Irene the Missionary
DR. MACKLIN continued surly over Irene’s expedition to the housetop, and was indeed about to set off glumly for his own lodgings, when the chance of a mountain war was mentioned.
“ I shall go to Hasbeya myself,” he broke out. “ I shall take a musket and fight for our people.”
Then, as his nature was very bellicose, and as the elder men really feared lest he might so do, there ensued an argument on the impropriety of such a method of conducting missionary operations. In the midst of it DeVries returned from a properly brief sojourn aloft, merely stepping into the parlor, however, long enough to say good evening, and then departing in a quiet, graceful fashion, which somehow confirmed Macklin’s evil impressions of him.
“ I don’t like such smooth-spoken people,” he declared, bluntly. “ A man as young as that, who has that kind of oily self-possession, always makes me think of a gambler. As far as my observation extends, polish and corruption go together. Look at the Italians and Levantines! They are a set of sweet - spoken reprobates.”
“ I saw Adolphe Monod, the great Huguenot preacher and saint, when I was in Paris,” said Kirkwood. “He had the manners of a — well, I should say a perfect lady. We have no such gentlemen. ”
“ Mr. DeVries is very nice, doctor,” added Miss Grant, warmly. “ He seems to be as good as he is pleasant.”
“ Oh, I suppose you must believe in him, or you would n’t walk with him,” answered Macklin, not at all aware that he was hard upon the young lady.
Irene, who was not accustomed to combat, colored, and dropped into an embarrassed silence. Mr. Kirkwood turned the conversation by asking about the doctor’s patients in Abeih. Next there was some further talk on the prospect of war in the mountain. But the mind of Macklin, who was really a most tender-hearted creature, was all this time dwelling on Irene, and on the pain which he at last perceived that he had given her.
“Miss Grant,” he said, “would you like to take a ride with me to-morrow to Ras el Beirut? ”
“Oh, thank you, doctor,” answered the surprised Irene. “ But not to-morrow. We have got to move into our own house, and I must help Mrs. Payson.”
So sensitive was the doctor that he looked disconcerted over this refusal, proper and even unavoidable as it obviously was. While he was meditating whether he should extend his invitation to some other day, Mrs. Payson entered, and began to talk about the new residence.
“ I have been there with Saada and Rufka,” she said. “ The rooms are all ready, I suppose, though they don’t look furnished. It’s a nice little stone house, with a great arched alcove in the front which looks very pretty, though I really should like to take it in and make a room of it. Our one guest chamber seems dreadfully small for a rich young gentleman like Mr. DeVries.”
Here was pretty news for the suspicious and, one may already say, jealous doctor. He cast a glance of indignant amazement at the unconscious Payson, and was so stirred up concerning Irene that he could not trust himself to look at her. The headlong, fervent man felt quite sure that “ that young dandy ” was no fit inmate for a mission circle, and no fit companion for the lovely but over - confiding girl who had come to brighten missionary existence. After sitting for five minutes in surly or sorrowful silence, he started up with the air of a person who needs to brood undisturbed, and went off to his lonely little box in the gardens.
In order to understand his aversion to wealthy and delicately mannered people, it must be made known that he was the child of profound poverty, and that he had won his subsistence and education only through hard labor and bread-and-water frugality. He was not of that temperament which asks favors, or wins them without the asking. No solid man or lady of means had ever been moved to found a scholarship for him, or to lend him a dollar. In college and in the medical school rich students had unconsciously ignored him, as one who could not share in their amusements, and who probably disapproved them. His comprehension of it was that these children of luxury held him in contempt because of his empty purse and threadbare clothing. Of course he studied them, and that with no kindly eye. He noted the vices to which they were tempted, and passionately inferred that all gilded lives are alike, although he knew to the contrary. It was a case of a naturally sweet heart embittered by undeserved severity of fortune, and no doubt also by a pretty strong dose of pride. There has seldom been a more sensitive man, or one who oftener wounded the feelings of others, or who more fervently repented of such wounding.
In the morning, all good humor and zeal to oblige, he appeared at the Mission House, and worked like a tiger to get the Paysons into their home. He brought his own horse for Miss Grant’s use, and put the Kirkwood side-saddle on to it with his own hands, alleging loudly that Arab servants knew nothing about side-saddles. Then, in his fear lest she should catch a fall, he walked by her side through the deep sand and strong sunshine, though the heavy sweat of ague was rolling from his forehead. She saw that he was ill, and begged him not to weary himself on her account; but he would persist in offering her his toils and sufferings; he was, as it were, doing penance.
It was curious to note how unconscious he was that his appearance did not favor him. His skin had been burnt scarlet by his ride from Abeih, and little flakes of scorched epidermis were peeling from his nose, and the whole face was streaked with dust and moisture. But he kept close by Irene, and lifted up his inflamed countenance to her without disguise, and looked quite happy through all his distress and disfigurement.
It is very seldom that a woman is not touched and favorably impressed by suffering devotion. Irene thought that he was very ugly, at least for the moment, and for the moment very attractive. She was almost glad when he broke down with a chill at the Payson house, so that she could help roll him up in blankets on a sofa, and furthermore show gratitude in the way of capsicum tea.
“It does n’t matter about me,” he said, shaking the while like an aspen leaf. “ I hate to have you give yourself the slightest trouble on my account. It will pass off in a couple of hours. Do your own work, and let me quake it out.”
“ But why do you run such risks? How could you tire yourself so, and then take that hot walk ? ”
He came near confessing that he had done it all to make amends for his rudeness of the previous evening, but was checked by a vague feeling that that would be setting up a claim for especial consideration and tenderness.
“ It is my reckless way,” he chattered out. “ I have broken my health by unnecessary exposure. I never think. You must be warned by me. This climate is a Delilah. Promise me that you will be careful of our Syrian nights and noontides. ”
“ I will promise, if you will.”
Then, seeing that it wearied him to talk, she unwillingly left him to his malady. In two hours the fit was over, and the victim of recklessness was about again, tottering on his legs occasionally, but as restless and helpful as ever.
“Oh, I feel quite encouraged,” he said, when remonstrated with for his pulling and hauling. “ If my dumb-ague will only change permanently into chills, I can handle it. Besides, a doctor who grunts and lies up for a shake is no man at all, and deserves to be exterminated.”
“ A doctor who violates the laws of health is pretty sure to be exterminated,” smiled Payson. “Besides, consider the evil example of the thing, and the scorn it heaps on your precepts. You are like a preacher who points out the narrow way, but walks in the broad one.”
“ Where is that lazy Habeeb?” shouted the doctor. “ I want him to give me a lift with this box. I was made to like work, my good friends, and I can’t help working.”
It was all well with him, physically and morally, during the rest of the day. He lunched and dined with the Paysons, taking his seat where he could best look at Irene, and hardly able to stop speech with her while the host said grace.
“ This is lovely,” he declared. “ It is as jolly as a picnic. By the way, I never went on a picnic in my life, except a Sabbath-school one.”
“ Do you disapprove of them ? ” stared Irene.
“My pocket disapproved,” returned the doctor, scowling back at his youthful poverty. “ Miss Grant, I have known what it is, when I was a senior in college, not to be able to send a letter to my mother until I could get a job at sawing wood.”
“ I know quite enough about that sort of thing,” said Irene.
The doctor rejoiced to hear it; it made a companion of her.
“ This is lovely,” he repeated. “ It is better than a picnic. I think our mission is now complete,” he continued, staring full at Irene. “ We don’t want another helper of any sort, man or woman.”
Mrs. Payson tittered a little, and Miss Grant could not help blushing. She had never been so claimed, or father so taken possession of, before. Whether the man looked upon her in a brotherly way, or as a lover, she could not say; but in some fashion or other he seemed to feel that she belonged to him; he fairly chuckled over his ownership. Then came a vague feeling upon her that she should have to give up to him and let him make good his preëmption, no matter what might be its nature. Not knowing how to behave under his appropriating smile, she was relieved when Mr. Payson entered into the conversation with one of his characteristic solemnities.
“ I fear we have one gap in our synagogue. I think we could squeeze up and make room, with advantage, for St. Paul.”
“ I sometimes think we have one,” replied Macklin, glancing at the clergyman with such affection and reverence that Irene almost loved him for it.
“No! nor the whole earth, either! ” said Payson, evidently understanding the allusion, and as evidently shocked by it. “ Does the man live who could make that speech to King Agrippa? Does the man live who could write the eleventh chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews? Besides all the sanctity and the martydom, what an orator he was! ”
For a few seconds the doctor’s burnt face had an air of humility; then his animal spirits and boyish loving-heartedness broke out again.
“ I must do something for our young friend here,” he declared. “ I can’t take her to picnics, and she does n’t want to be bled. Why should n’t I see her through the first steps in Arabic? Mr. Payson can’t be spared from preaching, and Butrus is busy with his translations, and the rest all have plenty of work, except me. Miss Irene Grant, I ’ll teach you.”
Miss Grant colored again, and secretly desired to object, being already vaguely fearful of courtship, and not quite knowing what to do with such a lover. Payson looked at her with an air of fatherly inquiry, which seemed to say that she was free to decline, if she so preferred. But Mrs. Payson, the usually shy and submissive lady, broke out with a delighted giggle, “ Why, certainly ! I think it is just the best thing to do. I think it is very kind of you, doctor.”
Irene felt that she was being directed for a purpose, but she did not see how she could kindly evade the plan, and she smiled assent to it with the best grace possible. The sanguine Macklin was so boisterously elated that he made himself a discomfort to his pupil. He began at once to make her say Ya subhac bel khiar, and other common Arabic phrases. He ordered her to hold up her head, open her mouth wide, and speak out loud. In short, be bullied her considerably, and filled her cheeks with a flush of embarrassment. Meantime, he did not mean to bully her, and could not see that she was worried. He was happy to think of those coming lessons, and quite made himself dreadful with his spirits.
But things greatly changed with the doctor about sundown. He was on the roof of the little house with Irene, — yes, actually alone on the housetop with a young lady; it was altogether proper in a missionary. The sun was sinking in the great blaze of the Mediterranean, and sending its iridescent glories up the mighty slopes of Lebanon. He was pointing everything out to his pupil, his monopolized and preëmpted daughter of Zion, when, looking down into the cactus-hedged lane below him, he saw DeVries ride up on horseback, followed by a donkey laden with baggage. The tall young man sat his steed finely, and made a handsome appearance. The doctor could perceive that Irene watched him eagerly and was anxious to hasten down and greet him. He tried to make her go on admiring the sunset, but it was clearly a job against nature, and he gave it up.
“ Well, Lebanon must wait, I see,” he said, sulkily.
“ It will be there, to-morrow,” replied Irene, gayly gathering her dress to descend the stone stairway.
“ And he will be here,” muttered Macklin, with a face of undisguisable discontent and despondency.
The behavior of DeVries increased his annoyance. The young fellow looked glad to be with the Paysons, and greeted Irene with special cordiality. Moreover, he shook hands cordially with the doctor, and said he remembered him with pleasure.
“ Thank you,” replied Macklin, but he bowed in a stiff and antagonistic style, much like an iron-clad bowing to a seductive billow. The man did n’t know him, and had no right to be glad to see him, and was n’t glad. He considered that polite speech mere fashionable hypocrisy, and disapproved of it from the bottom of his rude, honest nature.
Indeed, DeVries’s catholic urbanity of manner was sincerely displeasing to the doctor, and in more ways than one. It reminded him so vividly of certain rich college classmates, scions of the New York aristocracy, that he felt as if he were once more in the presence of their civil indifference, understood by him as scorn. He could not talk, and drifted away from the sociable group in the comandaloon, sitting gloomily by himself in a rocking-chair and rocking nervously. It was rather a warm evening for the season, and Irene bustled about and brought a fan to DeVries.
“ Who would think,” said the doctor to himself, “that that is the same girl who made me my red-pepper tea? They are all alike.”
Unable to bear the scene any longer, he made his despondent adieux, and moodily went his way.
About nine o’clock next morning the doctor was boisterously on hand, full of forgiveness and good humor and goodwill, to give his lesson in Arabic.
What was his astonishment and indignation when he learned that his pupil had gone off with DeVries and Saada to make a call on the blonde lady of the House of Keneasy!
“I call that outrageous! ” he broke out. “ Here I got up at daylight to clear off my sick-list, so as to give this young person a lesson in Arabic, and I find her flying about on a round of fashionable visiting.”
“She did n’t expect you so early,” pleaded Mrs. Payson. “ Why, doctor, I supposed myself that you would come later. Mr. Payson said you were generally busy with your patients till lunch time.”
The good lady had that liking for physicians which is so common with the sex of guardian angels. Moreover, she had noted his undisguisable fancy for Irene, and, again like a woman, wanted to see such preferences rewarded. Finally, she knew that her husband not only loved but admired the bright, fatherless girl, and looked forward to her being one of the most useful personages in the mission. For all these reasons she fervently desired to keep up a good understanding between the two young missionaries.
“ I thought she would wait for me,” grumbled the doctor so surlily that Mrs. Payson feared lest Mr. DeVries would yet be too much for him. “ She ought to consider that her Arabic is of far more importance than the small duty of amusing that young lounger.”
“ He won’t be with us long, and Mr. Payson wanted him to see all he could,” said the lady, laying much stress and responsibility on her husband, as is perhaps usual with newly-wedded wives. “ Of course we want to interest him in the field ” —
“ Well — of course,” assented Macklin, remembering that Madame DeVries mère had the repute of being generous to missions. “But is this the way? Must our young ladies use their charms to interest men ? Is that the best way ? ”
Mrs. Payson could hardly help smiling at his innocence. She had been not an active, but a watchful member of society, and had sometimes seen feminine charms more potent than male demonstration and appeal.
“ Well, I’m sorry, —I ’m exceedingly sorry,” the doctor continued to fret. “ I had hoped to commence those lessons to-day. I am exceedingly disappointed.”
He hurried out of the house, and in the next minute hurried in again, all with the same air of final decision.
“I’ll wait for her,” he said. “I won’t be balked in this style. Can you give me a snack, Mrs. Payson? I feel a bit like a chill. I should have one, for certain, if I had n’t had one yesterday. ”
Full of admiration for his manly endurance of physical ills, she joyfully got him an overflowing regale, including a goblet of the beverage of capsicum. Before he had finished the meal Irene came in alone, and received his reproof while sharing his figs and raisins. She treated him with that wondrous patience which some young ladies can accord to exacting gentlemen, on the supposition, possibly, that their exactingness is a symptom of fervent preference, and so to be received as a compliment. And when she made known that Mr. De Vries had gone off alone to the Nahr el Kelb, and proceeded to repeat with a pretty accent three or four Syrian salutations which she had learned at the Beit Keneasy, the doctor not only forgave her escapade, but approved of it. Then the lesson was administered, and the novice showed much talent for linguistic study, or her teacher grossly flattered her.
The habitation of DeVries with the Paysons was not so incessantly harrowing to Macklin as he had expected. The “ young dandy ” had his antiquarian sense of duty, and labored diligently in the barren field of local discovery. He made two or three equestrian excursions, with note-book and measuring tape about his person, and with a kawass galloping fiercely behind him. He was apt to come in late of evenings, disappointed as to Phœnician inscriptions, but always urbane and chatty. The doctor, although still suspicious of his suavity, had to concede some points in his favor.
“ Employs his time better than many young fellows,” he said. “ I respect this passion for ruins and ethnic riddles. College did him more good than it does some rich fellows.”
“ I wish he cared as much about his own future as he does about the world’s past,” sighed Payson. “ He is a lovely young man; but it is an awful snare to have great possessions, and I fear he finds earth too satisfying. Yet I will not despair for him. His mother is one of those who can claim the promise. To some are accorded both the treasures of this life and of the next.”
“ It almost seems unfair, does n’t it? ” said the doctor. “ By the way, that was rather mean, — that thought. I certainly ought not to grumble. Poor as I am, I am happy enough.”
Indeed, he would have been ashamed to confess how happy he was in these days, and especially to state exactly what it was that produced his content. He saw a great deal of Miss Grant, and trusted that she received him gladly, He gave her a lesson every morning, rode with her nearly every afternoon, and called on her every evening. It seemed to him that he was having everything his own way. That he was the only young man who ever saw her alone he believed with unsuspecting faith, and of course with great satisfaction.
Yet not a day dawned that Irene and DeVries did not rise with the lark to enjoy in each other’s company the morning freshness and glory.
“It is such a fascinating sight, the sun coming over Lebanon!” said this young lady of the housetop.
“ I am so glad you think so,” replied Mr. DeVries, looking down on her with a quizzical smile.
“ Of course I do,” insisted Irene. “ Don’t you like to see the sun rise? ”
“ I like it in good company.”
Irene tried not to smile, and failed; the result was that she burst out laughing.
“ I suppose that means me,” she said. “I do hope that all this getting up betimes is not on my account. You ought to be ashamed of such a reason for such a virtue.”
“ I ’ll promise not to be ashamed of you, if you won’t be ashamed of me.”
“ What nonsense! I don’t understand it a bit.”
“ I wish you would think of it a great deal, and do your best to understand it.”
“ I don’t mean to think of it at all. What a way you have of spinning cobwebs around my poor intellects! I won’t take any notice of them. What was it you said? ”
“I said I wouldn’t be ashamed of you as a reason for doing anything, if you would n’t be ashamed of me as a reason.”
“ As a reason for getting up at sunrise? Do you mean to hint that I got up to see you? Conceited, saucy man! ”
“ I meant that I hoped we were pleased to meet each other here. Isn’t it so? ”
“ I won’t answer you,” laughed Irene, blushing as much as a brunette could.
“ I think it is your duty.”
“ I consider that a misuse of a great word. There are some words which are sacred to me.”
“ Please get the dictionary, and let us look them out together. I want to learn them by heart.”
Then Irene, after glancing sidelong at his pleasant face, had to break out laughing again, and so of course had to forgive him.
There was much of this kind of discourse. Now and then a little shock came to the young lady in the thought that it was wrong thus to prattle on mission ground and in the house of her dear, grave friend Mr. Payson. But it was impossible to get away from the charm of DeVries when he chose to prattle. He did it so easily; it was mere familiar college - flirting with him; he might be said to flirt and prattle automatically.
Once there was a dialogue between them of a much more serious nature than the above.
“I shall stay'at home to-day,” DeVries said. “ I want to see exactly how you pass your time from morning to night.”
“Ah, but I don’t know that I want you to. I shall be nervous to have you listening to my stutterings in Arabic.”
“ Suppose I stutter Arabic myself? Would n’t the doctor be glad of another linguistic patient? ”
“ Perhaps he would,” hesitated Irene, who had already noted that her teacher was somewhat given to jealousy.
“ Oh, I won’t sponge on him for a recitation,” said DeVries, noting her misgiving. “ But I should really like to follow out one of your Arabian days’ entertainments.”
“ There is n’t so very much to it; in fact, there is shamefully little. I help Mrs. Payson a bit about sewing and housekeeping. Then I pick up my Arabic grammar, say over the alphabet and my sentences aloud, and try to commit a verb. When the doctor comes I go through it all again, with him correcting and scolding, — I mean reproving. Next we have lunch. If visitors come in,— lady visitors, — I try hard to talk Arabic with them. In the afternoon I call on some of the families of the native Protestants and talk more Arabic. Or, I go to the Beit Keneasy and stammer Arabic there. Or, perhaps I am taken to ride. Then comes dinner, and then visits to the mission families, or visits from them. But you know all about that. I go to sleep repeating Arabic. In short, the day is one long fight with that dreadful language; and I see already that it will be months before I shall learn much of it; I sometimes think that I ought to give up moiling at it so constantly, and take a class of English in the girls’ school.”
“ Well, are you contented? ”
“ Yes, Mr. DeVries.”
“ Are you satisfied with what you are doing? Is it all you expected? ”
“ Oh, dear! I thought I should accomplish something right away. I thought I should see a gate of usefulness open, and should tear right in.”
“ Do you like being here? ”
“ Yes, Mr. DeVries. I hare told you so a dozen times. I am resolved to like it. I do like it very much.”
“ I had thought and hoped that by this time you might want to go back to America.”
“ Oh! how could you? ”
“Look!” said DeVries, pointing to the vast mountain, whitening and glistening now under the full sunrise. “ It is very fine, but it is very strange. Would n’t you like to see the low green hills and the long green forests again ? ”
“ Please don’t try to make me homesick.”
“ I want to make you homesick.”
“ But it is unkind. I don’t believe you know what homesickness is, or you would n’t thrust it upon me. If I give way to it I can be really unwell. And what is the use? My duty is here, and here I have volunteered to live, and here, if I have any character, I shall live. Why should you want to break down my sense of duty ? ”
“How about the duties at home? There is your mother, and your sisters.”
“Please don’t, Mr. DeVries! Oh, I found it so hard to leave them! But I gave them up, and I must not turn back. Besides, they are taken care of, and if I go home I must be taken care of. I should perhaps be a burden to somebody.”
“ When you want to turn back, let me know.”
“ What? Why ” — asked Irene eagerly. “ Oh, I wish you would n’t puzzle me and make me uneasy. I can’t turn back.”
“I shall bring this up from time to time. When I see that you want to go home I will tell you how it can be done.”
He was thinking that he could afford to settle an income upon her, and that it would be a romantically satisfactory thing to do. Through the medium of the missionary board, or some other churchly corporation, the money could be placed in her hands without her knowing whence it came. It would support her as well as her present meagre salary, and would restore a bright, handsome girl to appreciating society.
“ Oh, you are a very tempter,” exclaimed Irene, after a moment of tumultuous thought. “ I ought not to listen to you. Why, if there were nothing else to keep me here, how could I desert Mr. Payson? I not only love him, — the dear, sweet, perfectly excellent man, — but I am bound in honor to him. We might all have starved but for his help. And I am obliged to him otherwise, — I am obliged to him for guidance and comfort; you can hardly understand what I owe him. And I have promised myself that I would show honor and gratitude.”
“ I don’t believe he wants a bit of gratitude.”
“ But my own self-respect? ”
“ Ah, yes; that of course. Shall I suggest to him a way of getting you home and making it pleasant for you there? ”
Then it occurred to Irene (for what else could she make of it?) that he was hinting at marriage. Such a mighty throb went through her heart, and through all her blood down to her very feet, that it seemed as if she would quite stop breathing. For a moment she was as helpless before this young man as if she already loved him to devotion, and had loved him for a long time. Next she remembered that there was a part of her life which he could not share, and that there was a text which warned against “yoking with unbelievers.” She was in great perplexity of mind and in great turmoil of emotion.
“ No — no,” she said in a whisper, for her voice would not obey her. “ I don’t think I could let you. I must n’t let you. I must n’t want to go home.”
There was a dreadful suspicion in her mind that he had meant to offer himself, and that she had practically refused him, and so given him pain. Of a sudden she sat down, and put both her hands to her face, for the tears were coming. DeVries stepped forward quickly and seated himself by her side, and there is no telling what he might not have said in his desire to comfort her; but just then they heard the singsong voice of Habeeb below, calling them to breakfast.
“There—go! ” gasped Irene, quite regardless of the golden chance she was missing. “ Do go! I will come as quick as I can.”
He hesitated, but Habeeb’s shrill Arabic call resounded again, and Irene, springing to her feet, hurried down the stairway to her room. Then, drawing a long sigh, and thrusting his hands into his pockets by way of composing his mind, DeVries slowly stalked after her, and appeared tranquilly at the breakfast table.
It was surely very imprudent in our missionary girl to give way to her feelings on the housetops.
Of course Mount Lebanon would be silent on the subject; and the grunting muleteers who were kicking their patient beasts onward toward Beirut, were not likely to mention it in any circles whose comments were of importance to her; and the staring of some composed, long-robed, red-capped children in the next garden was of no more consequence than the gaze of two equally tranquil storks who seemed to belong to the same family.
But it so happened that Dr. Macklin was out early that morning on a medicating tour, and that it pleased his fancy to pass along the cactus-hedged road near which stood the Payson dwelling. He had not the least idea that his attractive pupil would be up, but he wanted to look at the shuttered window which he knew to be hers. To his amazement and wrath, he saw her on the terrace, her hands clasped to her face, as if she were weeping uncontrollably, while “ that dandy,” “that rich worldling,” was leaning over her in an attitude of tender consolation.
The doctor had a frightful impulse to shout at him, as he would have shouted at a boy robbing a bird’s-nest. Then came a spasmodic fear that all was lost, and a sickening desire to creep away from the field of defeat. Meanwhile, his horse ambled quietly along the deep, dumb sand, and soon carried him under cover of a gigantic line of prickly-pears, where he could neither see nor be seen. We will not try to analyze the dreadful anarchy of his thoughts, nor the various anguish of his feelings, except so far as to note that they were compounded in equal parts of grief, wrath, love, and jealousy, making a very obnoxious dose indeed.
That forenoon Irene had no lesson in Arabic. Instead of the glowing, turbulent, good-hearted doctor, there came a lean and bronzed horse-boy named Moosa. who explained that the hakeem had a chill.
“A bad chill?” asked Irene, very sorry for her teacher, though she had been thinking much of DeVries. “ Can’t we do something for him? ”
“Many blessings,” returned Moosa, in Arabic. “ Peace be upon the lady’s fingers. The hakeem charged me to bring blessings many (which was a polite Syrian fib). He trusts in God that he will shortly recover, and bids me kiss your fingers, O my lady.”
Which last duty (surely not imposed upon him by the angry hakeem) he went at immediately with an air of keen satisfaction, and then strode away in his broad slippers with a withered grin like that of a monkey.
During the forenoon Mrs. Payson sent some arrowroot and a dose of her superior red-pepper tea to the invalid. But these restorative luxuries did not find him until he no longer stood in need of them. The moment the vehemence of his chill had passed by, he mounted his horse and rode off to the city. His idea was that Irene’s happiness, earthly and spiritual, was in peril, and that he would be justified in taking almost any measures to save her. She had been beguiled into meeting that artful worldling alone, and had perhaps met him thus more times than it was endurable to think of. The worldling had troubled her; he had obtained some tormenting influence over her; he had made her weep in the sight of earth and heaven. The dear, innocent young creature must be delivered; yes, and smartly lectured, too, the doctor added to himself. He, her best friend, would make inquiries about DeVries, would unveil his true character, or want of character, and would lay all before the mission fraternity. Then, armed with a flaming sword of exposures, he would drive Satan forth from Eden.
This he would do himself. In his boisterously confident way, he said it over and over, “ I will do it myself.” He was an extraordinary fellow for laying his hands on a business without asking the help of others, much less their advice. In his opinion energy is the chief of virtues, especially that kind of energy which shuts its eyes and catches a firm hold, though it be upon the hottest end of the poker.
His noble purpose was (for he had not a doubt that he was doing the duty of a Christian gentleman) to pump the landlord of the Hotel d’Europa, and also the American consul, as to DeVries’r behavior during his short stay in the city. In all his quivering and inflamed being, heated with indignation as much as with fever, he felt sure that he should uncover a sink of iniquity. The young dandy had undoubtedly drunk wine, played at cards, inquired for almeh (dancing girls), and used “ bad language.”
The first onset of this roaring lion in a fox’s skin was made upon the French hotel-keeper.
“ You’ve had a man here by the name of DeVries,” he said in a loud, angry voice. “ What sort of a fellow was he? ”
Now the landlord had his own view of humanity: he held that guests who ran up large bills and paid them without murmuring were the salt of the earth; and by this opinion he was willing to stand, even when bawled at.
“ DeVries ? ” he repeated. ” Ah, yass. I ramaymbre ’im. Beau jeune blond cendré. I ramaymbre ’im. A parfait gentleman. Mos’ quiet, nice yong man dat ayver is come to my hotel. A parfait gentleman.”
The doctor was astonished and confounded. It was not what he had expected, nor, I am afraid, what he wanted to bear. Moreover, the scene was embarrassing from the fact that the Frenchman had inferred from his loud voice that he was deaf, and had answered him in a high-pitched Gallic shout. So, after pondering a moment, he answered, in a very low tone, “ Are you sure ? ”
“ Sure? ” cried the other, still at the top of his voice. “ He is living now with the missionarees. That show vat sort of young man he be.”
The doctor thought not, but he was disgusted with the interview, and marched off without further words. On his way to the consulate, it occurred to him that perhaps the landlord had a different notion from himself as to what elements of character go to make up a gentleman. He decided that he ought not to have been so blunt and brief, and so easily satisfied. He would be more artful with the consul, hateful as artifice was to his honest soul, and wrong as it was except in the cause of virtue.
In his interview with Mr. Brassey he certainly did conduct himself with more of the wisdom of this world than he had shown hitherto. Furthermore, he was helped by a favoring circumstance, of which he took advantage almost without meaning it. In the Beirut custom-house at that time there were several cases of Arabic Bibles, printed in Malta and forwarded for the use of the mission. The customs officers had demanded the duty, and as this was a new thing on their part, and was considered a piece of Moslem discourtesy, the missionaries desired to argue them into withdrawing the claim. To the doctor, who was the factotum as well as the physician of the station, had been confided the labor of managing the affair.
“ I must begin about the Bibles,” he said to himself. " It would seem strange to mention mission business last.”
The result was that the consul failed to suspect that his visitor had come with the purpose of inquiring into the deportment of DeVries, and that the doctor was able eventually to lead the conversation up to that subject in quite an unostentatious and sly fashion.
“ Have you had any decision about our Bibles from those numskulls?” he began, meaning the customs officers.
“They hang to the duty, doctor,” replied Mr. Brassey, poking a six-foot chibouk toward his caller, who declined it with a disapproving shake of the head. “ My interpreter told me a long lockrum of their talk. The gist of it is that this is the law, and they ’re bound to execute it, and ought to done so before.”
“ Well, have we got to pay that scoundrelly imposition? A mere piece of Turkish insolence! ”
“ I reckon not,” drawled the consul, stroking his long, tan-colored beard. “ I reckon a hundred piastres will clear out all their scruples. So the interpreter says. ’T ain’t much. ”
“ I call it a good deal!” shouted the doctor.
“ Look here; tell you what I ’ll do,” said Mr. Brassey, kindly. “You’re a lot of people whom I respect, and I’d like to stand treat to your cause. Suppose I hand over the money out of my own pocket?”
“ You don’t understand me,” returned Macklin, almost angry. “ I mean that any bribe, no matter how small, is a good deal. We can’t pay — can’t afford to pay — one piastre as a bribe.”
“ Oh, exactly,” grinned the politician, highly approving of the moral point, now that he saw it. “ Bribery ain’t right, is it? Well, there ’s another way, and a neater one.”
Here he laughed outright over the fun that there evidently was at the far end of this other way.
“Would you mind,” he giggled,— “ would you sternly object to sparing a few Bibles for the family reading of the Grand Signor and his intimate friends? ”
The doctor was disgusted with this uncultivated joking, and scorned to reply.
“ And did n’t you know it?” continued Mr. Brassey, still laughing. " Did n’t you think of this little game? ”
“ I don’t understand what you mean.”
“ You can pay in kind ! ” shouted the consul, bringing down his shovel of a hand on his bony knee, and sending forth a war-whoop of merriment. “ Yes, sir, that’s the law; you can pay in kind. Offer the Mahometans ten Bibles on a hundred, and you can wagon off the rest of your cargo. I ’ll bet you what you please they ’ll be satisfied with one on a hundred. I ‘11 bet you they ’ll let the whole consignment through for nothing.”
It did seem a first-rate joke upon the grasping enemies of the faith, and even the conscientious Macklin could not help assenting to it with a smile. So it was settled that the turbaned excisemen should be paid in Bibles, and that the consular dragoman should attend to their evangelization.
“ They won’t take a volume,” said the doctor. Then, remembering that he had further important business with Mr. Brassey, he added, “ We are very much obliged to you.”
“ Not a bit,” nodded the official. “ Delighted to do anything for gentlemen of your character and objects in life. Delighted to do anything for anybody, if he ’ll only show himself and speak English.”
“ Very few travelers from our country, I suppose.”
“ Nary one since DeVries and Wingate.”
“You liked those gentlemen, I believe ? ” inquired Macklin, with the wisdom of the serpent.
“ Liked them! ” exclaimed Mr. Brassey, his lonely heart warming as he remembered that breakfast, that dinner, and those consecrated hours of drawpoker. “The two most genial, gentlemanly, high-toned, true-blue young Americans that I ’ve seen in many a day! I was prouder than ever of my country to see that it could produce such fellows. And they were not only good, they were smart. They could crack a good joke, and sing a good song, and speak languages, and ride. But ” — and here the consul smiled superior — “ they could n’t play poker. No, sir, they could n’t play poker,” he repeated, his smile softening into something like pity.
The doctor was throbbingly interested, and also completely puzzled. He did not understand whether DeVries played poker badly, or whether he could not play it at all. He was very anxious to get at the exact facts, and his honest countenance was injudiciously expressive.
Of a sudden it occurred to the functionary that a repute for even the most unskillful poker-playing might hurt his admired young friend with a set of men who could think it wrong to bribe a custom-house officer. It also occurred to him that Dr. Macklin there, a man who had never been inside politics, was trying to pump him, Porter Brassey, an old war-horse and ward-manager.
No, they did n’t know anything about cards,” he continued, with an imperturbable countenance. “I got’em to try an innocent little game, just to while away an hour, you know, and I positively had to give it up. They could n’t handle the papers. DeVries acted as though he 'd never had ’em in his fist before. ”
He paused, and looked his visitor tranquilly in the eye. The doctor’s countenance fell, and his gaze wandered. The consul said to himself that he would make a mighty poor politician. It amused him to delude a missionary who was trying to play an artful game, just as it amuses a jockey to swindle a deacon who endeavors to be sharp in horseflesh. In an easy tone, with a faint sparkle of fun in his brown eyes, he went on to magnify the asceticism of DeVries.
“ Pretty stiff against strong drink, too. I got him to taste a drop of Cyprus wine, just as a curiosity, you understand, a sort of Greek antiquity. But ” — and here he wanted to laugh aloud as he remembered the youngster’s strength of head — “but I saw that he soon had enough of it.”
“ Oh, indeed,” returned the doctor, completely deceived by the consul’s humorous equivocation, and visibly cast down by what he understood. Then, somewhat ashamed of himself because of this feeling, he added, “ It is a pleasure to hear so much good of him.”
“ Give him my regards when you see him,” said Mr. Brassey, still suspecting that Macklin was unfriendly to DeVries, and willing to make him a little uncomfortable therefor. “ Tell him he has n’t returned my last call.”
“ I will,” nodded the doctor, briefly, and with a slight frown, recollecting what a bone he had to pick with the young man.
“ And my respects to Parson Payson. He is a trump, ain’t he? I tell you that man will have his pick in the heavenly mansions, or the accounts we have of the other world ain’t to be trusted.”
Then the doctor said good morning, mounted his horse in deep thought, and rode swiftly homeward. Evidently there were no open scandals to be raked up against DeVries; and he did not at all know how to drive such a decorous serpent out of his Eden.
The first thing that this strange doctor did on getting back to his own dwelling was to shut himself up and pray that his heart might be freed of all selfish feelings and aims with regard to this business which lay so near it, and that he might be guided to bring the same to a right issue, whatever that issue should be.
When he had finished this petition, and had brought himself, as he believed, to have no will of his own in the matter, he felt so much more composed in spirit, and also (alas for our human weakness!) so much surer of a happier issue, that he wondered why he had not prayed before. “ I am like Christian in the dungeon of Giant Despair,” he thought, “ who forgot for days that he had a key to open the iron gate. How many times have I forgotten thus, and how soon shall I forget again! ”
He was still in this gentle and hopeful mood when he went about midday to give Irene her lesson. It was something of a set-back, therefore, to find her talking with DeVries as though they had been at it ever since sunrise. They were not on the housetop, indeed, nor was she weeping with covered face. But she was alone in the comandaloon with him, the two being curled up on the same broad mukaad ; and she -was in the most comfortable state of mind, prattling and laughing as though she had never known tears. How could she be so inconsistent, — so almost sinfully irrational? How could she let the same man make her cry at sunrise, and make her giggle like a school-girl at noontide? How could a self-respecting young lady thus forgive a heartless tormentor, and continue to him the boon of her companionship, and even obviously make much of him?
This, then, was the result of that prayer which to him had seemed to penetrate the lofty abodes. He was in a state of solemn and, as he imagined, righteous indignation. Alas, my worthy, wellmeaning brethren and sisters, for our finite egotism and impatience! We come down from Mount Sinai with the glory thereof, as we hope, on our countenances, and with the tablets of the law in our hands. But lo, our friend, whom we had expected to draw or convince at a glance, looks at us as indifferently as at other mortals, and tranquilly goes on worshiping his or her golden calf, or perhaps wants us to fall down before it also. Then it is that our conceited sinship puts on an air of divine anger, and proceeds to break in pieces all the commandments.
“ I have no time to listen now,” said the doctor sternly, when Irene told him that Mr. DeVries had a very funny story to relate. “ I don’t myself find so many humorous things on mission ground,” he added, stalking toward the table on which lay the lesson books.
Glum, as he was, he was weak. When he differed with other fellow-mortals he stared them straight in the eyes, and had his say out like a piece of artillery, which looks where it fires. But it was impossible for him now to gaze at this girl while he scolded her. He must get behind his own back, as it were, and deliver his volley from under cover.
Irene rose promptly, with a flush of surprise and humiliation, and followed him to the study table. Then the doctor’s heart bled over the thought of his own roughness, and, after a glance heavenward, he began the lesson in his gentlest tone. No doubt, if Irene had been left alone with him, her obedience and sweetness would have melted him to apology.
But DeVries did not go away. This urbane young gentleman was at bottom a high-feeling, pugnacious creature, who blazed inwardly under the first discourtesy, and would rather fight than endure a second. He now said to himself that Macklin was an unmannerly fellow who ought to be made to respect his superiors. Rising from the mukaad, he came quietly forward with his hands in his pockets and took a chair near the table. For a minute or two the conjugation of Semitic verbs proceeded, but in a stammering fashion. Irene, who felt that there was wrath between the two men, and feared lest she herself were the cause of it, was nervous and recited badly. At last Macklin decided that he could not, and as a gentleman should not, endure this annoyance any longer.
“ Do you propose to qualify yourself as a missionary? ” he said, looking up sharply at the listener.
“My dear doctor, how do I disturb you?” replied DeVries, with his usual suavity of manner. “ Please consider that your copious Arabic won’t suffer any diminution if I catch a few phrases in passing.”
The mellifluous utterance and the elaborate civility of diction only increased the irritation of Macklin, who hated everything that savored of what he called artificial society.
“ You don’t disturb me at all,” he retorted, which was an unmeant fib, spoken in haste. “ You disturb Miss Grant here.”
“ Oh, not a bit,” pleaded Irene, not knowing what else to say, and at once fearful lest she had said the unwisest thing.
But her face was uncomfortably flushed, and DeVries saw that she was worried. Moreover, she gave him an unintended glance of appeal, which flattered him as a confidence, while it moved him by its pathos.
“ I see.” he said, smiling at her and turning his back on Macklin. “ I don’t perceive your slips, but you think I do. Excuse me for making things awkward. I ’ll take a gallop among the pines. ”
“ Good-by, — a pleasant ride,” Irene called after him, very grateful, and desiring that he might feel content with her.
The doctor uttered no word, not because he was still in angry mood, but because he was pleading mentally that he might be forgiven for his petulance. When they were left alone he put his elbow on the table, leaned his head on his hand, and said, “ I would give ten years of my life to have Mr. Payson’s temper and manner.”
Irene glanced sidelong at his face, now full of compunction and tenderness, and thought for the first time that he was handsome. He was certainly a very different man in appearance from what he was at his entrance into this story. His baggy, seedy, slop-shop raiment had made place for a new suit of gray, which fitted well and did justice to his stoutly-built but well-proportioned frame. The scarlet of sun-scorch, which then disfigured him from chin to forehead, had vanished and left him a fair, high-colored complexion, quite wholesome as yet, in spite of malaria. His hazel eyes, generally too combative in expression, were now very sweet and attractive with humility.
“Doctor, you are never well,” said Irene, pityingly. “You are fretted by this ague. I don’t mean,” she added hastily, “ that you are cross.”
“ It is the ague, in part,” he replied. “ I know when I am going to be outrageous. I know it when I get up with a pain in the back of my head, and a tremor like quicksilver in every fibre of my body. But that is n’t all; wrath is my besetting sin. I know it and hate it. I would give ten years of my life to be like Payson.”
To a modest and even shy young lady, who is not accustomed to masculine unbosoming, it is an awkward thing to play the part of confessor to a bachelor. Irene murmured something about every one having his weakness, and turned her face somewhat wistfully toward the Arabic grammar.
“ I can’t go on with the lesson,” said the doctor, in answer to the look. “ I can’t go on with it till I have said something.”
What he meant was — the inexperienced, headlong suitor — to ask her to be his wife. He had known her little more than a week; he had paid her scarcely any obvious, unmistakable courtship; he had just made exhibition of a temper which was surely not alluring; and yet he purposed to propose.
But as he looked up at her astonished face, another swift change fell upon his most changeable spirit. A vague surprise and anxiety in her gaze made him fear that she was not prepared for his message, and might not receive it as a voice from heaven. The idea paralyzed his powers of speech, and there ensued a moment of most distressing silence. Irene, meanwhile, was querying in great perturbation whether he was going to scold again about Mr. DeVries’s attempt to join in the lesson.
“ What is it? ” she finally asked, unable to bear this suspense and the fixed stare of his anxious eyes.
“ I saw you on the terrace early this morning,” blurted out the doctor, driven to say something, and not daring to say what he wanted. Quarreling is sometimes marvelously near to love-making.
“ We were up there to see the sunset, — I mean the sunrise,” replied Irene in great confusion.
The doctor thought she looked guilty, and feared lest she were in some awful peril, and blundered on through his catechism.
“ Was it the sunrise,” he asked in a sepulchral voice, “which made you weep? ”
Irene did not stop to consider that he had no business to put the question. She was so overawed, she was so exactly in the spirit of a docile child who is being reproved, that she answered with the frankness and eagerness of a child.
“ We were talking of America. We were talking of my mother and sisters. Oh, I was so homesick! ”
And here, like a truly homesick young woman, she suddenly laid her head down on the table, between her hands, and cried anew. Then the doctor felt that he had been a stupid, heartless brute ever since he entered the house, and would have found it comforting to abase his own noddle and soak the dictionary with his tears.
“ Ah, those ties! ” he said. “ What have I been about! It was all none of my business. My dear friend, I beg your pardon. I wish you would forgive me. I never shall forgive myself.”
His penitent voice was very sweet and consolatory, and he was obviously sorrier for her than DeVries had been. She regained her self-control in a half minute or so, and astonished him by raising her head with a smile. Unaccustomed to groping among the various and alert emotions of womankind, he could not understand such a swift leap to cheerfulness, and inferred that she had not been much affected, after all.
“ I did n’t think of homesickness,” he resumed, rallying again to duty. “I was afraid that this young man,—in whom, by the way, I have very little confidence,— I was afraid that he — had hurt your feelings.”
“And have n’t you?” asked Irene, with a touch of feminine roguishness.
“ I did n’t mean to,” gasped the doctor.
He seemed to be beaten, and in spirit was beaten; but at the last moment an accidental phrase gave him the victory; by mere chance he blundered into the bottom facts of the case.
“ And so it was mere homesickness,” he said. “ I am glad to know it.”
“ Oh! ” exclaimed Irene, with an air of sudden remembrance. She had called to mind the proposition to send her to America, and the agitating suspicions or queries to which it had given rise. As for the idea that DeVries had intended to suggest marriage, it should be said that she had, after some reflection, given that up. His talk since the terrace scene had all been light and jovial, without a hint of serious sentiment or purpose. What he meant, she now tranquilly supposed, was to procure her a place as a teacher, or perhaps as a companion to his mother.
“ I don’ t know that I ought to tell you this,” Irene went on. “ But it would n’t be right to give you the impression that we only talked in a vague way about home. What agitated me was — well, Mr. DeVries had some plan — I don’t know what exactly — I didn’t ask him about it — some plan by which I can go back.”
The doctor slammed the dictionary on the table, and stamped about the room like a wild bull, half angry with the matting for smothering his footsteps.
“ The — the fellow! ” he raved. “ I knew he was capable of anything. He shan’t stay here. I won’t have him in the houses of the mission. I’ll bundle him out myself.”
“ He wants to send me to my mother! ” cried Irene, raising her voice desperately, to make him hear.
“ He doesn’t! What if he does!” shouted Macklin. “ He has no business to interfere with our families. He has no business to push his dandified advice upon a young lady who is under our care.”
“ But I fold him I would n’t go. I told him I could n’t leave my work and my friend Mr. Payson.”
“ Oh, did you? ” said the doctor, suddenly dropping his voice and giving her a sweet smile. “ I am so glad! I thank you, Miss Grant, with all my heart, But the brethren must know this,” he added, turning solemn again. “You must excuse me for advising; but I do think you ought to mention it to Payson and Kirkwood; I think it is your duty.”
“ I don’t want to trouble dear Mr. Payson. Why should I worry him about a thing which is not to be? I am sorry I told you.”
“ Ah! ” returned Macklin suspiciously. “ Mr. DeVries asked you not to mention it.”
“ He wanted me to mention it. Doctor, what are you imagining all this while? Mr, DeVries is as frank as he is kind. He asked my permission to speak to Mr. Payson about tin; plan. I tlnnk he wanted to explain it to him.”
Maeklin stared at her eagerly, and then suddenly sat down like a man who feels dizzy. He had inferred that this proposal to lay all before Payson covered an intent to ask Miss Grant’s hand in marriage. If so, and if the offer should still make its way to her ear, would she not be likely to accept a young fellow who as certainly pleasing to the superficial eye, and who could rescue her and her kin from poverty?
Irene remained for a few seconds as silent as the doctor. She was not angry with her obstreperous friend for charging into her affairs and driving her to surrender a cherished and consolatory secret. I believe that a young woman seldom does feel keenly irritated against a man who is on confidential terms with her, and whose every word and deed, however rampageous, breathes a strong interest in herself. Irene was simply puzzled by Macklin’s quick change of demeanor, and waited for him to bring forth some dreadful recommendation or reprimand.
“Do you think,” she finally asked, “ that I had better let Mr. DeVries speak to Mr. Payson? ”
The doctor, with a most wretched sinking at the heart, seeming to see her already going off as a bride, mustered all the nobility and strength of his soul, and gasped out, “ Do as you judge best for your own welfare and happiness.”
“ I want to do my duty,” returned Irene. “ There is no use in troubling Mr. Payson. I propose to stay in Syria.”
Maeklin gave her a glance which amazed her, — a glance of inexpressible admiration, joy and gratitude, — and then, with a shaking voice, resumed the lesson.