He was so startled that he took a step backward. She remained with her hand outstretched.

Was that only the result of the eloquent expression of his views—that outstretched hand which was offered to him for an instant only as a symbol of its withdrawal from him forever?

“You cannot mean——”

“Good-by,” said she.

“Have I not explained all that seemed to you to stand in need of explanation?” he asked.

“The book—the book remains. I asked for no explanation,” said she.

“But you are too good, too reasonable, to dismiss me in this fashion, Phyllis. Why, even the bishop—would sit upon a fence to see how the book would be received by the public before taking action against the author,” was what was in his mind, but he stopped short, and then added a phrase that had no reference to the bishop. “Can you ever have loved me?” was the phrase which he thought should appeal to her more forcibly than any reference to the bishop’s sense of what was opportune.

She took back her hand, and her eyes fell at the same moment that her face flushed.

He felt that he had not been astray in his estimate of the controversial value—in the eyes of a girl, of course—of the appeal which he made to her. A girl understands nothing of the soundness of an argument on a Biblical question (or any other), he thought; but she understands an appeal made to her by a man whom she had loved, and whom she therefore loves still, though something may have occurred to make her think otherwise.

“Can you ever have loved me?” he said again, and his voice was now more reproachful.

There was a pause before she said:

“That is the question which I have been asking myself for some time—ever since I read about that book. Oh, please, Mr. Holland, do not stay any longer! Cannot you see that if, after you have made an explanation that should satisfy any reasonable person, I still remain in my original way of thinking, I am not the woman who should be your wife?”

“You would see with my eyes if you were my wife,” he said, and he believed that she would, so large an amount of confidence had he in his own power to dominate a woman.

“Ah!” she said, “you have provided me with the strongest reason why I should never become your wife, Mr. Holland.”

“Do not say that, Phyllis!” he cried, in a low voice, almost a piteous voice. “I must have you with me in this great work which I feel has been given me to accomplish. I am prepared to make any sacrifice for the cause which I have at heart—the cause to which I mean to devote the rest of my life; but you—you—I must have you with me, Phyllis. Don’t give me an answer now. All I ask of you is to think over the whole matter from the standpoint of one who loves the truth, and who does not fear the result of those who are investigators. A few years ago the geologists were regarded as the enemies of the faith. Later the evolutionists were looked on with abhorrence. Had any clergyman ventured to assent to that doctrine which we now know to be the everlasting truth of the scheme of earthly life propounded by the Creator, he would have been compelled to leave the Church. I do not know what will happen to me, my Phyllis. No, no! do not say anything to me now. All that I ask of you is to think—think—think.”

“That is it—that is your modern scientific spirit!” she cried. “You, and such as you, say ‘think—think—think’ to us—to poor women and men who are asking for comfort, for protection against the evil of the world. You say ‘think—think—think,’ when you should say pray—pray—pray.’ Where are you going to end? you have begun by taking from us our Bible. What do you propose to give us in exchange for it? No—no, don’t answer me. I did not mean to enter into the question with you—to enter into any question with you. I have no right to do so.”

“You have every right, Phyllis. If I should cause offence to the least of the little ones of the flock with which I have been intrusted, it would be better that a millstone were hanged round my neck and that I were cast into the sea. You have a right to ask and it is laid on me to answer.”

“Then I decline to avail myself of the privilege; I will ask you nothing, except to say good-by.”

“I will not say it, Phyllis, and I will not hear you say it. Three months ago you told me that you loved me.”

“And I fancied that I did, but now——”

“Ah! you think that you have the power to cease loving at a moment’s notice? You will find out your mistake, my child. In love there are no good-bys. I take your hand now, but not to say good-by; I feel that you are still mine—that you will be mine more than ever when you think—think—and pray.”

“Ah! You ask me to pray?”

“Pray—pray for me, child. I need the prayers of such as you, for I feel that my hour of deepest trial is drawing nigh. Do you fancy that I am the man to take back anything that I have written? Look at me, Phyllis; I tell you here that I will stand by everything that I have written. Whatever comes of it, the book remains. Even if I lose all that I have worked for,—even if I lose you,—I will still say ‘the book remains.’ I am ready to suffer for it. I say in all humility that I believe God will give me grace to die for it.”

She had given him her hand. He was still holding it when he spoke his final sentence, looking, not into her face, but into a space beyond it. His eyes more than suggested the eyes of a martyr waiting undaunted for the lighting of the fagots. Suddenly he dropped her hand. He looked for a moment into her face. He saw that the tears were upon it. He turned and walked out of the room without a word.

No word came from her.

He knew that he had left her at exactly the right moment. She was undoubtedly annoyed by the publication of the book; but that was because she had read some reviews of it, and was, girl-like, under the impression that the murmur of the reviewers was the mighty voice that echoes round the world. He felt that she would think differently when his real persecution began. He looked forward with great hope to the result of his real persecution. She would never hold out against that. If the bishop would only take action at once and attempt to deprive him of his pastorate, there was nothing that he might not look for.

And then he reflected that on the following Sunday the church would be crowded to the doors. She would see that. She would see the thousands of the fashionable women—he hoped even for men—who would fill every available seat, every available standing place in the church, and who would all be anxious to hear his defense. That would show her that the publication of this book had raised him far above the heads of the ordinary clergyman who droned away, Sunday after Sunday, in half empty churches to congregations that never became interested. Yes, for many Sundays St. Chad’s would be crowded to the doors. And then he trusted that the bishop would take action against him, and in proportion to the severity of his persecution on the one hand would be his popularity on the other hand.

All this would, he felt, advance the cause which he had at heart; for he was thoroughly sincere in his belief that the views which he advocated in “Revised Versions” were calculated to place the Church on a firmer basis, and to cause it to appeal to those persons who, having been inculcated with the spirit of modern scientific inquiry, never entered a church porch.

He had not been guilty of an empty boast when he had expressed to her his readiness to die for the principles which he had enunciated with considerable clearness in his book; but, at the same time, when he was walking down Piccadilly he could not avoid the feeling that if he were only subjected to a vigorous persecution—a high-class persecution, of course, with the bishop at the head of it, he would be almost certain to win back Phyllis. Her desertion of him was undoubtedly a blow to him; but he thought that, after all, it was not unnatural that such as girl as she should be somewhat frightened at the boldness of the book which he had published. He had seen the day, not so very long ago, when he would have been frightened at it himself. At any rate he felt sure that Phyllis would be able to differentiate between the case of the author of “Revised Versions” and the case of the mediocre clergyman who defied his bishop on a question of—what was the question?—something concerning the twirling of his thumbs from east to west, instead of from west to east; yes, or an equally trivial matter. He trusted that she was too discriminating a girl to bracket him with that wretched, shallow-minded person who endeavored to pose as a martyr, because he would not be permitted to do whatever he tried to insist on doing. Mr. Holland thought it had something to say to the twirling of his thumbs at a certain part of the service for the day, but if anyone had said that his memory was at fault—that the contumacious curate only wanted to make some gestures at the psychological, or, perhaps, the spiritual, moment, he would not have been surprised. He had always thought that curate a very silly person. He thanked his God that he was not such a man, and he thought that he might trust Phyllis to understand the difference between the position which he assumed and the posturing of the silly curate.

His knowledge of her powers of discrimination was not at fault. Phyllis never for a moment thought of him as posturing. She did him more than justice. She regarded him as terribly in earnest; no man unless one who was terribly in earnest could have written that book—a book which she felt was bound to alienate from him all the people who had previously honored him and delighted to listen to his preaching. Someone had said in her hearing that the preaching of George Holland was, compared to the preaching of the average clergyman, as the electric light is to the gas—the gas of a street lamp. She had flushed with pleasure,—that had been six months ago,—when it first occurred to her that to be the wife of a distinguished clergyman, who was also a scholar, was the highest vocation to which a woman could aspire. She had told her father of this testimony to the ability of the rector of St. Chad’s—pride had been in her voice and eyes.

“The man who said that was a true critic,” her father had remarked. “Electric light? Quite so. In the absence of sunlight the electric light does extremely well for the requirements of the average man and woman. Your critic said nothing about volts?”

That was how her father became irritating to her occasionally—leading up to some phrase which he had in his collection of bric-a-brac. “Volts!”

Yes, she felt that the sincerity of George Holland would alienate from him all the people who had previously held him in high esteem. Although she was a daughter of Philistia, it had never occurred to her that there is such a thing as a succes scandale, and that the effect of such an incident in connection with the rector of a fashionable church rarely leads to his isolation.

She did George Holland more than justice, for she could not conceive his looking forward to a crowded and interested attendance at his church on the following Sunday and perhaps many successive Sundays. She could not conceive his thinking what effect the noticing of such an attendance would have upon her. To her, as to most girls, the heroic man is all heroic. The picture of the Duke of Marlborough taking a list of the linen to be sent to the wash while his troops were getting into position for a great battle is one from which they turn away. She could not think of George Holland’s calculating upon the effect of a crowded church, with newspaper reporters scattered throughout the building, taking down every word that might fall from his lips. She regarded him as a man who had been compelled, by the insidious influence of what he called scientific thought, to write a shocking book; but one that he certainly believed was destined to effect a great reform in the world. Her eyes had filled with tears as he stood before her with the gleam of martyrdom in his eyes, and for an instant she felt a woman’s impulse—that was a factor which George Holland had taken into consideration before he had spoken—to give both her hands to him and to promise to stand by his side in his hour of trial. But she thought of Ruth and restrained herself. Before he had reached the door she thought of him as the man from whom she had managed to escape before it was too late.

She wondered if any of those young women of the church, who had gone back to their butterfly garments on hearing that Mr. Holland had asked her to marry him, would hunt out the sober garments which they had discarded and wear them when they would hear that she was not going to marry Mr. Holland.

She rather thought that they would get new dresses and hats of the right degree of sobriety. Fashions change so quickly between February and May.

And then there was the question of sleeves!

Anyhow they would, she felt, regard themselves as having another chance. That was how they would put it.

Only for an instant did she become thoughtful. Then she sprang to her feet from the sofa on which she had thrown herself when her tears were threatening, and cried:

“Let them have him—let them all have him—all—all!”

That would have been absurd.

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