The Guardian Angel
THE ATLANTIC MONTHLY.
A Magazine of Literature, Science, Art, and Politics.
VOL. XIX. —APRIL, 1867.— NO. CXIV.
ME. CLEMENT LINDSAY FINISHES HIS LETTER.—WHAT CAME OF IT.
THE first thing Clement Lindsay did, when he was fairly himself again, was to finish his letter to Susan Posey. He took it up where it left off, “ with an affection which”—and drew a long dash, as above. It was with great effort he wrote the lines which follow, for he had got an ugly blow on the forehead, and his eyes were “ in mourning,” as the gentlemen of the ring say, with unbecoming levity.
“ An adventure ! Just as I was writing these last words, I heard the cry of a young person, as it sounded, for help. I ran to the river and jumped in, and had the pleasure of saving a life. I got some bruises which have laid me up for a day or two ; but I am getting over them very well now, and you need not worry about me at all. I will write again soon ; so pray do not fret yourself, for I have had no hurt that will trouble me for any time.”
Of course, poor Susan Posey burst out crying, and cried as if her heart would break. O dear ! O dear! what should she do ! He was almost killed, she knew he was, or he had broken some of his bones. O dear ! O dear ! She would go and see him, there! — she must and would. He would die, she knew he would, — and so on.
It was a singular testimony to the evident presence of a human element in Mr. Byles Gridley that the poor girl, in her extreme trouble, should think of him as a counsellor. But the wonderful relenting kind of look on his grave features as he watched the little twins tumbling about his great books, and certain marks of real sympathy he had sometimes shown for her in her lesser woes, encouraged her, and she went straight to his study, letter in hand. She gave a timid knock at the door of that awful sanctuary.
“ Come in, Susan Posey," was its answer, in a pleasant tone. The old master knew her light step and the maidenly touch of her small hand on the panel.
What a sight ! There were Sossy and Minthy intrenched m a Sebastopol which must have cost a good halfhour’s engineering, and the terrible Byles Gridley besieging the fortress with hostile manifestations of the most singular character. He was actually discharging a large sugar-plum at the postern gate, which having been left unclosed the missile would certainly have reached one of the garrison, when he paused as the door opened, and the great round spectacles and four wide, staring infants’ eyes were levelled at Miss Susan Posey.
Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1867, by TICKNOR AND FIELDS, in the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the District of Massachusetts.
She almost forgot her errand, grave as it was, in astonishment at this manifestation. The old man had emptied his shelves of half their folios to build up the fort, in the midst of which he had seated the two delighted and uproarious babes. There was his Cave’s “ Historia Literaria,” and Sir Walter Raleigh’s “History of the World,” and a whole array of Christian Fathers, and Plato, and Aristotle, and Stanley’s book of Philosophers, with Effigies, and the Junta Galen, and the Hippocrates of Foesius, and Walton’s Polyglot, supported by Father Sanchez on one side and Fox’s “ Acts and Monuments ” on the other, — an odd collection, as folios from lower shelves are apt to be.
The besieger discharged his sugarplum, which was so well aimed that it fell directly into the lap of Minthy, who acted with it as if the garrison had been on short rations for some time.
He saw at once, on looking up. that there was trouble. “What now, Susan Posey, my dear ? ”
“ O Mr. Gridley, I am in such trouble ! What shall I do ? What shall I do?”
She turned back the name and the bottom of the letter in such a way that Mr. Gridley could read nothing but the few lines relating the “adventure.”
“ So Mr. Clement Lindsay has been saving a life, has he, and got some hard knocks doing it, hey, Susan Posey ? Well, well, Clement Lindsay is a brave fellow, and there is no need of hiding his name, my child. Let me take the letter again a moment, Susan Posey. What is the date of it ? June 16th. Yes, — yes, — yes ! ”
He read the paragraph over again, and the signature too, if he wanted to ; for poor Susan had found that her secret was hardly opaque to those round spectacles and the eyes behind them, and, with a not unbecoming blush, opened the fold of the letter before she handed it back.
“ No, no, Susan Posey. He will come all right. His writing is steady, and if he had broken any bones he would have mentioned it. It ’s a thing his wife will be proud of, if he is ever married, Susan Posey,” (blushes,) “ and his children too,” (more blushes, running up to her back hair.) “and there’s nothing to be worried about. But I ’ll tell you what, my dear, I ’ve got a little business that calls me down the river to-morrow, and I should n’t mind stopping an hour at Alderbank and seeing how our young friend Clement Lindsay is ; and then, if he was going to have a long time of it, why we could manage it somehow that any friend who had any special interest in him could visit him, just to while away the tiresomeness of being sick. That’s it, exactly. I ’ll stop at Alderbank, Susan Tosey. Just clear up these two children for me, will you, my dear ? Isosceles, come now, — that’s a good child. Helminthia, carry these sugar-plums down stairs for me, and take good care of them, mind ! ”
It was a case of gross bribery and corruption, for the fortress was immediately evacuated on the receipt of a large paper of red and white comfits, and the garrison marched down stairs much like conquerors, under the lead of the young lady, who was greatly eased in mind by the kind words and the promise of Mr. Byles Gridley.
But he, in the mean time, was busy with thoughts she did not suspect, “ A young person,” he said to himself, — ■ “why a young person? Why not say a boy, if it was a boy? What if this should be our handsome truant ?—June l6th, Thursday morning! ’—About time to get to Alderbank by the river, I should think. None of the boats missing? What then ? She may have made a raft, or picked up some stray skiff Who knows ? And then got shipwrecked, very likely. There are rapids and falls further along the river. It will do no harm to go down there and look about, at any rate.”
On Saturday morning, therefore, Mr. Byles Gridley set forth to procure a conveyance to make a visit, as he said, down the river, and perhaps be gone a day or two. He went to a stable in the village, and asked if they could let him have a horse.
The man looked at him with that air of native superiority which the companionship of the generous steed confers on all his associates, down to the lightest weight among the jockeys.
“Wal, I hain’t got nothin’ in the shape of a hoss, Mr. Gridley. I 've got a mare I s’pose I could let y’ have.”
“ O, very well,” said the old master, with a twinkle in his eye as sly as the others wink, — he had parried a few' jokes in his time, — “ they charge halfprice for mares always, I believe.'’
That was a new view of the subject. It rather took the wind out of the stable-keeper, and set a most ammoniacal fellow, who stood playing with a currycomb, grinning at his expense. But he rallied presently.
" Wal, I b’lieve they do for some mares, when they let 'em to some folks ; but this here ain’t one o’ them mares, and you ain’t one o’ them folks. All my cattle ’s out but this critter, 'n' I don’t jestly want to have nobody drive her that ain't pretty car'ful, — she 's faäst, I tell ye, — don’t want no whip. — How fur d’d y’ want t’ go ? ”
Mr. Gridley was quite serious now, and let the man know that he wanted the mare and a light covered wagon, at once, to be gone for one or two days, and would waive the question of sex in the matter of payment.
Alderbank was about twenty miles down the river by the road. On arriving there, he inquired tor the house where a Mr. Lindsay lived. There was only one Lindsay family in town, — he must mean Dr. William Lindsay. His house was up there a little way above the village, lying a few rods back from the river.
He found the house without difficulty, and knocked at the door. A motherlylooking woman opened it immediately, and held her hand up as if to ask him to speak and move softly.
“Does Mr. Clement Lindsay live here ? ”
“ He is staying here for the present. He is a nephew of ours. Lie is in his bed from an injury.”
“ Nothing very serious, I hope ? ”
“ A bruise on his head, — not very bad,—but the doctor was afraid of erysipelas. Seems to be doing well enough now.”
“Is there a young person here, a stranger ? ”
“There is such a young person here. Do you come with any authority to make inquiries ? ”
“ I do. A young friend of mine is missing, and I thought it possible I might learn something here about it. Can I see this young person ? ”
The matron came nearer to Byles Gridley, and said: “This person is a young woman disguised as a boy. She was rescued by my nephew at the risk of his life, and she has been delirious ever since she has recovered her consciousness. She was almost too far gone to be resuscitated, but Clement put his mouth to hers and kept her breathing until her own breath returned, and she gradually came to.’’
“ Js she violent in her delirium ?
“ Not now. No ; she is quiet enough, but wandering, — wants to know where she is, and whose the strange faces are, — mine and my husband's,—-that 's Dr. Lindsay,-—and one of my daughters, who has watched with her.
“ If that is so, I think I had better see her. If she is the person I suspect her to be, she will know me ; and a familiar face may bring back he£ recollections and put a stop to her wanderings. If she does not know me, I will not stay talking with her I think she will, if she is the one I am seeking after. There is no harm in trying.”
Mrs. Lindsay took a good long look at the old man. There was no mistaking his grave, honest, sturdy, wrinkled, scholarly face. His voice was assured and sincere in its tones. His decent black coat was just what a scholar’s should be,— old, not untidy, a little shiny at the elbows with much leaning on his study-table, but neatly bound at the cuffs, where worthy Mrs. Hopkins had detected signs of fatigue and come to the rescue. His very hat looked honest as it lay on the table. It had moulded itself to a broad, noble head, that held nothing but what was true and fair, with a few harmless crotchets just to fill in with, and it seemed to know it.
The good woman gave him her confidence at once. ‘‘Is the person you are seeking a niece or other relative of yours ? ”
(Why did not she ask if the girl was his daughter? What is that look of paternity and of maternity which observing and experienced mothers and old nurses know so well in men and in women ?)
“ No, she is not a relative. But I am acting for those who are.”
“ Wait a moment and I will go and see that the room is all right.”
She returned presently. “ Follow me softly, if you please. She is asleep, — so beautiful, — so innocent! ”
Byles Gridley, Master of Arts, retired professor, more than sixty years old, childless, loveless, stranded in a lonely study strewed with wrecks of the world’s thought, his work in life finished, his one literary venture gone down with all it held, with nobody to care for him but accidental acquaintances, moved gently to the side of the bed and looked upon the pallid, still features of Myrtle Hazard. He strove hard against a strange feeling that was taking hold of him, that was making his face act rebelliously, and troubling his eyes with sudden films. He made a brief stand against this invasion.
“ A weakness, — a weakness ! ” he said to himself. “ What does all this mean ? Never such a thing for these twenty years! Poor child ! poor child ! — Excuse me, madam,” he said, after a little interval, but for what offence he did not mention. A great deal might be forgiven, even to a man as old as Byles Gridley, looking upon such a face, — so lovely, yet so marked with the traces of recent suffering, and even now showing by its changes that she was struggling in some fearful dream. Her forehead contracted, she started with a slight convulsive movement, and then her lips parted, and the cry escaped from them, — how heart-breaking when there is none to answer it, — “Mother!”
Gone back again through all the weary, chilling years of her girlhood to that hardly remembered morning of her life when the cry she uttered was answered by the light of loving eyes, the kiss of clinging lips, the embrace of caressing arms !
“ It is better to wake her,” Mrs. Lindsay said; “ she is having a troubled dream. Wake up, my child, here is a friend waiting to see you.”
She laid her hand very gently on Myrtle’s forehead. Myrtle opened her eyes, but they were vacant as yet.
“ Are we dead ? ” she said. “ Where am I ? This is n’t heaven — there are no angels — O, no, no, no! don’t send me to the other place — fifteen years, — only fifteen years old — no father, no mother — nobody loved me. Was it wicked in me to live ? ” Her whole theological training was condensed in that last brief question.
The old man took her hand and looked her in the face, with a wonderful tenderness in his squared features. “Wicked to live, my dear? No indeed ! Here ! look at me, Myrtle Hazard ; don't you know your old friend, Byles Gridley ? ”
She was awake now. The sight of a familiar countenance brought back a natural train of thought. But her recollection passed over everything that had happened since Thursday morning.
“Where is the boat I was in ? ” she said. “ I have just been in the water, and I was dreaming that I was drowned.
O Mr. Gridley, is that you ? Did you pull me out of the water?”
“ No, my dear, but you are out of it, and safe and sound: that is the main point. How do you feel now you are awake ? ”
She yawned, and stretched her arms and looked round, but did not answer at first. This was all natural, and a sign that she was coming right. She looked down at her dress. It was not inappropriate to her sex, being a loose gown that belonged to one of the girls in the house.
“ I feel pretty well,” she answered, “ but a little confused. My boat will be gone, if you don’t run and stop it now. How did you get me into dry clothes so quick ? ”
Master Byles Gridley found himself suddenly possessed by a large and luminous idea of the state of things, and made up his mind in a moment as to what he must do. There was no time to be lost. Every day, every hour, of Myrtle’s absence was not only a source of anxiety and a cause of useless searching, but it gave room for inventive fancies to imagine evil. It was better to run some risk of health than to have her absence prolonged another day.
“ Has this adventure been told about in the village, Mrs. Lindsay?”
“ No, we thought it best to wait until she could tell her own story, expecting her return to consciousness every hour, and thinking there might be some reason for her disguise which it would be kinder to keep quiet about.”
“ You know nothing about her, then ? ”
“Not a word. It was a great question whether to tell the story and make inquiries; but she was safe, and could hardly bear disturbance, and, my dear sir, it seemed too probable that there was some sad story behind this escape in disguise, and that the poor child might need shelter and retirement. We meant to do as well as we could for her.”
“All right, Mrs. Lindsay. You do not know who she is, then ?”
“ No, sir, except that I heard you call her name. I don’t know any people by the name of Hazard about here.”
“Very good, madam,—just as it should be. And your family, — have they all been as discreet as yourself? ”
“ Not one word of the whole story has been told by any one of us. That was agreed upon among us.”
“Now then, madam. My name, as you heard me say, is Byles Gridley. Your husband will know it, perhaps ; at any rate I will wait until he comes back. This child is of good family and of good name. I know her well, and mean, with your kind help, to save her from the consequences which her foolish adventure might have brought upon her. Before the bells ring for meeting tomorrow morning this girl must be in her bed at her home, at Oxbow village, and we must keep her story to ourselves as far as may be. It will all blow over, if we do. The gossips will only know that she was upset in the river and cared for by some good people,—good people and sensible people too, Mrs. Lindsay. And now I want to see the young man that rescued my friend here, — Clement Lindsay, — I have heard his name before.
Clement was not a beauty for the moment, but Master Gridley saw well enough that he was a young man of the right kind. He knew them at sight, — fellows with lime enough in their bones and iron enough in their blood to begin with, — shapely, largenerved, firm-fibred and fine-fibred, with well-spread bases to their heads for the ground-floor of the faculties, and well-vaulted arches for the upper range of apprehensions and combinations. “ Plenty of basements,” he used to say, “ without attics and skylights. Plenty of skylights without rooms enough and space enough below.” But here was “a three-story brain,” he said to himself as he looked at it, and this was the youth who was to find his complement in our pretty little Susan Posey! His judgment may seem to have been hasty, but he took the measure of men of twenty at sight from long and sagacious observation, as Nurse Byloe knew the “heft ” of a baby the moment she fixed her old eyes on it.
Clement was well acquainted with Byles Gridley, though he had never seen him, for Susan’s letters had had a good deal to say about him of late. It was agreed between them that the story should be kept as quiet as possible, and that Myrtle Hazard should not know the name of her deliverer, — it might save awkward complications. It was not likely that she would be disposed to talk of her adventure, which had ended so disastrously, and thus the whole story would soon die out.
The effect of the violent shock she had experienced was to change the whole nature of Myrtle for the time. Her mind was unsettled: she could hardly recall anything except the plunge over the fall. She was perfectly docile and plastic, — was ready to go anywhere Mr. Gridley wanted her to go, without any sign of reluctance. And so it was agreed that he should carry her back in his covered wagon that very night. All possible arrangements were made to render her journey comfortable. The fast mare had to trot very gently, and the old master would stop and adjust the pillows from time to time, and administer the restoratives which the physician had got ready, ail as naturally and easily as if he had been bred a nurse, vastly to his own surprise, and with not a little gain to his self-appreciation. He was a serviceable kind of body on occasion, after all, was he not, hey, Mr. Byles Gridley? he said to himself.
At half past four o’clock on Sunday morning the shepherd brought the straylamb into the paved yard at The Poplars, and roused the slumbering household to receive back the wanderer.
It was the Irishwoman, Kitty Fagan, huddled together in such amorphous guise, that she looked as if she had been fitted in a tempest of petticoats and a whirlwind of old shawls, who presented herself at the door.
But there was a very warm heart somewhere in that queer-looking bundle of clothes, and it was not one of those that can throb or break in silence. When she saw the long covered wagon, and the grave face of the old master, she thought it was all over with the poor girl she loved, and that this was the undertaker’s wagon bringing back only what had once been Myrtle Hazard. She screamed aloud, — so wildly that Myrtle lifted her head from the pillow against which she had rested it, and started forward.
The Irishwoman looked at her for a moment to assure herself that it was the girl she loved, and not her ghost. Then it all came over her, — she had been stolen by thieves, who had carried her off by night, and been rescued by the brave old man who had brought her back. What crying and kisses and prayers and blessings were poured forth, in a confusion of which her bodily costume was a fitting type, those who know the vocabulary and the enthusiasm of her eloquent race may imagine better than we could describe it.
The welcome of the two other women was far less demonstrative. There were awful questions to be answered before the kind of reception she was to have could be settled. What they were, it is needless to suggest; but while Miss Silence was weeping, first with joy that her “ responsibility ” was removed, then with a fair share of pity and kindness, and other lukewarm emotions, — while Miss Badlam waited for an explanation before giving way to her feelings, — Mr. Gridley put the essential facts before them in a few words. She had gone down the river some miles in her boat, which was upset by a rush of the current, and she had come very near being drowned. She was got out, however, by a person living near by, and cared for by some kind women in a house near the river, where he had been fortunate enough to discover her.—-Who cut her hair off ? Perhaps those good people, — she had been out of her head. She was alive and unharmed, at any rate, wanting only a few days’ rest. They might be very thankful to get her back, and leave her to tell the rest of her story when she had got her strength and memory, for she was not quite herself yet, and might not be for some days.
And so there she was at last laid in her own bed, listening again to the ripple of the waters beneath her, Miss Silence sitting on one side looking as sympathetic as her insufficient nature allowed her to look; the Irishwoman uncertain between delight at Myrtle’s return, and sorrow for her condition; and Miss Cynthia Badlam occupying herself about house-matters, not unwilling to avoid the necessity of displaying her conflicting emotions.
Before he left the house, Mr. Gridley repeated the statement in the most precise manner, — some miles down the river — upset and nearly drowned — rescued almost dead — brought to and cared for by kind women in the house where be, Byles Gridley, found her. These were the facts, and nothing more than this was to be told at present. They had better be made known at once, and the shortest and best way would be to have it announced by the minister at meeting that forenoon. With their permission, he would himself write the note for Mr. Stoker to read, and tell the other ministers that they might announce it to their people.
The bells rang for meeting, but the little household at The Poplars did not add to the congregation that day. In the mean time Kitty Fagan had gone down with Mr. Byles Gridley’s note, to carry it to the Rev. Mr. Stoker. But, on her way, she stopped at the house of one Mrs. Finegan, a particular friend of hers; and the great event of the morning furnishing matter for large discourse and various social allurements adding to the fascination of having a story to tell, Kitty Fagan forgot her note until meeting had begun and the minister had read the text of his sermon. ‘ Bless my soul! and sure I ’ve forgot ahl about the letter! ” she cried all at once, and away she tramped for the meeting-house. The sexton took the note, which was folded, and said he would hand it up to the pulpit after the sermon, — it would not do to interrupt the preacher.
The Rev. Mr. Stoker had, as was said, a somewhat remarkable gift in prayer, — an endowment by no means confined to profoundly spiritual persons, — in fact, not rarely owing much of its force to a strong animal nature underlying the higher attributes. The sweet singer of Israel would never have written such petitions and such hymns if his manhood had been less complete; the flavor of remembered sin could not help giving a character to his most devout exercises, or they would not have come quite home to our common humanity. But there is no gift more dangerous to the humility and sincerity of a minister. While his spirit ought to be on its knees before the throne of grace, it is too apt to be on tiptoe, following with admiring look the flight of its own rhetoric. The essentially intellectual character of an extemporaneous composition spoken to the Creator with the consciousness that many of his creatures are listening to criticise or to admire, is the great argument for set forms of prayer.
The congregation on this particular Sunday was made up chiefly of women and old men. The young men were limiting after Myrtle Hazard. Mr. Byles Gridley was in his place, wondering why the minister did not read his notice before the prayer. This prayer was never reported, as is the questionable custom with regard to some of these performances, but it was wrought up with a good deal of rasping force and broad pathos. When he came to pray for “our youthful sister, missing from her pious home, perhaps nevermore to return to her afflicted relatives,” and the women and old men began crying, Byles Gridley was on the very point of getting up and cutting short the whole matter by stating the simple fact that she had got back, all right, and suggesting that he had better pray for some of the older and tougher sinners before him. But on the whole it would be more decorous to wait, and perhaps he was willing to hear what the object of his favorite antipathy had to say about it. So he waited through the prayer. He waited through the hymn, “ Life is the time.” He waited to hear the sermon.
The minister gave out his text from the Book of Esther, second chapter, seventh verse: " For she had neither father nor mother, and the maid was fair and beautiful.” It was to be expected that the reverend gentleman, who loved to produce a sensation, would avail himself of the excitable state of his audience to sweep the key-board of their emotions, while, as we may say, all the stops were drawn out. His sermon was from notes ; for, though absolutely extemporaneous composition may be acceptable to one’s Maker, it is not considered quite the thing in speaking to one’s fellow-mortals. He discoursed for a time on the loss of parents, and on the dangers to which the unfortunate orphan is exposed. Then he spoke of the peculiar risks of the tender female child, left without its natural guardians. Warming with his subject, he dilated with wonderful unction on the temptations springing from personal attractions. He pictured the “fair and beautiful” women of Holy Writ, lingering over their names with lover-like devotion. He brought Esther before his audience, bathed and perfumed for the royal presence of Ahasuerus. He showed them the sweet young Ruth, lying down in her innocence at the feet of the lord of the manor. He dwelt with special luxury on the charms which seduced the royal psalmist,-—-the soldier’s wife for whom he broke the commands of the decalogue, and the maiden for whose attentions, in his cooler years, he violated the dictates of prudence and propriety. All this time Byles Gridley had his stern eyes on him. And while he kindled into passionate eloquence on these inspiring themes, poor Bathsheba, whom her mother had sent to church that she might get a little respite from her home duties, felt her blood growing cold in her veins, as the pallid image of the invalid wife, lying on her bed of suffering, rose in the midst of the glowing pictures which borrowed such warmth from her husband’s imagination.
The sermon, with its hinted application to the event of the past week, was over at last. The shoulders of the nervous women were twitching with sobs. The old men were crying in their vacant way. But all the while the face of Byles Gridley, firm as a rock in the midst of this lachrymal inundation, was kept steadily on the preacher, who had often felt the look that came through the two round glasses searching into the very marrow of his bones.
As the sermon was finished, the sexton marched up through the broad aisle and handed the note over the door of the pulpit to the clergyman, who was wiping his face after the exertion of delivering his discourse. Mr. Stoker looked at it, started, changed color,— his vision of “The Dangers of Beauty, a Sermon printed by Request,” had vanished, — and passed the note to Father Pemberton, who sat by him in the pulpit. With much pains he deciphered its contents, for his eyes were dim with years, and, having read it, bowed his head upon his hands in silent thanksgiving. Then he rose in the beauty of his tranquil and noble old age, so touched with the message he had to proclaim to his people, that the three deep furrows on his forehead, which some said he owed to the three dogmas of original sin, predestination, and endless torment, seemed smoothed for the moment, and his face was as that of an angel while he spoke.
“ Sisters and Brethren, — Rejoice with us, for we have found our lamb which had strayed from the fold. This our daughter was dead and is alive again; she was lost and is found. Myrtle Hazard, rescued from great peril of the waters, and cared for by good Samaritans, is now in her home. Thou, O Lord, who didst let the waterflood overflow her, didst not let the deep swallow her up, nor the pit shut its mouth upon her. Let us return our thanks to the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob, who is our God and Father, and who hath wrought this great deliverance.”
After his prayer, which it tried him sorely to utter in unbroken tones, he gave out the hymn,
And rescued from the grave ” :
but it was hardly begun when the leading female voice trembled and stopped, — and another, — and then a third,— and Father Pemberton, seeing that they were all overcome, arose and stretched out his arms, and breathed over them his holy benediction.
The village was soon alive with the news. The sexton forgot the solemnity of the Sabbath, and the bell acted as if it was crazy, tumbling heels over head at such a rate, and with such a clamor, that a good many thought there was a fire, and, rushing out from every quarter, instantly caught the great news with which the air was ablaze.
A few of the young men who had come back went even further in their demonstrations. They got a small cannon in readiness, and, without waiting for the going down of the sun, began firing rapidly, upon which the Reverend Mr. Stoker sallied forth to put a stop to this violation of the Sabbath. But in the mean time it was heard on all the hills, far and near. Some said they were firing in the hope of raising the corpse ; but many who heard the bells ringing their crazy peals guessed what had happened. Before night the parties were all in, one detachment bearing the body of the bob-tailed catamount swung over a pole, like the mighty cluster of grapes from Eshcol, and another conveying with wise precaution that monstrous snapping - turtle which those of our friends who wish to see will find among the specimens marked Chelydra serpentina in the great collection at Cantabridge.
VEXED WITH A DEVIL.
IT was necessary at once to summon a physician to advise as to the treatment of Myrtle, who had received a shock, bodily and mental, not lightly to be got rid of, and very probably to be followed by serious and varied disturbances. Her very tranquillity was suspicious, for there must be something of exhaustion in it, and the reaction must come sooner or later.
Old Dr. Lemuel Hurlbut, at the age of ninety-two, very deaf, very nearly blind, very feeble, liable to odd lapses of memory, was yet a wise counsellor in doubtful and difficult cases, and on rare occasions was still called upon to exercise his ancient skill. Here was a case in which a few words from him might soothe the patient and give confidence to all who were interested in her. Miss Silence Withers went herself to see him.
“Miss Withers, father, wants to talk with you about her grand-niece, Miss Hazard,” said Dr. Fordyce Hurlbut.
“ Miss Withers, Miss Withers ? — O, Silence Withers, — lives up at The Poplars. How’s the Deacon, Miss Withers ? ” [Ob. 1810.]
“My father is not living, Dr. Hurlbut,” she screamed into his ear.
“ Dead, is he ? Well, it is n’t long since he was with us; and they come and go, — they come and go. I remember his father, Major Gideon Withers. He had a great red feather on trainingdays,—that was what made me remember him. Who did you say was sick and wanted to see me, Fordyce ? ”
“ Myrtle Hazard, father, — she has had a narrow escape from drowning, and it has left her in a rather nervous state. They would like to have you go up to The Poplars and take a look at her. You remember Myrtle Hazard ? She is the great-granddaughter of your old friend the Deacon.”
He had to wait a minute before his thoughts would come to order; with a little time, the proper answer would be evolved by the slow automatic movement of the rusted mental machinery.
After the silent moment: “Myrtle Hazard, Myrtle Hazard,—yes, yes, to be sure! The old Withers stock — good constitutions—a little apt to be nervous, one or two of ’em. I’ve given ’em a good deal of valerian and assafætida, — not quite so much since the new blood came in. There is n’t the change in folks people think, — same thing over and over again. I ’ve seen six fingers on a child that had a six-fingered greatuncle, and I’ve seen that child’s grandchild born with six fingers. Does this girl like to have her own way pretty well, like the rest of the family ?”
“ A little too well, I suspect, father. You will remember all about her when you come to see her and talk with her. She would like to talk with you, and her aunt wants to see you too ; they think there’s nobody like the ‘ old Doctor.’ ”
He was not too old to be pleased with this preference, and said he was willing to go when they were ready. With no small labor of preparation he was at last got to the house, and crept with his son’s aid up to the little room over the water, where his patient was still lying.
There was a little too much color in Myrtle’s cheeks, and a glistening lustre in her eyes that told of unnatural excitement. It gave a strange brilliancy to her beauty, and might have deceived an unpractised observer. The old man looked at her long and curiously, his imperfect sight excusing the closeness of his scrutiny. He laid his trembling hand upon her forehead, and then felt her pulse with his shrivelled fingers. He asked her various questions about herself, which she answered with a tone not quite so calm as natural, but willingly and intelligently. They thought she seemed to the old Doctor to be doing very well, for he spoke cheerfully to her, and treated her in such a way that neither she nor any of those around her could be alarmed. The younger physician was disposed to think she was only suffering from temporary excitement, and that it would soon pass off.
They left the room to talk it over.
“ It does not amount to much, I suppose, father,” said Dr. Fordyce Hurlbut. "You made the pulse about ninety,— a little hard, — did n’t you, as I did? Rest, and low diet for a day or two, and all will be right, won’t it ? ”
Was it the feeling of sympathy, or was it the pride of superior sagacity, that changed the look of the old man’s wrinkled features ? “ Not so fast, —
not so fast, Fordyce,” he said. ‘’I ’ve seen that look on another face of the same blood, — it’s a great many years ago, and she was dead before you were born, my boy, — but I ’ve seen that look, and it meant trouble then, and I ’m afraid it means trouble now. I see some danger of a brain fever. And if she does n’t have that, then look out for some hysteric fits that will make mischief. Take that handkerchief off of her head, and cut her hair close, and keep her temples cool, and put some drawing plasters to the soles of her feet, and give her some of my pilulæ compositæ, and follow them with some doses of sal polychrcst. I ’ve been through it all before in that same house. Live folks are only dead folks warmed over. I can see 'em all in that girl’s face,— Handsome Judith, to begin with. And that queer woman, the Deacon’s mother, — there’s where she gets that hystericky look. Yes, and the black-eyed woman with the Indian blood in her,— look out for that,-—look out for that. And — and — my son, do you remember Major Gideon Withers ? ” [Ob. 1780.]
“ Why, no, father, I can’t say that I remember the Major; but I know the picture very well. Does she remind you of him ? ”
He paused again, until the thoughts came slowly straggling up to the point where the question left him. He shook his head solemnly, and turned his dim eyes on his son’s face.
“Four generations—four generation s, man and wife, — yes, five generations, for old Selah Withers took me in his arms when I was a child, and called me ' little gal,’ for I was in girl’s clothes, — five generations before this Hazard child I’ve looked on with these old eyes. And it seems to me that I can see something of almost every one of’em in this child’s face, — it’s the forehead of this one, and it’s the eyes of that one. and it’s that other’s mouth, and the look that I remember in another, and when she speaks, why, I’ve heard that same voice before — yes, yes — as long ago as when I was first married; for I remember Rachel used to think I praised Handsome Judith’s voice more than it deserved, — and her face too, for that matter. You remember Rachel, my first wife, — don’t you, Fordyce?”
" No, father, I don't remember her, but I know her portrait.” (As he was the son of the old Doctor’s second wife, he could hardly be expected to remember her predecessor.)
The old Doctor’s sagacity was not in fault about the somewhat threatening aspect of Myrtle’s condition. His directions were followed implicitly; for with the exception of the fact of sluggishness rather than loss of memory, and of that confusion of dates which in slighter degrees is often felt as early as middle-life, and increases in most persons from year to year, his mind was still penetrating, and his advice almost as trustworthy, as in his best days.
It was very fortunate that the old Doctor ordered Myrtle’s hair to be cut, and Miss Silence took the scissors and trimmed it at once. So, whenever she got well and was seen about, there would be no mystery about the loss of her locks. — the Doctor had been afraid of brain fever, and ordered them to cut her hair.
Many things are uncertain in this world, and among them the effect of a large proportion of the remedies prescribed by physicians. Whether it was by the use of the means ordered by the old Doctor, or by the efforts of nature, or by both together, at any rate the first danger was averted, and the immediate risk from brain fever soon passed over. But the impression upon her mind and body had been too profound to be dissipated by a few days’ rest. The hysteric state which the wise old man had apprehended began to manifest itself by its usual signs, if anything can be called usual in a condition the natural order of which is disorder and anomaly.
And now the reader, if such there be, who believes in the absolute independence and self-determination of the will, and the consequent total responsibility of every human being for every irregular nervous action and ill-governed muscular contraction, may as well lay down this narrative, or he may lose all faith in poor Myrtle Hazard, and all patience with the writer who tells her story.
The mental excitement so long sustained, followed by a violent shock to the system, coming just at the period of rapid development, gave rise to that morbid condition, accompanied with a series of mental and moral perversions, which in ignorant ages and communities is attributed to the influence of evil spirits, but for the better-instructed is the malady which they call hysteria. Few households have ripened a growth of womanhood without witnessing some of its manifestations, and its phenomena are largely traded in by scientific pretenders and religious fanatics. Into this cloud, with all its risks and all its humiliations, Myrtle Hazard is about to enter. Will she pass through it unharmed, or wander from her path, and fall over one of those fearful precipices which lie before her?
After the ancient physician had settled the general plan of treatment, its details and practical application were left to the care of his son. Dr. Fordyce Hurlbut was a widower, not yet forty years old, a man of a fine masculine aspect and a vigorous nature. He was a favorite with his female patients, — perhaps many of them would have said because he was good-looking and pleasant in his manners, but some thought in virtue of a special magnetic power to which certain temperaments were impressible, though there was no explaining it. But he himself never claimed any such personal gift, and never attempted any of the exploits which some thought were in his power if he chose to exercise his faculty in that direction. This girl was, as it were, a child to him, for he had seen her grow up from infancy, and had often held her on his knee in her early years. The first thing he did was to get her a nurse, for he saw that neither of the two women about her exercised a quieting influence upon her nerves. So he got her old friend, Nurse Byloe, to come and take care of her.
The old nurse looked calm enough at one or two of his first visits, but the next morning her face showed that something had been going wrong. “Well, what has been the trouble, Nurse?” the Doctor said, as soon as he could get her out of the room.
“ She’s been attackted, Doctor, sence you been here, dreadful. It's them high stirricks, Doctor, ’n’ I never seen ’em higher, nor more of ’em. Laughin’ as ef she would bust. Cryin’ as ef she’d lost all her friends, ’n’ was a follerin’ their corpse to their graves. And spassums — sech spassums ! And ketchin’ at her throat, ’n’ sayin’ there was a great ball a risin’ into it from her stommick. One time she had a kind o’ lockjaw like. And one time she stretched herself out ’n’ laid jest as still as ef she was dead. And she says now that her head feels as ef a nail had been driv’ into it, — into the left temple, she says, and that’s what makes her look so distressed now.”
The Doctor came once more to her bedside. He saw that her forehead was contracted, and that she was evidently suffering from severe pain somewhere.
“ Where is your uneasiness, Myrtle ? ” he asked.
She moved her hand very slowly, and pressed it on her left temple. He laid his hand upon the same spot, kept it there a moment, and then removed it. She took it gently with her own, and placed it on her temple again. As he sat watching her, he saw that her features were growing easier, and in a short time her deep, even breathing showed that she was asleep.
“ It beats all,” the old Nurse said. “Why, she’s been a complainin’ ever sence daylight, and she hain’t slep’ not a wink afore, sence twelve o’clock las’ night ! It’s jes’ like them magnetizers, — I never heerd you was one o’ them kind. Dr. Hulburt.”
“I can’t say how it is. Nurse, — I have heard people say my hand was magnetic, but I never thought of its quieting her so quickly. No sleep since twelve o’clock last night, you say ? ”
“ Not a wink, ’n’ actin’ as ef she was possessed a good deal o’ the time. You read your Bible, Doctor, don't you ? You 're pious ? Do you remember about that woman in Scriptur’ out of whom the Lord cast seven devils ? Well, I should ha’ thought there was seventy devils in that gal last night, from the way she carr’d on. And now she lays there jest as peaceful as a new-born babe, — that is, accordin’ to the sayin’ about ’em ; for as to peaceful new-born babes, I never see one that come t’ anything, that did n’t screech as ef the haouse was afire 'n' it wanted to call all the fire-ingines within ten mild.”
The Doctor smiled, but be became thoughtful in a moment. Did he possess a hitherto unexercised personal power, which put the key of this young girl's nervous system into his hands ? The remarkable tranquillizing effect of the contact of his hand with her forehead looked like an immediate physical action. It might have been a mere coincidence, however. He would not form an opinion until his next visit.
At that next visit it did seem as if some of Nurse Byloe’s seventy devils had possession of her. All the strange spasmodic movements, the chokings, the odd sounds, the wild talk, the laughing and crying, were in full blast. All the remedies which had been ordered seemed to have been of no avail. The Doctor could hardly refuse trying his quasi magnetic influence, and placed the tips of his fingers on her forehead. The result was the same that had followed the similar proceeding the day before,—the storm was soon calmed, and after a little time she fell into a quiet sleep, as in the first instance.
Here was an awkward affair for the physician, to be sure ! He held this power in his hands, which no remedy and no other person seemed to possess. How long would he be chained to her, and she to him, and what would be the consequence of the mysterious relation which must necessarily spring up between a man like him, in the plenitude of vital force, of strongly attractive personality, and a young girl organized for victory over the calmest blood and the steadiest resistance ?
Every day after this made matters worse. There was something almost partaking of the miraculous in the influence he was acquiring over her. His “ Peace, be still! ” was obeyed by the stormy elements of this young soul, as if it had been a supernatural command. How could he resist the dictate of humanity" which called him to make his visits more frequent, that her intervals of rest might be more numerous ? How could he refuse to sit at her bedside for a while in the evening, that she might be quieted, instead of beginning the night sleepless and agitated ?
The Doctor was a man of refined feeling as well as of principle, and he had besides a sacred memory in the deepest heart of his affections. It was the common belief in the village that he would never marry again, but that his first and only love was buried in the grave of the wife of his youth. It did not easily occur to him to suspect himself of any weakness with regard to this patient of his, little more than a child in years. It did not at once suggest itself to him that she, in her strange, excited condition, might fasten her wandering thoughts upon him, too far removed by his age, as it seemed, to strike the fancy of a young girl under almost any conceivable conditions.
Thus it was that many of those beautiful summer evenings found him sitting by his patient, the river rippling and singing beneath them, the moon shining over them, sweet odors from the thickets on the banks of the stream stealing in on the soft air that came through the open window, and every time they were thus together, the subtile influence which bound them to each other bringing them more and more into inexplicable harmonies and almost spiritual identity.
But all this did not hinder the development of new and strange conditions in Myrtle Hazard. Her will was losing its power. “I cannot help it” — the hysteric motto — was her constant reply. It is not pleasant to confess the truth, but she was rapidly undergoing a singular change of her moral nature. She had been a truthful child. If she had kept her secret about what she found in the garret, she thought she was exercising her rights, and she had never been obliged to tell any lies about it.
But now she seemed to have lost the healthy instincts for veracity and honesty. She feigned all sorts of odd symptoms, and showed a wonderful degree of cunning in giving an appearance of truth to them. It became next to impossible to tell what was real and what was simulated. At one time she could not be touched ever so lightly without shrinking and crying out. At another time she would squint, and again she would be half paralyzed for a time. She would pretend to fast for days, living on food she had concealed and took secretly" in the night.
The nurse was getting worn out. Kitty Fagan would have had the priest come to the house and sprinkle it with holy water. The two women were beginning to get nervous themselves. The Rev. Mr. Stoker said in confidence to Miss Silence, that there was reason to fear she might have been given over for a time to the bufferings of Satan, and that perhaps his (Mr. Stoker’s) personal attentions might be useful in that case. And so it appeared that the “young doctor ” was the only being left with whom she had any complete relations and absolute sympathy. She had become so passive in his hands that it seemed as if her only healthy life was, as it were, transmitted through him, and that she depended on the transfer of his nervous power, as the plant upon the light for its essential living processes.
The two young men who had met in so unexpected a manner on board the ship Swordfish had been reasonably discreet in relating their adventures. Myrtle Hazard may or may not have had the plan they attributed to her; however that was, they had looked rather foolish when they met, and had not thought it worth while to be very communicative about the matter when they returned. It had at least given them a chance to become a little better acquainted with each other, and it was an opportunity which the elder and more artful of the two meant to turn to advantage.
Of all Myrtle’s few friends only one was in the habit of seeing her often during this period, namely, Olive Eveleth, a girl so quiet and sensible that she, if anybody, could be trusted with her. But Myrtle’s whole character seemed to have changed, and Olive soon found that she was in some mystic way absorbed into another nature. Except when the physician’s will was exerted upon her, she was drifting without any self-directing power, and then any one of those manifold impulses which would in some former ages have been counted as separate manifestations on the part of distinct demoniacal beings might take possession of her. Olive did little, therefore, but visit Myrtle from time to time to learn if any change had occurred in her condition. All this she reported to Cyprian, and all this was got out of him by Mr. William Murray Bradshaw.
That gentleman was far from being pleased with the look of things as they were represented. What if the Doctor, who was after all in the prime of life and younger-looking than some who were born half a dozen years after him, should get a hold on this young woman, — girl now, if you will, but in a very few years certain to come within possible, nay, not very improbable, matrimonial range of him ? That would be pleasant, would n’t it. It had happened sometimes, as he knew, that these magnetizing tricks had led to infatuation on the part of the subjects of the wonderful influence. So he concluded to be ill and consult the younger Dr. Hurlbut, and incidentally find out how the land lay.
The next question was, what to be ill with. Some not ungentlemanly malady, not hereditary, not incurable, not requiring any obvious change in habits of life. Dyspepsia would answer the purpose well enough ; so Mr. Murray Bradshaw picked up a medical book and read ten minutes or more for that complaint. At the end of this time he was an accomplished dyspeptic ; for lawyers half learn a thing quicker than the members of any other profession.
He presented himself with a somewhat forlorn countenance to Dr. Fordyce Hurlbut, as suffering from some of the less formidable symptoms of that affection. He got into a very interesting conversation with him, especially about some nervous feelings which had accompanied his attack of indigestion. Thence to nervous complaints in general. Thence to the case of the young lady at The Poplars whom he was attending. The Doctor talked with a certain reserve, as became his professional relations with his patient; but it was plain enough that, if this kind of intercourse went on much longer, it would be liable to end in some emotional explosion or other, and there was no saying how it would at last turn out.
Murray Bradshaw was afraid to meddle directly. He knew a great deal more about the history of Myrtle’s adventure than any of his neighbors, and, among other things, that it had given Mr. Byles Gridley a peculiar interest in her, of which he could take advantage. He therefore artfully hinted his tears to the old man, and left his hint to work itself out.
However suspicious Master Gridley was of him and his motives, he thought it worth while to call up at The Poplars and inquire for himself of the nurse what was this new relation growing up between the physician and his youngpatient.
She imparted her opinion to him in a private conversation with great freedom. “ Sech doin’s ! sech doin’s ! The gal’s jest as much bewitched as ever any gal was sence them that was possessed in Scriptur’. And every day it’s wus and wus. Ef that Doctor don’t stop comin’, she won’t breathe without his helpin’ her to before long. And, Mr. Gridley, — I don’t like to say so, — but I can’t help thinkin’ he :s gettin’ a little bewitched too. I don’t believe he means to take no kind of advantage of her ; but, Mr. Gridley, you ’ve seen them millers fly round and round a candle, and you know how it ginerally comes out. Men is men and gals is gals. I would n’t trust no man, not ef he was much under a hundud year old, — and as for a gal — ! ”
" Mulieri ne mortuæ quidem credendum est," said Mr. Gridley. “ You would n’t trust a woman even if she was dead, hey, Nurse ? ”
“ Not till she was buried, ’n' the grass growin’ a foot high over her,” said Nurse Byloe, “unless I ’d know’d her sence she was a baby. I ’ve know’d this one sence she was two or three year old ; but this gal ain’t Myrtle Hazard no longer, — she’s bewitched into somethin’ different. I ’ll tell ye what, Mr. Gridley ; you get old Dr. Hulburt to come and see her once a day for a week, and get the young doctor to stay away. I ’ll resk it. She ’ll have some dreadful tantrums at fust, but she ’ll come to it in two or three days.”
Master Byles Gridley groaned in spirit. He had come to this village to end his days in peace, and here he was just going to make a martyr of himself for the sake of a young person to whom he was under no obligation, except that he had saved her from the consequences of her own foolish act, at the expense of a great overturn of all his domestic habits. There was no help for it. The nurse was right, and he must perform the disagreeable duty of letting the Doctor know that he was getting into a track which might very probably lead to mischief, and that he must back out as fast as he could.
At 2 P. M. Gifted Hopkins presented the following note at the Doctor’s door:—
“ Mr. Byles Gridley would be much obliged to Dr. Fordyce Hurlbut if he would call at his study this evening.”
“ Odd, is n’t it, father, the old man’s asking me to come and see him ? Those old stub-twist constitutions never want patching.”
“ Old man ! old man ! Who s that you call old, — not Byles Gridley, hey ? Old! old! Sixty year, more or less! How old was Floyer when he died. Fordyce? Ninety-odd, wasn’t it? Had the asthma though, or he’d have lived to be as old as Dr. Holyoke, —a hundred year and over. That ’s old. But men live to be a good deal more than that sometimes. What does Byles Gridley want of you, did you say ? ”
“ I’m sure I can’t tell, father; I ’ll go and find out.” So he went over to Mrs. Hopkins’s in the evening, and was shown up into the study.
Master Gridley treated the Doctor to a cup of such tea as bachelors sometimes keep hid away in mysterious caddies. He presently began asking certain questions about the grand climacteric, which eventful period of life he was fast approaching. Then he discoursed of medicine, ancient and modern, tasking the Doctor’s knowledge not a little, and evincing a good deal of acquaintance with old doctrines and authors. He had a few curious old medical books in his library, which he said he should like to show Dr. Hurlbut.
“ There, now ! What do you say to this copv of Joannes de Ketam, Venice, 1522? Look at these woodcuts, — the first anatomical pictures ever printed, Doctor, unless these others of Berengarius de Carpi are older ! See this scene of the plague-patient, the doctor smelling at his pouncet-box, the old nurse standing square at the bedside, the young nurse with tire bowl, holding back and turning her bead away, and the old burial-hag behind her, shoving her forward, — a very curious book, Doctor, and has the first phrenological picture in it ever made. Take a look, too, at my Vesalius, — not the Leyden edition, Doctor, but the one with the grand old original figures, — so good that they laid them to Titian. And look here, Doctor, I could n't help getting this great folio Albinus, 1747, — and the nineteenth century can’t touch it, Doctor, — can’t touch it for completeness and magnificence, — so all the learned professors tell me ! Brave old fellows, Doctor, and put their lives into their books as you gentlemen don’t pretend to do now-a-days. And good old fellows, Doctor, — high-minded, scrupulous, conscientious, punctilious, — remembered their duties to man and to woman, and felt all the responsibilities of their confidential relation to families. Did you ever read the oldest of medical documents, — the Oath of Hippocrates ? ”
The Doctor thought he had read it, but did not remember much about it-
“ It’s worth reading, Doctor, — it’s worth remembering; and, old as it is, it is just as good to-day as it was when it was laid down as a rule of conduct four hundred years before the Sermon on the Mount was delivered. Let me read it to you, Dr. Hurlbut.”
There was something in Master Gridley's look that made the Doctor feel a little nervous ; he did not know just what was coming.
Master Gridley took out his great Hippocrates, the edition of Foesius, and opened to the place. He turned so as to face the Doctor, and read the famous Oath aloud, Englishing it as he went along. When he came to these words which follow, he pronounced them very slowly and with special emphasis.
" My life shall be pure and holy.”
“ Into whatever house I enter, I will go for the good of the patient: I will abstain from inflicting any voluntary injury, and from leading away any, whether man or woman, bond or free."
The Doctor changed color as he listened, and the moisture broke out on his forehead.
Master Gridley saw it, and followed up his advantage. “ Dr. Fordyce Hurlbut, are you not in danger of violating the sanctities of your honorable calling, and leading astray a young person committed to your sacred keeping?”
While saying these words, Master Gridley looked full upon him, with a face so charged with grave meaning, so impressed with the gravity of his warning accents, that the Doctor felt as if he were before some dread tribunal, and remained silent. He was a member of the Rev. Mr. Stoker’s church, and the words he had just listened to were those of a sinful old heathen who had never heard a sermon in his life ; but they stung him, for all that, as the parable of the prophet stung the royal transgressor.
He spoke at length, for the plain honest words had touched the right spring of consciousness at the right moment; not too early, for he now saw whither he was tending, — not too late, for he was not yet in the inner spirals of the passion which whirls men and women to their doom in ever-narrowing coils, that will not unwind at the command of God or man.
He spoke as one who is humbled by self-accusation, yet in a manly way, as became his honorable and truthful character.
“ Master Gridley,” he said, “ I stand convicted before you. I know too well what you are thinking of. It is true, — I cannot continue my attendance on Myrtle — on Miss Hazard, for you mean her — without peril to both of us. She is not herself. God forbid that I should cease to be myself! I have been thinking of a summer tour, and I will at once set out upon it, and leave this patient in my father’s hands. I think he will find strength to visit her under the circumstances.”
The Doctor went off the next morning without saying a word to Myrtle Hazard, and his father made the customary visit in his place.
That night the spirit tare her, as may well be supposed, and so the second night. But there was no help for it: her doctor was gone, and the old physician, with great effort, came instead, sat by her, spoke kindly to her, left wise directions to her attendants, and above all assured them that, if they would have a little patience, they would see all this storm blow over.
On the third night after his visit, the spirit rent her sore, and came out of her, or, in the phrase of to-day, she had a fierce paroxysm, alter which the violence of the conflict ceased, and she might be called convalescent so far as that was concerned.
But all this series of nervous disturbances left her in a very impressible and excitable condition. This was just the state to invite the spiritual manipulations of one of those theological practitioners who consider that the treatment of all morbid states of mind short of raving madness belongs to them and not to the doctors. This same condition was equally favorable for the operations of any professional experimenter who would use the fame of religious excitement to light the torch of an earthly passion. So many fingers that begin on the black keys stray to the white ones before the tune is played out !
If Myrtle Hazard was In charge of any angelic guardian, the time was at hand when she would need all celestial influences ; for the Rev. Joseph Bellamy Stoker was about to take a deep interest in her spiritual welfare.