitating local intrigue. All who had to do with Egypt
gained except herself, and if she moved in revolt or agony, they threatened her.
Once when resisting the pressure and the threats of war of a foreign
diplomatist, he had, after a trying hour, written to Faith in a burst of
passionate complaint, and his letter had ended with these words.
"In your onward march, O men,
White of face, in promise whiter,
You unsheath the sword, and then
Blame the wronged as the fighter.
"Time, ah, Time, rolls onward o'er
All these foetid fields of evil,
While hard at the nation's core
Eats the burning rust and weevill
"Nathless, out beyond the stars
Reigns the Wiser and the Stronger,
Seeing in all strifes and wars
Who the wronged, who the wronger."
Privately he had spoken thus, but before the world he had given way to no
impulse, in silence finding safety from the temptation to diplomatic evasion.
Looking back over five years, he felt now that the sum of his accomplishment had
He did not realise the truth. When his hand was almost upon the object for
which he had toiled and striven—whether pacifying a tribe, meeting a loan by
honest means, building a barrage, irrigating the land, financing a new industry,
or experimenting in cotton—it suddenly eluded him. Nahoum had snatched it away
by subterranean wires. On such occasions Nahoum would shrug his shoulders, and
say with a sigh, "Ah, my friend, let us begin again. We are both young; time is
with us; and we will flourish palms in the face of Europe yet. We have our
course set by a bright star. We will continue."
Yet, withal, David was the true altruist. Even now as he walked this road
which led to his old home, dear to him beyond all else, his thoughts kept flying
to the Nile and to the desert.
Suddenly he stopped. He was at the cross-roads. Here he had met Kate Heaver,
here he had shamed his neighbours—and begun his work in life. He stood for a
moment, smiling, as he looked at the stone where he had sat those years ago, his
hand feeling instinctively for his flute. Presently he turned to the dusty road
Walking quickly away, he swung into the path of the wood which would bring
him by a short cut to Hamley, past Soolsby's cottage. Here was the old peace,
the old joy of solitude among the healing trees. Experience had broadened his
life, had given him a vast theatre of work; but the smell of the woods, the
touch of the turf, the whispering of the trees, the song of the birds, had the
ancient entry to his heart.
At last he emerged on the hill where Soolsby lived. He had not meant, if he
could help it, to speak to any one until he had entered the garden of the Red
Mansion, but he had inadvertently come upon this place where he had spent the
most momentous days of his life, and a feeling stronger than he cared to resist
drew him to the open doorway. The afternoon sun was beating in over the
threshold as he reached it, and, at his footstep, a figure started forward from
the shadow of a corner.
It was Kate Heaver.
Surprise, then pain showed in her face; she flushed, was agitated.
"I am sorry. It's too bad—it's hard on him you should see," she said in a
breath, and turned her head away for an instant; but presently looked him in the
face again, all trembling and eager. "He'll be sorry enough to-morrow," she
added solicitously, and drew away from something, she had been trying to hide.
Then David saw. On a bench against a wall lay old Soolsby—drunk. A cloud
passed across his face and left it pale.
"Of course," he said simply, and went over and touched the heaving shoulders
reflectively. "Poor Soolsby!"
"He's been sober four years—over four," she said eagerly. "When he knew you'd
come again, he got wild, and he would have the drink in spite of all. Walking
from Heddington, I saw him at the tavern, and brought him home."
"At the tavern—" David said reflectively.
"The Fox and Goose, sir." She turned her face away again, and David's head
came up with a quick motion. There it was, five years ago, that he had drunk at
the bar, and had fought Jasper Kimber.
"Poor fellow!" he said again, and listened to Soolsby's stertorous breathing,
as a physician looks at a patient whose case he cannot control, does not wholly
The hand of the sleeping man was suddenly raised, his head gave a jerk, and
he said mumblingly: "Claridge for ever!"
Kate nervously intervened. "It fair beat him, your coming back, sir. It's
awful temptation, the drink. I lived in it for years, and it's cruel hard to
fight it when you're worked up either way, sorrow or joy. There's a real
pleasure in being drunk, I'm sure. While it lasts you're rich, and you're young,
and you don't care what happens. It's kind of you to take it like this, sir,
seeing you've never been tempted and mightn't understand." David shook his head
sadly, and looked at Soolsby in silence.
"I don't suppose he took a quarter what he used to take, but it made him
drunk. 'Twas but a minute of madness. You've saved him right enough."
"I was not blaming him. I understand—I understand."
He looked at her clearly. She was healthy and fine-looking, with large,
eloquent eyes. Her dress was severe and quiet, as became her occupation—a plain,
dark grey, but the shapely fulness of the figure gave softness to the outlines.
It was no wonder Jasper Kimber wished to marry her; and, if he did, the future
of the man was sure. She had a temperament which might have made her an
adventuress—or an opera-singer. She had been touched in time, and she had never
"You are with Lady Eglington now, I have heard?" he asked.
"It was hard for you in London at first?"
She met his look steadily. "It was easy in a way. I could see round me what
was the right thing to do. Oh, that was what was so awful in the old life over
there at Heddington,"—she pointed beyond the hill, "we didn't know what was good
and what was bad. The poor people in big working-places like Heddington ain't
much better than heathens, leastways as to most things that matter. They haven't
got a sensible religion, not one that gets down into what they do. The parson
doesn't reach them—he talks about church and the sacraments, and they don't get
at what good it's going to do them. And the chapel preachers ain't much better.
They talk and sing and pray, when what the people want is light, and hot water,
and soap, and being shown how to live, and how to bring up children healthy and
strong, and decent-cooked food. I'd have food-hospitals if I could, and I'd give
the children in the schools one good meal a day. I'm sure the children of the
poor go wrong and bad more through the way they live than anything. If only they
was taught right—not as though they was paupers! Give me enough nurses of the
right sort, and enough good, plain cooks, and meat three times a week, and milk
and bread and rice and porridge every day, and I'd make a new place of any town
in England in a year. I'd—"
She stopped all at once, however, and flushing, said: "I didn't stop to think
I was talking to you, sir."
"I am glad you speak to me so," he answered gently. "You and I are both
reformers at heart."
"Me? I've done nothing, sir, not any good to anybody or anything."
"Not to Jasper Kimber?"
"You did that, sir; he says so; he says you made him."
A quick laugh passed David's lips. "Men are not made so easily. I think I
know the trowel and the mortar that built that wall! Thee will marry him,
Her eyes burned as she looked at him. She had been eternally dispossessed of
what every woman has the right to have—one memory possessing the elements of
beauty. Even if it remain but for the moment, yet that moment is hers by right
of her sex, which is denied the wider rights of those they love and serve. She
had tasted the cup of bitterness and drunk of the waters of sacrifice. Married
life had no lure for her. She wanted none of it. The seed of service had,
however, taken root in a nature full of fire and light and power, undisciplined
and undeveloped as it was. She wished to do something—the spirit of toil, the
first habit of the life of the poor, the natural medium for the good that may be
in them, had possession of her.
This man was to her the symbol of work. To have cared for his home, to have
looked after his daily needs, to have sheltered him humbly from little things,
would have been her one true happiness. And this was denied her. Had she been a
man, it would have been so easy. She could have offered to be his servant; could
have done those things which she could do better than any, since hers would be a
But even as she looked at him now, she had a flash of insight and prescience.
She had, from little things said or done, from newspapers marked and a hundred
small indications, made up her mind that her mistress's mind dwelt much upon
"the Egyptian." The thought flashed now that she might serve this man, after
all; that a day might come when she could say that she had played a part in his
happiness, in return for all he had done for her. Life had its chances—and
strange things had happened. In her own mind she had decided that her mistress
was not happy, and who could tell what might happen? Men did not live for ever!
The thought came and went, but it left behind a determination to answer David as
"I will not marry Jasper," she answered slowly. "I want work, not marriage."
"There would be both," he urged.
"With women there is the one or the other, not both."
"Thee could help him. He has done credit to himself, and he can do good work
for England. Thee can help him."
"I want work alone, not marriage, sir."
"He would pay thee his debt."
"He owes me nothing. What happened was no fault of his, but of the life we
were born in. He tired of me, and left me. Husbands tire of their wives, but
stay on and beat them."
"He drove thee mad almost, I remember."
"Wives go mad and are never cured, so many of them. I've seen them die, poor
things, and leave the little ones behind. I had the luck wi' me. I took the
right turning at the cross-roads yonder."
"Thee must be Jasper's wife if he asks thee again," he urged.
"He will come when I call, but I will not call," she answered.
"But still thee will marry him when the heart is ready," he persisted. "It
shall be ready soon. He needs thee. Good-bye, friend. Leave Soolsby alone. He
will be safe. And do not tell him that I have seen him so." He stooped over and
touched the old man's shoulder gently.
He held out his hand to her. She took it, then suddenly leaned over and
kissed it. She could not speak.
He stepped to the door and looked out. Behind the Red Mansion the sun was
setting, and the far garden looked cool and sweet. He gave a happy sigh, and
stepped out and down.
As he disappeared, the woman dropped into a chair, her arms upon a table. Her
body shook with sobs. She sat there for an hour, and then, when the sun was
setting, she left the drunken man sleeping, and made her way down the hill to
the Cloistered House. Entering, she was summoned to her mistress's room. "I did
not expect my lady so soon," she said, surprised.
"No; we came sooner than we expected. Where have you been?"
"At Soolsby's hut on the hill, my lady."
"Who is Soolsby?"
Kate told her all she knew, and of what had happened that afternoon—but not