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The Higher Court by Mary Stewart Daggett

THE HIGHER COURT

BY MARY STEWART DAGGETT

Author of "Mariposilla," "The Broad Aisle," "Chinese Sketches," etc., etc.

RICHARD G. BADGER THE GORHAM PRESS BOSTON

_Copyright, 1911, by Richard G. Badger_

_All Rights Reserved_

_The Gorham Press, Boston, U. S. A._

To Comrades Three My Daughters R. D. H. D. H. M. D.

CHAPTER I

Father Barry's late interview with his bishop had been short, devoid of controversy. Too angry to deny the convenient charge of "modernism," he sought the street. Personal appeal seemed futile to the young priest cast down by the will of a superior. To escape from holy, overheated apartments had been his one impulse. Facing a January blizzard, his power to think consecutively returned, while for a moment he faltered, inclined to go back. The icy air struck him full in the face as he staggered forward. "The only way--and one practically hopeless," he choked. Appeal to the archbishop absorbed his mind as he pressed on, weighing uncertain odds of ecclesiastical favor. Suddenly he realized that he had strayed from main thoroughfares, was standing on a desolate bluff that rose significantly above colorless bottom lands and two frozen rivers. Wind sharpened to steel, with miles of ceaseless shifting, slashed his cheeks, cut into his full temples, his eyes. He bowed before the gust so passionately charged with his own rebellion. To-day he was a priest only in name. For the first time since his assumption of orders he faced truth and a miserable pretense to Catholic discipline. Desires half forgotten stood out, duly exaggerated by recent disappointment. An impulse sent him close to the precipitous ledge, but he moved backward. To give up life was not his wish. He was defeated, yet something held him, as in a mirage of fallen hopes he saw a woman's face and cried out. He had done no wrong. Until the bishop cast him down he was confident, able to justify esthetic joy in ritualistic service, which took the place of a natural human tie. Now he knew that his work, after all, but expressed a woman's exquisite charm. For through plans and absorbing efforts in behalf of a splendid cathedral he had been fooled into thinking that he had conquered the disappointment of his earlier manhood. The bishop had apparently smiled on a dazzling achievement, and young Father Barry plunged zealously into a great undertaking. To give his western city a noble structure for posterity became a ruling passion, and in a few months his eloquence in the pulpit, together with unremitting personal labor on plans and elevations, had made the church a certainty. Thousands of dollars, then hundreds of thousands, fattened a building fund. The bishop appeared to be pleased; later he was astounded; finally he grew jealous and eager to be rid of the priest who swayed with words and ruled where a venerable superior made slight impression. Consequently the charge of "modernism" fell like a bolt from a clear sky. Until to-day Father Barry had been absorbed in one idea. His cathedral had taken the place of all that a young man might naturally desire. When the


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