When he arrived he made it his first business to find 'Widow
Walker.' She was evidently one of the worst of her class; and could
it have been accomplished without scandal, and without interfering
with the quietness upon which he believed that the true effect of
his labours in a large measure depended, he would not have scrupled
simply to carry off the child. With much difficulty, for the woman
was suspicious, he contrived to see her, and was at once reminded of
the child he had seen in the cart on the occasion of Shargar's
recognition of his mother. He fancied he saw in her some
resemblance to his friend Shargar. The affair ended in his paying
the woman a hundred and fifty pounds to give up the girl. Within
six months she had drunk herself to death. He took little Nancy
Kennedy home with him, and gave her in charge to his housekeeper.
She cried a good deal at first, and wanted to go back to Mother
Walker, but he had no great trouble with her after a time. She
began to take a share in the house-work, and at length to wait upon
him. Then Falconer began to see that he must cultivate relations
with other people in order to enlarge his means of helping the poor.
He nowise abandoned his conviction that whatever good he sought to
do or lent himself to aid must be effected entirely by individual
influence. He had little faith in societies, regarding them chiefly
as a wretched substitute, just better than nothing, for that help
which the neighbour is to give to his neighbour. Finding how the
unbelief of the best of the poor is occasioned by hopelessness in
privation, and the sufferings of those dear to them, he was
confident that only the personal communion of friendship could make
it possible for them to believe in God. Christians must be in the
world as He was in the world; and in proportion as the truth
radiated from them, the world would be able to believe in Him. Money
he saw to be worse than useless, except as a gracious outcome of
human feelings and brotherly love. He always insisted that the
Saviour healed only those on whom his humanity had laid hold; that
he demanded faith of them in order to make them regard him, that so
his personal being might enter into their hearts. Healing without
faith in its source would have done them harm instead of good--would
have been to them a windfall, not a Godsend; at best the gift of
magic, even sometimes the power of Satan casting out Satan. But he
must not therefore act as if he were the only one who could render
this individual aid, or as if men influencing the poor individually
could not aid each other in their individual labours. He soon
found, I say, that there were things he could not do without help,
and Nancy was his first perplexity. From this he was delivered in a
One afternoon he was prowling about Spitalfields, where he had made
many acquaintances amongst the silk-weavers and their families.
Hearing a loud voice as he passed down a stair from the visit he
had been paying further up the house, he went into the room whence
the sound came, for he knew a little of the occupant. He was one De
Fleuri, or as the neighbours called him, Diffleery, in whose
countenance, after generations of want and debasement, the delicate
lines and noble cast of his ancient race were yet emergent. This
man had lost his wife and three children, his whole family except a
daughter now sick, by a slow-consuming hunger; and he did not
believe there was a God that ruled in the earth. But he supported
his unbelief by no other argument than a hopeless bitter glance at
his empty loom. At this moment he sat silent--a rock against which
the noisy waves of a combative Bible-reader were breaking in rude
foam. His silence and apparent impassiveness angered the irreverent
little worthy. To Falconer's humour he looked a vulgar bull-terrier
barking at a noble, sad-faced staghound. His foolish arguments
against infidelity, drawn from Paley's Natural Theology, and tracts
about the inspiration of the Bible, touched the sore-hearted
unbelief of the man no nearer than the clangour of negro kettles
affects the eclipse of the sun. Falconer stood watching his
opportunity. Nor was the eager disputant long in affording him one.
Socratic fashion, Falconer asked him a question, and was answered;
followed it with another, which, after a little hesitation, was
likewise answered; then asked a third, the ready answer to which
involved such a flagrant contradiction of the first, that the poor
sorrowful weaver burst into a laugh of delight at the discomfiture
of his tormentor. After some stammering, and a confused attempt to
recover the line of argument, the would-be partizan of Deity roared
out, 'The fool hath said in his heart there is no God;' and with
this triumphant discharge of his swivel, turned and ran down the
Both laughed while the sound of his footsteps lasted. Then Falconer
'My. De Fleuri, I believe in God with all my heart, and soul, and
strength, and mind; though not in that poor creature's arguments. I
don't know that your unbelief is not better than his faith.'
'I am greatly obliged to you, Mr. Falconer. I haven't laughed so
for years. What right has he to come pestering me?'
'None whatever. But you must forgive him, because he is
well-meaning, and because his conceit has made a fool of him.
They're not all like him. But how is your daughter?'
'Very poorly, sir. She's going after the rest. A Spitalfields
weaver ought to be like the cats: they don't mind how many of their
kittens are drowned.'
'I beg your pardon. They don't like it. Only they forget it sooner
than we do.'
'Why do you say we, sir? You don't know anything of that sort.'
'The heart knows its own bitterness, De Fleuri--and finds it enough,
I dare say.'
The weaver was silent for a moment. When he spoke again, there was
a touch of tenderness in his respect.
'Will you go and see my poor Katey, sir?'
'Would she like to see me?'
'It does her good to see you. I never let that fellow go near her.
He may worry me as he pleases; but she shall die in peace. That is
all I can do for her.'
'Do you still persist in refusing help--for your daughter--I don't
mean for yourself?'
Not believing in God, De Fleuri would not be obliged to his fellow.
Falconer had never met with a similar instance.
'I do. I won't kill her, and I won't kill myself: I am not bound to
accept charity. It's all right. I only want to leave the whole
affair behind; and I sincerely hope there's nothing to come after.
If I were God, I should be ashamed of such a mess of a world.'
'Well, no doubt you would have made something more to your mind--and
better, too, if all you see were all there is to be seen. But I
didn't send that bore away to bore you myself. I'm going to see
'Very well, sir. I won't go up with you, for I won't interfere with
what you think proper to say to her.'
'That's rather like faith somewhere!' thought Falconer. 'Could that
man fail to believe in Jesus Christ if he only saw him--anything
like as he is?'
Katey lay in a room overhead; for though he lacked food, this man
contrived to pay for a separate room for his daughter, whom he
treated with far more respect than many gentlemen treat their wives.
Falconer found her lying on a wretched bed. Still it was a bed;
and many in the same house had no bed to lie on. He had just come
from a room overhead where lived a widow with four children. All of
them lay on a floor whence issued at night, by many holes, awful
rats. The children could not sleep for horror. They did not mind
the little ones, they said, but when the big ones came, they were
awake all night.
'Well, Katey, how are you?'
'No better, thank God.'
She spoke as her father had taught her. Her face was worn and thin,
but hardly death-like. Only extremes met in it--the hopelessness
had turned through quietude into comfort. Her hopelessness affected
him more than her father's. But there was nothing he could do for
There came a tap at the door.
'Come in,' said Falconer, involuntarily.
A lady in the dress of a Sister of Mercy entered with a large basket
on her arm. She started, and hesitated for a moment when she saw
him. He rose, thinking it better to go. She advanced to the
bedside. He turned at the door, and said,
'I won't say good-bye yet, Katey, for I'm going to have a chat with
your father, and if you will let me, I will look in again.'
As he turned he saw the lady kiss her on the forehead. At the sound
of his voice she started again, left the bedside and came towards
him. Whether he knew her by her face or her voice first, he could
'Robert,' she said, holding out her hand.
It was Mary St. John. Their hands met, joined fast, and lingered, as
they gazed each in the other's face. It was nearly fourteen years
since they had parted. The freshness of youth was gone from her
cheek, and the signs of middle age were present on her forehead.
But she was statelier, nobler, and gentler than ever. Falconer
looked at her calmly, with only a still swelling at the heart, as if
they met on the threshold of heaven. All the selfishness of passion
was gone, and the old earlier adoration, elevated and glorified, had
returned. He was a boy once more in the presence of a woman-angel.
She did not shrink from his gaze, she did not withdraw her hand
from his clasp.
'I am so glad, Robert!' was all she said.
'So am I,' he answered quietly. 'We may meet sometimes then?'
'Yes. Perhaps we can help each other.'
'You can help me,' said Falconer. 'I have a girl I don't know what
to do with.'
'Send her to me. I will take care of her.'
'I will bring her. But I must come and see you first.'
'That will tell you where I live,' she said, giving him a card.
'Till to-morrow,' said Falconer.
'She's not like that Bible fellow,' said De Fleuri, as he entered
his room again. 'She don't walk into your house as if it was her
He was leaning against his idle loom, which, like a dead thing,
filled the place with the mournfulness of death. Falconer took a
broken chair, the only one, and sat down.
'I am going to take a liberty with you, Mr. De Fleuri,' he said.
'As you please, Mr. Falconer.'
'I want to tell you the only fault I have to you.'
'You don't do anything for the people in the house. Whether you
believe in God or not, you ought to do what you can for your
He held that to help a neighbour is the strongest antidote to
unbelief, and an open door out of the bad air of one's own troubles,
De Fleuri laughed bitterly, and rubbed his hand up and down his
empty pocket. It was a pitiable action. Falconer understood it.
'There are better things than money: sympathy, for instance. You
could talk to them a little.'
'I have no sympathy, sir.'
'You would find you had, if you would let it out.'
'I should only make them more miserable. If I believed as you do,
now, there might be some use.'
'There's that widow with her four children in the garret. The poor
little things are tormented by the rats: couldn't you nail bits of
wood over their holes?'
De Fleuri laughed again.
'Where am I to get the bits of wood, except I pull down some of
those laths. And they wouldn't keep them out a night.'
'Couldn't you ask some carpenter?'
'I won't ask a favour.'
'I shouldn't mind asking, now.'
'That's because you don't know the bitterness of needing.'
'Fortunately, however, there's no occasion for it. You have no
right to refuse for another what you wouldn't accept for yourself.
Of course I could send in a man to do it; but if you would do it,
that would do her heart good. And that's what most wants doing good
to--isn't it, now?'
'I believe you're right there, sir. If it wasn't for the misery of
it, I shouldn't mind the hunger.'
'I should like to tell you how I came to go poking my nose into
other people's affairs. Would you like to hear my story now?'
'If you please, sir.'
A little pallid curiosity seemed to rouse itself in the heart of the
hopeless man. So Falconer began at once to tell him how he had been
brought up, describing the country and their ways of life, not
excluding his adventures with Shargar, until he saw that the man was
thoroughly interested. Then all at once, pulling out his watch, he
'But it's time I had my tea, and I haven't half done yet. I am not
fond of being hungry, like you, Mr. De Fleuri.'
The poor fellow could only manage a very dubious smile.
'I'll tell you what,' said Falconer, as if the thought had only just
struck him--'come home with me, and I'll give you the rest of it at
my own place.'
'You must excuse me, sir.'
'Bless my soul, the man's as proud as Lucifer! He wont accept a
neighbour's invitation to a cup of tea--for fear it should put him
under obligations, I suppose.'
'It's very kind of you, sir, to put it in that way; but I don't
choose to be taken in. You know very well it's not as one equal
asks another you ask me. It's charity.'
'Do I not behave to you as an equal?'
'But you know that don't make us equals.'
'But isn't there something better than being equals? Supposing, as
you will have it, that we're not equals, can't we be friends?'
'I hope so, sir.'
'Do you think now, Mr. De Fleuri, if you weren't something more to
me than a mere equal, I would go telling you my own history? But I
forgot: I have told you hardly anything yet. I have to tell you how
much nearer I am to your level than you think. I had the design too
of getting you to help me in the main object of my life. Come,
don't be a fool. I want you.'
'I can't leave Katey,' said the weaver, hesitatingly.
'Miss St. John is there still. I will ask her to stop till you come
Without waiting for an answer, he ran up the stairs, and had
speedily arranged with Miss St. John. Then taking his consent for
granted, he hurried De Fleuri away with him, and knowing how unfit a
man of his trade was for walking, irrespective of feebleness from
want, he called the first cab, and took him home. Here, over their
tea, which he judged the safest meal for a stomach unaccustomed to
food, he told him about his grandmother, and about Dr. Anderson, and
how he came to give himself to the work he was at, partly for its
own sake, partly in the hope of finding his father. He told him his
only clue to finding him; and that he had called on Mrs. Macallister
twice every week for two years, but had heard nothing of him. De
Fleuri listened with what rose to great interest before the story
was finished. And one of its ends at least was gained: the weaver
was at home with him. The poor fellow felt that such close relation
to an outcast, did indeed bring Falconer nearer to his own level.
'Do you want it kept a secret, sir?' he asked.
'I don't want it made a matter of gossip. But I do not mind how
many respectable people like yourself know of it.'
He said this with a vague hope of assistance.
Before they parted, the unaccustomed tears had visited the eyes of
De Fleuri, and he had consented not only to repair Mrs. Chisholm's
garret-floor, but to take in hand the expenditure of a certain sum
weekly, as he should judge expedient, for the people who lived in
that and the neighbouring houses--in no case, however, except of
sickness, or actual want of bread from want of work. Thus did
Falconer appoint a sorrow-made infidel to be the almoner of his
christian charity, knowing well that the nature of the Son of Man
was in him, and that to get him to do as the Son of Man did, in ever
so small a degree, was the readiest means of bringing his higher
nature to the birth. Nor did he ever repent the choice he had made.
When he waited upon Miss St. John the next day, he found her in the
ordinary dress of a lady. She received him with perfect confidence
and kindness, but there was no reference made to the past. She told
him that she had belonged to a sisterhood, but had left it a few
days before, believing she could do better without its restrictions.
'It was an act of cowardice,' she said,--'wearing the dress
yesterday. I had got used to it, and did not feel safe without it;
but I shall not wear it any more.'
'I think you are right,' said Falconer. 'The nearer any friendly act
is associated with the individual heart, without intervention of
class or creed, the more the humanity, which is the divinity of it,
He then told her about Nancy.
'I will keep her about myself for a while,' said Miss St. John,
'till I see what can be done with her. I know a good many people
who without being prepared, or perhaps able to take any trouble, are
yet ready to do a kindness when it is put in their way.'
'I feel more and more that I ought to make some friends,' said
Falconer; 'for I find my means of help reach but a little way. What
had I better do? I suppose I could get some introductions.--I
hardly know how.'
'That will easily be managed. I will take that in hand. If you
will accept invitations, you will soon know a good many people--of
all sorts,' she added with a smile.
About this time Falconer, having often felt the pressure of his
ignorance of legal affairs, and reflected whether it would not add
to his efficiency to rescue himself from it, began such a course of
study as would fit him for the profession of the law. Gifted with
splendid health, and if with a slow strength of grasping, yet with a
great power of holding, he set himself to work, and regularly read
for the bar.