Doctor Johns

XXXIV.

REUBEN has in many respects vastly improved under his city education. It would be wrong to say that the good Doctor did not take a very human pride in his increased alertness of mind, in his vivacity, in his self-possession, — nay, even in that very air of world-acquaintance which now covered entirely the old homely manner of the country lad. He thought within himself, what a glad smile of triumph would have been kindled upon the face of the lost Rachel, could she but have seen this tall youth with his kindly attentions and his graceful speech. May-be she did see it all, — but with far other eyes, now. Was the child ripening into fellowship with the sainted mother ?

The Doctor underneath all his pride carried a great deal of anxious doubt; and as he walked beside his boy upon the thronged street, elated in some strange way by the touch of that strong arm of the youth, whose blood was his own, — so dearly his own,— he pondered gravely with himself, if the mocking delusions of the Evil One were not the occasion of his pride ? Was not Satan setting himself artfully to the work of quieting all sense of responsibility in regard to the lad’s future, by thus kindling in his old heart anew the vanities of the flesh and the pride of life ?

" I say, father, I want to put you through now. It 'll do you a great deal of good to see some of our wonders here in the city.”

“ The very voice, — the very voice of Rachel! ” says the Doctor to himself, quickening his laggard step to keep pace with Reuben.

“ There are such lots of things to show you, father! Look in this store, now. You can step in, if you like. It's the largest carpet-store in the United States, three stories packed full. There's the head man of the firm, — the stout man in a white choker ; with half a million, they say: he ’s a deacon in Mowry’s church.”

“ I hope, then, Reuben, that he makes a worthy use of his wealth.”

“ Oh, he gives thunderingly to the missionary societies,” said Reuben, with a glibness that grated on the father’s ear.

“ You see that building yonder ? That’s Gothic. They’ve got the finest bowling-alleys in the world there.”

“ I hope, my son, you never go to such places ? ”

“ Bowl ? Oh, yes, I bowl sometimes : the physicians recommend it ; good exercise for the chest. Besides, it ’s kept by a fine man, and he’s got one of the prettiest little trotting horses you ever saw in your life.”

“ Why, my son, you don’t mean to tell me that you know the keeper of this bowling-alley ? ”

“ Oh, yes, father,—we fellows all know him ; and he gave me a splendid cigar the last time I was there.”

“ You don’t mean to say that you smoke, Reuben ? ” said the old gentleman, gravely.

“ Not much, father : but then everybody smokes now and then. Mowry — Dr. Mowry smokes, you know ; and they say he has prime cigars.”

“Is it possible? Well, well!”

“ You see that fine building over there?” said Reuben, as they passed on.

“ Yes, my son.”

“ That’s the theatre,— the Old Park.”

The Doctor ran his eye over it, and its effigy of Shakspeare upon the niche in the wall, as Gabriel might have looked upon the armor of Beelzebub.

“ I hope, Reuben, you never enter those doors ? ”

“Well, father, since Kean and Mathews are gone, there !s really nothing worth the seeing.”

“ Kean ! Mathews ! ” said the Doctor, stopping in his walk and confronting Reuben with a stern brow, — “is it possible, my son, that I hear you talking in this familiar way of play-actors ? You don’t tell me that you have been a participant in such orgies of Satan ? ”

“ Why, father,” says Reuben, a little startled by the Doctor's earnestness, “the truth is, Aunt Mabel goes occasionally, like ’most all the ladies ; but we go, you know, to see the moral pieces, generally.”

“ Moral pieces ! moral pieces ! ” says the Doctor, with a withering scowl. “ Reuben ! those who go thither take hold on the door-posts of hell! ”

“That’s the Tract Society building yonder,” said Reuben, wishing to divert the Doctor, if possible, from the special object of his reflections.

“Rachel’s voice! — always Rachel’s voice ! ” — said the Doctor to himself.

“ Would you like to go in, father ? ”

“ No, my son, we have no time ; and yet”—meditating, and thrusting his hand in his pocket—“there is a tract or two I would like to buy for you, Reuben.”

“ Go in, then,” says Reuben. “ Let me tell them who you are, father, and you can get them at wholesale prices. It’s the merest song.”

“No, my son, no,” said the Doctor, disheartened by the blithe air of Reuben. “ I fear it would be wasted effort. Yet I trust that you do not wholly neglect the opportunities for religious instruction on the Sabbath ? ”

“ Oh, no,” says Reuben, gayly. “ I see Dr. Mowry off and on, pretty often. He ’s a clever old gentleman, — Dr. Mowry.”

Clever old gentleman !

The Doctor walked on oppressed with grief, —silent, but with lips moving in prayer,— beseeching God to take away the stony heart from this poor child of his, and to give him a heart of flesh.

Reuben had improved, as we said, by his New York schooling. He was quick of apprehension, well informed; and his familiarity with the countingroom of Mr. Brindlock had given him a business promptitude that was specially agreeable to the Doctor, whose habits in that regard were of woful slackness. But religiously, the good man looked upon his son as a castaway. It was only too apparent that Reuben had not derived the desired improvement from attendance at the FultonStreet Church. That attendance had been punctual, indeed, for nearly all the first year of his city life, in virtue of the inexorable habit of his education ; but Dr. Mowry had not won upon him by any personal magnetism. The city Doctor was a ponderously good man, preaching for the most part ponderous sermons, and possessed of a most imposing friendliness of manner. When Reuben had presented to him the credentials from his father, (which he could hardly have done, save for the urgency of the Brindlocks,) the ponderous Doctor had patted him upon the shoulder, and said,—

“ My young friend, your father is a most worthy man, — most worthy. I should be delighted to see you following in his steps. I shall be most glad to be of service to you. Our meetings for Bible instruction are on Wednesdays, at seven : the young men upon the left, the young ladies on the right.”

The Doctor appeared to Reuben a man solemnly preoccupied with the immensity of his charge ; and it seemed to him (though it was doubtless a wicked thought of the boy) that the ponderous minister would have counted it a matter of far smaller merit to instruct, and guide, and save a wanderer from the country, than to perform the same offices for a good fat sinner of the city.

As we have said, the memory of old teachings for a year or more made any divergence from the severe path of boyhood seem to Reuben a sin ; and these divergencies so multiplied by easy accessions as to have made him, after a time, look upon himself very confidently, and almost cheerily, as a reprobate. And if a reprobate, why not taste the Devil’s cup to the full ?

That first visit to the theatre was like a bold push into the very domain of Satan. Even the ticket-seller at the door seemed to him on that eventful night an understrapper of Beelzebub, who looked out at him with the goggle eyes of a demon. That such a man could have a family, or family affections, or friendships, or any sense of duty or honor, was to him a thing incomprehensible ; and when he passed the wicket for the first time into the vestibule of the old Park Theatre, the very usher in the corridor had to his eye a look like the Giant Dagon, and he conceived of him as mumbling, in his leisure moments, the flesh from human bones. And when at last the curtain rose, and the damp air came out upon him from behind the scenes as he sat in the pit, and the play began with some wonderful creature in tight bodice and painted cheeks, sailing across the stage, it seemed to him that the flames of Divine wrath might presently be bursting out over the house, or a great judgment of God break down the roof and destroy them all.

But it did not; and he took courage. It is so easy to find courage in those battles where we take no bodily harm ! If conscience, sharpened by the severe discipline he had known, pricked him awkwardly at the first, he bore the stings with a good deal of sturdiness. A sinner, no doubt, — that he knew long ago : a little slip, or indeed no slip at all, had ranked him with the unregenerate. Once a sinner, (thus he pleasantly reasoned,) and a fellow may as well be ten times a sinner: a bad job anyhow. If in his moments of reflection — these being not yet wholly crowded out from his life — there comes a shadowy hope of better things, of some moral poise that should be in keeping with the tenderer recollections of his boyhood, — all this can never come, (he bethinks himself, in view of his old teaching.) except on the heel of some terrible conviction of sin ; and the conviction will hardly come without some deeper and more damning weight of it than he feels as yet. A heavy cumulation of the weight may some day serve him a good turn. Thus the Devil twists his vague yearning for a condition of spiritual repose into a pleasantly smacking lash with which to scourge his grosser appetites ; so that, upon the whole, Reuben drives a fine, showy team along the high-road of indulgence.

Yet the minister's son had no love for gross vices ; there were human instincts in him (if it may be said) that rebelled against his more deliberate sinnings. Nay, he affected with his boon companions an enjoyment of wanton excesses that he only half felt. A certain adventurous, dare-devil reach in him craved exercise. The character of Reuben at this stage would surely have offered a good subject for the study and the handling of Dr. Mowry, if that worthy gentleman could have won his way to the lad’s confidence ; but the ponderous methods of the city parson showed no fineness of touch. Even the father, as we have seen, could not reach down to any religious convictions of the son ; and Reuben keeps him at bay with a banter, and an exaggerated attention to the personal comforts of the old gentleman, that utterly baffle him. Reuben holds too much in dread the old catechismal dogmas and the ultimate “anathema maran-atha.”

So it was with a profound sigh that the father bade his son adieu after this city visit.

“ Good bye, father ! Love to them all in Ashfield.”

So like Rachel’s voice ! So like Rachel’s ! And the heart of the old man yearned toward him and ached bitterly for him. “ O my son Absalom ! my son ! my son Absalom ! ”

XXXV.

MAVERICK hurried his departure from the city ; and Adèle, writing to Rose to announce the programme of her journey, says only this much of Reuben : — “We have of course seen R——> who was very attentive and kind. He has grown tall, — taller, I should think, than Phil; and he is quite well-looking and gentlemanly. I think he has a very good opinion of himself.”

The summer’s travel offered a season of rare enjoyment to Adèle. The lively sentiment of girlhood was not yet wholly gone, and the thoughtfulness of womanhood was just beginning to tone, without controlling, her sensibilities. The delicate attentions of Maverick were more like those of a lover than of a father. Through his ever watchful eyes, Adele looked upon the beauties of Nature with a new halo on them. How the water sparkled to her vision ! How the days came and went like golden dreams !

Ah, happy youth-time! The Hudson, Lake George, Saratoga, the Mountains, the Beach, — to us old stagers, who have breasted the tide of so many years, and flung off long ago all the iridescent sparkles of our sentiment, these are only names of summer throngingplaces. Upon the river we watch the growth of the crops, or ask our neighbors about the cost of our friend Faro’s new country-seat ; we lounge upon the piazzas of the hotels, reading price-lists, or (if not too old) an editorial; we complain of the windy currents upon the lake, and find our chiefest pleasure in a trout boiled plain, with a dressing of Champagne sauce ; we linger at Fabian’s on a sunny porch, talking politics with a rheumatic old gentleman in his overcoat, while the youngsters go ambling through the fir woods and up the mountains with shouts and laughter. Yet it was not always thus. There were times in the lives of us old travellers — let us say from sixteen to twenty — when the great river was a glorious legend trailing its storied length through the Highlands ; when in every opening valley there lay purple shadows whereon we painted castles ; when the corridors and shaded walks of the “ United States ” were like a fairy land, with flitting skirts and waving plumes, and some delicately gloved hand beating its reveille upon the heart; and when every floating film of mist along the sea, whether at Newport or Nahant, tenderly entreated the fancy.

But we forget ourselves, and we forget Adèle. In her wild exuberance of joy Maverick shares with a spirit that he had believed to be dead in him utterly. And if he finds it necessary to check from time to time the noisy effervescence of her pleasure, as he certainly does at the first, he does it in the most tender and considerate way ; and Adèle learns, what many of her warm-hearted sisters never do learn, that a well-bred control over our enthusiasms in no way diminishes the exquisiteness of their savor.

Maverick should be something over fifty now, and his keenness of observation in respect to feminine charms is not perhaps so great as it once was ; but even he cannot fail to see, with a pride that he makes no great effort to conceal, the admiring looks that follow the lithe, graceful figure of Adèle, wherever their journey may lead them. Nor, indeed, were there any more comely toilettes for a young girl to be met with anywhere than those which had been provided for the young traveller under the advice of Mrs. Brindlock.

It may be true — what his friend Papiol had predicted — that Maverick will be too proud of his child to keep her in a secluded corner of New England. For his pride there is certainly abundant reason ; and what father does not love to see the child of whom he is proud admired ?

Yet weeks had run by and Maverick had never once broached the question of a return. The truth was, that the new experience was so charming and so engrossing for him, the sweet, intelligent lace ever at his side was so full of eager wonder, and he so delightfully intent upon providing new sources of pleasure and calling out again and again the gushes of her girlish enthusiasm, that he shrunk instinctively from a decision in which must be involved so largely her future happiness.

At last it was Adèle herself who suggested the inquiry,—

“ Is it true, dear papa, what the Doctor tells me, that you may possibly take me back to France with you ? ”

“ What say you, Adèle ? Would you like to go ? ”

“ Dearly ! ”

“ But,” said Maverick, “your friends here, — can you so easily cast them away ? ”

“No, no, no!” said Adèle, — “not cast them away ! Could n't I come again some day ? Besides, there is your home, papa; I should love any home of yours, and love your friends.”

“ For instance, Adèle, there is my book-keeper, a lean Savoyard, who wears a red wig and spectacles, — and Lucille, a great, gaunt woman, with a golden crucifix about her neck, who keeps my little parlor in order, — and Papiol, a fat Frenchman, with a bristly moustache and iron-gray hair, who, I dare say, would want to kiss the pet of his dear friend,—and Jeannette, who washes the dishes for us, and wears great wooden sabots ”-

“ Nonsense, papa ! I am sure you have other friends ; and then there ’s the good godmother.”

“ Ah, yes, — she indeed,” said Maverick; “ what a precious hug she would give you, Adele ! ”

“And then — and then — should I see mamma ? ”

The pleasant humor died out of the face of Maverick on the instant; and then, in a slow, measured tone, —

“ Impossible, Adele, — impossible ! Come here, darling ! ” and as he fondled her in a wild, passionate way, “ I will love you for both, Adèle ; she was not worthy of you, child.”

Adele, too, is overcome with a sudden seriousness.

“Is she living, papa?” And she gives him an appealing look that must be answered.

And Maverick seems somehow appalled by that innocent, confiding expression of hers.

“ May-be, may-be, my darling ; she was living not long since ; yet it can never matter to you or me more. You will trust me in this, Adèle ? ” And he kisses her tenderly.

And she, returning the caress, but bursting into tears as she does so, says, —

“ I will, I do, papa.”

“ There, there, darling ! ” — as he folds her to him ; “no more tears,— no more tears, chérie!

But even while he says it, he is nervously searching his pockets, since there is a little dew that must be wiped from his own eyes. Maverick’s emotion, however, was but a little momentary contagious sympathy with the daughter, — he having no understanding of that unsatisfied yearning in her heart of which this sudden tumult of feeling was the passionate outbreak.

Meantime Adèle is not without her little mementos of the life at Ashfield, which come in the shape of thick double letters from that good girl Rose, — her dear, dear friend, who has been advised by the little traveller to what towns she should direct these tender missives ; and Adele is no sooner arrived at these postal stations than she sends for the budget which she knows must be waiting for her. And of course she has her own little pen in a certain travelling-escritoire the good papa has given her ; and she plies her white fingers with it often and often of an evening, after the day’s sight-seeing is over, to tell Rose, in return, what a charming journey she is having, and how kind papa is, and what a world of strange things she is seeing ; and there are descriptions of sunsets and sunrises, and of lakes and of mountains, on those close-written sheets of hers, which Rose, in her enthusiasm, declares to be equal to many descriptions in print. We dare say they were better than a great many such.

Poor Rose feels that she has only very humdrum stories to tell in return for these ; but she ekes out her letters pretty well, after all, and what they lack in novelty is made up in affection.

“ There is really nothing new to tell,” she writes, “except it be that our old friend, Miss Almira Tourtelot, astonished us all with a new bonnet last Sunday, and with new saffron ribbons; and she has come out, too, in the new tight sleeves, in which she looks drolly enough. Phil is very uneasy, now that his schooling is done, and talks of going to the West Indies about some business in which papa is concerned. I hope he will go, if he does n't stay too long. He is such a dear, good fellow ! Madame Arles asks after you, when I see her, which is not very often now ; for since the Doctor has come back from New York, he has had a new talk with mamma, and has quite won her over to his view of the matter. So good bye to French for the present! Heigho ! But I don’t know that I 'm sorry, now that you are not here, dear Ady.

“ Another queer thing I had almost forgotten to tell you. The poor Boody girl, — you must remember her ? Well, she has come back on a sudden ; and they say her father would not receive her in his house, — there are terrible stories about it ! — and now she is living with an old woman far out upon the river-road, — only a little garret-chamber for herself and the. child she brought back with her. Of course nobody goes near her, or looks at her, if she comes on the street. But — the queerest thing! — when Madame Arles heard of it and of her story, what does she do but walk far out to visit her, and talked with her in her broken English for an hour, they say. Papa says she (Madame A.) must be a very bad woman or a very good woman. Miss Johns says she always thought she was a bad woman. The Bowriggs are, of course, very indignant, and I doubt if Madame A. comes to Ashfield again with them.”

And again, at a later date, Rose writes, —

“The Bowriggs are all off for the winter, and the house closed. Reuben has been here on a flying visit to the parsonage ; and how proud Miss Eliza was of her nephew ! He came over to see Phil, I suppose ; but Phil had gone two weeks before. Mamma thinks he is fine-looking. I fancy he will never live in the country again. When shall I see you again, dear, dear Ady ? I have so much to talk to you about! ”

A month thereafter Maverick and his daughter find their way back to Ashfield. Of course Miss Johns has made magnificent preparations to receive them. She surpassed herself in her toilette on the day of their arrival, and fairly astonished Maverick with the warmth of her welcome to his child. Yet he could not help observing that Adèle met it more coolly than was her wont, and that her tenderest words were reserved for the good Doctor. And how proud she was to walk with her father upon the village street, glancing timidly up at the windows from which she knew those stiff old Miss Hapgoods must be peeping out! How proud to sit beside him in the parson’s pew, feeling that the eyes of half the congregation were fastened on the tall gentleman beside her! Ah, happy daughter ! may your beautiful filial pride never have a fall !

Important business letters command Maverick’s early presence abroad; and, after conference with the Doctor, he decides to leave Adèle once more under the roof of the parsonage.

“ Under God, I will do for her what I can,” said the Doctor.

“ I know it, I know it, my good friend,” says Maverick. “ Teach her self-reliance ; she may need it some day. And mind what I have said of this French woman. Adèle seems to have a tendresse that way. Those French women are very insidious, Johns.”

“ You know their ways better than I,” said the Doctor, dryly.

“ Good ! a smack of the old college humor there, Johns. Well, well, at least you don't doubt the sacredness of my love for Adele ? ”

“ I trust, Maverick, I may never doubt the sacredness of your love in any direction. I only hope you may direct it where I fear you do not.”

“God bless you, Johns! I wish I were as good a man as you.”

A little afterwards Maverick was humming a snatch from an opera under the trees of the orchard ; and Adele went bounding toward him, to take the last walk with him for so long, — so long !

XXXVI.

AUTUMN and winter passed by, and the summer of 1838 opened upon the old quiet life of Ashfield. The stiff Miss Johns, busy with her household duties, or with her stately visitings. The Doctor’s hat and cane in their usual place upon the little table within the door, and of a Sunday his voice is lifted up under the old meeting-house roof in earnest expostulation. The birds pipe their old songs, and the orchard has shown once more its wondrous glory of bloom. But all these things have lost their novelty for Adèle. Would it be strange, if the tranquil life of the little town had lost something of its early charm ? That swift French blood of hers has been stirred by contact with the outside world. She has, perhaps, not been wholly insensible to those admiring glances which so quickened the pride of the father. Do not such things leave a hunger in the heart of a girl of seventeen which the sleepy streets of a country town can but poorly gratify ?

The young girl is, moreover, greatlv disturbed at the thought of the new separation from her father for some indefinite period. Her affections have knitted themselves around him, during that delightful journey of the summer, in a way that has made her feel with new weight the parting. It is all the worse that she does not clearly perceive the necessity for it. Is she not of an age now to contribute to the cheer of whatever home he may have beyond the sea ? Why, pray, has he given her such uninviting pictures of his companions there ? Or what should she care for his companions, if only she could enjoy his tender watchfulness ? Or is it that her religious education is not yet thoroughly complete, and that she still holds out against a full and public avowal of all the doctrines which the Doctor urges upon her acceptance ? And the thought of this makes his kindly severities appear more irksome than ever.

Another cause of grief to Adèle is the extreme disfavor in which she finds that Madame Arles is now regarded by the townspeople. Her sympathies had run out towards the unfortunate woman in some inexplicable way, and held there even now, so strongly that contemptuous mention of her stung like a reproach to herself. At least she was a countrywoman, and alone among strangers ; and in this Adèle found abundant reason for a generous sympathy. As for her religion, was it not the religion of her mother and of her good godmother ? And with this thought flaming in her, is it wonderful, if Adèle toys more fondly than ever, in the solitude of her chamber, with the little rosary she has guarded so long ? Not, indeed, that she has much faith in its efficacy ; but it is a silent protest against the harsh speeches of Miss Eliza, who had been specially jealous of the influence of the French teacher.

“ I never liked her countenance, Adèle,” said the spinster, in her solemn manner; “ and I am rejoiced that you will not be under her influence the present summer.”

“ And 1 ’m sorry,” said Adèle, petulantly.

“ It is gratifying to me,” continued Miss Eliza, without notice of Adèle’s interruption, “ that Mr. Maverick has confirmed my own impressions, and urged the Doctor against permitting so unwise association.”

“When? how?” said Adèle, sharply. “ Papa has never seen her.”

“But he has seen other French women, Adèle, and he fears their influence.”

Adèle looked keenly at the spinster for a moment, as if to fathom the depth of this reply, then burst into tears.

“ Oh, why, why did n’t he take me with him ? ” But this she says under breath, and to herself, as she rushes into the Doctor’s study to question him.

“ Is it true, New Papa, that papa thought badly of Madame Arles ? ”

“ Not personally, my child, since he had never seen her. But, Adaly, your father, though I fear he is far away from the true path, wishes you to find it, my child. He has faith in the religion we teach so imperfectly ; he wishes you to be exposed to no influences that will forbid your full acceptance of it.”

“ But Madame Arles never talked of religion to me ” ; and Adèle taps impatiently upon the floor.

“ That may be true, Adaly, — it may be true ; but we cannot be thrown into habits of intimacy with those reared in iniquity without fear of contracting stain. I could wish, my child, that you would so far subdue your rebellious heart, and put on the complete armor of righteousness, as to be able to resist all attacks.”

“ And it was for this papa left me here ? ” And Adèle says it with a smile of mockery that alarms the good Doctor.

“ I trust, Adaly, that he had that hope.”

The good man does not know what swift antagonism to his pleadings he has suddenly kindled in her. The little foot taps more and more impatiently as he goes on to set forth (as he had so often done) the heinousness of her offences and the weight of her just condemnation. Yet the antagonism did not incline her to open doubt; but after she had said her evening prayer that night, (taught her by the parson,) she drew out her little rosary and kissed reverently the crucifix. It is so much easier at this juncture for her tried and distracted spirit to bolster its faith upon such material symbol than to find repose in any merely intellectual conviction of truth !

Adèle’s intimacy with Rose and with her family retained all its old tenderness, but that good fellow Phil was gone. A blithe and merry companion he had been ! Adèle missed his kindly attentions more than she would have believed. The Bowriggs have come to Ashfield, but their clamorous friendship is more than ever distasteful to Adèle. Over and over she makes a feint of illness to escape the noisy hilarity. Nor, indeed, is it wholly a feint. Whether it were that her state of moral perturbation and unrest reacted upon the physical system, or that there were other disturbing causes, certain it was that the roses were fading from her cheeks, and that her step was losing day by day something of its old buoyancy. It is even thought best to summon the village doctor to the family council. He is a gossiping, kindly old gentleman, who spends an easy life, free from much mental strain, in trying to make his daily experiences tally with the little fund of medical science which he accumulated thirty years before.

The serene old gentleman feels the pulse, with his head reflectively on one side, — tells his little jokelet about Sir Astley Cooper, or some other worthy of the profession, —shakes his fat sides with a cheery laugh, — “ And now, my dear,” he says, “ let us look at the tongue. Ah, I see, I see,— the stomach lacks tone.”

“ And there ’s dreadful lassitude, sometimes, Doctor,” speaks up Miss Eliza.

“ Ah, I see, — a little exhaustion after a long walk, — is n't it so, Miss Maverick ? I see, I see ; we must brace up the system, Miss Johns, — brace up the system,”

And the kindly old gentleman prescribes his little tonics, of which Adèle takes some, and throws more out of the window.

Adèle does not mend, and the rumor is presently current upon the street that “ Miss Adeel is in a decline.” The spinster shows a solicitude in the matter which almost touches the heart of the French girl. For Adèle had long before decided that there could be no permanent sympathy between them, and had indulged latterly in no little bitterness of speech toward her. But the acute spinster had forgiven all. Never once had she lost sight of her plan for the ultimate disposal of Adèle and of her father’s fortune. Of course the life of Adèle was very dear to her, and the absence of Phil she looked upon as Providential.

Weeks pass by, but still the tonics of the kindly old physician prove of little efficacy. One day the Bowriggs come blustering in, as is their wont.

“ Such assurance ! Did you ever hear the like ? Madame Arles writes us that she is coming to see Ashfield again, and of course coming to us. The air of the town agrees with her, and she hopes to find lodgings.”

The eyes of Adèle sparkle with satisfaction, — not so much, perhaps, by reason of her old sympathy with the poor woman, which is now almost forgotten, as because it will give some change at least to the dreary monotony of the town life.

“ Lodgings, indeed !” says the younger Miss Bowrigg. “ I wonder where she will find them ! ”

It is a matter of great doubt, to be sure, — since the sharp speech of the spinster has so spread the story of her demerits, that not a parishioner of the Doctor but would have feared to give the poor woman a home.

Adèle still has strength enough for an occasional stroll with Rose, and, in the course of one of them, comes upon Madame Arles, whom she meets with a good deal of her old effusion. And Madame, touched by her apparent weakness, more than reciprocates it.

“ But you suffer, you are unhappy, my child, — pining at last for the sun of Provence. Is n’t it so, mon ange? No, no, you were never meant to grow up among these cold people. You must see the vineyards, and the olives, and the sea, Adèle ; you must! you must ! ”

All this, uttered in a torrent, which, with its tutoiements, Rose can poorly comprehend.

Yet it goes straight to the heart of Adèle, and her tongue is loosened to a little petulant, fiery roulade against the severities of the life around her, which it would have greatly pained poor Rose to listen to in any speech of her own.

But such interviews, once or twice repeated, come to the knowledge of the watchful spinster, who clearly perceives that Adèle is chafing more and more under the wonted family regimen. With an affectation of tender solicitude, she volunteers herself to attend Adèle upon her short morning strolls, and she learns presently, with great triumph, that Madame Arles has established herself at last under the same roof which gives refuge to the outcast Boody woman. Nothing more was needed to seal the opinion of the spinster, and to confirm the current village belief in the heathenish character of the French lady. Dame Tourtelot was shrewdly of the opinion that the woman represented some Popish plot for the abduction of Adèle, and for her incarceration in a nunnery, — a theory which Miss Almira, with her natural tendency to romance, industriously propagated.

Meantime the potions of the village doctor have little effect, and before July is ended a serious illness has declared itself, and Adèle is confined to her chamber. Madame Arles is among the earliest who come with eager inquiries, and begs to see the sufferer. But she is confronted by the indefatigable spinster, who, cloaking her denial under ceremonious form, declares that her state of nervous prostration will not admit of it. Madame withdraws, sadly ; but the visit and the claim are repeated from time to time, until the stately civility of Miss Johns arouses her suspicions.

“You deny me, Madame. You do wrong. I love Adèle ; she loves me. I know that I could comfort her. You do not understand her nature. She was born where the sky is soft and warm. You are all cold and harsh,— cold and harsh in your religion. She has told me as much. I know how she suffers. I wish I could carry her back to France with me. I pray you, let me see her, good Madame ! ”

“ It is quite impossible, I assure you,” said the spinster, in her most aggravating manner. “ It would be quite against the wishes of my brother, the Doctor, as well as of Mr. Maverick.”

“Monsieur Maverick! Mon Dieu, Madame ! He is no father to her ; he leaves her to die with strangers ; he has no heart ; I have better right : I love her. I must see her ! ”

And with a passionate step, — those eyes of hers glaring in that strange double way upon the amazed Miss Eliza,— she strides toward the door, as if she would overcome all opposition. But before she has gone out, that cruel pain has seized her, and she sinks upon a chair, quite prostrated, and with hands clasped wildly over that burden of a heart.

“ Too hard ! too hard ! ” she murmurs, scarce above her breath.

The spinster is attentive, but is untouched. Her self-poise never deserts her. And not then, or at any later period, did poor Madame Arles succeed in overcoming the iron resolve of Miss Johns.

The good Doctor is greatly troubled by the report of Miss Eliza. Can it be possible that Adèle has given a confidence to this strange woman that she has not given to them ? Cold and harsh ! Can Adèle, indeed, have said this ? Has he not labored with a full heart ? Has he not agonized in prayer to draw in this wandering lamb to the fold ? He has seen, indeed, that the poor child has chafed much latterly, that the old serenity and gayety are gone. But is it not a chafing under the fetters of sin ? Is it not that she begins to see more clearly the fiery judgments of God which will certainly overwhelm the wrongdoers, whatever may be the unsubstantial and evanescent graces of their mortal life ?

Yet, with all the rigidity of his doctrine, which he cannot in conscience mollify, even for the tender ears of Adèle, it disturbs him strangely to hear that she has qualified his regimen as harsh or severe. Has he not taught, in season and out of season, the fulness of God’s promises ? Has he not labored and prayed? Is it not the ungodly heart in her that finds his teaching a burden ? Is not his conscience safe ? Yet, for all this, it touches him to the quick to think that her childlike, trustful confidence is at last alienated from him, — that her affection for him is so distempered by dread and weariness. For, unconsciously, he has grown to love her as he loves no one save his boy Reuben ; unconsciously his heart has mellowed under her influence. Through her winning, playful talk, he has taken up that old trail of worldly affections which he had thought buried forever in Rachel’s grave. That tender touch of her little fingers upon his cheek has seemed to say, “ Life has its joys, old man ! ” The patter of her feet along the house has kindled the memories of other gentle steps that tread now silently in the courts of air. Those songs of hers, — how he has loved them ! Never confessing even to Miss Eliza, still less to himself, how much his heart is bound up in this little winsome stranger, who has shone upon his solitary parsonage like a sunbeam.

And the good man, with such thoughts thronging on him, falls upon his knees, beseeching God to "be over the sick child, to comfort her, to heal her, to pour down His divine grace upon her, to open her blind eyes to the richness of His truth, to keep her from all the machinations and devices of Satan, to arm her with true holiness, to make her a golden light in the household, to give her a heart of love toward all, and most of all toward Him who so loved her that He gave His only begotten Son.”

And the Doctor, rising from his attitude of prayer, and going toward the little window of his study to arrange it for the night, sees a slight figure in black pacing up and down upon the opposite side of the way, and looking up from time to time to the light that is burning in the window of Adèle. He knows on the instant who it must be, and fears more than ever the possible influence which this strange woman, who is so persistent in her attention, may have upon the heart of the girl. The Doctor had heretofore been disposed to turn a deaf ear to the current reproaches of Madame Arles for her association with the poor outcast daughter of the village ; but her appearance at this unseemly hour of the night, coupled with his traditional belief in the iniquities of the Romish Church, excited terrible suspicions in his mind. Like most holy men, ignorant of the crafts and devices of the world, he no sooner blundered into a suspicion of some deep Devil’s cunning than every footfall and every floating zephyr seemed to confirm it. He bethought himself of Maverick’s earnest caution ; and before he went to bed that night, he prayed that no designing Jezebel might corrupt the poor child committed to his care.

The next night the Doctor looked again from his window, after blowing out his lamp, and there once more was the figure in black, pacing up and down. What could it mean ? Was it possible that some Satanic influence could pass over from this emissary of the Evil One, (as he firmly believed her to be,) for the corruption of the sick child who lay in the delirium of a fever above ?

The extreme illness of Adèle was subject of common talk in the village, and the sympathy was very great. On the following night Adèle was far worse, and the Doctor, at about his usual bedtime, went out to summon the physician. At a glance he saw in the shadow of the opposite houses the same figure pacing up and down. He hurried his steps, fearing she might seek occasion to dart in upon the sick-chamber before his return. But he had scarcely gone twenty paces from his door, when he heard a swift step behind, and in another instant there was a grip, as of a tigress, upon his arm.

“Adèle, —how is she ? Tell me ! ”

“ Ill,—very ill,” said the Doctor, shaking himself from her grasp, and continued in his solemn manner, “ it is an hour to be at home, woman ! ”

But she, paying no heed to his admonition, says,—

“I must see her, — I must !”—and clashes back toward the parsonage.

The Doctor, terrified, follows after. But he can keep no manner of pace with that swift, dark figure that glides before him. He comes to the porch panting. The door is closed. Has the infuriated woman gone in ? No, for presently her grasp is again upon his arm: for a moment she had sunk, exhausted by fatigue, or overcome by emotion, upon the porch. Her tone is more subdued.

“ I entreat you, good Doctor, let me see Adèle !—for Christ’s sake, if you be His minister, let me see her ! ”

“ Impossible, woman, impossible ! ” says the Doctor, more than ever satisfied of her Satanic character by what he counts her blasphemous speech. “Adaly is delirious,—fearfully excited : it would destroy her. The only hope is in perfect quietude.”

The woman releases her grasp.

“ Please, Doctor, let me come to-morrow, I must see her ! I will see her ! ”

“You shall not,” said the Doctor, with solemnity, — “ never, with my permission. Go to your home, woman, and pray God to have mercy on you.”

“ Monster ! ” exclaimed she, passionately, as she shook the Doctor’s arm, still under her grasp ; and murmuring other words in language the good man did not comprehend, she slipped silently down the yard, — away into the darkness.