The Undiscovered Country


THE office sisters went in-doors to make some change in their dress for the meeting ; Elihu and Joseph walked away together ; Egeria had shrunk from the tearful embrace of Sister Frances, and she now slowly followed with her father, who continued in strenuous appeal to her, till they reached the door of the family house, and entered with the group awaiting them there. A dull look was in her eyes when they came into the hall, and she sank absent-mindedly into her usual place in one of the back rows of sisters, away from the light of the kerosene lamps burning in brackets against the wall. Her father, for reasons of his own, chose to sit apart from the men, and he now retired to one of the corners, where he remained with his head dropped on his hand during the greater part of the service.

Brother Humphrey did not join the rest till the meeting was nearly over. He had stayed to close up the office for the night, and to wait for the return of Brother Laban, who was away on business, and he was about to lock one of the front doors, when he found himself confronted at the threshold by two men, one of whom asked if he could oblige them with a night’s lodging.

“ We do not keep a house of entertainment,” said Humphrey, willing to evade, but unwilling to deny.

“ Oh, I’m perfectly aware of that,” said the stranger, who wore a wide straw hat, and had a neat leather bag slung at his side by a strap passed over his shoulder, “ but I suppose you don’t turn people away. I was given to understand at the village, back here, that you sometimes took pity on wayfarers.”

“ Yee, we do,” said Humphrey, still holding the door ajar.

“ Then take pity on us, my dear friend, and on our horse,” said the stranger, not otherwise indicating the vehicle he had left at the gate, “ and we ’ll pay you what you like for your compassion.” He pushed in, and Humphrey mechanically setting the door wider his companion followed. “ We can sleep in a double-bedded room, if you can’t give us two single ones.”

“Nay,” said Humphrey, “you can have two single rooms. Sit down,” he added, showing them into the office parlor.

“ Ah, you double nothing, I suppose,” said the stranger. “Thanks ! ” He dropped into a rocking-chair, but when Humphrey went out, to see that the rooms were quite ready, he sprang actively to his feet again and went peering about the room with the lamp which Humphrey had left on the table. He stooped down and examined the legs of this piece of furniture. “ No ! Evidently the Shaker conscience is against the claw-foot. Probably they regard it as but one remove from the clovenfoot. And I don’t suppose there’s such a thing as a brass-mounting of any sort in the building. But really, this bare wall with the flat finish is n’t so bad; it ’s expressive of the bare walls and flat finish of Shakerism ; an instance of what the Swedenborgians call correspondence. Look here, my dear fellow ! Here is something very original—aboriginal — in rugs. That’s a good bit of color.” He seized upon one of the braided rugs on the floor and partly lifted it. “ Look at this ! ”

“ Oh, let it alone,” said the other, with a yawn. He looked not very well, and he glanced at his feet with the weariness that despairs of ever getting to bed with such an obstacle as boots in the way.

“ But you don’t understand,” persisted the first, clinging to the rug. “ This must be home-dyed. These yellows and reds — I was admiring your rug,” he explained to Humphrey, who now reappeared. “ It’s something uncommon in color.”

“Yee,” said the Shaker; “ we don’t generally like our things so gay. Your rooms are ready.”

“ Ah, then we won’t detain you,” said the stranger ; but he caught sight of the long clock at the lower end of the hall, into which they issued, and turned from going up-stairs to look closer at it, with his hand lamp. “ This is good ! Very good! A genuine Marm Storrs. A family heir-loom, I fancy ? ”

“ Nay, I don’t know,” said the Shaker, stopping half-way up the stairs; “ it came here before I did. I don't know who brought it.”

“ You don’t care for colonial bricabrac? But you should. It’s the only thing we can justly aspire to, this side of the water. You could pick up some nice things in the country. Have you a spinning-wheel ? ”

“ Yee. But we don’t use it. It’s cheaper to buy our linen.”

“ Of course. But you’ve no idea how much character it would give that pleasant parlor of yours.”

Humphrey answered neither yea nor nay. The other stranger, who had stalked up-stairs past him, asked from the upper hall, “ Which room is mine ? ” And when Humphrey pointed it out he entered and shut the door behind him.

“What singing is that?” asked his companion, as he paused again at the open window near the top of the stairs.

“ It is our family meeting,” answered Humphrey.

“ Family meeting! ” repeated the stranger briskly. “ Would it be possible — could you allow a secular person like myself to look in a moment?”

“ Nay,” said the Shaker, composedly, without vouchsafing any explanation.

The stranger looked at him as if puzzled. “ I could n’t go ? ”

“ Nay,” repeated Humphrey, as before.

“ But really, I’ve heard of people attending your meetings, have n’t I ? ”

“ Yee.”

“ Then why can’t I go ? ”

“ This is a family meeting.”

“ Oh ! Is this my room ? ”

“Yee. Good-night,” he said, while the stranger was still hesitating at his door-way, and turned away; the latter then answered his good-night, and went in, and Humphrey descended to his room below, where, after he had put up the strangers’ horse, he busied himself restlessly in working at his accounts, till Laban raised the latch of the door.

“ Laban,” said Humphrey, “ there are two strangers — young men — in the house, that I’ve just give rooms to. One of us has got to stay away from the meetin,’ I presume. It won’t do to have ’em alone here, these times.”

“ Nay,” said Laban, taking off his hat, and hanging it on its appointed peg before he sat down. “ I will stay.”

“I d’ know’s I’d ought to let ye,” rejoined Humphrey. “It’s a meetin’ of uncommon interest; quite excitin’, as you may say.”

“ Why, what’s the matter ? ”

“ Well, Friend Boynton and Egery are goin’ to give what they call a test see-aunts, I suppose. Mahters have come to a head, all at once, — I don't rightly know how. But Elihu and Friend Boynton, they got into consid’able of a dispute, just now ; and Friend Boynton was tol’ble bitter, and spoke revilin’s that seemed to kind o’ edge Elihu on, and first we know they’d cooked it up between ’em that the’ wa’n’t any time like the present to prove whether spiritualism was better than Shakerism. I don’t believe ’t she more ’n half liked it, the way she looked.”

“ I don’t seem to care anything about goin’,” said Laban. “ I ’ll stay.”

“ Why, thank ye, Laban! ” cried Humphrey, rising with an eagerness which betrayed itself, now that he had satisfied the scruples of conscience by setting forth the meeting in the most attractive colors, and giving Laban a free choice whether to go or stay.

When he came into the meeting Brother Elihu was on his feet speaking. Humphrey softly crept to the place left vacant for him, beside Elihu, and sat down.

“ I want,” Elihu was saying, “ that all the brethren and sisters here present should wish well to Friend Boynton in his experiment. He claims that it is necessary to his success that there should be no feeling of enmity or suspicion towards him, and if any of us have such feelings I hope they will try to put them aside. I shall try to do so, for my part, with all my heart. Hard words have just passed between Friend Boynton and me, and I am willing to own that I was hasty and wrong in much that I said. I shall truly rejoice in all the success that he hopes for to-night.”

He sat down, and a little stir passed through the rows of listeners. One of them began a hymn, and they sang it through, while Dr. Boynton waited with a face of haughty offense. When the singing ceased, he came forward from his corner, and stood between the rows of brothers and sisters.

“ I thank Elihu,” he said, without looking at him, “ for his good intentions towards myself, and I freely acquit him for what he has said. I have myself nothing to withdraw and nothing to regret. Nor do I ask, in what I shall do to-night, any mood of especial assent or sympathy in you, or even of neutrality. I am not here to try an experiment. I am here to exhibit certain facts of psychological science, as thoroughly ascertained as the transmission of the electric current that bears your messages from Maine to California.” He seemed to gather defiance from his rotund phraseology ; he rang the syllables of the last word through the hall with a clarion hardness. “ When I last stood here,” he continued, “ and addressed you upon this subject, I had to ask your patience. My daughter had fallen sick with a fever, of which no one could forecast the event. She lived, and made a recovery which, though painfully slow, is complete ; and she is once more fully en rapport with my purposes and wishes. We shall begin with some simple experiments in biology, or, as it was originally called, mesmerism ; and we shall gradually proceed to a combination of this science with spiritism, in a union which it has been the end and aim of all my inquiries to effect, — which I have foreseen from the beginning as the only true development of perfect mediumship. All that I shall ask of you,” said Dr. Boynton, with a certain emphasis on the last word, turning on his heel, so as to include all present in his glance of somewhat contemptuous demand, " is your strict attention and your perfect silence. Stay ! I shall ask one of you to oblige me by setting a chair here, where all can see, and by lending me a handkerchief.” His voice had fallen to the colloquial tone, and it touched something of its old suavity. But when Humphrey had set the chair, and Diantha had given him a folded handkerchief, he shook out the linen with a flirt, and called, with a sternness that startled all, “ Come forward, Egeria! ”

The girl rose from her place beside Sister Frances, and slowly advanced, with the Shakeress beside her.

“ Come forward alone ! ” commanded her father, and Frances shrank back into her seat again, while Egeria continued to advance, and took her place in the chair as he directed with a wave of his hand. Those who were nearest saw that she was very pale, and they spoke afterwards of a peculiar look in her face, “as if,” they said, “ the life had gone out of it.” She was also thought to tremble, and she let her arms fall into her lap, with a long, patient sigh that was heard all over the room, and that brought tears to the eyes of some.

Her father stood drawing the handkerchief through his hand. “ We will begin, as I said, with some of the most elementary phases of mesmerism, and we will work up through these to its ultimation in clairvoyance, at which point of junction we will invoke the aid of spiritism, the science into which it merges, and we will then continue our inquiries in a dark séance. For the present the lights can remain as they are.”

He came round in front of his daughter, and steadily regarded her. “ Fix your eyes on mine,” he said, as if addressing a stranger.

She obeyed, lifting her eyes with an effect of mute appeal, while the corners of her mouth drooped.

“ When I count three,” continued her father, “your eyes will close. One, two, three.”

Her eyelids fell, and she remained as if in a quiet sleep. Her father approached, and with a series of downward passes assumed to deepen the spell.

“ Now,” he said, “ turning to the intent spectators, “ we will exhibit some well-known phenomena of this condition. The subject is in a complete mesmeric trance, and is entirely under my control. I can will her to remain in that chair, and she will have no power to rise. If I were simply in my own mind, without the utterance of a word, to will her to go to the house-top and fling herself down, she would instantly do so. If I willed her to put her hand in the flame of that lamp, she could not refuse; neither would she feel any pain, if I forbade her to feel pain. She sees, hears, tastes, feels, whatever I will. She has no being except in my volition, and I have not a doubt that, terrible as it may seem, if I were to will her death, she would cease to breathe.”

His hearers had listened with interest that deepened at each successive assertion ; at the last a sort of moan ran through the ranks of the sisters. The brothers remained hardly less impressively silent.

“ You can now easily understand,” resumed Boynton, “ what a tremendous engine, what a superhuman agency, such a power as that I exert must be in the development of a spirit medium. It is to this end that I have chiefly exerted it in the case of my daughter. My theory has been that the medium’s obsession by spirits is often so thorough that mind and body alike succumb to their influence, and that the medium is thus so obscured as to be able to transmit no intelligible result. It is at this point that the mesmeric power, sterile in itself, and hitherto useless, comes to her rescue. It stays and supports her ; it enables another to reinforce her will, and she receives a distinct and ineffaceable impression from the other world. I ask you to consider but for a moment the vast consequences to flow from such a development. I ask you to do this, not in your behalf or mine; for we know, by our converse with spirits, that we shall live hereafter,— that another world lies beyond this, in which we shall abide forever. But you who dwell here, in the security, the sunshine, of this faith, have little conception of the doubt and darkness in which the whole Christian world is now involved. In and out of the church, it is honey-combed with skepticism. Priests in the pulpit and before the altar proclaim a creed which they hope it will be good for their hearers to believe, and the people envy the faith that can so confidently preach that creed; but neither priests nor people believe. As yet, this devastating doubt has not made itself felt in morals; for those who doubt were bred in the morality of those who believed. But how shall it be with the new generation, with the children of those who feel that it may be better to eat, drink, and make merry, for to-morrow they die forever ? Will they be restrained by the morality which, ceasing to be a guest of the mind in us, remains master of the nerves ? Will they not eat, drink, and make merry at their pleasure, set free as they are, or outlawed as they are, by the spirit of inquiry, by the spirit of science, which has beaten down the defenses and razed the citadel of the old faith ? I shudder to contemplate the picture. In view of this calamitous future, I, as a spiritualist, cannot refrain from doing ; and I appeal to you, as spiritualists, to shake off this drowse of prosperity, this poppied slumber of love and peace, and buckle on the armor of action. What right have you, I ask, — what right have you Shakers to remain simply a refuge for the world’s lame and halt and blind? This dream of perfect purity, of affectionate union, of heavenly life on earth, is very sweet; and I too have been fascinated by it. I too have asked myself why there should not be some provision in Protestantism, as there is in Romanism, for those who would retire from the world and dedicate themselves to humble industry, to meek communion with the skies, to brotherly love. But I tell you that this is all a delusion and a snare. On your purity rests the guilt of the world’s foulness ; on your union the blame of the world’s discord; on your heavenly peace the responsibility of the world’s hellish unrest. To you was first given, in this latter time, the renewed gospel of immortality, the evidence of spiritual life, the truth that matter and spirit may converse for the salvation of mankind. What have you done with this priceless gift ? Have you cherished it, kept alight the precious jewel, to shine before the eyes of men ; or have you flung it into the world to be trampled under foot by the swinish herd of sorcerers, who will yet turn again and rend you, unless you fulfill your duty? Every one of you here should become a messenger of the truth, and devote himself and herself to its promulgation. Go forth into the world, though it leave your home desolate, and serve the truth ! Or, better still, break up this outworn brotherhood, this barren union in which you dwell, a company of aging men and women, childless, hopeless, with whom their heritage must perish, and form with me on its ruins a new Shakerism, — a Shakerism which shall be devoted to the development of spiritistic science; which shall — which shall ” —

He paused for the word, and Brother Elihu suddenly rose. “ I would remind Friend Boynton,” he said, “that we are waiting to witness the mesmeric phenomena which he has promised us.”

The brethren and sisters, who had been unawares drawn upward and forward by Boynton’s eloquence, sank back into their seats, but some of the latter turned a reproachful glance at Elihu, in wonder that he could have the heart to interrupt the heroic strain. Then all eyes reverted to Egeria, who in the general forgetfulness had sat with her head drooping and her person dejected in a weary lassitude.

The doctor stopped, stared at Elihu, and caught his breath. He could not collect his thoughts at once, or master his overstrung nerves; but when he regained his voice he said dryly, “ If you will do me the favor to look at your watch, I will show you the least of these phenomena.”

Brother Elihu promptly took out his watch and held it in his hand.

“ Egeria,” said the doctor, “ tell me the time by Elihu’s watch.”

The girl lifted herself like one peering forward, but her eyes were still closed. “ The case is shut,” she answered.

“ That is true,” Elihu declared. “ I had shut it.” He opened it,

“ Look now, Egeria.”

She remained in the same posture for some time. “ I can’t tell,” she said at last. “ I can’t see.”

The doctor smiled triumphantly. “ Oh,

I had forgotten to bandage your eyes. You can’t see, of course, unless your eyes are bandaged.” He bound the handkerchief, which he had continued to draw through his hand, over her eyes. “ Now look.”

“ I can’t see,” repeated the girl.

Dr. Boynton laughed. “ Really,” he said, “ I must apologize for having forgotten some essential conditions of these simpler phenomena. We had advanced so far beyond them that I did n’t recur to them at once in all their details. I can’t, of course, will the subject to know what I don’t know myself. If I were to guess at the time, she must necessarily repeat my guess.” He went quickly to Elihu, and glanced at the watch ; then returning to his place beside Egeria’s chair, he looked off at a distant point and said, with a tone of easy indifference, “Well, Egeria, what time is it ? ”

The girl fell back into her chair, and putting up her hands took the bandage from her eyes, which she fixed upon her father’s face in a passion of pity and despair.

“ Let it go, Friend Boynton,” said Elihu kindly. “There is no haste. Another time will do as well. Perhaps Egeria has not quite recovered.”

“ Yee,” repeated one and another of the brethren and sisters, “ another time will do as well.”

“ No,” said Dr. Boynton, “ another time will not do as well.” He was strongly moved, but he made a successful effort to command his voice. “ My daughter has been so habitually under my influence that I had not thought it worth while to go through the preliminaries we use with a fresh subject. But as a great interruption has taken place during her fever, perhaps this has become necessary.” While he spoke, he was searching in his different pockets. He continued bitterly : “ I was once

the possessor of a silver piece which I used in producing the mesmeric trance, but it would not be strange if I had parted with it in the distress which threw me upon your charity. If any of you happens to have a silver coin of any sort ” —

Few of these simple communists often had money about them ; and in those days of paper currency even the business men of the family knew very well that there was no silver in their pockets. If a silver coin was the indispensable condition of the mesmeric slumber, evidently Boynton stood on safe ground.

But with a quick “ Ah! ” he came upon the piece he was seeking in his pocket-book. He pressed it between his palms, keeping his eyes fixed upon his daughter’s. Then he put it in her open hand, and bade her look at it without winking, till her eyelids fell. As they closed he softly removed the piece, and made a number of downward passes over her face. There was a pause, during which Boynton was about to say something to his audience, when Egeria opened her eyes and rose from her chair.

“ I can’t, I can’t! ” she cried, pitifully. “ I’ve tried, but indeed, indeed, I can’t.” She stood before him, wringing her hands, and longing to cast her arms about his neck ; but the sternness of his reproachful face forbade her. He opened his lips to speak, but no sound came from them. One of the brothers nearest him thought that he tottered, and half rose, with outstretched hands, to support him. Sister Frances was already at Egeria’s side; she drew her head down upon her shoulder with a motherly instinct, while a murmur of sympathy went through the house.

Boynton repelled the friendly hand extended towards him. “ Let me alone,” he said ; “I can take care of myself.” He turned about, and lifting his voice bravely addressed the meeting: “ We have failed, — totally and completely failed, upon as fair a trial as I could have wished. I do not attempt to account for the result, and I cannot dispute any conclusions which you may draw from it in regard to ourselves.”

Elihu stood up. “ Friend Boynton, we believe you are an honest man.”

“ Yee, we do ! ” was repeated from bench to bench.

“I thank you,” replied Boynton, in a breaking voice. “ Then I can ask you to let me say that our failure is a profound mystery to me, and belies all our past experience. I do not ask you to believe this ; I ask you to let me say it, and to let it remain with you as my last word. For myself, I cannot lose faith in the past and keep my sanity. But somehow I see that the power has passed from us. In any case our destiny is accomplished among you. We must go out from you self-condemned. Before we go, I wish to acknowledge all your kindness, and to ask your forgiveness for such words of mine as have wronged you. Come, Egeria.”

The girl came forward to where her father stood, and he took her hand and passed it through his arm.

“You must n’t leave us, Friend Boynton,” said Elihu. “ We wish you to stay. We wish you to stay,” he repeated, at a dazed look of inquiry from the doctor, “ and take all the time that you want for your investigations.”

“ Yee, that is so,” assented all the voices in the room successively. Brother Humphrey alone continued silent, and he was ordinarily so undemonstrative that his tacit dissent would hardly have been noticed, but for his saying, before Boynton could collect himself for reply, “There ain’t nothin’ agin Friend Boynton but what he can clear up with a word to the elders, and I jine with ye all in askin’ of him to stay.”

“ What do you mean ? ” demanded the doctor, turning fiercely upon him. “ If you know anything against me, I wish you to speak out.”

Brother Humphrey, who could scarcely have meant to intimate any mental reservation, hastened to answer in alarm, “ I ha’n’t got any doubts of ye, Friend Boynton. I think just as the rest do. We’d believe you.”

“ Believe me about what ? I insist that you speak out.”

Humphrey looked at the faces near him for help, but there was only pity and surprise in them. “ It ain’t no time or place,” he began.

“It is the very time and the very place,” retorted Boynton. “ There can be no other like it. I wish you to say what you mean before the whole family. There is nothing in my life which I wish secretly examined into. I absolve you from all your scruples, and I wish, I demand, I require, that you speak out.”

Humphrey rose with a sort of groan. “ I think,” he said, “ as much as any on ye that there ought to be forgivin’ and forgettin’, and I ain’t one to bear resentment for revilin’s that’s been passed on Shakerism here to-night. But what I thought, if Friend Boynton was goin’ to stay amongst us, he ’d ought to have a chance to clear himself. We all know what’s been flyin’ about the neighborhood here, and it ain’t fair to us, and it ain’t fair to him, to let it go without a word. I don’t want he should feel that we ’re tryin’ on him, but I want him to know what’s said,for all I don’t believe in breakin’ a bruised reed.”

The doctor’s haughtiness returned. “ As I said before, if you have heard anything to my disadvantage, I wish you to speak out, — I demand that you shall speak out.”

“ I’m goin’ to speak out, now,” returned Humphrey more steadily, “ and it ain’t for anything that Friend Harris said, although I think ye ’d ought to know what he did say.”

“Who is Harris?” asked Boynton.

“ He’s the landlord of the Elm Tahvern.”

“ What does he say ? ”

“ Well,” said Humphrey, with reluctance, “ I think ye’d ought to know. He says you wa’n’t sober that mornin’ at his house, and he could n’t hardly git ye out.” Humphrey turned very red, as if ashamed, and wiped his forehead with his napkin ; Elihu and the brothers near him looked down, and a painful hush prevailed,

Boynton did not deign to notice this accusation. “ And what does your friend Harris say of the occurrences attending our departure ? ” he demanded, contemptuously.

“ He ain’t no friend of our’n, except in the scriptural sense,” replied Humphrey, doggedly. “ But he says the’ wa’n’t no occurrences. Just a flash of tol’ble sharp lightnin’, and that’s all. The’ wa’n’t no raps, nor no liftin’ o’ table-tops, accordin’ to his say.”

“ I am glad to have you so explicit,” said the doctor, “ and I think now I begin to understand the value of your family’s generosity towards myself. Did your friend Harris say anything in aspersion of my daughter?”

“Nay,” replied Humphrey.

“ Then she probably remains as before in your estimation, and you would take her word against Harris’s, highly as you value his testimony ? ”

“ Nay, we don’t value his testimony,” interposed Elihu. “Your word is better than his. We believe you against him.”

Boynton waved scornful rejection with his hand. “ Oh, spare your flatteries, sir. I know what you think of me. But you would believe my daughter ? ”

“ Yee, we would,” answered the whole audience.

The doctor regarded them with a curling lip. “ Egeria,” he said quietly, “ state to these people what occurred. Tell the truth.” The girl was silent. “ Speak ! ” cried her father.

“ Father ! ” she gasped in agony, “ I don’t know. I have heard you say. But I was asleep and dreaming till that clap of thunder came.”

“ Then you remember nothing ? ”

“ Oh, I can just remember our going into that house, and our coming out of it. I forgot everything, — I was beginning to be crazy with the fever. But don’t mind, — oh, don’t mind, father! They believe you, — they said they did. Oh, you do believe him, don’t you ? ” she implored of all those faces that swam on her tears.

Boynton reeled, and again the compassionate brother started up to save him from a fall. “ Don’t touch me! ” he cried harshly. “ Is there anything else ? ” he demanded, turning to Humphrey.

Elihu rose with an air of authority. “This must stop now. It has been a painful season ; but no one here thinks that these friends have done anything wrong, or said anything false. We believe them, and we welcome them, if they choose, to stay with us.”

“ Yee, we do ! ” The assenting voices included Humphrey’s.

“You welcome us to stay amongst you ! ” cried the doctor, with intense disdain. “ Do you think that after what has just passed here any earthly consideration could induce me to remain another day, another hour, under your roof ? ” He had his daughter’s hand in his arm, and he proudly pressed it as he spoke, drawing himself to his full height. “So much for ourselves ! As for the experiments in which we have so ignominiously failed, I have no personal regrets. It would have been a pitiful triumph at best, if we had succeeded before you, and I cannot believe that the principle, the truth, involved can suffer by our defeat. We are simply proved unfit means for its development, — nothing more. Were it otherwise, were I persuaded that our humiliation was destined to arrest, or more than slightly retard, the progress of this science in men’s minds, then I should indeed regard this night as the blackest of my life, and should be ready to lay down that life in despair. But, no ! It is not given to any one weak instrument, mysteriously breaking in the presence of a few obscure and sordid intelligences, to obstruct the divine intention. In this ineradicable conviction, I bid you a final farewell.”

He strode toward the door with his daughter on his arm. One of the elders said, meekly and sadly, “ The meeting is dismissed,” and the brethren and sisters dispersed to their different houses. Those of the office found themselves following Dr. Boynton thither. They apprehensively entered after him, dreading some fresh explosion, or some show of preparation for instant departure. But the rhetoric of his spectacular adieu had sufficed him for the present. He merely said, “ Egeria, go to bed. You must be quite worn out. As for me, I can’t sleep, yet. I will go out for a walk. Would you oblige me with a glass of water ? ” he added politely, turning to Sister Frances. When she brought it, “ Thanks,” he said, and handed back the empty goblet with a bow.

“ Do you think you’d better walk far ? ” tremulously asked Egeria.

The touch of opposition restored him to his sense of wrong and resentment.

“ Go to bed, Egeria,” he said severely, “ and don’t any one sit up for me. I can let myself in at the side door when I wish to return.”

He started away, but the girl put herself in his path to the door. “ Oh, father ! You won’t go to see that man at the tavern, will you ? Tell me you won’t, or I can’t let you go.”

“ Don’t be ridiculous ! ” cried her father. “ I have no idea of going to meet that ruffian. In due time I shall call him to account.”

“ Don’t ye think, Friend Boynton,” said Humphrey, with awkward kindliness, “ that you ’d better try to get some rest ? ”

In the swift evanescence and recurrence of his moods under the strong excitement, Boynton was like a drunken man. After publishing his resolution not to accept the hospitality of the Shakers for an hour more, he had walked passively to the office with them, and had bidden Egeria go to bed there, as if nothing had happened. At Humphrey’s words, all his indignation was rekindled.

“ Rest! No, sir ! I will not try to get some rest. After what has passed, every offer of kindness from you is a fresh offense. You, Egeria, if you can close your eyes here, you are welcome. Doubtless you can. Your apathy, your total want of sympathetic response to my feelings and my will, may enable you to do so. But till some other roof shall cover us, I want no shelter.”

No one sought to detain him, now, and going quickly from the door he left them huddled in a blank and purposeless group together.

“Poor thing!” said Sister Frances, first breaking the silence, as she turned to Egeria. “ Oh, poor child ! ” She tried to take the girl in her arms; but with a pathetic “ Don’t! ” Egeria prevented her, and averted her quivering face. She went out of the room and upstairs without a word or sound ; but Frances creeping softly after, to listen at her door, heard her sobbing within the room.


The hot weather, with here and there a blazing day in June, flamed into whole weeks of unbroken heat before the middle of July. The business streets were observably quieter, and the fashionable quarters were solitudes. At the club windows a few elderly men sat in armchairs, with glasses of iced Apollinaris water at their elbows, and stared out on the Common ; some young men, with their hats on (if they perished for it), stalked spectrally from room to room behind them. The imported bonnes with their charges no longer frequented the Public Garden; it was thronged with the children and the superannuated of the poor, and with groups of tourists from the South and West, who were finding Boston what so many natives boast it in winter, the most comfortable summer resort on the coast.

It was not Ford’s habit to go out of town at all; for in his hatred of the narrow and importunate conditions of the village life which he had left behind him with his earlier youth, he had become an impassioned cockney.

“ It you are so bitter against the country,” said Phillips, who was urging an invitation to the sea-side upon him, “why don’t you try really to be of the town as well as in it ? Why don’t you try to be one of us ? Why don’t you make an effort to fit in ? ”

“ I don’t like fitting in; I like elbowroom,” answered Ford. " Do you suppose I should be fond of the town if I were of it ? I should have to be one of a set, and a set is a village. If I am in the town, but not of it, I have freedom and seclusion. Besides, no man of simple social traditions like mine fits into a complex society without a loss of selfrespect. He must hold aloof, or commit insincerities, — be a snob. I prefer to hold aloof. It is n’t hard.”

“ And you don’t think you do it to make yourself interesting?” inquired Phillips.

“ I think not,” said Ford.

“People would as lief be pleasant to you as not. But it ends there. They 're not anxious about you,” suggested the other.

“ I believe I understand that.” Ford was sitting at his window in his deep easy-chair ; and he had his coat off. “ That’s what galls my peasant-pride. Suppose I went with you to this lady’s house ” — he touched with the stem of his pipe a letter which lay open on the table pulled near him — " and visited among your friends, the nobility and gentry : I should be reminded by a thousand things every day that I was a sham and a pretender. That kind of people always take it for granted that you feel and think with them ; and I don’t. You can't keep telling them so, however. And suppose I tried to conform : I should be an amateur among professionals. They have the habit of breeding and of elegance, as they understand it. I may have a loftier ideal, but I have n’t discipline ; I can’t realize my ideal; and they do realize theirs, — poor souls ! That makes me their inferior; that makes me hate them.” Ford took up his pipe.

“ Oh,” said Phillips, “ you can put an ironical face on it, but I suspect what you say is really your mind.”

“ Of course it is. At heart I am a prince in disguise ; but your friends won’t know it if I sit with my coat off. That would vex me.” He took up the letter from the table, and holding it at arm’s-length admired it. " Such a hand alone is enough ; the smallest letters half an inch high, and all of them shrugging their shoulders. I can’t come up to that. If I went to this lady’s house, to be like her other friends and acquaintance I should have to be just arrived from Europe, or just going ; my talk should be of Loudon and Paris and Rome, of the Saturday Review and the Revue des Deux Mondes, of English politics and society ; my own country should exist for me on sufferance through a compassionate curiosity, half repulsion ; I ought to have recently dined at Newport with poor Lord and Lady Scamperton, who are finding the climate so terrible; and I should be expected to speak of persons of the highest social distinction by their first names, or the first syllables of their first names. You see, that’s quite beyond me. ' And do bring your friend, Mr. Ford,’ ” he read from the letter mincingly, and laughed. “I leave it to your fertile invention to excuse me, Phillips.”

He kindled his pipe, and Phillips presently went away. It was part of his routine not to fix himself in any summer resort, but to keep accessible to the invitations which did not fail him. He found his account in this socially, and it did not remain unsaid that he also gratified a passion for economy in it; but the people who said this continued among his hosts. Late in the summer, or almost when the leaves began to turn, he went away to the hills for a fortnight or three weeks, providing himself with quarters in some small hotel, and making a point of returning to the simplicity of nature. In the performance of this rite he wore a straw hat with a wide brim, and a flannel shirt, and he took walks in the woods with the youngest young ladies among the boarders.

The intervals between his visits he spent in town, where he was very comfortable. When he went to the places that desired him, he explained that he had been in Boston trying to get Ford away. “ Oh, yes ! Your odd friend,” said the ladies driving him home from the station in their phaetons. Phillips must have known that they did not care either for his odd friend or for his own oddity in having him, and yet he rather prized this eccentricity in himself.

The people in Ford’s boarding-house went their different ways. Mrs. Perham remained latest, for Mr. Perham’s health had not yet allowed his removal. He had had two great passions in life: making money and driving horses. By the time he had made his money he had a touch of paralysis, and could no longer drive horses. This separated him much from his wife, who liked almost as well as he to ride after a good horse (as it is expressed by people who like it), and whom, since she had been forced so much to books for amusement, he could not join. She read the newspapers to him, and she went with him to the theatres ; but there they ceased to sympathize in their tastes, for she was not fond of swearing, and it was this resource which remained to Mr. Perham after the papers and the play.

The house filled up for the summer with those people from the West and South who found the summer in Boston so pleasant, and with other transients; but many of the rooms and many of the places at the table remained vacant, and Mrs. Perham and Ford looked at each other across long distances, empty, or populated only by strange faces. At last Mr. Perham was able to bear removal; his wife seized the occasion and hurried him away to the country. That left Ford alone with the strangers, and he rather missed the woman’s hungry curiosity, her cheerfulness, and her indomitable patience under what a more sympathetic witness might have felt to be the hard conditions of her life. He clung to the town throughout July and far into August, with agrowing restlessness. He did not care for the heat, and he amused himself well enough when he found time to be amused. He made a point of studying the pleasures of all the different excursions in the harbor and beyond it; he studied also the entertainments offered at the theatres, where the variety combinations inculcated to small audiences a morality as relaxed as their systems.

One Sunday he went to the spiritualist meeting in the grove by Walden Pond. Most of the spiritualists were at a camp-meeting of their sect further up the road, and the people whom he met seemed, like himself, vaguely curious. They were nearly all country-folk : the young men had come with their sweethearts for pleasure ; there were middleaged husbands and wives who had brought their children for a day in the woods beside the pretty lake. Their horses were tied to the young pines and oaks; they sat in their buggies and carryalls, which were pushed into cool and breezy spots. The scene brought back to Ford the Sunday-school picnics of his childhood, but here was a profaner flavor : scraps of newspaper that had wrapped lunches blew about the grounds ; at one place a man had swung a hammock, and lay in it reading, in his shirt-sleeves; on the pond was a fleet of gay row-boats, which, however, the railroad company would not allow to be hired on Sunday. Ford found the keeper of the floating bath-houses and got a bath. When he came out the man, with American splendor, refused to take any money ; he said that they did not let the baths on Sunday, but when he saw a gentleman he liked to treat him as one. " I hope you ’re not mistaken in my case,” said Ford sadly ; and the bath - man laughed, and said he would chance it. Another of the people in charge complained of the dullness of the place. “ What you want is a band. You want a dance-hall in the middle of the pond, here; and you want a band.” They pointed out the auditorium in a hollow of the hills across the railroad track, where at the hour fixed for service he found the sparse company assembled. A score of listeners were scattered over the seats in the middle of the pavilion ; outside, two young fellows who had come by the train leaned against the columns and smoked, with their hats on ; a young girl in blue, with her lover, conspicuously occupied one of the seats under the trees that scaled the amphitheatre, worn grassless and brown by drought and the feet of many picnics ; there were certain ladies in artificial teeth and long linen dusters whom Ford fixed upon as spiritualists, though he had no reason to do so. A trance-speaker was announced for the Invocation ; he came forward, where the fiddlers sat when there was dancing, and, supporting himself by one hand on the music-stand, closed his eyes and passed into a trance of wandering rhetoric, returning to himself in a dribble of verse which bade the hearer, at the close of each stanza,

“Come, then, come to Spirit-Land.”

The address was given by another speaker, who declaimed against the injustice of the world towards spiritualism and boasted of the importance of its Unfoldments. He sketched its rise and progress, and found an analogy between the “ first lisping of the tinny rap at Rochester ” and the advent of Christ, whom he described as the “ infant Reformer in the man-ger,” and again as our “ humble elder brother.” The people listened decently, and but for the young fellows with their cigars were as respectful as most country congregations to what was much duller than most country preaching. Ford came away before the end, and climbing the side of the amphitheatre encountered Mr. Eccles, who was also about to go. He shook hands with Ford, and on his present inquiry said that nothing had been heard of the Boyntons since the spring. He expressed a faded interest in them. He asked Ford if he had seen the experiments in self-expansion and compression of the new medium Mrs. Sims. He viewed these experiments as the ultimation of certain moral fluctuations in the spiritual world, for if there was a steady movement either outward or inward in that world, Mrs. Sims might expand or might condense herself, but it stood to reason that she could not do both.

Ford came home with a headache; when he woke, the next morning, the long window danced round the room before it settled to its proper place. He was not in the habit of being sick, and he suffered some days with this dizziness before he saw a doctor. Then he asked advice, because the sickness interfered with his work.

“ Go away, somewhere,” said the doctor. “ It’s indigestion. Get a change of air.”

“ Do you mean the sea-side ? ” asked Ford.

“ I don’t call that a change of air from Boston. Go to the hills.”

Ford reflected a moment in disgust. He could have endured the sea-side. “ Any particular direction ? ”

“ No, go anywhere. Go to the White Mountains. Take a tramp through them.”

“ I’d rather take medicine,” said Ford. “ Give me some medicine.”

“Oh, I ’ll give you all the medicine you want,” said the doctor ; and he wrote him a prescription.

Ford went home, and took his medicine with the same skepticism, and tried to keep about his work. The lectures which he had been attending were over long ago; but he had found a chance to do some study with a practical chemist which he was loath to forego; and he had his pot-boiling for the press. But his mind feebly relaxed from the demands upon it, and at last it refused to respond at all. He lingered a week longer in town before he would suffer himself to act upon the doctor’s advice, and when at last he forced himself to submission it was the end of the month. As regarded such matters he was a man of small invention, and he was at a loss how to go, when he had made up his mind to it. He would have been glad of Phillips’s determining counsel, but the time had now come for Phillips’s annual return to nature, and he would be far from Boston and the North Shore. On his way to buy a Guide, Ford saw in the window of a railroad agency the advertisement of a route to the White Mountains, and he advised with the ticket-agent, who took no more interest in the matter than Ford himself, about getting a ticket over his line. It led first to Portland, and then, as the agent indifferently pointed out on the map, went straight to the mountains, with a bold, broad sweep, while rival routes, in spidery crooks, zigzagged thither with a preposterous, almost wanton, indirectness. Ford stood sadly amusing himself, first with the immense advantage of this line over all competitors, and then with the names of the towns near Gorham in New Hampshire, and in the adjoining region of Maine: Milan, Berlin, Success, Byron, Madrid, Avon, New Vineyard, Peru, Norway, Sweden, Industry, Paris, Carthage, — names conjecturably given at hap-hazard, or in despair, or out of humorous recklessness, as names are given to dogs and horses. He suddenly wondered whether Dr. Boynton came from Byron or Carthage, or perhaps a little farther off, from Cornville or Solon ; and whether it were possible for anything self-respectful or sound of mind to come out of localities so outraged by vulgar or grotesque or poverty-stricken imaginations. Then he was aware of a sort of soreness at heart. If the opportunity had offered he would have chosen to make some further explanation to Boynton, — to own frankly, perhaps, that being urged by no strong sense of duty he was wrong to meddle in his business. As many of us do in like case, he imagined a convenient interview, in which, with a few words, he arranged the affair amicably with Boynton. He stood so long before the map that the agent lost his patience, and turned to his books ; and Ford came away at last without buying a ticket.

At home he found a visitor whom his sick and dazzled eyes identified after a while as Phillips. “Hallo!” he said. “ I thought you were somewhere in the country.”

“Theoretically I am in the country,” Phillips admitted, " but practically 'I am here,’ — as Ruy Blas says.” He neatly imitated the accent of the late Charles Fechter in pronouncing the words. " It occurred to me, before committing myself to the country irretrievably, that I would stop in Boston and try to commit you with me.”

“ Who told you I was sick ? ” asked Ford, with displeasure.

“ Nobody. If I knew it, I divined it. If you are sick, so much the better. My plan is just the thing for you. I am going to drive in a buggy to Brattleboro’, where I underwent the water cure — for my first passion. It was a great while ago. I want you to come, too.”

Ford shook his head stupidly. “ The doctor said the White Mountains.”

“ Yes, White Mountains, Green Mountains ; it’s all one. It ’s air that you ’re after. All you want is change of air. This journey will make another man of you. It’s to be a journey for the sake of going and coming ; and we will loiter or hurry on the way, just as we like. Come ! I’ve planned it all out. It’s to be an affair of weeks. I propose to make it an exploration, — a voyage of discovery. I wish to form the acquaintance of my native State, and of those men and brethren, her children, who have never left the domestic hearth. You had better come. It will be literary material to you, and money in your pocket. I thought of striking for Egerton, and looking in on the Perhams there, first; but we ought to stop on our way at Sudbury to see the Wayside Inn ; and I must deflect a little to show you Concord, and the local history and philosophy ; there are Shakers and all sorts of novelties at Vardley and Harshire ; beyond Egerton is Princeton, with its Wachuset Mountain ; and after that there is anything northwestwardly that you like ; I have n’t the map by me. My mare is pining on the second floor of her stable, and would ask nothing better than to form a third in our party.”

“ Oh, I ’ll go with you,” said Ford listlessly.

“ Good ! ” cried Phillips. “ This is the fire of youth. If we get sick of it, we can send the mare back from any given point, and take to the rails. That is one of the advantages of having rails. It makes travel by the country roads a luxury, and not a necessary. I fancy we shall feel almost wicked in the pursuit of our journey, — it will be such unalloyed pleasure.”

Phillips’s mare was the remains of an establishment which he had set up some years before. It had included a man and a coupé, and he had relinquished these because of their expensiveness. The man, especially, had been unable to combine the advantages of outside man and inside man; he made Phillips’s lodgings smell of the mare, and he made the stable smell of Phillips’s wine. The man was paid off and sent away, and the coupé was sold at auction ; but with a conservative unthrift that curiously combined with his frugal instincts, Phillips had suffered the mare to linger on his hands. Sometimes he took her out for exercise from the club stable, where he had lodged her ; but he had intervals of forgetfulness, in which the club-groom found it his duty to warn him that the mare’s legs were swelling. She was consequently boarded out of town a good deal, and Phillips awoke to her possession only when the farmers’ bills came in. At these times he said he should sell that mare.

Like men who are rarely out of sorts, Ford was eager to be well at once, and he chafed under Phillips’s delays in getting off. But the latter, having secured Ford’s company, began to arrange the details of their journey with minuteness, and it was several days before they started. Their progress had then even more than the promised slowness. Phillips was not only intent upon the pleasure of the journey, but also upon the search for colonial bricabrac, and this began as soon as they struck the real country beyond the suburban villages. All that was colonial was to his purpose, from tall standing clocks to the coarsest cracked blue delft : spinning-wheels, andirons, shovels and tongs, claw-footed furniture, battered pewter plates, doorlatches and door-knockers, tin lanterns, fiddle-back chairs — his craze generously embraced them all. He did not buy much, but he talked as long over what he left as what he took. He was not the first connoisseur who had visited these farm-houses ; the people sometimes knew the worth of their wares ; in certain cases, he traced the earlier presence of rival collectors whom he knew. Ford had nothing to do but to note the growth of the bargaining passion in the wary farm-wives. There were some who would sell nothing, and some had nothing they would not sell, and they asked too much or too little with the same simplicity. What most struck him was the entire rusticity of their thought and life. Off the lines of railroad, and out of the localities frequented by summer boarders, the people were as rural, within fifteen or twenty miles of Boston, as they would have been among the Vermont or New Hampshire hills. But the country was itself occasionally very wild, especially as they got southward in Sudbury, among overflowed meadows and long stretches of solitary pine woods. The sparse farm-houses and the lonesome villages afllicted him with the remembrance of his own youth ; whatever his life had been since, it had not been embittered with the sense of hopeless endeavor, with the galled pride, with the angry ambition, which had once made it a torment in such places. But when they chanced upon some bit of absolute wilderness his heart relented towards the country ; his jealous spirit found no more intrusion there than in the town ; and he liked the wild odors, the tangle of vegetation, the life of the sylvan things. A hawk winging to covert under the avenging pursuit of small birds, a woodchuck lumpishly skurrying across an open field, the chase of chipmucks and squirrels along the walls, were sights that touched a remote and deep tenderness in his breast. As they drew near the old inn, which was the first monument Phillips had proposed to inspect, it was late in the afternoon, and the landscape grew more consolingly savage. No other house was near enough to be seen, and they approached the storied mansion through a long stretch of pine and sand, by a road which must be lonelier now than it was a hundred years ago. They dismounted under the elm before the vast yellow hostelry, and explored its rambling chambers : they saw Lafayette’s room and Washington’s room ; the attic for the slaves and common folk; the quaint ball-room; the bar ; the parlor where Longfellow and his friends used to sit before the fire that forever warms the rhyme celebrating the Wayside Inn. They found it not an inn any more, though it appeared from the assent of the tenant that they might command an elusive hospitality for the night. The back-door opened upon the fading memories of a garden, and the damp of late rains struck from it into the sad old house.

“ It would be delightful,” Phillips said, “ to stay, but I think we must push on to Sudbury for the night.” He lingered over an old chest of drawers in the dining-room ; not claw-footed, certainly, but with a bulging front, and with some fragmentary relics of its former brasses. But, “ It has carried antiquity to the point where it ceases to be a virtue,” be sighed at last. “ It might be re-created; it could n’t be restored.”

At Sudbury Village they found that there was no inn ; though provision was occasionally made for wayfarers at the outlying farm-houses. They could be lodged in that way, or they could return for the night to the tavern in Wayland where they had dined. It was now twilight. “ I think it will give an agreeable flavor of hardship to our adventure if we push on to Concord,” said Phillips, and Ford willingly consented. They were no better assorted than ever in their strange companionship; but they had a good deal of talk. Phillips, looking planter-like, and looking also irregularly clerical, under his wide-brimmed hat, and armed against the dust in canvas shoes, as if it were a pedestrian excursion, was volubly philosophical; and Ford, under the stimulus of the novelty, was more than commonly responsive, and pointed his comment, as was very unusual in him, with bits of his own history and observation. But the next day, after looking over Concord together, and making their start upon an early dinner, they had almost as little to say to each other as the tramps whom they met on the road, who had the air of not wishing to be disturbed in their meditations upon burglary and arson. They gave up their plan of stopping over night with the Harshire Shakers, and pushed on as far as Vardley instead, where they trusted to finding shelter in the community. They could spend the next morning there, Phillips said, and dine at Egerton ; and Ford assented to anything.


Boynton had passed the night wandering up and down the roads, and trying to puzzle out the causes of his discomfiture. Towards morning he had gone as far as the Elm Tavern and walked to and fro before it a long time, debating whether he should go in and confront the landlord with his lie. The house was brilliantly lighted upon one side, where there seemed to be a hall running its whole length, and a sound of clattering feet and laughing voices, mingled with the half-suppressed squeak of a fiddle, came out of the open windows. It was the landlord who was fiddling ; Boynton recognized his tones in the harsh voice that called out the figures of the dance. From time to time a panting couple came to the door for breath. Several women came together, presently, and catching sight of Boynton, as he lurked in the shadow of the elms, one of them called out, “ Lord, girls, there’s a ghost! ” and they all fled in-doors again with hysterical cries and laughter. The word thrilled him with hope : what he had declared in regard to the phenomena there must be matter of general belief in the neighborhood. He stole away, borne forward as if on air by the tumult of cogitation that inflated his brain. He found himself, he knew not how, again on the long street of the Shaker village. The day was breaking, when he sat down near the granite bowl, still struggling hopefully for a clew to the mystery of his failure. His waking dreams began to mix with those of sleep, and an hour later Ford and Phillips, roused by a common foreboding of early breakfast, and strolling down the road a little for a glimpse of the village and a breath of the fresh morning air, halted at sight of this strange figure, clothed in Shaker habiliments, and with the broadbrimmed Shaker hat on the grass at its feet; the eyes were closed, and the head rested against the trunk of one of the willows. A chilly horror crept over Ford, who whispered, “ Is he dead ? ” but Phillips had no emotion save utter astonishment.

“ Great heavens ! ” he cried. “ It’s Dr, Boynton ! ”

At the sound of his name Boynton opened his eyes with a start, and sprang to his feet. He recognized them instantly, but he took no heed of Phillips as he launched himself upon Ford,

“ You here ! You here ! You here ! ” he screamed. “ Now I understand ! Now I see ! Where were you last night? Were you in this place, this neighborhood, this region ? I see it! I know

why we failed, — why we were put to shame, destroyed, annihilated, in the very hour of our triumph ! I might have thought of it! I might have known you were here ! Did you hunt us up ? Did you follow us ? You have ruined me ! You have blasted my life ! ”

With whatever wild impulse, he caught at Ford’s throat, and clung to his collar, while the young man’s iron clutch tightened upon either of his wrists.

“ Let go, you maniac ! If you don’t let go, I ’ll ” —

Boynton flung up his hands, and reeling several steps backward fell. He struck heavily against the sharp rim of the stone bowl, and seemed about to fall into the water, but dropped at the base, motionless.

“ My God, you’ve killed him ! ” shouted Phillips, as he stepped out from behind one of the trees.

“ Go and get help ! ” answered Ford. He fell on his knees beside Boynton, and searched his breast with a trembling hand for the beating of his heart; he put his ear to his mouth, and heard him breathe before he dipped his hand in the bowl, and dashed Boynton’s face with the water. He was kneeling beside him, and lifting his head upon his arm, when he looked up and saw the anxious visages of those whom Phillips’s clamors had summoned about them. Then Egeria had made her way through the circle. She pushed Ford away with an awful look and stooping over her father caught up his head in her arms, and now swiftly scanned his face, and now swiftly pressed it against her breast, in those shuddering impulses with which a mother will see and will not see if her child be hurt.

The Shakers pushed a wagon down to the place where Boynton lay, and Ford afterward remembered helping to lift him into it.

“ I’m glad you did n’t strike him ; I thought at first you had,” said Phillips, as they followed the wagon back to the village.

“ So did I,” said Ford, mentally struggling to realize what had happened.

“ What are they going to do, I wonder ? ” resumed Phillips, looking about him. “ They ought to send for a doctor.”

“ Yee,” said a Shaker at his elbow, whom neither of them had noticed, “ we have sent.”

The doctor came quickly ; and Boynton, whom they had got into the infirmary upon the bed where Egeria had lain sick, began to show signs of consciousness soon. From time to time after he arrived, scraps of hopeful report were passed through the group outside to Ford and Phillips on its skirts. When the doctor reappeared at last from within the infirmary, the brothers and sisters by twos and threes waylaid him in the yard and the street with anxious demand. The young men walking apart ambushed him farther down the road.

“It’s a faint—I can’t tell what it’s complicated with. He received some contusions in his fall — about the head. He’s an elderly man. He ’s stout.”

Do you mean that he’s in danger ? ” Ford asked.

“ Well, these apoplectic seizures are serious things for any one after thirty. Still it’s a slight attack — comparatively. The contusions — I’m obliged to leave him for another patient just now. I shall be back again directly. Which of you is Mr. Ford ? ”

“ My name is Ford.”

“ He wanted to know where you were. You a friend of his ? ”

“ No. I met him in Boston this spring.”

“ Know his friends ? ”

“ I don’t.”

“ Get up! ” said the doctor to his horse.

“ If we knew any of his people,” said Phillips, “ I suppose we ought to telegraph.”

“ Yes,” assented Ford.

“ But, as we don’t know them,” continued Phillips, “ what are we going to do ? ”

“ I can't say.” When they reached the office on their walk back, Ford went in, and left Phillips to get their horse put to. In a little while he came out again, and said abruptly, “I’m going to stay here. I can’t say that I am responsible for the misfortunes of this man, but somehow I am entangled with him, and I can’t break away without playing the brute. I’ve been talking with these people about Boynton. He’s been trying some of his experiments here, and has failed. The thing happened last night, and I suppose that when he saw me. this morning, his mind recurred to his old delusion that I had something to do with his failure.”

“I imagined as much,” said Phillips, “ from a remark that he made.”

Ford frowned at the levity, and continued. “That’s all. I’ve explained to their head man, here, as well as I could, what relation he fancied I had to him, and they understood it better than I could have expected; they’ve seen enough of him to understand that his superstition about me would account for the assault. I’m not bound to respect his mania, but I don’t see how I can leave till I know how it goes with him.” Phillips shrugged his shoulders, but said nothing. “ The Shakers tell me that I can be lodged at a house of theirs down the road here. I must stay, and be of what use I can, though I don’t know what. I ’ll come away when I can do so decently.”

“ Oh, if you ’re going in for decency,” said Phillips, “ I’ve nothing to say. But that sort of thing can be carried too far, you know. Do you really mean it?”

“ Yes.”

“ Then there’s nothing for me to say. But what do you expect me to do ?” he asked, glancing at the horse, which was now brought up.

“ I expect you to go on. There’s no reason why you should stay.”

“ No, I can’t see how I’m involved. And it’s a brisk drive yet to Egerton, — and breakfast. There’s no prospect of breakfast here, I suppose,” he said, looking wistfully at the office windows. “ Well; if you’ve made up your mind, I shall be off at once. I ’m sorry for our excursion.”

“Yes, it’s a pity for that,” said Ford.

“ It promised everything. Perhaps you could join me at Egerton, to-morrow ? ”

“ Yes ; if I can.”

“I’ll give you a day’s grace. Then I shall push on to Brattleboro’, and perhaps drop down this way with the falling leaf. I wish you’d write to me at Brattleboro’, and let me know how the doctor gets on.”

They shook hands. Ford pulled his bag out of the back of the wagon ; and as Phillips drove off, he set out under the guidance of one of the brothers, to find his quarters in the house of which he had spoken. It had been the dwelling of a family of Shakers, which in the decay of their numbers was absorbed into the other branches of the community, and it stood half a mile away from the office, quite empty, but kept in perfect neatness and repair. He was given his choice of its many dormitories, but he preferred to have his bed set up in the meeting-room, which opened by folding-doors into an ante-room as large, and thus extended the whole length of the building. It was low ceiled, but cool currents of air swept through it from the windows at either end, and it was a still haven of refuge from the heat by night and by day. Hardly a fly sang in its expanse, dimmed by the shade of the elms before it; and it was indescribably remote from noise. The passing even of an ox-cart on the street before it was hushed by the thick bed of sand that silenced the roadway ; and the heavy voice of the driver in hawing and geeing came like some lulling sound of animal life. A tenant of the Shakers lived in a farm-house across the way, and his wife had agreed to give Ford his meals and bestow what care his room needed; but these people were childless, and except for the plaintive lament of their broods of young turkeys pursuing the grasshoppers through the ranks of sweet-corn, their presence involved hardly an interruption of the quiet.

Ford hung up some clothes in a closet, and after a hurried breakfast went again to the office. He found Boynton’s doctor there with Humphrey and the sis ters, and presently Egeria came in from another room with a slip of paper in her hand ; her eyes were swollen with weeping, but she said in a low, steady voice, “ This is grandfather’s address.”

“ I don’t want you to feel,” said the doctor, “ that the case is immediately alarming. There is no necessity for your grandfather’s coming ”—

“ Oh, no ! But if he knew that father was sick or in trouble, I know that he would like to be told.” She gave the slip of paper to Humphrey, and without looking at Ford went out at the door, and he saw her cross the street to the infirmary. There was some talk as to how this dispatch should be sent, and Ford said he was going over to the village, and would carry it to the operator at the station. Outside, the doctor beckoned to him from his buggy, and said, “ He has asked again if you were here. If he wishes to see you, you had better let him. Humphrey has told me what you explained to him. You can humor a sick man’s whims, I suppose.”

Ford really had another errand at Vardley ; he wanted some ink and paper; for if he were to remain he must set to work as soon as possible. It was noon before he returned. With the lapse of time, that working mind, of which the operations are so obscure and incalculable, had unconsciously arranged its material in him, and when he sat down in his strange lodging he was able to put it all on paper, in spite of the remote, dull ache of anxiety which accompanied his writing.

His tea was ready by the time the work was done, but with the revival of his restlessness, upon the conclusion of his task and the release of the faculties devoted to it, he slighted the meal, and hastily started with his copy to the postoffice.

He was met there by the telegraph operator, who asked him to carry back to the Shakers the reply to the telegram he had sent. He saw that he must be already identified with the Boyntons in the village gossip ; but he did not observe the kindly interest expressed in some words dropped by the operator, as he put the dispatch into his pocket, and walked away with it.

There was a light in Humphrey’s room at the office when he returned, and he carried the telegram in to him, and waited while the Shaker brought his lamp to bear upon the sheet. Humphrey remained reading it as if it were a long, closely-written letter.

“ You don’t know what it says? ” he asked at last, looking up over his spectacles.

“ Why, no,” said Ford. “ I had no authority to open it.”

“ I thought may be the telegrapher might told ye. It appears as if Friend Boynton’s father-in-law had been dead two months.”

The dispatch, which Humphrey handed to Ford, was signed by “ Rev. Frederick Armstrong,” who promised that he “ would write.”

“ I suppose,” said Humphrey, “it’s the minister.”

“I suppose so,” Ford admitted absently. He came to himself to ask, “ What’s to be done ? ”

Humphrey scratched his head. “ I d’ know as I’m rightly prepared to say. You don’t know nothin’ about Friend Boynton’s other folks, do ye ? ”

“ No,” said Ford.

Another silence followed. “ Seems to come kind o’ hard, right on top of the other Providence,” mused Humphrey, aloud. “Would it be your judgment to tell ’em?”

“ Really, I don’t know,” said Ford, quite unable to shake off his sterile dismay.

“ You don’t feel,” suggested Humphrey, “ as if you’d like to break the news to ’em ? ”

“ I doubt,” answered Ford, glad to be able to lay hold of any idea, “ whether Dr. Boynton is in a condition to know even that we've telegraphed, much less what the answer is.”

“ Yee,” assented Humphrey, “ that is so. Then it comes to tellin’ Egery. If you was an old friend of the family ” —

“ I’m not,” said Ford. “ I told you that I saw them for the first time in Boston, this spring. Why need you say anything at all ? ”

“ Why,” returned Humphrey, with a gleam of hope, “ I s’pose, if she asks, we ’ll have to.”

“ She may not ask at once. Don’t speak till she does.”

“ That’s so,” mused Humphrey. “ It could be done that way. I d’ know as anybody could say they was deceived, either.”

“ Certainly not.”

Humphrey put the telegram into a drawer and turned the key upon it. “ She can have it when she asks for it,” he said doggedly, like a man who has made up his mind to accept the consequences of his transgression.

Ford drew a long breath ; a little time had been gained, at any rate. “ Can I be of any use over there to-night ? ” he asked, nodding his head in the direction of the infirmary. “ Have you watchers ? ”

“ Yee: Laban’s settin’ up with him, to-night; and Frances is there with Egery.”

“If he asks for me,” said Ford, “I should like you to call me at any hour.”

He went out, and walked down the dark, silent road to his strange domicile.

Hearing him approach, the farmer came across the road, and opened the door for him, and gave him matches to light his lamp. Ford found his way to his vast chamber ; but after he had blown out his light, it was long before he slept.

W. D. Howells.