This novel obtained immediate popularity, and caused great controversy over the fearless treatment of the theme. The children of the world are represented by a young doctor of philosophy, a strong, well-balanced character; his younger brother, an almost Christlike idealist; and their circle of friends and fellow-students, who, in spite of mistakes and eccentricities, bear the stamp of true nobility of soul. They are all either on the road to, or have already reached, what the children of God are pleased to call unbelief. In the portraiture of the differing camps there are no sharp contrasts, no unfair caricaturing, but an impartiality, a blending of one into the other, that makes one of the strongest claims of the book to attention.
then stood still a short time, listening, with her trembling body pressed close against the door, and her hands clenched on the latch. He walked slowly up a few steps, and then paused again, as if he had suddenly become absorbed in some dreamy thought. She shuddered, sighed heavily, and tottered back into the sitting-room. Her dress seemed too tight for her, for she slipped out of it like a butterfly from its chrysalis, and then in the airiest night costume, sat down at the open piano. It was an old, much-worn instrument, of very poor tone, and as she ran her slender fingers lightly over the keys, it sounded in the entry outside like the distant music of a harp.
The young man had just reached the topmost stair when he heard it.
"There! she is playing the sonata, after all," he said to himself. "A strange, obstinate person. What can she have suffered from fate? To-morrow I will take more notice of her. It's a pity she is so ugly, and yet--what does it matter? There is a charm in her finger-tips.