Doctor Johns

LXIII.

REUBEN had heard latterly very little of domestic affairs at Ashfield. He knew scarce more of the family relations of Adèle than was covered by that confidential announcement of the parson’s which had so set on fire his generous zeal. The spinster, indeed, in one of her later letters had hinted, in a roundabout manner, that Adèle’s family misfortunes were not looking so badly as they once did, — that the poor girl (she believed) felt tenderly still toward her old playmate, — and that Mr. Maverick was, beyond all question, a gentleman of very easy fortune. But Reuben was not in a mood to be caught by any chaff administered by his most respectable aunt. If, indeed, he had known all, — if that hearty burst of Adèle’s gratitude had come to him,— if he could once have met her with the old freedom of manner, — ah ! then — then —

But no ; he thinks of her now as one under social blight, which he would have lifted or borne with her had not her religious squeamishness forbidden. He tries to forget what was most charming in her, and has succeeded passably well.

“ I suppose she is still modelling her heroes on the Catechism,” he thought, ‘‘and Phil will very likely pass muster.”

The name of Madam Maverick as attaching to their fellow-passenger — which came to his ear for the first time on the second day out from port— considerably startled him. Madam Maverick is, he learns, on her way to join her husband and child in America. But he is by no means disposed to entertain a very exalted respect for any claimant of such name and title. He finds, indeed, the prejudices of his education (so he calls them) asserting themselves with a fiery heat; and most of all he is astounded by the artfully arranged religious drapery with which this poor woman — as it appears to him — seeks to cover her short-comings. He had brought away from the atmosphere of the old cathedrals a certain quickened religious sentiment, by the aid of which he had grown into a respect, not only for the Romish faith, but for Christian faith of whatever degree. And now he encountered what seemed to him its gross prostitution. The old Doctor then was right: this Popish form of heathenism was but a device of Satan, — a scarlet covering of iniquity. Yet, in losing respect for one form of faith, he found himself losing respect for all. It was easy for him to match the present hypocrisy with hypocrisies that he had seen of old.

Meantime, the good ship Meteor was skirting the shores of Spain, and had made a good hundred leagues of her voyage before Reuben had ventured to make himself known as the old schoolmate and friend of the child whom Madam Maverick was on her way to greet after so many years of separation. The truth was, that Reuben, his first disgust being overcome, could not shake off the influence of something attractive and winning in the manner of Madam Maverick. In her step and in her lithe figure he saw the step and figure of Adèle. All her orisons and aves, which she failed not to murmur each morning and evening, were reminders of the earnest faith of her poor child. It is impossible to treat her with disrespect. Nay, it is impossible, — as Reuben begins to associate more intimately the figure and the voice of this quiet lady with his memories of another and a younger one, — quite impossible, that he should not feel his whole chivalrous nature stirred in him, and become prodigal of attentions. If there were hypocrisy, it somehow cheated him into reverence.

The lady is, of course, astounded at Reuben’s disclosure to her. “Mon Dieu ! you, then, are the son of that good priest of whom I have heard so much ! And you are Puritan ? I would not have thought that. They love the vanities of the world then,” — and her eye flashed over the well-appointed dress of Reuben, who felt half an inclination to hide, if it had been possible, the cluster of gairish charms which hung at his watch-chain. “You have shown great kindness to my child, Monsieur. I thank you with my whole heart.”

“She is very charming, Madam,” said Reuben, in an easy, dégagé manner, which, to tell truth, he put on to cover a little embarrassing revival of his old sentiment.

Madam Maverick looked at him keenly. “ Describe her to me, if you will be so good, Monsieur.”

Whereupon Reuben ran on,—jauntily, at first, as if it had been a balletgirl of San Carlo whose picture he was making out; but his old hearty warmth declared itself by degrees ; and his admiration and his tenderness gave such warm color to his language as it might have shown if her little gloved hand had been shivering even then in his own passionate clasp. And as he closed, with a great glow upon his face, Madam Maverick burst forth,—

Mon Dieu, how I love her ! Yet is it not a thing astonishing that I should ask you, a stranger. Monsieur, how my own child is looking? Culpa mea ! culpa mea !" and she clutched at her rosary, and mumbled an ave, with her eyes lifted and streaming tears.

Reuben looked upon her in wonder, amazed at the depth of her emotion. Could this be all hypocrisy ?

Tenez ! ” said she, recovering herself, and reading, as it were, bis doubts. “You count these ” (lifting her rosary) “ bawbles yonder, and our prayers pagan prayers ; my husband has told me, and that she, Adèle, is taught thus, and that the Bon Dieu has forsaken our Holy Church, — that He comes near now only to your—what shall I call them? — meeting-houses? Tell me, Monsieur, does Adèle think this ?”

“I think,” said Reuben, “ that your daughter would have charity for any religious faith which was earnest.”

“Charity! Mon Dieu ! Charity for sins, charity for failings, — yes, I ask it; but for my faith! No, Monsieur, no — no — a thousand times, no ! ”

“ This is real,” thought Reuben.

“ Tell me, Monsieur,” continued she, with a heat of language that excited his admiration, “ what is it you believe there ? What is the horror against which your New England teachers would warn my poor Adèle ? May the Blessed Virgin be near her ! ”

Whereupon, Reuben undertook to lay down the grounds of distrust in which he had been educated ; not, surely, with the fervor or the logical sequence which the old Doctor would have given to the same, but yet inveighing in good set terms against the vain ceremonials, the idolatries, the mummeries, the confessional, the empty absolution; and summing up all with the formula (may be he had heard the Doctor use the same language) that the piety of the Romanist was not so much a deep religious conviction of the truth, as a sentiment.

“ Sentiment ! ” exclaims Madam Maverick. “What else? What but love of the good God ? ”

But not so much by her talk as by the every-day sight of her serene, unfaltering devotion is Reuben won into a deep respect for her faith.

Those are rare days and rare nights for him, as the good ship Meteor slips down past the shores of Spain to the Straits, — days all sunny, nights moonlit. To the right, — not discernible, but he knows they are there, — the swelling hills of Catalonia and of Andalusia, the marvellous Moorish ruins, the murmurs of the Guadalquivir ; to the left, a broad sweep of burnished sea, on which, late into the night, the moon pours a stream of molten silver, that comes rocking and widening toward him, and vanishes in the shadow of the ship. The cruise has been a splendid venture for him, — twenty-five thousand at the least. And as he paces the decks, — in the view only of the silent man at the wheel and of the silent stars, — he forecasts the palaces he will build. The feeble Doctor shall have ease and every luxury; he will be gracious in his charities ; he will astonish the old people by his affluence ; he will live —

Just here, he spies a female figure stealing from the companion-way, and gliding beyond the shelter of the wheelhouse. Half concealed as he chances to be in the shadow of the rigging, he sees her fall upon her knees, and, with head uplifted, cross her hands upon her bosom. ’T is a short prayer, and the instant after she glides below.

"Good God ! what trust! ” — it is an ejaculatory prayer of Reuben’s, rather than an oath. And with it, swift as the wind, comes a dreary sense of unrest. The palaces he had built vanish. The stars blink upon him kindly, and from their wondrous depths challenge his thought. The sea swashes idly against the floating ship. He too afloat,— afloat. Whither bound ? Yearning still for a belief on which he may repose. And he bethinks himself,-—does it lie somewhere under the harsh and dogmatic utterances of the Ashfield pulpit ? At the thought, he recalls the weary iteration of cumbersome formulas, that passed through his brain like leaden plummets, and the swift lashings of rebuke, if he but reached over for a single worldly floweret, blooming beside the narrow path ; and yet,— and yet, from the leaden atmosphere of that past, saintly faces beam upon him,— a mother’s, Adèle’s, — nay, the kindly fixed gray eyes of the old Doctor glow upon him with a fire that must have been kindled with truth.

Does it lie in the melodious aves, and under the robes of Rome ? The sordid friars, with their shaven pates, grin at him ; some Rabelais head of a priest in the confessional-stall leers at him with mockery: and yet the golden letters of the great dome gleam again with the blazing legend, Ædificabo me am Ecclesiam ! — and the figure of the Magdalen yonder has just now murmured, in tones that must surely have reached a gracious ear, —

“ Tibi Christe, redemptori,
Nostro vero salvatori ! ”

Is the truth between ? Is it in both ? Is it real? And if real, why may not the same lips declare it under the cathedral or the meeting-house roof? Why not —in God’s name — charity?

LXIV.

THE Meteor is a snug ship, well found, well manned, and, as the times go, well officered. The captain, indeed, is not over-alert or fitted for high emergencies ; but what emergencies can belong to so placid a voyage ? For a week after the headlands of Tarifa and Spartel have sunk under the eastern horizon, the vessel is kept every day upon her course, — her top-gallant and studding sails all distent with the wind blowing freely from over Biscay. After this come light, baffling, westerly breezes, with sometimes a clear sky, and then all is overclouded by the drifting trade-mists. Zigzagging on, quietly as ever, save the bustle and whiz and flapping canvas of the ship " in stays,” the good Meteor pushes gradually westward.

Meantime a singular and almost tender intimacy grew up between Reuben and the lady voyager. It is always agreeable to a young man to find a listening ear in a lady whose age puts her out of the range of any flurry of sentiment, and whose sympathy gives kindly welcome to his confidence. All that early life of his he detailed to her with a particularity and a warmth (himself unconscious of the warmth) which brought the childish associations of her daughter fresh to the mind of poor Madam Maverick. No wonder that she gave a willing ear ! no wonder that the glow of his language kindled her sympathy! Nor with such a listener does he stop with the boyish life of Ashfield. He unfolds his city career, and the bright promises that are before him, — promises of business success, which (he would make it appear) are all that fill his heart now. In the pride of his twenty-five years he loves to represent himself as blasé in sentiment.

Madam Maverick has been taught, in these latter years, a large amount of self-control; so she can listen with a grave, nay, even a kindly face, to Reuben’s sweeping declarations. And if, at a hint from her,—which he shrewdly counts Jesuitical, — his thought is turned in the direction of his religious experiences, he has his axioms, his common-sense formulas, his irreproachable coolness, and, at times, a noisy show of distrust, under which it is easy to see an eager groping after the ends of that great tangled skein of thought within, which is a weariness.

“ If you could only have a talk with Father Ambrose !” says Madam Maverick with half a sigh.

“ I should like that of all things,” says Reuben, with a touch of merriment. “ I suppose he’s a jolly old fellow, with rosy cheeks and full of humor. By Jove! there go the beads again ! ” (He says this latter to himself, however, as he sees the nervous fingers of the poor lady plying her rosary, and her lips murmuring some catch of a prayer.)

Yet he cannot but respect her devotion profoundly, wondering how it can have grown up under the heathenisms of her life ; wondering perhaps, too, how his own heathenism could have grown up under the roof of a parsonage. It will be an odd encounter, he thinks, for this woman, with the people of Ashfield, with the Doctor, with Adèle.

There are gales, but the good ship rides them out jauntily, with but a single reef in her topsails. Within five weeks from the date of her leaving Marseilles she is within a few days’ sail of New York. A few days’ sail ! It may mean overmuch ; for there are mists, and hazy weather, which forbid any observation. The last was taken a hundred miles to the eastward of George’s Shoal. Under an easy offshore wind the ship is beating westward. But the clouds hang low, and there is no opportunity for determining position. At last, one evening, there is a little lift, and, for a moment only, a bright light blazes over the starboard bow. The captain counts it a light upon one of the headlands of the jersey shore ; and he orders the helmsman (she is sailing in the eye of an easy westerly breeze) to give her a couple of points more “northing” ; and the yards and sheets are trimmed accordingly. The ship pushes on more steadily as she opens to the wind, and the mists and coming night conceal all around them.

“ What do you make of the light, Mr. Yardley ? ” says the captain, addressing the mate.

“ Can't say, sir, with such a bit of a look. If it should be Fire Island, we 're in a bad course, sir.”

“ That’s true enough,” said the captain thoughtfully. “ Put a man in the chains, Mr. Yardley, and give us the water.”

“ I hope we shall be in the bay by morning, Captain,” said Reuben, who stood smoking leisurely near the wheel. But the captain was preoccupied, and answered nothing.

A little after, a voice from the chains came chanting full and loud, “ By the mark — nine ! ”

“ This ’ll never do, Mr. Yardley,” said the captain, “Jersey shore or any other. Let all hands keep by to put the ship about.”

A voice forward was heard to say something of a roar that sounded like the beat of surf; at which the mate stepped to the side of the ship and listened anxiously.

“ It ’s true, sir,” said he coming aft. “ Captain, there’s something very like the beat of surf, here away to the no’th’ard.”

A flutter in the canvas caught the captain’s attention. “ It ’s the wind slacking ; there’s a bare capful,” said the mate, “and I ’m afeard there ’s mischief brewing yonder.” He pointed as he spoke a little to the south of east, where the darkness seemed to be giving way to a luminous gray cloud of mist.

“And a half—six!” shouts again the man in the chains.

The captain meets it with a swelling oath, which betrays clearly enough his anxiety. “ There’s not a moment to lose, Yardley ; see all ready there ! Keep her a good full, my boy ! ” (to the man at the wheel).

The darkness was profound. Reuben, not a little startled by the new aspect of affairs, still kept his place upon the quarter-deck. He saw objects flitting across the waist of the ship, and heard distinctly the coils flung down with a clang upon the wet decks. There was something weird and ghostly in those half-seen figures, in the indistinct maze of cordage and canvas above, and the phosphorescent streaks of spray streaming away from either bow.

“ Are you ready there ? ” says the captain.

“Ay, ay, sir,” responds the mate.

“Put your helm a-lee, my man! — Hard down ! ”

“ Hard down it is, sir! ”

The ship veers up into the wind ; and, as the captain shouts his order, “ Mainsail haul! ” the canvas shakes; the long, cumbrous yard groans upon its bearings ; there is a great whizzing of the cordage through the blocks ; but, in the midst of it all, — coming keenly to the captain's ear, — a voice from the forehatch exclaims, “ By G—, she touches ! ”

The next moment proved it true. The good ship minded her helm no more. The fore-yards are brought round by the run and the mizzen, but the light wind — growing lighter — hardly clears the flapping canvas from the spars.

In the sunshine, with so moderate a sea, ’t would seem little ; in so little depth of water they might warp her off; but the darkness magnifies the danger ; besides which, an ominous sighing and murmur are coming from that luminous misty mass to the southward. Through all this, Reuben has continued smoking upon the quarter-deck ; a landsman under a light wind, and with a light sea, hardly estimates at their true worth such intimations as had been given of the near breaking of the surf, and of the shoaling water. Even the touch upon bottom, of which the grating evidence had come home to his own perceptions, brought up more the fate of his business venture than any sense of personal peril. We can surely warp her off in the morning, he thought; or, if the worst came, insurance was full, and it would be easy boating to the shore.

“It’s lucky there’s no wind,” said he to Yardley.

“ Will you obleege me, Mr. Johns ? Take a good strong puff of your cigar, — here, upon the larboard rail, sir,” and he took the lantern from the companion-way that he might see the drift of the smoke. For a moment it lifted steadily ; then, with a toss it vanished away — shoreward. The first angry puffs of the southeaster were coming.

The captain had seen all, and with an excited voice said, “ Mr. Yardley, clew up, fore and aft,— clew up everything ; put all snug, and make ready the best bower.”

“ Mr. Johns,” said he, approaching Reuben, “ we are on a lee shore ; it should be Long Island beach by the soundings ; with calm weather, and a kedge, we might work her off with the lift of the tide. But the Devil and all is in that puff from the sou’east.”

“ O, well, we can anchor,” says Reuben.

“Yes, we can anchor, Mr. Johns; but if that sou’easter turns out the gale it promises, the best anchor aboard -won't be so good as a gridiron.”

“ Do you advise taking to the boats, then?” asked Reuben, a little nervously.

“ I advise nothing, Mr. Johns. Do you hear the murmur of the surf yonder? It’s bad landing under such a pounding of the surf, with daylight ; in the dark, where one can’t catch the drift of the waves, it might be — death ! ”

The word startled Reuben. His philosophy had always contemplated it at a distance, toward which easy and gradual approaches might be made: but here it was, now, at a cable’s length !

And yet it was very strange ; the sea was not high ; no gale as yet; only an occasional grating thump of the keel was a reminder that the good Meteor was not still afloat. But the darkness ! Yes. the darkness was complete, (hardly a sight even of the topmen who were aloft — as in the sunniest of weather — stowing the canvas.) and to the northward that groan and echo of the resounding surf; to the southward, the whirling white of waves that are lifting now, topped with phosphorescent foam.

The anchor is let go, but even this does not bring the ship’s head to the wind. Those griping sands hold her keel fast. The force of the rising gale strikes her full abeam, giving her a great list to shore. It is in vain the masts are cut away, and the rigging drifts free; the hulk lifts only to settle anew in the grasping sands. Every old seaman upon her deck knows that she is a doomed ship.

From time to time, as the crashing spars or the leaden thump upon the sands have startled those below, Madam Maverick and her maid have made their appearance, in a wild flutter of anxiety, asking eager questions ; (Reuben alone can understand them or answer them;) but as the southeaster grows, as it does, into a fury of wind, and the poor hulk reels vainly, and is overlaid with a torrent of biting salt spray, Madam Maverick becomes calm. Instinctively, she sees the worst.

“ Could I only clasp Adèle once more in these arms, I would say, cheerfully, ‘ Nunc dimittis'"

Reuben regarded her calm faith with a hungry eagerness. Not, indeed, that calmness was lacking in himself. Great danger, in many instances, sublimates the faculties of keenly strung minds. But underneath his calmness there was an unrest, hungering for repose, — the repose of a fixed belief. If even then the breaking waves had whelmed him in their mad career, he would have made no wailing outcry, but would have clutched — how eagerly! — at the merest shred of that faith which, in other days and times, he had seen illuminate the calm face of the father. Something to believe, — on which to float upon such a sea !

But the waves and winds make sport of beliefs. Prayers count nothing against that angry surge. Two boats are already swept from the davits, and are gone upon the whirling waters. A third, with infinite pains, is dropped into the yeast. It is hard to tell who gives the orders. But, once afloat, there is a rush upon it, and away it goes, — overcrowded, and within eyeshot lifts, turns, and a crowd of swimmers float for a moment, — one with an oar, another with a thwart that the waves have torn out, — and in the yeast of waters they vanish.

One boat only remains, and it is launched with more careful handling ; three cling by the wreck; the rest — save only Madam Maverick and Reuben — are within her, as she tosses still in the lee of the vessel.

“ There’s room ! ” cries some one ; “jump quick ! for God’s sake ! ”

And Reuben, with some strange, generous impulse, seizes upon Madam Maverick, and, before she can rebel or resist, has dropped her over the rail. The men grapple her and drag her in ; but in the next moment the little cockle of a boat is drifted yards away.

The few who are left — the boatswain among them— are toiling on the wet deck to give a last signal from the little brass howitzer on the forecastle. As the sharp crack breaks on the air, — a miniature sound in that howl of the storm, —the red flash of the gun gives Reuben, as the boat lurches toward the wreck again, a last glance of Madam Maverick,—her hands clasped, her eyes lifted, and calm as ever. More than ever too her face was like the face of Adèle, —such as the face of Adèle must surely become, when years have sobered her and her buoyant faith has ripened into calm. And from that momentary glance of the serene countenance, and that flashing associated memory of Adèle, a subtile, mystic influence is born in him, by which he seems suddenly transfused with the same trustful serenity which just now he gazed upon with wonder. If indeed the poor lady is already lost, — he thinks it for a moment, — her spirit has fanned and cheered him as it passed.

Once more, as if some mysterious hand had brought them to his reach, he grapples with those lost lines of hope and trust which in that youthful year of his exuberant emotional experience he had held and lost,—once more, now, in hand, — once more he is elated with that wonderful sense of a religious poise, that, it would seem, no doubts or terrors could overbalance. Unconsciously kneeling on the wet deck, he is rapt into a kind of ecstatic indifference to winds, to waves, to danger, to death.

The boom of a gun is heard to the northward. It must be from shore. There are helpers at work, then. Some hope yet for this narrow tide of life, which just seemed losing itself in some infinite flow beyond. Life is, after all, so sweet! The boatswain forward labors desperately to return an answering signal; but the spray, the slanted deck, the overleaping waves, are too much for him. Darkness and storm and despair rule again.

The wind, indeed, has fallen ; the force of the gale is broken ; but the waves are making deeper and more desperate surges. The wreck, which had remained fixed in the fury of the wind, lifts again under the great swell of the sea, and is dashed anew and anew upon the shoal. With every lift her timbers writhe and creak, and all the remaining upper works crack and burst open with the strain.

Reuben chances to espy an old-fashioned round life-buoy lashed to the taffrail, and, cutting it loose, makes himself fast to it. He overhears the boatswain say, yonder by the forecastle, “These thumpings will break her in two in an hour. Cling to a spar, Jack.”

The gray light of dawn at last breaks, and shows a dim line of shore, on which parties are moving, dragging some machine, with which they hope to cast a line over the wreck. But the swell is heavier than ever, the timbers nearer to parting. At last a flash of lurid light from the dim shore-line,— a great boom of sound, and a line goes spinning out like a spider’s web up into the gray, bleak sky. Too far ! too short! and the line tumbles, plashing into the water. A new and fearful lift of the sea shatters the wreck, the fore part of the ship still holding fast to the sands ; but all abaft the mainmast lifts, surges, reels, topples over; with the wreck, and in the angry swirl and torment of waters, Reuben goes down.

LXV.

THAT morning, — it was the 22d of September, in the year 1842, — Mr. Brindlock came into his counting-room some two hours before noon, and says to his porter and factotum, as he enters the door, “Well, Roger, I suppose you ’ll be counting this puff of a southeaster the equinoctial, eh ? ”

“ Indeed, sir, and it’s an awful one. The Meteor ’s gone ashore on Long Beach ; and there’s talk of young Mr. Johns being lost.”

“Good Heavens!” said Brindlock, “you don’t tell me so!”

By half past three he was upon the spot; a little remaining fragment only of the Meteor hanging to the sands, and a great débris of bales, spars, shattered timbers, bodies, drifted along the shore,— Reuben’s among them.

But he is not dead; at least so say the wreckers, who throng upon the beach ; the life-buoy is still fast to him, though he is fearfully shattered and bruised. He is borne away under the orders of Brindlock to some near house, and presently revives enough to ask that he may be carried — “ home.”

As, in the opening of this story, his old grandfather, the Major, was borne away from the scene of his first battle by easy stages homeward, so now the grandson, far feebler and after more terrible encounter with death, is carried by “easy stages” to his home in Ashfield. Again the city, the boat, the river,— with its banks yellowing with harvests, and brightened with the glowing tints of autumn ; again the sluggish brigs drifting down with the tide, and sailors in tasselled caps leaning over the bulwarks ; again the flocks feeding leisurely on the rock-strewn hills ; again the ferryman, in his broad, cumbrous scow, oaring across ; again the stoppage at the wharf of the little town, from which the coach still plies over the hills to Ashfield.

On the way thither, a carriage passes them, in which are Adèle and her father. The news of disaster flies fast; they have learned of the wreck, and the names of passengers. They go to learn what they can of the mother, whom the daughter has scarce known. The passing is too hasty for recognition. Brindlock arrives at last with his helpless charge at the door of the parsonage. The Doctor is overwhelmed at once with grief and with joy. The news had come to him, and he had anticipated the worst. But “ Thank God ! ‘Joseph, my son, is yet alive ! ’ Still a probationer ; there is yet hope that he may be brought into the fold.”

He insists that he shall be placed below, upon his own bed, just out of his study. For himself, he shall need none until the crisis is past. But the crisis does not pass ; it is hard to say when it will. The wounds are not so much ; but a low fever has set in, (the physician says,) owing to exposure and excitement, and he can predict nothing as to the result. Even Aunt Eliza is warmed into unwonted attention as she sees that poor battered hulk of humanity lying there ; she spares herself no fatigue, God knows, but she sheds tears in her own chamber over this great disaster. There are good points even in the spinster ; when shall we learn that the best of us are not wholly good, nor the worst wholly bad ?

Days and days pass. Reuben hovering between life and death ; and the old Doctor, catching chance rest upon the little cot they have placed for him in the study, looks yearningly by the dim light of the sick-lamp upon that dove which his lost Rachel had hung upon his wall above the sword of his father. He fancies that the face of Reuben, pinched with suffering, resembles more than ever the mother. Of sickness, or of the little offices of friends which cheat it of pains, the old gentleman knows nothing: sick souls only have been his care. And it is pitiful to see his blundering, eager efforts to do something, as he totters round the sick-chamber where Reuben, with very much of youthful vigor left in him, makes fight against the arch-enemy who one day conquers us all. For many days after his arrival there is no consciousness,—-only wild words (at times words that sound to the ears of the good Doctor strangely wicked, and that make him groan in spirit), — tender words, too, of dalliance, and,eager, loving glances,-—murmurs of boyish things, of sunny, schoolday noonings,—hearing which, the Doctor thinks that, if this light must go out, it had better have gone out in those days of comparative innocence.

Over and over the father appeals to the village physician to know what the chances may be,—to which that old gentleman, fumbling his watch-key, and looking grave, makes very doubtful response. He hints at a possible undermining of the constitution in these later years of city life.

God only knows what habits the young man may have formed in these last years ; surely the Doctor does not; and he tells the physician as much, with a groan of anguish.

Meantime, Maverick and Adèle have gone upon their melancholy search ; and, as they course over the island to the southern beach, the sands, the plains, the houses, the pines, drift by the eye of Adèle as in a dream. At last she sees a great reach of water, — piling up, as it rolls lazily in from seaward, into high walls of waves, that are no sooner lifted than they break and send sparkling floods of foam over the sands. Bits of wreck, dark clots of weed, are strewed here and there, -— stragglers scanning every noticeable heap, every floating thing that comes in.

Is she dead? is she living? They have heard only on the way that many bodies are lying in the near houses,— many bruised and suffering ones ; while some have come safe to land, and gone to their homes. They make their way from that dismal surf-beaten shore to the nearest house. There are loiterers about the door; and within, — within, Adèle finds her mother at last, clasps her to her heart, kisses the poor dumb lips that will never more open, — never say to her rapt ears, “ My child ! my darling! ”

Maverick is touched as he has never been touched before ; the age of early sentiment comes drifting back to his world-haunted mind ; nay, tears come to those eyes that have not known them for years. The grief, the passionate, vain tenderness of Adèle, somehow seems to sanctify the memory of the dead one who lies before him, her great wealth of hair streaming dank and fetterless over the floor.

Not more tenderly, scarce more tearfully, could he have ministered to one who had been his life-long companion. Where shall the poor lady be buried ? Adèle answers that, with eyes flashing through her tears, — nowhere but in Ashfield, nowhere except beside the sister, Marie.

It is a dismal journey for the father and the daughter ; it is almost a silent journey. Does she love him less ? No, a thousand times, no. Does he love her less? No, a thousand times, no In such presence love is awed into silence. As the mournful cortége enters the town of Ashfield, it passes the home of that fatherless boy, Arthur, for whom Adèle had shown such sympathy. The youngster is there swinging upon the gate, his cap gayly set off with feathers, and he looking wonderingly upon the bier. He sees, too, the sad face of Adèle, and, by some strange rush of memory, recalls, as he looks on her, the letter which she had given him long ago, and which till then had been forgotten. He runs to his mother: it is in his pocket, — it is in that of some summer jacket. At last it is found; and the poor woman herself, that very morning, with numberless apologies, delivers it at the door of the parsonage.

Phil is the first to meet this exceptional funeral company, and is the first to tell Adèle how Reuben lies stricken almost to death at the parsonage. She thanks him : she thanks him again for the tender care which he shows in all relating to the approaching burial. When an enemy even comes forward to help us bury the child we loved or the parent we mourn, our hearts warm toward him as they never warmed before ; but when a friend assumes these offices of tenderness, and takes away the harshest edge of grief by assuming the harshest duties of grief, our hearts shower upon him their tenderest sympathies. We never forget it.

Of course, the arrival of this strange freight in Ashfield gives rise to a world of gossip. We cannot follow it; we cannot rehearse it. The poor woman is buried, as Adèle had wished, beside her sister. No De Profundis except the murmur of the winds through the crimson and the scarlet leaves of later September.

The Tourtelots have been eager with their gossip. The dame has queried if there should not be some town demonstration against the burial of the Papist. But the little Deacon has been milder; and we give our last glimpse of him —altogether characteristic — in a suggestion which he makes in a friendly way to Squire Elderkin, who is the host of the French strangers.

“ Square, have they ordered a moniment yit for Miss Maverick ?”

“Not that I’m aware of, Deacon.”

“ Waal, my nevvy’s got a good slab of Varmont marble, which he ordered for his fust wife ; but the old folks didn’t like it, and it’s in his barn on the heater-piece. ’T ain't engraved, nor nothin’. If it should suit the Mavericks, I dare say they could git it tol’able low.”

LXVI.

REUBEN is still floating between death and life. There is doubt whether the master of the long course or of the short course will win. However that may be, his consciousness has returned ; and it has been with a great glow of gratitude that the poor Doctor has welcomed that look of recognition in his eye, — the eye of Rachel!

He is calm, — he knows all. That calmness which had flashed into Ins soul when last he saw the serene face of his fellow-voyager upon that mad sea is his still.

The poor father had been moved unwontedly by that unconsciousness which was blind to all his efforts at spiritual consolation ; but he is not less moved when he sees reason stirring again,— a light of eager inquiry in those eyes fearfully sunken, but from their cavernous depths seeing farther and more keenly than ever.

“Adèle’s mother, — was she lost?” He whispers it to the Doctor ; and Miss Eliza, who is sewing yonder, is quickened into eager listening.

“ Lost! my son, lost! Lost, I apprehend, in the other world as well as this.

I fear the true light never dawned upon her.”

A faint smile—as of one who sees things others do not see —broke over the face of Reuben. “ ’T is a broad light, father ; it reaches beyond our blind reckoning.”

There was a trustfulness in his manner that delighted the Doctor. “And you see it, my son ? — Repentance, Justification by Faith, Adoption, Sanctification, Election ? ”

“ Those words are a weariness to me, father ; they suggest methods, dogmas, perplexities. Christian hope, pure and simple, I love better.”

The Doctor is disturbed ; he cannot rightly understand how one who seems inspired by so calm a trust — the son of his own loins too — should find the authoritative declarations of the divines a weariness. Is it not some subtle disguise of Satan, by which his poor boy is being cheated into repose ?

Of course the letter of Adèle, which had been so long upon its way, Miss Eliza had handed to Reuben after such time as her caution suggested, and she had explained to him its long delay.

Reading is no easy matter for him ; but he races through those delicately penned lines with quite a new strength. The spinster sees the color come and go upon his wan cheek, and with what a trembling eagerness he folds the letter at the end, and, making a painful effort, tries to thrust it under his pillow. The good woman has to aid him in this. He thanks her, but says nothing more. His fingers are toying nervously at a bit of torn fringe upon the coverlet. It seems a relief to him to make the rent wider and wider. A little glimpse of the world has come back to him, which disturbs the repose with which but now he would have quitted it forever.

Adèle has been into the sick-chamber from time to time, — once led away weeping by the good Doctor, when the son had fallen upon his wild talk of school-days ; once, too, since consciousness has come to him again, but before her letter had been read. He had met her with scarce more than a touch of those fevered fingers, and a hard, uncertain quiver of a smile, which had both shocked and disappointed the poor girl. She thought he would have spoken some friendly consoling word of her mother; but his heart, more than his strength, failed him. Her mournful, pitying eyes were a reproach to him; they had haunted him through the wakeful hours of two succeeding nights, and now, under the light of that laggard letter, they blaze with a new and an appealing tenderness. His fingers still puzzle wearily with that tangle of the fringe. The noon passes. The aunt advises a little broth. But no, his strength is feeding itself on other aliment. The Doctor comes in with a curiously awkward attempt at gentleness and noiselessness of tread, and, seeing his excited condition, repeats to him some texts which he believes must be consoling. Reuben utters no open dissent; but through and back of all he sees the tender eyes ot Adèle, which, for the moment, outshine the promises, or at the least illuminate them with a new meaning.

“ I must see Adèle,” he says to the Doctor; and the message is carried,— she herself presently bringing answer, with a rich glow upon her cheek.

“ Reuben has sent for me,”—she murmurs it to herself with pride and joy.

She is in full black now ; but never had she looked more radiantly beautiful than when she stepped to the side of the sick-bed, and took the hand of Reuben with an eager clasp — that was met, and met again. The Doctor is in his study, (the open door between,) and the spinster is fortunately just now busy at some of her household duties.

-Reuben fumbles under his pillow nervously for that cherished bit of paper, (Adèle knows already its history,) and when he has found it and shown it (his thin fingers crumpling it nervously) he says, “Thank you for this, Adele!”

She answers only by clasping his hand with a sudden mad pressure of content, while the blood mounted into either cheek with a rosy exuberance that magnified her beauty tenfold.

He saw it,—he felt it all; and through her beaming eyes, so full of tenderness and love, saw the world to which he had bidden adieu shining before him more beguilingly than ever. Yesterday it was a dim and weary world that he could leave without a pang ; to-day it is a brilliant world, where hopes, promises, joys pile in splendid proportions.

He tells her this. “ Yesterday I would have died with scarce a regret; to-day, Adèle, I would live.”

“ You will, you will, Reuben ! ” and she grappled more and more passionately those shrunken fingers. “’T is not hopeless ! ” (sobbing).

“ No, no, Adèle, darling, not hopeless. The cloud is lifted, — not hopeless ! ”

“ Thank God, thank God! ” said she, dropping upon her knees beside him, and with a smile of ecstasy he gathered that fair head to his bosom.

The Doctor, hearing her sobs, came softly in. The son’s smile, as he met his father’s inquiring look, was more than ever like the smile of Rachel. He has been telling the poor girl of her mother’s death, thinks the old gentleman; yet the Doctor wonders that he could have kept so radiant a face with such a story.

Of these things, however, Reuben goes on presently to speak : of his first sight of the mother of Adèle, and of her devotional attitude as they floated down past the little chapel of Nôtre Dame to enter upon the fateful voyage ; he recounts their talks upon the tranquil moon-lit nights of ocean ; he tells of the mother’s eager listening to his description of her child.

“ I did not tell her the half, Adèle ; yet she loved me for what I told her.”

And Adèle smiles through her tears.

At last he comes to those dismal scenes of the wreck, relating all with a strange vividness; living over again, as it were, that fearful episode, till his brain whirled, his self-possession was lost, and he broke out into a torrent of delirious raving.

He sleeps brokenly that night, and the next day is feebler than ever. The physician warns against any causes of excitement. He is calm only at intervals. The old school-days seem present to him again ; he talks of his fight with Phil Elderkin as if it happened yesterday.

“Yet I like Phil,” he says (to himself), “ and Rose is like Amanda, the divine Amanda. No — not she. I’ve forgotten : it’s the French girl. She’s a - Pah ! who cares ? She ’s as pure as heaven; she ’s an angel. Adèle ! Adèle ! Not good enough ! I ’m not good enough. Very well, very well, now I ’ll be bad enough ! Clouds, wrangles, doubts! Is it my fault ? Ædificabo meam Ecclesiam. How they kneel! Puppets ! mummers ! No, not mummers, they see a Christ What if they see it in a picture ? You see him in words. Both in earnest. Belief—belief! That is best. Adèle, Adèle, I believe ! ”

The Doctor is a pained listener of this incoherent talk of his son. “ I am afraid, — I am afraid,” he murmurs to himself, “ that he has no clear views ot the great scheme of the Atonement”

The next day Reuben is himself once more, but feeble, to a degree that startles the household. It is a charming morning of later September ; the window is wide open, and the sick one looks out over a stretch of orchard (he knew its every tree), and upon wooded hills beyond (he knew every coppice and thicket), and upon a background of sky over which a few dappled white clouds floated at rest.

“ It is most beautiful! ” said Reuben.

“ All things that He has made are beautiful,” said the Doctor ; and thereupon he seeks to explore his way into the secrets of Reuben’s religious experience, — employing, as he was wont to do, all the Westminster formulas by which his own belief stood fast.

“ Father, father, the words are stumbling-blocks to me,” says the son.

“ I would to God, Reuben, that I could make my language always clear.”

“ No, father, no man can, in measuring the Divine mysteries. We must carry this draggled earth-dress with us always, — always in some sort fashionists, even in our soberest opinions. The robes of light are worn only Beyond. Thought, at the best, is hampered by this clog of language, that tempts, obscures, misleads.”

“And do you see any light, my son ? ”

“ I hope and tremble. A great light is before me ; it shines back upon outlines of doctrines and creeds where I have floundered for many a year.”

“ But some are clear, — some are clear, Reuben ! ”

“ Before, all seems clear ; but behind — ”

“ And yet, Reuben,” (the Doctor cannot forbear the discussion,) “ there is the cross, — Election, Adoption, Sanctification — ”

“ Stop, father ; the cross, indeed, with a blaze of glory, I see ; but the teachers of this or that special form of doctrine I see only catching radiations of the light. The men who teach, and argue, and declaim, and exorcise, are using human weapons ; the great light only strikes here and there upon some swordpoint which is nearest to the cross.”

“ He wanders,” says the Doctor to Adèle, who has slipped in and stands beside the sick-bed.

“No wandering, father ; on the brink where I stand, I cannot.”

“ And what do you see, Reuben, my boy ? ” (tenderly).

Is it the presence of Adèle that gives a new fervor, a kind of crazy inspiration to his talk ? “I see the light - hearted clashing cymbals ; and those who love art, kneeling under blazing temples and shrines; but the great light touches the gold no more effulgently than the steeple of your meeting-house, father, but no less. I see eyes of chanting girls streaming with joy in the light; and haggard men with ponderous foreheads working out contrivances to bridge the gap between the finite and the infinite. Father, they are no nearer to a passage than the radiant girls who chant and tell their beads. Angels in all shapes of beauty flit over and amid the throngs I see, — in shape of fleecy clouds that fan them, — in shape of brooks that murmur praise, —in shape of leafy shadows that tremble and flicker, — in shape of birds that make a concert of song.” The birds even then were singing, the clouds floating in his eye, the leafy shadows trailing on the chamber floor, and, from the valley, the murmur of the brook came to his sensitive ear.

“ He wanders,—he wanders !” said the poor Doctor.

Reuben turns to Adèle. “ Adèle, kiss me ! ” A rosy tint ran over her face as she stooped and kissed him with a freedom a mother might have shown, — leaving one hand toying caressingly with his hair. “ The cloud is passing, Adèle, — passing ! God is Justice ; Christ is Mercy. In him I trust.”

“ Reuben, darling,” says Adèle, “come back to us!”

“ Darling, — darling ! ” he repeated with a strange, eager, satisfied smile, — so sweet a sound it was.

The chamber was filled with the delightful perfume of a violet bed beneath the window. Suddenly there came from the Doctor, whose old eyes caught sooner than any the change, a passionate outcry. “ Great God ! Thy will be done!”

With that one loud, clear utterance, his firmness gave way, — for the first time in sixty years broke utterly ; and big tears streamed down his face as he gazed yearningly upon the dead body of his first-born.

LXVII.

IN the autumn of 1845, three years after the incidents related in our last chapter, Mr. Philip Elderkin, being at that time president of a railroad company, which was establishing an important connection of travel that was to pass within a few miles of the quiet town of Ashfield, was a passenger on the steamer Caledonia, for Europe. He sailed, partly in the interest of the company, — to place certain bonds, — and partly in his own interest, as an intelligent man, eager to add to his knowledge of the world.

At Paris, where he passed some time, it chanced that he was one evening invited to the house of a resident American, where, he was gayly assured, he would meet with a very attractive American heiress, the only daughter of a merchant of large fortune.

Philip Elderkin — brave, straightforward fellow that he was — had never forgotten his early sentiment. He had cared for those French graves in Ashfield with an almost religious attention. In all the churchyard there was not such scrupulously shorn turf, or such orderly array of bloom. He counted — in a fever of doubt — upon a visit to Marseilles before his sail for home.

But at the soirée we have mentioned he was amazed and delighted to meet, in the person of the heiress, Adèle Maverick,—not changed essentially since the time he had known her. That life at Marseilles — even in the well-appointed home of her father — has none of that domesticity which she had learned to love ; and this first winter in Paris for her does not supply the lack. That she has a great company of admirers it is easy to understand; but yet she gives a most cordial greeting to Phil Elderkin,— a greeting that by its manner makes the pretenders doubtful. Philip finds it possible to reconcile the demands of his business with a week’s visit to Marseilles. To the general traveller it is not a charming region. The dust abounds ; the winds are terrible ; the sun is scalding. But Mr. Philip Elderkin found it delightful. And, indeed, the country-house of Mr. Maverick had attractions of its own ; attractions so great that his week runs over into two, — into three. There are excursions to the Pont du Gard, to the Arène of Arles. And, before he leaves, he has an engagement there (which he has enforced by very peremptory proposals) for the next spring.

On his return to Ashfield, he reports a very successful trip. To his sister Rose (now Mrs. Catesby, with a blooming little infant, called Grace Catesby) he is specially communicative. And she thinks it was a glorious trip, and longs for the time when he will make the next. He, furthermore, to the astonishment of Dame Tourtelot (whose husband sleeps now under the sod), has commenced the establishment of a fine home, upon a charming site, overlooking all Ashfield. The Squire, still stalwart, cannot resist giving a hint of what is expected to the old Doctor, who still wearily goes his rounds, and prays for the welfare of his flock.

He is delighted at the thought of meeting again with Adèle, though he thinks with a sigh of his lost boy. Yet he says in his old manner, “’T is the hand of Providence ; she first bloomed into grace under the roof of our church ; she comes back to adorn it with her faith and her works.”

At a date three years later we take one more glimpse at that quiet village of Ashfield, where we began our story. The near railway has brought it into more intimate connection with the shore towns and the great cities. But there is no noisy clatter of the cars to break the quietude. On still days, indeed, the shriek of the steam-whistle or the roar of a distant train is heard bursting over the hills, and dying in strange echoes up and down the valley. The stage-driver's horn is heard no longer ; no longer the coach whirls into the village and delivers its leathern pouch of letters. The Tew partners we once met are now partners in the grave. Deacon Tourtelot (as we have already hinted) has gone to his long home ; and the dame has planted over him the slab of “ Varmont ” marble, which she has bought at a bargain from his “nevvy.”

The Boody tavern-keeper has long since disappeared ; no teams wheel up with the old dash at the doors of the Eagle Tavern. The creaking sign-board even is gone from the overhanging sycamore.

Miss Almira is still among the living. She sings treble, however, no longer ; she wears spectacles ; she writes no more over mystical asterisks for the Hartford Courant. Age has brought to her at least this much of wisdom.

The mill groans, as of old, in the valley. A new race of boys pelt the hanging nests of the orioles ; a new race of school-girls hang swinging on the village gates at the noonings.

As for Miss Johns, she lives still,— scarce older to appearance than twenty years before,—prim, wiry, active,— proof against all ailments, it would seem. It is hard to conceive of her as yielding to the great conqueror. If the tongue and an inflexibility of temper were the weapons, she would whip Death from her chamber at the last. It seems like amiability almost to hear such a one as she talk of her approaching, inevitable dissolution, — so kindly in her to yield that point !

And she does ; she declares it over and over; there are far feebler ones who do not declare it half so often. If she is to be conquered and the Johns banner go down, she will accept the defeat so courageously and so long in advance that the defeat shall become a victorious confirmation of the Johns prophecy.

She is still earnest in all her duties ; she gives cast-away clothing to the poor, and good advice with it. She is rigorous in the observance of every propriety; no storm keeps her from church. If the children of a new generation climb unduly upon the pewbacks, or shake their curly heads too wantonly, she lifts a prim forefinger at them, which has lost none of its authoritative meaning. She is the impersonation of all good severities. A strange character ! Let us hope that, as it sloughs off its earthly cerements, it may in the Divine presence scintillate charities and draw toward it the love of others. A good, kind, bad gentlewoman, — unwearied in performance of duties. We wonder as we think of her! So steadfast, we cannot sneer at her, —so true to her line of faith, we cannot condemn her, — so utterly forbidding, we cannot love her! May God give rest to her good, stubborn soul!

Upon Sundays of August and September there may be occasionally seen in the pew of Elderkin Junior a grayhaired old gentleman, dressed with scrupulous care, and still carrying an erect figure, though somewhat gouty in his step. This should be Mr. Maverick, a retired merchant, who is on a visit to his daughter. He makes wonderful gifts to a certain little boy who bears a Puritan name, and gives occasional ponderous sums to the parish. In winter, his head-quarters are at the Union Club.

And Doctor Johns ? Yes, lie is living still, — making his way wearily each morning along the street with his cane. Going oftenest, perhaps, to the home of Adèle, who is now a matron, — a tender, and most womanly and joyful matron, — and with her little boy — Reuben Elderkin by name — he wanders often to the graves where sleep his best beloved, — Rachel, so early lost, — the son, in respect to whom he feels at last a “reasonable assurance ” that the youth has entered upon a glorious inheritance in those courts where one day he will join him, and the sainted Rachel too, and clasp again in his arms (if it be God's will) the babe that was his but for an hour on earth.