“It is quite ridiculous, besides being untrue,” said Phyllis, when she had read the article in the newspaper to which her father called her attention one morning, a week after the criticism on “Cagliostro” had appeared. The article was headed:


and it came out in a weekly paper devoted to the interests of Nonconformists.

“It is with the deepest regret that we have to call the attention of our readers and the public [the article ran] to the series of charges brought by the Revs. Joseph Capper and Evans Jones, the eminent pioneers of the Nonconformist Eastern Mission, against a gentleman to whom a considerable amount of honor is just now being given by the Royal Geographical Society, the Ethnological Institute, the Ornithological Association, and other secular organizations, on account of his exploration in the Island of New Guinea. It is scarcely necessary to say that we allude to Mr. Herbert Courtland. The position which has been occupied for several years by the two distinguished ministers whose self sacrifice in endeavoring to spread the Light through the dark places of the tropical forests of a savage land is well known to the subscribers to the N. E. M., precludes the possibility of a mistake being made in this matter, and yet they declare in a letter which we publish this morning that the manner in which Mr. Courtland pursued his so-called explorations in the forests which line the banks of the Fly River has practically made impossible all attempts at mission work in that region. In several directions it is not denied that Mr. Courtland entered into friendly relations with some native tribes; but instead of endeavoring to make the poor benighted creatures acquainted with the Truth, he actually purchased as slaves over a hundred of them to aid him in penetrating the Kallolu forest, where, it will be remembered, he succeeded in shooting the much illustrated meteor-bird, as well as several other specimens which will delight the members of the Ornithological Association rather than professing Christians. Our distinguished correspondents state, and we have no room to doubt their word, that Mr. Courtland purchased his slaves by a promise to assist the head man of their tribe against his enemies belonging to another tribe—a promise which he only too amply fulfilled, the result being an indiscriminate slaughter of savages who, though avowed cannibals, might eventually have embraced the truths of Nonconformity. The elephant rifles of the explorer did their deadly work only too efficiently; but we trust that, for his own sake, Mr. Courtland will be able to bring forward trustworthy evidence to rebut the suspicion of his having upon at least one occasion induced even the friendly natives to believe that he possessed the power of the Deity to perform miracles, and upon another occasion of having used dynamite against them by which hundreds were destroyed in cold blood. It is the evil influences of such irresponsible men as Mr. Courtland, whose ill-directed enterprise we cannot in justice to him refrain from acknowledging, that retard the efforts of those noble pioneers of Nonconformity who have already made such sacrifices for the cause, and who rejoice at the difficulties with which they find themselves beset. We understand that a question will be put to the Minister for the Annexation Department in the House of Commons toward the latter end of the week, on the subject of the alleged excesses of the most recent explorer (so-called) of New Guinea—excesses which if committed in Bulgaria or Armenia, or even Ireland, would have called for an expression of the horror of Christian Europe; and we may mention that subscriptions on behalf of the Revs. Joseph Capper and Evans Jones will be received at the office of this paper to enable them to substantiate the truth of their statements.”

“It is quite ridiculous, besides being untrue, papa,” cried Phyllis; “and I hope that you will not fail to take his part and show the falsehood of such accusations. Could anything be more absurd than that about the slaves? Slaves! Dynamite!”

“Leading up to subscriptions—don’t forget that,” said her father. “If subscriptions are to be forthcoming, they must be got up. Traffic in human flesh, insults to aborigines, Siberia, the conversion of the Jews—all these appeal directly to the pockets of the Great English People. Any one of them will constitute an excellent peg on which to hang an appeal to the pocket. Those two distinguished pioneers of—well, shall we say civilization or Nonconformity?—understand their business, my dear.”

“It is no part of their business to try and hold a brave man up to the execration of everyone.”

“I’m not so sure of that. The technicalities of the mission field are not so apparent all at once. The Vineyard—well, the system of vine-culture of some of the organizations is a trifle obscure.”

Phyllis became impatient.

“The House of Commons—a question is to be asked in the House. Then you must ask another, papa, showing the nonsense of the first.”

“Heavens above! Why should I be dragged into the quarrel, if it is a quarrel, of Herbert Courtland on the one hand and the Reverends Joseph Capper and what’s the other, Smith—no, Jones—Evans Jones? I shouldn’t wonder if he is of Welsh extraction.”

“You will surely not stand passively by and hear a brave man slandered. That would be unlike you, papa. No; you are bound to protest against the falsehood.”

“Am I indeed? Why? Because the slandered man, if he is slandered, is the friend of my daughter’s friend?”

“Exactly—that’s quite sufficient for you to go upon—that and the falsehood.”

“If it is a falsehood.”

“If—oh, papa—if?”

“If I have your personal guarantee that the statements are unsubstantiated——”

“Now, you are beginning to jest. I cannot jest on so serious an issue. Think of it—slaves—dynamite!”

“Both excellent words for missionaries to send home to England—almost equal to opium and idols from the standpoint of the mission-box.”

Phyllis was solemn for a moment; then she burst into a merry laugh that only wanted a note of merriment to be delightful. Her father did not miss that note. He was thinking of another phrase.

“Now, why shouldn’t you say that or something like that, my father?” cried the girl. “Something to set the House laughing before the Minister of the Annexation Department has had time to reply? You can do it, you know.”

“I believe I could,” said Mr. Ayrton thoughtfully. “But why, my child; why?”

“Why! Why! Oh, if one only said good things when there was a reason for saying them, how dull we should all be! Any stick for a dog—any jest is good enough for the House of Commons.”

“Yes; but suppose it is inferred that I am not on the side of the missionaries? What about Hazelborough?”

Hazelborough was the constituency which Mr. Ayrton represented in the House of Commons.

“My dear father, where would you be if you couldn’t steer through the Hazelborough prejudices now and again? You can always say something so good as to make people not care which way it cuts.”

“What? Oh, Phyllis! I am ashamed of you. Besides, the people of Hazelborough have got to be extremely sensitive. They have caught the Nonconformist Conscience. The bacillus of the Nonconformist Conscience was rampant a short time ago, and it has not yet been stamped out. I’m afraid that I must have principle on my side—some show of principle, at any rate—not so wide as a church door or so deep as a well, but still——”

“And you will, too, papa. I’ll see Ella and get her to find out from Mr. Courtland what is the truth.”

“Well, perhaps it mightn’t be wise to rush into extremes all at once! I wouldn’t insist on the truth, if I were you. What’s the House of Commons that it should be cockered up with the truth? All that is needed is enough to go on with. An electro-plating of veracity is in keeping with the economic tendencies of the age.”

“I am not afraid of the truth,” cried Phyllis, without giving the cynicism of her father the tribute of a smile. “Mr. Courtland would, I know, be incapable of doing anything unworthy of—of——”

“Let us say an explorer,” suggested her father. He knew that the word which was in her mind was Englishman. She only checked herself when her imagination caused her to perceive the average silk-hatted man with his tongue in his cheek at the utterance of the phrase. “Let us say ‘unworthy of an explorer,’” repeated her father; “that is an elastic phrase.”

Phyllis was irritated.

“I have talked with him,” she said a trifle coldly.

“Yes,” said her father, “once.”

“I should have said that I know Ella.”

“And yet Ella is a woman!”

“Oh, the charges are too ridiculous! Slaves! What nonsense! We all know what slavery is. Well, where are his slaves now? If he only hired the natives for a month or two they were only servants, not slaves. The thing is manifestly ridiculous.”

“Then why should we trouble ourselves with the attempt to rebut it?”

“Because so many people are idiots nowadays,” cried Phyllis warmly. “Because, no matter how ridiculous a charge which is brought against a distinguished person may be, some people will be found ready to believe in its truth. Never mind; I’ll find out the truth; I’ll go to Ella.”

“The fountain-head indeed,” said Mr. Ayrton. “When in search of the truth, go to a woman.”

“I will, at any rate,” said Phyllis.

And she went thither.

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