Ella Linton drove to a certain shop not far from Piccadilly,—the only shop where the arranging of feathers is treated as a science independent of the freaks of fashion,—and at the door she met a tall man with the complexion of mahogany but with fair hair and mustache. People nudged one another and whispered his name as they walked past him before standing at the shop window, pretending to admire the feathers, but in reality to glance furtively round at the man.

The name that they whispered to one another after the nudge was Herbert Courtland.

He took off his hat—it was a tall silk one, but no one who knew anything could avoid feeling that it should have been a solar toupee—when Mrs. Linton stepped from her victoria.

“Oh, you here!” said she. “Who on earth would expect to see you here?”

“You,” said he.


“You asked me a question. I answered it.”

She laughed as they walked together to the door of the feather shop.

“It appears to me that you have a very good opinion of yourself and a very bad one of me,” she remarked, smiling up to his face.

“That’s just where you make a mistake,” said he.


“If I did not think well of you I should not have ordered Parkinson to make you a fan of the tail of the meteor.”

“Oh, Bertie, you have done that?”

“Why should I not do it?”

“But it is the only one in the world.”

“Ah, that’s just it. You are the only one in the world.”

She laughed again, looking up to his face.

“Well, we’ll have a look at it, anyway,” said she.

They went into the shop to see the tail feathers of that wonderful meteor-bird which Herbert Courtland had just brought back from New Guinea with him—the most glorious thing that nature had produced and a great explorer had risked his life to acquire, in order that Mrs. Linton might have a unique feathered fan.

About the same time the Rev. George Holland met in the same thoroughfare his friend and patron, the Earl of Earlscourt.

“By the Lord Harry, you’ve done for yourself now, my hearty!” cried the earl. “What the blazes do you mean by attacking the Word of God in that fashion?”

“Tommy,” said the Rev. George Holland, smiling a patronizing smile at his patron, “Tommy, my friend, if you take my advice you’ll not meddle with what doesn’t concern you. You’re a peer; better leave the Word of God to me. I’m not a peer, but a parson.”

“I’ll not leave it with you; it isn’t safe,” said the peer. “Anything more damnably atheistical than that book of yours I never read.”

“And you didn’t read it, Thomas; you know you only read a screeching review of it, and you didn’t even read that through,” said the parson.

“Who told you that?” asked the patron. “Well, at any rate I read what you said about Ruth. It was quite scandalous! Ruth! Good Lord! what character is safe nowadays? One of the loveliest of the women of the Bible—my wife says so. She knows all about them. And the best painters in the world have shown her standing among the field of oats. By the Lord, sir, it’s sheer blasphemy! and worse than that, it’s making people—good, religious people, mind, not the ruck—it’s making them ask why the blazes I gave you the living. It’s a fact.”

“I’m sorry for you, Tommy—very sorry. I’m also sorry for your good religious people, and particularly sorry for the phraseology of their earnest inquiries on what I am sure is a matter of life and death to them—spiritually. That’s my last word, Thomas.”

“And you were doing so well at the Joss-house, too.” Lord Earlscourt was shaking his head sorrowfully, as he spoke. “We were all getting on so comfortably. That was what people said to me—they said——”

“Pardon me, I’m a parson, therefore I’m not particular; but I can’t stand the way your good religious people express themselves.”

“They said, ‘It’s so d—— pleasant to get hold of a parson who can be trusted in the pulpit—sermons with a good healthy moral tone, and so forth. You might bring your youngest daughter to St. Chad’s in the certainty that she would hear nothing that would make her ask uncomfortable questions when she got home.’ It’s a fact, they said that; and now you go and spoil all. The bishop will have a word to say to you some of these days, my lad. He ran away to the Continent, they tell me, when your book was published, and it’s perfectly well known that he never runs away unless things look serious. When the bishop is serious, those that can’t swim had best take to the boats.”

“I’ll ask you for a seat in your yacht, Tommy. Meantime kindest regards to her ladyship.”

“Oh! by the way, it’s not true, is it, that the girl has thrown you over on account of the book?”

For an instant there came a little flush to the face of the Rev. George Holland; then he shifted his umbrella from one hand to the other, saying:

“If you mean Phyllis, all I can say in reply is that she is the best and the truest girl alive at present. I’ve an engagement at a quarter-past six.”

“Well, good-by. It was my missus who said that the girl would throw you over on account of that book.”

“Ah! Good-by.”

“Honestly speaking, George, old man, I think you’ve made a mistake this time. People don’t mind much about Jacob and Jonah and Jeremiah and the whole job lot of Sheenies; but they do mind about Ruth. Hang it all man! she was a woman.”

“Ah! so was Jezebel, and yet—ah! good-by. I’ll be late for my appointment.”

“See you on Sunday,” said the earl, with a broadish smile.

And so he did.

So did the largest congregation that had ever assembled within the venerable walls of St. Chad’s. They heard him also, and so did the dozen reporters of the morning papers who were present—some to describe, with the subtle facetiousness of the newspaper reporter, the amusing occurrences incidental to the church service of the day, and others to take down his sermon to the extent of half a column to be headed “The Rev. George Holland Defends Himself.” One reporter, however, earned an increase in his salary by making his headline, “The Defense of Holland.” It was supposed that casual readers would fancy that the kingdom of Holland had been repelling an invader, and would not find out their mistake until they had read half through the sermon.

George Holland had not been mistaken when he had assumed that his appearance in the church and his sermon this day would attract a large amount of attention. As a matter of fact the building was crowded with notable persons: Cabinet ministers (2), judges of the superior courts (4), company promoters (47), actors and actresses (3), music hall and variety artists (22), Royal Academician (1). Literature was represented by a lady who had written a high-church novel, and fashion by the publisher who had produced it. Science appeared in the person of a professional thought-reader (female). These were all strangers to St. Chad’s, though some of them could follow the service quite easily. The habitues of the church included several peers, the members of a foreign embassy, a few outside brokers, quite a number of retired officers of both services, and some Members of Parliament and the London County Council.

One of the chaplains of the bishop occupied a seat in the aisle; according to the facetious newspaper he held a watching brief.

The rector was, of course, oblivious of his brilliant entourage. He could not even tell if Phyllis or her father were present. (As a matter of fact both were in their accustomed seats in their own pew.) He, as usual, took but a small part in the ritual—as Lord Earlscourt once remarked, George Holland wasn’t such a fool as to keep a dog and do the barking himself. (It has already been stated that he had a couple of excellent curates.) But the sermon was preached by himself, as indeed it usually was after the morning service.

It was the most brilliant of all his efforts. He took as his text the words, “All Scripture is given by inspiration and is profitable,” and he had no difficulty in showing how vast was the profit to be derived from a consideration of every portion of the sacred volume, it appeared to him, than the account given of the early history of the Hebrew race. That account appealed as an object lesson to all nations on the face of the earth. It allowed every people to see the course which the children of Israel had pursued at various periods of their existence and to profit by such observation. The Hebrews were a terrible example to all the world. If they were slaves when in the land of Egypt, that was their own fault. Milton had magnificently expressed the origin of slavery:

“He that hath light within his own clear breast May walk i’ the noontide and enjoy bright day, But he that hides dark deeds and foul thoughts. . . . Himself is his own dungeon.”

The bondage of Egypt was, he believed, self-imposed. There is no account available, he said, of the enslavement of the Children of Israel by the Egyptians, but a careful consideration of the history of various peoples shows beyond the possibility of a mistake being made, that only those become enslaved who are best fitted for enslavement. A king arose that knew not Joseph—a king who could not believe that at any time there was belonging to that race of strangers a man of supreme intelligence. The Israelites bowed their heads to the yoke of the superior race, the Egyptians, and took their rightful place as slaves. After many days a man of extraordinary intelligence appeared in the person of Moses. A patriot of patriots, he gave the race their God—they seemed to have lived in a perfectly Godless condition in Egypt; and their theology had to be constructed for them by their leader, as well as their laws: the laws for the desert wanderers, and a decalogue for all humanity. He was equal to any emergency, and he had no scruples. He almost succeeded in making a great nation out of a horde of superstitious robbers. Had he succeeded the record would have thrown civilization back a thousand years. Happy it was for the world that the triumph of crime was brief. The cement of bloodshed that kept the kingdom of Israel together for a time soon dissolved. Captivity followed captivity. For a thousand years no improvement whatever took place in the condition of the people—they had no arts; they lived in mud huts at a period when architecture reached a higher level than it had ever attained to previously. When the patriot prophets arose, endeavoring to reform them with words of fire—the sacred fire of truth—they killed them. One chance remained to them. They were offered a religion that would have purified them, in place of the superstition that had demoralized them, and they cried with one voice, as everyone who had known their history and their social characteristics knew they would cry, “Not this Man, but Barabbas.” That was from the earliest period in the history of the race the watchword of the Hebrews. Not the man, but the robber. All that is good and noble and true in manhood—the mercy, the compassion, the self-sacrifice that are comprised in true manhood—they cast beneath their feet, they spat upon, they crucified; but all of the Barabbas in man they embraced. Thus are they become a hissing in the earth, and properly so; for those who hiss at the spirit which has always animated Judaism show that they abhor a thing that is abhorrent. “All Scripture is profitable,” continued the preacher, “and practically all that is referred to in the text is an indictment of Judaism. The more earnestly we hold to this truth the greater will be the profit accruing to us from a consideration of the Scripture. But what more terrible indictment of the Hebrew systems could we have than that which is afforded us in the record that the father of the race had twelve sons? He had. But where are ten of them now? Swept out of existence without leaving a single record of their destruction even to their two surviving brethren.” He concluded his sermon by stating that he hoped it would be clearly understood that he recognized the fact that in England those members of the Hebrew community who had adopted the methods, the principles, the truths of Christianity even though they still maintained their ancient form of worship in their synagogues, were on a line with civilization. They searched their scriptures and these scriptures had been profitable to them, inasmuch as they had been taught by those scriptures how impossible it was for that form of superstition known as Judaism to be the guide for any people on the face of the earth.

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