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   Chapter 11 MASTER CALVIN

By What Authority? By Robert Hugh Benson Characters: 32867

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03


Isabel reached Northampton a day or two before Hubert came back to Great Keynes. She travelled down with two combined parties going to Leicester and Nottingham, sleeping at Leighton Buzzard on the way; and on the evening of the second day reached the house of her father's friend Dr. Carrington, that stood in the Market Square.

Her father's intention in sending her to this particular town and household was to show her how Puritanism, when carried to its extreme, was as orderly and disciplined a system, and was able to control the lives of its adherents, as well as the Catholicism whose influence on her character he found himself beginning to fear. But he wished also that she should be repelled to some extent by the merciless rigidity she would find at Northampton, and thus, after an oscillation or two come to rest in the quiet eclecticism of that middle position which he occupied himself.

The town indeed was at this time a miniature Geneva. There was something in the temper of its inhabitants that made it especially susceptible to the wave of Puritanism that was sweeping over England. Lollardy had flourished among them so far back as the reign of Richard II; when the mayor, as folks told one another with pride, had plucked a mass-priest by the vestment on the way to the altar in All Saints' Church, and had made him give over his mummery till the preacher had finished his sermon.

Dr. Carrington, too, a clean-shaven, blue-eyed, grey-haired man, churchwarden of Saint Sepulchre's, was a representative of the straitest views, and desperately in earnest. For him the world ranged itself into the redeemed and the damned; these two companies were the pivots of life for him; and every subject of mind or desire was significant only so far as it bore relations to be immutable decrees of God. But his fierce and merciless theological insistence was disguised by a real human tenderness and a marked courtesy of manner; and Isabel found him a kindly and thoughtful host.

Yet the mechanical strictness of the household, and the overpowering sense of the weightiness of life that it conveyed, was a revelation to Isabel. Dr. Carrington at family prayers was a tremendous figure, as he kneeled upright at the head of the table in the sombre dining-room; and it seemed to Isabel in her place that the pitiless all-seeing Presence that kept such terrifying silence as the Doctor cried on Jehovah, was almost a different God to that whom she knew in the morning parlour at home, to whom her father prayed with more familiarity but no less romance, and who answered in the sunshine that lay on the carpet, and the shadows of boughs that moved across it, and the chirp of the birds under the eaves. And all day long she thought she noticed the same difference; at Great Keynes life was made up of many parts, the love of family, the country doings, the worship of God, the garden, and the company of the Hall ladies; and the Presence of God interpenetrated all like light or fragrance; but here life was lived under the glare of His eye, and absorption in any detail apart from the consciousness of that encompassing Presence had the nature of sin.

On the Saturday after her arrival, as she was walking by the Nen with Kate Carrington, one of the two girls, she asked her about the crowd of ministers she had seen in the streets that morning.

"They have been to the Prophesyings," said Kate. "My father says that there is no exercise that sanctifies a godly young minister so quickly."

Kate went on to describe them further. The ministers assembled each Saturday at nine o'clock, and one of their number gave a short Bible-reading or lecture. Then all present were invited to join in the discussion; the less instructed would ask questions, the more experienced would answer, and debate would run high. Such a method Kate explained, who herself was a zealous and well instructed Calvinist, was the surest and swiftest road to truth, for every one held the open Scriptures in his hand, and interpreted and checked the speakers by the aid of that infallible guide.

"But if a man's judgment lead him wrong?" asked Isabel, who professedly admitted authority to have some place in matters of faith.

"All must hold the Apostles' Creed first of all," said Kate, "and must set his name to a paper declaring the Pope to be antichrist, with other truths upon it."

Isabel was puzzled; for it seemed now as if Private Judgment were not supreme among its professors; but she did not care to question further. It began to dawn upon her presently, however, why the Queen was so fierce against Prophesyings; for she saw that they exercised that spirit of exclusiveness, the property of Papist and Puritan alike; which, since it was the antithesis of the tolerant comprehensiveness of the Church of England, was also the enemy of the theological peace that Elizabeth was seeking to impose upon the country; and that it was for that reason that Papist and Puritan, sundered so far in theology, were united in suffering for conscience' sake.

On the Sunday morning Isabel went with Mrs. Carrington and the two girls to the round Templars' Church of Saint Sepulchre, for the Morning Prayer at eight o'clock, and then on to St. Peter's for the sermon. It was the latter function that was important in Puritan eyes; for the word preached was considered to have an almost sacramental force in the application of truth and grace to the soul; and crowds of people, with downcast eyes and in sombre dress, were pouring down the narrow streets from all the churches round, while the great bell beat out its summons from the Norman tower. The church was filled from end to end as they came in, meeting Dr. Carrington at the door, and they all passed up together to the pew reserved for the churchwarden, close beneath the pulpit.

As Isabel looked round her, it came upon her very forcibly what she had begun to notice even at Great Keynes, that the religion preached there did not fit the church in which it was set forth; and that, though great efforts had been made to conform the building to the worship. There had been no half measures at Northampton, for the Puritans had a loathing of what they called a "mingle-mangle." Altars, footpaces, and piscin? had been swept away and all marks of them removed, as well as the rood-loft and every image in the building; the stained windows had been replaced by plain glass painted white; the walls had been whitewashed from roof to floor, and every suspicion of colour erased except where texts of Scripture ran rigidly across the open wall spaces: "We are not under the Law, but under Grace," Isabel read opposite her, beneath the clerestory windows. And, above all, the point to which all lines and eyes converged, was occupied no longer by the Table but by the tribunal of the Lord. Yet underneath the disguise the old religion triumphed still. Beneath the great plain orderly scheme, without depth of shadows, dominated by the towering place of Proclamation where the crimson-faced herald waited to begin, the round arches and the elaborate mouldings, and the cool depths beyond the pillars, all declared that in the God for whom that temple was built, there was mystery as well as revelation, Love as well as Justice, condescension as well as Majesty, beauty as well as awfulness, invitations as well as eternal decrees.

Isabel looked up presently, as the people still streamed in, and watched the minister in his rustling Genevan gown, leaning with his elbows on the Bible that rested open on the great tasselled velvet cushion before him. Everything about him was on the grand scale; his great hands were clasped and protruded over the edge of the Book; and his heavy dark face looked menacingly round on the crowded church; he had the air of a melancholy giant about to engage in some tragic pleasure. But Isabel's instinctive dislike began to pass into positive terror so soon as he began to preach.

When the last comers had found a place, and the talking had stopped, he presently gave out his text, in a slow thunderous voice, that silenced the last whispers:

"What shall we then say to these things? If God be on our side, who can be against us?"

There were a few slow sentences, in a deep resonant voice, uttering each syllable deliberately like the explosion of a far-off gun, and in a minute or two he was in the thick of Calvin's smoky gospel. Doctrine, voice, and man were alike terrible and overpowering.

There lay the great scheme in a few minutes, seen by Isabel as though through the door of hell, illumined by the glare of the eternal embers. The huge merciless Will of God stood there before her, disclosed in all its awfulness, armed with thunders, moving on mighty wheels. The foreknowledge of God closed the question henceforth, and, if proof were needed, made predestination plain. There was man's destiny, irrevocably fixed, iron-bound, changeless and immovable as the laws of God's own being. Yet over the rigid and awful Face of God, flickered a faint light, named mercy; and this mercy vindicated its existence by demanding that some souls should escape the final and endless doom that was the due reward of every soul conceived and born in enmity against God and under the frown of His Justice.

Then, heralded too by wrath, the figure of Jesus began to glimmer through the thunderclouds; and Isabel lifted her eyes, to look in hope. But He was not as she had known him in His graciousness, and as He had revealed Himself to her in tender communion, and among the flowers and under the clear skies of Sussex. Here, in this echoing world of wrath He stood, pale and rigid, with lightning in His eyes, and the grim and crimson Cross behind him; and as powerless as His own Father Himself to save one poor timid despairing hoping soul against whom the Eternal Decree had gone forth. Jesus was stern and forbidding here, with the red glare of wrath on His Face too, instead of the rosy crown of Love upon His forehead; His mouth was closed with compressed lips which surely would only open to condemn; not that mouth, quivering and human, that had smiled and trembled and bent down from the Cross to kiss poor souls that could not hope, nor help themselves, that had smiled upon Isabel ever since she had known Him. It was appalling to this gentle maiden soul that had bloomed and rejoiced so long in the shadow of His healing, to be torn out of her retreat and set thus under the consuming noonday of the Justice of this Sun of white-hot Righteousness.

For, as she listened, it was all so miserably convincing; her own little essays of intellect and flights of hopeful imagination were caught up and whirled away in the strong rush of this man's argument; her timid expectancy that God was really Love, as she understood the word in the vision of her Saviour's Person,-this was dashed aside as a childish fancy; the vision of the Father of the Everlasting Arms receded into the realm of dreams; and instead there lowered overhead in this furious tempest of wrath a monstrous God with a stony Face and a stonier Heart, who was eternally either her torment or salvation; and Isabel thought, and trembled at the blasphemy, that if God were such as this, the one would be no less agony than the other. Was this man bearing false witness, not only against his neighbour, but far more awfully, against his God? But it was too convincing; it was built up on an iron hammered framework of a great man's intellect and made white hot with another great man's burning eloquence. But it seemed to Isabel now and again as if a thunder-voiced virile devil were proclaiming the Gospel of Everlasting shame. There he bent over the pulpit with flaming face and great compelling gestures that swayed the congregation, eliciting the emotions he desired, as the conductor's baton draws out the music (for the man was a great orator), and he stormed and roared and seemed to marshal the very powers of the world to come, compelling them by his nod, and interpreting them by his voice; and below him sat this poor child, tossed along on his eloquence, like a straw on a flood; and yet hating and resenting it and struggling to detach herself and disbelieve every word he spoke.

As the last sands were running out in his hour-glass, he came to harbour from this raging sea; and in a few deep resonant sentences, like those with which he began, he pictured the peace of the ransomed soul, that knows itself safe in the arms of God; that rejoices, even in this world, in the Light of His Face and the ecstasy of His embrace; that dwells by waters of comfort and lies down in the green pastures of the Heavenly Love; while, round this little island of salvation in an ocean of terror, the thunders of wrath sound only as the noise of surge on a far-off reef.

The effect on Isabel was very great. It was far more startling than her visit to London; there her quiet religion had received high sanction in the mystery of S. Paul's. But here it was the plainest Calvinism preached with immense power. The preacher's last words of peace were no peace to her. If it was necessary to pass those bellowing breakers of wrath to reach the Happy Country, then she had never reached it yet; she had lived so far in an illusion; her life had been spent in a fool's paradise, where the light and warmth and flowers were but artificial after all; and she knew that she had not the heart to set out again. Though she recognised dimly the compelling power of this religion, and that it was one which, if sincerely embraced, would make the smallest details of life momentous with eternal weight, yet she knew that her soul could never respond to it, and whether saved or damned that it could only cower in miserable despair under a Deity that was so sovereign as this.

So her heart was low and her eyes sad as she followed Mrs. Carrington out of church. Was this then really the Revelation of the Love of God in the Person of Jesus Christ? Had all that she knew as the Gospel melted down into this fiery lump?

The rest of the day did not alter the impression made on her mind. There was little talk, or evidence of any human fellowship, in the Carrington household on the Lord's Day; there was a word or two of grave commendation on the sermon during dinner; and in the afternoon there was the Evening Prayer to be attended in St. Sepulchre's followed by an exposition, and a public catechising on Calvin's questions and answers. Here the same awful doctrines reappeared, condensed with an icy reality, even more paralysing than the burning presentation of them in the morning's sermon. She was spared questions herself, as she was a stranger; and sat to hear girls of her own age and older men and women who looked as soft-hearted as herself, utter definitions of the method of salvation and the being and character of God that compelled the assent of her intellect, while they jarred with her spiritual experience as fiercely as brazen trumpets out of tune.

In the evening there followed further religious exercises in the dark dining-room, at the close of which Dr. Carrington read one of Mr. Calvin's Genevan discourses, from his tall chair at the head of the table. She looked at him at first, and wondered in her heart whether that man, with his clear gentle voice, and his pleasant old face crowned with iron-grey hair seen in the mellow candlelight, really believed in the terrible gospel of the morning; for she heard nothing of the academic discourse that he was reading now, and presently her eyes wandered away out of the windows to the pale night sky. There still glimmered a faint streak of light in the west across the Market Square; it seemed to her as a kind of mirror of her soul at this moment; the tender daylight had faded, though she could still discern the token of its presence far away, and as from behind the bars of a cage; but the night of God's wrath was fast blotting out the last touch of radiance from her despairing soul.

Dr. Carrington looked at her with courteous anxiety, but with approval too, as he held her hand for a moment as she said good-night to him. There were shadows of weariness and depression under her eyes, and the corners of her mouth drooped a little; and the doctor's heart stirred with hope that the Word of God had reached at last this lamb of His who had been fed too long on milk, and shelte

red from the sun; but who was now coming out, driven it might be, and unhappy, but still on its way to the plain and wholesome pastures of the Word that lay in the glow of the unveiled glory of God.

Isabel in her dark room upstairs was miserable; she stood long at her window her face pressed against the glass, and looked at the sky, from which the last streak of light had now died, and longed with all her might for her own oak room at home, with her prie-dieu and the familiar things about her; and the pines rustling outside in the sweet night-wind. It seemed to her as if an irresistible hand had plucked her out from those loved things and places, and that a penetrating eye were examining every corner of her soul. In one sense she believed herself nearer to God than ever before, but it was heartbreaking to find Him like this. She went to sleep with the same sense of a burdening Presence resting on her spirit.

The next morning Dr. Carrington saw her privately and explained to her a notice that she had not understood when it had been given out in church the day before. It was to the effect that the quarterly communion would be administered on the following Sunday, having been transferred that year from the Sunday after Michaelmas Day, and that she must hold herself in readiness on the Wednesday afternoon to undergo the examination that was enforced in every household in Northampton, at the hands of the Minister and Churchwardens.

"But you need not fear it, Mistress Norris," he said kindly, seeing her alarm. "My daughter Kate will tell you all that is needful."

Kate too told her it would be little more than formal in her case.

"The minister will not ask you much," she said, "for you are a stranger, and my father will vouch for you. He will ask you of irresistible grace, and of the Sacrament." And she gave her a couple of books from which she might summarise the answers; especially directing her attention to Calvin's Catechism, telling her that that was the book with which all the servants and apprentices were obliged to be familiar.

When Wednesday afternoon came, one by one the members of the household went before the inquisition that held its court in the dining-room; and last of all Isabel's turn came. The three gentlemen who sat in the middle of the long side of the table, with their backs to the light, half rose and bowed to her as she entered; and requested her to sit opposite to them. To her relief it was the Minister of St. Sepulchre's who was to examine her-he who had read the service and discoursed on the Catechism, not the morning preacher. He was a man who seemed a little ill at ease himself; he had none of the superb confidence of the preacher; but appeared to be one to whose natural character this stern r?le was not altogether congenial. He asked a few very simple questions; as to when she had last taken the Sacrament; how she would interpret the words, "This is my Body"; and looked almost grateful when she answered quietly and without heat. He asked her too three or four of the simpler questions which Kate had indicated to her; all of which she answered satisfactorily; and then desired to know whether she was in charity with all men; and whether she looked to Jesus Christ alone as her one Saviour. Finally he turned to Dr. Carrington, and wished to know whether Mistress Norris would come to the sacrament at five or nine o'clock, and Dr. Carrington answered that she would no doubt wish to come with his own wife and daughters at nine o'clock; which was the hour for the folks who were better to do. And so the inquisition ended much to Isabel's relief.

But this was a very extraordinary experience to her; it gave her a first glimpse into the rigid discipline that the extreme Puritans wished to see enforced everywhere; and with it a sense of corporate responsibility that she had not appreciated before; the congregation meant something to her now; she was no longer alone with her Lord individually, but understood that she was part of a body with various functions, and that the care of her soul was not merely a personal matter for herself, but involved her minister and the officers of the Church as well. It astonished her to think that this process was carried out on every individual who lived in the town in preparation for the sacrament on the following Sunday.

Isabel, and indeed the whole household, spent the Friday and Saturday in rigid and severe preparation. No flesh food was eaten on either of the days; and all the members of the family were supposed to spend several hours in their own rooms in prayer and meditation. She did not find this difficult, as she was well practised in solitude and prayer, and she scarcely left her room all Saturday except for meals.

"O Lord," Isabel repeated each morning and evening at her bedside during this week, "the blind dulness of our corrupt nature will not suffer us sufficiently to weigh these thy most ample benefits, yet, nevertheless, at the commandment of Jesus Christ our Lord, we present ourselves to this His table, which He hath left to be used in remembrance of His death until His coming again, to declare and witness before the world, that by Him alone we have received liberty and life; that by Him alone dost thou acknowledge us to be thy children and heirs; that by Him alone we have entrance to the throne of thy grace; that by Him alone we are possessed in our spiritual kingdom, to eat and drink at His table, with whom we have our conversation presently in heaven, and by whom our bodies shall be raised up again from the dust, and shall be placed with Him in that endless joy, which Thou, O Father of mercy, hast prepared for thine elect, before the foundation of the world was laid."

And so she prepared herself for that tryst with her Beloved in a foreign land where all was strange and unfamiliar about her: yet He was hourly drawing nearer, and she cried to Him day by day in these words so redolent to her with associations of past communions, and of moments of great spiritual elevation. The very use of the prayer this week was like a breeze of flowers to one in a wilderness.

On the Saturday night she ceremoniously washed her feet as her father had taught her; and lay down happier than she had been for days past, for to-morrow would bring the Lover of her soul.

On the Sunday all the household was astir early at their prayers, and about half-past eight o'clock all, including the servants who had just returned from the five o'clock service, assembled in the dining-room; the noise of the feet of those returning from church had ceased on the pavement of the square outside, and all was quiet except for the solemn sound of the bells, as Dr. Carrington offered extempore prayer for all who were fulfilling the Lord's ordinance on that day. And Isabel once more felt her heart yearn to a God who seemed Love after all.

St. Sepulchre's was nearly full when they arrived. The mahogany table had been brought down from the eastern wall to beneath the cupola, and stood there with a large white cloth, descending almost to the ground on every side; and a row of silver vessels, flat plates and tall new Communion cups and flagons, shone upon it. Isabel buried her face in her hands, and tried to withdraw into the solitude of her own soul; but the noise of the feet coming and going, and the talking on all sides of her, were terribly distracting. Presently four ministers entered and Isabel was startled to see, as she raised her face at the sudden silence, that none of them wore the prescribed surplice; for she had not been accustomed to the views of the extreme Puritans to whom this was a remnant of Popery; an indifferent thing indeed in itself, as they so often maintained; but far from indifferent when it was imposed by authority. One entered the pulpit; the other three took their places at the Holy Table; and after a metrical Psalm sung in the Genevan fashion, the service began. At the proper place the minister in the pulpit delivered an hour's sermon of the type to which Isabel was being now introduced for the first time; but bearing again and again on the point that the sacrament was a confession to the world of faith in Christ; it was in no sense a sacrificial act towards God, "as the Papists vainly taught"; this part of the sermon was spoiled, to Isabel's ears at least, by a flood of disagreeable words poured out against the popish doctrine; and the end of the sermon consisted of a searching exhortation to those who contemplated sin, who bore malice, who were in any way holding aloof from God, "to cast themselves mightily upon the love of the Redeemer, bewailing their sinful lives, and purposing to amend them." This act, wrought out in the silence of the soul even now would transfer the sinner from death unto life; and turn what threatened to be poison into a "lively and healthful food." Then he turned to those who came prepared and repentant, hungering and thirsting after the Bread of Life and the Wine that the Lord had mingled; and congratulated them on their possession of grace, and on the rich access of sanctification that would be theirs by a faithful reception of this comfortable sacrament; and then in half a dozen concluding sentences he preached Christ, as "food to the hungry; a stream to the thirsty; a rest for the weary. It is He alone, our dear Redeemer, who openeth the Kingdom of Heaven, to which may He vouchsafe to bring us for His Name's sake."

Isabel was astonished to see that the preacher did not descend from the pulpit after the sermon, but that as soon as he had announced that the mayor would sit at the Town Hall with the ministers and churchwardens on the following Thursday to inquire into the cases of all who had not presented themselves for Communion, he turned and began to busy himself with the great Bible that lay on the cushion. The service went on, and the conducting of it was shared among the three ministers standing, one at the centre of the table which was placed endways, and the others at the two ends. As the Prayer of Consecration was begun, Isabel hid her face as she was accustomed to do, for she believed it to be the principal part of the service, and waited for the silence that in her experience generally followed the Amen. But a voice immediately began from the pulpit, and she looked up, startled and distracted.

"Then Jesus said unto them," pealed out the preacher's voice, "All ye shall be offended by me this night, for it is written, I will smite the shepherd and the sheep shall be scattered. But after I am risen, I will go into Galilee before you."

Ah! why would not the man stop? Isabel did not want the past Saviour but the present now; not a dead record but a living experience; above all, not the minister but the great High Priest Himself.

"He began to be troubled and in great heaviness, and said unto them, My soul is very heavy, even unto the death; tarry here and watch."

The three ministers had communicated by now; and there was a rustle and clatter of feet as the empty seats in front, hung with houselling cloths, began to be filled. The murmur of the three voices below as the ministers passed along with the vessels were drowned by the tale of the Passion that rang out overhead.

"Couldest thou not watch one hour? Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation. The spirit indeed is ready, but the flesh is weak."

It was coming near to Isabel's turn; the Carringtons already were beginning to move; and in a moment or two she rose and followed them out. The people were pressing up the aisles; and as she stood waiting her turn to pass into the white-hung seat, she could not help noticing the disorder that prevailed; some knelt devoutly, some stood, some sat to receive the sacred elements; and all the while louder and louder, above the rustling and the loud whispering of the ministers and the shuffling of feet, the tale rose and fell on the cadences of the preacher's voice. Now it was her turn; she was kneeling with palms outstretched and closed eyes. Ah! would he not be silent for one moment? Could not the reality speak for itself, and its interpreter be still? Surely the King of Love needed no herald when Himself was here.

"And anon in the dawning, the high Priests held a Council with Elders and the Scribes and the whole Council, and bound Jesus and led Him away." ...

And so it was over presently, and she was back again in her seat, distracted and miserable; trying to pray, forcing herself to attend now to the reader, now to her Saviour with whom she believed herself in intimate union, and finding nothing but dryness and distraction everywhere. How interminable it was! She opened her eyes, and what she saw amazed and absorbed her for a few moments; some were sitting back and talking; some looking cheerfully about them as if at a public entertainment; one man especially overwhelmed her imagination; with a great red face and neck like a butcher, animal and brutal, with a heavy hanging jowl and little narrow lack-lustre eyes-how bored and depressed he was by this long obligatory ceremony! Then once more she closed her eyes in self-reproach at her distractions; here were her lips still fragrant with the Wine of God, the pressure of her Beloved's arm still about her; and these were her thoughts, settling like flies, on everything....

When she opened them again the last footsteps were passing down the aisle, the dripping Cups were being replaced by the ministers, and covered with napkins, and the tale of Easter was in telling from the pulpit like the promise of a brighter day.

"And they said one to another, Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulchre? And when they looked, they saw that the stone was rolled away (for it was a very great one)."

So read the minister and closed the book; and Our Father began.

In the evening, when all was over, and the prayers said and the expounding and catechising finished, in a kind of despair she slipped away alone, and walked a little by herself in the deepening twilight beside the river; and again she made effort after effort to catch some consciousness of grace from this Sacrament Sunday, so rare and so precious; but an oppression seemed to dwell in the very air. The low rain-clouds hung over the city, leaden and chill, the path where she walked was rank with the smell of dead leaves, and the trees and grass dripped with lifeless moisture. As she goaded and allured alternately her own fainting soul, it writhed and struggled but could not rise; there was no pungency of bitterness in her self-reproach, no thrill of joy in her aspiration; for the hand of Calvin's God lay heavy on the delicate languid thing.

She walked back at last in despair over the wet cobblestones of the empty market square; but as she came near the house, she saw that the square was not quite empty. A horse stood blowing and steaming before Dr. Carrington's door, and her own maid and Kate were standing hatless in the doorway looking up and down the street. Isabel's heart began to beat, and she walked quicker. In a moment Kate saw her, and began to beckon and call; and the maid ran to meet her.

"Mistress Isabel, Mistress Isabel," she cried, "make haste."

"What is it?" asked the girl, in sick foreboding.

"There is a man come from Great Keynes," began the maid, but Kate stopped her.

"Come in, Mistress Isabel," she said, "my father is waiting for you."

Dr. Carrington met her at the dining-room door; and his face was tender and full of emotion.

"What is it?" whispered the girl sharply. "Anthony?"

"Dear child," he said, "come in, and be brave."

There was a man standing in the room with cap and whip in hand, spurred and splashed from head to foot; Isabel recognised one of the grooms from the Hall.

"What is it?" she said again with a piteous sharpness.

Dr. Carrington laid his hands gently on her shoulders, and looked into her eyes.

"It is news of your father," he said, "from Lady Maxwell."

He paused, and the steady gleam of his eyes strengthened and quieted her, then he went on deliberately, "The Lord hath given and the Lord hath taken it."

He paused as if for an answer, but no answer came; Isabel was staring white-faced with parted lips into those strong blue eyes of his: and he finished:

"Blessed be the name of the Lord."

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