" DOCTOR, we miss Reuby,” said the Tew partners. And the good old people said it with feeling, — though, over and over, at winter's dusk, the boy had given a sharp rattle to their shop-door, and the warning bell called them away from their snug fire only to see his light pair of heels whisking around the corner of the Eagle Tavern. The mischief in the lad was, indeed, of such elastic, irrepressible temper, that even the gravest of the parishioners were disposed to regard it with a frown in which a comic pardon was always lurking. Perhaps this may have been by reason of the tender recollections of the poor young mother Rachel, who had so suddenly yielded up her life, and taken away the charm of her smiles to another country; or it may have been that the pranks of the parson’s boy found greater toleration by reason of their contrast with the sturdy and unyielding gravity of the Doctor ; they made up a good average of mirth for the household of the parsonage,— a sort of average which the wicked world craves, and which, it is to be feared, will be craved until we take on a wholly new moral shape. Or, to put the reflection in other form, if the Doctor’s immovable serenity was a type of the highest embodiment of good in this world, the playful humors of the boy were reckoned by the good-natured villagers as the most pardonable shape which the inevitable principle of evil that belongs to our heritage could possibly take on ; and thus, while the father challenged their admiration, only the more, by reason of the contrast, the boy challenged all their tenderest sympathies.
Even the Tourtelots “quite missed the boy ” ; though over and over the brindled cow of the Deacon was found to have slipped the bars, (a thing the orderly creature was never known to do of her own head.) and was reported at twilight by the sober-faced Reuben as strolling far down upon the Common.
It is but a small bit of canvas we have chosen for the painting in of these figures of ours ; and returning to the old town of Ashfield, as we do now, where the central interest must lie, there is little of change to declare, still less of dramatic incident. A serene quietude, year after year, is the characteristic of most of the interior New England towns. The elections come and go with their fury of previous declamation. The Squire presides over the deliberations of his party, and some leading Adams man presides over the deliberations of the other; even the boys are all Jackson men or Adams men ; but when the result is declared, there is an acquiescence on all hands that is beautiful to behold ; and in process of time, Mr. Troop, the postmaster, yields up the mail pouches and locks and canvas bags to some active little Jackson partisan with the utmost suavity, and smokes off his discontent upon the porch of the Eagle Tavern, under the very shadow of the tall hickory pole, which for one third of its height is protected by old wagon-tire heavily spiked on, against the axes of zealous political opponents.
The old blear-eyed Boody is not so cheery as we have seen him, although his party has won brilliant success. There is a sad story of domestic grief that has marked a new wrinkle in his forehead and given a droop to his eye, which, had all gone fairly, he might have weathered for ten years more. The glory of the ringleted Suke has indeed gone, as Phil had told ; but it has not gone in the way of marriage. God only knows where those pink cheeks are showing their graces now,— not, surely, in any home of hers, — not in any home at all. God only knows what repinings have come, all too late, over the glitter and the triumph of an hour, The elderly, grave ones shake their heads dismally over this fall, and talk of the terribly demoralizing associations amidst which the poor child has lived ; but do they ask themselves if they did their best to mend them ? Decoyed toward evil fast and frequently enough, without doubt; but were there any decoys, such as kind hands and welcoming words, in the other direction ? The meeting-house doors have, indeed, been always open, for the just and for the unjust. But have not the starched, good women of the parish been a little disposed to count the pretty tavernkeeper’s daughter as outside the fold — so far as all social influences were concerned— from the beginning? That exuberant life in her which led to the dance at a tavern ball, was there any palliative for it, — any hope for it, except to go on in the way of destruction ?
But we would not judge unjustly. Certain it is, that Miss Johns indulged in such scathing condemnation of the poor sinner as made Adèle shiver: with the spinster at least, there would be little hope for a Magdalen, or a child of a Magdalen. Nor could such as she fully understand the measured and subdued tone with which the good Doctor talked of a lapse from virtue which had so shocked the little community. But the parson lived so closely in that spiritual world where all his labor and love centred, that he saw under its ineffable light only two great ranks of people pressing toward the inevitable goal: a lesser rank, which had found favor of God ; and a greater, tumultuous one, toward whom his heart yearned, that with wavering and doubt and evil intention pressed on to destruction. What mattered to him the color of the sin, or who was he to judge it ? When the secret places of the heart were so full of wickedness, why anathematize above the rest those plague-spots which revealed themselves to mortals ? “ Fearful above all others,” he was wont to say, “will be those sins which, being kept cautiously smouldering through life, will, at the blast of the Archangel’s trump, blaze out in inextinguishable fire ! ”
The Doctor kept himself and his pulpit mostly free of that theological fermentation which in those years was going on throughout New England, —at least of all such forms of it as marked a division in the orthodox churches. If he had a leaning, it was certainly in favor of the utmost severity of Calvinism. He distrusted human philosophy, and would rather have accepted the theory of natural inability in all its harshness than see it explained away by any metaphysic subtilties that should seem to veil or place in doubt the paramount efficiency of the Spirit.
But though slow to accept theological reforms, the Doctor was not slow to advocate those which promised good influence upon public morals. Thus he had entered with zeal into the Temperance movement ; and after 1830, or 1832 at the latest, there was no private locker in the parsonage for any black bottle of choice Santa Cruz. His example had its bearing upon others of the parish ; and whether by dint of the Doctor’s effective preaching, or whether it were by reason of the dilapidated state of the buildings and the leaky condition of the stills, it is certain that about this time Deacon Simmons, of whom casual mention has been made, abandoned his distillery, and invested such spare capital as he chose to keep afloat in the business of his son-in-law, Mr. Bowrigg of New York, who had up to this time sold the Deacon’s gin upon commission.
Mr. Bowrigg was a thriving merchant, and continued his wholesale traffic with eminent success. In proof of this success, he astonished the good people of Ashfield by building, in the summer of 1833, at the instigation of his wife, an elegant country residence upon the main street of the town ; and the following year, the little Bowriggs — two daughters of blooming girl age—brought such a flutter of city ribbons and silks into the main aisle of the meeting-house as had not been seen in many a day. Anne and Sophia Bowrigg, aged respectively thirteen and fifteen, fell naturally into somewhat intimate associations with our little friends, Adèle and Rose : an association that was not much to the taste of the Doctor, who feared that under it Adèle might launch again into those old coquetries of dress against which Maverick had cautioned him, and which in their quiet country atmosphere had been subdued into a modest homeliness that was certainly very charming.
Miss Sophia, however, the elder of the two Bowrigg daughters, was a young lady not easily balked of her intent ; and conceiving a violent fondness for Adèle, whether by reason of the graces of her character, or by reason of her foreign speech, in which she could stammeringly join, to the great mystification of all others, she soon forced herselt into a patronizing intimacy with Adèle, and was a frequent visitor at the parsonage. With a great fund of assurance, a rare and unappeasable glibness of tongue, and that lack of refined delicacy which invariably belongs to such noisy demonstrativeness, Miss Sophia had after only one or two interviews ferreted out from Adèle all that the little stranger herself knew respecting her history.
“And not to know your mother, Adèle ! that’s so very queer ! ”
Adèle winces at this, but seems — to so coarse an observer— only preoccupied with her work.
“ Is n’t it queer ? ” persists the garrulous creature. “ I knew a girl in the city who did not see her mother after she was three, — think of that! But then, you know, she was a bad woman.”
The hot Provençal blood mounts to the cheek and brow of Adèle in an instant, and her eye flashes. But it is quite impossible to show anger in view of the stolid face of her companion, with nothing in it but an unthinking, girlish curiosity.
“We will talk of something else, Sophie.”
“ Oh ! then you don’t like to speak of it! Dear me ! I certainly won’t, then.”
Yet this rattle-brained girl has no real ill-nature ; and it is surprising what a number of such well-meaning people go blundering about society, inflicting cheerful wounds in all directions by mere reason of their bluntness and lack of all delicacy of feeling.
But it is by no means the first time the sensibilities of Adèle have been touched to the quick. She is approaching that age when they ripen with marvellous rapidity. There is never an evening now at that cheerful home of the Elderkins —lighted up as it is with the beaming smiles of that Christian mother, Mrs. Elderkin-—but there sweeps over the mind of the poor girl, at some interval in the games or the chat, a terrible sense of some great loss she has suffered, of which she knows not the limits, — a cruel sense of isolation in which she wanders, and on which comes betimes the recollection of a father’s kindly face, that in the growing distance makes her isolation seem even more appalling.
Rose, good soul, detects these humors by a keen, girlish instinct, and, gliding up to her, passes her arm around her, —
“ What is it now, Adèle, dear ? ”
And she, looking down at her, (for Adèle was the taller by half a head,) says, —
“ What a good mother you have, Rose ! ”
“Only that! ” —and Rose laughs gleefully for a moment, when, bethinking herself where the secret grief lay, her sweet face is overcast in an instant, and reaching up her two hands, she draws down the face of Adèle to hers, and kisses her on either cheek.
Phil, who is at a game of chess with Grace, pretends not to see this side demonstration ; but his next move is to sacrifice his only remaining castle in the most needless manner.
Dame Tourtelot, too, has pressed her womanly prerogative of knowing whatever could be known about the French girl who comes occasionally with Miss Eliza to her tea-drinkings, and who, with a native taste for music, is specially interested in the piano of Miss Almira.
“ It must be very tedious,” says the Dame, “to be so long away from home and from those that love you. Almiry, now, hardly goes for a week to Cousin Jerushy’s at Har’ford but she is a-frettin’ to be back in her old home. Don’t you feel it, Adeel ? ” (The Dame is not to be driven out of her own notions of pronunciation by any French accents.) “But don’t be down-hearted, my child ; it’s God’s providence that ’s brought you away from a Popish country.”
And she pushes her inquiries regarding the previous life of Adèle with an earnestness and an authoritative air which at times do not fail to provoke a passionate retort. To this the old lady is wholly unused ; and condemning her straightway as a hot-headed Romanist, it is to be feared that we must regard the Dame henceforth as one disposed to look upon the least favorable lights which may appear, whether in the past history of Adèle or in the developments to come.
The spinster, also, who is mistress of the parsonage, though never giving up her admiring patronage of Adèle, and governing her curiosity with far more tact than belongs to Dame Tourtelot, has yet shown a persistent zeal in pushing her investigations in regard to all that concerned the family history of her little protégée. She has lent an eager ear to all the communications which Maverick has addressed to the Doctor; and in moments of what seemed exceptional fondness, when she has toyed with the head-gear of Adèle, has plied the little brain with motherly questions that have somehow widely failed of their intent.
Under all this, Adèle ripens into a certain reserve and individuality of character which might never have belonged to her, had the earlier circumstances: of her life been altogether familiar to the circle in which she was placed. The Doctor fastens, perhaps, an undue reliance upon this growing reserve of hers : sure it is that an increasing confidence is establishing itself between them, which it is to be hoped nothing will shake.
And as for Phil, when the Squire teases him with his growing fondness for the little Jesuit of the parsonage, the boy, though past seventeen now, and “with views of his own,” (as most young men have at that age,) blushes like a girl.
Rose, seeing it, and her eyes flashing with sisterly pride, says to herself,—
“ Oh, I hope it may come true ! ”
FROM time to time Maverick had written in reply to the periodical reports of the Doctor, and always with unabating confidence in his discretion and kindness.
“I have remarked what you say” (he had written thus in a letter which had elicited the close attention of Miss Eliza) “ in regard to the rosary found among the girlish treasures of Adèle. I am not aware how she can have come by such a trinket from the source named ; but I must beg you to take as little notice as possible of the matter, and please allow her possession of it to remain entirely unremarked. I am specially anxious that no factitious importance be given to the relic by opposition to her wishes.”
Heavy losses incident to the political changes of the year 1831 in France had kept him fastened at his post; and with the reviving trade under the peaceful régime of Louis Philippe, he had been more actively engaged even than before. Yet there was no interruption to his correspondence with Adèle, and no falling off in its expressions of earnest affection and devotion.
“ I fancy you almost a woman grown now, dear Adèle. Those cheeks of yours have, I hope, not lost their roundness or their rosiness. But, however much you may have grown, I am sure that my heart would guide me so truly that I could single you out from a great crowd of the little Puritan people about you. I can fancy you in some simple New England dress, — in which I would rather see you, my child, than in the richest silks of those about me here,— gliding up the pathway that leads to the door of the old parsonage ; I can fancy you dropping a word of greeting to the good Doctor within his study (he must be wearing spectacles now); and at evening I seem to see you kneeling in the long back dining-room, as the parson leads in family prayer. Well, well, don’t forget to pray for your old father, my child. I shall be all the safer for it, in what the Doctor calls ‘ this wicked land.’ And what of Reuben, whose mischief, you told me, threatened such fearful results ? Sobered down, I suppose, long before this, wearing a stout jacket of homespun, driving home the ' keow ’ at night, and singing in the choir of a Sunday. Don’t lose your heart, Adèle, with any of the youngsters about you. I claim the whole of it ; and every day and every night mine beats for you, my child.”
And Adèle writes back : —
“ My heart is all yours, papa, — only why do you never come and take it ? So many, many years that I have not seen you !
“Yes, I like Ashfield still; it is almost a home to me now, you know. New Papa is very kind, but just as grave and stiff as at the first. I know he loves me, but he never tells me so. I don’t believe lie ever told Reuben so. But when I sing some song that he loves to hear, I see a little quirk by his temple, and a glistening in his eye, as he thanks me, that tells it plain enough ; and most of all when he prays, as he sometimes does after talking to me very gravely, with his arm tight clasped around me, oh, I am sure that he loves me ! — and indeed, and indeed, I love him back again !
“ It was funny what you said of Reuben ; for you must know that he is living in the city now, and happens upon us here sometimes with a very grand air, — as fine, I dare say, as the people about Marseilles. But I don't think I like him any better ; I don’t know if I like him as well. Miss Eliza is, of course, very proud of him, as she always was,”
As the nicer observing faculties or his child develop, — of which ample traces appear in her letters,— Maverick begs her to detail to him as fully as she can all the little events of her every-day life. He has an eagerness, which only an absent parent can feel, to know how his pet is received by those about her; and would supply himself, so far as he may, with a full picture of the scenes amid which his child is growing up. Sheet after sheet of this simple, girlish narrative of hers Maverick delights himself with, as he sits upon his balcony, after business hours, looking down upon the harbor of Marseilles.
“After morning prayers, which are very early, you know, Esther places the smoking dishes on the table, and New Papa asks a blessing, — always. Then he says, ‘ I hope Adaly has not forgotten her text of yesterday.’ And I repeat it to him. Such a quantity of texts as I can repeat now ! Then Aunt Eliza says, ‘ I hope, too, that Adèle will make no mistake in her “ Paradise Lost ” to-day. Are you sure you’ve not forgotten that lesson in the parsing, child?’ Indeed, papa, I can parse almost any page in the book.
“‘I think,’ says New Papa, appealing to Miss Eliza, ‘that Larkin may grease the wheels of the chaise this morning, and, if it should be fair, I will make a visit or two at the north end of the town ; and I think Adaly would like to go with me.’
“ ' Yes, dearly, New Papa,’ I say, — which is very true.
“And Miss Eliza says, very gravely, ' I am perfectly willing, Doctor.’
“After breakfast is over, Miss Eliza will sometimes walk with me a short way down the street, and will say to me, ‘ Hold yourself erect, Adèle ; walk trimly.’ She walks very trimly. Then we pass by the Hapgood house, which is one of the grand houses ; and I know the old Miss Hapgoods are looking through the blinds at us, though they never show themselves until they have taken out their curl-papers in the afternoon.
“ Dame Tourtelot is n’t so shy ; and we see her great, gaunt figure in a broad sun-bonnet, stooping down with her trowel, at work among the flower-patches before her door; and Miss Almira is reading at an upper window, in pink muslin. And when the Dame hears us, she lifts herself straight, sets her old flapping bonnet as square as she can, and stares through her spectacles until she has made us out ; then says, —
“ ‘ Good mornin’, Miss Johns. You ’re ’arly this mornin’.’
"'Quite early,’ says Miss Eliza. ‘ Your flowers are looking nicely, Mrs. Tourtelot.’
“‘Well, the pi’nys is blowed pretty good. Would n’t Adeel like a pi’ny ? ’
“ It's a great red monster of a flower, papa ; but I thank her for it, and put it in my belt. Then the Dame goes on to tell how she has shifted the striped grass, and how the bouncing-Bets are spreading, and where she means to put her nasturtiums the next year, and brandishes her trowel, as the brigands in the story-books brandish their swords.
“And Miss Eliza says, ‘Almira is at her reading, I see.’
“ ‘ Dear me ! ’ says the Dame, glancing up ; ‘ she’s always a-readin’. What with novils and histories, she’s injurin’ her health, Miss Johns, as sure as you ’re alive.’
“Then, as we set off again, — the Dame calling out some last word, and brandishing her trowel over the fence, — old Squire Elderkin comes swinging up the street with the ‘Courant’ in his hand ; and he lifts his hat, and says, ‘Good morning to you, Miss Johns; and how is the little French lady this morning ? Bright as ever, I see,’ (for he does n’t wait to be answered,) — “ a peony in her belt, and two roses in her cheeks.’ Yet my cheeks are not very red, papa ; but it 's his way. ....
“After school, I go for the drive with the Doctor, which I enjoy very much. I ask him about all the flowers along the way, and he tells me everything, and I have learned the names of all the birds ; and it is much better, I think, than learning at school. And he always says, ‘ It’s God’s infinite love, my child, that has given us all these beautiful things, and these songsters that choir His praises.’ When I hear him say it, I believe it, papa. I am very sure that the priest who came to see godmother was not a better man than he is.
“ Then, very often, he lifts my hand in his, and says, ‘ Adaly, my dear, God is very good to us, sinners though we are. We cannot tell His meaning always, but we may be very sure that He has only a good meaning. You do not know it, Adaly, but there was once a dear one, whom I loved perhaps too well ; — she was the mother of my poor Reuben ; God only knows how I loved her ! But He took her from me.’ — Oh, how the hand of New Papa griped on mine, when he said this !—‘ He took her from me, my child ; He has carried her to His home. He is just. Learn to love Him, Adaly. The love we give to Him we can carry with us always. He does not die and leave us. He is everywhere. The birds are messengers of His, when they sing; the flowers you love come from His bounty: oh, Adaly, can you not, will you not, love Him ? ’
“ ‘ I do ! I do ! ’ I said.
“He looked me full in the face, (I shall never forget how he looked.) ' Ah, Adaly, is this a fantasy of yours,’ said he, ‘ or is it true ? Could you give up the world and all its charms, could you forego the admiration and the love of all others, if only He who is the Saviour of us all would smile upon you ? ’
“ I felt I could,— I felt I could, papa.
“ But then, directly after, he repeated to me some of those dreary things I had been used to hear in the Catechism week after week. I was so sorry he repeated them, for they seemed to give a change to all my thought. I am sure I was trustful before, when he talked to me so earnestly ; but when he repeated only what I had learned over and over, every Saturday night, then I am afraid my faith drooped.
“ ‘ Don't tell me that, New Papa,’ said I, ‘ it is so old ; talk to me as you were talking.’
“And then the Doctor looked at me with the keenest eyes I ever .saw, and said,—
“ ‘ My child, are you right, and are the Doctors wrong ? '
Is it the Catechism that you call the Doctors?’ said I.
“ ‘ Yes,’ said he.
“ * But were they better men than you. New Papa ? ’
“‘All men alike, Adaly, all struggling toward the truth, —all wearying themselves to interpret it in such way that the world may accept it, and praise God who has given us His Son a sacrifice, by whom, and whom only, we may be saved.’ And at this he took my hand and said, ‘Adaly, trust Him !’
“By this time” (for Adele’s letter is a true transcript of a day) “ we have reached the door of some one of his people to whom he is to pay a visit. The blinds are all closed, and nothing seems to be stirring but a gray cat that is prowling about under the lilac bushes. Dobbins is hitched to the post, and the Doctor pounds away at the big knocker. Presently two or three white-headed children come peeping around the bushes, and rush away to tell who has come. After a little the stout mistress opens the door, and wipes her lingers on her apron, and shakes hands, and bounces into the keeping-room to throw up the window and open the blinds, and dusts off the great rocking-chair for the Doctor, and keeps saying all the while that they are ‘ very back’ard with the spring work, and she really had no time to slick up,’ and asks after Miss Eliza and Reuben, and the Tourtelots, and all the people on the street, so fast that I wonder she can keep her breath ; and the Doctor looks so calm, and has no time to say anything yet. Then she looks at me, ‘ Sissy is looking well,’ says she, and dashes out to bring in a great plate of gingerbread, which I never like at all, and say, ‘ No.’ But she says, ‘ It won’t hurt ye ; it a’n’t p’ison, child.’ So I find l must eat a little; and while I sit mumbling it, the Doctor and she talk on about a great deal I don’t understand, and I am glad when she bounces up again, and says, ‘ Sis would like to get some posies, p’raps,’ and leads me out of doors. ‘ There ’s lalocs, child, and flower-de-luce : pick what you want.’
“ So I go wandering among the beds along the garden, with the bees humming round me ; and there are great tufts of blue-bell, and spider-wort, and mosspink ; and the white-haired grandchildren come and put their faces to the paling, looking at me through the bars like animals in a cage ; and if I beckon to them, they glance at each other, and dash away.”
Thus much of Adèle’s account. But there are three or four more visits to complete the parson’s day. Possibly he comes upon some member of his flock in the field, when he draws up Dobbins to the fence, and his parishioner, spying the old chaise, leaves his team to blow a moment while he strides forward with his long ox-goad in hand, and, seating himself upon a stump within easy earshot, says, —
“ Good mornin’, Doctor.”
And the parson, in his kindly way, “ Good morning, Mr. Pettibone. Your family pretty well ? ”
“ Waäl, middlin’, Doctor, — only middlin’. Miss Pettibone is a-havin’ faintish spells along back ; complains o’ pain in her side.”
“ Sorry, sorry,” says the good man : and then, “ Your team is looking pretty well, Mr. Pettibone.”
“ Waäl, only tol’able, Doctor. That nigh ox, what with spring work an’ grass feed is gittin’ kind o’ thin in the flesh. Any news abaout, Doctor ? ”
“ Not that I learn, Mr. Pettibone. We ’re having fine growing weather for your crops.”
“ Waäl, only tol’able, Doctor. You see, arter them heavy spring rains, the sun has kind o’ baked the graound ; the seed don’t seem to start well. I don t know as you remember, but in ’29, along in the spring, we had jist sich a spell o’ wet, an’ corn hung back that season amazin’ly.”
“ Well, Mr. Pettibone, we must hope for the best: it 's all in God’s hands.”
“ Waäl, I s’pose it is, Doctor, — I s’pose it is.” And he makes a cut at a clover-head with the lash upon his oxgoad ; then — as if in recognition of the change of subject —he says,— “Any more talk on the street abaout repairin’ the ruff o’ the meetin’-house, Doctor ? ”
At sundown, all visits being paid, they go jogging into town again, — the Doctor silent by this time, and thinking of his sermon. Dobbins is tied always at the same post, — always the hitchrein buckled in the third hole from the end.
After tea, perhaps, Phil and Rose come sauntering by, and ask if Adèle will go up ‘ to the house ’ ? Which request, if Miss Eliza meet it with a nod of approval, puts Adèle by their side : Rose, with a beautiful recklessness common to New England girls of that day, wearing her hat drooping half down her neck, and baring her clear forehead to the falling night-dews. Phil, with a pebble in his hand, makes a feint of throwing into a flock of goslings that are waddling disturbedly after a pair of staid old geese, but is arrested by Rose’s prompt “ Behave, Phil ! ” The Squire is reading his paper by the evening lamp, but cannot forbear a greeting to Adèle : —
“ Ah, here we are again ! and how is Madamòizel ? ” (this is the Squire’s style of French.)—“ and has she brought me the peony ? Phil would have given his head for it, — eh, Phil ? ”
Rose is so bright, and glowing, and happy !
Mrs. Elderkin in her rocking-chair, with her gray hair carefully plaited under the white lace cap whose broad strings fall on either shoulder, is a picture of motherly dignity. Her pleasant “ Good evening, Adèle,” would alone have paid the warm-hearted exile for her walk.
Then follow games, chat, and an occasional noisy joke from the Squire, until the nine o’clock town-bell gives warning, and Adèle wends homeward under convoy of the gallant Phil.
“ Good night, Adèle ! ”
“ Good night, Phil ! ”
Only this at the gate. Then the Doctor's evening prayer ; and after it, — in the quiet chamber, where her sweet head lay upon the pillow, — dreams. With recollections more barren than those of most of her years, of any early home, Adèle still dreamed as hopefully as any of a home to come.
IN the autumn of 1836, Maverick wrote to his friend, the Doctor, that, in view of the settled condition of business, he intended to visit America some time in the course of the following season. He preferred, however, that Adèle should not be made acquainted with his expected coming. He believed that it would he a pleasant surprise for his child ; nor did he wish her anticipations of his arrival to divert her from the usual current of her study and every-day life.
“ Above all,” he writes, “ I wish to see her as she is, without any note of preparation. You will therefore, I beg, my dear Johns, keep from her scrupulously all knowledge of my present intentions, (which may possibly miscarry, after all.) and let me see, to the very finest touch, whether of a ribbon or of a ringlet, how far you have New-Englandized my dear girl. I form a hundred pictures in my fancy ; but every new letter from her somehow disturbs the old image, and another is conjured up. The only real thing in my mind is, after all, a little child of eight, rosy and piquantly coquettish, who slaps my cheek when I tease her, and who, as I bid her adieu at last upon the ship’s deck, looks through her tears at me and waves her little kerchief.
“ It is quite possible that I may manage for her return with me, (of this plan, too, I beg you to give no hint,) and in view of it I would suggest that any available occasion be seized upon to revive her knowledge of French, which, I fear, in your staid household she may almost have forgotten. Tell dear Adèle that I am sometimes at Le Pin, where her godmother never fails to inquire after her and call down blessings on the dear child.”
Upon this the Doctor and Miss Johns take counsel. Both are not a little disturbed by the anticipation of Adèle's leave. The grave Doctor finds his heart wrapped about by the winning ways of the little stranger in a manner he could hardly have conceived possible on the day when he first greeted her. On the score of her religious beliefs, he is not, indeed, as yet thoroughly satisfied ; but he feels sure that she is at least in a safe path. The old idols are broken: God, in His own time, will do the rest.
The spinster, though she has become unconsciously attached to Adèle to a degree of which she hardly believes herself capable, is yet not so much disconcerted by the thought of any violence to her affections, — for all violence of this kind she has schooled herself to regard with cool stoicism,—but the possible interruption of her ambitious schemes with respect to Reuben and Adèle discomposes her sadly. Such a scheme she has never given over for one moment. No plan of hers is ever given over lightly; and she has that persistent faith in her own sagacity and prudence which is not easily shaken. The growing intercourse with the Elderkins, in view of the evident devotion of Phil, has been, indeed, the source of a little uneasiness ; but even this intimacy she has moderated to a certain degree by occasional judicious fears in regard to Adèle's exposure to the night air; and has made the most—in her quiet manner— of Phil's exceptional, but somewhat noisy, attentions to that dashing girl, Sophie Bowrigg.
“ A very suitable match it would be,” she says some evening, casually, to the Doctor; “and I really think that Phil, if there were any seriousness about the lad, would meet his father’s wishes in the matter. Adèle, child,” (she is sitting by at her worsted,) “are you sure you’ve the right shade of brown there ?”
But, like most cool schemers in what concerns the affections, she makes her errors. Her assurance in regard to the improved habits and character of Reuben, and her iteration of the wonderful attachment which the Brindlocks bear to the lad, have a somewhat strained air to the ear of Adèle. And when the spinster says,—folding up his last letter, — “ Good fellow ! always some tender little message for you, my dear,” Adèle thinks —as most girls of her age would be apt to think — that she would like to see the tender message with her own eyes.
But what of the French? Where is there to be found a competent teacher ? Not, surely, in Ashfield. Miss Eliza, with grave doubts, however, suggests a winter in New York with the Brindlocks. The Doctor shakes his head : —
“ Not to be thought of, Eliza. It is enough that my boy should undergo the perils of such godless association: Adaly shall not.”
The question, however, of the desired opportunity is not confined to the parsonage ; it has currency up and down the street; and within a week the buoyant Miss Bowrigg comes to the rescue.
“ Delighted above all things to hear it. They have a charming teacher in the city, Madame Arles, who has the best accent. And now, Adèle, dear, you must come down and pass the winter with us. It will be charming.”
It is, indeed, a mere girlish proposal at first; but, much to the delight of Miss Eliza, it is abundantly confirmed by a formal invitation from Mrs. Bowrigg, a few weeks after, who, besides being attracted by the manners and character of Adèle, sees in it an admirable opportunity for the accomplishment of her daughters in French. Her demonstrative girls and a son of twenty comprise her family. For these reasons, she will regard it as a favor, if the Doctor will allow Miss Maverick to establish herself with them for the winter.
Miss Eliza is delighted with the scheme, but fears the cool judgment of the Doctor: and she has abundant reason.
“ It cannot be,” he said, and was quite inexorable.
The truth is, that Mrs. Bowrigg, like a good many educated with a narrow severity, had expanded her views under the city influences in directions that were by no means approved by the good Doctor. Hers was not only a godless household, but given over to the lusts of the eye and the pride of life. It was quite impossible for him to entertain the idea of submitting Adèle to any such worldly associations.
Miss Eliza pleaded the exigencies of the case in vain ; and even Adèle, attracted by the novelty of the proposed situation, urged her claim in the cheeriest little manner conceivable.
“Only for the winter, New Papa; please say ' Yes ’! ”
And the tender hands patted the grave face, as she seated herself with a childish coquetry upon the elbow of his chair.
“ Impossible, quite impossible,” says the Doctor. “ You are too dear to me, Adaly.”
“Oh, now, New Papa, you don’t mean that, — not positively ? ”—and the winning fingers tap his cheek again.
But for this time, at least, Adèle is to lose her claim ; the Doctor well knows that to suffer such endearments were to yield ; so he rises brusquely,—
“ I must be just, my child, to the charge your father has imposed upon me. It cannot be.”
It will not be counted strange, if a little ill-disguised petulance appeared in the face of Adèle that day and the next.
The winter of 1836-7 was a very severe one throughout New England. Perhaps it was in view of its severity, that, on or about New Year’s Day, there came to the parsonage a gift from Reuben for Adèle, in the shape of a fur tippet, very much to the gratification of Miss Eliza and to the pleasant surprise of the Doctor.
Rose and Phil, sitting by the fire next day, Rose says, in a timid voice, with less than her usual sprightliness,—
“ Do you know who has sent a beautiful fur tippet to Adèle, Phil ? ”
“ No,” says Phil, briskly. “ Who ? ”
“ Reuben,” says Rose,— in a tone as if a blush ran over her face at the utterance.
If there was one, however, Phil could not have seen it; he was looking steadfastly into the fire, and said only,—
“ I don’t care.”
A little after, (nothing having been said, meantime,) he has occasion to rearrange the wood upon the hearth, and does it with such preposterous violence that the timid little voice beside him says, —
“ Don’t, Phil, be angry with the fire ! ”
It was a winter, as we have said, for fur tippets and for glowing cheeks ; and Adèle had now been long enough under a Northern sky to partake of that exhilaration of spirits which belongs to every true-born New-Englander in presence of one of those old-fashioned snowstorms, which, all through the day and through the night, sifts out from the gray sky its fleecy crystals, — covering the frosted high-roads, covering the withered grasses, covering the whole summer’s wreck in one glorious white burial ; and after it, keen frosty mornings, the pleasant jingling of scores of bells, jets of white vapor from the nostrils of the prancing horses, and a quick electric tingle to the blood, that makes every pulse beat a thanksgiving. Squire Elderkin never made better jokes, the flame upon his hearth never danced more merrily,—the Doctor never preached better sermons, and the people never listened more patiently than in those weeks of the dead of winter.
But in the midst of them a black shadow fell upon the little town. News came overland, (the river being closed,) that Mrs. Bowrigg, after an illness of three days, was dead ; and the body of the poor woman was to come home for burial. She had been reared, as we have said, under a harsh regimen, and had signalized her married escape from the somewhat oppressive formalities of home by a pretty free entertainment of all the indulgences accessible in her new life. Not that she offended against any of the larger or lesser proprieties of society, but she showed a zest for the pleasures of the world, and for a certain measure of display, which had been the occasion of many a sober shake of the head along the streets of Ashfield, and the subject of particular commiseration on the part of the good Doctor.
Now that her brilliant career (as it seemed to many of the staid folk of Ashfield) was so suddenly closed, the Doctor could not forbear taking advantage of the opportunity to press home upon his people, under the influences of this sombre funeral procession, the vanities of the world and the fleeting character of its wealth and pride. “ We may build palaces,” said he, (and people thought of the elegant Bowrigg mansion.) “ but God locks the door and assigns to us a narrower home ; we may court the intoxicating air of cities, but its breath, in a day, may blast our strength, and, except He keep us, may blast our souls.” Never had the Doctor been more eloquent, and never had he so moved his people. After the evening prayer, Adèle stole into the study of the Doctor, and said,—
“ New Papa, it was well I stayed with you.”
The old gentleman took her hand in his, —
“ Right, I believe, Adaly ; but vain, utterly vain, except you be counted among the elect.”
The poor girl had no reply, save only to drop a kiss upon his forehead and pass out.
With the opening of the spring the townspeople were busy with the question, if the Bowriggs would come again to occupy their summer residence, that, with its closed doors and windows, was mournfully silent. But soon the gardeners were set to work ; it was understood that a housekeeper had been engaged, and the family were to occupy it as usual. Sophie writes to Adèle, confirming it all, and adding, — “Madame Arles had proposed to make us a visit, which papa hearing, and wishing us to keep up our studies, has given her an invitation to pass the summer with us. She says she will. I am so glad ! We had told her very much of you, and I know she will be delighted to have you as a scholar.”
At this Adele feels a thrill of satisfaction, and looks longingly forward to the time when she shall hear again from native lips the language of her childhood.
“Ma fille ! ma fille !"
The voices of her early home seem to ring again in her ear. She basks once more in the delicious flow of the sunshine, and the perfume of the orange-blossoms regales her.
—" Ma fille !"
Is it the echo of your voice, good old godmother, that comes rocking over the great reach of sea, and so touches the heart of the exile ?