“I like the way quite pale people blush,” he said.
“What do you want, Mr. Lane?”
“Ah! I see you appreciate my character. I want many things I can’t have—a great many.”
“No doubt,” said Claudia, still blushing under the mournful gaze which accompanied those words. “Do you want anything you can have?”
“Yes! I want you to stay several more weeks.”
“I’m going to stay.” said Claudia.
“How kind!” exclaimed Eugene.
“Do you know why?”
“My modesty forbids me to think.”
“I want, to see a lot of Father Stafford! Good-by, Mr. Lane. I’ll leave you to your private and particular understanding of Tennyson.”
“Hold your tongue,” she whispered, in tones of exasperation. “It’s very wicked and very impertinent—and the library door’s open, and Kate’s in there!”
Eugene fell back in his chair with a horrified look, and Claudia rushed into the house.
New Faces and Old Feuds.
There was, no doubt, some excuse for the interest that the ladies at Millstead Manor had betrayed on hearing the name of Father Stafford. In these days, when the discussion of theological topics has emerged from the study into the street, there to jostle persons engaged in their lawful business, a man who makes for himself a position as a prominent champion of any view becomes, to a considerable extent, a public character; and Charles Stafford’s career had excited much notice. Although still a young man but little past thirty, he was adored by a powerful body of followers, and received the even greater compliment of hearty detestation from all, both within and without the Church, to whom his views seemed dangerous and pernicious. He had administered a large parish with distinction; he had written a treatise of profound patristic learning and uncompromising sacerdotal pretensions. He had defended the institution of a celibate priesthood, and was known to have treated the Reformation with even less respect than it has been of late accustomed to receive. He had done more than all this: he had impressed all who met him with a character of absolute devotion and disinterestedness, and there were many who thought that a successor to the saints might be found in Stafford, if anywhere in this degenerate age. Yet though he was, or was thought to be, all this, his friends were yet loud in declaring—and ever foremost among them Eugene Lane—that a better, simpler, or more modest man did not exist. For the weakness of humanity, it may be added that Stafford’s appearance gave him fully the external aspect most suitable to the part his mind urged him to play; for he was tall and spare; his fine-cut face, clean shaven, displayed the penetrating eyes, prominent nose, and large mobile mouth that the memory associates with pictures of Italian prelates who were also statesmen. These personal characteristics, combined with his attitude on Church matters, caused him to be familiarly known among the flippant by the nickname of the Pope.