A LETTER from Reuben indeed has come ; but not for Miss Adele. The Doctor is glad of the relief its perusal will give him. Meantime Miss Eliza, in her stately, patronizing manner, and with a coolness that was worse than a sneor, says, “ I hope you have pleasant news from your various friends abroad, Miss Maverick ? ”
Adèle lifted her eyes with a glitter in them that for a moment was almost serpent-like ; then, as if regretting her show of vexation, and with an evasive reply, bowed her head again to brood over the strange suspicions that haunted her. Miss Johns, totally unmoved, — thinking all the grief but a righteous dispensation for the sin in which the poor child had been born, — next addressed the Doctor, who had run his eye with extraordinary eagerness through the letter of his son.
What does Reuben say, Benjamin ? ” “ His ‘ idols,’ again, Eliza ; ’t is always the ‘ flesh-pots of Egypt.’ ”
And the Doctor reads; “ There is just now rare promise of a good venture in our trade at one of the ports of Sicily, and we have freighted two ships for immediate despatch. At the last moment our supercargo has failed us, and Brindlock has suggested that I go myself; it is short notice, as the ship is in the stream and may sail tomorrow, but I rather fancy the idea, and have determined to go. I hope you will approve. Of course, I shall have no time to run up to Ashfield to say good by. I shall try for a freight back from Naples, otherwise shall make some excuse to run across the Straits for a look at Vesuvius and the matters thereabout. St. Paul, you know, voyaged in those seas, which will interest you in my trip. I dare say I shall find where he landed : it s not far from Naples, Mrs. Brindlock tells me. Give love to the people who ever ask about me in Ashfield. I enclose a check of five hundred dollars for parish contingencies till I come back ; hoping to find you clean out of harness by that time.” (The Doctor cannot for his life repress a little smile here.) “ Tell Adele I shall see her blue Mediterranean at last, and will bring her back an olive-leaf, if I find any growing within reach. Tell Phil I love him, and that he deserves all the good he will surely get in this world, or in any other. Ditto for Rose. Ditto for good old Mrs. Elderkin, whom I could almost kiss for the love she ’s shown me. What high old romps have n't we had in her garden ! Eh, Adele ? (I suppose you'll show her this letter, father.)
“ Good by, again.
“ N. B. We hope to make a cool thirty thousand out of this venture ! ”
Adèle had half roused herself at the hearing of her name, but the careless, jocular mention of it, (so it seemed at least,) in contrast with the warmer leave-taking of other friends, added a new pang to her distress. She wished, for a moment, that she had never written her letter of thanks. What if she wished — in that hour of terrible suspicion and of vain search after any object upon which her future happiness might rest — that she had never been born ? Many a one has given hearty utterance to that wish with less cause. Many a one of those just tottering into childhood will live to give utterance to the same. But the great wheel of fate turns ever relentlessly on. It drags us up from the nether mysterious depths ; we sport and struggle and writhe and rejoice, as it bears us into the flashing blaze of life’s meridian ; then, with awful surety, it hurries us down, drags us under, once more into the abysses of silence and of mystery. Happy he who reads such promise as he passes in the lights fixed forever on the infinite depths above, that the silence and the mystery shall be as welcome as sleep to the tired worker!
“ It will be of service to Reuben, I think, Benjamin,” said Aunt Eliza ; “ I quite approve,” — and slipped away noiselessly.
The Doctor was still musing, — the letter in his hand, — when Adele rose, and, approaching him, said in her gentlest way, ‘‘It’s a great grief to you, New Papa, I know it is, but ‘God orders all things well,’ — except for me.”
“ Adaly ! my child, I am shocked ! ”
She had roused the preacher in him unwittingly.
“ I can't listen now,” said she, impatiently, “and tell me, — you must,— did papa give you the name of this — new person he is to marry ? ”
“ Yes, Adaly, yes,” but he has forgotten it ; and, searching for the previous letter, he presently finds it, and sets it before her, — “ Mademoiselle Chalet.”
“ Chalet! ” screams she. “ There is some horrible mistake, New Papa. More than ever I am in the dark,— in the dark ! ” And with a hasty adieu she rushed away, taking her course straight for the house of that outlawed woman, with whom now, more than ever, she must have so many sympathies in common. Her present object, however, was to learn if any more definite evidence could be found that the deceased lady — mother still, in her thought — bore the name of Chalet. She found the evidence. One or two little books (devotional books they prove to be), which the mistress of the house had thrown by as valueless, were brought out, upon the fly-leaves of which the keen eyes of Adele detected the name, — crossed and recrossed indeed, as if the poor woman would have destroyed all traces of her identity,—but still showing when held to the light a portion of the name she so cherished in her heart, — Chalet.
Adele was more than ever incensed at thought of the delusion or the deception of her father. But, by degrees, her indignation yielded to her affection. He was himself to come, he would make it clear; this new mother — whom she was sure she should not love — was to remain ; the Doctor had told her this much. She was glad of it. Yet she found in that fact a new proof that this person could not be her true mother. She would have rushed to her arms ; no fear of idle tongues could have kept her back. And though she yearned for the time when she should be clasped once more in. her father's arms, she dreaded the thought of crossing the seas with him upon such empty pilgrimage. She half wished for some excuse to detain her here, -—some fast anchor by which her love might cling, within reach of that grave where her holier affections had centred.
This wish was confirmed by the more cordial manner in which she was received by the Elderkins, and, indeed, by the whole village, so soon as the Doctor had made known the fact — as he did upon the earliest occasion — that Mr. Maverick was speedily to come for Adele, and to restore her to the embraces of a mother whom she had not seen for years.
Even the spinster, at the parsonage, was disposed to credit something to the rigid legal aspects which the affair was taking, and to find in them a shelter for her wounded dignities. Nor did she share the inquietude of the Doctor at thought of the new and terrible religious intluences to which Adele must presently be exposed ; under her rigid regard, this environment of the poor victim with all the subtlest influences of the Babylonish Church was but a proper and orderly retribution under Providence for family sins and the old spurning of the law. ’T was right, in her exalted view, that she should struggle and agonize and wrestle with Satan for much time to come, before she should fully cleanse her bedraggled skirts of ail taint of heathenism, and stand upon the high plane with herself, among the elect.
“It is satisfactory to reflect. Benjamin,” said she, “that during her residence with us the poor girl has been imbued with right principles ; at least I trust so.”
And as she spoke, the exemplary old lady plucked a little waif of down from her bombazine dress, and snapped it away jauntily upon the air, — even as, throughout her life, she had snapped from her the temptations of the world. And when, in his Scripture reading that very night, the Doctor came upon the passage “Wo unto yon, Pharisees ! ” the mind of the spinster was cheerfully intent upon the wretched sinners of Judæa.
THE news of Maverick’s prospective arrival, and the comments of the good Doctor, — as we have said, — shed a new light upon the position of Adele. Old Squire Elderkin. with a fatherly interest, was not unaffected by it; indeed, the Doctor had been communicative with him to a degree that had enlisted very warmly the old gentleman’s sympathies.
“ Better late than never, Doctor,” had been his comment; and he had thought it worth his while to drop a hint or two in the ear of Phil.
“ I say, Phil, my boy, I gave you a word of caution not long ago in regard to — to Miss Maverick. There were some bad stories afloat, my boy ; but they are cleared up, — quite cleared up, Phil.”
“ I’m glad of it, sir,” says Phil.
“ So am I, — so am I, my boy. She’s a fine girl. Phil, eh ?”
“ I think she is, sir.”
“ The deuse you do ! Well, and what then ? ”
Phil blushed, but the smile that came on his face was not a hearty one.
“ Well, Phil ? ”
“ I said she was a fine girl, sir,” said he, measuredly.
“ But she’s an uncommon fine girl, Phil, eh ? ”
“ I think she is, sir.”
“ Well ? ”
Phil was twirling his hat in an abstracted way between his knees. “ I don’t think she ’s to be won very easily,” said he at last.
“Nonsense, Phil! Faint heart never won. Make a bold push for it, my boy. The best birds drop at a quick shot.”
“ Do they ? ” said Phil, with a smile of incredulity that the old gentleman did not comprehend.
He found, indeed, a much larger measure of hope in a little hint that was let fall by Rose two days after. “ I would n’t despair if I were you, Phil,” she had whispered in his ear.
Ah, those quiet, tender, sisterly words of encouragement, of cheer, of hope ! Blest is the man who can enjoy them ! and accursed must he be who scorns them, or who can never win them.
Phil, indeed, had never given over most devoted and respectful attentions to Adele ; but he had shown them latterly with a subdued and half-distrustful air, which Adele with her keen insight had not been slow to understand. Trust a woman for fathoming all the shades of doubt which overhang the addresses of a lover !
Yet it was not easy for Phil, or indeed for any other, to understand or explain the manner of Adele at this time. Elated she certainly was in the highest degree at the thought of meeting and welcoming her father ; and there was an exuberance in her spirits when she talked of it, that seemed almost unnatural ; but the coming shadow of the new mother whom she was bound to welcome dampened all. The Doctor indeed had warned her against the Romish prejudices of this newly found relative, and had entreated her to cling by the faith in which she had been reared ; hut it was no fear of any such conflict that oppressed her ; —creeds all vanished under the blaze of that natural affection which craved a motherly embrace and which foresaw only falsity.
What wonder if her thought ran back, in its craving, to the days long gone, — to the land where the olive grew upon the hills, and the sunshine lay upon the sea, — where an old godmother, with withered hands clasped and raised, lifted up her voice at nightfall and chanted, —
Dulcis virgo Maria,
Ora, ora, pro nobis ! "
The Doctor would have been shocked had he heard the words tripping from the tongue of Adele ; yet, for her, they had no meaning save as expressive of a deep yearning for motherly guidance and motherly affection.
Mrs. Elderkin, with her kindly instinct, had seen the perplexity of Adele, and had said to her one day, “ Ady, my dear, is the thought not grateful to you that you will meet your mother once more, and he clasped in her arms ? ”
“ If I could, — if I could ! ” said Adele, with a burst of tears.
“ But you will, my child, you will. The Doctor has shown us the letters of your father. Nothing can he clearer. Even now she must he longing to greet you.”
“ Why does she not come, then ? ” — with a tone that was almost taunting.
“ But, Adèle, my dear, there may be reasons of which you do not know or which you could not understand.”
“ I could, — I do ! ” said Adèle, with spirit mastering her grief. “’T is not my mother, my true mother; she is in the graveyard ; I know it! ”
“ My dear child, do not decide hastily. We love you ; we all love you. You know that. And whatever may happen, you shall have a home with us. I will he a mother to you, Adele.”
The girl kissed her good hostess, and the words lingered on her ear long after nightfall. Why not her mother ? What parent could be more kind ? What home more grateful ? And should she bring dishonor to it then ? Could she he less sensitive to that thought than her father had already shown himself? She perceives, indeed, that within a short time, and since the later communications from her father, the manner of those who had looked most suspiciously upon her has changed. But they do not know the secret of that broidered kerchief, — the secret of that terrible death-clasp, which she never, nev-er can forget. She will he true to her own sense of honor ; she will be true, too, to her own faith,— the faith in which she has been reared, — whatever may be the persuasions of that new relative beyond the seas whom she so dreads to meet.
Indeed, it is with dreary anticipations that she forecasts now her return to that belle France which has so long borne olive-branches along its shores for welcome; she foresees struggle, change, hypocrisies, may be, — who can tell ? — and she begins to count the weeks of her stay amid the quiet of Ashfield in the same spirit in which youngsters score off the remaining days of the long vacation. Adele finds herself gathering, and pressing within the leaves of some cherished book, little sprays of dead bloom that shall be, in the dim and mysterious future, mementoes of the walks, the frolics, the joys that have belonged to this, staid New England home. From the very parsonage door she has brought away a sprig of a rampant sweet-brier that has grown there this many a year, and its delicate leaflets are among her chiefest treasures.
More eagerly than ever she listens to the kindly voices that greet her and speak cheer to her in the home of the Elderkins, — voices which she leels bitterly will soon be heard no more by her. Even the delicate and always respectful attentions of Phil have an added, though a painful charm, since they are so soon to have an end. She knows that she will remember him always, though his tenderest words can waken no hopes of a brighter future for her. She even takes him partially into her confidence, and, strolling with him down the street one clay, she decoys him to the churchyard gate, where she points out to him the stone she had placed over the grave that was so sacred to her.
“ Phil,” said she, “ you have always been full of kindness for me. When I am gone, have a care of that stone and grave, please, Phil. My best friend lies there.”
“ I don’t think you know your best friends,” stammered Phil.
“ I know you are one,” said Adèle, calmly, “ and that I can trust you to do what I ask about this grave. Can I, Phil ? ”
“ You know you can, Adele ; hut I don’t like this talk of your going, as if you were never to he among us again. Do you think you can be happiest yonder with strangers, Adele ?”
“ It’s not — where I can he happiest, Phil ; I don’t ask myself that question ; I fear I never can”; —and her lips trembled as she said it.
“You can,—you ought,” burst out Phil, fired at sight of her emotion, and would have gone on bravely and gallantly, may be, with the passion that was surging in him, if a look of hers and a warning finger had not stayed him.
“ We ’ll talk no more of this, Phil ’’ ; and her lips were as firm as iron now.
Both of them serious and silent for a while ; until at length Adele, in quite her old manner, says: “ Of course,
Phil, father may bring me to America again some day ; and it so, I shall certainly beg for a little visit in Ashfield. It would he very ungrateful in me not to remember the pleasant times I ’ve had here.”
But Phil cannot so deftly change the color of his talk ; his chattiness has all gone from him. Nor does it revive on reaching home. Good Mrs. Elderkin says, “What makes you so crusty, Phil ? ”
MAVERICK arrives, as he had promised to do, some time in early July; comes up from the city without announcing himself in advance ; and, leaving the old coach, which still makes its periodical trips from the river, a mile out from the town, strolls along the highway. He remembers well the old outline of the hills ; and the straggling hedge-rows, the scattered granite boulders, the whistling of a quail from a near fence in the meadow, all recall the old scenes which he knew in boyhood. At a solitary house by the wayside a flaxen-haired youngster is blowing off soap-bubbles into the air,—with obstreperous glee whenever one rises above the house-tops,—-while the mother, with arms akimbo, looks admiringly from the open window. It was the home to which the feet of Adèle had latterly so often wandered.
Maverick is anxious for a word with the Doctor before his interview with Adèle even. He does not know her present home ; but he is sure he can recall the old parsonage, in whose exterior, indeed, there have been no changes for years. The shade of the embowering elms is grateful as he strolls on into the main street of the town. It is early afternoon, and there are few passers-by. Here and there a blind is coyly turned, and a sly glance cast upon the stranger. A trio of school-boys look wonderingly at his foreign air and dress. A few loiterers upon the tavern steps — instructed, doubtless, by the stage-driver, who has duly delivered his portmanteau — remark upon him as he passes.
And now at last he sees the old porch, — the diamond lights in the door. Twenty and more years ago, and he had lounged there, as the pretty Rachel drove up in the parson’s chaise. The same rose-brier is nodding its untrimmed boughs by the door. From the open window above he catches a glimpse of a hard, thin face, with spectacles on nose, that scans him curiously. The Doctor’s hat and cane are upon the table at the foot of the stairs within. He taps with his knuckles upon the study-door,—and again the two college mates are met together. At sight of the visitor, whom he recognizes at a glance, the heart of the old man is stirred by a little of the old youthful feeling.
“ Maverick ! ” and he greets him with open hand.
“Johns, God bless you ! ”
The parson was white-haired, and was feeble to a degree that shocked Maverick; while the latter was still erect and prim, and, with his gray hair carefully brushed to conceal his growing baldness, appeared in excellent preservation. His coquettings for sixty years with the world, the flesh, and the Devil had not yet reduced his fthisique to that degree of weakness which the multiplied spiritual wrestlings had entailed upon the good Doctor. The minister recognized this with a look rather of pity than of envy, and may possibly have bethought himself of that Dives who “ in his lifetime received good things,” but “now is tormented.”
Yet he ventured upon no warning; there is, indeed, a certain assured manner about the man of the world who has passed middle age, which a country parson, however good or earnest he may be, would no more attempt to pierce than he would attempt a thrust of his pen through ice.
Their conversation, after the first greetings, naturally centres upon Adele. Maverick is relieved to find that she knows, even now, the worst ; but he is grievously pained to learn that she is still in doubt, by reason of that strange episode which had grown out of the presence and death of Madame Arles. — an episode which, even now, he is at a loss to explain.
“ She will be unwilling to return with me then,” said Maverick, in a troubled manner.
“No,” said the Doctor, “she expects that. You will find in her, Maverick, a beautiful respect for your authority ; and, I think, a still higher respect for the truth.”
So it was with disturbed and conflicting feelings that Maverick made his way to the present home of Adele.
The windows and doors of the Elderkin mansion were all open upon that July day. Adele had seen him, even as he entered the little gate, and, recognizing him on the instant, had rushed down to meet him in the hall.
“ Papa! papa ! ” and she had buried her face upon his bosom.
“ Adele, darling ! you are glad to welcome me then?”
“ Delighted, papa.”
And Maverick kissed, again and again, that fair face of which he was so proud.
We recoil from the attempt to transcribe the glowing intimacy of their first talk.
After a time, Maverick says, “You will be glad to return with me, — glad to embrace again your mother ? ”
“ My own, true mother ? ” said Adele, the blood running now swift over cheek and brow.
“ Your own, Adele, — your own ! As God is true ! ”
Adele grows calm, — an unwonted calmness. “Tell me how she looks, papa,” said she.
“ Your figure, Adele ; not so tall, perhaps, but slight like you ; and her hair, — you have her hair, darling (and he kissed it). Your eye too, for color, with a slight, hardly noticeable cast in it.” And as Adèle turned an inquiring glance upon him, he exclaimed : “ You have that too, my darling, as you look at me now.”
Adele, still calm, says : “ I know it, papa; I have seen her. Do not deceive me. She died in these arms, papa!” — and with that her calmness is gone. She can only weep upon his shoulder.
“ But, Adele, child, this cannot be ; do not trust to so wild a fancy. You surely believe me, darling ! ”
Had she argued the matter, he would have been better satisfied. She did not, however. Her old tranquillity came again.
“ I will go with you, papa, cheerfully,” said she.
It was only too evident to Maverick that there was a cause of distrust between them. Under all of Addle’s earnest demonstrations of affection, which were intensely grateful to him, there was still a certain apparent reserve of confidence, as if some great inward leaning of her heart found no support in him or his. This touched him to the quick. The Doctor — had he unfolded the matter to him fully — would have called it, may be, the sting of retribution. Nor was Maverick at all certain that the shadowy" doubt which seemed to rest upon the mind of Adele with respect to the identity of her mother was the sole cause of this secret reserve of confidence. It might be, he thought, that her affections were otherwise engaged, and that the change to which she assented with so little fervor would be at the cost of other ties to which he was a stranger.
On this score he consulted with the Doctor. As regarded Reuben, there could be no doubt. Whatever tie may" have existed there was long since broken. With respect to Phil Elderkin the parson was not so certain. Maverick had been attracted by his fine, frank manner, and was not blind to his capital business capacities and prospects. If the happiness of Adele were in question, he could entertain the affair. He even ventured to approach the topic — coyly as he could — in a talk with Adele ; and she, as the first glimmer of his meaning dawned upon her, says, “ Don’t whisper it, papa. It can never be.”
And so Maverick — not a little disconcerted at the thought that he cannot now, as once, fathom all the depths of his child’s sensibilities — sets himself resolutely to the work of preparation for departure. His affaires may keep him a month, and involve a visit to one or two of the principal cities ; then, ho for la belle France ! Adele certainly lends a cheerful assent. He cannot doubt — with those repeated kisses on his cheek and brow — her earnest filial affection; and if her sentiment slips beyond his control, or parries all his keenness of vision, what else has a father, verging upon sixty, to expect in a daughter, tenderly affectionate as she may be? Maverick’s philosophy taught him to “ take the world as it is.” Only one serious apprehension of disquietude oppressed him ; the doubts and vagaries of Adele would clear themselves under the embrace of Julie ; but in respect to the harmony of their religious beliefs he had grave doubts. There had grown upon Adele, since he had last seen her, a womanly dignity, which even a mother must respect; and into that dignity — into the woof and warp of it —were inwrought all her religious sympathies.
Was his home yonder, across the seas, to become the scene of struggles about creeds? It certainly was not the sort of domestic picture he had foreshadowed to himself at twenty-five. But at sixty a man blows bubbles no longer — except that of his own conceit. The heart of Maverick was not dead in him ; a kiss of Adele wakened a thrilling, delicious sensation there, of which he had forgotten his capability. He followed her graceful step and figure with an eye that looked beyond and haunted the past —vainly, vainly ! Her “ Papa ! ” — sweetly uttered — stirred sensibilities in him that amazed himself, and seemed like the phantoms of dreams he dreamed long ago.
But in the midst of Maverick’s preparations for departure a letter came to hand from Mrs. Maverick, which complicated once more the situation.
THE mother has read the letter of her child, — the letter in which appeal had been made to the father in behalf of the “ unworthy ” one whom the daughter believed to be sleeping in her grave. The tenderness of the appeal smote the poor woman to the heart. It bound her to the child she scarce had seen by bonds into which her whole moral being was knitted anew. But we must give the letter entire, as offering explanations which can in no way be better set forth. The very language kindles the ardor of Adele. Her own old speech again, with the French echo of her childhood in every line.
“ Mon cher Monsieur,”— in this way she begins ; for her religious severities, if not her years, have curbed any disposition to explosive tenderness,— “I have received the letter of our child, which was addressed to you. I cannot tell you the feelings with which I have read it. I long to clasp her to my heart. And she appeals to you, for me.—the dear child! Yes, you have well done in telling her that I was unworthy (méchante). It is true, — unworthy in forgetting duty, — unworthy in loving too well. O Monsieur! if I could live over again that life, — that dear young life among the olive orchards ! But the good Christ (thank Him!) leads back the repentant wanderers into the fold of His Church.
‘ Laus tibi, Chrisie ! ’
“And the poor child believes that I am in my grave! May be that were better for her and better for me. But no, I shall clasp her to my heart once more, — she, the poor babe ! But I forget myself; it is a woman’s letter I have been reading. What earnestness ! what maturity ! what dignity ! what tenderness ! And will she be as tender to the living as to the erring one whom she believes dead ? My heart stops when I ask myself. Yes,
I know she will. The Blessed Virgin whispers me that she will, and I fly to greet her ! A month, two months, three months, four months?—It is an age.
“ Monsieur ! I cannot wait. I must take ship — sail — wings (if I could find them), and go to meet my child. Until I do there is a tempest in my brain — heart — everywhere. You are surprised, Monsieur, but there is another reason why I should go to this land where Adèle has lived. Do you wish to know it ? Listen, then, Monsieur !
“ Do you know who this poor sufferer was whom our child had learned so to love, who died in her arms, who sleeps in the graveyard there, and of whom Adele thinks as of a mother ?
I have inquired, I have searched high and low, I have fathomed all. Ah, my poor, good sister Marie ! Only Marie! You have never known her. In those other days at dear Arles she was too good for you to know hei‘. Yet even then she was a guardian angel,—a guardian too late. Mea culpa ! Mea culpa !
“I know it can be only Marie; I know it can be only she, who sleeps under the sod in Ash——— (ce nom m'échappe).
“ Listen again : in those early, bitter charming days, when you, Monsieur, knew the hillsides and the drives about our dear old town of Arles, poor Marie was away ; had she been there, I had never listened, as I did listen, to the words you whispered in my ear. Only when it was too late, she came. Poor, good Marie ! how she pleaded with me ! How her tender, good face spoke reproaches to me ! If I was the pride of our household, she was the angel. She it was, who, knowing the worst, said, ‘Julie, this must end!’ She it was who labored day and night to set me free from the wicked web that bound me. I reproached her, the poor, good Marie, in saying that she was the plainer, that she had no beauty, that she was devoured with envy. But the Blessed Virgin was working ever by. her side. Whatever doubts you may have entertained of me, Monsieur,— she created them ; whatever suspicions tortured you, — she fed them, but always with the holiest of motives. And when shame came, as it did come, the poor Marie would have screened me, — would have carried the odium herself. Good Marie ! the angels have her in keeping!
“ Listen again, Monsieur ! When that story, that false story, of the death of my poor child, came to light in the journals, who but Marie should come to me — deceived herself as I was deceived— and say, ‘Julie, dear one, God has taken the child in mercy ; there is no stigma can rest upon you in the eyes of the world. Live now as the Blessed Magdalen lived when Christ had befriended her.’ And by her strength I was made strong ; the Blessed Virgin be thanked !
“ Finally, it came to her knowledge one day,— the dear Mane ! — that the rumor of the death was untrue, — that the babe was living, — that the poor child had been sent over the seas to your home, Monsieur. Well, I was far away in the East. Does Marie tell me ? No, the dear one ! She writes me, that she is going ‘over seas,’ — tired of la belle France, — she who loved it so dearly! And she went,— to watch, to pray, to console. And I, the mother!—Mon Dieu, Monsieur, the words fail me. No wonder our child loved her; no wonder she seems a mother to her !
“ Listen yet again, Monsieur. My poor sister died yonder, in that heretical land, — may be without absolution.
In corona Jesu sita,
Tam in monte quam in vita
Sis nobis propitia !’
I must go, if it be only to find her grave, and to secure her burial in some consecrated spot. She waits for me, — her ghost, her spirit,— I must go ; the holy water must be sprinkled ; the priestly rites be said. Marie, poor Marie, I will not fail you.
“Monsieur, I must go! — not alone to greet our child, but to do justice to my sainted sister! Listen well! All that has been devotional in ray poor life centres here ! I must go, — I must do what I may to hallow my poor sister’s grave. Adèle will not give up her welcome surely, if I am moved by such religious purpose. She, too, must join me in an Ave Maria over that resting-place of the departed.
“ I shall send this letter by the overland and British mail, that it may come to you very swiftly. It will come to you while you are with the poor child, — our Adele. Greet her for me as warmly as you can. Tell her I shall hope, God willing, to bring her into the bosom of his Holy Church Catholic. I shall try and love her, though she remain a heretic ; but this will not be.
“ If I can enough curb myself, I shall wait for your answer, Monsieur; but it is necessary that I go yonder. Look for me ; kiss our child for me. And if you ever prayed, Monsieur, I should say, pray for
“ Votre amie,
The letter is of the nature of a revelation to Adele ; her doubts respecting Madame Arles vanish on the instant. The truth, as set forth in her mother's language, blazes upon her mind like a flame. She loves the grave none the less, but the mother by far the more. She, too, wishes to greet her amid the scenes which she has known so long. Nor is Maverick himself averse to this new disposition of affairs, it indeed he possessed any power (which he somewhat doubts) of readjusting it. Seeing the kindly intentions toward Adele? and the tolerant feeling (to say the least) with which Mrs. Maverick will be met by these friends of the daughter, he trusts that the mother's interviews with the Doctor, and a knowledge of the kindly influences under which Adele has grown up, may lessen the danger of a religious altercation between mother and child, which has been his great bugbear in view of their future association.
A man of the world, like Maverick, naturally takes this common-sense view of religious differences ; why not compound matters, he thinks ; and he hints as much quietly to the parson. The old gentleman’s spirit is stirred to its depths by the intimation ; like all earnest zealots, he recognizes one only unswerving rule of faith, and that the faith in which he has been reared. They who hold conflicting doctrines must yield,—yield absolutely, — or there is no safety for them. In his eye there was but one strait gate to the Celestial City, and that any wearing the furbelow's of Rome should ever enter thereat could only come of God’s exceeding mercy ; for himself, It must always be a duty to cry aloud to such to strip themselves clean of their mummery, and do works “ meet for repentance.”
Adele, after her first period of exultation over the recent news is passed, relapses — perhaps by reason of its excess — into something of her old vague doubt and apprehension of coming evil. The truth — if it be truth — is so strange ! —so mysteriously strange that she shall indeed clasp her mother to her heart ; the grave yonder is so real! and that fearful embrace in death so present to her ! Or it may be an anticipation of the fearful spiritual estrangement that must ensue, and or which she seems to find confirmation in the earnest talk and gloomy forebodings of the Doctor.
Maverick effects a diversion by proposing a jaunt of travel, in which Rose shall be their companion. Adele accepts the scheme with delight, — a delight, after all, which lies as much in the thought of watching the eager enjoyment of Rose as in any pleasant distractions of her own. The pleasure of Maverick is by no means so great as in that trip of a few' years back. Then he had for companion an enthusiastic girl, to whom life was fresh, and all the clouds that seemed to rest upon it so shadowy, that each morning sun lifting among the mountains dispersed them utterly.
Now, Adele showed the thoughtfulness of a woman,— her enthusiasms held in check by a more calm estimate of the life that opened before her, — her sportiveness overborne by a soberness, which, if it gave dignity, gave also a womanly gravity. Yet she did not lack filial devotion; she admired still that easy world-manner of his which had once called out her enthusiastic regard, but now queried in her secret heart it its acquisition had not involved cost of purity of conscience. She loved him too, — yes, she loved him ; and her evening and morning kiss and embrace were reminders to him of a joy he might have won, but had not, — of a home peace that might have been his, but whose image now only lifted above his horizon like some splendid mirage crowded with floating fairy shapes, and like the mirage melted presently into idle vapor.
It was a novel experience for Maverick to find himself (as he did time and again upon this summer trip in New England) sandwiched, of a Sunday, between his two blooming companions and some sober-sided deacon, in the pew of a country meeting-house. How his friend Papiol would have stared ! And the suggestion, coming to him with the buzz of a summer fly through the open windows, did not add to his devotional sentiment. Yet Maverick would follow gravely the scramble of the singers through the appointed hymn with a sober self-denial, counting the self-denial a virtue. We all make memoranda of the small religious virtues when the large ones are missing.
Upon the return to Ashfield there is found a new letter from Madam Maverick. She can restrain herself no longer. Under the advices of her brother, she will, with her maid, take the first safe ship leaving Marseilles for New York. She longs to bring Adele with herself, by special consecration, under the guardianship of the Holy Virgin.
The Doctor is greatly grieved in view of the speedy departure of Adele, and tenfold grieved when Maverick lays before him the letter of the mother, and he sees the fiery zeal which the poor child must confront.
Over and over in those last interviews he seeks to fortify her faith ; he warns her against the delusions, the falsities, the idolatries of Rome ; he warns her to distrust a religion of creeds, of human authority, of traditions. Christ, the Bible, — these are the true monitors; and “Mind, Adaly,” says he, “hold fast always to the Doctrine of the Westminster Divines. That is sound,-—that is sound ! ”
REUBEN went with a light heart upon his voyage. The tender memories of Ashfield were mostly lived clown. (Had the letter of Adele ever reached him, it might have been far different.) Rose, Phil, the Tourtelots, the Tew partners (still worrying through a green old age), the meeting-house, even the Doctor himself and Adele, seemed to belong to a sphere whose interests were widely separate from his own, and in which he should appear henceforth only as a casual spectator. The fascinations of his brilliant business successes had a firm grip upon him. He indulges himself, indeed, from time to time, with the fancy that some day, far off now, he will return to the scenes of his boyhood, and astonish some of the old landholders by buying them out at a fabulous price, and by erecting a “castle” of his own, to be enlivened by the fairy graces of some sylph not yet fairly determined upon. Surely not Rose, who would hardly be equal to the grandeur of his proposed establishment, if she were not already engrossed by that “noodle” (his thought expressing itself thus wrathfully) of an assistant minister. Adèle, — and the name has something in it that electrifies, in spite of himself, — Adèle, if she ever overcomes her qualms of conscience, will yield to the tender persuasions of Phil. “ Good luck to him!” — and he says this, too, with a kind of wrathful glee.
Still, he builds his cloud castles ; some one must needs inhabit them. Some paragon of refinement and of beauty will one day appear, for whose tripping feet his wealth will lay down a path of pearls and gold. The lonely, star-lit nights at sea encourage such phantasms ; and the break of the waves upon the bow, with their myriad of phosphorescent sparkles, cheats and illumines the fancy. We will not follow him throughout his voyage. On a balmy morning of July he wakes with the great cliff of Gibraltar frowning on him. After this come light, baffling winds, and for a week be looks southward upon the mysterious, violet lift of the Barbary shores, and pushes slowly eastward into the blue expanse of the Mediterranean. In the Sicilian ports he is abundantly successful. Pie has ample time to cross over to Naples, to ascend Vesuvius, and to explore Herculaneum and Pompeii. But he does not forget the other side of the beautiful liny. Baiæ and Pozzuoli. He takes, indeed, a healthful pleasure in writing to the Doctor a description of this latter, and of his walk in the vicinity of the great seaport where St. Paul must have landed from his ship of the Castor and Pollux, on his way from Syracuse. But he does not tell the Doctor that, on the same evening, he attended an opera at the San Carlo in Naples, of which the ballet, if nothing else, would have called down the good man’s anathema.
An American of twenty-five, placed for the first time upon the sunny pavements of Naples, takes a new lease of life, — at least of its imaginative part. The beautiful blue stretch of sea, the lava streets, the buried towns and cities, the baths and ruins of Baiæ, the burning mountain, piling its smoke and fire into the serene sky, the memories of Tiberius, of Cicero, of Virgil,— all these enchant him. And beside these are the things of to-day, — the luscious melons, the oranges, the figs, the warships lying on the bay, the bloody miracle of St. Januarius, the Lazzaroni upon the church steps, the processions of friars, and always the window of his chamber, looking one way upon blue Capri, and the other upon smouldering Vesuvius.
At Naples Reuben hears from the captain of the Meteor—in which good ship he has made his voyage, anti counts upon making his return — that the vessel can take up half her cargo at a better freight by touching at Marseilles. Whereupon Reuben orders him to go thither, promising to join him at that port in a fortnight. A fortnight only for Rome, for Florence, for Pisa, for the City of Palaces, and then the marvellous Cornice road along the shores of the sea. Terracina brought back to him the story of Mr. Alderman Popkins and the Principessa, and the bandits ; after this came the heights Of Albano and Soracte, and there, at last, the Tiber, the pyramid tomb, the great church dome, the stone pines of the Janiculan hill, — Rome itself. Reuben was not strong or curious in his classics ; the galleries and the churches took a deeper hold upon him than the Forum and the ruins. He wandered for hours together under the arches of St. Peter's. He wished he might have led the Doctor along its pavement into the very presence of the mysteries of the Scarlet Woman of Babylon. He wished Miss Almira, with her saffron ribbons, might be there, sniffing at her little vial of salts, and may be singing treble. The very meeting-house upon the green, that was so held in reverence, with its belfry and spire atop, would hardly make a scaffolding from which to brush the cobwebs from the frieze below the vaulting of this grandest of temples. Oddly enough, he fancies Deacon Tourtelot, in his snuff-colored surtout, pacing down the nave with him, and saying,—-as he would be like to say, — “ Must ha’ been a smart man that built it ; but I guess they don’t have better preachin’, as a gineral thing, than the old Doctor gives us on FastDavs or in ‘protracted ’ meetin’s.”
Such queer humors and droll comparisons flash into the mind of Reuben, even under all his sense of awe, — a swift, disorderly mingling of the themes and offices which kindled his first sense of religious awe under a home atmosphere with the wondrous forms and splendor which kindle a new awe now. The great dome enwalling with glittering mosaics a heaven of its own, and blazing with figured saints, and the golden distich, “ Thou art Peter,—-to thee will I give the keys of the kingdom of heaven,” —all this seems too grand to be untrue. Are not the keys verily here ? Can falsehood build up so august a lie ? A couple of friars shuffle past him, and go to their prayers at some near altar; he does not even smile at their shaven pates and their dowdy, coarse gowns of serge. Low music from some far-away chapel comes floating under the panelled vaultings, and loses itself under the great dome, with a sound so gentle, so full of entreaty, that it seems to him the clove on the high altar might have made it with a cooing and a flutter of her white wings. A mother and two daughters, in black, glide past him, and drop upon their knees before some saintly shrine, and murmur their thanksgivings, or their entreaty. And he, with no aim of worship, yet somehow shocked out of his unbelief by the very material influences around him.
Reuben’s old wranglings and struggles with doubt had ended — where so many are apt to end, when the world is sunny and success weaves its silken meshes for the disport of self—in a quiet disbelief that angered him no longer, because he had given over all fight with it. But the great dome, flaming with its letters, Ædificabo meam Ecclesiam, shining there for ages, kindled the fight anew. And strange as it may seem, and perplexing as it was to the Doctor (when he received Reuben’s story of it), he came out from his first visit to the great Romish temple with his religious nature more deeply stirred than it had been for years.
Ædificabo meam Ecclesiam. HE had uttered it. There was then something to build, — something that had been built, at whose shrine millions worshipped trustingly.
Under the sombre vaultings of the great Florentine Cathedral, the impression was not weakened. The austere gloom of it chimed more nearly with his state of unrest. Then there are the galleries, the painted ceilings, —angels, saints, martyrs, holy families, — can art have been leashed through so many ages with a pleasant fiction ? Is there not somewhere at bottom an earnest, vital truth, which men must needs cling by if they be healthful and earnest themselves ? Even the meretricious adornments of the churches of Genoa afford new evidence of the way in which the heart of a people has lavished itself upon belief; and if belief, why, then, hope.
Upon the Cornice road, with Italy behind him and home before (such home as he knows), he thinks once more of those he has left. Not that he has forgotten them altogether ; he has purchased a rich coral necklace in Naples, which will be the very thing for his old friend Rose ; and, in Rome, the richest cameos to be found in the Via Condotti he has secured for Adele ; even for Aunt Eliza he has brought away from Florence a bit of the pietra dura, a few olive-leaves upon a black ground. Nor has he forgotten a rich piece of the Genoese velvet for Mrs. Brindlock ; and, for his father, an old missal, which, he trusts, dates back far enough to save it from the odium he attaches to the present Church, and to give it an early Christian sanctity. He has counted upon seeing Mr. Maverick at Marseilles, but learns, with surprise, upon his arrival there, that this gentleman had sailed for America some months previously. The ship is making a capital freight, and the captain informs him that application has been made for the only vacant state-room in their little cabin by a lady attended by her maid. Reuben assents cheerfully to this accession of companionship; and, running off for a sight of the ruins at Nismes and Arles, returns only in time to catch the ship upon the day of its departure. As they pass out of harbor, the lady passenger, in deep black, (the face seems half familiar to him.) watches wistfully the receding shores, and, as they run abreast the chapel of Nôtre Dame de la Garde, she devoutly crosses herself and tells her beads.
Reuben is to make the voyage with the mother of Adèle. Both bound to the same quiet township of New England ; he, to reach Ashfield once more, there to undergo swiftly a new experience, — an experience that can come to no man but once ; she, to be clasped in the arms of Adele,— a cold embrace and the last!