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_Other books by Robert Hugh Benson_

_The Light Invisible_
_By What Authority?_
_The King's Achievement_
_The History of Richard Reynall, Solitary_
_The Queen's Tragedy_
_The Religion of the Plain Man_
_The Sanctity of the Church_
_The Sentimentalists_
_Lord of the World_
_A Mirror of Shalott, composed of tales told at a symposium_
_Papers of a Pariah_
_The Conventionalists_
_The Holy Blissful Martyr Saint Thomas of Canterbury_
_The Dissolution of the Religious Houses_
_The Necromancers_
_Non-Catholic Denominations_
_None Other Gods_
_A Winnowing_
_Christ in the Church: a volume of religious essays_
_The Dawn of All_
_Come Rack! Come Rope!_
_The Coward_
_The Friendship of Christ_
_An Average Man_
_Confessions of a Convert_
_Paradoxes of Catholicism_
_Spiritual Letters of Monsignor R. Hugh Benson to one of his converts_
_Sermon Notes_


Robert Hugh Benson

First published in 1909.

Wildside Press
Doylestown, Pennsylvania

I must express my gratitude to the Rev. Father Augustine Howard,
O.P., who has kindly read this book in manuscript and favored me with
his criticisms.

--Robert Hugh Benson.

_Chapter I_


"I am very much distressed about it all," murmured Mrs. Baxter.

She was a small, delicate-looking old lady, very true to type indeed,
with the silvery hair of the devout widow crowned with an exquisite
lace cap, in a filmy black dress, with a complexion of precious china,
kind shortsighted blue eyes, and white blue-veined hands busy now upon
needlework. She bore about with her always an atmosphere of piety,
humble, tender, and sincere, but as persistent as the gentle
sandalwood aroma which breathed from her dress. Her theory of the
universe, as the girl who watched her now was beginning to find out,
was impregnable and unapproachable. Events which conflicted with it
were either not events, or they were so exceptional as to be
negligible. If she were hard pressed she emitted a pathetic
peevishness that rendered further argument impossible.

The room in which she sat reflected perfectly her personality. In
spite of the early Victorian date of the furniture, there was in its
arrangement and selection a taste so exquisite as to deprive it of
even a suspicion of Philistinism. Somehow the rosewood table on which
the September morning sun fell with serene beauty did not conflict as
it ought to have done with the Tudor paneling of the room. A tapestry
screen veiled the door into the hall, and soft curtains of velvety
gold hung on either side of the tall, modern windows leading to the
garden. For the rest, the furniture was charming and suitable--low
chairs, a tapestry couch, a multitude of little leather-covered books
on every table, and two low carved bookshelves on either side of the
door filled with poetry and devotion.

The girl who sat upright with her hands on her lap was of another type
altogether--of that type of which it is impossible to predicate
anything except that it makes itself felt in every company. Any
respectable astrologer would have had no difficulty in assigning her
birth to the sign of the Scorpion. In outward appearance she was not
remarkable, though extremely pleasing, and it was a pleasingness that
grew upon acquaintance. Her beauty, such as it was, was based upon a
good foundation: upon regular features, a slightly cleft rounded chin,
a quantity of dark coiled hair, and large, steady, serene brown
eyes. Her hands were not small, but beautifully shaped; her figure
slender, well made, and always at its ease in any attitude. In fact,
she had an air of repose, strength, and all-round competence; and,
contrasted with the other, she resembled a well-bred sheep-dog eyeing
an Angora cat.

They were talking now about Laurie Baxter.

"Dear Laurie is so impetuous and sensitive," murmured his mother,
drawing her needle softly through the silk, and then patting her
material, "and it is all terribly sad."

This was undeniable, and Maggie said nothing, though her lips opened
as if for speech. Then she closed them again, and sat watching the
twinkling fire of logs upon the hearth. Then once more Mrs. Baxter
took up the tale.

"When I first heard of the poor girl's death," she said, "it seemed to
me so providential. It would have been too dreadful if he had married
her. He was away from home, you know, on Thursday, when it happened;
but he was back here on Friday, and has been like--like a madman ever
since. I have done what I could, but--"

"Was she quite impossible?" asked the girl in her slow voice. "I never
saw her, you know."

Mrs. Baxter laid down her embroidery.

"My dear, she was. Well, I have not a word against her character, of
course. She was all that was good, I believe. But, you know, her home,
her father--well, what can you expect from a grocer--and a Baptist,"
she added, with a touch of vindictiveness.

"What was she like?" asked the girl, still with that meditative air.

"My dear, she was like--like a picture on a chocolate-box. I can say
no more than that. She was little and fair-haired, with a very pretty
complexion, and a ribbon in her hair always. Laurie brought her up
here to see me, you know--in the garden; I felt I could not bear to
have her in the house just yet, though, of course, it would have had
to have come. She spoke very carefully, but there was an unmistakable
accent. Once she left out an aitch, and then she said the word over
again quite right."

Maggie nodded gently, with a certain air of pity, and Mrs. Baxter went
on encouraged.

"She had a little stammer that--that Laurie thought very pretty, and
she had a restless little way of playing with her fingers as if on a
piano. Oh, my dear, it would have been too dreadful; and now, my poor

The old lady's eyes filled with compassionate tears, and she laid her
sewing down to fetch out a little lace-fringed pocket-handkerchief.

Maggie leaned back with one easy movement in her low chair, clasping
her hands behind her head; but she still said nothing. Mrs. Baxter
finished the little ceremony of wiping her eyes, and, still winking a
little, bending over her needlework, continued the commentary.

"Do try to help him, my dear. That was why I asked you to come back
yesterday. I wanted you to be in the house for the funeral. You see,
Laurie's becoming a Catholic at Oxford has brought you two together.
It's no good my talking to him about the religious side of it all; he
thinks I know nothing at all about the next world, though I'm sure--"

"Tell me," said the girl suddenly, still in the same attitude, "has he
been practicing his religion? You see, I haven't seen much of him this
year, and--"

"I'm afraid not very well," said the old lady tolerantly. "He thought
he was going to be a priest at first, you remember, and I'm sure I
should have made no objection; and then in the spring he seemed to be
getting rather tired of it all. I don't think he gets on with Father
Mahon very well. I don't think Father Mahon understands him quite. It
was he, you know, who told him not to be a priest, and I think that
discouraged poor Laurie."

"I see," said the girl shortly. And Mrs. Baxter applied herself again
to her sewing.

* * * * *

It was indeed a rather trying time for the old lady. She was a
tranquil and serene soul; and it seemed as if she were doomed to live
over a perpetual volcano. It was as pathetic as an amiable cat trying
to go to sleep on a rifle range; she was developing the jumps. The
first serious explosion had taken place two years before, when her
son, then in his third year at Oxford, had come back with the
announcement that Rome was the only home worthy to shelter his
aspiring soul, and that he must be received into the Church in six
weeks' time. She had produced little books for his edification, as in
duty bound, she had summoned Anglican divines to the rescue; but all
had been useless, and Laurie had gone back to Oxford as an avowed

She had soon become accustomed to the idea, and indeed, when the first
shock was over had not greatly disliked it, since her own adopted
daughter, of half French parentage, Margaret Marie Deronnais, had been
educated in the same faith, and was an eminently satisfactory person.
The next shock was Laurie's announcement of his intention to enter the
priesthood, and perhaps the Religious Life as well; but this too had
been tempered by the reflection that in that case Maggie would inherit
this house and carry on its traditions in a suitable manner. Maggie
had come to her, upon leaving her convent school three years before,
with a pleasant little income of her own--had come to her by an
arrangement made previously to her mother's death--and her manner of
life, her reasonableness, her adaptability, her presentableness had
reassured the old lady considerably as to the tolerableness of the
Roman Catholic religion. Indeed, once she had hoped that Laurie and
Maggie might come to an understanding that would prevent all possible
difficulty as to the future of his house and estate; but the fourth
volcanic storm had once more sent the world flying in pieces about
Mrs. Baxter's delicate ears; and, during the last three months she had
had to face the prospect of Laurie's bringing home as a bride the
rather underbred, pretty, stammering, pink and white daughter of a
Baptist grocer of the village.

This had been a terrible affair altogether; Laurie, as is the custom
of a certain kind of young male, had met, spoken to, and ultimately
kissed this Amy Nugent, on a certain summer evening as the stars came
out; but, with a chivalry not so common in such cases, had also
sincerely and simply fallen in love with her, with a romance usually
reserved for better-matched affections. It seemed, from Laurie's
conversation, that Amy was possessed of every grace of body, mind, and
soul required in one who was to be mistress of the great house; it was
not, so Laurie explained, at all a milkmaid kind of affair; he was not
the man, he said, to make a fool of himself over a pretty face.

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Keywords: impossible, oxford, either, nothing, certain, father, religion, church, rather, robert
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