Doctor Johns

XL.

IT would lead us far too widely from the simple order of our narrative to detail the early history of Madame Arles ; and although the knowledge of it might serve in some degree to explain the peculiar interest which that poor woman has shown in the motherless Adèle, we choose rather to leave the matter unexplained, and to regard the invalid enthusiast as one whose sympathies have fastened in a strange way upon the exiled French girl, and grow all the stronger by the difficulties in the way of their full expression.

Madame Arles did not forego either her solicitude or the persistence of her inquiry under the harsh rebuff of the Doctor. Again and again, after nightfall, he saw her figure flitting back and forth upon the street, over against Adèle’s window; and the good man perplexed himself vainly with a hundred queries as to what such strange conduct could mean. The village physician, too, had been addressed by this anxious lady with a tumult of questionings ; and the old gentleman — upon whose sympathies the eager inquirer had won an easier approach than upon those of the severe parson — had taken hearty satisfaction in assuring her, within a few days after the night interview we have detailed, that the poor girl was mending, was out of danger, in fact, and would be presently in a condition to report for herself.

After this, and through the long convalescence, Madame Arles was seen more rarely upon the village street. Yet the town gossips were busy with the character and habits of the “ foreign lady.” Her devotion to the little child of the outcast Boody woman was most searchingly discussed at all the teatables of the place ; and it was special object of scandal, that the foreign lady, neglectful of the Sabbath ministrations of the parson, was frequently to be seen wandering about the fields in “meeting-time,” attended very likely by that poor wee thing of a child, upon whose head the good people all visited, with terrible frowns, the sins of the parents. No woman, of whatever condition, could maintain a good reputation in Ashfield under such circumstances. Dame Tourtelot enjoyed a good sharp fling at the “ trollop.”

“ I allers said she was a bad woman,” submitted the stout Dame ; and her audience (consisting of the Deacon and Miss Almiry) would have had no more thought of questioning the implied decision than of cutting down the meeting-house steeple.

“And I ’m afeard,” continued the Dame, “ that Adeel is n’t much better ; she keeps a crucifix in her chamber !— need n’t to look at me, Tourtelot! — Miss Johns told me all about it, and I don’t think the parson should allow it. I think you oughter speak to the parson, Tourtelot.”

The good Deacon scratched his head, over the left ear, in a deprecating manner.

“And I’ve heerd this Miss Arles has been a-writin’ to Mr. Maverick, Adeel’s father, — need n’t to look at me, Tourtelot!— the postmaster told me; and she ’s been receivin’ furren letters,— filled with Popery, I ha’n’t a doubt.”

In short, the poor woman bore a most execrable reputation ; and Doctor Johns, good as he was, took rather a secret pride In such startling confirmation of his theories in respect to French character. He wrote to his friend Maverick, informing him that his suspicions in regard to Madame Arles were, he feared, “only too well-founded. Her neglect of Sabbath ordinances, her unhallowed associations, her extreme violence of language, (which was on a signal occasion uttered in my hearing.) have satisfied me that your distrust was only too reasonable. I shall guard Adaly from all further intercourse with extreme care.”

Indeed, Miss Eliza and the Doctor (the latter from the best of motives) had scrupulously kept from Adèle all knowledge of Madame Arles’s impatient and angry solicitude during her illness. And when Adèle, on those first sunny days of her convalescence, learned incidentally that her countrywoman was still a resident of the village, it pained her grievously to think that she had heard no tender message from her during all that weary interval of sickness, and she was more than half inclined (though she did not say this) to adopt the harshest judgments of the spinster. There was not a visitor at the parsonage, indeed, but, if the name were mentioned, sneered at the dark-faced, lonely woman, who was living such a godless life, and associating, as if from sheer bravado, with those who were under the ban of all the reputable people of Ashfield.

When, therefore, Adeèle, on one of her early walks with Reuben, after her recovery was fully established, encountered, in a remote part of the village, Madame Arles, trailing after her the little child of shame, — and yet darting toward the French girl, at first sight, with her old effusion,—Adèle met her coolly, so coolly, indeed, that the poor woman was overcome, and, hurrying the little child after her, disappeared with a look of wretchedness upon her face that haunted Adèle for weeks and months. Thereafter very little was seen of Madame Arles upon the principal street of the village ; and her avoidance of the family of the parsonage was as studied and resolute as either the Doctor or Miss Eliza could have desired. A moment of chilling indifference on the part of Adèle had worked stronger repulse than all the harsh rebuffs of the elder people ; but of this the kind - hearted French girl was no way conscious : yet she was painfully conscious of a shadowy figure that still, from time to time, stole after her in her twilight walks, and that, if she turned upon it, shrank stealthily from observation. There was a mystery about the whole matter which oppressed the poor girl with a sense of terror. She could not doubt that the interest of her old teacher in herself had been a kindly one ; but whatever it might have been, that interest was now so furtive, and affected such concealment, that she was half led to entertain the cruellest suspicions of Miss Eliza, who did not fail to enlarge upon the godlessness of the stranger's life, and to set before Adèle the thousand alluring deceits by which Satan sought to win souls to himself.

Rumor, one day, brought the story, that the foreign woman, who had been the subject of so much village scandal, lay ill, and was fast failing ; and on hearing this, Adèle would have broken away from all the parsonage restraints, to offer what consolations she could: nor would the good Doctor have repelled her ; but the rumor, if not false, was, in his view, grossly exaggerated ; since, on the Sunday previous only, some officious member of his parish had reported the Frenchwoman as strolling over the hills, decoying with her that little child of her fellow - lodger, which she had tricked out in the remnants of her French finery, and was thus wantoning throughout the holy hours of service.

A few days later, however, the Doctor came in with a serious and perplexed air; he laid his cane and hat upon the little table within the door, and summoned Adèle to the study.

“Adaly, my child,” said he, “this unfortunate countrywoman of yours is really failing fast. I learn as much from the physician. She has sent a request to see you. She says that she has an important message, a dying message, to give you.”

A strange tremor ran over the frame of Adèle.

“ I fear, my child, that she is still bound to her idolatries ; she has asked that you bring to her the little bauble of a rosary, which, I trust, Adaly, you have learned to regard as a vanity.”

“Yet I have it still, New Papa; she shall have it”; and she turned to go.

“ My child, I cannot bear that you should go as the messenger of a false faith, and to carry to her, as it were, the seal of her idolatries. You shall follow her wishes, Adaly ; but I must attend you, my child, were it only to protest against such vanities, and to declare to her, if it be not too late, the truth as it is in the Gospel.”

Adèle was only too willing; for she was impressed with a vague terror at thought of this interview, and of its possible revelations ; and they set off presently in company. It was a chilly day of later autumn. Only a few scattered, tawny remnants of the summer verdure were hanging upon the village trees, and great rows of the dead and fallen leaves were heaped here and there athwart the path, where some high wall kept them clear of the winds ; and as the walkers tramped through them, they made a ghostly rustle, and whole platoons of them were set astir to drift again until some new eddy caught and stranded them in other heaps. Adèle, more and more disturbed in mind, said, —

“ It’s such a dreary day. New Papa ! ”

“ Is it the thought that one you know may lie dying now makes it dreary, my child ? ”

“ Partly that, I dare say.” returned Adèle; “and then the wind so tosses about these dead leaves. I wish it were always spring.”

“There is a country,” said the parson, “where spring reigns eternal. I hope you may find it, Adaly; I hope your poor countrywoman may find it; but I fear, I fear.”

“Is it, then, so dreadful to be a Romanist ? ”

“It is dreadful, Adaly. to doubt the free grace of God,—dreadful to trust in any offices of men, or in tithes of mint and anise and cumin, — dreadful to look anywhere for absolution from sin but in the blood of the Lamb. I have a conviction, my child,” continued he, in a tone even more serious, “ that the poor woman has not lived a pure life before God, or even before the world. Even at this supreme moment of her life, if it be such, I should be unwilling to trust you alone with her, Adaly.”

Adèle, trembling, — partly with the chilling wind, and partly with an ill-detined terror of—she knew not what,— nestled more closely to the side of the old gentleman ; and he, taking her little hand in his, as tenderly as a lover might have done, said, —

“Adaly, at least your trust in God is firm, is it not ? ”

“ It is ! it is ! ” said she.

The house, as we have said, lay far out upon the river-road, within a strip of ill-tended garden-ground, surrounded by a rocky pasture. A solitary whiteoak stood in the line of straggling wall that separated garden from pasture, and showed still a great crown of leaves blanched by the frosts, and shivering in the wind. An artemisia, with blackened stalks, nodded its draggled yellow blossoms at one angle of the house, while a little company of barn-door fowls stood closely grouped under the southern lea, with heads close drawn upon their breasts, idling and winking in the sunshine.

The young mother of the vagrant little one who had attracted latterly so much of the solitary woman’s regard received them with an awkward welcome.

“ Miss Arles is poorly, to-day,” she said, “ and she ’s flighty. She keeps Arthur” {the child) “with her. You hear how she’s a-chatterin’ now.” (The door of her chamber stood half open.) "Arty seems to understand her. I ’m sure I don’t.”

Nor, indeed, did the Doctor, to whose ear a torrent of rapid French speech was like the gibberish of demons. He never doubted ’t was full of wickedness. Not so Adèle. There were sweet sounds to her ear in that swift flow of Provencal speech. — tender, endearing epithets, that seemed like the echo of music heard long ago, — pleasant banter of words that had the rhythm of the old godmother's talk.

“Ah, you ’re a gay one ! Now—put on your velvet cap — so. We ’ll find a bride for you some day — some day, when you 're a tall, proud man. Who ’s your father, Arty ? Pah ! it 's nothing. You "ll make somebody’s heart ache all the same, — eh, Arty, boy ? ”

“ Do you understand her, Miss Maverick ? ” says the mother.

“Not wholly,” said Adèle; and the two visitors stepped in noiselessly.

The child, bedizened with finery, was standing upon the bed where the sick woman lay, with a long feather from the cock’s tail waving from his cap. Madame Arles, with the hot flush ot the fever upon her, looked—saving the thinness—as she might have looked twenty years before. And as her flashing eye caught the new comers, her voice broke out wildly again, —

“ Here ’s the bride, and here ’s the priest! Where’s the groom ? Where's the groom ? Where ’s the groom, I say ? ”

The violence of her manner made poor Adèle shiver.

The boy laughed as he saw it, and said, —

“ She ’s afraid ! I’m not afraid.”

“Oh, no!” said the crazed woman, turning on him. “ You ’re a man, Arty : men are not afraid, — you wanton, you wild one ! Where’s the groom ?” said she again, addressing the Doctor, fiercely.

“ My good woman,” says the old gentleman, “ we have come to offer you the consolations that are only to be found in the Gospel of Christ.”

“ Pah ! you ’re a false priest! ” — defiantly. “ Where’s the groom ? ”

And Adèle, hoping to pacify the poor woman, draws from her reticule the little rosary, and, holding it before the eyes of the sufferer, says, timidly, —

“ My dear Madam, it is I, — Adèle ; I have brought what you asked of me ; I have come to comfort you.”

And the woman, over whose face there ran instantly a marvellous change, snatched the rosary, and pressed it convulsively to her lips ; then, looking for a moment yearningly, with that strange double gaze of hers, upon the face of Adèle, she sprang toward her, and, wreathing her arms about her, drew her fast upon her bosom, —

" Ma fille! ma pauvre fille! The boy slipped down frqm the bed, — his little importance being over,— and was gone. The Doctor’s lips moved in silent prayer for five minutes or more, wholly undisturbed, while the twain were locked in that embrace. Then the old gentleman, stooping, says, —

“ Adaly, will she listen to me now? ” And Adèle, turning a frightened face to him, whispers,—

“ She’s sleeping ; unclasp her Stands ; she holds me tightly.”

And the Doctor, with tremulous fingers, does her bidding.

Adèle, still whispering, says, —

“ She’s calm now ; she ’ll talk with us when she wakes, New Papa.”

“ My poor child,” said the Doctor, solemnly, and with a full voice, “ she ’ll never wake again,”

And Adèle, turning, — in a maze of terror, as she thought of that death-clasp, — saw that her eyes had fallen open, — open, and fixed, and lustreless. So quietly Death had come upon his errand, and accomplished it, and gone ; while without, the fowls, undisturbed, were still blinking idly in the sunshine under the lea of the wall, and the yellow chrysanthemums were fluttering, in the wind.

XLI.

IN the winter of 1838-9, Adèle, much to the delight of Dr. Johns, avowed at last her wish to join herself to the little church-flock over which the good parson still held serenely his office of shepherd. And as she told him quietly of her desire, sitting before him there in the study of the parsonage, without urgence upon his part, it was as if a bright gleam of sunshine had darted suddenly through the wintry clouds, and bathed both of them in its warm effulgence. The good man, rising from his chair and crossing over to her place, touched her forehead with as tender and loving a kiss as ever he had bestowed upon the lost Rachel.

He had seen too closely the development of her Christian faith to disturb her with various questionings. She rejoiced in this ; for even then, with all the calm serenity of her trust, it was doubtful if her answers could have fully satisfied the austerities of his theological traditions. Nay, she doubted, even, if the exuberance of her spirits would not sometimes, in days to come, bound over the formalities of his Sunday observance, and startle a corrective glance ; but withal she knew her trust was firm, and on this had full repose. Even the little rosary, so obnoxious to the household of the parsonage, was, by its terrible association with the death-scene of Madame Arles, endeared to her tenfold ; and she could not forbear the hope that the poor woman, at the very last, by that clinging kiss upon the image of Christ, told a prayer that might give access to His abounding mercy.

Nor did Adèle seek to comprehend in their entireness all those wearisome dogmatic utterances which were familiar to her tongue, and which she could understand might form the steps to fulness of belief for the rigorous mind of the Doctor : for herself there was other ladder of approach, in finding which the emotional experiences of Reuben had been of such signal service.

To Reuben himself those experiences brought a temporary exhilaration, but as yet no peace. He has a vague notion creeping over him, with fearfully chilling effect, that his sensibilities have been wrought upon rather than his reason ; a confused sense of having yielded to enthusiasms, which, if they once grow cool, will leave him to slump back into a mire worse than the old. Therefore he must, by all possible means, keep them at fever-heat. A dim consciousness, however, possessed him, that, for the feeding of the necessary fires, there would be needed an immense consumption of fuel, — such stock as an ordinary experience could hardly hope to supply. By degrees, this consciousness took the force of conviction, and he became painfully sensible of his own limitations. There was a weary, matter-of-fact world to struggle with, in whose homely cares and interests he must needs be a partner. He could not wear the gyves of a Gabriel on the muddy streets of life, or carry the ecstatic language of praise into the world’s talk : if he could, he would be reckoned insane, and not unjustly, since sanity is, after all, but a term to express the average normal condition of mind. He looked with something like envy upon the serene contentment of Adèle. He lived like an ascetic ; he sought, by reading of all manner of exultant religious experience, to keep alive the ferment of the autumn. “If only death were near,” he said to himself, “with what a blaze of hope one might go out ! ” But death was not near, — or, at least, life and its perplexing duties were nearer. The intensity of his convictions somehow faded, and they lost their gorgeous hue, under the calm doctrinal sermons of the parson. If the glory of the promises and the tenderness of Divine entreaty were to be always dropping mellifluously on his ear, as upon that solemn Sunday of the summer, it might be well. But it is not thus ; and even were the severe quiet of the Ashfield Sundays lighted up by the swift and burning words of such fiery evangelism, yet six solid working-days roll over upon the heel of every Sunday, — in which he sees good Deacon Tourtelot in shirtsleeves driving some sharp bargain for his two-year-old steers, or the stout Dame hectoring some stray peddler by the hour for the fall of a penny upon his wares, and wonders where their Christian largeness of soul is gone. Is the matter real to him ? And if real, where is the peace ? Shall he consult the good Doctor ? He is met straightway with an array of the old catechismal formulas, clearly stated, well argued, but brushing athwart his mind like a dusty wind. The traditional dislikes of his boyhood have armed him against all such, cap-à-pie. In this strait, he wanders over the hills in search of loneliness, and a volume of Tillotson he carries with him is all unread. Nature speaks more winningly, but scarce.more helpfully.

Adèle, with a quick eye, sees the growing unrest, and, with a great weight of gratitude upon her heart, says, timidly, —

“ Can I help you. Reuben ? ”

“ No, thank you, Adèle. I understand you ; I ’m in a boggle, — that’s all.”

The father, too, at a hint from Adèle, (whose perceptions are so much quicker,) sees at last how the matter stands.

“ Reuben,” he says, “these struggles of yours are struggles with the Great Adversary of Souls, I trust, my son, you will not allow him to have the mastery.”

It was kindly said and earnestly said, but touched the core of the son’s moral disquietude no more than if it were the hooting of an owl. Yet, for all this, Reuben makes a brave struggle to wear with an outward calm the burden of the professions he has made, — a terrible burden, when he finds what awful chasms in his faith have been overleaped by his vaulting Quixotic fervor. Wearily he labors to bridge them across, with overmuch reading, there in the quiet study of the parsonage, of Newton and Tillotson and Butler ; and he takes a grim pleasure (that does not help him) in following the amiable argumentation of Paley. It pains him grievously to think what humiliation would possess the old Doctor, if he but knew into what crazy currents his boy’s thoughts were drifting over the pages of his beloved teachers. But a man cannot live a deceit, even for charity’s sake, without its making outburst some day, and wrecking all the fine preventive barriers which kept it in.

The outburst came at last in the quiet of the Ashfield study, Reuben had been poring for hours — how wearily! how vainly ! — over the turgid dogmas of one of the elder divines, when he suddenly dashed the book upon the floor.

“ Confound the theologies ! I ’ll have no more of them ! ”

The Doctor dropped his pen, and stared as if a serpent had stung him.

“ My son ! Reuben ! Reuben ! ”

It was not so much the expression that had shocked him, as it was the action and the defiance in his eye.

“ I can’t help it, father. It’s the Evil One, perhaps. If it be, I ’ll cheat him, by making a clean breast of it. I can't abide the stuff; I can’t see my way through it.”

“ My son, it is your sin that blinds you.”

“ Very likely,” says Reuben.

“It was not thus with you three months ago, Reuben,” continues the Doctor, in a softened tone.

“ No, father, there was a strange light around me in those days. It seemed to me that the path lay clear and shining through all the maze. If Death had caught me then, I think I could have sung hosannas with the saints. It was a beautiful dream. It’s faded dismally, father, — as if the Devil had painted it.”

The old man shuddered, and lifted his hands, as he was wont to do in his most earnest pleas at the Throne of Grace.

“ The muddle of the world and the theologies has come in since,” continued Reuben, “ and the base professions I see around me, and the hypocrisies and the cant, have taken away the glow. It ’s all a weariness and a confusion, and that ’s the solemn truth.”

The Doctor said, measuredly, (as if the Book were before him,) —

“ ‘ Some seeds fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth; and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth. And when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away.’ Reuben ! Reuben ! we must agonize to enter into the strait gate! ”

“ It's a long agony,” said Reuben ; and he rose and paced back and forth for a time ; then suddenly stopping before the Doctor, he laid his hand upon his shoulder, (the boy was of manly height now, and overtopped the old gentleman by an inch,) — “Father, it grieves me to pain you, — indeed it does ; but truth is truth. I have told you my story ; but if you wish it, I will live outwardly as if no such talk had passed. I will respect as much as ever all your religious observances, and no person shall be the wiser.”

“ I would not have you practise hypocrisy, my son ; but I Would not have you withdraw yourself from any of the appointed means of grace.”

And at this Reuben went out, —out far upon the hills, from which he saw the village roofs, and the spire, and the naked tree-tops, the fields all bare and brown, the smoke of a near house curling lazily into the sky ; and the only sound that broke the solemn stillness was the drumming of a partridge in the woods or the harsh scream of a belated jay.

Never had Reuben been more kind or attentive to the personal wants of the old gentleman than on the days which followed upon this interview. There was something almost like a daughter's solicitude in his watchfulness. On the next Sunday the Doctor preached with an emotion that was but poorly controlled, and which greatly mystified his people. Twice in the af.ternoon his voice came near to failing. Reuben knew where the grief lay, but wore a composed face ; and as he supported the old gentleman home after service, he said, (but not so loudly that Adèle could hear, who was tripping closely behind.) —

“Father, I grieve for you,—upon my soul I do ; but it 's fate.”

“Fate, Reuben?” said the Doctor, but with a less guarded voice, — “ fate ? God only is fate ! ”

The Doctor was too much mortified by this revelation of Reuben’s present state of feeling to make it the subject of conversation, even with Miss Eliza, and much less with the elders of his flock. To Squire Elderkin, indeed, whose shrewd common-sense he had learned to value even in its bearings upon the “ weightier matters of the law,” he had dropped some desponding reflections in regard to the wilful impetuosity of his poor son Reuben, from which the shrewd Squire at once suspected the difficulty.

“It’s the blood of the old Major,” he said. “ Let it work, Doctor, let it work ! ”

From which observation, it must be confessed, the good man derived very little comfort.

Miss Eliza, though she is not made a confidant in these latter secrets of the study, cannot, however, fail to see that Reuben's constancy to the Doctor’s big folios is on the wane, and that symptoms of his old boyish recklessness occasionally show themselves under the reserve which had grown out of his later experiences. She has hopes from this — true to her keen worldly wisdom— that the abandoned career of the city may yet win his final decision. But her moral perceptions are not delicate enough to discover the great and tormenting wrangle of his thought. She ventures from time to time, as on his return, and from sharp sense of duty, some wiry, stereotyped religious reflections, which set his whole moral nature on edge. Nor is this the limit of her blindness: perceiving, as she imagines she does, the ripening of all her plans with respect to himself and Adèle, she thinks to further the matter by dropping hints of the rare graces of Adèle and of her brilliant prospects,—assuring him how much that young lady’s regard for him has been increased since his conversion, (which word has to Reuben just now a dreary and most detestable sound,) and in a way which she counts playful, but which to him is agacant to the last degree, she forecasts the time when Reuben will have his pretty French wife, and a rich one.

Left to himself, the youth would very likely have found enough to admire in the face and figure and pleasantly subdued enthusiasm of Adèle; but the counter irritant of the spinster’s speech drove him away on many an evening to the charming fireside of the Elderkins, where he spent not a few beguiling hours in listening to the talk of the motherly mistress of the household, and in watching the soft hazel eyes of Rose, as they lifted in eager wonderment at some of his stories of the town, or fell (the long lashes hiding them with other beauty ) upon the work where her delicate fingers plied with a white swiftness that teased him into trains of thought which were not wholly French.

Adele has taken a melancholy interest in decking the grave of the exiled lady, which she has insisted upon doing out of her own resources, and thus has doubled the little legacy which Madame Arles had left to the outcast woman and child with whom she had joined her fate, and who, with good reason, wept her death bitterly. Hour upon hour Adèle pondered over that tragic episode, tasking herself to imagine what message the dying woman could have had to communicate, and wondering if the future would ever clear up the mystery. To the good Doctor it seemed only a strange Providence, by which the religious convictions of Adèle should be deepened and made sure. And in no way were the results of those convictions more beautifully apparent than in the efforts of Adèle to overcome her antipathies to the spinster. It is doubtful, indeed, if a bolder challenge can be made to the Christian graces of any character whatever than that which demands the conquest of social prejudices which have grown into settled aversion. With all the stimulus of her new Christian endeavor, Adèle sought to think charitably of Miss Eliza. Yet it was hard ; always, that occasional cold kiss of the spinster had for Adèle an iron imprint, which drove her warm blood away, instead of summoning it to response.

For her, Miss Eliza’s staple praises of Reuben, and her adroit stories of the admiration and attachment of Mrs. Brindlock for her nephew, were distasteful to the last degree. Coarse natures never can learn upon what fine threads the souls of the sensitive are strung.

Adèle felt a tender gratitude toward Reuben, which it seemed to her the boisterous affection of the spinster could never approach. She apprehended his spiritual perplexities more keenly than the austere aunt, and saw with what strange ferment his whole nature was vexed. Had he been a brother by blood, she could not have felt for him more warmly. And if she ever allowed herself to guess at a nearer tie, it was not to Miss Eliza that she would have named the guess, — not even, thus far, to herself. As yet there was a soft fulness in her heart that felt no wound, — at least no wound in which her hope rankled. Whether Reuben were present or away, her songs rose, with a sweeter, a serener, and a loftier cheer than of old under the roof of the parsonage ; and, as of old, the Doctor laid down his book and listened, as if an angel sang.

XLII.

IN the summer of 1840 the Doctor received a letter from Maverick which overwhelmed him with consternation ; and its revelations, we doubt not, will prove as great a surprise to our readers.

“ My good friend Johns,” he wrote, “ I owe you a debt of gratitude which I can never repay ; you have shown such fatherly interest in my dear child,—you have so guided and guarded her, — you have so abundantly filled the place which, though it was my duty, I had never the worthiness to fill, that I have no words to thank you. And now you have crowned all by giving her that serene trust ”-

“ Not I ! not I ! ” says the Doctor to himself, — “ only God's mercy, — God's infinite mercy!”—and he continues, “ that serene trust in Heaven which will support her under all trials. Poor child, she will need it all ! ”

“ And that this man,” pursues the Doctor meditatively, "who thinks so wisely, should be given over still to the things of this world ! ”

“ I hear still further, — from what sources it will be unnecessary for me now to explain, — that a close intimacy has grown up latterly between your son Reuben and my dear è, and that this intimacy has provoked village rumors of the possibility of some nearer tie. These rumors may be, perhaps, wholly untrue ; I hope to Heaven they are, and my informant may have exaggerated only chance reports. But the knowledge of them, vague as they are, has stimulated me to a task which I ought far sooner to have accomplished, and which, as a man of honor, I can no longer defer. I know that you think lightly of any promptings to duty which spring only from a sense of honor ; and before you shall have finished my letter I fear that you will be tempted to deny me any claim to the title. Indeed, it has been the fear of forfeiting altogether your regard that has kept me thus far silent, and has caused me to delay, from year to year, that full explanation which I can no longer with any propriety or justice withhold.

“ I go back to the time when I first paid you a visit at your parsonage. I never shall forget the cheery joyousness of that little family scene at your fireside, the winning modesty and womanliness of your lost Rachel, and the serenity and peace that lay about your household. It was to me, fresh from the vices of Europe, like some charming Christian idyl, in whose atmosphere I felt myself not only an alien, but a profane intruder; for, at that very time, I was bound by one of those criminal liaisons to which so many strangers on the Continent are victims. Your household and your conversation prompted a hope and a struggle for better things. But, my dear Johns, the struggle was against a whole atmosphere of vice. And it was only when I had broken free of entanglement, that I learned, with a dreary pang, that I was the father of a child. — my poor, dear Adèle ! ”

The Doctor crumpled the letter in his hand, and smote upon his forehead. Never, in his whole life, had he known such strange revulsion of feeling. With returning calmness he smooths the letter upon his desk, and continues :—

“ I expect your condemnation, ot course ; yet listen to my story throughout. That child I might have lelt to the tender mercies of the world, might have ignored it, and possibly forgotten its existence. Many a man, with fewer stains on his conscience than I have, would have done this, and met the world and old friends cheerily. But then the memory of you and of your teachings somehow kindled in me what I counted a worthier purpose. I vowed that the child should, if possible, lead a guileless life, and should no way suffer, so far as human efforts could prevent, for the sins of the parents. The mother assented, with what I counted a guilty willingness, to my design, and I placed her secretly under the charge of the old godmother of whom Adèle must otten have spoken.

“ But I was no way content that she should grow up under French influences, and to the future knowledge (inevitable in these scenes) of the ignominy of her birth. And if that knowledge were ever to come, I could think of no associations more fitted to make her character stanch to bear it than those that belong to the rigid and selfdenying virtues which are taught in a New England parish. Is it strange that I recurred at once to your kindness, Johns? Is it strange that I threw the poor child upon your charity ?

“It is true, I used deceit,—true that I did not frankly reveal the truth ; but see how much was at stake ! I knew in what odium such trespasses were held in the serenity of your little towns ; 1 knew, that, if you, with Spartan courage, should propose acceptance of the office, your family would reject it. I knew that your love of truth would be incapable of the concealments or subterfuges which might be needed to protect the poor child from the tongue of scandal. In short, I was not willing to take the risk of a repulse. ‘ Such deceit as there may be,’ I said, ‘is my own. My friend Johns can never impute it as a sin to Adèle.' I am sure you will not now. Again, I felt that I was using deceit (if you will allow me to say it) in a good cause, and that you yourself, when once the shock of discovery should be past, could never reprimand yourself for your faithful teachings to an erring child, but must count her, in your secret heart, only another of the wandering lambs which it was your duty and pleasure to lead into the true fold. Had she come to you avowedly as the child of sin, with all the father’s and mother’s guilt reeking upon her innocent head, could you have secured to her, my dear Johns, that care and consideration and devotion which have at last ripened her Christian character, and made her proof against slander ? ”

Here the Doctor threw down the letter again, and paced up and down the room.

“ The child of sin! the child of sin ! Who could have thought it ? Yet does not Maverick reason true? Does not Beelzebub at times reason true ? Adaly ! my poor, poor Adaly ! ”

“It seemed to me,” the letter continued, “that there might possibly be no need that either you or my poor child should ever know the whole truth in this matter; and I pray (with your leave) that it may be kept from her even now. You will understand, perhaps, from what I have said, why my visns have been more rare than a fatherly feeling would seem to demand : to tell truth, I have feared the familiar questionings of her prattling girlhood. Mature years shrink from perilous inquiry, I think, with an instinct which does not belong to the freshness of youth.

“ But from your ears, in view of the rumors that have come to my hearing, I could not keep the knowledge longer. I cannot, my dear Johns, read your heart, and say whether or not you will revolt at the idea of any possible family tie between your son and my poor Adèle. But whatever aspect such possibility may present to your mind, I can regard it only with horror. It I have deceived you, the deceit shall reach no such harm as this. Whatever your Christian forgiveness or your love for Adèle (and I know she is capable of winning your love) may suggest, I can never consent that any stain should be carried upon your family record by any instrumentality of mine. I must beg, therefore, that, if the rumor be true, you use all practicable means, even to the use of your parental authority, in discountenancing and forbidding such intimacy. If necessary to this end, and Reuben be still resident at the parsonage, I pray you to place Adèle with Mrs. Brindlock, or other proper person, until such time as I am able to come and take her once more under my own protection.

“If you were a more worldly man, my dear Johns, I should hope to win your heartier cooperation in my views by telling you that recent business misfortunes have placed my whole estate in peril, so that it is extremely doubtful if Adele will have any ultimate moneyed dependence beyond the pittance which I have placed in trust for her in your hands. Should it be necessary, in furtherance of the objects I have named, to make communication of the disclosures in this letter to your son or to Miss Johns, you have my full liberty to do so. Farther than this, I trust you may not find it necessary to make known the facts so harmful to the prospects and peace of my innocent child.

“ I have thus made a clean breast to you, my dear Johns, and await your scorching condemnation. But let not any portion of it, I pray, be visited upon poor Adèle. I know with what wrathful eyes you, from your New England standpoint, are accustomed to look upon such wickedness ; and I know, too, that you are sometimes disposed to ‘visit the sins of the fathers upon the children ’ ; but I beg that your anathemas may all rest where they belong, upon my head, and that you will spare the motherless girl you have taught to love you.”

Up and down the study the Doctor paced, with a feverish, restless step, which in all the history of the parsonage had never been heard in it before.

“ Such untruth ! ” is his exclamation. “ Yet no, there has been no positive untruth ; the deception he admits.”

But the great fact comes back upon his thought, that the child of sin and shame is with him. All his old distrust and hatred of the French are revived on the instant; the stain of their iniquities is thrust upon his serene and quiet household. And yet what a sweet face, what a confiding nature God has given to this creature conceived in sin ! In his simplicity, the good Doctor would have fancied that some mark of Cain should be fixed on the poor child.

Again, the Doctor had somewhere in his heart a little of the old family pride. The spinster had ministered to it, coyly indeed by word, but always by manner and conduct. How it would have shocked the stout Major, or his good mother, even, to know that he had thus fondled and fostered the vagrant offspring of iniquity upon his hearth ! A still larger and worthier pride the Doctor cherished in his own dignity, — so long the honored pastor of Ashfield, — so long the esteemed guide of this people in paths of piety.

What if it should appear, that, during almost the entire period of his holy ministrations, he had, as would seem, colluded with an old acquaintance of his youth — a brazen reprobate — to shield him from the shame of his own misdeeds, and to cover with the mantle of respectability and with all the pastoral dignities this French-speaking child, who, under God, was the seal of the father’s iniquities ?

As he paced back and forth, there was a timid knock at the door; and in a moment more, Adèle, blooming with health, and radiant with hope, stood before him. Her face had never beamed with a more wondrous frankness and sweetness.