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Title: Holden with the Cords
Author: Jay, W. M. L.
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Holden with the Cords" ***

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  HOLDEN WITH THE CORDS


  BY W. M. L. JAY

  Author of "Shiloh," etc.



  "Sin will pluck on sin."
                    _King Richard III._



  NEW YORK
  E. P. DUTTON & COMPANY,
  713 BROADWAY
  1874



  Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the year 1874, by
  E. P. DUTTON & CO.,
  In the Office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington.



PREFACE.

In sending forth another book belonging to the class known as religious
novels, the author is moved to say a word to the critics who received a
former one with so pleasant a mixture of praise and deprecation.  As
one of them frankly explained, "they like a pill none the better for
being sugar-coated."  It is not necessary to remind them that there may
be younger (and possibly older) people who do.  It is more to the point
to state that persons to whom religion is a pill--a bitter, nauseous
compound, to be bolted in sickness, and kept out of sight in
health--are not the persons for whom the author writes.

There is another class of objectors.  They talk solemnly of Art and its
canons; they make a religion of it, having little other.  One of these
remarks, that "a tract in the hands of the Venus di Medici would be an
impertinence."  I quite agree with him.  But why need he ignore the
fact that the Venus is also the outcome of a religion?  To the ancient
sculptor, it was a goddess, not a woman, that grew under his hands; it
was Devotion, working together with Genius, that produced the two or
three statues which the world agrees to admire.  So the few great poems
of the world are religious poems.  Why, then, should not the great
novel of the world be a religious novel?  Some day, be sure, a genius
sweeter than Hawthorne's, more genial than Dickens', and subtler than
Thackeray's, will arise to give it to us.  Let me humbly help to
prepare the way for him!  Meanwhile, be it also understood that the
persons to whom Art is a sufficing end, instead of a noble means, are
not the persons for whom I write.

I do write for the "gentle reader" who enjoys religion in novels, as
elsewhere.  Be thus much said for his liking, even from the art side.
There are two classes of novels--the descriptive and the analytical;
one pictures real life, the other passions and motives.  Religion has
its rightful place in both, because it is an important part of real
life, and controls both passions and motives.  Finally (for the subject
is much too wide for a preface), the modern novel being so potent a
power,--for evil on the one hand, for social and civil reform on the
other,--it is fair to suppose that it may do good service for religion.

In conclusion, I have to make two acknowledgments.  The first to an
unknown coadjutor, a hand that is doubtless mouldering into dust.  Some
years ago, a yellow, time-worn manuscript, purporting to be a veritable
family history, fell into my hands.  I am indebted to it for the main
outline of my story.  The second is to MISS FREEBORNE,--the only
sculptor of our day, so far as I know, who has consecrated her genius
to Christian Art.  From her studio I have quietly abstracted the
sculpture which lends its white grace to these pages.  I should also
have seized upon the slender figure of her St. Agnes, and the bowed
head of her Martyr, had they been available to my purpose.

NEW YORK, July, 1874.



  CONTENTS.

  INTRODUCTION


  PART FIRST.

  A WAY THAT SEEMETH RIGHT.

  I.--Proverbs and the Interpretation
  II.--Studying to Answer
  III.--Pattern of Old Fidelity
  IV.--A Goodly Heritage
  V.--Waste Places
  VI.--The Day of Temptation
  VII.--A Bitter Draught
  VIII.--As a Dream when one Awaketh
  IX.--The Blot Cleaves


  PART SECOND.

  THE FRUIT OF THE WAY.

  I.--Through a Mist
  II.--Strengthened out of Zion
  III.--Seeing, but Understanding Not
  IV.--Patient Waiting
  V.--Under the Oaks
  VI.--Of Clay
  VII.--Hidden Riches
  VIII.--The Wind Changes
  IX.--The First Links of a Chain
  X.--Feeling His Way
  XI.--Sleepless Nights Appointed
  XII.--A Consultation
  XIII.--Dinner-Table Talk


  PART THIRD.

  THE IN-GATHERING.

  I.--Unfoldings
  II.--The Foundations Fail
  III.--Building Anew
  IV.--A Sermon
  V.--Partings
  VI.--With a Double Heart
  VII.--Overburdened
  VIII.--A Business Letter
  IX.--Smoother Than Butter
  X.--A Wicked Device
  XI.--A Clue
  XII.--Too Late
  XIII.--Escaped
  XIV.--The Way Stopped


  PART FOURTH.

  A NEW FIELD.

  I.--Alive in Famine
  II.--New Acquaintances
  III.--Farview
  IV.--A Word in Due Season
  V.--Intercepted
  VI.--An Aimless Stroll
  VII.--Ordered Steps
  VIII.--Though He Slay
  IX.--Mistakes
  X.--Like a Thief in the Night
  XI.--After Many Days


  PART FIFTH.

  A BETTER HARVEST.

  I.--A Cloud for a Covering
  II.--Swift Feet
  III.--Fatality or Temptation
  IV.--Blind
  V.--More Mystery
  VI.--A Clue
  VII.--The Set Time
  VIII.--Gift and Giver
  IX.--Faithful unto Death



HOLDEN WITH THE CORDS.



INTRODUCTION.

Very beautiful was the long vista of the elm-arched street.  So
irresistibly did it woo the eye to linger among its gray columns and
green arches, or wander adown its fair, temple-like perspective to the
hazy vanishing point, that the wayfarer might easily forget to observe
what sort of dwellings were ranged along its sides.  Nor did they seek
to force themselves upon his notice.  They were all plain, substantial
structures, with no obtrusive marks of ostentation or of meanness about
them; and they all stood a little back from the street, leaving room
for a trim grass-plot, or a thicket of flowering shrubs, between them
and the passer-by.  They would impress him, collectively, as genuine,
well-to-do homes, free alike from the struggles of poverty and the
temptations of wealth, without troubling him to recognize them
individually, or diverting his gaze from the over-arching elms that
were so much better worth his looking at.

Such, at least, would be the fact, until he came to a certain corner;
where a large square structure of stuccoed brick, coming boldly forward
to the pavement, and planting its heavy steps thereon, would be sure to
arrest his glance, and, perhaps, faintly stir his curiosity.  It was
too large for a private building, and too unpretending for a public
one,--what was it?  If he had put the inquiry into audible words, he
would have been told that it was the Medical College.  And if his
interlocutor had chanced to be a white-haired, genial-faced old man,
long ago flung aside from the stream of active life, and, consequently,
with time on his hands for a little chat with a stranger,--he would,
doubtless, have woven into his answer the popular witticism;--

"Everything here, sir, is arranged just as it should be.  The divinity
school is on the road to the poorhouse; the law-school adjoins the
jail; and the medical college--this building before you, sir--is hard
by the cemetery;--you can see the monuments rising above the hedge
yonder."

But the young man now coming up the street, through the pleasant play
of sunshine and shadow beneath the elms, would neither have asked the
question, nor smiled at the answer.  He knew the stuccoed building
well, as a three years' occupant thereof must needs do; and he had
heard and repeated the witticism too many times to leave it the
faintest sparkle.  It was doubtful, too, whether he gave a thought to
the loveliness of the elm-arched vista that stretched before
him,--partly by reason of his familiarity therewith, partly on account
of a preoccupied mind, and still more, perhaps, because his bright,
brisk, energetic temperament was not of the sort which is quickest to
feel subtile charm, and recognize the delicate outline, of the spirit
of beauty.  He came on rapidly, with an elastic step and a cheery
whistle, and, as he neared the college, he cast a quick glance at one
of its upper windows.  What he saw there would have been a pretty
enough sight to most people,--merely a tiny brown bird hopping to and
fro on the window-sill, and turning its small head briskly from side to
side in its search for infinitesimal crumbs,--but it brought a shadow
to his broad, frank brow.

"Not yet up," he muttered, "or that wren wouldn't be trotting up and
down there so complacently!  To be sure, he may have gone out, but it
isn't likely."

Neither for the look nor the thought did he pause, but strode straight
up two flights of stairs, his firm tread resounding loudly through the
empty, uncarpeted halls, and knocked at the door of a front room.
There was no response.  He knocked again, with a somewhat impatient
hand, tried the door and found it locked, waited a moment, beat a third
emphatic rat-tat-too upon the panel, without eliciting other reply than
a faint and dreary echo from the attic above; and, finally, turned on
his heel, and walked down-stairs.  At the head of the second flight, a
thought seemed to strike him; after a moment of hesitation, he turned
and knocked at a door close at hand.  Scarcely waiting for the prompt
"Come in!" he opened it, with the question,--"Have you seen Arling this
morning?"

The occupant of the room was a broad-shouldered young man, sitting at a
table covered with books and papers, and deeply absorbed in study.  He
only half turned his head, showing a regular, clear-cut profile, as he
answered,--

"No.  I left him so late last night that I overslept this morning, and
have thought of nothing but making up lost time.  And really, Trubie, a
man might be excused for forgetting his best friend--if he had one--in
examination week.  But, is Arling any worse?"

"That's what I should like to know, Roath," returned Trubie, planting
himself a little more firmly on the threshold, but taking no notice of
the chair that the other had carelessly pushed toward him.  "At any
rate, he's out."

Roath started, and turned completely round, giving a view of a
square-featured, somewhat moody, but still handsome, face.  "Out!" he
repeated, looking both amazed and startled.

"So it would seem.  The door is locked, and I rapped and rattled loud
enough to wake the dead."

"Oh," said Roath, with a prolonged falling inflection.  And after a
moment's consideration, he turned back to his books, as if there were
no more to be said.

Trubie lingered.  Not, evidently, from any special liking for Roath's
society, but because he was undecided what to do next.  "I don't
understand it, Roath," he said slowly.  "You know Arling was to have
kept his room to-day, by way of gaining strength, and guarding against
a relapse.  And we were to have gone over 'Barnes' together this
morning, so as to be all primed for Professor Beers to-morrow.  What
_can_ he have done with himself?"

"Perhaps," said Roath, absently, with his eyes on his book, "some of
the others may have seen him."

Trubie took the hint--if such it was meant to be--and withdrew.  He
spent the next half hour in knocking at sundry doors, and repeating,
with slight variation, the questions and remarks wherewith he had
favored Roath.  No one had seen Arling; no one knew anything about him.
All seemed surprised to learn that he had gone out; but all were
laboriously cramming for the examinations in progress, and the surprise
made but a faint and transient ripple on the surface of their troubled
minds.  Trubie's persistency impressed them much more strongly; they
wondered that he had leisure to bestow upon any anxiety not connected
with those dreaded examinations, any fear save that of failing to
secure the right to sign himself, "Frank Trubie, M.D."

Nor--to represent him fairly--was the young man himself wholly
insensible of his absurdity.  "Well!" said he, at last, "I can't afford
to spend my morning in this way.  I must go back to my room, and set to
work.  When Arling comes in, tell him I've been here."  And away he
went through the dancing elm-shadows, more quickly than he had come.

Two hours passed.  Then Roath closed his books, gathered up his papers,
and took his way to the examination room, amid the groups of assembling
students.  Many eyes followed him, some with admiration, some with
envy,--few or none, it was plain to see, with affection.

"No question but that he'll pass!" said one.  "He's all brain,--I'd be
content with half as much."

"And his memory!" exclaimed another.  "It appears to be constructed on
the principle of a rat-trap; ingress is easy, egress--not provided for!"

"No one can keep step with him but Arling," remarked a third; "if _he_
gets well enough, there will be a close race between them."

"I bet on Arling," said a fourth,--a somewhat slender young man, with
an easy, almost careless air, but a thoughtful face,--Mark Tracey by
name.

"Eh! why?" asked the first speaker.

"Because, as you said just now, Roath is all brain.  Whereas Arling,
while he does not want for brain, has also a heart and a conscience.
And in medicine, as in everything else, that wonderful trio are too
strong for brain alone."

"Moralizing, as usual," returned the other with a light laugh.

"Not at all.  It is plain common-sense.  The history of the world shows
it.  Perhaps there is no better type of pure intellect than Satan.  And
Michael the archangel does very well for a representative of love,
duty, and intellect, combined.  You remember which beat?"

"It is not possible, Tracey, that you believe that fable!"

"Grant that it is a fable," replied Tracey, lifting his eyebrows;--"it
nevertheless stands for the concrete wisdom of the ages which preceded
it."

The last words were spoken on the threshold of the examination room,
and, of necessity, closed the discussion.

Roath's examination, on this day, did not disappoint the general
expectation.  Although somewhat paler than ordinary, he was thoroughly
self-possessed; his answers were clear and to the point; not once did
his memory play him false; scarcely once did he hesitate for a word.
He gave evidence not only of close study, but of careful analysis, and
profound, sagacious thought.  But he looked worn when it was over, as
if the mental strain had been severe; and seemed scarcely to hear the
comments and congratulations showered upon him.

Into the midst of these burst Trubie, with the old question, "Have you
seen anything of Arling?" and hardly waiting for the general "No" which
answered it, upstairs he rushed, three steps at a time, to the room of
his friend.  The stream of talk had scarcely resumed its flow, ere he
was back again, with a hurried step, and a perturbed face.

"It's odd about Arling," he began, abruptly.  "I can't get any answer,
and there's nothing stirring in the room.  But I looked into the
keyhole, and the key is certainly inside."

Some few of the students, startled by his words, and the deep gravity
of his look, gathered around him to discuss the matter, when a stout,
gray-haired professor came out from the examination room.

"Good day, Mr. Trubie," said he, as he passed the group.  "I hope your
patient is doing well."

"I--I don't know, sir," faltered Trubie; "I have not seen him since
yesterday, at dusk.  And he is unaccountably missing this morning;--at
least, I thought he must be out when I went to his room, at eight
o'clock, and couldn't get in.  But I have just been up again, and--and
the door is certainly locked on the inside."

Being already in possession of the main facts of the case,--namely,
that Alec Arling, one of the class of medical students now undergoing
examination for their degree, had been suffering for some days from
severe and increasing intestinal trouble, and had been advised by the
faculty to keep his room for a day or two, under the care of his
friend, Frank Trubie;--the professor now, by means of a few rapid
questions, elicited the additional facts, that Trubie had been suddenly
called away, on the previous evening, by family affliction, to his home
in a near suburb, and had spent the night there, and that Edmund Roath,
who had volunteered to keep a little watch over the sick-room during
his absence, had remained with Arling till past midnight, engaged in
comparing notes of clinical lectures, and in psychological talk (with
which matters Arling _would_ busy himself, in spite of remonstrance),
and had then left him, recommending him to go to sleep at once, and had
heard the door duly locked on his exit.  Roath further stated that, in
consequence of this protracted sitting, and previous hard work, he had
slept late this morning; and, taking it for granted that Trubie,
according to promise, was already back at his post, he had seated
himself at his books, immediately upon rising.  Very shortly after,
Trubie had appeared, and informed him that Arling had gone out, whereat
he had been considerably surprised,--not that the young man was unable
to leave his room, but because it was inexpedient to do so.
Nevertheless, he frankly acknowledged that his mind was too much
preoccupied to give more than a passing thought to the matter,
especially as he knew well that any remissness on his part was sure to
be amply atoned for by Trubie,--he and Arling being, as everybody knew,
the Damon and Pythias of the class.

The professor was a man of few words, quick conclusions, and prompt
action.  "There is but one way of getting at the bottom of the matter,"
said he, at the end of this rapid statement.  "Let somebody bring a
crowbar, and pry open the door."

Scarce sooner said than done.  The door yielded easily to the rude
implement, in Trubie's impetuous hands, and was followed by a rush of
the assembled students toward the opening,--though, even in this moment
of eager curiosity, the instinct of subordination allowed the professor
to in first.  He went straight to the bed, where was seen a human form,
lying on its side, in an easy attitude of slumber.  He bent for a
moment above this form, while a sudden silence fell upon the startled
spectators,--he touched the brow, lifted the hand, and then, turning
slowly round, said, in deep, serious tones;--

"He is dead."

Trubie let fall the crowbar, darted forward, and caught the hand of his
dead friend, with a kind of indignant incredulity.  But the icy touch,
the marble pallor, the lifeless weight, brought instant conviction.  He
stood as if stunned.

The professor had turned from the bed to the table, where a glass, a
spoon, and four or five phials, stood within easy reach of the dead
man's hand.  He held the spoon to his nostrils, and then examined the
phials, holding them up to the light.  In one, labelled "_Mag. Sol.
Morph.,_"  he seemed to find what he sought.

"Mr. Trubie," said he, turning round, with the open phial in his hand,
"did your friend ever say anything to you, that indicated a disposition
to suicide?"

The question roused the young man from his stupor, although it was a
moment or two ere he seemed to comprehend its purport fully.  "Never,
sir!" he exclaimed, indignantly, a hot flush rising to his brow,--"Alec
Arling would have scorned to do such a thing!  He was neither a fool
nor a coward, sir!  Besides, there was no earthly reason why he should
do it."

The professor shook his head.  "He seems to have done it,
nevertheless," said he, thoughtfully.  "To be sure," he added, after a
moment, "it is barely possible that he took it by mistake."

"Most likely, that is the real state of the case," remarked Roath, who
was standing on the other side of the table, calmly and gravely
observant of the scene.

In temperaments like Trubie's, the transition from grief to anger is
often curiously direct; the one is the natural outlet of the other; and
in this instance, the sound of Roath's voice seemed to afford the
bereaved and horrified young man the object of indignation that he so
sorely needed.  Springing quickly forward, and clenching his fist, he
confronted the speaker with a convulsive rage and excitement in strong
contrast with Roath's grave composure.

"You know better!" he shouted.  "It was neither a suicide nor a
mistake.  You killed him!"

Roath gave a violent start, and seemed about to speak, but his lips
only trembled nervously.  He was evidently confounded, almost
bewildered, by the suddenness and fierceness of the accusation.

Trubie went on with scarce a moment's pause, and with, still hotter
indignation, "You were last in his room--you acknowledge it.  And you
hated him."

Roath had regained his self-command,--which, to do him justice, he had
but for an instant lost.  "If you were not beside yourself with grief,"
said he, coldly, "there could be but one answer to such a charge as
that.  As it is--"

"'As it is,' I repeat it," interrupted Trubie, with bitter scorn.  "I
repeat it, and am ready to maintain it, always--anywhere--anyhow!"

Roath drew himself up.  "I, too, am ready,"--he began, haughtily, but
the professor interposed.  "Mr. Roath," said he, with dignity, "I
command you to be silent.  Mr. Trubie,"--laying his hand on the
shoulder of the agitated young man, and speaking in a tone of grave
rebuke,--"much may be forgiven to the first excitement of sorrow and
horror, but this is going too far.  Such an accusation is not to be
made lightly."

"Lightly!" repeated the frantic Trubie;--"he hated Alec, I tell you!
He couldn't forgive him for rivalling him--aye, and beating him,
too--everywhere; in scholarship, in popularity, in"--he hesitated for
an instant,--"in love."

Roath's face grew dark; a frown traced a deep, vertical line between
his brows; he set his teeth, and made a quick stride forward.  But a
dozen hands seized him, a dozen others laid hold of Trubie, and both
were half forced, half led away to their rooms; while the faculty of
the college, hastily called together, gathered around the corpse, to
examine more minutely into the cause of death.


A coroner's jury was duly summoned.  It examined the body, weighed the
evidence, and being about equally divided in regard to the question of
suicide, finally agreed upon "Accidental Death by Poison," as, upon the
whole, the safer and less objectionable verdict.  There seemed to be no
good reason to suspect murder, nor any ground whatever for implicating
Roath, or anybody else, as a perpetrator thereof.

Trubie, to be sure, persisted in his accusation; but it was with a
vehemence and a dogmatism so unlike his wonted careless good nature, as
to suggest the idea that his mind had been temporarily thrown off its
balance by the shock of his friend's death.  This idea gained color
from the fact that all which he could offer, in support of so grave a
charge, was the statement that he had long seen or suspected, in Roath
a secret hatred of Arling, and a willingness to do him covert mischief.
He had even mentioned the suspicion to his friend; but Arling--being of
the most candid and generous, as well as unsuspecting temper, unable to
conceive of any but an open, honorable enemy--had refused to entertain
it for a moment.  Trubie also solemnly affirmed that his passionate
accusation of Roath, by the side of the newly-discovered corpse, was
the involuntary result of an intuition so sudden, so clear, and so
powerful, that, though little given to look for supernatural agencies
in human affairs, he could not rid himself of the conviction that it
was the direct inspiration of his dead friend.  But it may readily be
imagined how much weight a statement of this sort was likely to have
with men of plain minds and sturdy understanding, searching among the
external phenomena of the event for grounds upon which to base a
reasonable verdict.

On the other hand, the theory of accidental poisoning was supported,
negatively, by the lack of apparent cause for self-destruction; and
positively, by the fact that on the dead man's table, side by side with
the potent narcotic before mentioned, stood a phial of exactly the same
size, and with equally colorless contents.  Of this Arling had been
accustomed to take two or three spoonfuls, mixed with a few drops of a
third preparation of exceeding bitter flavor.  A careless hand might
have mistaken the one phial for the other.  The taste of the morphine,
so swallowed, would be much disguised; while the dose was sufficient,
under the circumstances, to produce death.  It will be seen, therefore,
that the verdict rendered was the only one upon which a coroner's jury
could well have been expected to agree.

The body was next solemnly laid in a vault, to await the disposal of
the parents, who lived in a western state; and the widening circles of
excitement, horror, curiosity, and regret, of which it had been the
unconscious centre, rapidly subsided, or were effaced by the growing
interests of the now imminent closing examination.

Even Trubie, though he flatly refused to acquiesce in the coroner's
verdict, was forced tacitly to accept its results.  He took refuge in a
complete personal proscription of Roath; he neither spoke to him nor
looked at him; he treated him precisely as if he did not exist.  To a
person of Roath's cold, hard, steely temper, and obtuse sensibilities,
this demeanor was, perhaps, the most tolerable of which the
circumstances admitted.  It spared him the necessity of being either
conciliatory or resentful; he was well content to ignore Trubie as
completely as Trubie ignored him.

He soon found, however, that he had greatly underestimated the moral
force of an abhorrence deeply rooted in immitigable distrust.  Though
largely given to psychological studies, and profoundly learned, for his
years, in the intricacies and tendencies of the human mind, he was
astonished to find how soon the atmosphere grew heavy around him, how
quickly Trubie's dogged dislike communicated itself, more or less
strongly, to others; while the increased cordiality of a few, though
kindly intended to offset it, only served to point him out more clearly
as one set apart, for the time, from life's ordinary course and level,
by the force of an unenviable, if undeserved, notoriety.  Not that he
ever appeared to be conscious of either of these manifestations, or of
their ultimate effect.  Nature had given him a moral and intellectual
fibre so tough, and he had trained himself to a control so perfect,
that the keenest observer could not detect the least variation from his
usual composed, concentrated, somewhat moody demeanor.  Whatever of
suffering, or of sin, lay at the bottom of his heart, not a shadow
thereof was seen in his face.

It might well be, however, that he was glad when the examination was
over, his degree obtained, and himself left free to depart by any one
of the many paths which life opened before him.

Yet he was in no suspicious haste to be gone.  His departure was fixed
for an early hour on the following morning.  Meanwhile, at dusk, he
went out for his habitual solitary stroll.  Never had he invited
companionship, and was it thrust upon him.  He had no intimate friend.
Though he had been not only admired, but respected, by many, for his
intellectual gifts, and for a certain firm, even texture of character,
and dispassionateness of judgment, that often looked like virtue,
whether such in reality or not, he was beloved by none.

Where he went, what he thought, is not to the purpose of our narrative.
His walk was long, however; he did not return until dusk had deepened
into clear and starry, but moonless night.  As he came up through the
great, dim elm-arches, with their solemn resemblance to a vast
cathedral nave, a strange tremor seized him.  A complete sceptic in
regard to all superstitions and forebodings, he yet felt his nerves
shaking with an undefined fear; he could not rid himself of the
impression that something unprecedented and sinister was at that moment
taking place.  Reaching the college, he ascended the steps with a
strange mixture of eagerness and reluctance; and immediately became
aware of a subdued but excited murmur of voices in the upper hall.  At
the same moment, Mark Tracey came rushing down the stairs, carpet-bag
in hand.

"What's up?" asked Roath, in a voice that trembled in spite of himself.

"I don't rightly know," responded Tracey, hurriedly,--"I am so late for
the train, that I couldn't stop to hear.  Something about a diamond
that Trubie has found in Arling's glass--the one from which the poor
fellow drank his death-draught, I believe.  Good-by!"  And away he went.

Had he waited but for an instant, he would have been startled and
spellbound by the deadly whiteness of Roath's face.  Through all the
glimmering indistinctness of the dimly-lighted hall, his features were
clearly discernible, by reason of that marble pallor.  For the moment,
he seemed to lose sense and consciousness; he would have fallen, except
for the friendly support of the wall against which he leaned.

But it was only for a moment.  The man's hard energy of character, his
iron will, his rigid self-control, though they had gone down before the
suddenness and severity of the shock, quickly rose again.  With a
mighty effort, he rallied his broken forces; back into his face came
the look of purpose, the sense of power, the sternness of immitigable
resolve; and this with so rapid and almost imperceptible a change, that
it seemed as if the granite man must have stood there from the first,
and the weak man not at all.  While Tracey's receding footsteps still
echoed faintly from without, going swiftly in the direction of the
city's principal thoroughfare,--while the murmur of voices from above
was still at its eager, wondering height,--he had turned, noiselessly
descended the steps, and was gliding down through the sombre
elm-arches, swift and stealthy as a phantom.  The street was shadowy at
best, but he chose the darker side; it was wellnigh deserted, at that
hour, but he soon turned into a still less frequented one, and then
struck into a more assured and less noiseless, as well as swifter, pace.

As he went, he drew a ring from his finger, and glancing hastily round,
to make sure that he was unobserved, he flung it far into the dusky
shadow of a garden thicket.  Only the day before, a friend had said to
him,--"Roath, do you know that the stone is gone from your ring?" and
he had answered,--"Yes; and I am sorry to have lost it, for it was my
father's."  And he had proceeded to point out the antique setting, and
to describe the peculiar shape and tint of the gem which it had
inclosed.  He gnashed his teeth as he recalled the short, but momentous
conversation.  But for that, he would not have fled.

The garden into which he had flung the ring adjoined a small cottage;
and, at one of the open windows, a gray-haired dame sat in a
high-backed chair, listening to the clear, musical voice of an
invisible reader.  This fragment of a sentence floated out to him on
the dim night air,--"_He shall be holden with the cords of--_"

Even at that moment, the words struck him sharply.  Involuntarily he
slackened his pace, and half-turned to catch the remainder of the
sentence, but it was inaudible.  The uncertainty before him, the terror
behind, were, for the time, almost forgotten in a certain chill
curiosity.  "Holden with the cords--holden with the cords," he repeated
to himself, as he hurried on,--"I wonder what book she was reading!  I
should really like to hear the end of that sentence!"

Still keeping up his swift pace and vigilant glance, he nevertheless
sank into a partial abstraction.  Some disconnected sentences, breaking
at intervals from his lips, served to show the current of his thoughts.

"Set it down, once for all," he muttered, "that crime--absolute crime,
of which the law can take hold--is a mistake.--Into the best-laid
scheme, the one most carefully framed and skilfully executed,
Chance--many would say, Providence (_can_ there be a Providence after
all?)--drops some trivial, fortuitous circumstance, which disconcerts
or betrays everything.--The question is, could it have been
foreseen?--I have worn that ring for sixteen years.--No! no! it is too
subtile and too intricate a matter to think about now.  I have more
pressing subjects of reflection.--Only, set it down, for future use,
that the essential thing is to keep clear of crime."

"_Holden with the cords!_" echoed suddenly and pertinaciously through
his memory, as if by way of defiant answer to the conclusion that he
had reached.  He set his teeth, and dashed more swiftly onward.

Ere long, he reached the railway depot.  In a large, underground space,
half-filled with smoke and steam, a train stood on the track, the
engine fretting and snorting like a steed impatient to be off, and the
bell ringing out a hasty summons, curiously typifying the sharp call to
leap on to some favorable train of circumstances, and be borne away to
fortune or to ruin, which life often gives us, at certain fateful
moments of its rapid career.  Roath sprang to the rear platform, and,
on the instant, the train moved.

Swiftly it left the depot behind: decayed fences, rickety outhouses,
heaps of rubbish and offal, quickly receded into a dingy perspective of
backside city life; scattered coal-yards, and freight and
engine-houses, succeeded; and then, the cool, moist air coming in at
the windows, and a swift-gliding panorama of what looked like a
terrestrial sky and stars, told him that he was being borne rapidly
along the causeway that traversed the broad bay,--in the tranquil
waters of which the fair night-heavens were faithfully mirrored.
Hastily running his eye over his fifty or sixty fellow-passengers, and
finding no familiar face, he settled himself back in his seat with a
long-drawn breath of relief.  He remembered that he was on an express
train, with twenty miles between him and the next station; he could
count upon a safe half hour, at least, for the working out of the
difficult problem before him.  To that problem he at once addressed
himself, with the whole force of his intellect and will;--though ever
and anon, that perplexing fragment of a sentence would float
distractingly through his mind, saying itself over and over to the
accompaniment of the sharp click of the rails,--"Holden with the
cords--Holden with the cords!"


From that night, for many years, Edmund Roath disappeared as completely
from the sight and search of all who had known him, as if the train
wherein he sat had suddenly flung itself headlong from that narrow
causeway, and those deep, silent, star-mirroring waters, closing above
him, had steadfastly refused to give up their dead.  In brief space of
time, his very name, as well as the circumstances that had made it
notorious, was forgotten by those who had been most diligent in passing
it from mouth to mouth.  Seldom was it recalled even by the few who had
known him best, and had yielded the heartiest admiration to his rare
intellectual gifts.  Having never taken any real hold of any human
heart, it was but natural that he should pass behind the first
intervening cloud, and leave no vacancy.

Did he thereby escape the worst consequences of his sin?



PART FIRST.

A WAY THAT SEEMETH RIGHT.



I.

"PROVERBS, AND THE INTERPRETATION."

The road was straight, level, and monotonous.  It seemed to stretch on
for miles, walled in, on either hand, by the rank and profuse foliage
of the South.  Great cotton woods and water-oaks, walnuts, cypresses,
larches, and junipers, stood side by side, with their brawny arms
interlaced, and their trunks hidden in a dense and varied undergrowth;
while jessamines and wild grapevines climbed up to meet the sunshine at
their tops, and pendent moss hung their boughs with swaying drapery of
gray-green leaves and filaments.

What lay beyond these walls of verdure was only to be guessed at from
occasional and indistinct glimpses.  Here, a transient view of corn or
vegetable rows, and a sound of voices, gave token of the vicinity of a
small plantation or market garden.  There, a scarcity of deciduous
trees and a predominance of evergreens, a more lush and succulent
character of undergrowth, and a dark gleam of stagnant water, betrayed
the proximity of an extensive morass.  Frequently, the eye lost itself
in the complicated vistas of thick pine-barrens, stretching far away to
right and left.  And, ever and anon, a sudden break in the long line of
verdure, and the sight of a diverging wheel-track, quickly lost amid
overhanging boughs, served to show in what direction some large rice or
cotton estate lay hidden in the circumjacent forest.

It scarcely needs to be added that the road was pleasantly cool and
shadowy in the late September afternoon.  Even at midday, its track
would present but few and scant patches of sunshine, alternating with
dense masses of shadow or spots of flickering light and shade.  Now,
therefore, with the sun hanging red and low in the western horizon,
scarce a fitful orange gleam fell athwart the path of the only
traveller in sight,--a young man, of thoughtful face and stalwart
figure, striding on at a firm, even pace, with a portmanteau strapped
across his shoulder.  Both the face and the portmanteau seemed to
indicate that his walk was not for pleasure merely, but tended to some
definite, anticipated goal; while the keen, observant glance with which
he noted, not only every object of interest along his route, but the
character of the soil beneath and the foliage overhead, showed that his
road was as unfamiliar as it had been, for the most part, solitary.
Since he left the outskirts of the city of Savalla behind, more than
two hours ago, he had seen but three human faces.  First, an old negro
woman, wrinkled and white-haired, had ducked her decrepit form to him
in what would have been, but for the stiffness of her joints, a most
deferential courtesy.  Later on, a teamster, of the same dependent and
obsequious race, had doffed to him the ragged remnant of a palm-leaf
hat, and uttered a civil, "Good ebenin', Massa."  Lastly, a lank,
listless, unkempt, sallow-skinned personage, in a white covered wagon,
snapping a long-lashed whip at a nondescript team, and belonging to the
curious class known as "crackers," had suddenly nodded to him, after a
prolonged, and, at first, contemptuous stare, as if finally convinced
of his claim to the civility.

For some time past, the road had led through a monotonous pine barren,
and the traveller had fallen into a fit of thought.  Raising his eyes,
at last, from the path on which they had been fixed in abstraction, he
saw that the long vista before him was once more enlivened by a moving
object.  His keen, far sight, trained in western wilds, easily made it
out to be a half-obsolete kind of chaise, moving in the same direction
as himself, but moving so slowly that he gained on it at every step.
In a few moments, he was close behind it, quietly observing its
superannuated style and condition, as well as the skinny little horse
that furnished its motive power.  Hearing the sound of his quick, firm
tread, its occupant lifted his eyes from the tattered volume over which
he was poring, and turned to look at him.

He himself, in a very different way, was well worthy of observation.
He was small and spare, probably not more than sixty years of age, but
looking much older.  He had that parched and wizened look, oftenest the
work of circumstances rather than years, which makes it difficult to
realize that the possessor was ever young.  His hair and complexion had
once been light; the one was now gray, the other sallow, except for a
faint suggestion of red at the tip of an otherwise handsome nose.  His
breath exhaled a perceptible odor of strong drink, surrounding him as
with an atmosphere of inflammable gas.  His dress was made up of divers
ill-fitting garments that had doubtless accrued to him from cast-off
wardrobes; not one of them bearing any relation to the other, but all
being in an advanced stage of seediness well suited to the wearer.
Something of the same fusing of special incongruities into general
fitness also characterized his manner; wherein the mean and furtive air
of the shiftless old vagabond was curiously blended with the pathetic
dignity of the decayed gentleman.

He eyed the young foot traveller narrowly for a moment, though with a
sidelong rather than a straightforward glance; then, bringing his
willing horse to a stand by a jerk of the reins, and a sonorous "Whoa!"
he lifted his hat and gravely accosted him:--

"_Manus manum lavat_.  Men were meant to help each other.  Have a ride,
sir?"

The stranger hesitated, perhaps trying to reconcile the address and the
speaker, perhaps with a natural enough doubt as to the character of the
companionship thus offered.  "Thank you," said he, at last, "but I
doubt if it be worth while."

"'Good and Quickly seldom meet,'" responded the other, sententiously.
"Besides," he added, seeing that the traveller was puzzled to
understand the drift of his saw, "Pegasus--I call him Pegasus because
he's _not_ winged--is 'like a singed cat, better than he looks.'
Moreover, _Compagnon bien parlant vaut en chemin chariot branlant_.
Which may be freely translated, 'Good company shortens the road as much
as a swift horse.'"

"Oh!  I meant no disrespect to your equipage, I assure you," returned
the young man, smiling.  "Only, I supposed that I must be near my
journey's end.  Is it far to Berganton?"

"That depends.  'The last straw breaks the camel's back.'  It is three
miles, more or less.  But I should have said, from your face, that you
would want to stop this side of that."

"Do I look so tired?  Indeed I am not."

"Um--no, I should say not.  But faces show something besides
weariness,--'like father, like son,' you know.  If your looks are to be
trusted, there's an old mansion about a quarter of a mile farther on,
whose door ought to open to you of its own accord--if it can open at
all."

The young man smiled and shook his head.  "I am sorry that my looks
should belie me," said he, "but I have no claim upon the said mansion's
hospitality."

"Umph! 'tis a wise child that knows its own father.  Tush, tush, man!"
he added, hastily, seeing the young man's cheek flush, "I meant no
harm; proverbs run from my tongue like water from a Dutch roof.
Besides, _Nao ha palavra maldita se naõ fora mal entendida_,--that is
to say, 'No word is ill-spoken which is not ill-taken.'  But come!
come! jump in!  I'll carry you to Berganton, since that's your goal,
and welcome.  The night is drawing on apace; you'll be glad of my
pilotage before we get there."

The young man glanced down the darkening road, from which the last ray
of sunlight had vanished, and seemed still to hesitate; but finally
sprang lightly into the chaise, and the horse jogged on.

"Proverbs," continued the old man, treating his three last sentences as
mere parentheses, "have been the study of my life.  I know Lord
Chesterfield bans them as vulgar, but is he wiser than Solomon? or
better authority than Cicero and Scaliger and Erasmus and Bacon and
Bentley?  Bah! the whole gist of his writings might be compressed into
two or three of the maxims that he affects to despise.
'Fair-and-Softly goes far in a day,' will live when his 'Letters' are
forgotten.  And a good reason why.  Proverbs are the royal road to
wisdom.  They're the crystallized experience of the ages.  They
epitomize the minds and manners of the people that brought them forth.
Who but a 'smooth, fause' Lowland Scot, for instance, would have said
'Rot him awa' wi' butter an' eggs?'  Who but a marauding Hielander
would have declared, 'It's a bare moor that ane goes o'er and gets na a
coo?'  Who but poor priest-ridden, king-ridden Spain would have said,
_Fraile que pide par Dios, pide por dos_, 'The friar that begs for God,
begs for two;'  _Quien la vaca del rey come flaca, gorda la paga_, 'He
who eats the king's cow lean, pays for it fat;'--but I ought to beg
your pardon, perhaps you know Spanish?"

"Not very well," good-naturedly replied the young man, taking pity on
his companion's inveterate habit of translation, and the delight which
it plainly afforded him.

"Well enough, I suppose, to know that it's a mine of wealth to the
proverb-hunter," rejoined the old man graciously.  "Here, now, is a
good one, of a different character,--_Adonde vas, mal?  Adonde mas
hay_, 'Whither goest thou, misfortune?  To where there is more?'  And
here is a pertinent question for people who live well without visible
resources,--_Los que cabras no tienen, y cabritos venden, de donde les
vienen?_  'They who keep no goats, and yet sell kids, where do they get
them?'  But, after all, for right sharp and serviceable proverbs,
commend me to the Danish.  Here is an old collection that I've lately
picked up, printed at Copenhagen, in 1761;---just let me read you two
or three."

He opened the dingy volume aforementioned, and proceeded to read,
translate, and comment, with infinite zest.  "_Ingen kommer i Skaden,
uden han selv hielper til_, 'No man gets into trouble without his own
help'--(a moral which no one can point better than your humble
servant); _Naar det regner Voelling, saa har Stodderen ingen Skee_,
'When it rains porridge, the beggar has no spoon'--(there's no
contenting discontented people); _Ingen Ko kaldes broget uden hun haver
en Flek_, 'A cow is not called dappled unless she has a spot'--(most
gossip has some small foundation); _Hvo som vil gjöre et stort Spring,
skal gaae vel tilbage_, 'He that would leap high must take a long
run'--(else we should have bishops and judges without gray hairs); _Det
kommer igien, sagde Manden, han gav sin So Floesk_, 'It will come back
again, said the man, when he gave his sow pork:'--don't you see how the
patient, shrewd, humorous character of the Danes peeps through them all?

"Yet, if some proverbs are national, others are cosmopolitan, and fit
all generations, and all countries.  For instance, there's the Greek
saw, Archè êmisu pantós,--see how it comes down through every language
under the sun, till, at last, it settles into terse English rhyme,

  'Well begun
  Is half done.'

Or, take that common saying, 'To carry coals to Newcastle,' which seems
to have originated in the East.  At least, we find it first in the
Persian of Saadi, 'To carry pepper to Hindostan;' then the Hebrews have
it, 'To carry oil to the City of Olives;' the Greeks, 'owls to Athens;'
the Latins, 'wood to the forest;' the French, 'water to the river;' the
Dutch, 'firs to Norway;' the Danish--Hallo!  Pegasus! what are you
about?"

The horse, being left to his own guidance while his master was riding
his favorite hobby, had taken occasion to shoot off from the main road
into an apparently little-used track, cut through a thick pine-barren
at the left.  He had made several lengths before his driver, taken at a
disadvantage, could pull him up.

"Pegasus is of the opinion that 'the longest way round is the surest
way home,'" remarked the old man, apologetically, as he scanned the
narrow, tree-lined track, with a view to the possibility of turning
safely around.  "Or," he added, with a glance of sly humor at the
traveller, "perhaps he thinks, as I did just now, that Bergan Hall is
your natural destination."

"Bergan Hall," repeated the young man, in a tone of extreme
surprise,--"is this the way to Bergan Hall?  I thought you came to the
village first, from Savalla."

"So you did, once," rejoined the old man, looking surprised, in his
turn; "but that must have been before you were born, if your face
doesn't belie your age.  The road used to make a long elbow, to get
round that swamp which you crossed a mile back.  But it was
straightened thirty years ago at least,--_Autre temps, autre
chemin_,--a different time, a different road.  And so you are going to
Bergan Hall?  Well, thanks to luck and Pegasus, you're in the right
way."

"But I must not take you out of yours," responded the young man,
good-naturedly.  And he had jumped out of the chaise before its owner
was well aware of his intention.

"_Canis festinans coecos parit catulos_," muttered the old man, in a
tone of chagrin.  "In other words, 'Look before you leap.'  I'd as soon
have gone this way as the other.  My place lies between the Hall and
the village, and the choice of roads isn't worth shucks,--at least, in
comparison with a pleasant chat.  However, you're out, and I suppose
it's no use to ask you to get in again, since the Hall is but a few
rods away.  Keep straight ahead till you come to the old avenue, then
turn to the left.  Good day, _il n'y a si bons compagnons qui ne se
separent_,--the best friends must part."

"Yes--to meet again," said the young man, pleasantly.

"Very true; _les beaux esprits se rencontrent_," returned the old man,
slowly and cautiously backing his crazy vehicle around.  And with
another "Good day," and a parting gesture, he quickly disappeared among
the fast-falling shadows.

The young man stood looking after him for a moment, with a smile half
of amusement, half, of pity, upon his lips.  But his features soon
settled into something more than their accustomed gravity, and suddenly
facing about, he pursued his way.

Ere long the tall, crowded pines of the barren gave place to various
stubble and fallow grounds, with here and there a late crop waiting to
be harvested; and shortly after, the narrow, irregular track that he
had been following encountered a broader and more beaten one.
Recognizing this, with some difficulty, as the "avenue" of which his
late companion had spoken, he stopped, and gazed up and down with a
look of surprise and pain.

It was bare of trees; but on either side extended a long row of live
oak stumps, the size of which showed what massive trunks and
far-reaching branches had once columned and arched it like a temple.
Here and there, some forgotten bole or bough lay and rotted upon the
very spot which it had formerly overhung with a soft canopy of verdure,
and made beautiful with pleasant play of sunshine and leaf-shadow;
while around it gathered a rank luxuriance of weeds, transmuting its
slow aristocratic decay into teeming, plebeian life.  In one or two
cases, as if moved by an almost human sympathy, vines had sprung up
around the bereaved stumps, and sought to soften their hard outlines
with clinging drapery of leaves and tendrils.  They had also done their
best to cover up various unsightly gaps in the long lines of ruinous
fence that divided the avenue from the open fields on either side.  Yet
the final effect of these gentle touches was only to deepen the painful
impression of the scene.  Where they did not reach, the bareness was so
much more bare, the dilapidation so much uglier!

The young observer felt this bareness and dilapidation to his heart's
core,--felt it all the more keenly because an image of the avenue's
pristine grandeur, derived from the surrounding fragments (or from some
other source), continually rose before his mind's eye, to heighten its
present desolation by contrast.  His brow contracted as he gazed; and
the expression of his face changed rapidly from surprise to
dissatisfaction, from dissatisfaction to perplexity, from perplexity to
doubt.  Once, he turned as if half-minded to retrace his steps; but the
next moment, he shook off his irresolution with a gesture of disdain,
and immediately hastened forward.

The avenue terminated in an open, circular space.  Evidently, it had
once been a lawn; but it was now covered with half-obliterated furrows,
showing that at some not very remote period, it had been planted with
corn.  Around it stood a number of gigantic live-oaks, heavily draped
with moss, and brooding dusky shadows under their massive boughs.
Fronting upon it, was a large mansion of dark brick, consisting of an
upright, two-story main building, with a huge, clustered chimney in the
midst, and long, low, rambling wings on either side.

The whole place had a deserted and melancholy appearance.  The moss on
the live-oaks swayed slowly to and fro in the evening breeze, with a
wonderfully sombre and funereal effect; and the mansion was dark and
silent as any ruin.  Not a light shone from the closed windows; not a
sound came from the deep, shadowy doorway; and the unsteady stone
steps, slippery with damp and green with moss, gave the impression of a
spot where no human foot had left its print for many years.

The young man halted at a little distance from the dark building, and
surveyed it moodily.  "Can this be Bergan Hall?" he murmured.  "Can
this gloomy old ruin be the open, cheery, hospitable mansion, full of
light and life, that my mother has so often described to me?  It looks
a habitation for ghosts--and for ghosts only!  I wonder if any living
being--"

Breaking off abruptly, he ascended the moss-grown steps, only to find
that the vines which so heavily draped the portico, had woven a thick
network across the door.  It was plain that it had not been opened for
months, perhaps years.  Nevertheless, not to be easily daunted, he
found and lifted the knocker.  It fell with a dull lifeless sound, that
smote the young man's heart like a sudden chill.  A dreary
reverberation came from within, and then died away into silence.  He
knocked again, and, listening intently, he fancied that he heard the
sound of stealthy footsteps within, and a slight creaking of the floor.
But so dead a silence followed upon these imaginary sounds, that he
soon became convinced of his involuntary self-deception.

Turning from the door, he now noticed a little footpath running round
the end of one of the long wings.  Committing himself to this timely
guide, he soon came in sight of the rear of the mansion, which looked
upon a sort of court; where a few ornamental shrubs still held an
uncertain tenure against the encroachments of divers sorts of lawless
and vagrant vegetation.  At a little distance, was a long range of
dilapidated offices, showing upon what an almost princely scale the
housekeeping had once been administered.  But this part of the premises
was not less dark, silent, and deserted, than the other.

The footpath still held on, however, past the court and the offices,
toward a bright light at a considerable distance, "The negro quarter!"
muttered the young man, recognizing the whereabout of one of the most
salient features of his mother's well-remembered descriptions.  "At
least, I may learn there what it all means."  And, quickening his
steps, he soon came upon a busy and picturesque scene.

In the midst of a large, quadrangular space, flanked on three sides by
double rows of negro-cabins, and on the fourth apparently sloping down
to a water-course, was a rough sort of threshing-mill, now idle, but
showing satisfactory results of its day's labor in a large heap of rice
by its side.  A crowd of negroes, of both sexes, coarsely and uncouthly
clad, were busily filling odd, shallow baskets from this heap, which
they then poised on their heads, and bore off down the slope to some
unseen goal.  There were two regular, silent files, the one coming, the
other going; and the heap of grain steadily and even swiftly
diminished.  Near the mill, stood the only white person visible,--a
large, powerfully-framed man, carelessly and even shabbily dressed, yet
with the unmistakable air of ownership about him.  At his left hand, a
half-naked, impish looking negro boy was holding a blazing pitch-pine
torch, by the light of which he seemed to be jotting down some sort of
memoranda in a small book.

The scene was even more strange and weird than picturesque.  The dark
figures of the negroes, filing noiselessly up the shadowed slope,
suddenly grew distinct, wild, and fantastic, within the circle of
enchantment made by the flaring light of the torch, only to become dim
and spectral again when received back into the dusk.  They might have
passed for embodiments of those vagaries of the mind, which come from
no one knows whither, play their fitful parts within the illuminated
circle of the imagination, and vanish as they came.  The young man
would almost have taken it as a matter of course, had the whole
spectacle suddenly melted into thin air.

Yet, even in that case, he would have expected the masterful personage
aforementioned to have remained, as the one tangible link between the
phantasms and the earth.  In truth, a single glance at his massive
figure, which seemed to have been hewn out of the rock, rather than
moulded from any softer material, went far to disenchant the scene.
Here was a touch of the actual, the substantial, and the dogmatic, not
to be mistaken; and serving as a clue to the reality of everything else.

Toward this personage, after a moment's scrutiny, the young man
unhesitatingly made his way, with the air of one who has found
something certain amid much that is confused, illusory, and perplexing.
He was immediately spied by the negroes, and followed by their curious
gaze; albeit, they ventured not to intermit their labor for an instant,
but contented themselves with slowly and stiffly turning their burdened
heads toward him as they marched on, and keeping their shining black
eyes fixed on him to the last, in such that the heads of the retreating
file seemed to have been set on backwards.  The boy with the torch was
perhaps the most wondering, open-mouthed gazer of them all.

As yet, the master of the premises had not been made aware of the
stranger's approach; but, looking up to reprimand his torch-bearer for
inattention, he observed the imp's dumbfounded gaze, and turned to see
what had caused it.

"My uncle, Mr. Bergan, I presume," said the young man, taking off his
hat, and bowing low: "I am Bergan Arling."  And he added, after a
moment, seeing that the other did not speak, "I bring you a letter from
my mother."



II.

STUDYING TO ANSWER.

Major Bergan--to give him the title by which he was known throughout
the country round--displayed no alacrity of welcome.  He first scanned
his visitor closely from head to foot, and then silently extended his
hand for the letter which the young man had drawn forth from an inner
pocket.

"Hold that light here!" were his first words, in a tone deep as a
thunder-peal, and addressed not to Bergan Arling, but to the aforesaid
torch-bearer.  "And quit your staring, and mind your business, or
I'll--"

The sentence died away in an inarticulate growl, but the boy was
plainly at no loss to understand its purport.  With a startled look, he
fixed his eyes on the torch, and only ventured to withdraw them for an
occasional, furtive glance at the object of his curiosity.  Meanwhile,
his master opened the letter, and read it deliberately from beginning
to end.  The light of the torch fell full upon his face as he did so,
giving Bergan Arling an opportunity to study him, in his turn.

His face was a striking one; in youth it had doubtless been handsome.
Now, his brow was too massive, his mouth too stern, his eyes too cold,
his beard too gray and heavy, to bear any relation to mere personal
beauty.  All soft lights and lines had long gone out of them; what
remained was hard, bold, and rugged, as a rocky headland in winter.
The rude strength which was the marked characteristic of his form,
repeated itself emphatically in his face.  Comparing it with the mental
portrait, carefully touched and retouched by his mother's hand, which
Bergan had carried in his mind since childhood, he felt that the one
resembled the other only as a tree in autumn, stripped bare of its
foliage and its blossoms, resembles the same tree in its gracious
summer bloom and verdure.  Little trace of the frank, proud lineaments,
the warm, yet generous temper, of that ideal picture, was to be found
in this harsh, stubborn, sarcastic face; the face of a man long given
over to the hardening influences of a solitary and a selfish life.  In
short, Major Bergan confirmed anew the old truth that no man can live
long for himself alone, shutting out all gentler ties and amenities,
and driving straight at his own practical ends, unmindful of either the
ways, the opinions, or the feelings of others, without reaping his due
reward in a loss of moral health, and a gradual decay of all his finer
sensibilities and higher instincts.

The only point wherein the real man resembled the ideal one, was in a
certain ineffaceable pride of birth, showing itself not only in his
port, but darkening his harsh features with a heavy shade of hauteur.

Yet a smile might do much to light up and soften the Major's face; and
the smile came when he had finished the letter, and did its work all
the more effectually because it was a somewhat sad one.

"Forty and two years," said he, musingly, "since Eleanor went! Yet I
can see her now, with her bright face and her arch ways!  She was the
sunshine of the old Hall; it has never been the same place since she
left it.  And she would hardly know it, if she were to come back now!
But times change; and we are fools if we do not change with them.
Well, my boy!  I'm glad to see you, and that is not what I would say to
many,--I'm not much in the way of having visitors.  But Eleanor's son
is heartily welcome to the old place."

He took his nephew's hand, shook it cordially, and continued to hold it
in a vice-like grasp, while he once more attentively scanned the young
man's features.

"You are a true Bergan," he said, at length, "I'm glad to see that!
And you have her eyes, too.  Ah, what eyes they used to be! as soft and
bright as any fawn's!  Well! well! it's no use to think of the old
times--they can't come back.  But I am right glad to see you, my boy;
and I take it very kind of Eleanor to have sent you to me.  Is she much
changed?"

"I suppose so," said Bergan, smiling,--"that is, since you knew her.
She has not changed greatly during my remembrance.  She is a
young-looking woman yet, for her years; her eyes are still bright, and
her cheeks rosy.  Our western climate and life have agreed with her
well.  Yet I cannot fancy her a young lady."

"Ah, but you shall see her as a young lady!  There's a portrait of her
in the old house, taken not long before she went away, that does
everything but speak and move.  Indeed, I used to imagine that it did
both, when I had it in my quarters out here, as I did for a time.  But
it gave me the blues so, to look at it, and think how things used to
be, and see how they had altered, that I finally sent it back to its
old place in the portrait gallery.  But how did you get here, at this
hour?"

"I walked from Savalla, leaving my baggage--except this portmanteau--to
come on by stage to-morrow."

"Walked!  A nice little tramp of thirteen miles or more!  Why in the
name of sense didn't you ride?"

"I was too late for the stage, and could not readily find a hack.  To
be sure, I wasted but little time in looking for one; I do not mind
walking, I am used to it."

"That may do very well for the West.  But you'll lose caste, my boy, if
you walk here.  You must have a horse."

"When I can afford it," replied the young man, lightly shrugging his
shoulders.  "Meanwhile, doubtless I shall find my western habit useful,
if vulgar.  But I am not prepared to admit that it is vulgar.  A young
English nobleman, who spent some months in our neighborhood, was a
practised walker; he thought nothing of fifteen or twenty miles, on
occasion.  And if it was 'caste' for him, why not for me?"

"Humph! we Southerners boast a good deal of our English ancestors, but
we don't feel called upon to imitate them!"

With the softening recollections of his youth, the Major had also laid
aside his unwonted gentleness of manner; and the freezing satire of his
last words, though it was doubtful whether he meant it for himself or
his nephew, pained the young man's ear.  Instinctively he dropped the
discussion.

"I forgot to mention," said he, "that I did not walk quite the whole
distance.  A queer old character whom I overtook, insisted upon giving
me a lift to Berganton."

"To Berganton!  What had you to do with Berganton, I should like to
know?"

"I was not aware that the road had been changed; I supposed that I must
needs pass through the village on my way to Bergan Hall.  I intended to
stay there over night, and come to you early in the morning,--I did not
think it right to descend upon you suddenly, late at night.  But
finding myself unexpectedly on the road hither, and almost in sight of
the Hall, I regarded it as an indication of Providence not to be
misunderstood."

"And well you did!" returned the Major, with rude emphasis, "well you
did!  I should have taken it as a direct insult if my sister's son had
slept anywhere in this region, but on the old place.  I wish I could
say, under the old roof," he went on, in a friendlier tone, "but that
leaks like a sieve, and I quitted it long ago.  Of course, it might
have been mended; but, to tell the truth, the old house was much too
big and gloomy and damp and disagreeable to keep bachelor's hall in
comfortably, and I was glad to get out of it.  Besides, I'd had all
sorts of trouble with my overseers, and I decided that the only way to
have things managed to my mind was to manage them myself.  In order to
do that, it was necessary to be on the spot.  So I fixed up my
overseer's cottage into a snug little box for myself, where I'm as
cosey and comfortable as a rat in a rice-heap.  But come in, and see
for yourself how it looks.  Jip, you rascal! why don't you take your
young master's portmanteau?"

The torch-boy caught the portmanteau, and Bergan followed his uncle
into a small cottage at one corner of the quadrangle, so situated as to
command a view both of the mill and the cabins.  The room into which he
was ushered was plainly but comfortably furnished.  A fire of
pitch-pine knots blazed on the hearth, reddening the rough walls and
the bare floor with its pleasant glow.  A slipshod negress, with a gay
turban, was busy laying the table for supper.  The effect was, upon the
whole, cheery, and ought to have been especially so to a tired and
hungry traveller; yet Bergan looked around him with a manifest air of
disappointment.  His uncle noticed it, and remarked, apologetically,

"You would prefer to see the Hall, eh?  Well, you shall see it in the
morning, and I reckon you'll agree with me that it's anything but a
cheerful-looking abode.  Though, if I had known that a nephew of mine
was coming to keep me company, I don't know but I should have stayed
there."

The negress now signified that supper was on the table, the food having
been brought in, ready cooked, from the nearest cabin; and Major Bergan
pointed to a chair opposite his own.

"Sit down, Harry, and fall to.  Your tramp must have given you a right
sharp appetite."

"Thank you.  But, uncle, my name is Bergan, not Harry."

"Not Harry!" repeated the Major, sharply,--"I should like to know the
reason why!  Didn't your mother write that she had named you for me?"

"Yes, certainly.  But she regarded you as the head of the family, and
in giving me the family name--"

"She named you for the whole breed--my degenerate half-brother and
all!" interrupted the Major, bringing his clenched fist down upon the
table with a force that threatened to demolish it.  "I tell you what it
is, sir, I shall not stand any half-way work!  If you are named after
me, you've got to go the whole figure.  Harry Bergan Arling you are,
and Harry Bergan Arling you shall be,--at least as long as you stay in
these parts."

The imperious tone of this speech was by no means agreeable to Bergan's
ear; it was not without an effort that he replied, pleasantly;--

"Call me what you like, uncle.  I shall not refuse to answer to any
name that you are pleased to give me."

Major Bergan was evidently much gratified.  "That's right, my
boy!--we'll shake hands upon that!" he exclaimed, heartily.  "I'm glad
to see that Eleanor has raised her son in the good old fashion of
submission to elders.  Bless my soul!  I thought it was entirely
obsolete.  Young men round here know more at twenty than the fathers
that begot them.  As for obedience, they leave that to the negroes."

The meal was abundant and substantial.  It consisted of a single
course, of bacon, vegetables, and corn-bread, very simply, not to say
rudely, served.  It would seem that the master of the feast cared no
more for refinements of table than of manner.  Here, as elsewhere, were
to be seen the pernicious effects of his solitary mode of life.  He ate
greedily; he forgot his duties as host, or they came but tardily to his
remembrance; he fell into fits of abstraction, and started as from a
dream at the sound of his nephew's voice.  Yet tokens were not wanting
that he had once been well versed in the art of external manners.  At
intervals, answering involuntarily, as it were, to the touch of
Bergan's fine, natural courtesy, the gentlemanly instincts of earlier
days revived, and flung a momentary grace around his words and actions.
It was like the sunbeams that occasionally glimmer out over a cloudy
landscape, attracting the gaze even more surely than any full blaze of
splendor, yet causing a certain impatience, as if they ought either to
kindle into satisfactory brightness, or be wholly extinguished.  The
rudeness of his ordinary manner was only thrown into bolder relief by
these flashes of a half-extinct good breeding.

To meet the demands of thirst, a bottle of brandy, and another of
water, stood by Major Bergan's plate; which, after filling his own
glass, he pushed over to his nephew.

"There, Harry! that is what will put new life into you, after your
journey."

"Thank you; but I seldom use brandy."

"A little too strong for you, eh?" returned the Major, indulgently.
"Well, there's a stock of wine in the cellar of the Hall,--I reckon
some of it must be fifty or sixty years old, it has been there ever
since I can remember,--I'll send for a bottle or two of that."  And he
uplifted a stentorian call of "Jip," which brought that
urchin-of-all-work to the door, in breathless haste.

"Uncle,"--began Bergan, but the Major was thundering out minute
directions about cellars, and keys, and tiers, and labels, and either
could not, or would not, hear.

"I am sorry that you have given yourself the trouble," said Bergan,
when quiet was restored.  "I do not care for wine."

Major Bergan set down his glass, and looked at his nephew sternly and
gloomily.  "Don't tell me that you are a mean-spirited teetotaller," he
growled.  "I can't say how I might take it.  There never was a milksop
in the family yet."

"No, I am hardly that.  But I am not accustomed to use spirituous
liquors of any sort.  And I certainly do not need them.  I am in
perfect health; I hardly know what it is to feel tired."

"I wish I didn't!" muttered his uncle, a little less savagely.  "I'm
pretty hearty, for my years, to be sure.  But an ache gets into my
bones now and then, just to remind me that I am not so young as I was
once.  And the best thing to rout it is a good glass of brandy.  Better
take one?"

"Not if you will be so good as to excuse me," replied Bergan, with a
smile so frank, and a gesture so courteous, that the Major was
irresistibly mollified.

"A guest's wish is a command," said he, with one of his rare glimmers
of courtesy.  "But here comes the wine!  I really cannot excuse you
from that,--at least, I should be very loath to do so.  I'll even join
you in a glass.  Here's to your mother's health and happiness!--you
won't refuse to drink that, not on the place where she was raised."

If Bergan was annoyed by his uncle's persistency, he forebore to show
it.  But, having duly honored the toast, he pushed his glass aside, and
declined every invitation to have it refilled.

"Well, well," said his uncle, at last, in a tone of resignation, "we
won't quarrel about it now.  But I see that your education is
incomplete, and I shall take it upon myself to finish it.  If I don't
teach you to drink like a gentleman, in a month, I shall know that you
are no true Bergan, in spite of your looks."

Bergan only smiled.

"Your temperance is the one thing I don't like about you," pursued his
uncle, filling his own glass to the brim.  "Ah, yes, there's one
more;--your mother writes that you have studied law, and mean to
practise it."

"Yes; I received my license just two months ago."

"Humph! it's well named!  'License,' indeed!  Licensed to lie, cheat,
steal,--or, at least, to help others to do so, which amounts to the
same thing.  No, no, Harry; it may be well to know law enough to keep
from being imposed upon, but a Bergan can't stoop to practise it.
Lawyers are, without exception, a set of miserable, lying, sneaking
pettifoggers.  You could drop the souls of a dozen into a child's
thimble, and they'd rattle in the end of it after she had put it on her
finger."

Bergan's cheek flushed a little, but he was more impressed by the comic
than the provoking side of his uncle's dogged prejudice, and he only
answered, good-humoredly;--

"I am sorry that you should have had occasion to think so badly of the
profession.  I shall feel that it is incumbent upon me to make you
change your opinion."

"Never!" growled Major Bergan, with an oath.  "You would find it easier
to lift the Gibraltar rock on the point of a needle.  Unless," he
added, after a moment, "you can tell me how to make a suit lie against
Godfrey Bergan.  I've been trying it for ten years, and I've spent
money enough to buy another plantation as large as this."

"My uncle Godfrey!" exclaimed Bergan, in much surprise.  "Why, what has
he done?"

"You had better not call him your 'uncle Godfrey' in my hearing,"
responded the Major, grimly.  "In ceasing to be my half-brother, he
ceased to be your uncle.  Done!  What hasn't he done?  First, he got
his head filled with cursed abolitionist notions, and freed all his
slaves.  Next, he offered the greater part of his land for sale at
public auction;--just think of it! some of the old lands of Bergan Hall
put up to be knocked down to the highest bidder!  But I settled _that_
business, by proclaiming far and wide that whoever bid for them might
expect to reckon with me for his impertinence; and as I'm known to be a
man of my word, no one dared to lift his voice at the sale, and I got
them at my own price.  Finally Godfrey capped the climax of his
degeneracy by opening a hardware store in Berganton.  Think of that,
Hairy!--a Bergan of Bergan Hall, with a long pedigree of warriors and
nobles at his back, standing behind a counter, selling hoes and
tea-kettles to negroes and crackers!"

Bergan was silent.  Though not without some touch of family pride,
derived from his mother, he had nevertheless been taught to believe all
upright labor honorable, to hold that life was ennobled from within, by
its motive and aim, rather than from without, by its place and form.
He could not help suspecting, therefore, that his host, deliberately
leading the narrow life of an overseer of slaves, on his ancestral
estate, was in reality a more degenerate son of his house than the
relative whom he so bitterly contemned.  Yet he foresaw that any
attempt to defend Godfrey Bergan would but result in bringing down upon
himself a torrent of fierce, half-drunken vituperation.  Seasoned
vessel though he were, the Major's repeated draughts of brandy, very
little diluted, had not been without effect, in flushing his face, and
inflaming his habitually irritable temper.  His present mood would ill
brook contradiction.

Fortunately, he neither expected nor waited for an answer.  Hastily
emptying his glass and filling it again, he went on.

"Now, Harry, if you can tell me any way by which I can ruin his
business, turn him out of his house, and make him quit the country,
I'll own that I've done the law an injustice, and give you a handsome
fee besides.  Can the thing be done?"

Bergan silently shook his head; he would not trust himself to speak.

"Just as I told you!" exclaimed the Major, with great virulence of
expression.  "The law has plenty of quibbles and quirks for the help of
rogues and scoundrels, but it can't lend a hand to an honest cause, at
a pinch!  I'll none of it, Harry!  I'll none of it!  Get what you know
of it out of your head as soon as you can."

The Major paused long enough to empty his glass, and then resumed, in a
more amiable tone.  "The best thing you can do, Harry, is to stay here
with me; I'll make a rice-planter of you.  It doesn't take a ninny for
that, by any means; your talents will not be thrown away.  And if we
suit each other,--as I think we shall,--I'll give you Bergan Hall when
my title to it expires.  To be sure, I'm strong and hearty yet; but no
one lasts forever.  And as you are named for me, and I like your looks,
I would rather give it to you than anybody else.  In fact, I've had it
in my mind, for some time, to write to Eleanor and ask her to do just
what she has done,--send one of her boys to live with me, and be my
heir."

"You mistake," said Bergan, quickly, "neither my mother nor myself had
any such idea.  She merely wished me to consult you about commencing my
profession in--"

"Tut! tut!  Harry," interrupted his uncle, "I meant it, if you and she
did not.  And I mean it more than ever now; that is, if you'll yield to
my wish about the law.  But if you persist in sticking to that, I give
you up, once for all--mind, I give you up!"

"I should deserve to be given up," replied Bergan, smiling, "if I were
lightly to forsake a vocation for which I am fitted both by taste and
education, to enter upon one of which I know absolutely nothing.  I may
reasonably hope to succeed as a lawyer; I fear I should make but a poor
planter.  Moreover, it would not suit me to be dependent upon any one."

"Stuff! nonsense!" exclaimed Major Bergan, bluntly.  "I defy you to
make a poor planter under my tuition,--I claim to understand that
business.  As for dependence, never you fear but that I shall get aid
and comfort enough out of you to make our accounts square.  For, after
all, Harry, it is a dreary kind of a life that I'm leading, without
chick or child, kith or kin, to speak to, or to care for.  I cannot
help asking myself, sometimes, what is the good of it all, and how Is
it to end.  But with a fine young fellow like you here, to enter into
my plans now, and carry them out after I'm gone,--why, it would be like
a fresh lease of life to me!  We'll rebuild the old house, you shall
drop the 'Arling,' and behold the seventh Harry Bergan of Bergan Hall,
on _this_ side the water!  And really, I don't see how you can do
better, Harry.  Here are wealth, position, influence, and a chance to
oblige your old uncle,--ready to your hand.  Stay, my boy, stay!"

The Major's bluff voice had sunken to a hoarse tone of sadness, in his
confession of loneliness, and finally, to one of entreaty, that touched
his nephew's heart.  Nor was the prospect held up before him without
its own peculiar and powerful attraction.  He looked thoughtfully into
the fire, debating with himself what and how he should reply.  His
uncle watched him keenly for a moment, and then said, in his kindest
tone and manner;--

"Well, Harry, I won't press you for an answer, now.  Stay here a month
or two, and look around you; and then, we'll talk the matter over
again, and see if we cannot settle upon something that shall be
mutually satisfactory.  For so long, surely, you can afford to be my
guest."



III.

"PATTERN OF OLD FIDELITY."

Before Bergan could answer, there came a low tap at the door.  A negro
woman, of unusual height, and singularly venerable and dignified
aspect, stood, courtesying slightly, on the threshold.  She was plainly
of great age,--her face was deeply furrowed, and her hair, where it
could be seen under the dark blue kerchief that covered her head, was
white as snow,--yet her shoulders had not bent under the burden of
years, her tall frame, though gaunt, was little palsied by the touch of
actual infirmity.  Although she carried a cane, it was not so much for
its support, as for its aid in feeling out her way along her accustomed
paths; she had been blind for many years.

"Master Harry," said she, clasping her hands over the head of her cane,
and speaking in slow, somewhat tremulous tones, but with neither the
slovenly utterance nor the vicious pronunciation of the ordinary
slave,--"Master Harry, excuse me if I interrupt you, but I could not
wait any longer,--I wanted so much to see Miss Eleanor's son!"

"It is Maumer Rue," said Major Bergan, not only with unwonted kindness
of tone, but with something akin to respect in his manner;--"your
mother must have spoken to you of our old nurse, Harry?"

"Indeed she has!" exclaimed Bergan, earnestly, starting up to take the
blind woman's hand.  "Your name has always been a household word with
us.  The story of your devotion to my mother, in saving her from the
flames, at the risk of your own life, and with the ultimate loss of
your sight, was the one story of which we children never used to tire.
Probably we felt, in our vague, childish way, that it was the one which
came from the profoundest depth in her own heart,--since she could
never tell it to us without a little tremor in her voice, and a soft
dewiness in her eyes,--and that was the secret of its charm for us.
You may be sure that she has never forgotten how much she owes you!"

The old woman's lips trembled, and large tears gathered in her
sightless eyes.  "The Lord bless my dear young lady!" she ejaculated
fervently,--"I knew she would never forget her old maumer.  And it's
like her to make much of my little service; but I did nothing but what
was my duty--nothing."

"She thinks otherwise," replied Bergan, kindly.  "She regards it as one
of those rare instances of courage and devotion, for which the whole
world is better and brighter.  She bade me give you her kindest love,
and tell you that you must not despair of meeting her once more, even
on this side the grave.  When the new railroad is finished, as far as
our place,--which it promises to be in a year or two,--she fully
intends to revisit her childhood's home, and look once more upon the
faces of her childhood's friends.  She furthermore charged me to pay
you an early visit, in your own quarters, and tell you everything about
her western home and life that you might care to hear."

"How kind of Miss Eleanor to think of that!" responded the blind woman,
delightedly.  "It shows that she's just her own old self, always trying
to think what everybody would like, and then doing her best to give it
to them.  Of course, there's a hundred questions that I should like to
ask about her; and if you really don't mind answering them, and will do
me the honor to step into my little cabin, some day when you're passing
by, I shall be more obliged to you than I can rightly tell.  But as to
my ever seeing Miss Eleanor again,--I beg your pardon, sir; you see
I've not yet learned to say Mrs. Arling,--though there's nothing on
earth that would make me so glad as to meet her again, and hear the
sound of her sweet, cheery voice, yet I'm getting to be too old to dare
to reckon much upon the future.  But the next best thing to meeting
her, is to meet her son, here on the old place; and I thank the Lord
that He has let me live long enough for that."

The old negress bent her head devoutly for a moment, and then turned to
Major Bergan.  "Does he favor Miss Eleanor much, Master Harry?" she
asked.

"Yes, he is a good deal like her, maumer; he has her eyes exactly.  But
he is even more like what I was forty years ago; it really makes me
feel young again to look at him.  He's a real Bergan, I can tell you
that."

Maumer Rue smiled as if well pleased; yet the smile seemed a little
burdened with sadness, too; and Bergan saw that it was followed by a
look of extreme wistfulness.

"Can I do anything for you?" he asked, kindly.

"Nothing, master,--unless--if it is not asking too much,--and if you
would not mind the touch of an old woman's fingers, that have to serve
her instead of eyes, I could get so much clearer an idea of your
looks,--" and she finished the sentence by raising her hand
significantly toward his face.

Bergan was much moved.  "Of course I should not mind," said he, drawing
near to her;--"examine me as closely as you like.  It would be strange
indeed if there were anything unpleasant to me in the touch of hands
that have done so much for my mother!"

"It's easy to see that you are Miss Eleanor's son, you have just her
kind, pleasant ways," responded the blind woman, gratefully.  "He is a
little taller than you, Master Harry," she continued, turning toward
the Major, as she laid her hand on Bergan's head,--"yes, just a little
taller, though not much."

"All the better for that," remarked the Major, parenthetically, "the
Bergans must not degenerate."

Maumer Rue went on, without noticing the interruption; passing her
fingers lightly over Bergan's features, as she spoke.  "His brow is
square and full, like yours, and he has the same straight nose; but his
eyes are not so deep-set, nor his eyebrows so heavy.  His jaw is like
yours, too,--the set, square jaw of the Bergans,--but his mouth is more
like Miss Eleanor's:--a sweet, pleasant mouth she had, the mouth of the
Habershams, her mother's family.  Yet it could be firm enough, too,
when there was need; our Miss Eleanor had plenty of character.  And I'm
right glad to see that you are so much like her; you couldn't resemble
any one better or handsomer."

She made a slight pause, and then added, in a half-humorous way,--"I
reckon she couldn't give you any spice of the 'black Bergan temper,' as
she had none of it herself."

"I am afraid she did," answered Bergan, laughing, yet coloring, too;
"and many a scrape it has gotten me into, before now.  But I hope that
I am learning to control it a little."

"I don't see why you should," broke in the Major, gruffly.  "The Bergan
temper is an heir-loom to be proud of; it identifies the breed.  It has
run in the blood from time immemorial.  A Bergan without it--that is, a
male, of course a woman counts for nothing--would be no Bergan at all."

"You say true, Master Harry," rejoined Rue, composedly; "it's always
run in the blood, and heated it more than was good for it, many a time.
Yet, now and then, there has been a Bergan who has learned how to keep
it under, and been all the better for doing it.  You surely must
recollect what a mild, kind gentleman your father was, young as you
were when he died; and I've heard say that there never was a truer
Bergan, or one more respected all the country through."

The Major made a grimace, and muttered something unintelligible, in a
tone half of acquiescence, half of irritation.

Rue turned again to Bergan.  "You have been very patient with an old
woman's talk, and an old woman's infirmity," said she, with a kind of
natural dignity,--"I will not trouble you any longer.  Good night, and
thank you, Master--what name shall I say?"

Bergan hesitated, and looked doubtfully at his uncle.

"He says his name is Bergan," explained the Major, shortly; "but I have
given him to understand that he is to be known by my own name, Harry,
while he stays here."

Rue shook her head.  "There can be but one Master Harry for me," she
said quietly,--"the one that I nursed as a babe and petted as a child,
the one that I have lived with so many years, and who has always been
so kind to me--kinder even than he has been to himself.  So please let
me call him Master Bergan; but, of course, the rest of the people will
give him any name that you say."

"Of course they will," returned the Major, haughtily, "or I'll know the
reason why.  As for you, maumer, I shall let you do as you please;
you've had your own way too long to be balked of it now.  But take care
that the others don't hear and imitate you,--or you know what they'll
get.".

"Thank you, Master Harry," replied Rue, as gratefully as if the assent
had been more graciously given,--"you are always good to your poor old
maumer.  Good night."  And she turned to go.

But on the threshold, she paused, and lifted her sightless face toward
the dim night-sky, across which dark clouds were swiftly scudding.

"Master Harry," said she, suddenly, "do you remember how I told you,
six months ago, that the Bergan star was set, and how angry you were?"

"Yes, yes, I remember," exclaimed the Major, hoarsely and
eagerly,--"what of it?"

She slowly raised her right hand, and pointed skyward, with a strange,
intent, watchful expression in her uplifted "See! it is rising!" said
she; "it comes up through the clouds,--they try to hold it back, but
they cannot,--it grows brighter! it rises higher!--ah!"--drawing her
breath hard and gaspingly,--"it stops--it goes down again!--the clouds
cover it!--it is--No! it is not gone! it shines faintly behind the
clouds--it breaks through--slowly, slowly, slowly,--it rises! it rises!"

Yielding, half-unconsciously, to the powerful influence of the blind
woman's rapt, ecstatic manner, Bergan had drawn near to her, and now
saw, with surprise, a single star shining for a moment through the
rifts of the clouds.  Glancing at the Major, whom he had before seen to
be hanging with breathless interest upon the words of the old negress,
he perceived that his eyes were fixed upon it also, with a gaze that
was half-awed, half-triumphant.  He knew not what to think.

Maumer Rue still stood in the same commanding attitude, with raised
hand, and intent, uplooking face.  Suddenly, her arm fell by her side;
her head drooped on her breast; the majesty that had informed her pose
and gesture went out like an expiring flame; she shivered, tottered,
and would have fallen but for the Major's prompt support.  Without a
word, he guided her safely to the door of her cabin.

Coming back, he reseated himself at the table, which had been cleared
of everything but the bottles and glasses, and hastily poured out and
swallowed some raw brandy.  Then he remarked, in a half-explanatory and
half-apologetic tone,--

"She enjoys the reputation of a seer, or prophetess, among the negroes;
and I really think she has some faith in it herself.  Certainly, she
seems to have strange visions now and then; and some of her predictions
have come true; I confess she puzzles even me.  At all events, she is
the best and most faithful old creature that ever lived.  She was born
on the estate, brought up in the Hall with my father and his sisters,
shared their education, is thoroughly steeped in the family traditions,
duly infected with the family pride, and entirely devoted to the family
interests.  She is the only person that I allow to do pretty much as
she pleases; her long and faithful services to my father, Eleanor, and
myself, deserve that much, I think.  And really, she is of great use to
me; I scarcely know what I should do without her.  The negroes all
believe her to be a hundred years old--undoubtedly she is past
ninety--and that, together with her reputation as a prophetess, gives
her great power over them, and saves me a heap of trouble in managing
them.  She has very good judgment, too, in many things; I frequently
take her advice, and never yet had occasion to regret doing so.
Indeed, it was chiefly at her instigation and entreaty that I had made
up my mind, as I told you, to write to your mother about sending me one
of her sons."

He paused for a moment, and then asked, in a careless tone, but with a
quick, keen glance at his nephew, from under his shaggy brows,--"Did
you see that star?"

"Yes," answered Bergan.  "It was a curious coincidence."

"Hum--very," returned his uncle, evidently not quite satisfied with
this view of the matter.  But he said no more.

The conversation now turned into various other channels.  It touched
for a brief space upon the indefatigable quoter of proverbs whom Bergan
had overtaken on his way to the Hall; and whom the Major declared to be
the only living representative of one of the oldest and most
influential families in the county.  He had been reared in affluence,
had been educated in Europe, and had inherited a large fortune and a
fine estate.  But he had early fallen into bad habits,--not so much
from viciousness of temper and taste, as from weakness of will and
consequent inability to resist temptation,--had run a short, rapid
career of folly, extravagance, and dissipation, in which he had
frittered away his inheritance, and so had gradually sunken into his
present state of semi-vagabondage.  He lived, by sufferance, in a
little cabin, on one corner of the estate which he had formerly owned.
From his wholesale shipwreck of fortune, position, will, energy, and
hope, he had saved but one thing--his love of proverbs.  It had even
grown stronger in proportion as other things wasted and failed,--like a
plant striking deep root into soil enriched by the decay of many sister
plants.  He had learned several languages solely for the sake of their
proverbs; he had even been seen to hesitate and waver long between the
diverse, but powerful, attractions of a bottle of ardent spirits and a
dingy, old collection of saws, when but one came within the compass of
his purse; and he was known far and wide by the _sobriquet_ of "Proverb
Dick."  His real name was Richard Causton.

In listening to this history, Bergan could not but be struck by the
curiously discriminating character of the Major's animadversion.  He
had little, or nothing, to say in disapproval of the depraved and
ungovernable appetite for strong drink which, it was easy to see, had
played so important part in ruining poor Richard Causton; while he
could find no words strong enough to express his bitter contempt for
the flabby will, the pitiable irresolution, and the insane
extravagance, which had joined hands with that appetite for his
complete destruction.  Tender, as a mother to her babe, over the fault
which he knew himself to possess (if he secretly acknowledged it to be
a fault), Major Bergan was merciless to the weaknesses from which he
was saved by a hardier will and a more energetic temperament.

But as the evening wore on, and the brandy slowly worked its way up to
the stronghold of his brain, the Major's talk grew discursive, profane,
and incoherent; until Bergan, shocked and pained, and anxious to escape
from the mortifying spectacle, pleaded fatigue, and begged permission
to retire.  Jip was accordingly summoned, and he was conducted to a
little, low room under the cottage roof, where his portmanteau had been
bestowed, and some little provision made for his comfort.

Here Bergan quickly threw himself on the bed, to find, for the first
time in his life, that it was one thing to woo the fair maiden Sleep,
and another to win her.  Recollections of his western home, of his
mother, of the ancestral traditions on which his childish imagination
had fed, of his youthful studies and aspirations, of his recent
journey, and the disappointment in which it had ended, mingled with
half-conceived plans and half-acknowledged hopes,--a vague, changeable,
teasing, tireless procession of thoughts and images,--filed slowly
through his mind, compelling his reluctant gaze, and blocking up every
avenue to Slumberland.  And if, for an instant, the vexing march
stopped, and the importunate images began to waver and blend, sounds of
stamping feet, of jingling glass, of muttered oaths and sentences, or
two or three half-sung, half-shouted lines of a drunken ditty, coming
up from below, startled him once more into wakefulness, and told him
that his uncle's solitary debauch was not yet ended.  It was already
gray dawn when, worn out with restlessness, he fell into a brief
slumber, and dreamed that old Rue, with the Bergan star in her hand,
was beckoning him to follow her over a dreary, desolate country, full
of briers and pitfalls, wherein he was so constantly entangled that, in
spite of his best endeavors, he could never get any nearer to her.
Turning suddenly, she flashed the star into his eyes, and:--oh, horror
of horrors!--he was blind!

Starting up, all in a tremble, he found that the risen sun was shining
full in his face, through the uncurtained window.  It was morning.



IV.

A GOODLY HERITAGE.

Early as was the hour, Bergan found the table already laid for
breakfast in the room below, where he was soon joined by the Major.  He
brought with him (besides a noticeable odor of brandy), a cordial
morning greeting, and a temper which, though by no means urbane, had a
certain, flavor of bluff good nature, in pleasing contrast with his
extreme irritability of the preceding evening.  Encouraged by these and
similar signs of a clearer mental atmosphere, Bergan ventured to
mention his uncle Godfrey, and to remark that he had been charged with
a letter to him from his mother, which he must take an early
opportunity to deliver.

"Eh! what?" asked the Major, laying down his knife and fork, with the
look and tone of a man who doubts the evidence of his own senses.

Bergan quietly repeated his words.

The Major's face grew dark, and his eyebrows met in a heavy frown.  "I
shall take it mighty hard of you, if you do," said he, sternly and
gloomily.  "I tell you, Harry, he is no Bergan at all, and he ought not
to be treated like one.  Eleanor would never have written to him, nor
desired you to visit him, if she had known the true state of
affairs;--you can safely take that for granted, and act accordingly.
Besides," he went on, after a slight pause, "it is only fair to warn
you that any one who goes from Bergan Hall over to Oakstead (that's
what he calls his place), doesn't come back again,--with my consent.
There's no relation, nor commerce, nor sympathy, nor liking, between
the two places; and there never can be any while I live,--nor after I
am dead, either, if I can help it.  So just put that matter out of your
head, Harry, and say no more about it."

Bergan looked down, and the color rose to his brow.  Without seeking to
know the merits of the quarrel between his two uncles, he nevertheless
felt that the abject submission, the complete surrender of principle
and will, expected of him by Major Bergan, was simply impossible; and
he began to wonder if it were not his wisest course to place himself at
once on tenable ground, by saying that, while he should always be glad
of his uncle's advice, and ready to give all due and respectful
consideration to his wishes, yet, in matters involving questions of
right and duty, the final appeal must needs be to his own conscience.
Something of this sort was upon his lips, when the Major spoke again,
and in a more amiable tone.

"I am really sorry, for your sake, Harry, that things are just as they
are," said he.  "Of course, it is not agreeable to you to run thus
unexpectedly against a family feud;--I really ought to have written
Eleanor about it, but I thought to spare her the knowledge of her
half-brother's disgrace.  Besides, as Godfrey is our nearest neighbor,
it might be pleasant to be on visiting terms, if he and his were only
the right sort of company to keep."

"I think he has children near my own age," remarked Bergan.

"Not now.  His two eldest died a few years ago."

"Ah, yes; I remember hearing of it when I was in college."

"He has but one left--a daughter," pursued the Major.  "A pretty,
bright little thing she was, too, as a child; I was really quite fond
of her, and she used to spend half her time here,--that is, in the old
Hall;--and Maumer Rue almost idolized her, because she fancied that she
was something like what Eleanor was at her age.  She even used to run
away and come over here, after the trouble began; but I reckon they
must have found it out, and put a stop to it."  And the Major ground
his teeth at the recollection, as if he owed his brother an especial
grudge on this very head.  "However," he went on, "it is better so; for
though I could never have found it in my heart to be unkind to the
child,--so fond of me as she was, too!--yet I want nothing to do with
anybody, or anything, that belongs to Godfrey; and so I am glad, on the
whole, that she stopped coming.  Doubtless, she will soon merge the
name of Bergan into Smith, or Brown, or something equally desirable;
and as Godfrey has no son, to bear his patronymic and carry on his
business, we may hope that there will be an end of _them_."

The last words were spoken with ineffable contempt.  Then, suddenly
rising, as if to dismiss the subject, the Major remarked, with an
entire change of tone and manner:--

"But I must not sit here chatting any longer, for I suspect that
Ben--that's my head driver--is waiting for instructions.  Will you come
with me, or do you prefer to amuse yourself about home?"

"I will go with you, uncle, if you are willing."

"Both willing and glad.  Come on."

Bergan followed his uncle out into the quadrangle,--here called the
"street,"--and found it to be, for the most part, silent and deserted.
The cabins, many of which, on the evening previous, had been brightened
by a little gleam of firelight within, or vivified by moving figures,
were now closed and locked, the occupants being away at work in the
fields.  They were all neatly whitewashed; and they stood well apart
from each other, leaving room for little gardens between, where
vegetables, and, occasionally, flowers, were growing.  Here and there,
too, a pig rooted and grunted in a rude sty; or hens and chickens
fluttered and cackled, in their busy, enlivening fashion, around the
door.

One of the buildings, of considerable size, and two stories high, where
several women and children, with peculiar haggard, heavy, listless, and
withal resigned faces, were lying or sitting around the porch, Bergan
easily recognized as the infirmary.  Another, seemingly stuffed with
babies and young children, under the charge of several half-grown girls
and one superannuated old woman, he knew to be the day-nursery; for the
safe bestowal of the infant population of the quarter, during their
mothers' absence in the fields.  Here, Maumer Rue seemed to be making a
visit of inspection; though invisible herself, the slow tones of her
voice, exhorting one of the young nurses to greater watchfulness,
sounded distinctly from within; and becoming quickly aware of the
approach of her master and his guest, she came to the door, and made
them a stately courtesy, as they passed.

Quite apart from the quarter, yet within sight, stood a cabin of
especially rude and forlorn aspect; the open door of which disclosed a
strong stake driven into the ground in its centre, and divers rusty
chains, handcuffs, padlocks, _et cetera_, hanging round its sides.
This was the prison.  Human justice being thus provided with a fitting
abode, Bergan involuntarily looked around in search of a corresponding
dwelling for Heaven's mercy, in the shape of a little cross-tipped
church or chapel,--but saw none.

Major Bergan first stopped at the threshing-mill, where Engine (that is
to say "Engineer") Jack, a remarkably intelligent negro,--and an
exceedingly black one as well,--was waiting to bring to his master's
notice certain slight repairs necessary to the machinery.  While the
needful discussion was going on, Bergan looked around him, the better
to understand the topography of the place.

He observed that Bergan Hall, the roof of which he saw afar off, rising
among the trees, was situated upon a considerable elevation,--a sort of
bluff, overlooking a small inlet, or arm of the sea.  To this
circumstance, Major Bergan owed his ability to live upon his plantation
throughout the year, instead of fleeing therefrom, like most of his
class, at the approach of summer.  For, just when the home-scenery
takes on its most tender and fascinating grace,--when the rice-fields
are green as the meadows of paradise,--when the temple-like oak-glades
are most beautiful with gentle gloom and glinting sunshine,--when every
thicket has its garland of bloom, and every tree has its clinging,
flowering vine,--when the sweet-smelling pine-woods are glittering with
the gorgeous coloring, and melodious with the multifarious voice, of
thousands of birds and insects;--Just then, the rice-planter has to
flee for his life from its final, treacherous charm---the soft-shining
mist, the deadly malaria, that creeps up at night from the marshes, and
covers the land like a sea.  If he lingers for but one ramble in the
fair, moon-lighted, and moss-festooned avenues, through that silver
haze, fever walks by his side under the grand arches, and death waits
for him at the end of the alluring vistas.

From this terror and this necessity, the owner of Bergan Hall was free.
His vast plantation stretched across the border-line which divides the
pestilential rice-swamps from the healthful sea-islands; one extremity
touching the river, and the other the ocean.  At one time, its chief
revenue was derived from the far-famed sea-island cotton, to the
production of which its sea-board portion was well-adapted, but as that
crop declined, and the rice-crop rose, in value, its neglected
swamp-lands were gradually reclaimed and brought under cultivation; and
were now the most valuable portion of the estate.  Too remote from
Bergan Hall to poison it, or its vicinity, with their malaria, they
were yet quite near enough for necessary superintendence.

The negro quarter lay somewhat lower than the Hall.  On its left, the
ground sloped gradually down to a little creek; where lay several
flat-boats loaded with rice, to show what had been the goal of the
negro procession of the previous evening.  Along the opposite bank ran
a dark fringe of pines.

Horses were now brought.  The one assigned to Bergan was a superb
blooded filly, full of life and fire.  While he stood taking delighted
note of her many fine points, she sniffed round him in half-wild,
half-curious fashion,--now starting quickly back, now timidly drawing
near,--and ended by frankly putting her nose in his hand, as if in
token of amity.  Nor had he been long on her back, ere he felt, with an
electric thrill of pleasure, that perfect sympathy between horse and
rider, that singular blending of their identity, which is the purest
delight of horsemanship, and best explains the fable of the Centaur.

"How do you like her?" asked his uncle, at this juncture.

"Exceedingly," replied Bergan, with enthusiastic emphasis.  "I think
that I never rode anything more admirable."

"Henceforth, then, she belongs to you.  And never mind the thanks,--I
am really glad to hand her over to a fitting master.  She is too much
given to dancing and frolicking for my use,---my sober-paced stallion
meets my wants a great deal better;--consequently, Vic--that's her
name, short for Victoria,--Vic stands in the stable, eating her head
and kicking her heels off, for the greater part of the time.  She will
be much happier in the hands of a master young enough to sympathize
with her."

Bergan could not fail to be delighted with a gift so generous and so
timely; bestowed, too, with a delicacy of manner, an appearance of
asking a favor instead of conferring one, in strong contrast with his
uncle's wonted bluntness.  Visions of long, solitary rides of
exploration rose fascinatingly before him.  Nor would he suffer his
pleasure to be alloyed by any insidious doubt lest the gift might some
day take the form of an unpleasant obligation.

The road ran along the bank of the creek, passing divers fields under
cultivation, and divers others long "turned out,"--that is, exhausted,
and left to lapse back into their primitive pine-barrenness.  In the
course of an hour, the two gentlemen came upon a second negro quarter,
considerably larger than the first, but with the same general
characteristics, even to the threshing-mill.  This one, however, ran by
water power, instead of steam.

The horses were here left in charge of a negro, while the gentlemen
walked over to the rice fields.  They soon came into view, stretching,
almost as far as the eye could reach, along the bank of a broad, turbid
river.  Bergan speedily became much interested in their complicated
system of dykes, ditches, canals, and gates; as well as in watching the
dusky laborers, both men and women, that were busy therein.  Leaving
details for results, however, he could not but be impressed with the
fact that a vast amount of hard work was annually done, and a rich and
remunerative crop annually reaped.  Plainly, Major Bergan was an
energetic, skilful manager.

On his part, the Major was greatly pleased with his nephew's
intelligent interest, and predicted, more than once, that he would make
a rice-planter of him, in due time, who would show his neighbors "what
was what."

The sun was half way down the western slope, when the uncle and nephew
returned to the cottage.  Dinner over, the Major civilly expressed his
regret that he was unexpectedly called to another part of the
plantation.  Bergan could accompany him; or--not to disappoint him of
his promised visit to the old Hall--he could get the keys of Maumer
Rue, and explore it by himself.

Bergan eagerly caught at the latter alternative.  Nor, to do him
justice, was the Major at all displeased thereby.  Without troubling
himself to analyze his own emotions, he yet felt an unconquerable
aversion to the task of showing his nephew through the deserted home of
his forefathers.  Though little accustomed to care for the opinions or
the feelings of others, he foresaw an inevitable mortification in
looking with Bergan upon the ruin and desolation for which he knew
himself to be so largely responsible; since, if he had not invited the
ravages of time, he had put forth no hand to stay them.  Perhaps this
feeling was strong enough, even, to lend to the business that called
him away, an imperative aspect which it might otherwise have lacked.

Bergan, on his part, was well content to dispense with his uncle's
guidance.  Not only would his presence be a constraint upon his own
irrepressible emotions of sadness, regret, and, possibly, indignation;
but there would be a rare, subtile charm in wandering alone through
precincts at once so familiar and so strange, in finding out for
himself (or led only by the shadowy image of his maiden mother), spots
hallowed by the tender touch of oldtime joys and sorrows, and nooks and
corners darkened not more by mould and cobwebs than by the clinging
dust of immemorial family tradition.

First, however, Major Bergan requested his companionship as far as the
stable.  There they found a bright looking boy, somewhat older than
Jip, who had just finished rubbing down the filly of which Bergan had
so lately become the master, and now stood regarding the result with
great apparent satisfaction.

"Well, Brick," said the Major, sternly, "I hope you've done better than
you did last time."

"Yes, massa, she done berry fine, I'se sure,--spec' I put a right smart
hour on her.  Look a dar, now, don' she shine?"

The Major examined her carefully, and finding nothing to fault, silent.
It was not his way to waste words in commendation.  He merely turned
from the horse to the negro, and asked, pointing to Bergan,--

"You see that young gentleman?"

"Yis, massa; sartin, massa."  And Brick made an embarrassed bow,
uncertain whither this conversation might tend.

"Well, that's Vic's master, and yours.  It's your business to take care
of her, and wait on him,--that is, do everything he tells you.
Hereafter, you are to go to him for orders."

And quickly mounting his own horse, the Major rode off, without waiting
for thanks or comments.

Bergan stood looking doubtfully at his new acquisition.  Property of
this kind gave him a novel sensation; he could not tell, on the
instant, whether he liked it or no.  Nevertheless, he recognized the
inexpediency of discussing the matter with the dusky chattel himself;
who, to represent him fairly, seemed in nowise displeased with his
change of owners.  He had opened his eyes a trifle wider at his sudden
transfer, and uttered a mechanical, "Yis, massa,"--that was all.  He
now stood, tattered hat in hand, waiting for orders.  Bergan was
somewhat disconcerted to find that he had none to give.  Finally, he
asked,--

"What is your name?"

"Rubric, sah.  But dey mos'ly calls me Brick."

"Ah, yes, I see.  And your family name?"

"Hain't got no family, sah."

"Your father's name, I mean."

"Nebber had any fader, sah.  He sold down souf, fore I's born."

"Your second name, then."

"Same's yours, massa, I s'pose."

"Hum--How old are you?"

Brick scratched his head reflectively.  "Don' _jes'_ know, massa,
'zactly.  Spec' bout--bout--fifteen or--twenty, sah; jess 's massa
likes."

Bergan bit his lip.  Never had he met with such a spirit of
accommodation.

"Well, Brick," he asked, after a moment, "if you had a half-holiday,
now, what would you do with it?"

Brick's face grew radiant through all its dusk.  "Go a-fishin', massa,"
he burst out, eagerly; "I jes' should!"

"Well, go fishing, then,--if you think you can be back by supper-time."

"Yis, massa.  Tank you, massa."  And Brick was off like an arrow from
the string.

Bergan immediately sought out old Rue's cabin.  Outwardly, it differed
little from its neighbors; but its interior was not without evidences
of thoughtful provision for the faithful old nurse's comfort.  Having
kindly answered all the questions that she chose to ask, in reference
to "Miss Eleanor" and her western life, he made known his errand.  She
instantly took a key from her pocket, and was about to put it in his
hand, when she suddenly drew back, exclaiming:--

"No, no, that will never do!  I forgot.  That is the key of the back
door.  You see, sir, I sometimes look into the Hall, and that way is
most convenient."

"I assure you that it will serve me very well, too," replied Bergan.
"It does not matter how I make my entrance."

Rue shook her head.  "It is not fitting," said she, "that the son and
heir of the house should first enter at the back, like a servant."

"The son, but not the heir," replied Bergan, smiling.

Rue turned quickly toward him.  "Not the heir!" she exclaimed, as if
greatly surprised.  "And why not?"

The question was not easy to answer.  Bergan could not say frankly,
"Because such heirship must be bought at too high a price,--even the
surrender of my profession, will, conscience, individuality."  Nor did
the answer present itself to his own mind in this definite form.  He
was conscious, at the moment, of nothing but a confused, hazy throng of
doubts, fears, possibilities, and wishes.

Rue seemed quite satisfied with his silence.  She turned to a bureau
near by, and, after a little search, drew forth a large, rusty key,
which she handed him with a kind of solemnity.

"It has waited long," said she, "for the hand that should rightfully
put it into the lock, and let light and hope once more into the old
house.  I thank the Lord that I live to see the day."

Bergan was too much touched to answer.  He walked quickly to the front
of the deserted mansion, cut the vines from the door, and put the key
in the lock.  At first, it opposed a stubborn resistance to his
efforts; then, suddenly, the bolt yielded, the door turned slowly on
its long-unused hinges, and he stood, with a beating heart, in his
ancestral hall.



V.

WASTE PLACES.

He was met by a swift gust of wind, so chill and vault-like, and
hurrying past him with so woful a sigh, that it seemed like the rush of
innumerable imprisoned ghosts, eagerly seizing upon the opportunity for
escape.  Involuntarily letting go the door, it fell to behind him with
a clangor that reverberated loudly, for a moment, through the house,
and then suddenly ceased, as if smothered in some remote corner by a
lurking hand.  The silence which followed was dreary and
oppressive,--all the more, because Bergan, coming so suddenly from the
outward sunshine, was altogether bedimmed by such density of gloom as
brooded within, most of the windows being either darkened by blinds, or
closed with heavy opaque shutters.  For a single instant, he felt a
thrill of unreasoning horror.  The impenetrable gloom, the oppressive
stillness, the damp, dead air (which might have come straight from the
open mouth of a tomb), gave him a chill impression that he had
committed sacrilege.

Quickly recovering himself, however, he again flung wide open the door,
and fastened it back.  By the light thus admitted, he easily found his
way to a window at the other end of the hall, which he also opened.
There was an immediate inward rush, not only of the sunny daylight, but
of the sweet, warm air of the autumn afternoon, with its inevitable
suggestions of tranquil sea, and tender sky, and slow-waving forest;
quickly penetrating, he felt sure, to the uppermost corner of the
long-deserted dwelling, and scattering everywhere some healthful,
purifying, enlivening influence.

He could now see that he stood in a wide and lofty entrance-hall,
decorated with a profusion of carved woodwork; panels, cornices, and
casements, being ornamented with garlands of oaken roses, or quaint
heads of animals, stiff as petrifactions, and almost ebon-black with
time and rubbing.  The furniture consisted of a small table, a cumbrous
cabinet, and ponderous, high-backed chairs, of the Elizabethan age, or
perhaps earlier, brought from England, as heir-looms, by the first
emigrant Bergan.  There was also a tall, spectral clock, which, to
Bergan's intense astonishment, suddenly began to fill the hall with a
loud, monotonous tick, as if the march of time, long ago arrested in
the deserted mansion, was now duly resumed:--doubtless the rusty wheels
had been jarred into spasmodic motion by the violent closing of the
door.  By way of decoration, there were a few dingy pictures, in dark,
carved frames; and in two of the oaken panels hung complete suits of
armor,--helmets, cuirasses, gorgets, greaves, and
gauntlets,--memorials, not only of long-buried Bergans, but of
long-vanished days.

Hesitating, for a moment, between two half-open doors, Bergan finally
chose to enter the main parlor, a room full of a dusky, old-time
grandeur.  A piano stood between the windows, over the keys of which he
ran his fingers, but found that its music had been imprisoned so long
as to have grown hoarse and melancholy.  So, doubtless, had that of the
harp, which showed skeleton-like through its torn baize cover, and was
flanked by a pile of music-books, the leaves of which were yellow with
age.  Odd, unwieldy chairs, covered with faded silk damask and a rich
coat of dust, kept solemn state in the dim corners; ottomans and
footstools, elaborately embroidered by forgotten fingers with birds,
flowers, and other once cheerful devices, stood under the windows, or
were scattered around the floor.  On the walls, in frames of tarnished
magnificence, hung two or three pictures in worsted, the designs of
which, like the hands that had wrought them, were now faded beyond
recognition.  Just in proportion as these things had once helped to
brighten the room, they helped to make it more sombre now.  Like the
images of vanished joys, they were all the gloomier because once so
glad.  Looking upon them, Bergan was painfully impressed with the
latent identity of gayety and grief.  Only give them time enough, and
they merge into the same dull neutral tint!

Bergan next glanced into a second parlor, a dusky ante-room, and a
dining-room, but leaving these places undisturbed in their dim and
dusty sanctity, as not of pressing interest, he made his way to the
library, on the other side of the hall.  It was a large and lofty room,
set round with ancient book-cases, above and between which hung rows of
portraits, in frames of oak and gilt.  These represented the early
forefathers and later worthies of the Bergan lineage,--some in knightly
armor, with mailed hands clasping a gleaming sword-hilt; some in the
rich array of the Tudor or the Stuart court, with laced and plumed hats
under their arms; some in the red coats and top-boots of English
squires, with a favorite horse or hound looking out from one corner of
the picture; some in the huge horsehair wigs and ermined robes of the
judge's bench; and others in the cocked hats and knee-breeches of the
Revolution, or in the modern black coat and pantaloons, seated in
arm-chairs, with their backs to a crimson curtain.  There were also
dames to match, with towers of lace and curls upon their heads, ruffs,
farthingales, and all manner of obsolete finery.

Most of the faces had the austerity of aspect common to old portraits,
as if time had delighted to bring into clearer view the hard, stern
traits of character which the painter had dared but faintly to
delineate, and had even then done his best to cover up with pleasant
coloring, and a final coat of lustrous varnish.  Nowhere was this
effect more striking than in the portrait of Sir Harry Bergan, earliest
emigrant of the name, and father of the American line.  The younger son
of a noble English house, he had early fallen under the displeasure of
a stern father, by reason of careless and spendthrift habits; and had
finally been banished, in disgrace, to a small continental town, upon
an allowance barely sufficient to keep body and soul together.  Under
this severe discipline,--smarting, too, with a rankling sense of
injustice in the treatment that he had received,--his character
underwent a complete transformation.  His carelessness and
extravagance, as well as the generosity and frankness of which they had
been the rank, ill-trained outgrowth, fell from him like worn-out
garments; he became bitter, morose, and dogged.

At this crisis, the sudden death of his mother placed him in possession
of her own large fortune and family estate.  Life once more opened
before him; but no gentle affection called him back to the paternal
neighborhood.  On the contrary, he emigrated to Georgia, just then
luminous with the career and the fame of General Oglethorpe; with the
ambitious design of founding a Bergan lineage in the new world, which
should equal, if not surpass, that of the old one.  He bought a vast
tract of land, and vigorously commenced the work of bringing it under
cultivation; he distinguished himself both as soldier and citizen in
the Spanish war and the colonial trials, and was knighted for his
services; finally, he imported men and materials, and built Bergan Hall
as nearly as was possible in the style of his early English home, and
called it by the same name.  The bricks, the tiles, the elaborate oak
carvings, the door and window-frames, the furniture and decorations,
the copies of ancestral portraits, were all brought from England, and
put in their places by English artisans.

Scarcely was the work finished ere he died, bequeathing to his
descendants, not only a vast estate, a splendid home, and an
illustrious name, but, by a still stronger law of heirship, certain
marked traits of character hereditary in himself,--indomitable energy,
dogged independence, strong family pride, and an occasional lunacy of
rage, familiarly known as the "Black Bergan temper," to which the race
had been subject from time immemorial.  These characteristics were to
be traced, more or less distinctly through all the portraits of his
successors; but in none did they seem to be so perfectly reproduced as
in his present representative.  In truth, Major Bergan might be
regarded as the original Sir Harry over again; his harsh features and
stern expression being shown in the old, time-darkened picture with a
degree of prophetical accuracy little short of actual portraiture.

Other pictured faces there were, however, which time, still faithful to
its work of bringing out the essential truth, had only touched into
softer beauty.  Such was the face of Eleanor, wife of Sir Harry; a
woman of fair and noble presence, in the rich prime of her life, with a
wise, strong, beautiful soul, shining out through her deep, soft eyes.
Before this picture Bergan lingered long.  Even in babyhood, his mother
had resembled it strongly enough to make it seem most fitting that she
should receive its name; and the likeness had so strengthened with
years, that now, it might easily have passed for her portrait, painted
from life.

Seeing how perfectly these twain of their ancestors were reflected in
his mother and uncle, not only in features, but also in character,
Bergan was suddenly seized with a nightmare of doubt and questioning.
Was a man's good or evil, then, a mere matter of inheritance, an
inevitable heirloom, handed down to him from a remote ancestry, by a
more effectual law of transmission than has ever been established, in
respect to more tangible property?  If so,--if the defects and
weaknesses, the depraved tastes and ungovernable passions, which
characterized the father were inevitably passed on to the son, and the
son's son,--if the moral disease under which this man groaned, as well
as the sweet temper which made that woman a household sunbeam, were to
be surely traced back to their ancestor of a hundred years ago; what
became of individual worth, individual shame, and individual
accountability?

Bergan shrank from the apparently inevitable conclusion.  He felt, with
an unutterable horror, its snaky coils tightening around him, squeezing
the breath out of every noble aim and aspiration.  He could only escape
from it by an appeal from his reason to his consciousness.

"If," he asked himself, "I should now take that grim picture from the
wall, and thrust it into the fire, in revenge for the pain which it has
given me, should I not know, despite all reasoning to the contrary,
that I--I alone, and not that bearded Sir Harry, was responsible for
the foolish act?  Certainly, I should; for whatever else he may have
sent down to me, he did not give me either my will or my conscience.
These are my own, and never Bergan of them all had them before me!"
And he drew a long breath of relief.

His attention was now directed to the portrait of a young girl, at the
end of the second row, nearest the window.  It had an odd, illusive
resemblance to some one that he had known,--a singular likeness in
unlikeness, which puzzled while it attracted him.  All at once,
capturing the fleeting, familiar expression, as it were, by a swift
side-glance, he recognized it as that portrait of his mother in her
youth, of which Major Bergan had spoken.  He stood gazing upon it long
and earnestly, yet with a strange, undefinable feeling of sadness, too.
For this bright, young being, with the smooth brow, the arch, dimpled
face, and the unwakened soul dreaming at the depths of the soft eyes,
was, after all, a stranger to him,--a being that he had never known,
and never could know, any more than if she had been laid years ago
under the sod, and her sweet substance gradually transformed into
violets and daisies.  He went back to the picture of Lady Eleanor, and
felt, with a thrill of gladness, that he had found again the mother
that he seemed, for a brief space, to have lost.

He now turned from the pictures to the book-cases, and found them to
contain a heterogeneous collection of ancient and modern volumes,
carelessly ranged upon the shelves, without reference either to age or
theme.  Latin and English classics stood shoulder to shoulder; law and
poetry were harmoniously cheek by jowl; divinity and science amiably
helped each other to stand upright; history, philosophy, morality, and
controversy, met on the same plane, and sunk their differences under
one uniform coat of dust.  Geography that read like fiction, geology
that had no interest except to the antiquarian, and infidelity that had
not a peg left to stand upon, were huddled together in one corner, and
(no doubt to their utter amazement) helped, in these latter days, to
point the same moral.

Growing oppressed, at last, with the sight of so much hopelessly
shelved thought, so many pages bearing the prints of a long succession
of fingers now crumbled into dust, Bergan turned back to the hall,
mounted the staircase, and glanced into two or three of the chambers.
He found in all faded carpets, ancient bureaus, high-post bedsteads,
shadow-haunted hangings, a thick coating of dust, and a heavy,
breathless scent which, it seemed to him, death must needs have left
there, in his oldtime visits.  Indeed, he could almost have believed
that the last occupant of each dusky cavern of a bed had stiffened into
clay therein, and been left to choke the air, and coat the furniture,
with his own mouldering substance.  No lighter dust, he thought, could
have made the atmosphere so thick, or caused him to draw his breath so
heavily.

Opening the last door in the gallery, Bergan was startled to find a
room with every appearance of recent occupancy.  Not a speck of dust
dimmed the carpet or the furniture; the curtains and the bed-drapery
stirred lightly with the breeze from a half-open window; the soft
pillows seemed waiting for the head that had dreamed upon them last
night; a chair, with a shawl thrown carelessly over the back, stood
where it must needs have been left a moment ago; an open workbox showed
a suggestive confusion of spools of silk and bits of ribbon and
worsted; a vase of flowers adorned the mantel; and a little white glove
lay on the toilet-table, among brushes and scent-bottles, and was
reflected in a small, bright mirror.  Bergan hastily drew back, feeling
intuitively that he had intruded upon a maiden's bed-chamber, keeping
still the perfume of her sweet breath and happy thoughts.

Yet--the bed-linen, how strangely yellow!--the shawl, how dim and
faded!--the flowers, how withered!  He advanced again; he began to
understand that the maiden who had dreamed on that pillow, whose hand
had left its dainty mould in that glove, the sweetness of whose virgin
breath still lingered in the room with the scent of the withered
rosebuds, went out from it years ago,--a bride,--to be known
thenceforth as wife and mother,--his mother!  His eyes grew moist; one
by one he touched the little possessions left behind with her girlhood,
striving thus to come a little closer to the fair, shy image, that
moved him with such unutterable tenderness, yet seemed so far beyond
his ken.  Reverently, at last, he closed the door, as upon a still,
white, smiling corpse, at once ineffably beautiful and ineffably sad.

But who had cared for this one room so tenderly, while all the rest of
the house had been left to go to ruin?  The answer was plain.  Old Rue,
whose love for her young mistress was half a worship, had taken a
sorrowful pleasure in keeping the room (with such help as she could
easily command) in the exact state in which it had been left.

Bergan was in no mood for further exploration.  He made his way back to
the entrance-hall, and sat down in one of the antique chairs.  He was
not quite ready for the instant transition into the outward sunshine.
His heart was too heavy.  The ancestral home was only an ancestral
tomb.  Surrounded by memorials of the old state and splendor of Bergan
Hall, he felt all the more keenly its present desolation and decay.
Remembering the noble Bergan lineage, he was humiliated to the dust by
the thought of its present representative.

And here, first, his uncle's offer rose before him in the dazzling
garments of temptation.  Was it, after all, an ignoble ambition to lift
the family name out of the dust, to restore the family home, fill it
again with social life and warmth, and make it the centre of purer,
more refining, and more elevating influences than ever before?  Was it
not better than any mere personal ambition?  Might it not be just the
place which he was meant to fill, and which, if he declined to take it,
would be left empty?  From questions he went on to answers; and his
thoughts shaped out a tempting vision of Bergan Hall restored,
revivified.  Light steps and rustling garments went up and down the
broad staircase,--his mother sat smiling in her old room,--voices of
children echoed through the large, sunshiny parlors,--guests came and
went,--he himself sat in the library, crowned with honors as with
years, and--

He was recalled to the present and the actual by a low rumble of
thunder.  The sunshine had faded from the sky; clouds were rolling up
from the west; he hastened back to the cottage through the first drops
of the rain.

The evening passed much like its predecessor.  When, at last, he went
up to his room, leaving his uncle to the dear companionship of his
bottle and glass, he found it half-flooded with water from a newly
sprung leak in the roof.  Hastily declining the Major's hesitating
offer of a share in his own apartment, he begged permission to quarter
himself in the old Hall.

Major Bergan set down his glass, and looked at him with a mixture of
wonder and admiration.  "Certainly, Harry, if you are in earnest about
it," said he.  "But I must say that you are a brave fellow to choose to
sleep alone in an old ruin like that,--haunted, too, the negroes say.
But are you sure that you can find a room there any less leaky than
your present one?"

"Quite sure.  I noticed two or three, on the south side, which seemed
to be in excellent condition."

"Very well; take your choice, and make yourself as comfortable as you
can.  Brick is under your orders, of course; and Maumer Rue will send
you out one of the women, with what linen is needed.  Good night."

The Major remained standing at the door, till he saw, first, a
wandering gleam of light through the crevices of the old house, and
then the steady beam of a candle, shining from an upper window.

"A light in Eleanor's room!--I never expected to see that again!" he
murmured, and went back to his bottle, to drink all the deeper for some
unwontedly sad and remorseful thoughts.

Meanwhile, Bergan had not once dreamed of appropriating that maiden
sanctuary.  He had merely chosen the room next to it; and the door
between being transiently opened for better ventilation, Major Bergan
had seen his light through the designated window.

It was not an easy task to make his dusty, mouldy room even tolerably
habitable, but it was finally achieved; and, dismissing Brick, Bergan
laid his head on his pillow, with a real satisfaction in being, at
last, domiciled under his ancestral roof.



VI.

THE DAY OF TEMPTATION.

Two days of drizzling rain followed, and did their best to make the
black roof and mouldy walls of Bergan Hall look more cheerless than
ever.  But a counteracting influence was busy within.  An energetic
young spirit was rapidly organizing a home for itself in one corner;
turning the shadows out of nooks where they had lain so long as almost
to have established a pre-emption right, and making short work with
dust, mould, and dead air.  And, in some inexplicable way, the whole
house seemed to catch the pleasant infection, and to be faintly astir
with life.  A passer-by of delicate instincts would have seen at once
that the long lease of silence and emptiness had expired.  And in
truth, it would have been strange if a dwelling, so old--so long
familiar with human affairs and interests, the very timbers of which
must have been oozy with the exhalations of a long succession of joys
and sorrows--had not shown itself ready to sympathize with every
passing phase of life, and especially to welcome back to its empty old
bosom a fresh, young, beating heart.

That it did so, Bergan felt intuitively.  In return, he did what he
could to vivify with his single personality its whole wide indoor
world.  Having received unlimited discretionary powers from his uncle,
in regard to choice of rooms and furniture, as well as the most
unrestrained privilege of exploration, he went from room to room,
ransacking and arranging, here picking up a quaintly carved chair, and
there an absurdly contorted little table, and setting wide open doors
and windows wherever he could find a reasonable excuse for doing so.
He even mounted to the garret, a great twilight-hall, stored with the
lumber of many vanished generations, and dived into nooks of dingiest
obscurity, with the eager zeal of a discoverer; coming forth covered
with dust and cobwebs, and laden with spoils.  File upon file of yellow
papers, having a possible interest as family annals, a curiously
gnarled and twisted genealogical tree, a dust-choked flute, several
Spanish songs in manuscript, a discolored sketch-book, and a quaint old
secretary, from the innumerable pigeon-holes of which sprang a whole
colony of alarmed mice,--these were among the treasures that he
unearthed, and transferred to his own room for examination or use.
Every hour, the home-feeling grew upon him.  Despite the gray and
dripping sky, and the disconsolate, water-soaked earth, these days had
their own peculiar illumination and charm.  Oldness and newness
combined to produce one rich--albeit, a little heavy--atmosphere of
enjoyment.

Occasionally, his uncle came to watch his progress, and favor him with
half-serious, half-jocular commentary.  He was both interested and
amused to observe how readily the new inmate fitted himself into his
surroundings, and what talent he displayed in organizing various crude
and chaotic elements into one harmonious whole.  By turns he adapted,
invented, or altered, until his room presented an aspect of
pleasantness, as well as an array of conveniences, in striking contrast
with the rude accommodations of the cottage, and even with the oldtime
appliances that had served former occupants.  His uncle wondered and
admired even while he shook his head over the un-Bergan-like trait, and
questioned if, after all, it were not a sign of degeneracy.  This doubt
wellnigh culminated in conviction when, on the afternoon of the second
day, in a lull of the storm, he discovered his nephew calmly seated
astride the high ridge-pole, with a bundle of shingles and a pocketful
of nails, stopping the leaks with which the long rain and his visits to
the garret had made him acquainted; and accompanying his work with a
very sweet and deftly executed whistle.

"That settles the question, Harry," he shouted to the amateur
carpenter, a smile and a frown struggling for supremacy on his upturned
face.  "There never was a Bergan, from first to last, who could have
done that!"

"Do not speak so disrespectfully of our common ancestors, uncle!  As if
they had not the use of their hands!"

"Humph!  It's plain that you have the use of yours, and of your head,
too!  How in the world did you reach that dizzy altitude?"

Bergan laughed.  "'Where there's a will there's a way.'  What should
you say to the chimney?"

"Nonsense!  How _did_ you get up there?"

"I really cannot answer that question as it stands.  There is a mistake
in the terms."

"You rascal! what do you mean?'"

"I did not 'get up;' I came down."  And Bergan glanced at a great
oak-bough, swinging full ten feet above his head.

The Major uttered a cry of admiration.  "You are a Bergan, and no
mistake!" he cried, emphasizing the statement with an oath.  "You've
got the real, old, brave Bergan stuff in you, Harry, and I'm proud of
you, in spite of your tinkering.  But that bough is now out of your
reach; you cannot come down by that route."

"A new one will be more interesting.  And the chimney has a most
capacious throat; the builders must have contemplated the passage of
other things than smoke."

"Harry! you'll break your neck!  Don't you dare to come down till I
send you a ladder!  At the same time, I'll order the carpenter to
finish up that job, if it must be done."

"He will be too late, uncle; I am just laying the last shingle."

"Speak lower, you scamp! lest the old portraits under your feet should
hear you and blush."

"Their thanks would be much more to the point--especially Sir Harry's,"
coolly replied Bergan.  "Two hours ago, the water from this very leak
was pouring in a stream down his long ancestral nose; you would have
said the picture had an influenza."

The Major emitted a sound between a laugh and a growl, and vanished.

Poor Brick was even more scandalized by his young master's plebeian
readiness with his hands.  The very ease with which Bergan performed
his self-imposed, and, for the most part, unaccustomed tasks, misled
the dusky spectator.  To be sure, Brick was a little comforted to
observe that those agile hands knew the trick of the ivory piano-keys
full well, and could evolve soulful melody from the flute, that they
were not ignorant of the mysteries of sketching, and betrayed a
scholarly familiarity with books and papers, pen and ink; yet he
doubted if even these gracious accomplishments could wash from them the
stain of that dreadful manual labor in which they were erewhile
engaged,--the only redeeming feature of which was that it was not done
for bread.

Nevertheless, Brick loved his young master with all his heart.  He had
succumbed at once to the rare charm of Bergan's manner,--so grave and
thoughtful for his years, yet so richly illuminated, at times, with
soft gleams of humor, and always so genuinely kind.  He followed him
like his shadow; he could scarcely be happy out of his presence; and
notwithstanding his own inward struggles with doubt and mortification,
he continually held him up to the admiration of the quarter in the
strongest language of encomium that he could command, as a "bery
high-tone gemman, and jes' de bes' massa dat ebber stepped foot on de
old place."

The appearance of this "high-toned gentleman" on the roof, in the
humble _rôle_ of carpenter, was, therefore, a rude shock to Brick's
finer sensibilities.  He watched him from the ground below, groaning
simultaneously over probable fractures to his limbs, and certain damage
to his reputation.  It gave him some consolation to find that the Major
was inclined to treat the matter in a jocular rather than a serious
light; and he was profoundly impressed with his hearty admiration of
the gymnastic feat with which the questionable performance had opened.
That, at least, his own dusky friends of the quarter could understand
and approve.

Brick was still further reassured by Maumer Rue, to whom he stood in
the relation of grandson.  On being consulted, she had replied,
loftily,--

"A Bergan can do what he pleases, child.  He is not obliged to walk by
rule and measure, like people whose pedigree stops with their
grandfathers.  If a king chooses to make a box, a barrel, or a piece of
furniture, for his own use, it is not a meanness, but an eccentricity."
And the long word not only floored Brick's last remaining doubt, but
furnished him with the means of silencing other critics.  In view of
carpentry and tinkering, dignified with the sonorous title of
"exkingtricities," nothing was left to the quarter but to roll its eyes
and shut its mouth in mute amazement.

On the morning of the third day, the sky pushed aside its gray veil of
clouds, and smiled once more upon the wet and melancholy earth.
Thereupon the latter quickly dried up some of its tears, and made what
shift for joy it could with the remainder.  Every pool reflected a bit
of the sky's wide smile, or the pleasant stir of overhanging foliage.
The grand old evergreen oaks around Bergan Hall shook from their
far-reaching boughs broken sunlight and dancing shadows, fresh breeze
and shining raindrops, in nearly equal measure.  The whisper of the
pine-woods became a song rather than a sigh;--or, if it were a sigh, it
was of that pleasant kind which struggles up unconsciously from a heart
a little overfull of pleasure.  Even the long streamers of gray moss
decked themselves with prismatic jewels, and forgot to be mournful.

"If you do not mind a little mud," said the Major, at the dinner-table,
"we will order our horses, and ride over to Berganton this afternoon.
You must be tired of being cooped up in the house, by this time, in
spite of your ready knack at finding occupation and amusement where
most people would gape their heads off with ennui.  Besides, it is high
time that you should see something of the neighborhood, outside our own
plantation,--as well as the village which your ancestors founded.  To
be sure, there is precious little to see,--Berganton is not what it was
once,--but I shall be glad to show you that little, and also, to
introduce you to some of my old acquaintances."

As the two gentlemen were riding through the mutilated avenue, Bergan
could not help asking if the trees which had formerly arched and shaded
it had been felled on account of decay.

"No," replied the Major, a little gruffly, as if he suspected a latent
rebuke in the question; "but they spoiled twenty or thirty acres of the
best corn-land on the plantation, and were very valuable for timber,
besides.  And, about that time, I was bent on lifting a certain old
mortgage off from the place, and getting generally forehanded with the
world, at any sacrifice, short of selling land.  However," he
continued, his face clearing again, "if you will stay here, Harry, you
shall replant the avenue, just as soon as you like, if that is your
pleasure.  The trees will not grow large enough to do much damage, in
my time;--besides, I can afford the land now,--and almost anything else
that you may happen to fancy.  I have not saved and slaved all these
years for nothing;--you may be certain of that.  And, as I've said
before, I don't believe in half-way work.  If you stay here, it will be
as my adopted son; and I mean to show myself an indulgent father."

A kindlier smile than was often seen on the Major's rugged features,
lit up his face as he concluded.  Then, suddenly turning to Bergan, and
holding out his hand, he asked, in the husky tone of emotion, and with
a look of entreaty,--

"Shall we shake hands upon it?"

Bergan was taken by surprise.  In grateful recognition of his uncle's
manifest kindness of intention, as well as of his unwonted softness of
manner, he impulsively clasped the outstretched hand.  At once he
became aware that, in so doing, he had appeared to yield an unqualified
assent to his uncle's wishes.  Hurriedly casting about for inoffensive
phraseology wherein to disavow any such intent, it was singularly hard
to find.  To increase the difficulty, Major Bergan was pouring forth
his gratification that the matter was finally settled, in terms of
unusual warmth and animation.  It was evident, not only that the plan
lay nearer to his heart than had hitherto appeared, but that he himself
had taken stronger hold of his uncle's affections than he had imagined.

In fact, Bergan had come to the Major just at the auspicious moment
when, having measurably accomplished the object which had absorbed all
his thoughts and energies for many years, he was looking around him for
something to fill its place in his life, and beginning vaguely to
discern that his heart was empty, and his future aimless.  The old
family home was not the only thing that he had left to go drearily to
ruin, while pursuing his own selfish ends in his own unscrupulous way.

Beholding, at this moment, a frank, brave, handsome youth by his side,
full of talent and of promise, and singularly attractive in manner,--in
whose veins, too, ran some of the same blood that filled his own, and
whose features were moulded after the best ancestral type,--his dormant
affections quickly awakened to fasten themselves pertinaciously around
the timely object.  His thoughts began industriously to shape out for
himself a new future, which should embrace, as a setting its
appropriate jewel, a brilliant and prosperous career for this young
hope of his house.  The unsuspected strength of these feelings now made
itself clearly visible, both in the hearty grasp which he gave his
nephew's hand, and in a sudden affectionateness of eyes, mouth, voice,
gesture, and every indescribable manifestation, that Bergan had never
seen in him before.  Naturally enough, the young man shrank from the
utterance of words certain to drive back on itself this outgush of the
inestimable tenderness of a stern nature, to bring back the old
sharpness and severity to eyes that now lay so soft and deep under
their shaggy brows.

Moreover, he felt that his own resolution was wavering.  Bergan Hall
had grown strangely dear to him during his solitary occupation of its
silent, but suggestive precincts.  He might have been proof against
every temptation that it could have offered in its grandeur and its
prosperity; but in its loneliness and decay there was a pathetic appeal
to much that was best and noblest in his nature.  To this influence, a
stronger one, even, was now added.  Seeing the strength of his uncle's
new-born affection, and its softening effect upon his face and manner,
Bergan began to question within himself whether a still better and
nobler work than the restoration of the ancestral home, might not here
call for his hand--even the restoration of a human life.  Those woful
habits of intoxication and profanity, far worse than the dry-rot that
gnawed at the timbers of the old Hall; that roughness and sordidness
which had gathered over the once promising character, far sadder to
behold than the mould and the dust that dimmed the ancestral
grandeur;--were there not moral instruments available for the cure of
the one, as there were artisan's tools able to remove all traces of the
other.

To young minds there is always a strong fascination in the prospect of
exerting a good influence upon others.  Older heads--seeing how little
is often effected by the best and most persistent endeavors, and sadly
cognizant of the fact that influences are received as well as exerted
(a long deterioration in one's self being sometimes the price of a
little, brief improvement in another)--are not so ready to take upon
themselves the responsibility of acting upon any human soul, nor so
sanguine of success.  But Bergan had none of this late wisdom,--if
wisdom it be.  Through his quiet character there ran the golden vein of
a noble enthusiasm.  He believed that it was his part and duty to make
the world better for having lived therein.  Still susceptible to
influences himself, he had no conception of the iron bands, the
indestructible tendencies, of evil habits indulged for years.  He stood
ready, at any time, and anywhere, to throw himself into the long
conflict between Right and Wrong, and doubted not that the issue of the
fray would turn upon his single sword.

Half-buried in thought, half-listening to his uncle's talk, he rode
mechanically onward.  On one side of his path, flowed the smooth,
shining waters of the creek; on the other ran the Bergan estate, with
its odd aspect of mingled thrift and neglect.  He had often wondered at
the singular blending, in his uncle's character, of the sturdy English
energy inherited from that indefatigable Briton, Sir Harry, with the
indifference and impromptitude induced by the climate.  It was
especially curious to note how these diverse qualities displayed
themselves in different directions.  With human beings, his laborers
and dependents, and even with his animals, he was prompt, energetic,
and exacting, accepting no excuses, and showing no indulgence; with
inanimate things, he was often careless, negligent, and unobservant.
On this portion of the estate, which seemed but little cultivated,
fences were down or dilapidated, gates swung unwillingly on their
hinges, and outbuildings seemed ready to fall with their own weight.

Soon, too, these things were made more noticeable by contrast, as a
long line of neatly-kept grounds and well ordered fences came into
view.  Shortly after, a pleasant cottage, amply provided with broad,
cool, vine-draped piazzas, appeared on the right; standing a little
apart from the road, in the midst of a group of live-oak trees scarcely
less grand and venerable than those which flung their heavy shadow over
Bergan Hall.  At sight of it, the Major's face grew dark again;
especially as Bergan, pleased with its neat and cheerful aspect, turned
to give it a second look.

"Yes," he burst forth bitterly, with a fearful oath, "that is where my
brother, the hardware merchant, lives!  I tell you what, Harry, the
very first thing that you are to do, as soon as you get a chance (if I
don't live to do it myself), is to buy out his heirs, and raze that
impertinent shanty to the ground.  Just recollect that, will you? if I
should happen to forget to put it into my will."

Bergan forebore to reply.  He was learning that it was his wisest
course--at least, so he thought--to take no notice of his uncle's
bitter wrath and prejudice, since he could not sympathize with them.
If his growing wish to possess Bergan Hall lay at the bottom of this
silence, he was as yet unconscious of it.

His uncle,--accepting his forbearance as a sign of acquiescence to his
wishes,--now, for the first time, really exerted himself for his
entertainment.  He talked with vivacity, humor, intelligence, and much
of the tone and manner of his earlier days.  His better self revived,
for a time; and Bergan recognized something of the refined, cultured,
accomplished gentleman, of his mother's descriptions, whose lightsome
flow of spirits, gay sparkle of wit, and frank, cordial address, had
made him the life and soul of the circle wherein he moved.  It was
mournful to see him under this pleasant transformation, and think of
him in his usual aspect.  Bergan could not but wonder how he had ever
fallen to that lower level.  He had not seen the easy descent from
gayety to dissipation of his younger days; nor could he understand how
naturally, with years, drinking in frivolous companionship had been
exchanged for drinking alone, lavishness for parsimony, the gay,
aimless life of a man of the world for the steady, energetic pursuit of
one selfish, isolated, exclusive object.

They now reached the village.  As they rode through its principal
street, which was wide and handsomely shaded, the Major pointed to one
and another of the houses along its sides, and quietly named men and
women that had occupied them in years agone; either forgetting, or
unaware, that most of them were now tenanting that one earthly house,
of whose narrow accommodations every mortal must needs have some
experience,--namely, the grave.

Bergan, meanwhile, felt himself quite at home among names so often
heard from his mother's lips; and momentarily expected that his uncle
would stop at some one of these friendly dwellings, for the renewal of
his own acquaintance, and the introduction of his nephew.  But to his
extreme surprise, the Major rode straight through the village, and
dismounted, before a tavern, at its extreme end.



VII.

A BITTER DRAUGHT.

It needed but a glance to show Bergan that the tavern was of the lower
sort.  It was dingy and dilapidated without, and from its open windows
were wafted sounds of hoarse voices, shouts of laughter, the jingling
of glasses, and a strong odor of tobacco, betokening a corresponding
amount of moral dinginess and dilapidation within.  Bergan turned to
his uncle with a disgust that he hardly attempted to conceal,--the
natural disgust of a healthy body and mind for things coarse, foul,
noisy, and vulgar,--and inquired;--

"Do you intend to stop here long?"

"Quite long enough for you to get off and stretch yourself," replied
the Major, carelessly.  "This is an old halting-place of mine, and
looks as natural as possible, though it is a year or more since I have
set eyes on it.  No doubt I shall find some old acquaintances here.
Come! don't sit there gaping at the outside, like a man trying to guess
at the purport of a letter from the looks of the envelope, when the
inside would tell him what he wants to know, in a jiffy; get off your
horse, and come in."

Bergan obeyed, but with a manifest reluctance that brought a cloud to
the Major's brow.  Muttering something between his teeth, which had the
tone and bitterness of a curse, but was unintelligible, the latter led
the way to the bar-room.

Several varieties of the genus loafer, both of the genteel and vulgar
species, were leaning over the counter, or seated in tilted-up chairs,
puffing out tobacco smoke, and discussing matters of local interest.
The appearance of the Major was greeted with enthusiasm,--all the more,
that his first words, after a "How d'y" of very general application,
were an order to the landlord to make a stiff bowl of punch, on a scale
commensurate with the numbers of the party.

"This is my nephew, gentlemen," he went on, addressing the delighted
audience,--"Harry Bergan Arling, as he now calls himself, or Harry
Bergan, of Bergan Hall, as he is to be, in good time,--a real chip of
the old family block, as you can see at a glance.  I expect that you
will all do me the honor of drinking his health in a bowl of the best
punch that Gregg can concoct.  Hurry up, Gregg! you know how I like
it,--not too strongly flavored with our two days' drizzle;--was there
ever a nastier spell of weather?"

"Never knew the sky so leaky in all my life," responded a languid
loafer of the genteeler sort, too lazy to furnish his sentences with
nominatives.  "Begun to think, with Father Miller, 'twas getting worn
out."

"It will last our time, I reckon," returned the Major.  "And 'after us
the deluge,' of course.  I would not mind taking a swim in it myself,
if it were of punch such as Gregg, there, is mixing.  It looks like the
real thing!  Now, gentlemen, step forward and take your glasses.
Here's to the health of my nephew,--Harry Bergan,--and may he unite in
his single person all the virtues of all the Harrys of the line, from
Sir Harry down;--yes, and all the vices, too, they are good Bergan
stock, every one of them!"

A toast so perfectly in harmony with the corrupt atmosphere of the
bar-room could but be received and drunk with acclamation.  Bergan,
perforce, lifted his glass to his lips, but the fiery draught, prepared
with a single eye to the requirements of his uncle's sophisticated
palate, was so little suited to his own purer taste, that he set it
down with its contents very little diminished.  Observing this, Major
Bergan's face grew dark.

"That will never do, Harry," he growled, aside.  "Don't disgrace me
here, whatever you may do at home!  I insist upon your emptying your
glass like a man, and doing your part towards making things pleasant.
Now, then, gentlemen," he continued, aloud, "be pleased to make ready
for toast the second.  We will drink success to my nephew's future
proprietorship of Bergan Hall;--may it come late, and last long!"

The cords of conventionalism--even the conventionalism of a
bar-room--are strong; and Bergan was somewhat young for complete
independence of character.  Nevertheless, he was quite capable of
turning his back on the whole company of tipplers, both genteel and
vulgar, indifferent alike to their wonder, censure, or scorn, had it
not been for his uncle; whose wishes, in his double character of host
and relative, seemed entitled to some degree of respect.  Yet both
instinct and principle revolted from the certain intoxication of the
distasteful glass in his hand.  By a quick and dexterous motion, he
sent half its contents flying out of the window near which he stood,
and supplied their place with water from a convenient pitcher.
Flattering himself that he had done this unobserved, he tried to
swallow his disgust at the place and the companionship in which he
found himself with the diluted draught.

"That's pretty fair stuff," said the Major, setting down his empty
glass; "it has just about the right snap in it.  Is there enough for
another round, Gregg?"

"Plenty, sir, and another one on the end of that.  I knew you didn't
like to see the bottom of the bowl, in a hurry, Major."

"You are another Solon, Gregg.  Your wisdom is only to be equalled by
your disinterestedness.  Come, gentlemen, fill your glasses again!
Harry, is your glass filled?"

As he spoke, the Major drew near, and fixed a keen eye on Bergan's
glass, in a way which led the latter to suspect that his late manoeuvre
had not been so successful as he had imagined.  At any rate, it would
not be easy to repeat it.  Well, what matter?  He had submitted to his
uncle's tyranny long enough; he might as well free himself first as
last.  He would try to do so in the way least likely to give offence.

"Uncle," he pleaded, with a graceful frankness and courtesy that could
scarcely have failed to reach the Major's better self, if it had been
less under the vitiating influence of strong drink,--"uncle, I really
must beg your kind indulgence.  I am not accustomed to potations so
many nor so strong; and whatever I may be able to do, in time, under
your skilful guidance, I must now use a little discretion.  Pray excuse
me from taking any more at present."

"I'll be hanged if I do!" said the Major, bluntly.  "If you don't know
how to drink like a gentleman and a Bergan, it is high time you should
learn.  Fill up his glass, Gregg; he _shall_ drink!"

Scarcely were the insulting words spoken ere Bergan felt, with a thrill
of dismay, a hot tingling sensation in all his veins, as if the blood
in them had suddenly been turned to fire.  Too well he knew what it
meant.  The "black Bergan temper," which had been the one, great sorrow
and struggle of his life, thus far, and which he had believed to be
completely tamed, was stirring within him in a way to show that, if it
were not instantly controlled, it would carry him, in its headlong
fury, he knew not whither.  Every other feeling, every other thought,
were, for the moment, swallowed up in the instinct of
self-preservation.  He would submit to his uncle's imperious dictation,
not that he either prized his love or feared his anger, but because
that treacherous demon within must at once feel a firm foot upon its
neck, and be shown that it could expect no indulgence, and no quarter.

At this moment, there was a slight bustle at the door, occasioned by an
arrival; under cover of which he again turned to the friendly water
pitcher, to make sure that, while fleeing from one fatal influence he
was not running blindly into the leashes of another.

"_Dimidium plus toto_, I see," observed a well-remembered voice at his
elbow, in a tone of good-natured sarcasm.  "But you make a slight
mistake in your practical translation; it is a 'half,' not a quarter
(or I might say, an eighth) which is 'better than the whole.'  And
anyway, I doubt if old Hesiod meant his maxim to apply to punch."

Glad of anything that promised to create a diversion, Bergan turned and
gave the hand of Richard Causton a much more cordial grasp than he
would have been likely to do, under other circumstances.  The old man,
better accustomed to the cold shoulder from all reputable acquaintance,
returned it with tears in his blear eyes, and for once, had no proverb
at command wherein to do justice to his feelings.  Before he could find
one, Major Bergan came up, with a sly gleam of humor or of mischief, on
his face.  "What! you know Harry!" he exclaimed.  "Oh! yes, I
remember,--you helped him on his way to Bergan Hall.  So much the
better.  You will be glad to know that it was my nephew to whom you
showed that courtesy, and to drink to your better acquaintance.  All
ready?"

Bergan turned round for his glass, which he had left standing on the
window-sill, and, the sooner to be done with the distasteful business,
swallowed at a gulp what, it seemed to him, the next moment, must have
been liquid fire.  A loud laugh from his uncle told him to whom he was
indebted for the substitution of raw spirit for weak punch.  The
passion which he had so promptly smothered, doubly inflamed by the
consciousness of being betrayed and the instantaneous action of the
potent draught, blazed up with sudden, ungovernable fury.  Feeling that
he was losing control of temper and reason together, he rushed toward
the door.  At a sign from the Major, two or three of the bystanders
threw themselves in his way.  They were instantly sent reeling right
and left by two powerful blows.  Dick Causton, catching hold of him
with the friendly design of preventing him from doing more mischief and
provoking more enmity, was shaken off with a violence that threw him in
a disordered heap on the floor; over which Bergan strode wrathfully
towards his uncle, who had planted himself in the doorway.  The
spectators held their breath to witness the expected encounter between
uncle and nephew,--Bergan against Bergan, the blood of both up, the
hereditary frenzy blazing in each pair of dark eyes.

But Bergan was not quite so mad as that.  Seeing who it was that
impeded his way, he turned and darted through a window close at hand,
jumped over the piazza railing, sprang upon his horse, and was off
before the bystanders had well recovered their breath, or Dick had
picked himself up, with the caustic observation,--

"_Perit quod facis ingrato_,--'Save a thief from hanging, and he will
cut your throat.'"

Poor Vic!--never in all her life had she been urged to such mad and
merciless speed as on that ill-starred day.  Protesting, at first, by
various plunges and rearings, she finally fell in with her master's
wild humor, and sped through the village at a pace that sent the
foot-passengers to the fences in terror, and crowded the doors and
windows with wondering gazers.  Whether he were fleeing from
destruction, or riding straight to it, was no affair of hers; in either
case, she would do her best to meet his wishes.  The village was
quickly left behind; house after house, and field after field, slid by
in a swift panorama; already they were turning the corner, toward the
Hall, when Bergan's scattered senses were suddenly recalled by a stern
"Halloo! what are you about?" mingled with a faint cry of alarm.  To
his horror, he saw himself to be on the point of riding down a young
lady equestrian, who was on her way to the village, accompanied by her
father.  There was not an instant to lose, not a moment for reflection;
the heads of the two horses were almost in contact.  Putting his whole
strength into one sudden, ill-considered jerk, Vic was thrown back on
her haunches, and he and she rolled over in the mud together.

Fortunately, neither was much hurt, and both sprang to their feet
considerably sobered by the shock.  Bergan was deeply humiliated, also;
he would gladly have compounded with his mortification for almost any
amount of physical pain.  No bodily injury could have made him writhe
with so sharp a pang, as the conviction that he had flawed his claim to
the title of gentleman.  To have nearly ridden over a lady, in a blind
frenzy of rage and semi-intoxication, was a disgrace that he could
never forget.  He would gladly have buried himself in the mud with
which he was already tolerably well coated.  Since he could not do
that, he took off his hat to the horseman,--he dared neither address
nor look at the lady,--and said, in a tone that trembled with shame and
regret,--

"I beg your pardon, sir."

"You would have done better to look where you were going," replied the
gentleman, with the unreasoning anger that often follows upon the
reaction from fear and anxiety.  "No thanks to you that my daughter is
not maimed or killed!"

"I think you mistake, father," quickly interposed the young lady, in a
low, sweet voice, tremulous from the recent shock to her nerves;--"did
you not see how promptly the gentleman sacrificed himself to save me,
as soon as he saw the danger?  I hope you are not hurt, sir," she
added, courteously, turning to Bergan.

"Thank you; not half so much as I deserve to be," replied he, only the
more remorseful on account of the delicate consideration that she
showed for him, while her cheek was still blanched, and her lips
trembling, at her own narrow escape from danger caused by his rashness.
And, feeling wholly unworthy to say another word to anything so pure
and sweet, so utterly incompatible with the vile place and scene which
he had just quitted, he stood aside, with uncovered head, to let her
pass.

Apparently, she would have lingered long enough to make sure that he
was really uninjured; but her father, who had been eyeing him keenly,
hurried her away.  "Do you not see," he inquired, sharply, as they rode
on, "that the fellow is drunk?"

"Impossible, father!  He had such a fine, noble countenance!"

"It will not be noble long," replied the father.  "Neither will it be
the first noble countenance that has been spoiled by drunkenness," he
added, with a sigh.

Left alone, Bergan remounted Vic, though not without difficulty.  The
bewildering effect of his potent draught, which had momentarily been
overcome by the excitement of his late adventure, now made itself felt
again.  As he rode along, his head began to swim; a deadly nausea
seized him; his limbs seemed paralyzed.  Arrived within the gates of
his uncle's domain, he suffered himself to slide slowly from the saddle
to the ground; and almost immediately, consciousness forsook him.



VIII.

AS A DREAM WHEN ONE AWAKETH.

When, in due course of time, Bergan came partially to himself, he found
that he was lying on his own bed, with the twilight shadows gathering
duskily in its hangings.  But his mind was too dull and confused to
trouble itself with the question how he came there, notwithstanding
that his ears seemed still to retain the sound of low voices, and his
limbs the pressure of careful hands.  Scarcely had he unclosed his
heavy eyes, ere he was glad to shut them again, and to sink anew into
slumber.

But this time, it was not, as before, a profound stupor, a deaf, blind,
torpid, state of nothingness.  Though it lasted some hours, he never
quite lost an oppressive sense of overhanging trouble, imperfectly as
its nature was apprehended.  Moreover, he was harassed by dreams of
that most trying character, wherein varying images revolve around one
fixed idea; combining the misery of continual change with that of
ceaseless iteration into one intolerable horror.

Breaking, at length, from the teasing spell of these phantasms, he saw
that it was past midnight.  Through the opposite window, he beheld a
pale, waning moon, and, by its light, a gray, dimly-outlined
landscape,--a faint and lifeless sketch, as it were, of a once bright,
breathing world.  While he looked, over it came the black shadow of a
wind-driven cloud, blurring the lines, here and there, into still
grayer indistinctness, sweeping across the lawn, mounting the steps of
Bergan Hall, and laying, at last, its thin, light hand over his own
brow and eyes.

With it, as if by right of near kinship, a deep gloom fell upon his
heart.  Till now, it had not occurred to him why his head ached so
heavily, nor what weary weight it was that burdened his mind.  Yet he
did not--as too many would have done, after a brief flush of shame, and
a momentary feeling of regret--seek to throw off this burden by telling
himself that his late aberration was, after all, a matter of small
moment, since it was only what hundreds like him had done before, were
now doing, and would continue to do till the end of time.  Not of any
such weak stuff, incapable of looking his own acts squarely in the
face, and judging them according to their merits, was Bergan made.  On
the contrary, he felt as much humiliated as if he had been the first,
last, only intoxicated young man in the universe.

And this, be it understood, was not so much because he had violated the
higher law, as because he had broken his own law unto himself.  With
the Bergan temper, he had also inherited a fair share of the Bergan
pride, and the Bergan strength of will.  But, softened and guided by
home influences at once wise and genial, the one had hitherto shown
itself mainly in a lofty, almost an ideal, purity of character, and the
other had expended its force chiefly upon himself.  The two, therefore,
had served him little less effectually, in keeping him free from
current vices, than higher motives might have done.  He had taken a
stern, proud pleasure in knowing that he wore no yoke but such as it
pleased him deliberately to assume.  He would have scorned to say, what
he often heard from the lips of his fellows,--"I _cannot_ quit
drinking, I cannot live without smoking, I _cannot_ resist the
fascinations of gambling," et cætera;--he would have felt it a woful
slur upon his manhood to avow himself so abject a slave to his animal
nature.  So strong was this pride of character, that no sooner did he
feel any habit, any appetite, any pleasure, however innocent in itself,
taking firm hold of him, than he was immediately impelled to give it
up, to refuse it indulgence,--for a time, at least,--just to satisfy
one part of himself that its control over the other and baser part was
still perfect.  At whatever price, he was determined to be his own
master.

It may be imagined, then, with what sharp sting of pride, what
miserable sense of weakness and failure, he writhed, as Memory now
flung open the doors of her silent gallery, and showed him sombre
picture after picture, representing his own figure in divers
humiliating positions.  It shrank from the utterance of its strong
convictions of right; it gave way to the assaults of a poor ambition;
it drifted with circumstance; it was driven to and fro like a
shuttlecock between outward temptation and inward passion; it was
successively a fighting rowdy, a blind lunatic, an insensate drunkard.

Not that these representations were all true in tone, unexaggerated in
color, and correct in sentiment.  Often, there is nothing more
difficult than to fix upon the exact point where the plain boundary
line between right and wrong was crossed; and neither pride nor remorse
is apt to do it correctly.  Some steps may have been taken upon a kind
of debatable ground; had the march been arrested at any one of these,
its tendency would have been different.  In reviewing his conduct,
Bergan failed to do justice either to his uncle's undeniable claims to
his respectful consideration, up to the point where he had been
required to follow him into a low bar-room, or to the real beauty and
worth of some of his own feelings and motives.  Looking back, he
saw--or seemed to see--only a pitiable career of irresolution and moral
cowardice, ending in disgrace.  Covering his face with his hands, as if
to shut out the unwelcome sight, he groaned aloud.

To his surprise, the groan was distinctly prolonged and repeated.  Was
it the responsive wail of the ancestral spirits, mourning over their
degenerate scion, or only the sympathizing echo of the ancestral walls?
Springing to his feet, he beheld a tall, erect figure standing on the
hearth, showing strangely weird and unearthly by the flickering blaze
of a few dying embers.  Not till it turned and came toward him did he
recognize the dusky features and age-whitened hair of Maumer Rue.

"I hope that it is not on my account that you are up at this time of
night," said he, gravely.

"You forget that night and day are both alike to me," she quietly
answered.  "Are you better?"

"Much better, thank you."  And he added after a moment,--"How came I
here?"

"Brick found you in the avenue.  By my direction, you were brought in.
At first, it was thought that you had been thrown from your horse,
but--"

Rue paused.

"I understand," said Bergan, bitterly.  "I was drunk."

Rue did not immediately answer.  It was only after some moments that
she said, earnestly;--

"Master Bergan, I am an old woman.  I have seen four generations of
your house,--I have nursed two,--and I have spent my life in its
service.  If it had been my own, I could not have loved it better, nor
felt its welfare nearer my heart.  If these things give me any right to
say a word of warning to you, let me say it now!"

"Say whatever seems good to you," replied Bergan, gloomily, as he flung
himself into a chair.  "I doubt if you can say anything so hard to bear
as what I have already said to myself."

"Is that so?" asked Rue, in a tone of relief--"is that really so?  Then
I need not say anything.  It is a higher voice than mine that speaks
within you; and my poor words would only weaken its effect.  Only
listen to it, Master Bergan, pray listen to it!" she went on, with
tears streaming from her blind eyes.  "If you stifle it now, it may
never speak so clearly again!"

"Make yourself easy, maumer," answered Bergan, much affected, yet doing
his best to speak cheerfully,--"I have not the least intention of
stifling it.  Moreover, I assure you that I am in no danger of
repeating last night's miserable experience; drunkenness is not my
besetting sin.  I only wish I were as certain that I should never again
give way to my temper."

"It has run in the blood a great while," remarked Rue, not without a
certain respect for its length of pedigree; "it will be hard to get it
out."

"It _shall_ be gotten out, though," responded Bergan, knitting his
brows and setting his teeth with true hereditary doggedness.

"Very likely it may," replied Rue, quietly, "if you take _that_ tone.
No doubt the Lord meant the Bergan will to conquer the Bergan
temper--with His help.  But I will not trouble you any longer,
sir;--thank you for setting my mind at rest.  And don't be offended if
I recommend you not to come in your uncle's way this morning; give him
a little time to get into a better mood.  I will send your breakfast
out to you."

Bergan's brow darkened.  "I do not intend to come in his way," he
answered a little shortly, "neither this morning, nor at any other
time.  My visit here is at an end.  I leave this house directly."

"Oh, Master Bergan, I beg you will not do that!" exclaimed Rue.  "Your
uncle really loves you in his heart; he will soon forget all about his
anger."

"It is not because I dread his anger that I go," replied Bergan,
gravely; "it is because he has lowered me in my own eyes, and disgraced
me in the eyes of others, in a way that _I_ cannot forget.  At least,
not until I have proved to myself that I am neither a moral coward nor
a miserable parasite, and to the world that drinking and fighting are
not the essential conditions of my existence.  I cannot well do either
without leaving Bergan Hall.  And I certainly shall not put myself in
my uncle's way again, until he sees fit to apologize for what he did
yesterday."

"Is the world turned upside down, then," asked Rue, with a kind of slow
wonder, "that an old uncle must apologize to a young nephew?"

Bergan colored, and the unwonted bitterness and irritation of his
manner gave way before the force of the implied rebuke.

"Thank you," said he, almost in his natural tone, "I see that I am--or,
at least, that I was,--a little beside myself.  Still, I must leave
Bergan Hall.  I cannot think it right or expedient to remain here
longer.  But when I have put myself in the way of living independently,
and cleared up my reputation, I will do what I can, without loss of
self-respect, to establish friendly relations with my uncle.  Indeed, I
do not mean to be foolishly resentful, nor unbecomingly exacting."

"May I ask what you are going to do?" inquired Rue, after a few moments
of thought.

"Certainly.  I am going to carry out my original plan, and my mother's
express wish, by opening a law-office in Berganton, and doing my best
to win fame and fortune in the place which my ancestors founded; and in
which," he added, with a smile, "their shades may reasonably be
expected to watch my career with especial interest, and also to do me a
good turn, whenever they have it in their power."

"Well," said Rue, after a long pause, "perhaps you are right.  I think
I begin to see that it may be quite as well for you to go away, for a
time.  You shall not lose anything by it; I will take care of that.  I
have more influence with your uncle than you would think.  And I
promise you,--remember, I promise you," she repeated, with marked
emphasis,--"whatever comes, you shall have Bergan Hall."

The young man shook his head.  "I think not," said he.  "Indeed, I have
ceased to wish for it; I do not see any place for it in the life which
I now contemplate.  It was but a pleasant day-dream, at best; and it is
over."

"It may be over for you," rejoined Rue, quietly, "but it is not over
for me.  And my dreams are apt to come true.  I may not live to see
it,--indeed, it is borne in upon me that I shall not,--but the Hall
will surely be yours, one day."

Bergan again shook his head.  Without making any pretensions to the
prophetic gift, he thought he could foretell, better than old Rue, the
effect of the course which he had marked out for himself, upon his
uncle.  But the blind woman could not see the gesture; and he forebore
to put his doubt into words,--unless its subtle prompting was to be
detected in his next apparently irrelevant sentence:--

"I shall think it one of my first duties to go and see my uncle
Godfrey."

"I am glad to hear it," replied Rue, placidly.  "He is a wise, just
man; and no doubt he will give you good advice about setting up your
profession.  I have been hoping that, through you, this long family
breach would be healed."

And here the conversation strayed off amid thick-growing family topics,
where it is unnecessary to follow it.

Gray dawn was in the east when, after a long, lingering look at the
ancestral portraits, Bergan went out from the old Hall.  He could
scarcely believe that it was less than a week since he first entered
it.  He had passed there one of those crises of life which do the work
of years.  His short occupancy had left its indelible impress upon his
character, for good or evil.

Rue attended him to the door, and detained him for a moment on the
threshold.

"If ever you are in need of a quiet place where you can feel perfectly
at home," said she, "come here.  Your room shall always be ready for
you; and you might stay here for weeks together, and no one be the
wiser,--rarely does any one but me come inside the door.  And if ever
you should be in any trouble, or in any want, come and see what the
old, blind woman can do for you; she may be better able to help you
than you think.  And now, good-bye, and God bless you, my dear young
master--the future master of Bergan Hall!"

She raised her withered hands and sightless eyes to heaven, as she
ended; and when Bergan looked back from the farther verge of the lawn,
she was standing there still, in the dim dawn-light, a gray, venerable,
ghostly figure, framed in his ancestral doorway, calling down blessings
on his head.



IX.

THE BLOT CLEAVES.

Youthful spirits have a natural buoyancy that floats them easily over
the first wave of trouble, however severe.  It is the long succession
of wearing disappointments and corroding griefs, of anxious days and
restless nights, of abortive aims and hopes deferred, which finally
overcomes their lightsomeness, and sinks them fathoms deep under a
smooth-flowing surface of gentle cheerfulness, a teasing ebb and flow
of worriment, or an icy plane of despair.

But of this grievous iteration, and its depressing effect, Bergan, as
yet, had no experience.  His heart involuntarily grew lighter as he
went down the long avenue.  The old Hall, with its dust-clogged and
tradition-darkened atmosphere, its dusky delights and duskier
temptations, seemed to fade back again into the unsubstantiality of his
childhood's visions.  His sojourn there was, at best, but a brief,
casual episode in an otherwise coherent life.  He now recurred to the
main argument.  Not that he could foresee precisely how it was to be
wrought out.  But the very uncertainty before him was not without its
own special and potent charm.  It gave such unlimited scope to hope and
imagination; there was in it so much room for sturdy endeavor and noble
achievement, for an iron age of progress, and a golden era of fame!

It was still early when he reached the Berganton Hotel.  The landlord
was in the office; he was also in the midst of a prolonged matutinal
stretch and yawn, when Bergan surprised him with a pleasant;--

"Good morning.  Have you a vacant room for me?"

"Yes, sir,--that is, I will see," was the somewhat inconclusive reply;
its first clause being due to the favorable impression made by Bergan's
face and manner, and its last to prudential considerations arising from
the quickly recognized facts that this prepossessing young man was on
foot, and without baggage.  "Do you want it long?"

"I can hardly tell,--some days, perhaps; possibly longer.  I wish to
see if it be worth my while to locate myself permanently here.  My name
is Bergan Arling.  My baggage is to be sent over from Bergan Hall."

"Ah, I see," said the landlord, in a tone which implied that he had
suddenly been lifted to a point of observation at once wide and
unpromising.  And almost immediately he added,--"On the whole, I
believe I haven't got an eligible room to offer you.  The one that I
thought of at first is partially engaged; I cannot let it go till I
know the gentleman's decision."

Bergan was gifted with perceptions too quick and fine not to notice the
unfavorable effect produced by his frank explanation of himself.  Nor
was he slow to divine the cause.  No doubt his name had been bruited
abroad in connection with the disgraceful scenes of yesterday; and, as
a natural consequence, in the very place where it would otherwise have
been an advantage to him, it would now stand in his way.  His heart
sank a little to find that he had not left yesterday's acts so
completely behind him as he had allowed himself to believe.  He had
still to endure his inevitable term of bondage to their evil
consequences.

Yet herein, he remembered, was his strongest motive for perseverance in
the path upon which he had entered.  He could not leave a tarnished
reputation behind him in the place founded by his ancestors,--the very
dust of which, blowing about the streets, doubtless held many particles
closely akin to his own earthly substance, and dimly capable of pride
or shame on his account.  At whatever cost of present pain or ulterior
loss, he must stay in Berganton long enough to set himself right in the
public eyes.

And loss, it was plain, there might be.  Berganton was no longer the
busy and prosperous town of his mother's reminiscences.  All these
years, it had been going backwards.  Looking up and down its long,
tame, principal street, with its scant and sluggish flow of human life,
he could discover little field for energy, little scope for ambition.
Were it not for the cords of obligation woven around him by yesterday's
events, he would scarcely have stayed for a second look.  But those
cords held him firmly to his purpose.

"Do you know of any respectable family where I should be likely to
obtain board, or, at least, lodgings?" was his next inquiry.

"I do not.  I think they might take you in at the Gregg House, down at
the lower end of the street."

The words were spoken carelessly enough, yet Bergan could scarcely fail
to detect in them a covert insinuation, or to imagine one.  His cheek
crimsoned, and his eye flashed.  Ere he could speak, however, a
gentleman whom he had observed sitting near him, with a newspaper
before his face, dropped the printed screen, and came forward.

"Mr. Arling can breakfast here, at any rate," said he, in the tone of a
man accustomed to overcome all obstacles; "it will give me pleasure to
have him for my _vis-à-vis_ at the early breakfast that I have bespoken
this morning, in order to gain time for a visit to a far-away patient.
And you can at least give him the room of which you speak until it is
called for; by that time, we will hope, he may be provided with one
even more to his mind."

"Certainly, doctor," returned the landlord, looking a little
crestfallen.  "If I had known the gentleman was a friend of yours--"

"Hardly that yet," interposed the doctor, smiling, "though I trust he
may be, in good time.  I know your uncle very well," he continued,
addressing Bergan, as the landlord moved away,--"indeed, I may say,
your two uncles,--if that be any ground of acquaintance.  But I have
the advantage of you, in that I heard your name just now;--mine is
Remy--Felix Remy--very much at your service.  Not that this
announcement places us on an equal footing; for, while your name puts
me at once in possession of your antecedents, to a certain extent, mine
tells you nothing about me except that I am of French descent.  Are you
willing to take the rest on trust, until a fitting time for a fuller
explanation?"  And the doctor held out his hand.

"Until the end of time," replied Bergan, grasping it warmly.  "It would
be strange if kindness were not its own sufficient explanation."

Doctor Remy shrugged his shoulders with a frank cynicism.  "Perhaps
so," said he.  "Yet I make bold to confess that my own practice is to
look kindness a little more closely in the face than its opposite.  The
latter generally wears its reasons openly on its forehead; but for the
complicated motives at the bottom of the former, one needs to look long
and deep."

"Do they pay for the trouble?" asked Bergan, smiling.

"Not unless you love knowledge for its own sake.  As society is
constituted, you cannot well act upon it.  To apparent kindness, one
has to return apparent gratitude."

"I trust I succeed in making mine 'apparent,'" said Bergan, falling
into the doctor's humor.

"Perfectly.  It could not be told from the genuine article."

"The same thing might be said of your kindness."

"Doubtless.  But here comes Cato, to show you to your room.  I think
breakfast will be ready as soon as you are."

A very few moments sufficed for Bergan to remove the traces of his
early morning walk, and rejoin his new acquaintance in the
breakfast-room.  The two gentlemen at once seated themselves on
opposite sides of the table.  An opportunity was thus afforded them to
observe each other at their leisure, of which Bergan was first to avail
himself.  His interest had been awakened by the doctor's peculiar style
of conversation.

He saw before him a man of medium height and compactly built figure.
His locks had been touched by thought or care to a premature grayness,
for he had scarcely yet entered upon middle age.  His features were
regular, and would have been handsome had they been less keenly and
coldly intellectual,--the physical mould was forgotten in the mental
one that made itself so much more manifest.  Their expression was one
of active intelligence and calm force, embittered, at the mouth, by a
touch of scorn.  Yet the face did not absolutely repel; for many minds,
it would possess an inscrutable fascination.  It provoked study; it
challenged the imagination and the understanding.

The doctor's conversation was marked by a curious frankness, and an
equally curious reserve.  He made no scruple whatever of opening to the
light of day shadowy recesses of motive and aim that most men would
studiously close, nor of putting himself at odds with the world on
various points of social or moral ethics, nor of boldly questioning and
criticising much that mankind consents to hold in reverence.  Yet, at
the end of an hour's conversation, though he had talked readily and
fluently on many subjects, and said something true, or profound, or
brilliant, or suggestive, about each, his interested, amused, startled,
and bewildered hearer could find almost no _residuum_ of his real
opinions about any of them.  It was impossible to decide where he had
been in jest, and where in earnest; through his most serious argument
had run a vein of mockery, from under his profoundest thought had
peeped forth a hidden sarcasm.  His creed, social, moral, and
political, continually slipped through the seeker's fingers in subtle,
witty, or scornful negations and controversions.

Not that Bergan was conscious of this, at the moment,--nor, indeed,
until after many days of familiar intercourse.  He recognized in the
doctor an intellectual cultivation of no ordinary depth and scope; he
was interested and well-nigh dazzled by his originality of thought, the
boldness of his attacks, and the freedom of his speculations; but the
dubious aspect of his own affairs continually rose before him to harass
his mind and distract his attention;--he was himself incapable of close
observation or continuous thought.  After a time, his glance sank upon
his plate, or wandered aimlessly out of the window: though he forgot no
requirement of courtesy, he was often in a state of semi-abstraction.

Then, in his turn, Doctor Remy fixed his eyes upon his companion.  It
was evident that to subjected him to a far more careful and penetrating
scrutiny than he had sustained himself.  He noted his looks, he weighed
his words, he analyzed his turns of thought, in a way to indicate that
exceeding "love of knowledge for its own sake," of which he had spoken,
or some deeper motive than even his hardy frankness would care to
divulge.  Whether or no he liked what he saw, no mortal could have
told.  The doctor's face was a sort of mechanical mask, absolutely
under his control; it expressed anything or nothing, according to his
will.

One thing only would have been plain to the observer, that he was
puzzled by something which he found, or did not find.  After one of his
deeply penetrating glances, he suddenly called for a bottle of wine,
and, first filling his own glass, passed it across the table.

"I am fortifying myself for a harder day's work than usual," said he,
as if by way of apology, if apology were needed.  "Will you try it?  I
think I can assure you that it is tolerably good."

"Thank you; I never take wine at breakfast."

"Anything else that you would prefer--" began the doctor, courteously.

"Nothing whatever, thank you," replied Bergan, with a most conclusive
wave of the hand.

"Then you do not hold the theory that a little good wine, or other
spirits, after a meal, clears the brain, and aids the digestion?"

"Do I look as if I stood in need of either good office?" asked Bergan,
smiling.

The doctor gave him a quick, critical glance.

"No, I cannot see that you do," he answered.  "I should say that, in
your case, Nature might safely be left to perform her own functions;--I
do not think I ever saw human mechanism in a sounder condition, or
animated by a richer vitality.  Still, there can be no great harm in
drinking in moderation.  Of course, if one cannot do that, it is best
to avoid it altogether."

Bergan looked up quickly,--almost angrily,--but there was nothing in
the doctor's face or manner to indicate that his general remark was
weighted with any ulterior meaning.  He was holding his wine up to the
light with the air of a connoisseur, and having sufficiently enjoyed
its color and _bouquet_, he tossed it off with apparent relish.  Yet
Bergan could scarcely have failed to notice, had he been less
preoccupied, that he then quietly pushed both glass and bottle aside,
and seemed to forget their existence.

"Can I do anything for you, before I set off on my daily treadmill?" he
asked, when the meal was ended.

"Nothing, thank you,--unless you can tell me where I shall be most
likely to find lodgings and an office."

"An office, did you say?  Do I behold in you a brother of the order of
the Asclepiadæ?"

"No, I have not that honor.  I am enrolled in the ranks of the Law."

"How many pegs shall I take myself down, in your estimation, if I
proclaim myself a deserter therefrom?"

Bergan could not help looking the astonishment that he did not express.

"It is true," said the doctor, answering the look.  "I studied law, and
practised it for about two years.  But it did not suit me."

"Would it be impertinent to ask why?"

"Not at all.  It gave too much scope, or too little, to my natural
antagonism of mind;--too little for mental satisfaction, too much for
material advantage.  For instance, I was always possessed with an
insane desire to clear the guilty man, whether he were my client, or
no."

"Yet you deny to yourself the credit of generous impulses!"

"Stay a little.  I was often assailed with an equally insane desire to
convict the innocent one--when he was not my client.  Do not look so
horrified, for the same motive was at the bottom of both.  It was
because I saw so clearly that, with an exchange of
circumstances,--inherited traits, education, temptation, and so
forth,--there would also be an exchange of persons."

"In that case, it would seem that neither should be convicted."

"Exactly.  But it was Society that needed to be convicted and punished.
There was a real satisfaction in reversing its unrighteous judgments."

Bergan felt that he was sinking in a kind of mental quicksand.  "But,"
he objected, catching hold of the first twig of support that offered
itself, "you count the man's will for nothing."

"With most men, it does count for nothing.  Where one man performs
either a good or a bad action deliberately, looking behind and before
him, nine hundred and ninety-nine do it because of the pressure of
outward circumstance."

"You think, then," said Bergan, after a moment's consideration, "that
when a man wilfully embarks on the current which tends toward the
Niagara cataract, it is his misfortune, and not his fault, if he
finally finds himself at a point where the pressure of outward
circumstance must needs carry him over the fall."

"In that case," said the doctor, "the responsibility shifts back to the
power that made the current and the fall, and put them in his way."

Bergan saw the wide labyrinth of controversy opening before him, and
tacitly declined to set foot in it.  He was in no mood for polemics.
He merely asked,--

"And in what way--if the question is admissible--do you find medicine
more to your taste than the law?"

"In medicine, there is always a distinct and a legitimate foe to
combat--disease.  When one engages in a hand-to-hand fight with a
fever, there are no side issues.  Nor does it matter in the least,
whether battle is to be done over the body of an incarnate demon or an
angel unfledged,--in both cases, the treatment is identical, the
physician's duty the same."

"I think I understand you," said Bergan, after a pause, during which he
had been trying to reconcile these curious and half conflicting
statements with some underlying principles, and finding it, at last, in
his own heart, rather than in the doctor's words;--"a physician's
professional and abstract duty are never at variance, while a lawyer
must often be puzzled to decide if he is justified in using his legal
skill to save a criminal from merited punishment."

"It is a question that puzzles few of them," remarked the doctor,
dryly.  "But in regard to this office, _in posse_, of yours;--I rent my
own from a very respectable widow lady, whose house is much too large
for the narrow income to which she found herself restricted, at her
husband's death.  I think she has another room, that she would be glad
to let to an eligible tenant.  Shall we go and see?  It is quite in my
way; I must visit my office before I set out on my rounds."

The house won Bergan's liking, at a glance.  It stood on a corner; it
was large and airy; double piazzas surrounded it on three sides; over
it a hale old live-oak and half-a-dozen gray, decrepit china-trees
flung their pleasant shade.  In the rear, was a tempting thicket of a
garden, which Art had first planted, and then handed over to Nature, to
be taken care of at her leisure,--the result being an altogether
admirable and Eden-like wilderness of boughs and vines, and, in their
season, flowers and fruits, such as can be seen nowhere but at the
South.  The interior of the dwelling wore a most attractive look of
neatness, comfort, and refinement, notwithstanding its extreme
plainness of finish and furniture.  Crossing its threshold, he felt
that a true _home_ had received him into its beneficent shadow.
Nothing could be better for him, he thought, than to find an abiding
place therein.

Nor was there any difficulty in the way.  The doctor's magical touch
arranged the preliminaries.  Then, Mrs. Lyte,--a pale, sweet,
fragile-looking woman, with the gentle gravity of manner that comes of
sorrow at once incurable and resigned--yielded at once to the magnetism
of Bergan's address,--the involuntary softening of tone wherewith he
recognized the claim of her black garments upon his sympathies, the
manifest deference which he paid to her loneliness, her bereavement,
her sorrow.  Since it was needful to sacrifice something of the home
seclusion and sacredness to the necessity of daily bread, she could not
hope for a more desirable tenant.  The negotiations were quickly
concluded.  Not only was an office secured, but a lodging-room in its
rear was also placed at his disposal; and he was to take his meals at
the hotel.

Returning thither, and finding that his baggage had duly arrived from
the Hall, Bergan's active temperament would not let him rest until he
had transported it to his new quarters, and gotten them in tolerable
order.  In this business he consumed the greater part of the day.  The
sun was low in the horizon, when, by way of a finishing touch, he
nailed a tin plate, bearing in gilt letters the words,--"BERGAN ARLING,
ATTORNEY AT LAW," to his office window.

With the act, came a thrill of strange enjoyment.  It was like the
first breath of a new and invigorating atmosphere.  That little sign
imparted an element of solidity to his plans and aims, hitherto
lacking.  It marked an epoch in his life.  Now, first, he flung
himself, with all his strength and energy, into the great struggle of
mankind.

To this pleasantly excited mood, motion was still desirable, weariness
unfelt.  He decided to pay a visit to his second, and yet unknown,
uncle,--Godfrey Bergan.  He quitted the village with the last, red
sunbeams.



PART SECOND.

THE FRUIT OF THE WAY.



I.

THROUGH A MIST.

Oakstead, the estate of Godfrey Bergan, was separated from the lands of
the Hall by the small river--or "creek," in local parlance--which has
before been mentioned.  The pleasant dwelling of the owner stood not
far from a picturesque bend of the stream, commanding a view of its
tawny, slumberous current for a considerable distance up and down,--a
view made up of gentlest curves and softest coloring only, yet with
enough of quiet beauty to arrest Bergan's feet, for some moments, on
the oak-shadowed lawn.

The river's tide stole almost imperceptibly past, mirroring in its
still bosom the sunset-painted sky, and the graver tinted objects of
earth, with equal felicity,--like a gentle spirit, in whose
well-ordered life the things of either world find their appropriate
place and exquisite harmony.  Just at that point of the upper stream
where an artist would have placed it for the best pictorial effect, was
the bridge of the main road, with rough abutments half-buried in wild
foliage, and railings overrun with vines; and at a remoter point down
its shining course, the slenderer span of a narrow footbridge, with a
single rustic railing, was also seen, idealized by distance into an
aerial passway fit for fairy feet.  In the earlier days of Godfrey's
proprietorship, while the half-brothers were yet on friendly terms,
this latter structure had furnished the means of easy and frequent
communication between the two households.  On the cessation of
intercourse, however, Major Bergan had threatened its destruction, and
had even begun an attack upon his own abutment; but his operations
being suddenly suspended, and no convenient opportunity occurring for
their resumption, he had finally left the work of demolition to be
finished by the wear and tear of the elements, and the slow tooth of
time.  Though in a somewhat ruinous condition, and but insecurely
poised on the damaged abutment, the bridge was still passable, with due
caution; and, doubtless, it served for the nocturnal visits of such
negroes of the two estates as were not set at odds by the bitterness of
their masters' feud.

At a little distance below the footbridge, the river made another
graceful bend, and soon disappeared in the shadow of the pine
forest,--behind and above the dark, swaying fringe of which, the
posthumous glory of the sun was fading from the western sky.  Against
this flitting splendor, the turret-like summits of the chimneys of
Bergan Hall were distinctly visible.  A little saddened by the sight,
as forcing back on his mind thoughts and images which he had partially
succeeded in flinging off, Bergan turned and walked quickly up the path
to the house.  Voices met him as he drew near.  In one end of the broad
piazza, so shut in by interlacing vines as to constitute a kind of
leaf-tapestried parlor, two gentlemen were talking.

"I am afraid the identity is only too certain," said the smooth,
sarcastic voice of Doctor Remy.  "But I doubt if the habit be a
confirmed one,--certainly, the physical indications are lacking.  At
any rate, as I said before, he is evidently making an effort to
overcome it."

"I wish that no such effort were necessary,"--began a different voice;
but with the instinct of delicacy, Bergan set his foot upon the lower
step of the piazza in a way to be distinctly heard, and would have done
the same had he supposed that the conversation concerned him, which he
did not.  The voice ceased abruptly, and a gentleman, whom he instantly
recognized as his uncle, advanced to meet him.  Though he had enough of
the Bergan cast of feature to identify him at the first, casual glance,
as belonging to the race, it was lost, almost as soon as seen, amid
traits widely differing from the ancestral pattern.  He was a much more
genuine outcome of American soil than the rest of Sir Harry's
descendants,--in whom a childhood fed upon old-world family traditions,
and a youth spent at Oxford or Cambridge, had availed to preserve the
English mould from all but the more unavoidable modifications.  The
race had always been marked by a greater volume of muscle, a ruddier
complexion, and a sturdier texture of character, than was exactly
native to the soil.  But, in Godfrey Bergan, these characteristics were
lacking.  Though tall and well-formed, he was spare in figure and thin
in face.  His complexion had the true American sallowness of tint.  In
matters of bulk, weight, and coloring,--all the purely animal
characteristics,--he fell far below the standard of his half-brother.
By way of indemnity, his figure had more litheness and grace; and his
features were more clearly cut, and endowed with a keener vivacity of
expression,--apparently, they were informed by a quicker and finer
intellect, as well as a gentler spirit.

Altogether, it was a thoughtful, a refined, and a benevolent
countenance, that confronted Bergan; yet not without certain firm lines
about the mouth to indicate that its owner could be decided, if he
chose, and perhaps severe.  While it invited liking, it commanded
respect.

It was with real pleasure that Bergan made his self-introduction to a
relative with so many apparent claims to affection and esteem.  Yet,
even while he mentioned his name and relationship, and held out his
hand, as to a stranger,--albeit a friend,--he was beset by an uneasy
consciousness that he had met Mr. Bergan, or somebody very like him,
before.  But where?  Sending a swift, retrospective glance through his
life, he could find no clue to the perplexing feeling; and, having
scant time for investigation, he quickly dismissed it as the offspring
of some indefinite and elusive resemblance, perhaps to one of the
ancestral portraits, perhaps to a half-forgotten acquaintance.

It was the more easily disposed of, that its place was soon filled by
another shadowy vexation.  His uncle's reception was both courteous and
kind; yet he could not help feeling intuitively that it was lacking in
some indefinable element of cordiality, even while he repudiated the
intuition as a baseless figment of his own imagination.  Certainly,
there was no tangible coolness, not so much as a thin film of
indifference, upon which to lay a plausible finger-tip; nothing that
did not slip away from every attempt at analysis, and seem to resolve
itself into a sickly humor of his own.  At worst, he told himself,
there was only some less definite expression of consanguineous
sympathy, in the pressure of his uncle's hand, and in the modulations
of his voice, than he had allowed himself to look for; and this was a
mere matter of mood and temperament, the absence of which formed no
good ground of complaint, whatever warmth and grace might have been
contributed by its presence.  No doubt, it would come in good time.

Meanwhile Doctor Remy, sending forth his keen glance from the shadowy
end of the piazza, had recognized the new comer; and he now presented
himself, hat in hand.

"The first meeting of near relatives," said he, with his indescribable
mixture of seriousness and sarcasm, "is a scene upon which a third
person is bound to pronounce his blessing, and--turn his back!  Nay, no
disclaimers; he is equally bound not to listen to them.  Good evening,
Mr. Bergan,--allow me to remark that good influences may avail much in
the matter that we were talking of.  Good evening, Mr. Arling,--it
gives me pleasure to leave you in such agreeable quarters; Oakstead has
manifold attractions, as you are in the way to discover."

And the doctor bowed, and descended the steps.

Mr. Bergan turned to his nephew.  "I hope you left my sister well,"
said he.

"Quite well.  I have a letter from her for you.  I am ashamed that it
has not been delivered before, but--"

Bergan hesitated; a further explanation would take him upon delicate
ground.

"Never mind the sequence of the 'but,'" said his uncle, smiling, albeit
a little gravely;--"I am aware that the road from Bergan Hall to
Oakstead is not so smooth as could be wished.  I"--there was a slight
hesitation, as if a colder phrase had been sought, and not found,--"I
am glad that you were able to surmount its difficulties so soon.  A
letter from Eleanor!" he went on, with a sudden change of
subject,--"that will be a treat indeed!  I take shame to myself that
our correspondence has fallen into such desuetude.  But what one ever
did survive the lapse of forty-two years, without the reviving impulse
of an occasional meeting?  I hardly dare venture a question about my
sister's family, lest I make some terrific blunder.  I am not even sure
about the present number of her children."

"There are six of us left."

"'Left' implies 'taken,'" said Mr. Bergan, with a sigh.

"We have lost two of our number."

"So have we," replied Mr. Bergan.  "But we have not six left--we have
only one.  However, she is a host in herself,--at least, we think
so,"--he added, with a smile at his own enthusiasm.  "But, will you
come in and see your aunt and cousin?"

He led the way to a small room, pleasantly furnished as a library; and
Bergan followed him, though not without a vague sense of a lurking
reluctance and lukewarmness in the invitation,--which he sternly
smothered, nevertheless, as unworthy of himself and unjust to his uncle.

Stepping to an open French window, Mr. Bergan slightly raised his voice
and called,--

"Carice!"

"Yes, father!" was the instant answer, in a voice of peculiar richness
and melody; and the next moment a young girl stood in the window, with
a light shawl wrapped round her slender figure, and her hands filled
with autumn flowers, just gathered.  The light was too dim to show her
features clearly; but a certain indefinable freshness and sweetness
seemed to enter the room with her and diffuse itself through the
atmosphere not less perceptibly than the scent of the flowers.  At
sight of a stranger, imperfectly seen in the twilight obscurity of the
room, she stopped abruptly.

"It is your cousin, Bergan Arling, the son of my sister Eleanor,"
briefly explained her father.

There was a little start of surprise and of pleasure; then Carice
dropped her flowers on the nearest table, and gave Bergan two cordial
hands.  Not only was there a charming grace in the unstudied action,
but also the pleasant heart-warmth, the frank recognition of kinship
and its appropriate sympathies, which Bergan had so unaccountably
missed from his uncle's manner, even while trying to persuade himself,
either that it was there, or that its absence was no matter of surprise.

"Have I really a cousin, then!" said she, brightly.  "I never believed
it till now.  That story of cousins at the West always sounded like a
pleasant fiction to me,--I am glad to know that it is founded on fact."

"On six facts," said Bergan, smiling.  "I am the fortunate
representative of five other claimants to your cousinly regard."

Carice laughingly shook her head.  "I believe what I see," said
she,--"or rather what I should see, if it were not so dim here.  By and
bye,--after I have ordered lights,--I may be able to reason from the
seen to the unseen."  And she glided from the room, which seemed to
grow suddenly dark and chill behind her.

Very shortly she returned, preceded by a servant bearing lights, and
accompanied by her mother.  Looking toward Bergan with a smile, she
gave a slight start; the coming words were arrested on her parted lips;
the color mounted to her brow; across her face went a swift ripple of
disappointment and pain.  Quickly recovering herself, she presented him
to her mother; but the bright cordiality, the warm heart-glow, of her
earlier manner, had faded, and came no more.  It was as if a gray
screen had suddenly been drawn before a cheery household fire.

Happily for Bergan, his aunt claimed his attention, before he had time
to feel the full dreariness of the change.  She was a woman of rare
tact, and much kindliness of heart, despite a somewhat stately manner,
and a considerable degree of aristocratic chill for people not exactly
in her "set."  She gave Bergan a warm welcome,--almost a motherly one;
there was something about him that brought a softening remembrance of
the two sons that slept in the family burial ground, and quietly opened
the way for him into her heart.  Finding his entertainment left very
much in her hands, she cared for it kindly; though not without a secret
wonder at the inexplicable indifference of her husband and daughter.
But she did her best to make amends for it by her own friendliness, and
in part, succeeded.

Meanwhile, Bergan was beset by another tantalizing resemblance.  Never,
he thought, had he seen anything quite so lovely as his cousin
Carice,--with her soft, brown hair, her clear rose-complexion, her
large, limpid, blue eyes, the lily-like droop of her exquisitely formed
head, the inexhaustible grace of her attitudes and movements,--but he
had certainly seen somebody a little like her.  So strong, yet so
puzzling was this conviction, and so frequent the glances consequently
sent in her direction, that he felt a word of explanation might not be
amiss.

"Excuse me," said he, "if I seem to be looking at you almost
constantly; but there is something about you curiously familiar, though
it is impossible that we should have met before.  I suppose I must have
seen somebody that resembled you; but I cannot tell when or where."

Carice looked down, and colored slightly.  Her father came to her
relief.

"There is often no accounting for resemblances," said he.  "When there
is any tie of blood, however remote, we understand them, of course; but
when the face of an utter stranger startles me in the street with the
very smile of my sister Eleanor, or the grave look of my dead father,
what am I to think?"

"One would like to know," remarked Bergan, "if there is a mental and
moral likeness, to match the physical one.  When I fix the resemblance
that eludes me so persistently in you," he added, turning to Carice, "I
hope it will help me to answer the question."

"I doubt if it does," replied Carice, quietly, yet not without a
certain something in her tone that sounded almost like sarcasm.  He
looked at her in considerable surprise, but her eyes were turned away,
and she said no more.

Feeling as if he were walking in a mist, which everywhere eluded his
grasp, while it blinded his eyes, and chilled his heart, he rose to go.

"Let me see," said his aunt, kindly, as she gave him her hand,
"to-morrow will be Sunday, will it not?  Pray let us find you in our
pew at church in the morning; and come home with us to an early dinner,
before the evening service."

Bergan hesitated.  He had no reasonable excuse; yet his uncle had not
seconded the invitation.  As if suddenly cognizant of the omission, Mr.
Bergan now spoke.

"Come, by all means," said he, with more kindness than he had yet
shown,--for he could not bring himself to give a half-hearted
invitation to his sister's son,--"I have still a great deal to ask
about your mother."

"And I," said his aunt, laughing, "have still a great deal to ask about
yourself.  Good night."

They stood on the piazza watching him, until he was out of sight.  Then
Carice turned to her father.

"Did he say anything about--yesterday?" she asked, gravely.

"Not a word.  I should have liked him better if he had offered some
explanation."

"Perhaps he did not recognize us," suggested Carice.

"How could he help it?"

"I don't know,--only--you were angry and I was frightened; probably our
faces did not wear their natural expression.  Besides, he was doubtless
a little bewildered by his fall, and--"

"What or whom are you talking about?" here broke in the amazed Mrs.
Bergan.

"About my nephew, the mad cavalier who so nearly came into collision
with Carice yesterday," replied her husband.

Mrs. Bergan threw up her hands.  "And you let me invite him to dinner!"
she exclaimed, in a tone of deep injury.

"How could I help it, my dear?  Besides, he is my sister's son."

Meanwhile, Bergan found his way back to the village through the
darkness, wondering what had become of the lightness of heart and
cheerfulness of hope with which he had set out--he looked at his
watch--only two hours before!



II.

STRENGTHENED OUT OF ZION.

St. Paul's Church, Berganton, was a small, plain structure of brick and
stone, rather prettily situated on the bank of the aforesaid creek,
which flowed through the midst of the town.  Its sole claim to exterior
beauty must have rested on the thick vines which covered its walls,
framed its windows, and climbed to the roof of its low, square tower;
doing their best to atone for its many architectural deficiencies, its
failure to present to the eye a certain material "beauty of holiness,"
in harmony with the spiritual loveliness of the unseen temple, of which
it was the faint type.

Toward this church, on the morning after his visit to Oakstead, Bergan
directed his steps.  Meeting his uncle in the vestibule, he was soon
seated in the square family pew, and had a few moments to look about
him, before service.

In its small way, the church was almost as much a memorial of the House
of Bergan as the old Hall itself.  Sir Harry had been a fair sample of
the average English Churchman of his day, with whom a certain amount of
religious observance was deemed necessary and becoming, both by way of
seemly garmenting for one's self, and good example for one's neighbors.
If it did not reach very deep into the heart, it at least imparted a
certain completeness and dignity to the outward life.

Moreover, family tradition was strongly in religion's favor.  There had
always been relations of a highly friendly and decorous sort between
the house and the church; and to have turned his back disrespectfully
upon the one, would have been to show himself a degenerate scion of the
other.  As a natural consequence, Sir Harry did not feel that he had
done his whole duty to himself, or his posterity, until he had provided
a fitting stage for the necessary family ceremonials of christening,
marriage, and burial; as well as an appropriate spot for his own
enjoyment of a respectable Sunday doze, under the soothing influence of
an orthodox sermon, after having duly taken his share in the responses
of the morning service.  If this school of Churchmen had its faults, it
also had its virtues.  If its standard of religion was a low one, with
a strong leaning toward human pride and selfish indulgence; it was
better than the open irreverence and infidelity, the unblushing
disregard of religious restraints and sanctions, of later generations.

Under Sir Harry's auspices, therefore, the foundations of St. Paul's
were laid, and its walls arose, as a kind of necessary adjunct to
Bergan Hall.  And his successors, with rare exceptions, had felt it a
duty to add to its interior attractions, as well as to make it a
continuous family record, by memorial windows of stained glass, mural
tablets of bronze or marble, and thank-offerings of font, communion
plate, and other appliances and adornments.  Some of these, no doubt,
were merely self-laudatory, the fitful outgrowth of family pride;
others might have sprung from a sense of what was beautiful and
fitting,--which was a very good thing, as far as it went, though it
went not much below the surface; but a few there were, doubtless, which
had been consecrated to their use by heartfelt tears of sorrow, of
penitence, or of gratitude.  Be this as it may, they all helped (at
least, in human eyes) to give the interior of St. Paul's a certain
completeness, and even a degree of beauty and harmony.

Still, both in its size and its decorations, the church was far
inferior to the Hall.  There was a vast disproportion, both in amount
and quality, between the space and the furniture set apart for the
service and pleasure of a single household, and that consecrated to the
worship of God, and the spiritual nurture of His people.  But, in the
matter of preservation, as well as in answering a definite end, the
advantage was greatly on the side of the church and its appointments.
Wherever the Bergan hands had grown slack, or had been withdrawn, in
that work, others had taken it up, for the love of Christ, and carried
it forward to completion, or kept it from lapsing back into chaos.

And so, Bergan--remembering how surely the merely secular memorials of
Sir Harry and his successors had been overtaken by the slow feet of
decay, while these others had been saved by their connection with an
institution having a deeper and broader principle of life--was led into
a natural enough, though for him a most unusual, train of thought.  He
asked himself if Sir Harry would not have done better, even for his own
selfish end, to have given the larger share (or, at least, an equal
one) of his time, care, and money, to the edifice which had the surest
hold upon permanency, and was most likely to be sacredly kept for its
original purpose.  In our country, more than almost anywhere else,
people build houses for other people to dwell in, and Time delights to
blot family names from his roll, at least on the page where they were
first written.  All family mansions, however fair and proud, are surely
destined to fall into stranger hands, or to be given over to the Vandal
occupation of decay.  All families, of however lofty position, are
certain to sojourn, at times, in the valley of humiliation, if they do
not lose themselves in the deeper valley of extinction.  Would it not
have been better, then, to have foregone somewhat of the frail and
faithless magnificence of Bergan Hall, and linked the dear family name
and memory more closely with the indestructible institution which
belongs to the ages?

And, as he thus questioned, the narrow walls, the low roof, and the
insignificant adornments of the little church seemed slowly to widen
and lift themselves to the grand proportions of a vast, pillared
temple; and the small chancel window--doing so little, nor doing that
little well, to keep alive the fair memory of "Elizabeth, wife of Sir
Harry"--became a great glory of pictured saints and angels, through
whose diaphanous bodies the rainbow-light fell softly among a crowd of
kneeling worshippers;--unto whom the sculptured mural tablets, the
jewel-tinted glass, the stately walls, the soaring arch, told over and
over again the lovely story, and held up to view the noble example, of
a race whose labor and delight it had been to build strong and
beautiful the walls of Zion; and which, in so doing, had raised up to
itself the most enduring, as well as the most precious of earthly
monuments.  How much better this than the crumbling splendors of Bergan
Hall, and the fading glory of an almost extinct name!

"The Lord is in His holy temple," was here breathed through Bergan's
visioned fane, in appropriately awed and solemn tones.  Nevertheless,
they broke the slender thread of its being.  As Bergan rose to his
feet, with the rest of the congregation, its majestic vista, its
pictured windows, and all its rich array, vanished like the filmy
imagery of a dream, at the moment of awakening.  But it was not without
a keen sense of the contrast that he brought his mind back to the real
St. Paul's, and the service going on under its lowlier roof.

Nothing remained but the harmonious voice, which had at once perfected
and broken the spell.  Glancing toward the chancel, Bergan saw a
clergyman, with a face that would have been simply benignant, but for
the vivid illumination of a pair of deep-set, dark-blue eyes,--a light
never seen save where a great heart sends its warm glow through all the
chambers of a grand intellect.

There is something marvellous in the inexhaustible adaptation of the
Church service to the wants of the soul.  At the same time that it is a
miracle of fitness for the ends of public worship, it has its adequate
word for every secret, individual need.  Though Bergan had heard it
hundreds of times before, and always with a hearty admiration of its
beauty and comprehensiveness, never had its rhythmic sentences fallen
upon his heart with such gracious and grateful effect.  Doubtless, this
was owing, in great measure, to the subdued frame of mind induced by
the events of the last week; but it was also due, in some degree, to
the perfection with which the service was rendered.  It was neither
hurried nor drawled, neither grumbled nor whined, neither a rasping
see-saw nor a dull monotone.  It was not overlaid with the arts of
elocution; nor was it robbed of all life and warmth by the formal
emphasis and intonation of the merely correct reader.  But, in Mr.
Islay's mouth, it became the living voice of living hearts.  The dear
old words, without losing one whit of the accumulated power, and the
sacred associations, of long years of reverent use, came as freshly and
as fervently from the speaker's lips, as if they were the heart-warm
coinage of the moment.

As an inevitable consequence, Bergan's responses were uttered with
answering fervor.  And how perfectly they met his wants!  How
wonderfully they expressed his sense of weakness and failure, his
depression and humiliation, his new-born self-distrust, his earnest
desire and determination to be stronger against future temptations.  In
some sentences, there was a depth of meaning and of fitness, that
seemed to have been waiting all these years for this moment of complete
interpretation.  Continually was he startled by subtile references to
his peculiar circumstances, by the calm precision with which his sores
were probed, and the tender skill which applied to them healing balm.

Especially was he struck by the Collect for the day,--so clearly did it
express thoughts and feelings too vague in his own mind to have shaped
themselves into words:--

"O Lord, we beseech Thee, absolve Thy people from their offences; that
through Thy bountiful goodness, they may all be delivered from the
bands of those sins which by their frailty they have committed."

Never before could he have so clearly understood what was meant by the
"bands" of sins, committed, not of deliberate intent, but through
frailty.  How painfully he felt the pressure of those bands! how
certainly they would cramp his efforts and hinder his progress!  And
how singularly distinct they had become to his sight, both in their
nature and their effects, by means of that old, oft-repeated, yet ever
new, Collect!

With a half-unconscious attempt at divination, Bergan turned over the
leaves of his Prayer Book, during the short pause before the psalm,
wondering what other mystic meanings were waiting under familiar words,
for his future needs.  It was not without a little chill at his heart
that his eye caught the opening sentences of the burial anthem.

There could be no question about that.  Whatever else might or might
not be waiting for him, that was certain, some day, to be said over his
dead body, and vainly to try to find entrance into his deaf ears.  But
when?  At the end of a long life; in the midst of his days; or ere his
work was scarce begun?

His work.  What was it?  To walk in a vain shadow?  To disquiet himself
in vain?  To heap up riches for an unknown gatherer?  To write his name
high on the temple of Fame?  To become a philanthropist, or a reformer?
No; but to "apply his heart unto wisdom."

It was both a deep and a hard saying.  Bergan felt that he could not
fathom it, even while he saw how ruthlessly it struck at the roots of
human pride, and lopped the boughs of personal ambition.

Meanwhile, the psalm had been sung, and with a rustling of leaves and
garments, the congregation had settled themselves into their seats.
Through the succeeding hush, Mr. Islay quietly sent the words of his
text: "Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might, for
there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor _wisdom_, in the grave
whither thou goest."

It was the word in season!

Bergan left the church that day, not only with a deeper sense of his
own mortality, and consequent weakness, than ever before; but also with
a modified view of life's work and duty.  In one sense, it was a
narrower view,--with that narrowness which feels the need of some true,
fixed centre, from which to work outward, with any degree of safety and
system, and, consequently, of success.  He began to see that he who
would influence others for good, and through them the world, must first
be certain of the point where his influence begins, and that toward
which it tends.

Not that Bergan understood, or would ever be likely to understand, the
full measure and real character of the change that had been wrought in
him under that lowly church-roof.  Up to this point, his life had been
from without, inward; henceforth, it was to be from within outward.
The inner life of the soul was really begun in him,--feebly,
half-unconsciously, it is true,--yet possessing a hidden power of
assimilation and growth, that would soon bend all things to itself.
Storm and sunshine, darkness and light, success and failure, would
alike minister to its wants, and help it to grow fair and strong.
Things most inimical to it, at first sight, would but give it tougher
fibre and lovelier grain; in the drought, it would but send its roots
down deeper in pursuit of hidden wells; under the pruning-knife, it
would but burst forth into fairer blossoms and richer fruit.

Yet it was no sudden change, for all his life had been a preparation
for it.  Oftenest the kingdom of God cometh without observation.  The
stones of the spiritual temple may be fashioned amid clamor and
discord, but they are laid in their places with a silence that is full
of meaning.



III.

SEEING, BUT UNDERSTANDING NOT.

The service being ended, Bergan naturally turned to his kinsfolk for an
ampler and friendlier greeting than had been possible at their hurried
meeting in the crowded vestibule.  Especially--with a grateful
remembrance of her yesterday's cordiality--did he look to his aunt for
a word of familiar kindness, that should make him feel less alone, less
of a stranger, amid the friendly chorus of salutations and
leave-takings coming to his ears from the departing congregation.  But,
to his surprise and pain, the same indefinable chill which had made him
so vaguely uncomfortable with her husband and daughter, had now taken
possession of her also, and woven a thin film of ice over the manner
that yesterday was so kind.

The change was so unaccountable that he could not believe in it.  He
told himself that the real thing at fault was his own sickly
imagination, that he was morbidly sensitive, as well as foolishly
exacting.  He convinced his understanding, but could not silence his
heart.  That Cassandra of the depths continually smote his unwilling
ear with her lugubrious voice, calling upon him to observe how
strangely Mrs. Bergan had been transformed overnight, from the
interested, cordial, even affectionate aunt, into the polite and
practised woman of the world, doing merely what courtesy required for
the entertainment of the guest that circumstances had flung upon her
hands.

In this state of affairs, Bergan would gladly have exchanged the dinner
at Oakstead for a quiet afternoon in his room and a sober talk with his
thoughts.  But the invitation being already accepted, he must needs
abide by the event.  Accordingly, he took the vacant seat in his
uncle's carriage, and was soon set down at the cottage steps.

Before dinner, the two gentlemen were left to a quiet chat by
themselves on the cool, shady piazza.  Bergan embraced this opportunity
to explain, more fully than he had yet done, his motives and aims.  He
told his uncle,--a little proudly, it might be, for he wished it to be
understood that he had come hither with a self-respecting purpose of
independence, and not with any idea of leaning upon his friends,--he
told his uncle that his choice of Berganton as the starting-point of
his professional career, was due to the influence of his mother.  Her
childhood's home, and its vicinity, had always kept a tenacious hold on
her affections, despite the fact that more than two-thirds of her
womanhood had been spent elsewhere, and all the deeper joys and sorrows
of her life had blossomed and fruited in different soil.  When,
therefore, it became necessary for one of her sons to go out into the
world, in search of a better field of labor than was afforded in his
native village, her thoughts naturally turned to the spot so haloed in
her memory, and where her ancestry had sent such deep, old roots into
the soil, as to create a kind of kinship for evermore between their
descendants and the locality.  It would be a pleasant thing for Bergan,
she thought, to make a home and a name for himself in a place where he
possessed so strong a claim to residence; it would be equally pleasant
for the old town to recognize the familiar mould of features and
character in its streets; and it would be pleasantest of all for
herself to know that her son was with her kinsfolk, amid well-known
scenes, rather than among strangers, on ground where her thoughts could
find no foothold.  Some day, she hoped to visit him there, and feed her
mother's pride upon his success, at the same time that she renewed her
girlhood amid old associations.

Bergan then touched lightly upon his disappointment in the dull old
town--finding it so much duller and older, even to decrepitude, than he
had expected, and consequently, so little eligible to his purpose.  And
here, if he had been met by a more interested glance, and a fuller
sympathy, he would have gone on to speak of the disgraceful scene into
which he had been betrayed by his uncle--the Major--and the obligation
under which he felt himself placed thereby to remain in Berganton, at
least long enough to efface any unfavorable impression which it might
have caused.  But, though his uncle Godfrey heard him patiently and
courteously enough, there was so little of the hearty interest of
kinship in his manner, that Bergan could not bring himself to open the
subject.  Not only was it unpleasant in itself, but it touched at many
points on deep things of his nature, which instinctively refused to
pour themselves into any but a friendly, sympathetic ear.

If he had known whence came the cloud between his relatives and
himself, he would have spoken, as a matter of course, at whatever cost
of feeling.  But this explanation of the matter suggested itself to
him, only to be inevitably rejected.  Although it might serve to
account for the coolness that had characterized his uncle's manner from
the first, it seemed to throw no light whatever upon the difficult
problem of the sudden change from cordiality to reserve, in Mrs. Bergan
and Carice.  A much more natural supposition appeared to be, that
something in his own manner or conversation had unfortunately awakened
prejudice or created dislike.  For that, there was no remedy save in
time.  He could hope that, when his kinsfolk should come to know him
better, they might be fain to reverse their hasty judgment, and account
him worthy of a place in their liking.  But, until that time should
arrive,--though he would do anything in reason to help it on,--there
was nothing to encourage or to warrant any overflow of personal
confidences.

It was scarcely possible, under the circumstances, that Bergan should
have reached a different conclusion.  Of his meeting with Mr. Bergan
and Carice, during his frenzy of rage and intoxication, he retained but
the vaguest recollection; and he had totally failed to recognize either
his uncle or cousin as his co-actors in the dim and misty adventure.
Nor was this the only missing link in the chain of events.  Dr. Remy's
casual talk, in the visit immediately preceding his own, which had
first made Mr. Bergan acquainted with the fact of his nephew's presence
in the neighborhood, and gradually led to his identification with the
intoxicated cavalier of whom he entertained so disagreeable an
impression; Carice's subsequent recognition of him, as soon as his
features were distinctly revealed to her; and his aunt's later
discovery of the same lamentable identity;--all these facts were
necessary to a clear understanding of the situation, and its
requirements.  Without them, no wonder that Bergan was led astray both
in his conclusions and his acts; the former being the inevitable result
of the false logic of the few facts of which he knew, and the latter
going to help the equally false logic of the facts known to others, of
which he knew nothing.

So, after Mr. Bergan had politely assented to his observations upon the
dulness of Berganton, and somewhat pointedly remarked that perseverance
and energy, when conjoined with upright habits, were pretty sure to
command a reasonable measure of success anywhere, the conversation
turned aside into other channels.  The opportunity for a frank
explanation--which could alone have placed him upon his proper footing
with his new-found relatives--was lost.  It would not return until it
was too late to be of any considerable service.

Nevertheless, at the dinner-table, the moral atmosphere cleared a
little.  Mr. Bergan could not, in justice to himself, allow any guest
at his board--much less his sister's son--to shiver long in an
impalpable mist of coolness and reserve.  His wife gladly seconded his
efforts toward geniality and cheerfulness.  Under this opportune
sunshine, Bergan's manner soon lost its reflected touch of constraint,
and sparkled with pleasant humor, or was warmed through and through
with a rich glow of enthusiasm.  Despite their prejudices, his
relatives could not but feel its potent charm.  Under protest, as it
were, they yielded him a portion of their liking, even while they
refused him their confidence.  "What a pity," they thought, "that he is
so dissipated, when he can be so captivating!  What a fine character
his might be, but for its one miserable, ruinous flaw!"

Especially was this thought prominent in the mind of Carice, as she
listened delightedly to the pleasant flow of his talk, and her youthful
enthusiasm involuntarily sprang forward to meet his.  Two or three
times, he caught her eyes fixed upon him with an expression that not
only puzzled, but pained him.  But for the absurdity of the
supposition, he would have said that it was pity!

In the hope of finding a clue to the mystery, he took a position near
her, when they rose from the table,--leaning with an easy grace against
the mantel, while she occupied the low window-seat,--and the two were
soon deep in a conversation of absorbing interest.  Beginning with
books, if slowly led, by the way of the morning's service and sermon,
up to vital questions of duty and morals.  In its course, it developed
so many points of sympathy between the colloquists,--such happy
correspondence of opinion, without lifeless unanimity,--so many
dove-tailed segments of thought, glad to meet in close and completing
union,--that Mr. and Mrs. Bergan, listening, at first, with indulgent
interest, finally began to exchange uneasy glances, and, at length,
withdrew to the piazza for a hurried consultation.

For this fair daughter of theirs--this blue-eyed Carice, with the
lily-like _pose_, and the rose-like face--was their idol.  Not
specially congenial on other points, they were yet made one by their
engrossing devotion to her.  She was at once their exceeding joy and
their exquisite pain.  Although she had scarcely been ill a day in her
life, she had a seeming delicacy of constitution that kept them in a
constant quake of terror.  She had also a sensitiveness of temperament,
as well as a singular purity and simplicity of character, that filled
them with nameless forebodings for her happiness.  All their days were
spent in keeping safe watch and ward between her and the first
threatenings of evil, of whatever nature.  Every coming shadow, every
adverse influence, was foreseen or forefelt, and turned aside, before
it could reach her.

Especially, of late,--seeing her continual growth in loveliness, of a
character at once so rare and so attractive,--they had charged
themselves with the duty of watching against any unwise bestowal of her
affections, and consequent misery.  And, up to this time, there had
been no cause for alarm.  But now, as Mrs. Bergan glanced back through
the window at the rapt talker and listener, noting the earnestness and
heightened color of the one, and the unwonted brightness half-hidden
under the drooping lashes of the other, she turned to her husband with
an anxiety that needed no further explanation.

"They are cousins, remember," said Mr. Bergan, snatching at the first
thread of hope, though not without a sufficient sense of its fragility.

"Only half-cousins, at best,--or rather, at worst," replied his wife.
"And so utterly different in type and temperament, that the
relationship could never be set up as an insurmountable barrier.
Besides, having never met before, they now meet as strangers."

"Then it will not do to encourage him in coming here," said Mr. Bergan,
after a pause.  "I could never give Carice to a drunkard, though he
were fifty times as handsome and talented."

At this moment, Carice, awaking as from a dream, looked round for her
parents.  Seeing them on the piazza, she quickly rose, and came toward
them, followed by Bergan.  There was something in the action
inexpressibly reassuring to the troubled spectators.  The engrossing
spell of the young man's conversation was so suddenly broken, when she
missed her father and mother from her side!  They looked at each other
with a smile, and Mrs. Bergan playfully whispered,--

"I suspect that we are two fools!"

Nevertheless, enough of the effect of these few moments of parental
anxiety remained, to fling a slight shadow over the party.  Carice felt
it first, in her quick sympathy with all her parents' moods; and Bergan
caught it from her as speedily as if there were already some invisible
bond between the two.  Without knowing why, he very soon became aware
that the atmosphere was again growing chill around him.  He had been
basking, not in a broad glory of summer, but only in a flicker of
winter sunshine.

Under these circumstances, Mr. Bergan's announcement that it was time
to set forth for the five o'clock service, was heard as a relief.
Almost immediately, however, it was followed by an unreasoning pang of
regret.  It needed no soothsayer to tell him that moments like those
just passed, were to be rare in his immediate experience of life.

Dusk was fast gathering in the corners and under the arches of the
little church, when the service was over.  Parting with his relatives
at the door, Bergan went his solitary way to his lodgings, through the
deepening twilight.  He walked slowly, not that the road was so
pleasant, but because the end had so little attraction.  The walls and
furniture of his room were still strangers to him;--no one corner would
allure him with a more familiar charm than another, no particular chair
would draw him irresistibly to its accustomed arms, no sweet, tangled
crop of associations would fling their mingled light and shadow across
the floor.  It would all be dim, blank, lonely.  And the foot falls but
heavily on the path, the termination of which neither habit nor excites
imagination!

Nevertheless, the slowest progress brings one quickly to the end, if
the journey be short; and Bergan's lingering steps brought him to Mrs.
Lyte's gate ere the dusk had deepened into total obscurity.  Entering
the wide hall, which extended through the whole depth of the house, he
saw Mrs. Lyte seated at the farther end, in a doorway opening on the
garden.  Her little daughter Cathie was sobbing at her side, in what
seemed an uncontrollable passion of grief and indignation.  The child's
protector and playmate, a half-superannuated old mastiff, named Nix,
sat on his haunches at a little distance, watching the scene with
sympathetic, intelligent eyes.

Cathie was already Bergan's fast friend.  During yesterday's work of
arrangement, she had at first hovered around him at a distance; then,
yielding to the unconscious fascination of the young man's look and
smile, as well as the irresistible attraction of the litter of books
and papers, she had drawn nearer; later on, she had eagerly favored him
with the somewhat questionable help of her small fingers, and the
amusing chatter of her tireless tongue; and she had ended by giving him
all her childish confidence, and a large share of her freakish
affections.

Freakish--because Cathie was a sort of elf-child;--or it might be truer
to say that, in her small compass, there were many elf-children;
manifesting their several individualities through her changeable moods,
and sending their various gleam through the almost weird splendor of
her dark eyes.  She could be wild and tender, playful and passionate,
wise and simple, by turns; or in such quick and capricious succession
that she seemed to be all at once.  She took as many shapes, in her
flittings about the house, as there were hours in the day;--now a
teasing sprite, now a dancing fairy,--at this moment, a tender human
child, melting into your arms with dewey kisses,--the next, a mocking
elf, slipping from your grasp like quicksilver, and leaving you with a
doubt if there could be anything human about her,--and anon, a fiery
little demon, with enough of concentrated rage in her small frame to
suffice for a giant.

It was in this latter phase that she was now exhibiting herself.

"I won't believe it!" she screamed, clenching her small fists, and
jumping up and down in a fury of excitement.  "I won't believe it!  It
isn't true!  Miss Ferrars is a--"

"Hush!" said the mother, softly, hearing the sound of Bergan's step.

--"A mean, lying old maid!" went on Cathie, without an instant's
hesitation.  "I wish I had told her so!  I will, when I see her again!"

"Hush!" said the mother again, more decidedly; laying her hand over the
rebellious month, by way of enforcing the mandate.

But Cathie broke from her, and ran towards Bergan.  At a few paces
distant, she stopped and underwent one of her sudden metamorphoses; the
convulsive fury left her features, and in its stead, there came a grave
sorrow and wistfulness, piteous to behold.  Fixing her dark, bright
eyes full on Bergan's face, she solemnly asked,--

"Are you bad, Mr. Arling?  Tell me, are you really a bad man?"

Whatever mistakes Bergan may have made, in his life, or may make
hereafter,--whatever sins he may commit, through ignorance, or in
sudden passion,--let it be remembered, to his credit, that he could
meet those clear, innocent, child-eyes, without a blush, and answer the
question as gravely and simply as it had been asked,--

"No, Cathie, I do not think that I am."

The truthful accents found their instant way to the child's heart.  Her
confidence--which, in truth, had really never been lost--was restored
fourfold.  She threw herself into his arms, and laid her young cheek
against his, in a loving attempt to atone for the wrong that had been
done him.  Nix came also, and rubbed his great head against the young
man's knee, with an apparent understanding of the whole matter.

Nor was the child's mind the only one to which Bergan's words had
brought quick conviction.  Hearing his low, grave tones of denial, Mrs.
Lyte felt a weight lifted from her spirits.  She had just been
listening to the story of Bergan's intoxication, with adornments,
brought by a gossiping neighbor, and her heart had sunk with fear lest
trouble and discomfort had found their way under her roof, with the new
inmate.  But seeing him thus acquitted by the child and the dog,--two
most unprejudiced judges, she thought,--she quietly dismissed her
fears.  For, though so gentle and shrinking in manner as to give the
impression of having no character at all, Mrs. Lyte was yet quite
capable of forming an independent opinion, and of abiding by it.

So, when Bergan came toward her, leading Cathie by the hand, she did
not hesitate to point him to a seat.

"Your room must be lonely," said she, kindly.  "Will you sit with us
for awhile?"

But Bergan did not heed, if he heard, the invitation.  He merely looked
his hostess in the eyes, and said;--

"Mrs. Lyte, will you be so kind as to tell me what made Cathie ask me
that question just now?"

"Certainly, if you wish it.  But, Mr. Arling, the subject was closed,
for me, with her question and your answer.  Would it not be as well for
you to let it rest there, also?"

Bergan only shook his head.  And after a moment's study of his grave
face, Mrs. Lyte, very quietly, as if it were a matter in which she had
no concern, mentioned the report that had been brought her.  As
quietly, Bergan told her the whole story of his stay at the
Hall:--doing so the more readily, it needs not to be said to those
anywise skilled in the intricacies of the human mind, because he felt
that it was not required of him.  For, though Mrs. Lyte listened with
the kindest interest and sympathy, she took care to show by her manner
that she did so more to satisfy him than herself.  In matters like
this, she was accustomed to trust her instincts more implicitly than
her reason; and she was wise enough to know that trust is the short
road to truth, in all characters not radically bad.

And thus, with the singular inconsequence of human life, the
explanation was made where it was not needed, and left unspoken where
it would have availed much against future misunderstanding, trouble,
wrong, and sorrow!



IV.

PATIENT WAITING.

Five or six weeks now glided slowly by, without working any change in
either the circumstances or the relations of the characters with whom
this history has to do.  Bergan still shivered in the chill remoteness
of position into which he had been flung, partly by his fault and
partly by his misfortune.  Not only between him and his relatives, but
dividing him from the whole reputable outside world, there seemed to be
a gulf fixed, impassable save to formal courtesies and commonplace
usages.  Anything warmer, more personal, more exacting, sought in vain
for an eligible crossing place; and, if it leaped the gray chasm, it
was only to lose itself among chill, elusive shapes of mist, on the
opposite side.

Thus excluded from the only society for which he cared, Bergan did not,
as a weaker character might have done, betake himself for consolation
to the lower circles of vice and dissipation that would have welcomed
him rapturously.  He could better afford to stand alone, he thought,
than to throw himself into arms whose embrace would soil, and whose
seeming support was an insidious undermining.  Besides, it was much
more in accordance with his character to regard the exclusion from
which he suffered as a challenge to be answered, an adversary to be
overcome, rather than a verdict to be acquiesced in.  He would prove to
the world that it had been mistaken.

Day after day, therefore, he spent in his office,--as many a
new-fledged lawyer has done before him,--waiting with what patience he
might for the clients that never came, and reading hard, by way of
preparation for the cases that never presented themselves.  It was dull
and lonely work; yet it did him good service, in giving him time for
thought and reflection, and in making him acquainted with his own
resources of will, courage, patience, and energy.

The only persons who came within the circle of loneliness that
surrounded him, were Mrs. Lyte, Cathie, and Dr. Remy.  The first showed
him much gentle, unobtrusive kindness, chiefly manifesting itself in a
motherly oversight of his rooms and prevision of his wants.  The second
fluttered in and out of his office, like a bird or a butterfly,
affording him much amusing, and often opportune, distraction from hard
study or sober-hued thought.  But neither of these two, for obvious
reasons, could give him just the close, helpful friendship, of which he
stood in need.

Neither did he find it in Dr. Remy.  Though he met the physician daily,
and often engaged with him in hour-long colloquies upon all sorts of
topics, he never felt that he really knew him any better than on the
first day of their acquaintance.  The doctor's peculiar frankness,
which had seemed, at first sight, to promise such facility of intimacy,
proved to be really more of the nature of an elastic barrier, yielding
everywhere to the slightest pressure, but nowhere completely giving
way.  Or, it might be still more fitly characterized as a deceitful
quagmire, wherein the curious explorer sank indefinitely, but never
touched solid bottom.

Not that the doctor was at all reticent in regard to the main facts of
his outward life.  In a desultory way he had furnished Bergan with a
sufficiently distinct outline sketch of his somewhat eventful career,
up to the present moment,--a career which, for shifts and turns, outdid
that of Gil Blas.  According to this, he was born in New Orleans, the
posthumous son of a French refugee, by an American wife.  When he was
twelve years old, his mother had presented him with a stepfather.  The
gift proved so little to his taste that, two years later, he ran away
from the pair, and flung himself into that El Dorado of boyish
imagination--life at sea.  In one capacity or another, during the next
twelve years, he not only contrived to visit most of the countries of
Europe, but also by dint of natural aptitude for study, to pick up a
language or two, and to acquaint himself with the essential part of a
college curriculum.  It now occurred to him to return to New Orleans,
and claim the modest patrimony awaiting him there, in the hands of his
father's executors.  He found that his stepfather had been dead for
three or four years, and his mother, after having exhausted her own
scanty resources, was sinking, with her two children, into the dreary
depths of poverty.  It cost her some effort to recognize the slender
stripling of her memory in the brown, bearded, broad-shouldered man,
who now presented himself before her as her son.  However, his identity
was satisfactorily established, both by certain indisputable personal
marks, and by the presumptive evidence of his willingness to assume the
burden of her support.

His next step had been to place himself in a lawyer's office, where, in
virtue of close application, he made months do the work of years.
Admitted by-and-by to the Bar, he had practised his profession for a
brief space, but finding the legal life not wholly to his taste, he had
flung it aside; and with the ready facility which had characterized his
whole career, had betaken himself to the study and the practice of
medicine.  Here, he averred, he had found his true vocation, the
rightful mistress of his intellect, and should undergo no more
transformations, and indulge in no more wanderings.

So far, Dr. Remy gave quite as frank an account of himself as could be
expected or desired.  But when it came to his inner life of thought,
opinion, principle, his frankness was of the sort that obscures, rather
than explains.  It put forth jest and earnest, reason and sophistry,
airy spirituality and dead materialism, with equal readiness, and with
as much show of interest in one as the other.  If Bergan caught at what
seemed to be substance, it turned to shadow in his grasp.  If he
grappled with apparent earnest, it quickly resolved itself into a
hollow helmet of sudden championship, or a thin mask of irony.  He was
often startled with a doubt whether the doctor had any settled opinions
or principles.  He pulled down, but he built not up; he attacked, but
he rarely defended,--or, if he defended a thing to-day, more likely
than not, he would assault it to-morrow.  All Bergan's own opinions and
beliefs seemed to lose their consistency in the universal solvent of
the doctor's talk, and only took shape again after a protracted process
of precipitation, in his own mind and heart.

If the latter organ made any part of Doctor Remy's bodily system, it
never manifested itself to Bergan by any noticeable throb or sensible
warmth.  The young man was often puzzled by the question whence came
the doctor's evident interest in himself, since it seemed so plain that
it did not spring from any warm personal liking.  He felt himself to be
the object of his careful study, frequently; of his spontaneous
affection and sympathy, never.  He could not but wonder at such an
amount and duration of a purely intellectual interest,--for such he
decided it to be,--when it promised so little result.

However, the doctor's was the only society, worthy of the name, that
was offered to him; his, too, the only friendship, or semblance
thereof, that came within his reach.  He gratefully availed himself of
both, even while conscious that neither fully met his wants, or would
have been the object of his deliberate choice.  Without this resource,
the flow of Bergan's life would have been characterized by a drearier
monotony, even, than at present.

The first slight break in its placid current, occurred one morning, on
his return from breakfasting at the hotel.  To his surprise, Vic was
tied before Mrs. Lyte's gate, arching her neck, and twisting her ears
about, in her usual wild and nervous fashion.  In most confiding
proximity to her restless heels, Brick lay fast asleep on the sunshiny
sward.

Roused by the sound of approaching footsteps, the latter sprang to his
feet, and donned the palm-leaf debris that he termed his hat, in time
to doff it in deferential acknowledgment of Bergan's surprised greeting.

"Why, Brick! how do you do?  Is anything the matter at the Hall?"

"No, massa Harry, nothing 't all.  Only, ole massa, he say we's gittin
lazy,--Vic an' me;--an' he tought you'd better be gettin' some good out
ob us, dan to leab us in de stable--no, I mean, in the cabin, no, one
in de stable and turrer in de cabin--a-eatin' our heads off;--dat's
jes' what he said, massa.  So he clared us off in a hurry, an' tole us
to gib you his lub, and tell you dat he 'sposed you'd kinder forgotten
'bout us."

There could be no question but that the overture was kindly meant, on
the Major's part, but it was one that Bergan could not possibly accept.
Judging from present indications, it would be long before his
professional income would suffice for his own support, to say nothing
of the additional expense of a servant and horse.  Besides, he had
never regarded either Brick or the filly as actual gifts, but only
convenient loans, for his use while at the Hall.  Any other view of the
matter would, by no means, have suited his independent character.  And,
if this had been the case before the rupture with his uncle, it was
doubly so, now.  Major Bergan must not be suffered to think that his
resentment had given way, or that his good will had been restored, by
the aid of any gifts, however valuable, or kindly bestowed.

Yet he would be glad to send his uncle a friendly message, to show that
he was really grateful for his kindness, and ready to accept any
overture which would not burden him with too heavy a sense of
obligation.  To ensure its safe delivery, without the risk of hopeless
travesty, at Brick's hands, he went to his desk, and wrote:


"DEAR UNCLE: Thank you for sending me your love; _that_ is a thing
which I am glad to get and keep.  But I cannot keep either Brick or
Vic,--I have no present use for them, and no means of providing for
them, if I had.  Besides, I never regarded either as mine, except while
I remained at the Hall.  Many thanks, all the same, for your kind
intentions.

  "Your affectionate nephew,
      'HARRY.'"


The signature was written only after considerable hesitation.  His note
would be sure to fail of the desired conciliatory effect, if it wholly
ignored the name upon which his uncle had so strenuously insisted.  Yet
he could not bring himself to incorporate it with his lawful
sign-manual.  He was forced to compromise matters by thus using it as a
sort of _sobriquet_.

Giving the note to Brick, he bade him take it straightway to his
master.  The negro's face instantly fell; then, it brightened again
with the light of a plausible explanation.

"I 'spec I'se to come back, arter I'se 'livered it?" he asked,
anxiously.

"No, Brick," Bergan gravely answered.  "I cannot afford to keep you; it
is as much as I can do, just now, to keep myself."

"But, massa Harry," remonstrated Brick, "don't you know I 'longs to
you?  I'se your nigger, sure as deff; ole massa gib me to you, an' tole
me to wait on you, don' you 'member?  An' how's I a goin' to wait on
you, I'd jes' like to know, wid tree good miles atween us?  'Sides, I'd
feel so mortify to go right back dar, like a dog dat don' own no massa,
arter I done tole 'em all I's coming to lib wid you."

It was not without difficulty that Brick was convinced of the
inevitableness of his return to Major Bergan.  Not only did his heart
yearn to be in the service of his young master, but he was fully
persuaded that he could help, rather than hinder, his fortunes.  He
forcibly expressed his willingness to work his fingers off in the
cause, and gravely proposed to put himself on a course of
semi-starvation, in the matter of "keep."  All this being of no avail,
he was finally forced to mount Vic, and turn homeward, a picture of the
blackest despair.

On the way, his mind was illumined with a gleam of hope.  Like all the
negroes of the plantation, he had large faith in the occult power of
old Rue.  His present journey, he well knew, was mainly owing to her
influence.  If she could be made to see the propriety of his immediate
return to Bergan's service, as he did, no doubt she could find a way to
bring it to pass.  And her conversion to his views could be effected,
he shrewdly thought, by a skilful use of Bergan's confession of
straitened circumstances, as well as a certain suggestive increase of
gravity that he had observed in the young man's manner.  His smile had
not come quite so readily and brightly to his lips as in the old days
at Bergan Hall.  No doubt he was poor, lonely, and troubled.  He needed
some one to take care of him, and watch over him.  And who so eligible
to this position as himself?  For Brick had inherited his grandmother's
devotion to the Bergan blood, and believed that the chief end of his
being was to live and die loyally in its service.  Moreover, his young
master had not only taken tenacious hold of his affections, but also of
that still stronger faculty of the negro mind--his imagination.  Though
he might be a distressed knight, just at present, Brick's faith was
firm that his time of triumph was not far off; and then, he wanted to
be "there to see!"

He lost no time, therefore, in presenting himself before Rue, on his
arrival at Bergan Hall.  And so dexterously did he work upon her love
and pride, by the deplorable picture that he drew of Bergan's sadness
and poverty, that the faithful old nurse straightway betook herself to
her master, and never left him till she had persuaded him to mount his
horse, and set forth, at a brisk trot, toward Berganton.

In truth, the Major was only too glad to be so persuaded.  His anger
towards his nephew had quickly burned out, by reason of its own fury;
and in thinking the matter over, he had come to be more tickled by the
young man's prowess than he had, at first, been displeased by his
flight.

"You should have seen him knocking those fellows around, like so many
ninepins!" he exclaimed, exultingly, to Rue.  "I couldn't have done it
more neatly myself, in my best days.  I tell you, he is a true Bergan
at bottom, if he has got a few crinks and cranks at top.  What a pity
he could not make up his mind to stay quietly on the old place, where
he belongs; and which he might have done what he pleased with, if he
had only taken me on the right tack!  But he'll come back--he'll come
back!  Estates like Bergan Hall don't grow on every bush.  It won't
take him long to find out that he can't raise one from the law.  And
then, he'll be glad to come back to me; and I'll receive him as the
father did the prodigal son!"

But, as time rolled on, and Bergan did not appear to claim this
welcome, the Major began to feel a chagrin that would quickly have been
intensified into anger, but for the happy suggestion that the young man
delayed merely because he was dubious as to his reception.  This view
of the matter was an excellent salve to whatever of bitter or wounded
feeling the Major still retained.  Bergan longing, yet fearing, to
return to him, was a vision that gently soothed his pride, while it
appealed powerfully to his sympathies.

Matters having reached this point, he yielded easily to Rue's
suggestion that Bergan's horse and servant should be sent to him, as a
hint that hostilities had ceased.  And though their prompt return was,
at first, new matter of wrath, Bergan's note, Brick's report, and Rue's
representations and entreaties, availed to smother the half-kindled
flame, and send him forth toward Berganton in a most forgiving and
patronizing frame of mind.  He was ready to make any concessions to his
nephew's principles and habits.  If Bergan would but return to the
Hall, he might dictate his own terms, and order his life in his own
way.  The Major had missed him more than he would have been willing to
allow.  The old place had not seemed the same without him.  Its present
had lost a strong element of cheer and energy, and its future had faded
into dimness.

Arriving, in due time, at Mrs. Lyte's gate, the Major dismounted, and
was about to enter, when his eyes fell on the little tin plate, in
Bergan's office window, which has before been mentioned.  If it had
been the head of Medusa, with all its supernatural powers intact, it
could scarcely have wrought a more complete change in the expression of
his face.  First, he glared at it in incredulous wonder; then, he
nearly choked with inarticulate rage; finally, words came to his
relief.  To the consternation of Mrs. Lyte, and the intense
gratification of the crowd of boys and negroes which quickly gathered
at a safe distance, he proceeded to pour forth a volley of the
bitterest curses that he could frame upon the author of what he chose
to consider an insult to himself, and a disgrace to his lineage.

"That I should live to see the name of Bergan on a snip of a tin sign,
like that!" he growled, shaking his fist at the offending plate, and
trembling with rage;--"what right had the scoundrel to put it there, I
should like to know?  'Attorney at Law,' indeed!--he shall have law
enough, since he likes it so well!  I'll sue him for trespass, libel,
forgery,--I'll horsewhip him, and then have him indicted for assault
and battery,--I'll--."  But here his indignation choked him, for a
moment.

Recovering his voice, his anger took a new direction.  "'Bergan
Arling,' indeed!" he muttered,--"I suppose he was ashamed of the
'Harry,' though he could put it at the end of his note,--smooth-faced
hypocrite that he is!  Where is he?" he went on, lifting his voice.
"Why don't he come out, and face me, like a man?  Must I go in and drag
him out, by the nape of the neck,--the mean, sneaking, insulting puppy!"

"Mr. Arling is out, I regret to say," said Dr. Remy, appearing in the
doorway, and confronting the furious Major with his cool, cynical
smile.  "He went out for a walk some fifteen or twenty minutes ago.  If
he were here, no doubt it would give him great pleasure to meet you."

Major Bergan scowled in a way to show how willingly he would transfer
his wrath to this timely object, if he could only find a reasonable
excuse.  But, discovering not the shadow of one in the doctor's polite,
careless manner, he contented himself with growling,--

"Out, is he?  I wish he were out of the county--and a good riddance!
When will he be in?"

"Not under an hour or two," answered the doctor, wisely postponing the
era of Bergan's return to the utmost limit.

"Umph! that's the way he spends his time, is it? loafing about the
country when he should be in his office!  Well, I've got something to
do, besides wait for him.  Just tell him, will you?  that I owe him a
good, sound horse-whipping, and I'll pay it to him the first time I
meet him."

"I will take charge of your kind message with pleasure," returned the
doctor, blandly.  "Any further commands?"

"No!" roared the Major, with a dim suspicion that he was being made to
appear ridiculous,--"not unless you like to come out and take the
horsewhipping yourself.  On the whole, I'd just as soon give it to you."

"Many thanks," replied the doctor, with imperturbable coolness.  "But I
could not consent to appropriate anything designed for Mr. Arling."

"If it hurts your conscience, you can pass it over to him," rejoined
Major Bergan, with grim humor.

"It would lose its flavor at second-hand," said the doctor, smiling.

"It would be your own fault, if it did," responded the Major.  "At any
rate, take care that my message don't lose anything, on the way.  And
while you're about it, just tell him that he shall never have Bergan
Hall, nor an inch of ground that belongs to it, never!  I'll give it
to--Astra Lyte, first!"

The doctor slightly shrugged his shoulders, as an intimation that the
Major's disposition of his property was a matter that did not interest
him; but the latter mistook it for a sign of incredulity.

"I will!  I swear I will!" he repeated, with an oath.  "And why
shouldn't I?" he went on, after a slight pause, as if the sudden idea
had unexpectedly commended itself to him,--"why shouldn't I?  Her
father was my cousin; and he had Bergan blood in his veins, too,
through his mother; and he was a right good fellow, besides.  Where is
she?"

"Miss Lyte is in New York, on a visit," replied the doctor.

"Umph!  I should like to see her.  Is she growing up bright and
handsome?"

"She is both," returned the doctor, briefly.

"Then, she shall have it!" exclaimed the Major, with sudden decision.
"I'll go home, and make my will.  Tell Harry so, for his comfort, when
he comes back."

And the Major, delighted that he had bethought himself of a revenge so
swift and ample, mounted his horse, and rode off.

On Bergan's return, the scene was described to him by Doctor Remy, with
a minuteness and accuracy of detail and coloring that did great credit
to that gentleman's powers both of observation and description.
Nevertheless, there was something of cynicism, or of satire, that
grated on his listener's ear; and he finally stopped the doctor's flow
of eloquence with the question,--

"Who is Astra Lyte?"

The doctor looked at him, with much surprise.  "Is it possible that you
have not yet heard of her?" he asked.  "She is Mrs. Lyte's eldest
daughter; and a genius, too,--or, at least, an artist;--they are not
always synonymous terms, I believe.  But where have you been living,
not to have become acquainted with her name before this?  It is always
on Mrs. Lyte's lips; at least, she is ready to talk of her by the hour,
with a little encouragement."

"My conversations with Mrs. Lyte have not been many nor long," replied
Bergan.  "An artist, did you say?"

But Doctor Remy had fallen into a fit of thought.  He merely answered
the question by a nod; and very shortly, he left Bergan to his own
reflections.



V.

UNDER THE OAKS.

Not many weeks after the preceding incidents, Bergan went out, early
one afternoon, for a long, solitary ramble.  It was not his wont to
leave his office before dusk, but his head ached with study, and his
heart with loneliness and discouragement; an intolerable weariness and
irksomeness had taken possession of him; his book seemed meaningless,
and his brain paralyzed; there was nothing for it but to turn from the
world of thought, that had suddenly grown so insufferably arid and
dead, to the living, breathing world of nature.  Forest, and field, and
wave, if they could not give him intelligent sympathy, could at least
furnish him gentle distraction.

And, oftentimes, there was a subtile harmony, almost amounting to
sympathy, between his lonely moods, and the soft, rich, yet melancholy,
Southern landscape,--for melancholy it always seemed to him, though
that effect may have been partly owing to the gray medium of isolation
and depression through which he viewed it.  But, whatever its origin,
this gentle mournfulness was the landscape's consummate charm,--at
least, for any burdened human heart.  It is possible that Eden wore a
soft grace of pensive beauty, after the fall, which Adam and Eve,
wandering back thither, would have counted a dearer delight, in their
then mood, than its old, unshadowed brightness.

On his way out, Bergan found Nix stretched at full length across the
threshold.  With the usual preference of his race for masculine over
feminine society, the dog had early attached himself to the young man,
as much as was consistent with a different ownership.  He now rose,
shook himself, wagged his tail, and looked wistfully in Bergan's face.
Meeting with no rebuff, he made bold to follow him.

Leaving the town behind as quickly as possible, Bergan first struck
into a long, lonely lane, shut in, on either side, by a thick border of
multifarious foliage.  Trees and shrubs, both deciduous and evergreen,
not only mingled their boughs along its sides, but were tied together
in an intricate polygamous knot by tangled vines.  There was an endless
diversity of form and color,--every shape of leaf, and every hue and
shade of green and brown, with occasional tints of red, purple, and
orange, both pale and bright,--and everywhere the gray fringe of the
Spanish moss.

By and by, the lane terminated in the inevitable pine barren, which
frames all Southern landscape pictures.  It stretched away, in every
direction, as far as the eye could reach,--a vast, dim solitude, with a
thick, blue-green roof, upheld by innumerable slender columns, and a
carpet of fallen needles, on which the foot fell without a sound.  A
mysterious sigh pervaded it, even when no breeze was astir; its light
was but a gentle gloom; and it had a soft, aromatic atmosphere of its
own, as if it were another world.  No fitter place could have been
found for the indulgence of a youthful day dream, with enough of
inherent light and color to overcome the prevailing sombreness, or, at
least, to set itself in stronger relief against so darksome a
background.  But to Bergan, the vast, dim monotony, with its suggestive
correspondence to the circumstances of his own life, brought only added
heartache.  The chance openings into the sky were so few, and the
sunshine never fell save flickeringly, at the farther extremity of some
long vista!  He soon began to yearn for outlook and aspiration, some
spot affording at least a glimpse of the surrounding world, as well as
a fair look at the open sky.  Happily, he knew where to find it.

Long since, he had discovered for himself a convenient and attractive
out-door haunt,--a kind of natural amphitheatre, on the edge of one of
the numerous bays, or creeks, of the vicinity.  Great, patriarchal
live-oaks, with hoary beards of moss trailing even to the ground, had
ranged themselves in a semi-circle, on a high bank, overlooking the
water.  Standing in attitudes of ponderous grace, each one scattered
shade and quietude over fifty, sixty, or, it might be, an hundred, feet
of sward.  Through a broad opening, in the midst of the dignified
circle, the cheerful sunshine fell unbrokenly; and on the water-side,
there was a fair stretch of blue waves, with a sea-green horizon-line
afar; and over all, a wide half-dome of sky, with its changeable
tracery of clouds, and its transparent concord of color.  It was hard
to believe that the hand of man had not wrought with that of nature, to
produce a spot so perfect.  Many a sunset had Bergan enjoyed there;
many a twilight had he mused away, under the rustling oak-boughs; many
a time, the rising moon had found him there, and surrounded him with
weird enchantment.

All along, this spot had been the goal of his steps, though--by way of
trying first what help and heart were to be found in exercise--he had
chosen to reach it by a most circumlocutory route.  So far as he knew,
it was his own, by right of occupancy, as well as discovery; never had
it showed a sign that it knew the pressure of any other human foot.

As he drew near, the sun was sending long, slanting beams of ruddy
light athwart the amphitheatre, and dyeing the polished oak-leaves in
rich tints of gold and orange.  He quickened his steps, the sooner to
reach the point whence sunset-splendors were to be seen to the best
advantage; and upon which he had taken occasion to construct a low,
rustic seat.

To his amazement, it was already occupied.  A lady was quietly seated
therein, her cheek resting on her hand, her eyes (as he judged from her
pose, for her back was toward him) fixed on the glowing sky.

He stopped short, uncertain whether to advance or retreat.

Nix--who had lingered behind, to make a feint of hunting a
squirrel--settled the question for him.  Coming upon the scene, he
first sniffed the air, and then dashed at the intruder.  Fearing lest
his intentions might be unfriendly,--or, at least, that the lady would
be startled by his sudden appearance,--Bergan sternly called after
him;--

"Nix!  Nix!  Here!  Come back, you scamp!"

But Nix, if he heard, certainly did not heed.  He was fawning upon the
lady, in a way to indicate a previous acquaintance of considerable
standing and intimacy.  She, on her part, received his rude caresses
quite as a matter of course, and cordially patted his rough head.  Then
she turned to Bergan.

"Nix does not mean to be disobedient," said she, apologetically.
"Only, he recognizes in me an older friend than Mr. Arling, and,
perhaps,"--she smiled,--"a superseding authority."

Bergan bowed.  "He is fortunate," said he,--"that is, in finding a
friend, old or new, where he did not look for one."

He spoke with a slight bitterness of tone, in involuntary recognition
of the fact that no such pleasant discovery was ever the reward of his
own aimless rambles.  At the same time, he looked curiously at the
lady, seeking a clue to her identity.  She had seemed to know him; yet
he could not remember that he had ever met her before.

Apparently, she was young; certainly, she was small, and somewhat
slender.  Without being absolutely pretty, her face was exceedingly
interesting, by reason of its mobility and vivacity of
expression;--albeit, its changes were not always to be easily
understood, nor its language at once interpreted.  Her eyes were of the
darkest gray, with a clear and penetrative glance, that seemed to go
straight to the depths of whatever object they sought.  Her manner,
though perfectly feminine, had an air of strength and energy, in marked
contrast with the languid grace which is the more frequent product of
Southern soil.  She was very simply dressed,--in some soft, gray
material, the one beauty of which was its ability to fall in artistic
folds about her figure;--nevertheless, there was a certain pleasant
peculiarity, a kind of sober picturesqueness, about her attire, that
lifted it more surely out of the region of the common-place than any
richness of texture, or newness of fashion, could have done.  Moreover,
it satisfied the eye with a sense of fitness; it was plainly the
legitimate outgrowth of the wearer's character.  Not that it bid
defiance to fashion, but it did not conform to it to the extent of a
complete sacrifice of individuality.

Her only ornament was a cluster of bright scarlet leaves, that she had
doubtless found on her way thither, and fastened on her breast; and
which an opportune sun-ray now touched into vivid splendor.  This, too,
suited her.  It seemed the subtile outward expression of some
correspondingly warm and rich characteristic within; glowing soft
against the gray texture of an otherwise grave, earnest, almost severe
character.  It might be sparkling wit, or warm affections, or both,
that were thus pleasantly symbolized.

She met Bergan's curious glance with a quiet smile, that seemed to
understand its object, and enjoy, beforehand, its discomfiture.  She
even answered it with a brief scrutiny, that was hardly less in
earnest, though not at all puzzled,--scarcely, even, inquiring.

At this moment, the sun suddenly disappeared.  The two faces, that had
been so clearly and ruddily lit up by his declining beams, were left
pale and shadowed, looking at each other under the solemn old trees;
through the branches of which the wind now began to whisper softly, as
if moved to utter some sombre prediction, which yet it could not make
quite plain.

"Do you believe in omens?" asked the young lady, with a kind of playful
shiver.

"Not at all," answered Bergan, looking a little surprised.

"It is as well that you do not.  For I suspect that they are like
certain modes of medical treatment; they require a large element of
faith to make them efficacious.  And, to say truth, neither do I
believe in them--except in a poetical way.  If I did, I should say that
this sudden shadow augurs but badly for our future acquaintance, and
influence upon each other."

"If it means," replied Bergan, "that we are to know sunshine and shade
together, little more could be predicted--or desired--of any earthly
acquaintance."

"Perhaps not.  Still, as I _do_ believe in omens, as I said before, in
a poetical way, I am glad to see that the sun is not really set, after
all.  He only sank into a deceptive line of cloud.  There! he comes
forth again, to give us another bright glance before his final
leave-taking.  And, in order to leave the omen in its present
satisfactory state, I will anticipate his departure.  Good evening."

Slightly inclining her head, as she passed Bergan, she quickly
disappeared under the low-hanging oak boughs.

Nix looked after her, for a moment; then he turned to Bergan, as if
wondering why he did not go, too.  Seeing no sign of departure, he was
about to fling himself upon the ground, when a clear, sweet whistle
suddenly sounded from the direction which the young lady had taken.
Pricking up his ears, he instantly set off at a great pace; leaving
Bergan with a vague sadness, as having been deserted by his last friend.

However, the feeling was but momentary.  Very quickly he turned to the
consideration of the interesting question who his late interlocutor
might be.  Running over in his mind all the branches of the family of
Bergan, in the neighborhood (of which there were several, more or less
direct), he soon decided that she did not harmonize with what he knew
of any of them.  Yet she had seemed to know him; and to think, and even
to intimate, that they were likely to meet again, and possibly to exert
a degree of influence upon each other's lives.  And still, as he
pondered and questioned, the oak trees kept whispering overhead, with
all their multitudinous tongues, an apparently full, but
unintelligible, explanation.

He bewildered himself with conjectures, until all the sunset tints had
faded from the sky, and darkness was fast gathering under the oak
boughs.  Then he rose, and went his solitary way homeward.

Arrived at Mrs. Lyte's gate, it seemed to him that there was an unusual
stir and liveliness about the house.  Certainly, a broad beam of light
was shining across the hall, from a door that he had never before seen
open.  Ere he could think what these things betokened, Cathie came
running to meet him, with a great piece of news in her beaming face.

"Oh!  Mr. Arling!" she exclaimed, in almost breathless delight, "Astra
has come!"

The mystery was at an end.  Indeed it could scarcely have been a
mystery, but for two concurrent circumstances.  In the first place,
knowing Miss Lyte to be an artist,--or at least, an art-student,--and
possessed of a sufficiently independent character and spirit, he had
unconsciously sketched a portrait of her in his fancy, very different
from the original,--taller, larger, with more color, and, certainly,
less feminine.  And, secondly, only the day before, he had heard Mrs.
Lyte lamenting that her daughter would not be at home for another month.

A sudden turn of circumstances, however, had wrought an equally sudden
change in Miss Lyte's plans; and, taking advantage of the opportune
escort afforded by a business trip of a friend, she had journeyed
southward with such celerity as to outstrip the letter of announcement
that she had dispatched, a day before her departure from New York.
Reaching home almost immediately after Bergan had gone out for his
solitary stroll, she had spent the afternoon in a long, earnest,
circumstantial talk with her mother,--discussing her plans and
prospects,--throwing off, with careless fluency, vivid picture upon
picture of her art life and work in the city,--listening eagerly to
interjectional items of home news,--and cheering Mrs. Lyte's heart,
through and through, with her bright spirits, her ready, yet healthful,
sympathy, and the inspiring energy both of her manner and mind.  With
the very sight of her, more than half the widow's burden of sorrow and
care had slipped unconsciously from her shoulders.

Finally, toward sunset, foreseeing an unusual amount of sky-splendor,
she had gone forth for a brief enjoyment of it to her old, favorite
haunt,--the oak glade which Bergan had also discovered and taken into
favor.  Meeting the young man there, she had instantly recognized
him,--by reason of Nix's suggestive companionship, and her mother's
recent description,--and had taken an innocent pleasure in subjecting
him to a transient mystification.

"She gave us _such_ a surprise," went on Cathie, joyously.  "Mamma
almost fainted, and I--guess what I did, Mr. Arling."

To please her, Bergan guessed what he supposed to be the most unlikely
thing; and so, in consequence of the child's peculiar character, he
guessed right.

"Doubtless, you cried," said he.

"So I did," replied Cathie, opening her eyes wide, "though I can't see
how you knew it.  But I thought I was laughing, all the time, till
Astra asked me why I was so sorry to see her, and offered to go away
again if the sight of her was so painful!'  And _that_ made me laugh,
in good earnest!  And oh! Mr. Arling, do come and see her little white
boy!  She has just been unpacking him, to show him to mamma."

"Willingly," replied Bergan, "if you are sure that she would like me to
see him."

"I'll ask her," replied Cathie, darting through the open doorway at the
left, whence came the broad beam of light aforementioned, and through
which Bergan caught a glimpse of Mrs. Lyte's black-draped figure,
seated at the farther corner of the room, in an attitude of pleased
contemplation of some object not within his range of vision.

The next moment, Miss Lyte herself appeared on the threshold, and,
seeing by his face that his mystification was over, she frankly held
out her hand to him.

"So you have found me out!" said she, laughing.  "Was it wicked in me
not to answer that look in your eyes, which said so plainly, 'Who on
earth _can_ she be?'  Can you pardon my selfish enjoyment of your
perplexity?"

"A perplexity that ends so pleasantly deserves thanks rather than
pardon," returned Bergan.

And having answered Mrs. Lyte's cordial greeting, and congratulated her
upon the event which had brought such unaccustomed radiance into her
face, Bergan turned, with a pardonable curiosity--or it might more
fitly be termed, an inevitable interest,--to glance around the room in
which he found himself.  Never before had he happened to enter that
middle ground between the airiest ideal and the earthliest real, which
is occupied by a sculptor's studio.



VI.

OF CLAY.

Bergan's first glance around the studio was necessarily a comprehensive
one, dealing with general effect, rather than minute detail.  A large
(though not a lofty) room; a bare floor; walls crowded with designs and
studies; four or five busts and statues standing around the sides, and
the life-size figure of a child in the middle, of the room;--this was
what that first glance revealed to him.

Cathie gave him no time for a second.  "Look at the dear little boy,
Mr. Arling; do look at him!" she exclaimed, joining her hands over her
head, and executing a rapturous _pas seul_ around the object of her
delight.  "See his cunning little whip, and his funny little feet, and
isn't he a little white darling!"

Thus besought, Bergan turned his attention to the statue in the midst.

At first sight, it seemed to represent merely a pretty and playful
human child, with a toy-whip in his hand, his head half-turned over one
shoulder, and an arch and roguish expression, as if bent on some errand
of mischief.  But, while Bergan continued to gaze, fascinated, the
small physiognomy seemed to grow wily and malign, as well as arch; and
an intelligence, far more swift and subtle than ever infant of mortal
race was gifted withal, informed the tiny features.  The light feet,
too, were plainly moved by deliberate purpose of guile, rather than
childish impulse; and on their soles, broad sinuate leaves were bound,
either for protection or disguise.

Bergan looked at the figure long and earnestly, enjoying its delicate
freshness and piquancy, but trying in vain to fathom its meaning.

"What will-o'-the-wisp is it?" he finally asked.  "And what is he
doing, with his soft cunning and smiling malice?"

"He is a god," replied Astra.  "As to his errand, it is the laudable
one of cattle-stealing."

"It seems to be a case of very early depravity," said Bergan, smiling,
yet puzzled.

"Early enough to be termed 'original sin,'" returned Astra.  "For

  'The babe was born at the first peep of day * *
  And the same evening did he steal away
  Apollo's herds.'--

Did you ever read Homer's 'Hymn to Mercury?'"

"Never.  Indeed, I am not quite sure that I ever heard of it," replied
Bergan.  "Is it usually counted among his works?"

"I think so; though it is fair to say that his authorship of it has
been questioned.  At any rate, Shelley has put it into very musical
English verse; and there I found my subject.  The circumstances of
Mercury's birth being first narrated, the newborn immortal is described
as 'a babe all other babes excelling,' and also a subtle schemer and
thief.  He first invents the lyre, and accompanies his own impromptu
song of 'plastic verse,' with it; then he is 'seized with a sudden
fancy for fresh meat,' and betakes himself to the Pierian mountains,
where Apollo's 'immortal oxen' are feeding.  Separating fifty from the
herd,

  'He drove them wandering o'er the sandy way,
  But, being ever mindful of his craft,--'

that is to say, his inborn guile,--

  'Backward and forward drove he them astray,
    So that the tracks, which seemed before, were aft:
  His sandals then he threw to the ocean-spray,
    And for each foot he wrought a kind of raft
  Of tamarisk and tamarisk-like twigs,'"--

"I see," said Bergan, smiling.  "The consummate little rogue!"

Astra went on:--

  "'And on his feet he bound these sandals light,
  The trail of whose wide leaves might not betray
    His track; and then, a self-sufficing wight, * *
  He from Pieria's mountain bent his flight,--'

driving the stolen cattle before him, of course.  And this is the
moment at which I have sought to represent him."

"And very perfectly you have succeeded," said Bergan, admiringly.  "The
arch cunning and malice of the face is simply wonderful.  Indeed, it
seems to me that the statue lacks but one thing."

"And what is that?" said Astra, quickly; at the same time flashing a
swift, searching glance at her work, as if she would fain have
anticipated the criticism.

"It does not tell how the story ended."

"Oh!" said Astra, looking both relieved and amused.  "I am glad that
you did not keep me waiting so long as Michael Angelo did poor
Domenico."

"How long was that, pray?"

"You shall hear.  Domenico Ghirlandaio, a celebrated Florentine
painter, having completed a picture of St. Francis, upon which he had
exhausted his utmost skill, and which seemed to him to be perfect, sent
for a young artist of great promise, Buonarotti by name, (who had also
been his pupil), and asked for his opinion of the work.  The young man
contemplated it for some moments, said gravely, 'It needs but one
thing,' and departed.  The master remained, to study the picture anew,
to pore over it hour after hour, and day after day, and rack his brain
with the question what it needed.  Years after, when Buonarotti had
become Michael Angelo, and filled the world with his fame, Domenico
sent for him to come to his death-chamber.  'What did the picture
need?' he asked, faintly.  'Only speech,' replied Michael Angelo.  The
old master smiled,--and died."

"It is a touching story," said Bergan.  "And it is almost an allegory,
too.  For 'only speech' is so often the great need of life!  All our
deepest feeling and best thought are inarticulate.  But am I to be
indulged with the rest of _this_ story, also?" he added, turning again
to the statue.

"I will give it you in brief," replied Astra, "by way of whetting your
appetite for the richer savors of the poem itself.  Having driven his
stolen cattle to Alpheus, the infant god selected two fat heifers for
sacrifice.  And here, it seems to me, is one of the finest touches in
the whole poem.  After kindling his fire, slaying his heifers, and
offering a portion to each of the twelve gods,

        ----'his mind became aware
    Of all the joys that in religion are.
  For the sweet savor of the roasted meat
    Tempted him, though immortal.  Nathless
  He checked his haughty will and did not eat,
    Though what it cost him words can scarce express.'

Here, you see, is real self-denial and self-conquest,--for the sake of
making an acceptable sacrifice,--and their deep after delight."

"If the offering had been less ill-gotten," remarked Bergan, somewhat
dryly, "I think the 'touch' would have been still finer."

"I confess that I had forgotten all about that," said Astra, laughing,
"in my admiration of the infant god's mastery over himself.  Still, we
cannot expect to find the purity of the Gospel standard of life in the
heathen mythology; we can but be thankful for the gleams of Divine
light here and there irradiating it, since a whole people long lived
and died under its sanction.  But, at this rate, my story will never
end!  The baby god next proceeded to remove every trace of his
holocaust, working all night 'in the serene moonshine.'  Then, at break
of day, he betook himself to his natal cavern, crept quickly to his
cradle, pulled his 'ambrosial swaddling clothes about him,' and put on
a soft semblance of new-born innocence.  In due time, Apollo, having
discovered the loss of his cattle, and suspecting who was the rogue,
came to the cavern, found the 'subtle, swindling baby,' lying 'swathed
in his sly wiles,' and taxed him with the theft.  At once, the young
'god of lies' shows forth his character.  He stoutly denies all
knowledge of the mischief; he pathetically declares,--

    'I am but a little newborn thing,
  Who yet, at least, can think of nothing wrong;
    My business is to suck and sleep and fling
  The cradle-clothes about me all day long,--
    Or, half-asleep, hear my sweet mother sing,--
  And to be washed in water clean and warm,
  And hushed and kissed and kept secure from harm;--'

and, finally, he swears that he does not even know 'whatever things
cows are!'  However, Apollo turns a deaf ear to all his wiles and
pleadings, and compels him to go before Jupiter; who laughs to hear his
plausible account of himself,--'and every word a lie,'--but finally
bids him show Apollo where he has hidden the stolen cattle.  This he
does, 'nothing loath,' and finally subdues the sun-god

                ----'by the might,
  Of winning music, to his mightier will:
  .  .  .  .  .  sweet as love,
  The penetrating notes did live and move
  Within the heart of great Apollo: he
  Listened with all his soul, and laughed for pleasure.'


"And here we may as well leave them.  For the rest of the story,--as
well as for many pleasant pictures and nice touches, of which my
abstract gives no hint,--you should go to the poem itself."

"I shall be sure to do so," said Bergan, "with this arch, airy little
figure to lead the way.  But it should be in marble, it seems to me,
rather than in plaster."

Astra smiled gravely.  "For that, a patron--or, at least, a
purchaser--is needed.  Marble is expensive as well as indestructible;
few artists can afford to put their works into its safe keeping,
without help.  And perhaps it is as well that such is the case, else
Posterity would never be able to bear the stony accumulation that would
be heaped on its back."

"I think I can venture to promise that it would never feel this airy
creation to be a burden," said Bergan, earnestly.

"I hope not.  But my little Mercury is still my youngest darling, and I
feel all a mother's partiality for it; I have no eyes for its faults.
When the inevitable time of disenchantment comes, and I am able to see
it as it is, I can better tell whether I care to commit it to the white
immortality of marble."

She continued to gaze at the statue for some moments with fond, dreamy,
wistful eyes,---just as a mother might regard her newborn infant.
Bergan felt a slight pang in beholding this nearness of the work to its
author, this strong, tender, indissoluble bond between the two.  Would
ever any work of his--any brief, or plea--come from such a warm depth
of his heart, and embody so much of his life?  A poet, a musician even,
might know something of this deep gladness of creation; but a lawyer, a
judge, dealing with dry reason and dusty legal enactments,--was there
any such joy in his work for him?

Leaving the question unanswered,--as he must needs do, until time and
experience should come, to his help,--Bergan turned anew to the
contemplation of the Mercury; which seemed to grow in beauty and power,
as he continued to look.  It would be hard to say how much of this
pleasurable effect was due to the inherent charm of the work, and how
much to the spell shed from the rapt face and softly illuminated eyes
of the artist.  Many a work that we look upon but coldly, would quickly
find its way to our hearts, if we knew enough of its history and its
author, to give us the clue to its subtler spirit and aim; while those
which we love without such knowledge, would, by its help, be
transfigured--glorified.  If we could stand with Michael Angelo before
his "Moses," or with Guido before his triumphant "Archangel," what new
lights of interpretation would be lit for us at the eyes and lips of
those great masters!

Nor must it be said that the spectator may be dazzled by the artist's
enthusiasm into awarding the work higher praise than a cooler judgment
would sanction.  For just here lies the truth which is too often
overlooked in criticism, both of literature and art.  If the critic be
not in sympathy with the worker,--if he do not, in some measure, behold
the work through his eyes,--if he cannot discern what was attempted as
well as what is attained,--then his eyes will be partially holden both
from the beauties and the faults of the work.  For nothing, in life or
art, was meant to be looked at by itself.  Everything is related to
something else; each helps all.  The moment wherein the spectator's
mood and the artist's work make sweet harmony, is the moment of correct
appreciation.

If Bergan did not understand what an illumination the presence of Miss
Lyte threw over her work, he was fully conscious that her work shed a
transfiguring light over her.  The face under the whispering oak boughs
was not the same as this in the studio.  That had been simply bright
and mobile, with a spice of _espiéglerie_; this was all alight and
astir with genius.  Miss Lyte's very hand partook of the
transformation.  Bergan had happened to notice its symmetrical shape,
as revealed by a careless gesture, at their first meeting; but he now
decided that it was not so much its beauty which had attracted his
attention, as a certain peculiarity of delicate energy and adroitness,
which ought of itself to have suggested its artistic skill.

Bergan's eye fell next on the pedestal of the Mercury, improvised by
turning up on end the packing-box in which it had arrived.  The lid lay
on the floor, in two pieces, and was surmounted by a sturdy-looking
hammer and chisel.  Bergan's glance went back to that slender hand,
with an unconscious question in it; which Astra was quick to understand.

"Why not?" said she, with a smile.  "Of course, I might have called in
old Cato to open the box; but he would have done it so slowly and
awkwardly that I should have suffered tortures in watching him; it was
easier to do it myself.  To be sure," she went on, taking up the hammer
and chisel, "these are not quite so fit for a lady's hands as the
lighter and slenderer implements that I use in modelling; but I like
them well, nevertheless.  It would go hard with me, here in this quiet
country town, away from all aids and appliances of art, if I were not
on very good terms with purely mechanical labor.  I made the mould,
from which that cast was taken, myself;"--she pointed to the Mercury.

Bergan looked as if he scarcely understood.

"I suppose you are aware," pursued Astra, "that the word 'sculptor' is
a misnomer, nowadays.  The real sculpture--that is the
marble-cutting--except a few finishing touches, is done by artisans
skilled in that work.  The plaster casts are made by regular casters,
from moulds taken from clay models.  These last, only, are the work of
the artist throughout,--shaped by his fingers, and informed by his
thought.  See! here is the raw material of my work!"

She pointed to a large triangular box, in one corner of her closet,
filled with fine, moist clay.  She even leaned over it, and inhaled its
earthy odor, with a kind of affection.

Bergan also looked into it so long, so silently, and with so meditative
an aspect, that Miss Lyte finally interrupted the flow of his thoughts
with a question as to their character.

"I was thinking," replied he, "of the many differing shapes,--lovely,
grand, sorrowful, joyous, winning, repulsive,--that might be lurking
within your tub.  And I was wondering which of them you would next call
forth."

"Think, rather," said Astra, smiling, "of all the shapes that I have
sent into it."

"You do not mean to say that you use the same clay over again,"
exclaimed Bergan, in surprise.

"Certainly, I do.  It loses none of its adaptability by use.  In that
tub is the original clay of everything that you see in my studio,--all
the busts, statues, and reliefs, that I have ever done, or tried to
do,--all my successes, and all my failures;--every one of them has gone
into that tub, even as it came out of it."

"Creation and death!" exclaimed Bergan.  "'Dust thou art, and unto dust
thou shalt return.'  It is a world in miniature!"

"And does it not also show that there is nothing new under the sun?"
said Astra.  "It is always the old material in new shapes, the old
thought in new phraseology, the old human nature in new conditions,
even the old particles of disintegrated human bodies in new organisms."

"And yet," remarked Bergan, musingly, "the spirit, the idea, that
informed those bodies, and gave them identity, is not lost, as your
Mercury shows plainly.  The being that you have created lives, and
glows with all his proper warmth and fire, even though his original
substance has not only returned whence it came, but has helped to frame
an entirely different being."

"The natural body and the spiritual body," returned Astra.  "Not that
the two processes are really analogous,--I do not mean that,--but one
naturally suggests the other to the mind.  And, seeing how I am thus
able to accomplish a kind of resurrection, in a way that I understand,
I do not find it difficult to believe that the Almighty can do it, in a
way that I do not understand, and far more perfectly,--retaining not
only the indwelling spirit, but enough of the individual clay to
justify Job's saying, 'In my flesh I shall see God.'"

The thought kept them both silent, for a moment; then Bergan turned to
see what else of interest was to be found in the studio.

The completed works were not many; Miss Lyte was still too young to
have made a large accumulation of such things.  There was a bust, with
a very sweet and noble expression, wherein she had embodied her
recollections of a fellow student in art.  There was a half-sleepy,
half-ashamed boy-face, looking out from under the shadow of a drooping
hat, representing "Little Boy Blue," of nursery fame.  There was a
winged cherub, with an exceedingly lovely, innocent face,--a very
incarnation of celestial joy and peace.  In relief, there was a stout
urchin, ankle-deep in water, laden with pond-lilies, and looking for
more.  Finally, there were innumerable studies, sketches, and designs,
with all the warmth and freshness of the original inspiration lingering
about them; which interested Bergan scarcely less than the finished
work, as admitting him still more freely into the arcana of the
artist's mind and method.

He was especially interested to observe in how many directions the
genius of Miss Lyte had tried its wing.  There were studies, and even
finished pictures, in oil and in crayon; there was an exquisitely-cut
cameo, fastened on a background of velvet; there were designs for
stained-glass windows; and in all, there was a curious medley of
subjects,--scriptural, mythological, historical, domestic, and
still-life.  It was plain that she had been slowly feeling her way to
some point, where she could take her final stand, and see her life-work
lying clear and fair before her.  Had she found it?  Looking at the
Mercury, Bergan could almost believe that she had; but, glancing again
at her deep, wistful eyes, he doubted it.  A little more time, a
profounder and wider experience, would settle her genius, fix her aims,
and make her capable of things far higher than aught that she had yet
achieved.

Meanwhile, never, he thought, was anything quite so inspiriting as her
conversation.  As she went with him from statue to statue, and sketch
to sketch, talking frankly of her difficulties and struggles, her
failures and successes, her aims and aspirations,--now dropping a
fertile suggestion, now pointing out a subtile analogy, now giving the
key-note to some elevating strain of thought,--she seemed to radiate
energy, and exhale inspiration.  Listening to her, Bergan's depression
and discouragement vanished like mists before the sunshine.  When he
went back to his studio, it was with new strength and courage and
ambition.  Somehow, life had ceased to look unsympathizing, and success
remote.



VII.

HIDDEN RICHES.

Up to this time, the history of Astra Lyte may be compressed into a few
sentences.  She was the daughter of Dr. Harvey Lyte, who had been, for
many years, the leading physician of Berganton.  Her artistic talent
having early manifested itself, her father had taken pleasure in
fostering and developing it; first, by giving her the benefit of
whatever rudimentary instruction the neighborhood offered, and then, by
affording her a year's enjoyment of the best art advantages to be
procured in New York.

Little more than a year ago, however, the good doctor had been forced
to succumb, in his own person, to the two powerful foes that he had
spent his lifetime in battling for others,--namely, disease and death.
His professional income necessarily dying with him, only a moderate
provision remained for his family; enough to enable them to eat the
bread of carefulness, but not sufficient to maintain them in the degree
of easy comfort and luxury to which they had long been accustomed.  In
due time changes and sacrifices became necessary; among which may be
mentioned the letting of the vacant medical office to Doctor Remy, and
the subsequent handing over of other dispensable rooms to the occupancy
of Bergan Arling.

Before this last arrangement was effected, however, Astra had gone to
New York, to see what could be done to make her art productive of
something besides pleasure.  That had been a very bright moment, amid
the gloom and straitness following upon her father's death, wherein it
had occurred to her that she possessed in brain and fingers, in her
wonderful power of kneading together thought and matter into beautiful
and significant shapes, the means of restoring to her mother the ease
and independence which had been impaired by her father's death.  Never
had her art looked so divine as when it cast aside the soft drapery of
personal gratifications and aims, and stood forth a young athlete,
eager for strife, a sturdy son of toil, ready to earn its bread by the
sweat of its brow.

Not that Astra expected to win success all at once, or quickly.  There
was a vast deal of practicality underlying her imaginativeness and
enthusiasm,--the solid foundation which is needed to make genius
available.  She foresaw (no one more clearly) the difficulties, delays,
and disappointments, before her.  But what of that?  She was young; she
was in good health; she had a courageous heart, an energetic
temperament, and buoyant spirits; she could afford to work and wait.
Her tastes were simple, her wants, outside the domain of art,
few,--and, even there, deficiencies could be supplied, in a measure, by
severe study and closer application.  If the superior masters, the
sojourn in Europe, to which she had looked forward, were denied her,
she was not going to break her heart nor cloud her brow, about it.
God, who had given her talent, would not leave it without due means of
increase.  Her duty was to work, to be brave, and to be cheerful; all
else would come, in good time.

This, then, was the sort of a person who had now come to dwell under
the same roof with Bergan; and who straightway set to work in her
studio, which was divided from his office only by the airy breadth of
the main hall.  Of course, he saw her frequently; her art afforded them
broader, freer ground upon which to meet than is always open to man and
woman.  Not that the proprieties need have been scandalized had Miss
Lyte's occupation been the embroidering of roses in worsted, instead of
the modelling of figures in clay; for the door between studio and
sitting-room stood always open, and Mrs. Lyte, from her work-table,
frequently threw a passing remark into the conversation that came so
freely to her ears; while Cathie continually flashed in and out like a
fire-fly or a humming bird.  But the worsted roses would scarcely have
constituted a subject of mutual interest for the young man and woman,
as did the clay figures; nor would the talks over them have run so
naturally, and almost inevitably, upon the same elevated and impersonal
plane of thought.  Setting the worker entirely aside, Bergan could not
fail to be deeply interested in the work.  He liked to understand its
process, and watch its progress.  It was wonderful to him to see the
dull clay slowly taking the shape of the viewless, informing thought.
He went back to his office, not only with a deeper comprehension of the
respective functions of mind and matter, but with a wider view of their
scope and influence.  Words, he saw, were also a kind of plastic
material, through which thought revealed itself to eye and ear.  He
began to study expression, as well as meaning; he selected words, and
constructed sentences, with greater care and conscientiousness; he saw
that, since thought could only become visible through form, form was a
matter of more moment, and involved a stricter duty, than he had
hitherto believed.

But if Bergan learned so much from the work, it must be acknowledged
that he also learned something from the worker.  She was so loyal to
her art and her aims.  She wrought with such cheerful diligence, such
unwasting enthusiasm, and such thorough conscientiousness.  Having done
the best of which she was capable, she maintained such a steady front
against the assaults of depression and discouragement, deploying their
forces upon the wide space between her conception and her achievement.
If she failed, she cheerfully declared that the failure had taught her
more than any success could have done, and commenced anew; if she
succeeded, she was soberly glad, as having gained an inch or two of the
field,--over which, however, it might be long ere she could wave the
banner of victory.  The spectacle could not fail to have a healthful
influence upon Bergan, inasmuch as Miss Lyte's patrons were not more
numerous than his clients; he saw that she kept her face bright, and
her spirit brave, under very real trials of limitation, delay, and
disappointment.  He always went to his own work with a stouter heart
and steadier purpose, after watching hers for some moments; whether she
merely retouched and revised the preceding day's labor, with minute,
inexhaustible patience; or quietly gathered up the fragments of a model
overtaken by sudden disaster; or moulded moist clay, with rapt face,
eyes lit by a deep, inward fire, and fingers so swift and forceful as
to suggest the guidance of some unseen power.  In this last case, he
did not disturb her by so much as a word.  He only looked on in silence
until her white heat of inspiration had kindled something like a
kindred glow in his own mind; when he noiselessly stole out, to plunge
into his own work with renewed ardor.  We may well believe that, just
at the moment when Bergan's lonely life and dim prospects were
beginning to tell upon his spirits and energies, it was not without
providential design that an object so inspiring and heartening as Astra
Lyte in her studio, was placed before his eyes.

Nor was the benefit wholly on one side.  Astra found real help and
cheer in Bergan's intelligent interest and hearty appreciation.
Moreover, he was quick to see whenever mechanical contrivance or manly
strength could come to her aid; and he knew how to furnish both, in fit
and delicate measure.  His perceptions were scarcely less nice than her
own; he knew just when to extend the helping hand, and when to withdraw
it; neither hesitation nor officiousness marred his aid.

But Bergan was not the only visitor at the studio.  Doctor Remy's
straight-featured, intellectual face was often to be seen there, with
its chill and satirical expression half-obliterated by a look of kindly
interest.  And his aid was not less ready than Bergan's, and, perhaps,
more valuable.  Hints and criticisms, suggested by his profound
anatomical and physiological knowledge, often came just in time to
prevent a blunder, or clinch a success.

So time rolled on, for another month or two, doing much for the growth
of acquaintance, and even a degree of intimacy, between the artist, the
lawyer, and the physician, thus thrown together under one roof, but
very little for the pecuniary advantage of the two former.  Astra had
received a commission for a small portrait-medallion; Bergan had been
employed to draw up a few law-papers.  The two often exchanged
good-humored jests upon the manifest ability of the world to get on
without their help.  But it was a much more serious matter for the
young man than the maiden.  Astra had understood that, Art being a
luxury, it must first create the demand which it meant to supply; but
Bergan knew well that law was neither unknown nor unsought, in
Berganton.  Courts were held, and lawyers gathered, there; it was
strange that so little of the work came to his hands.  Meanwhile, the
funds with which he had been supplied, on leaving home, were rapidly
melting away; and he was unwilling to apply for more, both because he
desired to be self-dependent, and disliked to admit failure.

He was sitting in his office, one afternoon, dividing his thoughts
between his books and the unpromising state of his affairs, when there
came a cautious knock at the door.

"Come in!" he called out, wondering if his long-expected client were
about to present himself.

First, appeared a black hand and a nondescript hat; next, a woolly head
and a wide, delighted grin; finally, a loose, slouching form, in a
shapeless suit of plantation gray.  No client was this.  It was only
his would-be property, Brick.

Perhaps Bergan's disappointment showed itself in his countenance, for
the negro hastily began to explain the reason of his coming.

"Gramma Rue, she sent me, massa.  She don't feel right smart, dese yere
times, an' she say she tink her days drawin' to her close, an' she's
mighty anxious to see you, massa, 'fore she done gone.  So she tole me
to ax you, could n' you come to yer ole room in de Hall, some ob dese
yere ebenins, jes' so's to gib her a chance to talk wid you.  Ole massa
need n' know nothin' 'bout it; he's allers safe 'nough in de cottage
dem times.  An' she hopes you'll hab de kin'ness to come, 'case she's
got suthin' bery partic'lar to say to you."

Bergan hesitated.  He could not visit the old Hall without reviving
painful recollections; besides, it did not suit his natural
straightforwardness to go thither in a half-clandestine way.  Yet how
could he refuse the urgent request of Maumer Rue, weighted not only
with the probability of coming death, but with the consideration of her
long, faithful, life service of his mother's family?  And, after all,
there was no great harm in a visit to the deserted Hall, to gratify an
old, infirm, attached dependent.  He certainly need do no skulking; if
he chanced to come upon his uncle, he could fairly and frankly face
both him and the situation.

Accordingly, he directed his evening stroll toward Bergan Hall.  It was
an obscure night of late March.  A gray veil of cloud covered the wide
expanse of sky, from horizon to zenith; through which only the faintest
light struggled, to guide his steps up the ruined avenue.  He could not
but be reminded of his first forlorn coming upon the desolate scene;
even though he was obliged to confess that, in some respects, matters
were mending.  Though the Hall stood silent and ruinous as before,
under the sighing oaks, it was not wholly dark.  An arch of light shone
above the doorway, and a second gleam came invitingly from the window
of the room that he had once called his own.  The door, too, yielded
readily to his pressure.  At this rate of improvement, a few years
might easily transform the shadow-haunted old ruin into a cheery,
heartwarm home.

It was only a passing thought, and did not slacken in the least the
light, quick step with which he ran up to his old room.  Rue had done
her best to give it a look of home and welcome.  A fire blazed on the
hearth, and reddened the walls; his favorite arm-chair was drawn before
it; near by, stood a round table, with two tall candles, a few
scattered books, and a tray of refreshments.  It all looked strangely
familiar:--there was the secretary at which he had written his letters
home; there was the book that he had been reading, with his mark
between the leaves; there was the flute, so few of whose long-prisoned
harmonies he had been able to set free.  Was it really five months
since he saw them last?

Rue was not in the room when he entered it; it did not suit her notion
of their respective positions to assume any quality of hostess.  But
she almost immediately appeared, and greeted him with tearful affection
and respect.  Bergan looked at her narrowly, and was pained to see that
her tall form had lost much of its old erect stateliness, and that she
leaned heavily on her cane as she walked.  Still, there was no sign of
immediate loosing of the silver life-cord; on the whole, he thought
that she bore her heavy burden of years wonderfully well, and the
thought came naturally to his lips.

"It may seem so," replied the old woman, with a slow shake of her head,
"but I feel a greater change than you can see, Master Bergan.  Till
now, I never knew anything about the chill or the heaviness of age; it
has come upon me all at once.  I do not think, any more than you do,
that the end itself is close at hand; but the beginning of the end is
certainly here.  Let it come as soon as the Lord wills; He knows I'm
ready.  Only it is borne in upon me that there's something more for me
to do for the family, before I leave their service; though I cannot
rightly see what.  Sometimes I am almost sure that it's just to see
that you are put into your rightful place as the master of Bergan Hall.
If that is all that I am waiting for, I wish it might be done quickly.
Couldn't you make up your mind to come back here now, if Master Harry
would ask you kindly?  I know I can get him to do it."

"Indeed, I could not, maumer," answered Bergan, quietly, but very
firmly.  "I am not yet in a position to treat with my uncle, on equal
terms.  And I am less than ever inclined to be dependent upon him, or
any one.  Let me beg you to give yourself no further care or thought in
the matter."

Rue sighed deeply.  There was something in the young man's tone that
forestalled either argument or entreaty.

"Pardon an old woman's curiosity," she said, at length, "but, are you
very much nearer to independence than when you left here?"

"I cannot say that I am."

"Do you have much to do, in the way of your profession?"

"I could easily do more."  There was a slight dryness in Bergan's
intonation, that did not escape the blind woman's quick ear.

"Come with, me, please; I have something to show you," said she,
turning toward the door.  "You had better bring a light, too; you will
need it, though I do not."

She led the way to a large room on the other side of the hall,--the
bed-chamber (and death-chamber, too) of the mansion's departed owners.
It was lined, from floor to ceiling, with carved and panelled
wainscoting.  Rue went straightway to one side, not far from the
mantel, ran her fingers carefully over the dark, uneven surface, and
finally pressed hard on a projecting point.

"Now, Master Bergan," said she, pointing to a great, carved acorn,
"take hold of that, and push this way."

Bergan obeyed, and a considerable portion of the wainscoting slid
easily to one side, disclosing a small room or closet, so artfully
contrived between wall and chimney, that its existence could never have
been suspected.  It was lighted and ventilated by a window, and
furnished with an armchair and a massive, old-fashioned secretary.  Rue
opened one of the compartments of the latter, and revealed several
small canvas bags, which, it was easy to see, contained gold and silver
coin.

Bergan was naturally a good deal surprised at sight of the hidden
hoard.  It seemed scarcely credible that any man in his senses should
care to lay up such idle store of the precious metals, which might
otherwise be profitably employed in an easy process of
self-augmentation.  Still, he knew enough of his uncle's surly and
suspicious character, and of his distrust of banks (which he had once
heard him characterize as "ready sinks for fools' money"), to leave
only room for a passing wonder.

"I have brought you here, Master Bergan," said Rue, solemnly, "because
this secret rightly belongs to you, as the future master of the Hall.
It is the duty of each owner to make it known to his heir, on his
deathbed, or earlier.  The place was contrived by Sir Harry, because
there was something like it in the English Bergan Hall, which served
for a hiding place for men and women in troublous times; and he
provided for the keeping and handing down of the secret, in the same
way as it, had been done there.  It was only to be known to the owner
and the heir."

"Then how came you to know it?" asked Bergan.

"I will tell you.  When the third Harry Bergan was at the point of
death, his heir was in Europe.  The person whom he most trusted, in the
world, was his body-servant, Cato.  He gave the secret to him, to be
kept till the heir's return.  Cato was my great-great-great
grandfather.  He thought the same thing might happen again, and the
secret be lost; so, on his deathbed, he told it to his son, and the son
told it to his son, and so on, till my father, who had no son, told it
to me.  So, you see, the secret has run down in the black blood
alongside of the white blood, and been kept just as sacredly.  But the
white blood has never known it till now; when I tell it to you, because
I have no child living, and Brick is still too young to be trusted with
such a matter."

"What a strange circumstance!" said Bergan, deeply interested.  "Has
the place ever been used except as a storeroom for valuables?"

"Only once, to my knowledge.  During the Revolution, Colonel Bergan was
hidden here some days, when a party of British were quartered on the
premises,--some of the same party that Sergeant Jasper afterwards
captured."

She paused for a moment, while Bergan silently looked round the narrow
walls; and then she resumed.

"You see what use Master Harry makes of the place.  And perhaps you
know him well enough to understand that he will never tell any one
where he keeps his money, until his breath is almost out of his body.
That is why I brought you here.  I cannot expect to outlive him; and if
he should die suddenly, or with the secret only half-way off his
tongue, it would die with him."

"Perhaps you have done well," said Bergan, after a moment of thought.
"Certainly, I shall regard it only as a trust for the future owner of
the Hall, whoever he may be."

"He will be none other than yourself," returned Rue, decidedly.  "I
only wish I were as certain of the time, as I am of the fact.  And
now," she continued, pointing to the bags of coin, "take as much of
that as you need.  Master Harry will never miss it; I don't think he
ever counts it over, he is so sure that it is safe here.  And it will
all be your own some day."

"What do you mean!" exclaimed Bergan, angrily, starting back.  "Do you
take me for a thief?"

"Of course not, Master Bergan, of course not," answered Rue, earnestly
and deprecatingly, laying her hand on his arm.  "It is only because I
know that it will be yours in time; and as Master Harry does not need
it nor use it, why shouldn't you have the good of it now, when you need
it more than you ever may again?  If it suits you better, take it as a
loan, and pay it back, when you are able."

"No! no!" said Bergan, turning hurriedly away, "it is impossible.  You
mean kindly, I know, Maumer Rue, but you do not seem to understand the
facts.  I have no more right to it than any stranger; I could not touch
it, to save me from starving.  Come, let us go!  I have seen enough."

"I believe you are right," said Rue, after a pause, "and I am a foolish
old woman.  I could not bear to think that my dear Miss Eleanor's son
was pinching himself, in the least, when there was so much idle gold in
the old house; but I see you are right, sir; and I beg your pardon."

It was not without a sense of relief that Bergan soon after closed the
door of the old Hall behind him, and stepped out into the cool, fresh
night air.  Not that he had suffered any real trial of temptation,--his
principles were too true and firm for that;--but there had been
something in the whole sombre scene--the deserted, death-scented
chamber, the concealed closet, the hoarded gold--that had left him with
a sense of oppression, which kept its hold of him all the way home.

It was late when he reached his office.  To his surprise, it was not
empty.  A gentleman was sitting by the table, with a pile of papers
before him, and a weary, discontented face, as if his waiting had
outlasted his patience.

Bergan's heart gave a great leap.  He divined that his long-looked-for
client was before him!



VIII.

THE WIND CHANGES.

"Good evening, Squire," said the stranger, in a deep voice,--a voice
that would have been gruff, but for the melodizing influences of the
soft southern climate.  "My name is Corlew--John Corlew, of Williston.
I came to see if you would consent to take charge of a case of mine,
which is to be called to-morrow."

"To-morrow!" repeated Bergan, in much surprise.  "That is very short
notice."

"I know it.  But it is of the greatest consequence to me that the case
should be tried at this time, and not carried over to another term.  It
was in the hands of Squire Fielder, one of our Williston lawyers; but
he was taken sick this afternoon,--fell down in court, some brain
difficulty or other,--and is forbidden by the physicians to do a thing.
So I inquired for a lawyer that hadn't got his hands full of business,
and somebody mentioned you.  I remembered your name; I happened to be
North five years ago, and heard your Commencement speech, and knew what
sort of a reputation you graduated with; so I quickly made up my mind
that you were the man for my need.  I've brought all the
papers,--Squire Fielder's notes and all,--he couldn't well do less than
give them to me, under the circumstances.  I understand matters pretty
well myself; and we've got the night before us.  If you'll undertake to
master the case by ten o'clock to-morrow morning, I am willing to put
it in your hands."

"I will do my best," said Bergan, after a brief consideration.

Mr. Corlew immediately began to open and sort his papers; Bergan
brought writing materials, drew his chair to the opposite side of the
table, and bent all the powers of his mind to the hard task before him.
It was an action for ejectment, involving trial of title, and with the
usual mixed and intricate character of such things; interwoven, too,
with a pathetic story of misfortune.  Bergan patiently examined and
questioned; Mr. Corlew intelligently explained and answered.  The
investigation was scarce half concluded, when Bergan quietly pushed Mr.
Fielder's notes aside.

"They do not help me," he explained, in answer to a glance from Mr.
Corlew, "In my judgment, he has mistaken the point on which the case
really hangs.  At all events, I shall do better to manage it in my own
way."

Midnight came and went on silent feet; the "wee, sma' hours," sacred to
love rather than law, hastened, one after another, to join their
numerous kin in the misty vale of the Heretofore; the stars went out
like spent lamps; the dim night-silence began to stir with vague
premonitions of light and sound; finally, gray dawn looked solemnly in
through the windows.  Then Bergan lifted his head, and pushed back the
hair from his brow.

"Now leave me," he said to his companion, with unwonted sombreness.
"The rest must be done by myself.  I will meet you at the court-house,
in good time."

He made an almost imperceptible pause.  Then, looking Mr. Corlew full
in the face, he said, in a tone half-assertive, half-questioning;--

"You wish to succeed in this suit?"

Mr. Corlew's eyes fell under his penetrating gaze.  "Of course I do,"
he answered a little surlily.  "What else am I here for?"

Bergan seemed to muse for a moment.  "Well," said he, at length, in the
tone of a man who recalls his thoughts from an episodical flight to the
main subject, "I think you may reasonably expect success, if your
witnesses testify as is here set down.  The law is clearly in your
favor."

"I am glad to hear it," returned Mr. Corlew, heartily.  Yet he looked
slightly annoyed, none the less; and his "Good morning," as he went
out, was a little stiff.

Bergan leaned back in his chair, folded his arms, and knitted his brow.
He looked like a man assailed by some miserable doubt or suspicion,
which yet he is half-inclined to regard, as illegitimate.

"It is a necessity of my profession," he muttered, at last; and, with a
mighty effort, he tore himself free from the teasing phantom, and
addressed himself anew to his work.

There is no need to burden these pages with the tedious formalities of
a trial at law.  Suffice it to say that Bergan conducted the case with
an ease and ability that surprised his legal associates.  They had
looked for some nervousness, some hesitation, some solicitude, some
awkwardness, in the manner of the young legal _débutant_; they could
detect nothing of the sort.  He made his opening speech with consummate
clearness and composure; and he examined and cross-examined witnesses,
quoted authorities, took exceptions, and made points, with a quiet
ease, and even, at times, with a touch of listlessness, that argued
excellent training and profound knowledge.

Perhaps his quietude of manner was the more perfect, that a slight
cloud hung on his brow, all through the two days of the trial; though
his observers were too little acquainted with the wonted expression of
his face to discover it.  Not till he rose to make his final speech did
the shadow lift.  Then, indeed, the spectators noticed a change.  He
had spoken but a few sentences, when his eyes kindled, his brow
cleared, his voice gathered fulness and melody, he forgot himself and
his doubt in the glow of an irresistible inspiration, in the glad
exercise of a natural gift of oratory so wondrous, so unexpected, and
so potent, that court and spectator were alike taken by storm.  Only in
dim tradition had such a speech ever been heard in that court room,--so
fluent, so animated, so skilfully throwing an ideal grace around dry,
bare legal facts, without dimming their outline or destroying their
logical connection.  People held their breath to listen, unwilling to
lose one delicate shade of thought, one fit, luminous expression.  Two
or three times, the judge was forced to suppress outbursts of applause,
in which, nevertheless, his pleased and interested face concurred; and
when Bergan took his seat, gray-headed lawyers stretched their hands
across the table in hearty congratulation.

A verdict for his client was almost immediately rendered.  Then he
stepped out into the crowd, to be met on all sides by extended hands
and enthusiastic compliments.  People that had always studiously
avoided him, now sought to catch his eye; gentlemen who had never
vouchsafed him more than a stiff nod, now waited to give him a friendly
hand-grasp and a few congratulatory words.  One of the magnates of the
neighborhood publicly stamped him, as it were, with the seal of his
high approbation, by engaging him for a few moments in conversation,
and then parting from him with an intimation that he might expect an
early invitation to dinner.

Turning away from the dog-day smile of this personage,--late and
sultry,--Bergan encountered the meaning gaze of a pair of blear eyes.

"Sudden change of weather," remarked Dick Causton, dryly.  "'it never
rains but it pours.'  You are in a heavy shower, Mr. Arling."

And with unwonted consideration, Dick waited till Bergan had passed on,
before he muttered, "_In picciol tempo passa ogni gran pioggia_,--a
heavy shower is soon over."

Dr. Remy came next.  "I never sing in chorus," said he, shrugging his
shoulders, and putting his hands behind him; "I shall keep my
compliments for a day of dearth.  But what a weathercock is public
opinion!"

Yet the change was not altogether so sudden and radical as it appeared.
Bergan's upright, independent course of conduct, so quietly persisted
in, through all these months, despite every discouragement, had at last
begun to tell upon the prejudices of the community.  Mrs. Lyte's warm
advocacy and indignant protest, in her small circle, had also had its
weight.  Probably both would have availed much earlier, but for the
curiously infelicitous language in which Dr. Remy had all along chosen
to couch his responses to such persons as had approached him in
relation to Bergan's character and habits.

"As talented a fellow as ever lived," he replied to one inquirer,--"and
as deep a one.  Ah! he knows well what he's about!"

"Sober?" he answered another,--"certainly; as sober as an anchorite.  I
hope he will keep so."

"Mr. Arling is my neighbor and friend, as friendship goes," he said to
another; "I neither make, nor listen to, derogatory remarks about him.
If you want confirmation for your prejudice, go elsewhere.  I am not in
that line."

Intentionally or not, Dr. Remy's cool cynicism rather damaged than
helped Bergan's cause.

Nevertheless, the steadfast testimony of his upright life remained, and
could not be wholly ignored.  The feeling was fast becoming general
that the young man deserved somewhat better at the hands of the
community than he had received.  And the feeling would doubtless have
manifested itself in good time, and with due caution, if Bergan's
unexampled success in the court-room had not fairly dazzled out of
sight the last lingering shadow of prejudice, and caused a popular
reaction toward the other extreme of enthusiastic admiration and
approval,--a reaction all the stronger because spurred on by a lurking
sense of past injustice.

Moreover, the little, sleepy town, whose intellectual brilliants were
few, and not of the first water, naturally felt that it could not
afford to ignore the fine talent which had so suddenly blazed out in
its midst, and which might be regarded as, in some sense, of its own
creation.

"He really belongs to us, you know," remarked one townsman proudly to
another.  "He comes of the Bergans of Bergan Hall, on the mother's
side,--good old aristocratic stock.  And he's an honor to it!"

And so, as has been said before, Bergan's exit from the court-room was
a scene of triumph that might easily have turned an older head, and
quickened the beating of a chiller heart.

But Bergan took it all quietly, gravely,--almost indifferently.  The
cloud had settled back upon his brow, and never stirred for any
compliment, or congratulation, or friendliness.  Most persons
attributed it to wounded pride, not yet healed.  In the midst of the
ovation, they believed that he kept a rankling remembrance of the
coldness and neglect which had preceded it.  One observer only, a
little clearer eyed than the rest, said to him:--

"You look tired."

"And well he may!" responded Mr. Corlew, standing by with a face of
unalloyed satisfaction.  "He never saw the case until evening before
last; and he has not slept for two nights."

There was another, and a stronger, burst of admiration, mingled with
wonder; but the complacent, satisfied tone of Mr. Corlew's voice only
deepened the shadow on Bergan's brow.  Quickly extricating himself from
both crowd and client, he walked swiftly home, meditating, as he went,
upon the seeming churlishness of human existence, in that it never
gives us what we want, or gives it only in such way and shape as to
neutralize its sweetness.

What, then, was the drop of bitterness in his cup of triumph?

Not the paltry pride that had been attributed to him, nor yet the
depressing reaction that comes after excitement, but an uneasy
suspicion that he had helped to do an injustice.  He had
discovered,--or seemed to discover,--as the intricacies of the recent
case had unfolded themselves before him, that law and justice stood on
opposite sides of it.  Of his client's legal right to the property in
dispute, admitting his statements to be true, there seemed to be no
question; but of his moral right to it, as well as of his own personal
integrity, and that of his principal witness, Bergan had grave doubts.
And these doubts had followed him, and planted a heavy footstep on his
conscience, all the way down through the trial.  For he was still
young, his personal conscience tender, and his professional one
undeveloped.  His duty as a man, and his duty as a lawyer, had not yet
distinctly separated themselves into opposing segments.

So, while the whole town was ringing with the fame of his successful
legal _début_, he sat moodily in his office, a prey to troubled and
half-regretful thought, until Sleep, so long defrauded of her rights,
stole upon him in his chair, and held him fast prisoned in her soft
embrace.



IX.

THE FIRST LINKS OF A CHAIN.

"I don't beg pardon for disturbing you," said Doctor Remy, giving the
sleeper a vigorous shake.  "You are in as fair a way to catch your
death of cold, a your worst enemy could wish you to be."

Bergan slowly opened his eyes and stared vacantly around him.  The
doctor's words, though they had reached his ears, had not penetrated to
his understanding.  As yet, he was but half cognizant of his
whereabouts, not at all of his circumstances.

"Come, up with you!" persisted the doctor, "and take a turn round the
room, to get the chill out of your Mood.  Man alive! what were you
thinking of, to go to sleep before that window, with such a damp wind
blowing in?"

"I did not mean to," responded Bergan, drowsily.  And his eyes closed
again.

"Did not mean to!" repeated Doctor Remy, in a tone of ineffable
contempt.  "You might at least have vouchsafed me a newer excuse: that
is worn threadbare.  It has served the whole human race, from Eve over
her apple, down to Cathie over her last broken doll.  Nobody 'means' to
do anything.  Except me--I 'mean' to wake you up."  And the doctor gave
Bergan another uncompromising shake.

"It is so good to sleep!" remonstrated the young man, in the same
drowsy tone.

"It is so good to have the rheumatism, or that cream of delights known
hereabout as the broken-bone fever!" returned the doctor, with cool
irony.  "However," he added, indifferently, turning away, "_chacun à
son goût_."

"You surely do not mean to leave him, in that way, Doctor," said a
rebuking voice, beneath the window.  Miss Lyte, fastening up a
rosebush, in the dusk outside, had heard the whole.

"Certainly not, if it pleases you to wish otherwise," replied the
doctor, gallantly.

And returning to the charge, Doctor Remy did not remit his efforts
until he had gotten the half-vexed young man upon his feet, and forced
him to pace two or three times up and down the office.  Thereupon
Bergan was fain to avow that his limbs were stiff and sore, and he had
no mind for further exercise.

"Just as I expected," said the doctor, calmly.

Without further words, he marched Bergan off to bed, and did not let
him alone, until, by dint of various outward and inward applications,
he had restored natural warmth and circulation to his chilled, benumbed
frame.  In doing this, the young man was effectually roused; and memory
and thought came back with consciousness.

"Doctor," said he, suddenly, "I almost envy you your profession."

"Why?"

"Because, as you told me at our first meeting, your duty is always
plainly one thing--to save life."

"Humph! it seems to me that yours is equally plain--to save your
client."

"What! whether his cause be right or wrong?"

"_I_ save life, whether it be good or evil--a thief's or a saint's."

Bergan was silent for a moment.  He felt the sophistry, but could not,
on the instant, detect wherein it lay.  He allowed himself to be
diverted from the main question by a side issue.

"You say that you save life," said he, "but do you feel that it is
really you?  Are you never conscious of a power above you, without
whose help your efforts would avail nothing?"

"Granted, for the sake of argument," replied Doctor Remy, composedly.
"Then you may believe that it is not your efforts which gain a cause,
but the 'power above,' of which you speak."

It is not often that a side issue leads so directly back to the main
point as in this instance, thanks to Doctor Remy's mode of treating it.
"I see," said Bergan, musingly, "the difference is in the intent.  Of
course, God does decide the event, or consequence,--_that_ is beyond
us.  He can frustrate our best efforts, or crown them with success, as
He pleases.  Our business, then, is with motives--and aims--and means."
(The last clauses came slowly, and in the natural, if not the logical,
order of thought.)  "It is only after we have made sure that those
three are right," he went on, "that we are freed from responsibility,
and can comfortably leave results to God."

"All very fine," returned Doctor Remy, coolly.  "But it seems to me
that our motives, means, and aims (that is to say, yours and mine) are
the same.  Motive, love of life; means, a profession; aim,
money,--which though in itself only a means, is the most convenient
representative of all that it will buy; that is, all that supports
life, and enhances its enjoyments."

"I hope you are not serious," replied Bergan, gravely.  "I should be
sorry to think that any man--much less a man with your talent, culture,
and opportunities for benefiting his fellows--could be satisfied with
so poor an ambition as that."

Doctor Remy slightly raised his eyebrows.  "My dear fellow," said he,
"if you do not follow your profession for the sake of the money that
you expect it to bring you, what _do_ you follow it for?"

"Money is one object, of course," answered Bergan, "but I hope it is
not the only one, nor even the chief one.  When my mind takes a leap
into the future, it is not so much fees that I think of, as wrongs to
be redressed, and rights to be protected, and influence to be gained
and exercised,--yes, and fame and independence to be won."

"All very good things," returned Doctor Remy, smiling; "and all very
dependent on those same fees, of which you think so little.  Without
money, you will not do much for right, nor against wrong; neither can
you be independent, or famous, or influential."

"I do not know about that," rejoined Bergan, smiling.  "Certainly, it
was not his riches that made Diogenes independent.  Neither does the
name of Howard borrow any of its lustre from gold.  Nor--to come down
to our own time--is Mr. Islay influential on account of his wealth."

"Mr. Islay influential!" repeated Doctor Remy, contemptuously.  "In
what way, let me ask?"

"In a hundred ways.  Every week, his words, his thoughts, go into
scores of hearts and homes, for warning, for comfort, for inspiration;
and reappear constantly in human lives.  Certain sentences of his last
Sunday's sermon have been ringing in my ears all day.  And only three
or four days ago, Miss Lyte, under the influence of that suggestive
discourse, asked me how far I thought one was justified in a purely
negative use of a talent,--that is, in merely refraining from doing
harm, rather than trying actively to do good.  And these are only two
examples, you see, where there are doubtless many."

"Priests easily influence women," said the doctor, scornfully.

"Women!" exclaimed Bergan, stretching out a stalwart arm toward the
doctor.  "Are not those the muscles and sinews of a man?"

"I beg your pardon," said the Doctor, laughing, "I had forgotten what
was the first of your two examples.  Still, that sort of influence
would never suffice for me.  If I cared for anything of the kind, it
would be for power,--direct, absolute power over men's acts and lives.
But as that belongs only to kings and generals, I am content to do
with--"

He hesitated.

"Well, what?" said Bergan.

"Wealth--when I get it," answered the doctor.  "Wealth, and what it
brings; ease, leisure, unlimited opportunity and means for the
cultivation of the intellect."

"The intellect, then, is your final object, your ultimate good?" said
Bergan.

"Yes; it is the one thing which distinguishes man from the brutes,"
replied the doctor.

"With the soul," rejoined Bergan.

"A word without an idea," returned the doctor,--"unless, indeed, you
mean to apply it to that life-principle, which belongs to plants and
animals, as well as men."

Bergan looked amazed.  "Do you really make no distinction," he asked,
"between mind and soul?"

"None.  To me, they are synonymous terms."

"Is it from the intellect, then," said Bergan, "that the moral sense
comes?"

Doctor Remy's lips opened for a reply, but closed again in silence.
And, knowing that he was never at a loss for a rejoinder, Bergan
suspected that the words so suddenly cut off from utterance were of a
franker character than his second thought approved.  Before his less
impromptu answer was ready, Bergan, following out some rapid,
unexplained train of thought, asked;--

"Doctor, did you ever feel remorse?"

"Never.  That is a disease.  I am in health."

"But, doctor," persisted Bergan, "should you call that a healthy body,
which was incapable of feeling pain?  Should you not rather say that it
was paralyzed, or ossified?"

"Just as I should say that it was inflamed, if mere pressure caused it
acute pain," answered Doctor Remy.

Bergan looked unconvinced.

"I do not mean that I never feel regret," explained the doctor.  "I
have often been angry with myself for having been guilty of a mistake."

"A mistake," repeated Bergan, doubtfully.  "Do you mean a sin?"

"I will not be particular about terms," replied Doctor Remy, shrugging
his shoulders.  "But I prefer my own, as better expressing my ideas."

Bergan looked a little bewildered.  The doctor again condescended to
explain.

"Like you," said he, "I hold it to be every man's duty to make the most
of his life,--his talents, time, and health.  If he so act as to hinder
the development, or impair the value and efficiency, of any of these,
does it make any practical difference whether we call it a sin or a
mistake?"

"None," answered Bergan, with scorn that he could not repress; "except
that it narrows everything,--aim, responsibility, hope, faith, desire,
and fulfilment,--down to man's miserable self!"

"Well," said the doctor, coldly, "bring me the most signal example of
heroism, disinterestedness, charity,--what you like,--that you can
find; and I will point out to you a plain germ of selfishness at the
bottom of it."

"What of that?" replied Bergan, with kindling eyes.  "Because we can
never wholly get rid of self, in this lower life, does it therefore
follow that we must concentrate our thoughts and aims upon it?  Must we
forever deny ourselves the ennobling, elevating, softening influence of
a duty and a hope outside of ourselves; an object of affection, trust,
and desire, higher than ourselves?"

Bergan reached out for a book, found a marked passage, and read aloud.

"'Take the example of a dog, and mark what a generosity and courage he
will put on, when he finds himself maintained by a man, who, to him, is
instead of a God, or _melior natura_; which courage is manifestly such
as that creature, without that confidence in a nature better than his
own, could never attain.  So man, when he resteth and assureth himself
upon Divine protection and favor, gathereth a force and faith which
human nature would not otherwise obtain.'"

"I deny--" began Dr. Remy, with his wonted audacity.  But, at this
moment, his office-boy, Scipio, thrust his woolly head in the door with
the laconic intimation,--

"Sent for, massa.  Drefful hurry."

"And in good time," laughed the doctor.  "I was forgetting my
professional duty to you,--which was, to have left you long ago to the
sleep which you so much need, and which you may now safely and
profitably take.  Good night."

For some moments, Bergan lay thinking over the conversation.  Never had
Dr. Remy's low and limited notions of life been so nakedly presented to
his abhorrent gaze.  A certain distrust and dread awoke within him,
accompanied by a chill creeping of the flesh, as at something not
altogether human.  It impressed him that there was a dark and sinister
peculiarity about this man, with the rarely cultivated intellect and
the inert affections,--this man whom he had so long called his friend,
and who, so far as he knew, had not ill deserved the name;--a
peculiarity that could not fail to be pernicious to lives and
characters too intimately connected with him.  Running over in his mind
the whole course of their acquaintance, he could not remember ever to
have heard the doctor give utterance to one lofty aspiration, one
purely benign impulse, one word of hearty sympathy or generous
affection.  His opinions and beliefs were chill products of the
intellect, unwarmed by any glow of the affections, unpurified by any
strict assay of conscience.  And Bergan was just beginning to discover
that, while pretending to great breadth and depth, they were really
narrow, because limited to life and earth, and shallow, because never
penetrating below or above the reach of the human intellect, when his
thoughts suddenly began to grow vague and dim, as if seen through a
mist, and the next moment, he was sound asleep.

Meanwhile, much to his surprise, as well as gratification, Doctor Remy
was hastening toward Bergan Hall.  Maumer Rue being suddenly seized
with alarming symptoms, the Major's head man, Ben, had been despatched
to Berganton, with instructions not to return without a physician.  In
his haste and anxiety, it had not occurred to the Major to make any
exception; though he retained a sufficiently angry reminiscence of
Doctor Remy's cool and satirical demeanor, on the occasion of his
ill-fated visit of reconciliation to Bergan, to have prompted one, if
he had bethought himself of it in time.

Ben, therefore, having sought two other representatives of the medical
profession without success, finally presented himself at Dr. Remy's
office.  There the doctor found him, on quitting Bergan's room; and in
very brief space of time, the two were driving swiftly up the long
avenue, through a moonlight that was scarcely less illuminative than
sunshine, and far more beautifying, by reason of the soft charm with
which it enhanced beauties while it concealed defects.

It was the first time that Doctor Remy had entered upon the territory
of Bergan Hall.  He was surprised both at its extent, and its signs of
opulence.  As he passed the stately, deserted mansion,--showing so fair
in the moonlight, under its grand, sheltering oaks,--and came in sight
of the populous negro-quarter, and the far stretch of cultivated fields
beyond, his face was alive not only with interest, but with something
deeper still; it might be calculation.

"A fair inheritance!" he said to himself.  "Miss Astra will be a most
eligible _parti_.  I wonder if that will is made!"

The Major was standing in the door of his cottage, as the buggy drove
up with the doctor.

"So it's _you_, is it?" was his curt salutation.  And his tone and look
said plainly enough, "I wish it were anybody else!"

But Doctor Remy, though generally armed at all points against such
looks and tones, now seemed to take no notice.  "Yes," said he,
good-naturedly, "it is I.  Harris and Gerrish were both out, and Ben
had to take me or nobody.  Allow me to assure you that he chose wisely,
for, if the case be what I suspect, from his account, it does not admit
of delay.  It follows, therefore, that the sooner I am introduced to
the patient, the better."

If the doctor had been studying his speech for the last half-hour, it
could not have been more skilfully constructed.  The Major's irritation
instantly gave way, partly melted by the doctor's good humor, partly
forgotten in a sudden rush of anxiety.

"Come on, then," said he, turning to lead the way to old Rue's cabin,
which was but a little way from the cottage.  As they approached,
painful gasps and groans were distinctly heard from within.

On the doorstep, Major Bergan paused.  "She is my old, faithful nurse,"
said he, feelingly.  "Spare nothing,--no skill, nor trouble, nor
expense,--no more than if she were the first lady of the county."

A kind of spasm crossed his rugged features, and throwing himself down
on a bench beside the door, he left the doctor to enter alone.



X.

FEELING HIS WAY.

Rue was lying on her bed, propped up by pillows into a half-sitting
posture.  Her breath came raspingly and painfully, and she had the
dingy pallor wherewith disease is wont to write itself on the African
face.

"Is it death?" she asked, hoarsely, when the doctor had finished his
examination.  "Because, if it is, I should be glad to know in time to
send for Master Bergan,--I mean, Mr. Arling."

Doctor Remy looked down upon the blind woman with a grave,--almost a
frowning, face--which she could not see.

"So you are attached to Mr. Arling," said he.

"Certainly, sir," replied Rue, simply.  "He is Miss Eleanor's son, you
know."

If Doctor Remy did not know, he could easily understand.  He was aware
that the daughter of a Southern house remains "Miss Eleanor" (or
whatever the Christian name might be) to the end of her days, with the
dusky home population, although, in the meantime, she may have become a
great-grandmother.  Moreover, various scattered shreds of rumor came to
his recollection, enough to afford a tolerably accurate explanation of
the blind woman's reason for desiring to see Bergan Arling at her
bedside.  And though the matter would seem to be no concern of his, it
is certain that he gave it a moment or two of profound study, ere he
answered the question which Rue had addressed to him.  Indeed, it was
very much Doctor Remy's habit--as it is that of selfish natures in
general--to consider all events mainly with reference to their bearing
upon his own interests, and to hold them important or trivial,
according to the degree of favorable or adverse influence which they
would be likely to exert upon his fortunes.

The doctor's reflections were short and swift.  To the bystanders,
there seemed to be only the natural, deliberate pause of the careful
physician, before deciding upon the case presented to him.  Nor was
Rue's patience greatly tried, ere his answer to her question was ready
for her.

"Your case is not desperate, this time," said he, "though I can see
that it is painful.  Your cold, being unwisely left to run its own
course, has resulted in inflammation of the throat, and, partially, of
the lungs.  But it is not beyond present relief, nor permanent cure, I
think.  At least, we shall soon see."

There was no question of Doctor Remy's professional skill.  In
Berganton, his scientific superiority had early been recognized by the
community, and tacitly conceded by his medical brethren.  Yet he could
hardly be said to be popular, even with his patients.  There was no
affection mingled with the respect accorded to his talent.  It was
intuitively felt, if not clearly understood and expressed, that, though
he brought every resource of science to the sick-chamber, he brought
nothing else.  He was as cold and pitiless as his own steel probe or
lance.  And there are times when a deep, human sympathy, on the part of
the physician, is as real a medicament to the sufferer, as any set down
in the pharmacopeia; in which fact many a genial quack finds his
account.  It had come, therefore, to be very much the Berganton habit
to reserve Doctor Remy's skill for severe accidents, for consultations,
for the awful conflict of life and death over wasted forms writhing
with sharp pain, or locked in moveless stupor.  But the thousand
pettier ills of life, which asked for tender consideration almost as
imperatively as for medicine, preferred to commit themselves to the
fatherly kindness of good old Doctor Harris, or the warm-hearted
enthusiasm of the last medical arrival,--Doctor Gerrish, whose
scientific attainments had, as yet, to be taken for granted, but whose
smile was a veritable cordial.

It was Doctor Remy's fate, therefore, to stand by many
deathbeds,--where he comported himself much more like a baffled and
beaten general than a sympathetic, sorrow-stricken friend.  It was also
his frequent privilege to see the life-forces rally and stand fast,
under his generalship, to begin anew the fight that seemed wellnigh
over, to win back, inch by inch, the ground that had been lost, and
finally to stand a conqueror on the field.  Even then, those most
indebted to his skill were often chilled to see how little the cold
triumph of his face had to do with their deep heart gladness.
Nevertheless, this was the position wherein the doctor appeared at his
best,--as now at Rue's bedside.

For some reason,--probably as a step to Major Bergan's favor,--he was
putting forth all his skill.  In one respect, he was always admirable:
he never hesitated to put his professional hand to any business that
might seem to belong more properly to the nurse.  Rue's attendants were
ignorant and awkward; if Doctor Remy had not helped to carry his orders
into effect, progress would have been slow.  As it was, the treatment
was prompt and effective.  In about an hour, the acute pains had
ceased, respiration had become less difficult, and Rue having devoutly
thanked the doctor, under God, for relief so speedy and so grateful,
had turned on her side for a complete self-surrender to the delightful
drowsiness that was stealing over her.

Coming out, Dr. Remy found Brick waiting for him, on the bench where he
had left the Major.

"Is gramma goin' to get well?" he asked, anxiously.

"Certainly,--in a few days," returned the doctor.  "Where is your
master?"

The negro pointed to the Major's cottage.  "Ole massa is thar," he
answered.  "He tole me, when you's t'rough, to ax you to come an' see
him."

The doctor turned in the direction indicated, but was plainly in no
hurry to reach the goal.  He walked very leisurely, stopping, now and
then, to look round on the moonlit landscape.  Not till he seemed to
have settled some knotty point to his satisfaction, did he enter the
cottage.

The Major was seated at the table, with his bottle and glass before
him.  He did not need to ask Doctor Remy how the case had gone; _that_
had already been made known to him by the mouths of half-a-dozen eager
messengers.  He merely said, in a tone that was half a protest;--

"I never expected to be so much obliged to you, Doctor Remy.  I should
be sorry to lose my faithful old nurse.  She is the last link between
me and my early days.  Is she out of danger?"

"For the present, yes.  And in the morning, I will look in to see how
she goes on,--that is, if you wish."

"I shall take it as a favor," returned the Major, in a tone that was
almost courteous.  "Sit down, before you go, and take a drink."

Doctor Remy quietly took a chair, but shook his head at the proffered
glass.  "No, thank you," said he.  "We physicians need to keep our
heads clear and our nerves steady; and brandy does not conduce to
either."

"It never hurt mine," answered Major Bergan, rather surlily, as if he
suspected a covert insinuation in the doctor's words.

"Perhaps not," replied Dr. Remy, indifferently.  And, glancing out of
the open window, he added, "A fine place you have here."

"The finest in the county," replied the Major, with frank pride.  "That
is, as far as soil and crops are concerned.  The old Hall is out of
repair, to be sure, but it can be restored to its former grandeur,
whenever I see fit."

Dr. Remy gave his host a long, penetrating, comprehensive look.  "I
should advise you not to neglect the work too long," he observed,
gravely, "if you have it much at heart."

Major Bergan set down the glass that was on its way to his lips, and
looked wonderingly at his guest.

"Why?" he asked.

"Because a man of your age, with your habits, breaks down soon, when
once he begins."

"My habits!" growled the Major, drawing his eyebrows into a heavy
frown, "what do you mean, you insolent scamp?"

"I mean," replied Doctor Remy, composedly, "habits at once active,
careless, and self-indulgent; such as riding or walking in the heat of
the day, spending hours in the rice fields, rising early and sitting up
late, eating _ad libitum_, and drinking _ad infinitum_."

The summary was too truthful, and the tone too professional, for the
Major to retain his unreasonable anger.  He merely asked,--"How do you
know that I do these things?"

"By your looks."

"Pshaw!" exclaimed Major Bergan, with a scornful curl of the lip.

Doctor Remy smiled, with the calm unconcern of a man who knows his
ground.  "Your looks tell me more than that," said he.

"If they tell you anything but that I am well,--perfectly well,--they
lie," answered the Major, bluntly.

"I am glad to hear it," replied Doctor Remy.  "Doubtless, then, you
sleep sound and soft."

"No, I don't," grumbled the Major, with unsuspecting frankness, "I
sleep like a man tossed in a blanket."

"And probably you have pleasant dreams."

"On the contrary, a perfect Bedlam of furies and horrors."

"And I suppose that you never have headaches, or dizziness, or
vagueness and loss of sight."

"I have them all," growled the Major, with an oath, "every miserable
item of them.  I had an attack, about a fortnight ago, that actually
laid me up in bed for a day!  I wonder what it all means!"

Doctor Remy forebore to signalize his victory by so much as a
triumphant look.  "It means," he answered, quietly, "that you will be
none the worse for a little medicine in the house, as a provision for
future attacks of the sort."

And opening his pocket medicine-case, Doctor Remy selected three or
four small phials, and began to measure, mix, and fold up powders, with
a dexterity that it pleased the Major to witness.  He noticed, too,
that the doctor's brow was deeply knit as he prosecuted his task, and
that he held one of the phials suspended, for a moment, over the small
square of paper, before discharging its contents.  All this looked as
if his case was getting due consideration, and the Major was proportion
ably gratified.

Doctor Remy ended by pushing a dozen or more of tiny folded papers
across the table.  "Take one, in water, every two hours," said he,
"till the symptoms abate,--that is, of course, when you have another
attack.  There are enough for several occasions; I know you do not like
to send for a doctor, if it can be avoided.  At the same time," he
added, "take care to drop those careless habits that I mentioned."

The last sentence brought a cloud to Major Bergan's brow; but the
doctor gave it time to dissipate while he packed his medicine case, and
chatted pleasantly about its convenient arrangements.  "And now," said
he, rising, "what else can I do for you?"

"Nothing, that I know of," replied the Major, "except it be to present
your bill.  What else _can_ a doctor do?"

"Several things," answered Doctor Remy, lightly.  "Make your will, for
instance."

The Major laughed outright.  "I should say that was a lawyer's
business," said he.

"So it is.  But do you not know that I once belonged to the bar?"

"I do remember hearing something of the sort, now that you remind me of
it," rejoined the Major dryly.  "I don't think any the better of you
for it."

"Nor any the worse, I hope," returned Doctor Remy, placidly.  "At all
events, I always advise my patients to make their wills.  There is
nothing like a mind at rest about the future, to prolong life."  He
seemed to speak carelessly, yet he fastened a keen look on the Major's
face, nevertheless.

The latter only smiled.  "When I want my will made," said he, coolly,
"I will employ you to do the job."

"He has made it already, as he said he would," thought Doctor Remy to
himself.  "And the chances are that he won't live to alter it.

"I shall be very much at your service," he answered, aloud.  "And now,
I must be getting townward; I have to see another patient this evening."

The Major followed him out, and stood for some moments watching the
retreating buggy.  Doctor Remy, looking back, saw him there in the
moonlight, and a strange, furtive look came into his eyes.

"I have given 'Providence' a chance," said he to himself.  "Let us see
what it does with it."

Major Bergan, meanwhile, was muttering,--"What did he mean, I wonder,
by talking to me about my will?  It is certainly no concern of his.
Does he really think me near death?"  And the Major shivered, as if
there had been an uncomfortable chill in the thought.

"Uncle Harry," said a clear, sweet voice, close at his elbow.  He
started, and turned quickly round.

A slender, girlish shape,--a graceful head, drooping like a lily on its
stem,--a fair, pure, bright face,--this was the vision that confronted
him, and carried him back to his youth, and to the love of his youth;
the untoward course of which had doubtless helped to make him the man
that he was.

"Clarissa!" he exclaimed, trembling, and feeling as if he were in a
dream.

The vision smiled.  "Do you not know me, uncle?" it asked, in its sweet
tones; "I am Carice."

"Ah!" said the Major, slowly, and as if but half awake.  He took his
niece's hands, and gazed earnestly in her face.  "You are like your
mother, child, or like what she was at your age, much more than you are
like the child that used to play around my knees,--let me
see,--six--eight--nine years ago.  I missed her, Carice, when she
stopped coming, I missed her."

"She missed you, too, uncle," replied Carice.  "She was very fond of
you.'

"Then why did she stop coming?  asked the Major, gloomily.

"Because, uncle," answered Carice, simply, "she grew old enough to know
that it is a child's duty to obey, and not to question."

The Major's brow darkened; but he looked sad, too.  "I never laid it up
against _you_, Carice," he said, with significant emphasis.

"Nor against any one, I hope," replied Carice, coaxingly.  "Oh, uncle,
ought not this long feud to cease?"

Major Bergan shook his head.  "There is no feud between you and me,
child," said he.  "But, as for your father," he went on, with a
kindling eye and a roughening voice, "when _he_--"

Carice laid her hand upon his arm.  "As you were just saying," said
she, gently, "he is my father.  And, dear uncle, a daughter's ear is
easily hurt."

The Major stopped, and nearly choked himself with the sentence so
suddenly arrested on his lips.  "Then, what are you here for?" he
finally blurted out, half-wonderingly, half-sternly.

"Ah!" exclaimed Carice, in a tone of sudden recollection, "I had nearly
forgotten my errand, in the pleasure of seeing you."

The Major's face grew soft again.  He put his hands on Carice's
shoulders, turned her toward the full moonlight, and looked long and
earnestly in her face.  "How beautiful you have grown!" said he, with
even more of wonder than admiration in his voice; "I am not sure but
that you are still more beautiful than _she_ was.  But you don't look
as if you belonged to this earth, child; and there's not a bit of the
family look left in you.  Are you certain that you are Carice Bergan,
and not a changeling?"

"Quite sure, uncle," she answered, smiling, "Ask Rosa, there, if I am
not."  She pointed to her maid, who had accompanied her, and stood
waiting near.

"Then, Miss Bergan," said the Major, making her a courtly bow, "what
can your old uncle do for you?"

"Nothing, at present," she replied, "except to let me keep my own, old
corner in his heart.  I only came to see Maumer Rue, if I may.  We
heard she was dying.  So I begged hard to be allowed to come and tell
her that I had not forgotten how kind she used to be to me, and to see
if I could do anything for her.  I fancied it would please her to see
me, if she is still able to recognize me.  Is she?"

"Perfectly able," replied Major Bergan, "and will be, I hope, for years
to come.  She has been very ill, but she is much better.  She is now
asleep."

"Then I will not disturb her," returned Carice.  "And yet, I am loath
to go back without a glimpse of her.  Could I not look in upon her for
one moment?  I will be sure not to make a sound."

Major Bergan led her to Rue's cabin, and waited on the threshold,
while, with her finger on her lips, to guard against any outburst of
astonishment from the negro woman in attendance, she stole softly to
the bedside, and bent over the sleeping Rue.  A wondrously lovely
picture she made there,--a picture of such unearthly grace, delicacy,
and purity, that the Major's eyes filled with unconscious moisture as
he gazed.

Suddenly Rue's lips parted, in a dream, "The Bergan star!" said she.
"See! it rises!"  And, after a moment, she added, decidedly, "He
_shall_ have Bergan Hall!"

Carice quickly stole out to her uncle.  His face looked very gloomy, as
he led her back toward the cottage.

"Carice," said he, suddenly, "have you seen your Western cousin?"

"Bergan Arling?  Yes, certainly," she answered.

"How do you like him?"

"He seems very pleasant," she replied, evasively.

"Seems!" repeated her uncle, gruffly.  "What is the matter with him?"

"I do not know, uncle.  It is said that he is very dissipated."

The Major laughed ironically.  "Nonsense!  The most incorrigible
milksop that ever I saw," said he.  "That is why we quarrelled."

Carice looked at him doubtfully.  "The very first thing that we heard
of him," said she, "was that he had been mixed up in a low brawl at
Gregg's tavern."

"All my fault, Carice," returned Major Bergan, shortly.  "I took him
there, and cheated him into swallowing a glass of raw brandy."

Carice's blue eyes looked a sorrowful astonishment.

"I did not mean to do him any harm," pursued the Major, answering their
mute eloquence; "I only wanted to teach him to drink like a man and a
Bergan.  I loved the boy, Carice, like my own son, and would have kept
him with me, if I could.  But he forsook me for the law, the ungrateful
dog!"

"Perhaps he had no choice," suggested Carice.

"No choice!  Didn't he have the choice of Bergan Hall, and all that
belongs to it?  That was what was running in Maumer Rue's head, just
now.  But he preferred independence--and a tin sign in his window!  He
is a degenerate scion of the race, like your--"  The Major suddenly
recollected himself, and broke off with a dry cough.

Carice was looking down thoughtfully.  An unexpected clue to Bergan's
character, motives, and aims, had been put into her hands; and she was
slowly trying to follow it out.

"Thank you, uncle, for telling me this," said she, at length.  "I am
afraid we have been doing Bergan an injustice."

"You certainly have, if you have thought him a drunkard," replied the
Major.  "But, nevertheless, he's no true Bergan, Carice; don't have
anything to do with him."

"No more than is just and right," said Carice, quietly.  "And now I
must go; mamma will be getting anxious.  Come a little way with me,
uncle, as you used to do."

The Major walked by her side down to the creek, and watched her
anxiously across the dilapidated bridge.

"Don't come that way again," he called to her, as she reached the other
end.  "It's unsafe."

"Mend it then, uncle," she called back to him.  "For I like old
paths--and old friends--best."

The Major turned away with a smile.  And all the way to the cottage he
was saying to himself,--

"Perhaps I _had_ better make my will."



XI.

SLEEPLESS NIGHTS APPOINTED.

Doctor Remy possessed in perfection the power of rapid concentration of
thought.  Otherwise, he would have taken a divided mind to the bedside
of his second patient, that night, after leaving Bergan Hall.  As it
was, he was glad when the stroke of midnight set him free, body and
mind; the one to find its way mechanically to the hotel, through the
silent moonlighted streets of Berganton, the other to occupy itself in
arranging and perfecting the details of a certain plan for his future
advantage, which had suddenly shaped itself out before him, so
distinctly, if roughly, that he had already taken an important step
toward its accomplishment.  It now remained to provide for the rest of
the way.

The midnight heaven was without a cloud, and the moon filled it with
white radiance.  Every object down the long line of the town's
principal street was shown with the clearness of noonday, but also with
the ghostlike awfulness that moonlight is wont to impart to objects the
most familiar.  The large, wooden houses, with their broad, shadowy
piazzas and dim doorways; the wide, empty sidewalks; the great,
shining-leaved oaks, dotting the silvered highway with black islands of
shadow; the narrow wheel-track, with its broad margin of grass and
weeds, through which an isolated footpath took its solitary way to
every gate;--all were distinctly visible, but with a singularity of
aspect that seemed to change their whole character and meaning.

And perhaps something of the same effect extended to the countenance of
Doctor Remy, as he came down the street, followed by the dreary echo of
his own lonely footsteps, as if dogged by immitigable fate.  To his
features, as to all other objects, the moonlight seemed to impart a new
expression.  Those who were best acquainted with him, had any such been
abroad, would have needed to look twice at his dark moody countenance,
and the ominous gleam of his deepset eyes, to feel themselves quite
sure of his identity.  Continuing to brood over the casual encounter,
as they pursued their way, they might have tried to divine what sombre
energy of purpose it was that had lit his eyes with such deep, dusky
light, and marked his brow and eyes with lines so sternly rigid;
shuddering, too, to think how remorselessly he would sweep from his
terribly direct, if underground, path, whatever object should intervene
between himself and his goal.  Then, seeing how the moonbeams had
subtilized some mean hovel into a phantom palace or tomb, wrought of
alternate silver and ebony, they would be fain to set down both the
origin and substance of their reflections to the same magical agency,
and breathe more freely in making haste to forget the whole matter.

Secure in the absence of all observation, the dark face kept on its way
through the silent street, giving its features the fullest liberty of
evil expression.  Opposite the principal dry goods store of the street,
it paused for a moment; its restless glance had caught sight of a faint
gleam from one of the rear shutters, which was plainly not moonlight.

"They are up late," muttered the doctor, "or there is mischief afoot.
Well! what is it to me?  Have I not enough else to think of?"  And he
kept on his rapid way.

But the incident seemed to have set free the faculty of speech.  Words
began to drop from his set lips; short, disconnected sentences, through
which, nevertheless, there ran a distinct thread of suggestion.

"I have waited long enough,"--so ran one of these half-involuntary
utterances,--"I have waited long enough for Fortune's willing favors;
it is time to grapple with the exasperating jade, and wring them from
her reluctant hands, by fair means or foul.  For what else was I
endowed with talent, daring, energy, and will, beyond most men?  Not,
certainly, to waste them all in earning a bare subsistence, or little
more, as I am now doing."

"Is it my fault," he went on, in broken, detached sentences,--"is it my
fault that Fortune never shows herself to me, save at the farther end
of some dark vista which the world calls crime?--Pshaw! what is a life,
one worthless, drunken, half-worn-out life, in comparison with the ends
that I have in view,--increase of knowledge, expansion and perfection
of science, and through them--as a casual end, I do not pretend that it
is a direct one, for me--the advancement of the human race.--The plan
seems feasible, as much so, at least, as anything can be, in this
miserable, mocking world, where Fate seems to delight in balking the
best talent and deranging the artfulest contrivance.--Fate, Chance, or
Providence, which?  Three different terms for the same thing;--language
would be more accurate, if there were less of it.--At any rate, I have
given Providence a chance.  Let it take the responsibility of the
result.--If that will be not made!  But to whom else should he give the
place?  He cannot abide either his brother or his nephew.  And Miss
Lyte comes next.  Besides, there are ways of finding a will, at need.
The essential point is, that no other be made."

He was now nearing Mrs. Lyte's house, and the sight of it prompted his
next sentence.

"Astra!--there, at least, the way is easy.  Only, it must be secret;--I
doubt if the old Major would altogether relish me for his heir, despite
to-night's increase of cordiality.--As for Arling, it is said that
history--"

Dr. Remy broke off suddenly.  The subject of his soliloquy was calmly
looking at him across Mrs. Lyte's gate.

"Pardon me for interrupting jour conversation," said Bergan, with a
smile which satisfied the doctor that he had not heard what he was
saying.  "One's talks with one's self are sometimes very interesting."

"Why are you not in bed?" asked the doctor, with a sharpness that
Bergan set down to professional anxiety.

"A man who goes to bed at six may well get up at twelve," he replied,
lightly, "especially if sleep forsakes him.  Have you been out until
this time?"

"Yes," answered the doctor, debating within himself whether he would
speak of his visit to Bergan Hall, and quickly deciding in the
negative, since there was little probability that Bergan would hear it
from anybody else; inasmuch as the Hall led an independent, isolated
life of its own, the events of which rarely made their way into the
talk of the town.  "It is nothing new for me to be late," he added, by
way of finish to his monosyllable.

"I will walk down with you as far as the hotel," said Bergan, coming
out, and closing the gate behind him.  "Perhaps I may be able to pick
up a few seeds of sleep on the way, which will sprout into another nap,
when I return.  What a night it is!"

"For lunatics--yes," said the doctor dryly.

"Among which you would doubtless class your humble servant," returned
Bergan, "if you could look into his mind, at this moment."

"Very likely," rejoined Doctor Remy, indifferently; but he gave his
companion a quick, keen glance, nevertheless.

Bergan was looking straight before him.  "Doctor," said he, suddenly,
"I believe you know the world well; what does it do to the man who goes
counter to its traditions and prejudices,--whom, in short, it is
pleased to look upon as a kind of modern Don Quixote?"

"Laughs at him first, hammers him next, flings him aside last,"
returned the doctor, sententiously.

"But if he does not mind being laughed at, bears the hammering without
flinching when he must, hammers back again when he may, and will not be
flung aside, what then?" pursued Bergan.

The doctor stopped short in his walk, and looked long and searchingly
in the young man's face.  "Then," said he, slowly, as if the words were
drawn out of him almost against his will,--"then it gives way to him,
and honors its conqueror.  But," he added, "it is a long, exhausting
contest.  I do not advise you to try it."

"Thank you," answered Bergan, quietly.  "I am inclined to try it,
nevertheless.  But here we are at the hotel.  Good night."

Doctor Remy stood on the steps of the hotel, looking moodily after him.

"What has he taken into his head now?" he asked himself.

He had not long to wait for an answer.  In the morning, the light which
he had noticed in the rear of the drygoods store, found its sufficient
explanation in an empty safe and rifled shelves.  A week afterward, a
tall, ill-favored man was arrested on suspicion of being concerned in
the robbery.  Two days later, it was known that Bergan Arling had
positively refused to undertake his defence.  In due course of time, it
leaked out, through the amazed prisoner himself, that he had done so
because he believed it to be no part of his professional duty to try to
shield a criminal from just punishment.



XII.

A CONSULTATION.

Plainly, Mrs. Bergan had something on her mind, that bright spring
morning.  Though she poured her husband's second cup of coffee with a
deliberation that seemed to promise much for its flavor, he was fain to
send it back, after tasting it, with the explanatory remark:--

"You have forgotten to smile into it, my dear; it is not sweet enough."

"Eh!" exclaimed Mrs. Bergan, absently, extending her hand toward the
cream pitcher.

"I doubt if cream will mend the matter much," observed Mr. Bergan,
gravely.  "A lump of sugar might do, if the smile be absolutely _non
est_."

Mrs. Bergan's mind having by this time returned to the business in
hand, both sugar and smile were immediately forthcoming, in sufficient
measure to threaten the coffee with excess of sweets.  Nevertheless,
she continued to have fits of abstraction, at short intervals, until
the breakfast things had been removed, and Carice had quitted the room.
Then, she turned to her husband with a serious face.

"I really think, Godfrey," she began, "that we owe your nephew some
attention."

"Of what kind, pray?" inquired Mr. Bergan, in considerable surprise.

"Well, it seems to me that we ought,--once, at least,--to invite him
formally to dinner."

"Pray, what has he been doing, to place us under such an obligation?"
asked Mr. Bergan, somewhat dryly.

Mrs. Bergan colored slightly.  "I am afraid that we made a mistake at
the outset," said she.  "Of course, the attention was due to him then
as much as now."

"I thought we agreed that the less Carice saw of him, the better,"
replied Mr. Bergan.

"Yes, I know.  But that was because we believed him to be of
intemperate habits."

Men of Godfrey Bergan's thoughtful and deliberate character, when they
adopt a mistaken opinion, are wont to wedge it in so firmly among
things undeniably true and just, that to dislodge it is like tearing up
an oak which has rooted itself in a rock cleft.  "I wish I were certain
that he is not," he answered, with a slow, grave shake of the head.

Mrs. Bergan gave him a surprised look.  "I don't see why you should
doubt him," said she.  "Everybody agrees that a more correct young man
does not exist.  He is always to be found in his office during office
hours, attends Church regularly on Sundays, as well as at most of the
occasional services, goes into but little society, and that of the very
best,--what more would you have?"

"Nothing," replied her husband, "except the certainty that it will
last.  A drunkard's reform is so rarely a permanent thing, that one is
justified in distrusting it.  Though he may keep as sober as a
Carthusian monk for a few months, or even for a year or two, his
unhappy appetite is only a caged lion: in the first unguarded moment,
it is certain to break out, and to sweep everything before
it--resolution, hope, energy, and promise.  Unfortunately for my
nephew, perhaps, but very fortunately for ourselves, I fancy, I happen
to retain a distinct recollection of my first meeting with him."

"But," urged Mrs. Bergan, "I thought Carice told you what your brother
Harry said about that matter."

"With all due respect for my brother Harry," returned her husband,
coolly, "I don't consider his testimony, in this matter, to be worth
much.  Intemperance is, in his estimation, so very venial a sin,--not
to say, so very Berganly a virtue,--that he would be sure to extenuate
it, if he could."

"He would never say what was not true," affirmed Mrs. Bergan, decidedly.

"No, but he would look at the affair from his own point of view, and
speak accordingly."

"But your nephew left him on account of that very affair," persisted
Mrs. Bergan, "and has refused to have anything to do with him since,
even with Bergan Hall held out to him as a bait."

"In which," rejoined Mr. Bergan, composedly, "he shows that he has more
of the hereditary temper than is good for him, or any one connected
with him.  It is the same trait that has made Harry so bitter against
us, all these years.  And one feud in the family was enough--and too
much."

Mrs. Bergan began to look annoyed.  While she admitted the general
truth of her husband's observations, she had an intuitive conviction of
their present misapplication.  Her womanly instincts were all in
Bergan's favor.  But that, she knew, was no ground of effective
argument.

Her husband looked at her clouded face, for a moment, and then went to
her side.  "Confess now, Clarissa," said he, pleasantly, laying his
hand on her shoulder, "that our nephew's claims upon our attention
would never have presented themselves so strongly to your mind, were it
not for his late brilliant hit in the court room, and the sudden
admiration and popularity which it has won him."

A slight flush showed on Mrs. Bergan's cheek; nevertheless, she met her
husband's eyes frankly.  "I acknowledge that those things had their
effect in making me ashamed of myself," she answered.  "But, all the
time, I have had an uneasy feeling that we were not doing our duty by
your sister's son.  Surely, we ought to have been the very last persons
to have listened to, and acted upon, a rumor unfavorable to him; or, if
it were certain that he had made a false step, we should have been
ready with our influence and countenance, to help him to retrieve
himself."

"You forget, my dear," said Mr. Bergan, gently, "that it was for
Carice's sake.  We were thinking only of her."

"And so we did evil that good might come," returned his wife, somewhat
ruefully.  "But evil follows the universal law, and brings forth after
its kind."

"What do you mean?" asked Mr. Bergan, looking both surprised and
puzzled.

Mrs. Bergan smiled at him half-pityingly, half-sarcastically.  "Oh, ye
men!" she exclaimed, "if ye are wise as serpents, in matters of the
intellect, ye are blind as bats, in matters of the heart."

"I am ready to admit the truth of the abstract proposition," said Mr.
Bergan, quizzically, "as soon as I am made to understand in what way I
furnish a proof of it."

"Don't you see," returned Mrs. Bergan, seriously, "that if ever Carice
is to become over-interested in Bergan, now is the time,--now that he
is presented to her imagination in the attractive light of a long
neglected and misunderstood, but patient, persevering, and, finally,
all-conquering hero?"

Mr. Bergan looked as if he did see--several things.  "Is that the
reason why you propose to throw them together?" he asked, dryly.

"Certainly," replied Mrs. Bergan, with perfect composure.  "The first
thing is to destroy the halo with which he is now surrounded, by
bringing him into the disenchanting daylight of commonplace, everyday
association.  Next, we must rob him of the crown of martyrdom, so far
as we are concerned, by frankly confessing that we were a little too
severe upon him at first, and by doing full justice to his talents in a
matter-of-fact way.  Finally, we must make the most of the
relationship."

"You may be right," said Mr. Bergan, after some moments of deep
thought.  "Though, at first sight, it looks very much like jumping into
the river, to avoid the rain."

"My dear," replied Mrs. Bergan, earnestly, "we cannot keep them apart,
if we would, as matters are now turning.  Twice already, we have met
him at dinner parties, where he is the lion of the hour, and everybody
makes much of him but ourselves; and we shall continue to do so, until
the round is finished.  It must be confessed that he wears his honors
modestly; at times, I cannot help feeling proud of him myself."

"I never doubted his ability, nor overlooked his pleasing manners,"
said Mr. Bergan.  "But what are they but gems on a poisoned cup, if the
virus of intemperance be in his blood, or his principles be unsound?"

"The latter can hardly be the case," remarked Mrs. Bergan, "if the
report be true that he refuses to have anything to do with a cause that
he does not believe to be just.  That seems to argue uncommon strength
of principle."

"I am not so sure about that," returned Mr. Bergan, shaking his head
dubiously.  "Most people, I find, regard it as one of the many
eccentricities of genius.  Others think he only showed his shrewdness
in declining to undertake a cause that he was sure to lose, after his
brilliant victory in the case of Corlew vs. Kenan.  Besides, he has not
announced that such is to be his settled course of action.  And if he
did, it would seem arrogant, in so young a man.  It is, in fact,
judging the cause before it is tried."

"It strikes me that a man must needs judge things beforehand, where his
own conscience is concerned," observed Mrs. Bergan, thoughtfully.  "You
would not expect him to act first, and decide afterward whether he had
done right or wrong."

"In judging his own actions, he need not judge those of his fellows,"
replied Mr. Bergan, somewhat magisterially.

His wife could not help wondering within herself how such judgment
could well be avoided, where a course of action was involved.  But she
wisely forbore to press the point, and reverted to the main argument.

"At all events," said she, "if he gets to visit here frequently and
familiarly, we shall have an opportunity of seeing for ourselves what
his character really is.  He may prove to be everything that is safe
and admirable; or he and Carice may never think of each other in the
way that we are contemplating.  And, after all, I think we might trust
our daughter; she has never shown herself silly or wilful; she is not
likely to despise our judgment, or disregard our wishes."

"All the more reason why we should do our whole duty by her," rejoined
Mr. Bergan, "in the way of prevention as well as cure.  In such
matters, parental commands generally come too late to forestall
mischief; the most that they do is to prevent it from going any
farther."

"True," replied Mrs. Bergan, quietly.  "And I confess that I might have
been more puzzled what to do, if,"--Mrs. Bergan made a slight pause, to
give her words the greater effect (like a wise woman, she had kept her
strongest argument until the last),--"if I were not tolerably certain
that he is already engaged--or, at least, likely to become so--to Astra
Lyte."

"That alters the case, indeed," said Mr. Bergan, thoughtfully.  "But
what reason have you for thinking so?"

"Miss Ferrars was here last evening, and she told me--in confidence,
you know--that she had no doubt of it whatever.  Her window overlooks
Astra's studio, and she says that she often sees him there, helping
Astra about her work, or watching her with the most absorbing interest,
or talking to her with a very tell-tale earnestness."

"It would hardly be received as evidence in a court of justice," said
Mr. Bergan, smiling, "though it sounds suggestive.  But Miss Ferrars is
given to gossip--'in confidence,' as you say."

His wife laughed.  "Of course she is; else I should never have heard of
this pleasant probability.  For both pleasant and probable it certainly
is.  Astra is turning out a wonderfully fine, talented girl; and she
and Mrs. Lyte have been Bergan's fast friends and defenders, all along.
How can he show his gratitude more gracefully than by marrying her?"

"Does Carice know of this?" asked Mr. Bergan, after a moment.

"Yes; Miss Ferrars told me in her presence, and greatly shocked her by
doing so.  She thinks it wrong to connect names so carelessly."

"She is right," said Mr. Bergan, emphatically.

"At the same time," continued Mrs. Bergan, "she remarked, that it would
be a very nice thing, if it were only true.  And afterward she said
that she would like to renew her acquaintance with Astra;--you remember
that the two were very good child-friends, though circumstances have
kept them apart, of late,--as they have their mothers!  I really feel
guilty when I think how fond I used to be of Catherine Lyte, and how I
have allowed her to slip out of my life.  But then, we were both
invalids, for many years, with scarce strength enough for home cares,
and not a jot for friendship or society.  Still, I have all my old
regard for her carefully buried in my heart, like the talent in the
parable; intact, if not in a way to increase.  One of these days, I
mean to dig it up, and go with Carice to pay her a visit, and take a
look at the wonders of Astra's studio."

"I am glad to hear it," said Mr. Bergan.  "Well!  I suppose the
conclusion of the whole matter is, that we are to give Bergan a dinner,
and the freedom of the house."

"Precisely," replied Mrs. Bergan, nodding her head.  "And now, I want
to consult you about the invitation list."

Mr. Bergan rose hastily.  "I am quite content to leave that to you, my
dear."

His wife caught his arm, "You are not going to shirk the responsibility
in that way," she said, decidedly.  "I really want your advice.  Am I
to ask Dr. Remy?"

"Why not?"

"I don't quite like the man."

"I cannot see what you have against him, unless it be that he was not
born in the county, and you don't know his whole pedigree."

Mrs. Bergan did not answer.  She knew her dislike to be a case of
spontaneous generation, and not at all qualified to give a lucid
account of itself.

"Besides," continued her husband, "he is Bergan's particular friend."

"Is he?" asked Mrs. Bergan, innocently.  "I did not know that he was
anybody's friend."

"Clarissa!" exclaimed Mr. Bergan, rebukingly.  "I never heard Dr. Remy
speak ill of anybody, in all my acquaintance with him."

"Did you ever hear him speak well of anybody?" responded Mrs.
Bergan,--"well enough, that is, to give you new interest, faith,
delight, in the person of whom he spoke?  On the contrary, does he not
somehow manage to chill what you have?"

"I cannot say that he talks of his friends with the warm effusion of a
woman," answered Mr. Bergan, sarcastically.

"But only with the cold malice of a man," retorted Mrs. Bergan.
"There! a truce!  He shall come, if only to prove what I have said.
Next, I want to invite Mrs. Lyte and Astra."

"Very well."

"And Mr. Islay, and Judge and Mrs. Morris, and--"

"You have seven already," interrupted Mr. Bergan, "making ten with
ourselves; which I hold to be the magic number for a dinner party.  If
you want to invite anybody else, better wait till another time."

Mrs. Bergan was wise enough to be the bearer of her own invitation to
Mrs. Lyte; else it would scarcely have been accepted.  The latter had
lost the taste for society with the habit of it; nothing short of the
personal solicitation of her old friend, now asking it as a favor to
herself, and now urging it for Astra's sake, would have induced her to
give up, even for a few hours, the seclusion that had slowly been
transformed, for her as for most invalids, from a grievous necessity
into a calm pleasantness.

Thus far, Mrs. Bergan was successful.  But she missed seeing either
Astra or Bergan; both happened to be out, on their respective ways.  As
regarded the former, it did not much matter; but she was sorry not to
see Bergan, and utter the few graceful words of apology for the past,
as well as of promise for the future, wherewith she had intended to
preface her invitation to dinner, and inaugurate her new policy.  As it
was, she could only leave a pencilled note of invitation on his desk,
and reserve her explanation for a personal interview.  Then she went
back to the studio, where she admired everything cordially, and with
wonderful impartiality.  Carice, meanwhile, was hanging over the winged
cherub, with a deep, silent delight that went to Mrs. Lyte's heart.

"You will take such pleasure in meeting her again!" she said to Astra,
when she came in, a few moments after the visitors had gone.  "She is
just the friend that you need."

"I am not so sure about that!" returned Astra wilfully.  "I sometimes
catch a glimpse of her at church; and she looks a great deal too soft
and dainty and delicate for a friend.  If I were a Roman Catholic, I
might set her up in a corner, and worship her as a madonna, or a saint.
But, being a Protestant, I really don't see that I have any need of
her,--or she, indeed, of me!"

Mrs. Lyte shook her head in mild reproof.  "You do say such strange
things, Astra," said she, "things so liable to be misunderstood."

"_You_ do not misunderstand them, mamma," returned Astra, fondly.

"No, but Mr. Arling might."

Astra turned, in surprise, and met Bergan's quiet smile.  He had come
in just behind her, and had heard almost the whole.

"I think not," said Astra, coolly.  "Mr. Arling is pretty well used to
my ways, by this time.  We were speaking," she continued, "of that
ineffable combination of snow and sunshine, lily and rose, saint and
angel, known among mortals by the name of Carice Bergan.  Can you even
imagine being on familiar terms with her?  Or would you if you could?
Does she not seem fitter for a pedestal or a shrine,--some place a
little above, or remote from, life's ordinary round?"

"She does, indeed," replied Bergan, earnestly.  "There is a
half-unearthly purity about her, that keeps even one's thoughts at a
reverent distance.  Snow and sunshine!--yes, she has something of both,
a kind of soft, white chill, interfused with a rich brightness,
half-golden, half roseate;--but it is impossible to put the idea into
words!"

And Bergan turned, musingly, toward his office door.

Astra looked after him, for a moment, and then glanced smilingly at her
mother.

"Fortunately, there are such things as household divinities," said she.

"Eh?" said Mrs. Lyte, wonderingly.

But Astra did not explain.



XIII.

DINNER-TABLE TALK.

Late wisdom is apt to taste of the flower of folly whence it is
distilled.  So, at least, thought Mrs. Bergan, when, months afterward,
she looked back upon her dinner-party, and seemed to see in it the
beginning of trouble.  But it is probable that nothing which she could
have done, or left undone, would have availed to alter the natural,
irresistible course of events.  At the most, she may have hastened its
current a little.  Her dinner-party only furnished a convenient point
of meeting for lives inevitably tending toward each other, for
influences long converging, and certain to meet at last, in clash or
harmony.  Without it, there must needs have been a swift birth of
friendship between Carice and Astra, at their next meeting; which
meeting could not have been much longer deferred.  Without it, Doctor
Remy would assiduously have spun his web for self-advantage, fastening
his threads indifferently to whatever or whomsoever seemed to promise
the best support, and quickly unfastening them whenever a prop failed
him.  Without it, the hearts of Bergan and Carice would sooner or later
have inclined toward each other, by reason of an instinct truer and
surer than maternal foresight or forestalling.

The dinner was, _per se_, a success.  The table was elegant with glass,
silver, and flowers; the viands were the creation of one of those
round, greasy Africanesses, who are born to the gridiron not less
indubitably than a poet to the lyre; and white-haired old Sancho waited
with a blending of obsequiousness and pomposity, wonderful to behold.
There were neither culinary failures to harrow the soul of the hostess,
nor glass-fractures or sauce-spillings to disconcert her guests.

The conversation was bright, easy, and desultory, as well as
interlocutory and general by turns, as dinner-table talk should be.
Only once, and that quite at the last, did it take a graver turn than
was well suited to the occasion, or seem to stir any ill-feeling.  In a
pause of the more general conversation, Doctor Remy was heard saying to
Carice, who sat next him;--

"You are fortunate in being able to believe so implicitly, without
ampler proof."

"Do you think the proof insufficient, then?" asked Carice, with a
little look of wonder in her blue eyes.

"To some minds," answered Doctor Remy, evasively.

"Perhaps," interposed Mr. Islay, whose ears had been open for some
moments toward this conversation,--"perhaps such minds find the proof
insufficient only because they have not yet been able to look at it in
the right light."

"What light do you mean?" asked Doctor Remy, a little doubtfully.

"The light of a renewed heart and an obedient life.  No man apprehends
the truths of Christianity clearly, nor believes them with a belief
that is worth anything, until he feels his own personal need of them.
When that time comes, he catches hold of them, without proof, as it
were,--or, at least, without other proof than their felt adaptation to
that intense need,---just as a man who is hungry and thirsty accepts
convenient food without troubling himself about its chemical analysis.
Then, holding them fast, and feeling how perfectly they meet his wants,
what strength and satisfaction they give to his mind, and what symmetry
and dignity they impart to his life, he begins to look back over the
long line of prophecy and testimony for proof, and finds it ample.  Men
are prone to forget, Dr. Remy, that the natural order--as we see in
children--is through the heart to the intellect, not through the
intellect to the heart."

"But," objected Doctor Remy, "if a man is not sensible of any such
personal need, how is he to be made to feel it?"

"Who can tell?" responded Mr. Islay, solemnly.  "If the eye sees no
comeliness in Christ, to desire Him, if the heart feels no void which
craves His fulness, no pang which needs His healing, who can tell when
the one will be opened, the other emptied or smitten?  'The wind
bloweth where it listeth.'  But I can tell you, Doctor Remy, how a man
can postpone the time of conviction to the last moment, perhaps to the
very end."

"Indeed," answered Doctor Remy, lifting his eyebrows.  "May I ask for
the formula?"

"Simply by leading a life of deliberate, habitual sin and selfishness.
There is nothing like sin for blinding the eyes, and misleading the
judgment, in regard to spiritual things.  Indeed, if I desired to shake
my own faith in Christ to the very centre, I know no way in which I
could do it so surely as by committing some dreadful crime--murder, for
instance.  All my views of life and death, earth and heaven, would at
once become distorted and confused, just as all my thoughts and aims
would immediately take a new direction."

Mr. Islay being on the same side of the table as his interlocutor,
could not observe the latter's sudden change of countenance; but
Bergan, sitting opposite, was surprised to see the doctor's face darken
with some powerful emotion, while he shot a furtive, suspicious glance
at the speaker.  Yet his voice, when he spoke, was studiously low and
even, so much so that its latent venom was unnoticed by the majority of
the party.

"Inasmuch," said he, "as Mr. Islay is able to speak so intelligently of
religious faith, because of his thorough acquaintance therewith, so,
doubtless, his remarks upon crime and its effects are the outcome of
his own personal experience."

Bergan colored with indignation, and was about to say something in
sharp rebuke of the covert insult; but Mr. Islay stopped him by a look,
and a slight, yet decided gesture.

"You are thinking, doubtless," said he, mildly, turning to Dr. Remy,
"of the deep truth that he who would teach successfully, must know
something of his subject by experience as well as theory.  A clergyman
certainly does find in his own heart both the suggestion and the proof
of the truths which he seeks to enforce upon others.  Herein lies his
fitness for his office.  Out of seeming weakness comes real strength.
Feeling, or having felt, in his own person, the power both of sin and
of redeeming love, he can the better set forth the hatefulness of the
one, and the efficacy of the other."

There was a slight pause; then, Mrs. Bergan made haste to break the
silence, and to do it in such a manner as to induce a speedy change of
subject.  And Dr. Remy, after a brief moodiness, which seemed to
indicate some lingering effect of the preceding discussion, suddenly
unbent his brow, and threw himself into the new theme with animation,
to the immediate enlivenment of the party, and the gradual extinction
of his hostess's resentment.  She acknowledged to herself that he could
be exceedingly agreeable, when it pleased him.  If he would but spice
his conversation a little less freely with sarcasm!

And then she gave the signal for the ladies to leave the table.

As has been already hinted, the more immediate and visible result of
the dinner-party at Oakstead, was a swift budding and blossoming of
friendship between Carice and Astra.  Despite the playful disclaimer of
the latter, when the probability of such a consummation had been
mentioned by her mother, no sooner did the two girls meet face to face,
the gray eyes and the blue ones looking straight into each other's
depths, than there was an instant, unlooked-for revival of their
childish affection and confidence; quickly informed by a deeper
sympathy and fuller comprehension.  It was much like
sisters--unavoidably separated for years, but in whom the instinct of
kinship cannot be lost--that they sat talking together, in a twilight
corner of the parlor, until the gentlemen came from the dining-room.
Not only were there pleasant childhood memories to recall, but the
life-story of each was to be brought fairly up to the present time, for
the enlightenment of the other.  Astra's was the more eventful; it
embraced all her art-education and life, with its toils, pleasures,
difficulties, ambitions, and disappointments.  Carice's was more like
that of a flower; she had lived and grown in the home-precinct, she had
fed on sunshine and dew, sweet and right thoughts had been as natural
to her as perfume to a rose, she had made a little space very
delightsome with her beauty and her sweetness; and that was all.  Each
felt a very genuine admiration for the other;--Carice bent loyally
before Astra's crown of genius; Astra held her breath, half in awe,
half in tenderness, before the aureola that she saw encircling the fair
head of Carice.  As for the "chill" of which she had spoken to Bergan,
she had ceased to think of it.  Carice's affections were warm enough,
she saw, when they were reached.  Yet there was something about her
too, which she would still have been forced to call chill, for want of
a better word,---that indefinable quality which is inseparable from
anything at once white and pure,--a pearl, a star, or the white wing of
a dove.

As a natural consequence of this friendship, Carice came often to
Astra's studio.  Not infrequently she met Bergan there.  Remembering
Miss Ferrar's statement, and giving it more credit than she was really
aware of, she wondered, sometimes, that she could detect no sign of a
secret, or tacit, understanding between him and Astra.  Their manner to
each other was most frank and kind, but it seemed totally devoid of any
lover-like quality.  She finally settled it in her mind that no
engagement existed as yet; but she also decided that, inasmuch as they
were admirably fitted for each other, it was sure to come, in good
time.  Nothing better, she thought, in her innocent heart, could well
be devised for either.

Astra, meanwhile was watching Bergan and Carice with as warm an
interest, and a far more penetrating glance; and often she smiled to
herself over the discoveries that she made.  To her, they appeared to
be drifting as surely, if unconsciously, down the smooth, gliding
current of love, as could be desired.  She was glad to have it so.  She
believed them to be true counterparts, needing each to be completed by
the other.  Bergan had strength, nobleness, enthusiasm; Carice had
sweetness, purity, repose; how beautiful and fit the union, how
symmetrical the result!  There was a genuine artistic joy in the
thought.

And then, all at once, she forgot to watch them.  Suddenly, or
gradually, she knew not which, a magical change had been wrought in her
surroundings; old things had vanished, all things had become new.  A
new sky, a new earth,--stars and cloud-shapes of bewitching vagueness
and softness,--scenery of wondrous coloring and surpassing
loveliness,--lights that were tenderer than any shadows, and shadows
that were only subdued lights;--of what were these things the signs?
Had she also been drifting, and whither?



PART THIRD.

THE IN-GATHERING.



I.

UNFOLDINGS.

Spring was abroad in the land.  No one could tell just when she had
stolen into the woods and gardens, and begun her pleasant labors, but
there was no question about the fact of her presence and industry.
Everywhere, there were the tender green of newborn foliage, and the
varied odors of opening buds and blossoms.  The new leaves of the ilex
trees had quietly pushed off the old ones.  The hedges were thick-sown
with the white stars of the Cherokee rose.  The passion-vine trailed
its purple garments along the fences.  Houstonias spread a soft blue
haze over the grass.  Wild plum and cherry trees flung drifts of
fragrant snow along the road side.  The air was faint with perfume from
the ivory censers of the magnolia, swinging dreamily overhead.
Wherever a vine could cling and climb, there was a seemingly miraculous
outburst of foliage and flowers; every dry stick and stem became a
leafy thyrsus, every crumbling stump a green and garlanded altar.

Mrs. Lyte's great, irregular thicket of a garden was quick to feel the
genial influence, and to twine and twist itself into a denser tangle
than ever.  Rose bushes laughed the virtue of economy to scorn, with
their perfumed affluence of pink and crimson and yellow.  Pomegranates
burst into scarlet flames; mimosas tossed aloft feathery balls of many
hues.  Jessamines and honeysuckles, holding up vases of gold, to catch
every sunbeam, ran hither and thither at their own sweet will.  So did
tiny green lizards, with scarlet throats, and swift chameleons, with
curious intelligent eyes.  The air was tuneful with the flight and song
of bees and humming-birds, cooing doves, and shining-winged spindles.
Manifold, in truth, were the garden's delights: varied sound and color
and perfume, cheerful radiance and gentle gloom, unobtrusive
companionship and soft seclusion, were all to be found within its
pleasant compass.

And, as the days grew long and warm with the Spring's advance, Bergan
now and then, growing weary of the confinement and monotony of his
office, took his Blackstone, or Kent, or whatever might be the legal
authority under examination, and gave himself the refreshment of an
hour's reading, in one of the garden's shady, sequestered nooks.  Doing
this, one sultry afternoon in May, the drowsy influence of the
atmosphere, and the soothing murmurousness of the insects' song, soon
proved too potent for the logical connection of the learned legal
thesis; there were unaccountable gaps between fact and deduction; and,
going back to pick up the broken thread, Bergan lost it altogether.
Sleep had stolen upon him through the dusky foliage, and she held him
fast until the latest sunbeam, through a convenient aperture in the
verdant walls, laid its light finger on his eyelids.

Waking suddenly, but completely, hushed voices, proceeding from a
neighboring thicket, met his ear.

"Impossible, Felix."

"But, Astra,--"

Had there been danger in those low, earnest accents, Bergan could
scarcely have started up more quickly and cautiously, nor have fled
from them faster.  As he expected and desired, the low boughs closing
and rustling behind him, made what followed inaudible.  He was loath to
hear another word.  He felt almost guilty for having heard so much.
Those subdued, confidential tones, those quietly spoken Christian
names, had, of themselves, been a startling revelation.  For,
notwithstanding her frank, easy, affable deportment toward those who
came within her sphere, Astra Lyte knew well how to hedge herself round
with a maidenly dignity that kept familiarity at a distance.  She was
not the kind of girl whose Christian name finds its way easily to
unaccustomed lips.  Despite his own residence, for a considerable time,
under the same roof, and the frank and friendly intercourse which had
grown out of it,--despite, too, the fact that Mrs. Lyte often called
him her son, and Cathie was wont to spring to his arms as to those of a
brother,--it had never occurred to himself to call her anything less
formal than "Miss Lyte."  Nor would it have done to Dr. Remy, he felt
sure, without the sufficient warrant of a close and tender relation.
This premise being established, the conclusion that such a relation
existed was unavoidable.

And, looking back over the events of the past few weeks, Bergan was
amazed to see with what an amount of corroboratory evidence he was
unexpectedly furnished.  Not only did numberless glances, tones, and
actions, bearing directly upon the case, start suddenly into view, but,
just as the landscape through which one passes presents new outlines,
new features, and a new sentiment, in a backward survey, so these
things assumed new faces and a new meaning, in his review of them.
Once or twice, of late, it had occurred to him that Astra was scarcely
at her ease, in Dr. Remy's presence; he now understood that this
constraint came of affection, fearful of betraying itself, and not, as
he had imagined, of some newborn distrust or dislike.  Anterior to
this, he had observed that the doctor's visits to Miss Lyte's studio
were much more frequent than formerly, and that he was making an
obvious enough attempt to commend himself to her favor by a more
cordial and constant interest in her work, as well as by exercising a
more careful circumspection over his conversation.  His cynicism
vanished, or veiled itself, before the rich glow of her enthusiasm.
His satire spared her generous ambition.  His scepticism, though not
less frank, was less hostile and inveterate; and often it resolved
itself into a kind of weary and wistful sadness, as if it were less a
choice than a misfortune, and would gladly exchange itself for
something better, if it only knew how.  At such times, Bergan himself
was sensible of a singular charm in his conversation, a kind of
autumn-night splendor; chill, lustrous moonlight, mystical shadow, and
vague mournfulness, blending into one, irresistible fascination.  No
doubt, Astra had been made to feel it still more keenly; no doubt, too,
she had been led to believe that whatever was amiss in the doctor's
beliefs would yield readily to her influence,--that he would prove
scarcely less plastic in her hands than the clay wherewith she was wont
to deal so cunningly.

Yet Bergan could not help wondering a little at the doctor's ready
success.  Astra's genius, he thought, should have saved her from any
hasty bestowal of her affections.  He did not know that, in this
regard, a woman of genius differs little from the most commonplace of
her sisters.  She gives her affections as trustfully, and flings
herself away as freely, as the silliest of them all.

Having gotten to this point in his meditations, and also to the middle
of the open field, back of the garden, Bergan could not help turning
and looking toward the thicket, the neighborhood of which he had so
hastily quitted.  His face grew troubled and anxious, as he gazed.  Was
Doctor Remy anywise worthy of the heart that he had won?  Bergan shook
his head ruefully, as he asked himself this question.  Without intent
or wish of his own--in spite, even, of some strenuous efforts to the
contrary--a deep distrust of the doctor had rooted itself in his mind.
Though it gave but scanty justification of itself to his intellect, and
was not allowed to show itself in his actions; though, now and then, he
made a sturdy effort to uproot it, and cast it out, as an ungenerous
return for kindness, or something that looked like it; it,
nevertheless, kept its ground, and quietly strengthened itself there.
It did not fail, now, to thrust itself into view, as a partial answer
to his question.  The bright spring landscape, with its crowded leaf
and bloom, and its rich promise of fruit, seemed to darken with a
shadow from Astra's future, as thus revealed to him.  Must the promise
of seed-time and harvest fail, then, only in the moral world?

Though Bergan, driven by a nice sense of honor, had fled so
precipitately from the voices and the neighborhood of the lovers, there
is no reason why the reader may not return thither, and see what is to
be learned from their conversation.

"I cannot think it right," said Astra, "to leave mother in ignorance
any longer."

"Do you think, then," asked Doctor Remy, reproachfully, "that I would
ask you to do anything wrong?"

Astra hesitated for a moment.  Perhaps it then and there occurred to
her, for the first time, that the doctor's standard of right was likely
to differ from her own, in the same ratio as his religious faith.

Doctor Remy did not wait for the tardy answer.  Putting his arm round
Astra, he drew her head on to his shoulder.  The movement might have
been prompted by tenderness; none the less, it had the effect to take
his face out of her line of vision.

"All my life long, Astra," said he, in a deep, moved tone--(it is often
easier to put a desired note into the voice, than a corresponding
expression into the face)--"all my life long, I have had a strange
desire to be trusted,--trusted implicitly.  Faith without sight--blind,
unquestioning faith--is to me one of the most beautiful as well as
desirable things on earth; all the more so, perhaps, that it is not
given to me to feel it.  But it has always been my dream, my hope, to
inspire it.  In my ideal picture of the woman whom I should love, it
was always her consummate, irresistible charm.  Must I now make up my
mind to do without it?"

Astra was touched.  "If it did not seem to be wrong!" she exclaimed.

The doctor shook his head.  "_That_ is not trust," said he, "at least,
not the trust that I mean.  Who can so order circumstances that they
shall never seem to condemn him?  But the faith of which I speak,
having once assured itself of the integrity of its beloved, never again
admits it to be an open question."

Astra was silent.  The doctor heaved a heavy sigh.  "I see that I am
not to realize my ideal," said he.  "Well, it cannot be helped.  I will
give you the explanation that you need.  Perhaps, being satisfied, in
this instance, that I have a good reason for what I do, you will be
able to trust me hereafter."

"I will, indeed I will!" exclaimed Astra, eagerly.

"The worst of it is," pursued the doctor, "that you compel me to betray
a trust--your mother's trust."

Astra's cheek flushed.  She had been miserable at the idea of keeping
anything from her mother; was she, then, the one really excluded from
confidence?

"Stay," said she, proudly, "I do not wish to hear anything that my
mother desires to conceal from me."

"Then," replied the doctor, "it is impossible for me to explain why our
engagement must not be made known, at present, to your mother."

Astra looked bewildered, as well she might, at this apparently
inscrutable complication.

Doctor Remy seemed to take pity on her perplexity.  "Listen, dear,"
said he, "and you will soon understand.  Your mother consulted me
professionally, a fortnight since."

Astra's cheek grew white with sudden fear.  "What is it?" she gasped.

"There is no immediate danger," said the doctor, "and may not be, for
years, with due precautions.  But there is a tendency to heart disease;
and it is imperative, just now, that she should not be agitated.  And
this, Astra, is the reason why she must not hear of our engagement, for
some time to come."

Astra looked down thoughtfully.  "I think you are mistaken," said she.
"I believe it would be a relief to her to know that my future is in
such good hands."

"Doubtless, that would be the ultimate effect," replied Doctor Remy;
"but there would be emotional excitement, at first, more than is good
for her;--so much that I, as a physician, am bound to forbid it."

Astra could not but admit that the prohibition was just.  Mrs. Lyte had
seemed very fragile and feeble, of late.  Astra had urged that
application to Doctor Remy which, it now appeared, her mother had made,
but in regard to the results of which she had chosen to keep
silence,--from a loving wish, probably, to save her daughter from
unavailing anxiety.  Astra's heart swelled at the thought.

"Are you _sure_," she asked, "that there is no immediate danger?"

"As sure as one can be, in such cases--_if_ she is kept quiet."

"And is there any probability that the disease may be eventually cured?"

"There is a possibility,--with the same indispensable condition."

Doctor Remy waited for a moment, in order that Astra might be duly
impressed with this answer; then, he asked with a kind of proud
humility;--

"Have I justified myself, in this matter?"

"Forgive me," said Astra, penitently.  "Of course I never really
distrusted your motives; I only fancied that my duty to my mother could
not be affected by them."

"You see," suggested Doctor Remy, "how easy it is to be misled by
appearances, even with the best intentions.  The faith, of which I used
to dream, would never have fallen into that error."

"I will try to have it, hereafter," said Astra.

"And yet," returned Doctor Remy, "you will doubtless insist upon a
further explanation of the reason why I do not wish our engagement to
be known to the outside world."

"Indeed, I shall not," returned Astra, glad of an opportunity of
proving that she was neither so distrustful, nor so curious, as he
believed.  "Of course, the outside world must wait till mother is
informed; she has the right to the first telling.  If you have any
other reason for keeping the matter secret, I do not seek to know it."

Could Astra have seen the look of triumph in Doctor Remy's face, she
would have been startled.  But he only said, quietly,--

"Thank you for so much trust."  And, after a moment, he added,--"As you
say, it is your mother's right to know first.  Of course, then, you
will not indulge in any confidences to intimate friends."

"Certainly not," said Astra, a little surprised.  "Indeed, I have
none,--except, perhaps, Carice Bergan."

"I would not mention it, even to her," said the doctor.

"I do not intend to," replied Astra, decidedly.  "But I must go in;
mother will miss me."



II.

THE FOUNDATIONS FAIL.

Astra's light form being quickly lost behind the intervening foliage,
Doctor Remy turned slowly and meditatively toward his office; which,
inasmuch as it had been built for the use and behoof of the late Doctor
Lyte, possessed its own door of convenient communication with the
garden.

Given opportunity, social equality, and a fine, unremitting tact, and
it would seem that any man can marry any woman, whose affections are
free.  Else, it would be hard to understand how Doctor Remy could have
found his way into the heart of Astra Lyte; unless indeed, as is
frequently the case, their very dissimilarity should have constituted a
principle of attraction; character has its own laws of effective
contrast.  Astra was enthusiastic, generous, affectionate, with strong
religious instincts and aspirations; Doctor Remy was cold, selfish,
austere, without reverential sentiment, and, in matters of faith, an
utter sceptic.  But these traits need not be supposed to have exhibited
themselves to Astra in their naked unloveliness.  To her imagination,
doubtless, they took the fairer form of a calm temperament, and great
force and firmness of character, allied to a keen and critical
intellect; which last must needs be allowed to take its own appropriate
time and road to belief (except as it seemed willing to owe something
to her loving guidance).  And Astra was of the age and character which
are most prone to fall down and worship human intellect; failing, as
yet, to understand that it is, in itself, of the earth earthy, and
really noble and admirable only as it is enlightened by the spirit of
God.  She was dazzled and fascinated by the extent and variety of
Doctor Remy's attainments, and the range and freedom of his ideas.  To
talk with him was like drawing the curtain and opening wide the window
on a wintry evening, admitting free, frosty air, and giving a far
outlook over bleak, white hills and leafless forests.  Nor did it alarm
her that the air was much too fresh and chill to be breathed long with
comfort or safety, and the landscape drearily bare and skeleton-like,
since the doctor was always ready, at her slightest sign, to drop
window and curtain, and turn back with her to warmer precincts and
gentler themes.

And so, it had come to pass that, as Doctor Remy walked up the shady
garden walk, he had good reason to congratulate himself upon the
success, thus far, of his plans.  Not only was Astra won, but she had
consented to keep silence about the wooing, for awhile.  Thus he was
saved from the awkwardness of having to account to Mrs. Lyte for his
unwillingness to have the engagement made public.  It would be
difficult to invent a reason likely to commend itself to her judgment;
yet it was out of the question to give her the real one,--namely, his
reasonable doubt whether he should be altogether acceptable to Major
Bergan as the future husband of that gentleman's heiress, and so, in
some sense, as his heir; and his consequent fear lest the will in her
favor should be set aside.  Such a confession might give a mercenary
tinge to his suit, in Mrs. Lyte's eyes, which he wisely deprecated.  So
far as he knew, neither she nor her daughter had ever heard of the
Major's declaration of his gracious intentions toward the latter; or,
if they had, they regarded it only as a meaningless ebullition of his
rage at Bergan Arling.  Such, in truth, would the doctor himself have
thought it, except for certain later inquiries respecting Miss Lyte,
put to himself by the Major; which seemed to show that the matter had
not escaped his memory.  Besides, in consideration of the Major's
bitter resentment toward his brother and nephew,--extending,
apparently, to everybody connected with either,--no more eligible heir
to the Bergan estate was to be found, than Astra Lyte.  If the Major
had made his will, as he threatened, there was no one, in the whole
Bergan connection, with so strong a claim upon his favorable
consideration.

Here the doctor paused, for a moment, in his slow walk.  "If!" he
muttered, peevishly.  "To think that the whole thing turns on a
miserable 'if!'  I must contrive some way of finding out whether that
will--or any will--was ever made.  There must be no defective nor
missing links in this chain, nothing to invite the meddling of the
cursed fate which has followed me so long.  The Major must not be
permitted to die, one of these days,--by the interposition of
Providence and delirium tremens, or something vastly like it,--and
leave me with an abortive plan and a portionless _fiancée_.  To be
sure, I should not be long in getting rid of the latter, but there
would be no help for the former."

His soliloquy had brought him to his office door.  Suddenly bethinking
himself, then, that a certain patient had been overlooked in the
catalogue of the day's duties, he called for his horse, and set out to
make good the omission.

His road led past the Bergan estate.  As he was galloping swiftly
onward, absorbed in his own reflections, he heard an energetic
"Halloo!"  Pulling up his horse, and looking back, he beheld Major
Bergan leaning over a small gate, which opened into the fields near the
quarter.

"Are you deaf?" was his angry salutation, duly emphasized with an oath.
"Here I've been hollering after you, till I'm black in the face.  I
wish I had saved myself the trouble!"

"All the fault of my horse's hoofs," replied the doctor,
good-humoredly, as he turned his horse toward the gate; "they made such
a clatter under me that I could not well hear anything else.  How can I
serve you?"

Major Bergan hesitated.  Apparently his business did not come readily
to his lips.

"Perhaps you are on your way to a patient," he finally observed, as if
he would be well enough suited to find an excuse for not broaching it
at all.

His reluctance only stimulated the doctor's curiosity.  "The case is
not urgent," said he, carelessly; "by and by, or even to-morrow
morning, will do just as well.  There is no reason why I should not be
entirely at your service--as I am."

"Come in, then," returned the Major, in a tone that was far from
gracious; but swinging open the gate, nevertheless, for Doctor Remy's
admission.

The latter dismounted, led his horse through, and slipping the bridle
over his arm, walked by the Major's side to the cottage.  On the way,
the latter vouchsafed a brief explanation of his wishes.

"I've been thinking a good deal of the advice that you gave me awhile
ago," said he, "and--and--I've concluded to make my will.  So, seeing
you riding by, just as my mind was full of the subject, it occurred to
me that I might as well call you in, and have the thing over with."

"And a very sensible decision," returned Doctor Remy, as quietly as if
he were not filled with unexpected delight that the information which
he had hoped to gain only at cost of some deep and difficult scheming,
was thus placed within easy reach.  "I only wonder that you have not
done it before."

"I don't see why I should," replied Major Bergan, sharply; "I've always
been strong and hearty,--what had I to do with making wills?  And, now
that I think of it, what have I to do with it now?  I'm not in a
decline yet, by any means."

"So much the better for your work," replied Doctor Remy, composedly.
"Deathbed wills are often contested.  No one will question your
soundness of mind, at present."

"I should think not," said the Major, decidedly.  "If he did, he
wouldn't be apt to doubt the soundness of my sinews,--I'd horsewhip him
into instant conviction."

"Are you provided with witnesses?" asked the Doctor, when the Major's
chuckle had subsided.

"Witnesses?  How many does it want?"

"Two are necessary."

The Major mused for a moment.  "I can have them here by the time they
are needed," said he.  "My new overseer at Number Two will do for one,
and I'll send for Proverb Dick for the other.  Step into the cottage,
and make yourself at home for a moment, while I see about it."


Doctor Remy flung himself into the first chair that presented itself,
and sank into a fit of thought.  A vague disquietude oppressed him,
notwithstanding that events seemed to be shaping themselves so much in
accordance with his wishes.  He believed himself to be on the eve of
victory, or at least of a certain measure of present success which
would insure victory; but both religion and philosophy, he knew, were
agreed in representing human expectations as of the nature of the
flower of the field, in various danger from the frost, the knife, and
the uprooting wind.  To this general testimony he could add the special
confirmation of his own experience.  Like most men, Doctor Remy had the
sobering privilege of looking back upon a career of which the successes
were few, and the failures and disappointments many.  The track of his
earthly pilgrimage, thus far, he bitterly thought, was tolerably well
strewn with wrecks and abortions.

A better man, trying to spell out the meaning and tendency of his life
by the aid of a higher inspiration, might have found some comfort in
the review, nevertheless.  He might have discovered some evidences of
harmony and design amid seeming discord and confusion, some solid
foundations showing underneath abortive ruins, some steady inward
growth of patience and strength and hope, in lieu of an outward harvest
of earthly possessions.  He might have discerned, with awe and
humility, that sometimes he had builded better than he knew, because
building in accordance with a certain overruling design, of which he
now first began to catch faint and partial glimpses.  But such
consolation was not allowed to Doctor Remy.  In his past, all was
incomplete, confused, and unsatisfactory.  He had not gained what he
sought, and nothing better had come to him through its loss.  For many
years of time, and an uncommon measure of talent, he had scarce
anything to show of what he considered life's highest prizes--wealth,
position, influence.  He set himself seriously to discover why.  And,
for one moment, he, too, had a chill perception of a certain unity and
sequence in the debris left behind him, unperceived before; which
seemed to show that, though he had served his own ends but poorly, he
had none the less helped to forward some extended scheme, whereof he
had known nothing at the time, and could now discern only the most
fragmentary outline.  But Doctor Remy quickly shook himself free of
this notion, with a smile at his own absurdity.

Why, then, he asked himself, had he failed?  Because of his mistakes,
no doubt.  Let every man bear the blame of his own acts, and not try to
throw it off on his neighbors, or that convenient scapegoat,
Providence.  Looking back, he could discern many a point (and notably
one), where he had committed a grave error.  But his mistakes had been
his instructors, nevertheless.  He had gained from them knowledge that
should stand him in good stead yet.  To his former qualities of
boldness, energy, perseverance, and skill, he now added the experience
that could use them to better effect.  It would be strange, indeed, if
he could not henceforth command success.

He had just reached this conclusion when Major Bergan joined him.
Ample provision of lights, paper, pens, and ink, being then placed upon
the table, together with the inevitable brandy bottle, the two
gentlemen sat down opposite each other, and Doctor Remy began his task
of drawing up the will.  He first wrote the usual legal preamble, in a
clear, rapid hand, and read it aloud for Major Bergan's approval.  Some
small legacies followed, taken down nearly verbatim from the Major's
dictation.  Doctor Remy then waited, for some moments, with his pen
suspended over the paper, while the Major seemed trying vainly to
arrange his thoughts.

"I don't quite know how to word the next," said he, at length, "you
must put it into shape yourself.  I hold a mortgage of the place where
Catherine Lyte lives; and I want it cancelled, at my death, in her
favor, or, if she does not survive me, in favor of her daughter Astra."

"You surprise me," remarked Doctor Remy, as he began to write; "I have
always understood that the place was free from incumbrance."

"You understood wrong, then," replied Major Bergan.  "Though, for
anything that I know, Catherine Lyte may think so herself.  You see,
Harvey got into difficulties eight or nine years ago, and I lent him
money, and took a mortgage on the place.  He kept the interest paid up
until his death; and since then, nothing has been said to me about
either interest or principal; from which I concluded that Catherine did
not know of the fact.  And as I felt sorry for her, I decided to say
nothing about it myself, as long as I was not in need of the money, nor
likely to be.  But it will not do her any harm to know, after I am
dead, that I have been kinder to her than she knew of."

Doctor Remy looked up with a smile.  "I suspect," said he, "that it
would not be well for her to offend you."

"I don't know about that," replied Major Bergan, complacently.  "She
did offend me, when she took my nephew in; and I came pretty near
foreclosing then.  But Maumer Rue convinced me that she could not
afford to refuse a good offer for her rooms; and moreover, as Harry
only had his office there, and took his meals at the hotel, she need
not have much more to do with him than I did, if she did not choose."

Doctor Remy did not think it necessary to enlighten the Major in regard
to Bergan's familiarity with the family of Mrs. Lyte, since such a
disclosure must needs militate directly against his own ends.  He
silently put the Major's wish into correct legal phrase and form, and
then lifted his head with the question;--

"What next?"

Major Bergan's face grew grave and troubled.  Thus far, it had been
easy work, merely giving away what he did not care for, and should not
miss.  But now that the bulk of his property, real and personal, was to
come in question, he groaned inwardly at the necessity of bequeathing
it to any one.  Did it not represent all the hopes, energies, labors
and results of his whole life?  What a naked, shivering, miserable soul
he would be without it!  He had a feeling that he should never be quite
certain of his own identity, in eternity, without the houses and the
lands, the negroes and the gold, for which he had lived in time.

"Well!" said Dr. Remy, by way of reminding him that he was still
waiting.

The Major frowned; nevertheless, after another moment, he resumed his
dictation.

"I give and bequeath," said he, slowly, "my house known as Bergan Hall,
with all the lands thereto pertaining, including the rice-plantation
known as 'Number Two;' also my three houses in the town of Berganton;
also my block in the city of Savannah; also my negroes, horses, mills,
and plantation implements; also, my household furniture and other
personal property, including all bonds, mortgages, moneys, and all
other property whereof I die possessed, to-----"

Doctor Remy had written down the items of this comprehensive inventory
with a delight that he could scarcely keep from shining out in his
face; and he now held his pen over the paper, while the Major paused,
in real enjoyment of so timely an opportunity for pleasurable
recapitulation and anticipation.  The pause being a long one, however,
he finally raised his eyes to the rugged features opposite, and saw
that they were tremulous with emotion.  Words, too, soon began to break
from the Major's lips, according to the habit which had grown upon him
in his solitude;--he had forgotten for the time, that he was not alone.

"He is the natural heir, as Maumer Rue insists," he muttered, "and the
only one justified by the old family precedents.  But," he went on, as
Dr. Remy began to tremble, vicariously, for Astra's prospects, "he left
me without so much as saying 'good bye;' he did just what he knew I was
most bitterly opposed to; and he has never come near me since.  No, he
shall not have it!--he never shall have it, in spite of Maumer Rue's
prophecies--I'll take care of that!"

And he began to repeat slowly, "bonds, mortgages, moneys, and all other
property whereof I die possessed, to--to--"

Again he paused.

"Why can't he say 'to Astra Lyte,' and done with it?" thought Dr. Remy,
impatiently, as he suddenly checked his pen in the midst of the first
curve of the letter A.

The Major made another effort;--"To my niece, Carice Bergan," he
concluded, with a sigh.

Doctor Remy's face fell so suddenly, that it attracted the Major's
attention.

"Well! what is the matter now?" he demanded, sharply.

Doctor Remy could not immediately answer.  His mind was in a whirl of
confusion, disappointment, and anxiety.  Mechanically, he put his hand
to his brow; and the gesture helped him to a plausible explanation.

"A sudden pain," said he, in a low, shaken voice; "I have felt it
several times of late.  Wait a minute, it will soon be over."

And covering his eyes with his hands, he addressed himself at once to
the task of answering the difficult question;--

What is to be done now?

It was well for him that he was accustomed to think rapidly and
clearly, in the immediate presence of danger, that he was tenacious of
purpose too, and that his instinct, in the midst of overthrow and ruin,
was to commence at once to rebuild.  Yet, for some moments, not an
available suggestion presented itself, not a shadow of help for the
exigency that had so unexpectedly arisen.

"Then, suddenly, a thought came to him, and with it, a gleam of hope.
He took his hands from his eyes, and looked the Major gravely in the
face.

"Before we go any farther," said he, "I feel bound in honor to make a
confession.  If I had supposed that writing your will was going to put
me in such an awkward position, I should certainly have desired you to
look elsewhere for a lawyer.  However, it cannot be helped now.  Well,
the truth is"--he stopped for a moment, as if to overcome an excessive
reluctance,--"the truth is, I have long admired your niece; and now, as
my practice is steadily increasing, and I think I could take care of a
wife, I had made up my mind to ask permission to pay her my addresses."

Major Bergan uttered a prolonged "Whew!" and settled himself back in
his chair.  "That alters the case, certainly," said he, after a brief
consideration of this new phase of the matter.

"I am glad to hear it," exclaimed Dr. Remy, eagerly.  "Pray--if it is
not too selfish in me to ask it--pray give Bergan Hall to the next most
eligible claimant, and leave me Miss Carice."

The Major raised his eyebrows, and leaning forward, fixed his eyes on
Doctor Remy, as if he had found a new and interesting subject of study.

"Do you mean to say," he asked, gravely, "that you would rather have
Carice without Bergan Hall than with it?"

"Decidedly," replied Doctor Remy.  "I prefer an equal match to an
unequal one.  I prefer to be credited with honorable motives, rather
than mercenary ones.  I don't want to be a pensioner on my wife's
bounty.  It is doubtful if I could ever make up my mind to address the
heiress of Bergan Hall.  And thus, you see, if you persist in making
Miss Bergan your legatee, you are playing the mischief with my hopes
and plans."

Major Bergan continued to stare, thoughtfully, at the doctor.  He was
beginning rather to like this disinterested suitor.

"Have you any reason to think that Carice favors you?" he asked,
finally.

Doctor Remy hesitated.  "I really don't know how to answer that
question.  If I should say 'yes,' in view of the 'trifles light as
air,' from which I have ventured to draw some slight encouragement, I
should seem, even to myself, to be a conceited ass; and yet, if you
would only be good enough not to throw Bergan Hall into the scale
against me, I should not be absolutely without hope."

Major Bergan gave a short laugh.  "Who will know," he asked, "that
Carice is to have Bergan Hall?  I expect you to keep my counsel in this
matter.  That is why I asked you to do the business.  I had an idea
that you were closer-mouthed, both by nature and training, than those
lawyers in Berganton."

"_I_ shall know it," replied Doctor Remy, virtuously, answering the
Major's question, and taking no notice of the compliment which followed
it.  "And I shall know, too, that the heiress of Bergan Hall, if she
were aware of her position, might reasonably expect to find a better
match than a mere country physician."

"On my soul," exclaimed the Major, heartily, "I think she might 'go
farther and fare worse!'  Go on, doctor and win her, if you can;--you
have my best wishes for your success.  Leave Bergan Hall out of the
question; indeed, it may never come into it, after all.  Carice may
refuse you----"

("Little doubt of that," thought the doctor.)

"I may alter my will a dozen times, or make a new one,--"

("You will have to be in a hurry, if you do," thought the doctor again,
grimly.)

"At any rate, I expect you to frame that one so that Carice's husband,
whoever he may be, can have no control whatever over the property.  It
is to be hers, and her children's, only.  So scribble away there, at
your best pace, or Proverb Dick will be here before we get through."

"But your brother Godfrey,"--began Doctor Remy, in despair, racking his
brains for some consideration that would be likely to shake the Major's
purpose.

"My brother Godfrey," interrupted Major Bergan, sternly, "has nothing
to do with this matter.  I don't give the property to him, but to
Carice.  Perhaps, on the whole, I had better just give her a
life-interest in it, and then have it go to her eldest son, who shall
take the name of Bergan, and be christened Harry.  Yes, that will be
the better way.  Write it down so."

"But"--began Doctor Remy again.

"Save your 'buts,' until we get through," broke in Major Bergan,
sharply.  "I tell you, Carice shall have the place.  If you don't want
her with it, you can let her alone.  And if you can't, or won't, write
my will to suit me, I'll scud for some one who can and will."

This threat effectually silenced Doctor Remy.  It was essential that
the matter should not be taken out of his hands, till he had satisfied
himself that it could in nowise be turned to his account.  "If it comes
to the worst," said he to himself, "it is something to have the
document in my own handwriting.  That gives me a better chance to
furnish a substitute, at need."

With the rigid self-control that always characterized him, therefore,
he now put aside, as far as might be, his own hopes and plans, and set
himself diligently to the work of completing the will, in accordance
with the Major's instructions, and to his entire satisfaction.  He did
not even move a muscle when, in due time, the Major dictated a
paragraph to the effect that if Carice should not survive him, or
should die without issue, the estate should fall to a distant cousin,
now in Europe, whose sole claim to his consideration appeared to be
that he bore the family name.  The doctor was proof against any further
shocks, this evening.  Fate had done her worst for him, in forcing him
to write "Carice Bergan," where he had confidently expected to write
"Astra Lyte," and to find his account in so doing.

At the end of an hour, three closely written sheets lay upon the table,
ready for the signatures of the witnesses, whenever they should appear;
and the Major, drawing a long breath of relief, to see his lugubrious
business so nearly finished, applied himself to the brandy bottle for
appropriate refreshment.  Doctor Remy sat silent, abstractedly toying
with the pen that had been making such havoc with his plans.

Suddenly he raised his eyes to Major Bergan's face with the question;--

"How did that medicine suit you?"

"Admirably," replied the Major.  "I have had one attack since you were
here,--a tolerably severe one, too,--but the second powder acted like a
charm."

"The second powder!" thought the doctor.  "I am afraid that I gave him
too many!  At that rate, if chance favors him, he may hold on for a
year, or more."

He was opening his lips for another remark, when the door shook under a
vigorous rap; and scarce waiting for the Major's invitation, Dick
Causton entered.



III.

BUILDING ANEW.

The new comer opened his eyes wide at sight of Doctor Remy, and the
table littered with writing materials; and looked with evident
curiosity at the closely written sheets of the will, the character of
which he seemed at once to discover or divine.

"I see," said he, sententiously, nodding his head,--"'Our last garment
is made without pockets.'"

Major Bergan shivered as if he had felt a chill breath from the mouth
of a tomb.  It was hard to be so often reminded that he and his
possessions must soon part, with small prospect of meeting again.

"If you must quote proverbs, Dick," he exclaimed peevishly, "pray don't
quote such cold-blooded ones as that!"

"How could I help it, when 'it came to my hand like the bow o' a pint
stoup?'" answered Dick Causton coolly, with his eyes fixed hungrily on
the Major's brandy bottle.

The hint was successful.  Bottle and glass were immediately placed
within his reach, and he made haste to warm and quicken his age-frosted
blood with a deep draught of the potent liquor.  It was both strange
and sad to see how his eye brightened, his face grew more animated, his
figure became more erect, his whole frame seemed to gather vigor and
energy, under its influence, while his air became, if possible, more
mean and slouching than before.  It was as if he felt conscious
himself, and knew that any beholder would be sure to discover, that his
proper strength and manhood had long since died out of him, and he was
now drawing unworthy breath and life from a source of which he was
thoroughly ashamed, though unable to do without it.

Major Bergan, meanwhile, briefly explained why he had sent for him,
adding, in a tone that was meant to be courteous, but narrowly escaped
condescension;--

"I knew that you would be glad to do a favor to an old friend like me,
Dick."

"Certainly," replied Richard Causton, heartily; "especially as I
suspect that I shall also be doing a favor to my young friend, Mr.
Arling.  'He that loves the tree, loves the branch,' you know."

Major Bergan frowned.  "I don't see what my nephew has to do with it,"
said he, surlily.

Dick Causton gave him a look of surprise.  "_De vrucht valt niet ver
van den stam_," said he, shaking his head.  "That is to say, The fruit
falls near the stem.  It isn't nature for a man to leave his property
away from his own blood.  It isn't right, either, in my opinion."

"I am not going to leave mine away from my blood," replied Major
Bergan, austerely; "though, if I were, I do not see that it is
anybody's affair but my own."

"Nor I either," rejoined Dick Causton, coolly, "unless your dead
ancestors should imagine it to be theirs.  _Os demos á os suyos
quieren_,--The devils are fond of their own,--and so, doubtless, are
the saints, if any such are to be found in your pedigree.  It is
reasonable to suppose that they would all prefer to see their earthly
possessions go down in the channel marked out by nature.  Anyway, I'm
right glad to know that Mr. Arling is to have his rights, some day,
fine fellow that he is!  I've always had a kindness for him, ever since
I first gave him a lift, on his way to you."

Major Bergan looked very grim.  "Yes, Mr. Arling will have his rights,"
said he, with stern emphasis,--"I've seen to that."

Dick Causton glanced from the Major's face to the will, with an
instinctive feeling that all was not right, but could make nothing of
either.  The one was dark and impenetrable; the other was upside down,
from his point of view.  Apparently, nothing invited attack but the
brandy bottle.  That, he was glad to see, was not yet empty.

"I am wasting words," said he, shrugging his shoulders.  "_A chose
faite conseil pris_.  'Advice after action is like medicine after
death'--or brandy after one has ceased to be thirsty."

"Take another glass," said Major Bergan.

Dick obeyed with alacrity.  The dram was scarcely swallowed, ere a tap
at the door announced the arrival of the overseer from "Number Two,"--a
tall, lank, taciturn Texan, whom the Major had recently taken into his
employ, as a short cut to that avoidance of the rice fields which
Doctor Remy had recommended.

The ceremonies of signing and sealing the will immediately followed.
Dick Causton was greatly disappointed that the document was not read in
his hearing, as he had expected.

"Never buy a pig in a poke, nor sign a paper without reading it," said
he, as he took the pen into his hand.  "How am I to tell what will I
really signed, if I know nothing of the contents?  However, it's your
risk, not mine," he added, hastily, seeing that Major Bergan was
beginning to look impatient.  And, forthwith, he bent his energies to
the task of writing his name in a large, angular, and very tremulous
hand; and then shook his head dubiously over the result.

"It looks like nothing that ever I wrote before," he remarked, as he
laid down the pen.  "But _Hund er hund om han er aldrig saa broget_,--A
dog, is a dog whatever be his color,--and so, a signature must be a
signature though it wiggle across the paper like a tipsy eel.  Perhaps
I shall know it by that token, when I see it again.  But I can't
promise."

"I shall know mine," observed the overseer, confidently, as he lifted
the pen.

Doctor Remy leaned forward with sudden interest.  The name was written
in commonplace fashion enough, but it was finished with an odd,
complicated flourish.

"Do you always sign your name in that way?" he asked.

"Always."

"It looks very difficult; yet you seemed to do it with much ease.  Let
me see the process again."  And he pushed a piece of paper over to the
man, who, gratified to find his skill so heartily appreciated, scrawled
it all over with his sign-manual, in wearisome repetition.  The paper
was then passed from one to another, for a brief examination, and was
finally left in the hands of Doctor Remy; who first began absently to
roll it round his fingers, and ended by tearing it in three or four
pieces, in a fit of apparent abstraction.  Nobody noticed that one of
these found its way into his pocket as a thing of possible utility, in
the future.

He then rose.  "I am sorry to be obliged to go so soon," said he,
courteously, "but a physician's time is not his own.  Good evening,
Major Bergan, I am always at your service, and in any capacity.  Good
evening, Mr. Causton, doubtless, we shall meet again."

Dick glanced at the brandy bottle, and, seeing that it was empty, was
taken with a sudden fancy for the doctor's society.

"I'll walk along with you, doctor, at least as far as our road is one,"
said he, rising.  "Good company makes short miles."

"I came in the saddle," answered Doctor Remy, "but we can be companions
as far as the gate, if you like."

Nevertheless, the pair did not separate at the gate.  Their
conversation had become too interesting, apparently, to both; and Dick
Causton continued to walk on by the side of the doctor's horse.

It was late when he reached his cabin, that night.  Very suggestively,
too, he reeled across the threshold, and, missing the bed, deposited
himself heavily on the floor.

"_Tidt meder man ei did som man vil skyde_, A man does not always aim
at what he means to hit,"--he muttered, resignedly, merely changing his
position for a more comfortable one, and dozing off to sleep.

Somewhere, on the way--or out of it--apparently, he had found a
supplementary brandy bottle, and had not left it until it was as empty
as the Major's.

It was late, too, when Doctor Remy laid his head on his pillow, that
night.  And, perhaps, in all Berganton, there was no wearier nor sadder
man than he.  One apparently well-constructed plan had just gone to
pieces in his hands, without note of warning.  Another was now to be
built up out of the fragments, pitilessly rejecting whatever had been
an element of weakness in the first.  Already, its outline had begun to
shape itself dimly against his mental horizon.  Yet he did not allow
himself to linger upon it to-night.  With the rigid self-control which
he habitually exercised, he put aside disappointment, care, and hope,
and soon slept as soundly as if no anxiety rested on his mind, no stain
on his conscience.

He was early astir.  With the morning light came quickness and
clearness of thought.  His scheme began to look more distinct and
feasible.  By way of getting it in hand at once, he tapped lightly at
the door of Astra's studio.

He was somewhat surprised to find her before an easel, palette and
brushes in hand.  She smiled and blushed at his approach.

"I know what you would say," she began, apologetically,--"'A Jack at
all trades,' _et caetera_, but I really wanted color for _this_
subject."  She pointed to her canvas.  "Do you recognize it?"

"I can see that those are Miss Bergan's eyes," replied Doctor
Remy;--"all else is delightfully vague and suggestive."

"And what eyes they are!" exclaimed Astra, admiringly,---not without a
pleasant perception, too, that she had succeeded wonderfully well in
putting them on canvas.

Doctor Remy did not answer immediately.  He was regarding the portrait
with a gravity that Astra could not understand,--unless, indeed, his
thoughts were elsewhere.  Nevertheless, when he spoke, it was
sufficiently to the point.

"Yes, they are very fine eyes," said he.  "And Miss Bergan is
altogether very pretty,--in an uncommon style, too.  It is surprising
that she has remained heartfree so long."

Astra looked at him with soft, smiling, amused eyes.  "Heartfree!  As
much as I am," said she.

Doctor Remy gave her a questioning look.

"I am not going to tell you anything about it," said she, laughingly.
"Use your eyes, sometimes, in watching your neighbors, as I do."

"Who _is_ my neighbor?" asked Doctor Remy, smiling.

"The proper question!" laughed Astra.  "In this case, you need not
journey beyond this roof, to find him."

Doctor Remy's eyes lit with a sudden, strange gleam.  "Do you _know_ it
is so?" he asked, quickly.

"Ho, I cannot quite say that;--I doubt if she knows it herself yet.
But I believe it, all the same."

Doctor Remy watched her absently for some moments, then made a few
curt, critical remarks about her work, bade her a cool good morning,
and withdrew.

Astra looked after him, with a troubled, wondering expression.

"What has come over him?" she asked herself.  "How have I offended him?
Or was it only my fancy that he seemed so cold and strange?"


Before Doctor Remy began his professional rounds, that morning, he had
sketched, in outline, the main features of a new plan for the
acquisition of Bergan Hall.  The minor details he wisely left to the
suggestions of time and circumstance.

One of these proved to be very close at hand.  As he drove mechanically
through the principal street of Berganton, revolving various
probabilities and possibilities in his mind, and trying to make some
provision for each, he espied Miss Ferrars coming up the
sidewalk,--easily recognizable, at almost any distance, by her
peculiarly mincing and swaying gait.  In all similar encounters with
the slightly faded maiden,--whom he shrewdly suspected of designs upon
his bachelor liberty,--it had been his wont to slide swiftly past, with
a low and deprecatory bow, suggestive of his deep regret that the
urgency of his haste denied him the pleasure of stopping to inquire
after her health.  On this occasion, therefore, she was agreeably
surprised to see him rein his horse up to the sidewalk, with the
obvious intention of speaking to her.  Perhaps her heart beat a little
more quickly, as she stopped to listen.

Apparently, however, he had nothing of more importance to communicate
than a commonplace enough observation about the heat of the weather,
and a friendly caution not to walk far in so fervid a sunshine as was
flooding the town with its golden waves.  Then, he gathered up his
reins, as if to signify that his say was said, and he was ready to
proceed.  Nevertheless, he lingered a moment longer, to add,
carelessly,--

"By the way, I ought to acknowledge that you were right, and I was
wrong, the other day.  It is not the first time that man's reason has
had to admit the superior correctness, as well as quickness, of woman's
intuition."

Miss Ferrars looked both pleased and puzzled.  "It is very good of you
to say so," she answered, simpering;--"but really, I can't think what
you allude to."

"When you called at my office, a few days ago," explained the doctor,
"you did me the honor to confide to me your impressions with regard to
my friends, Miss Lyte and Mr. Arling.  I thought you were mistaken, and
told you so.  It turns out, however, that the mistake was on my part,
not yours.  I was really blind--not wilfully so, as you had the charity
to suppose.  I mention the matter the more readily because it must soon
be patent to everybody.  Good morning."

And without waiting for a reply, Doctor Remy courteously lifted his
hat, and went his way, with a curious smile on his lips.

"That last intimation ensures speed," said he to himself.  "Miss
Ferrars will do her best to be beforehand with the news.  Before
to-morrow morning, it will be known throughout the town.  Then, I can
easily manage so that it shall reach the Major's ears, and--by the help
of my loving commentary--produce the desired effect.  Astra must be
gotten out of the way, for the present, at least.  So must Arling; last
night's business convinced me that he is more dangerous than I
imagined.  The Major deceives himself, but he does not deceive me; his
bitterness towards his nephew is nothing more than piqued and smothered
affection,--affection undergoing fermentation, as it were, and certain
to work itself clear and sweet, in time.  If Arling remains in the
neighborhood, the Major will soon be seizing upon some pretext for a
reconciliation.  Failing of that, Miss Carice is certain to inherit his
estate; just because he wooed--and did not win--her mother, some
twenty-five or thirty years ago!  No doubt, a marriage between the two
would suit him exactly, if he once got hold of the idea.  Yes, Arling
must be gotten rid of.  But how?"

He bent his brows moodily.  Some expedient, apparently, soon suggested
itself to him, and was immediately rejected with a shake of the head.

"No, not _that_ way," he muttered.  "I'm determined against actual,
point-blank crime, so called,--except as a last resource.  Besides, it
is not necessary; I only want to get rid of him until the Major is
dead, and Miss Carice is my wife.  There _must_ be some way to dispose
of him, by lawful means, if I could only hit upon it!  Really, if there
were a Devil, as some people believe, he would strain a point now in my
favor!  At all events, I think I see my way clear with Astra."

He was silent, for an instant; his brow grew sombre with unwonted
regret.

"Poor Astra!" he murmured, as he drove into the cathedral-like gloom of
the far-stretching pine barren,--"I am really loath to give her up!
But her chance of the Hall, I see now, is not worth a picayune.  And it
won't do to trust to the possibility of substituting a manufactured
will for the real one, as long as I cannot find out where the latter is
deposited.  The Major was very close-mouthed about _that_ matter.  No,
Miss Carice is my safest resort.  Yet Astra would suit me much better,
on the whole."  And once again, looking absently up the long, columned
vista of the narrow road, he murmured regretfully;--

"Poor Astra!"



IV.

A SERMON.

The next day was Sunday.  It came to the earth, as it comes always,
with kindly, hallowed hands full of blessings, but found not everywhere
hearts and minds open to receive them.  Carice Bergan, to be sure,
knelt in her accustomed place, in the little church of her fathers,
with a face which might almost have rivalled that of an angel in its
bright peacefulness, and with all the windows of her soul plainly open
to the heavenly sunshine.  Bergan Arling, too, conscious that each one
of these holy days had its own special gift or grace for him, its own
kind and measure of spiritual food, which he could ill afford to lose,
knelt in his proper place, and reverently lent his full, rich voice to
swell the solemn flow of common prayer, or the harmonious burst of
choral praise.  And Mrs. Lyte, in her widow's weeds, looking upward in
spirit, to the long peace of Paradise, and the shining faces of the
redeemed, was glad to believe in "the communion of saints," and
rejoiced in the day that was both a foretaste and a promise of the
"life everlasting."  Even Astra Lyte, though suffering from a vague and
nameless depression,--a burden of which, as yet, she felt only the
weight and chill, without comprehending, or daring to try to
comprehend, whence it came or what it meant,--was sensible of a dim
delight, and possibly a latent helpfulness, in the sweet and solemn
influences of the day and the place.  Here and there, moreover, a soul
bowed under the weight of recent affliction, or shaken with the terrors
of a newly-awakened conscience, was both awed and glad to be able to
give itself audible expression in words so fit and forcible as those of
the Confession and the Litany, and thankful if it might pick up so much
as a crumb of pardon and peace from the Master's bountiful table.

But, to Doctor Remy, paying an unwilling tribute to public opinion by
showing himself at church, on this morning, after many weeks of
absence, and leaving it to be inferred that, but for his professional
duties, he would be seen there regularly; to Miss Ferrars, mingling
solemn words of confession and penitence with frivolous thoughts of
dress and gossip; to Dick Causton, slinking shame-facedly into the rear
pew, to listen to the conclusion of the sweet, old, familiar hymn, the
first sounds of which had fallen enticingly upon his ear, as he was
staggering up the street;--to these, and many others like them,
doubtless, Sunday brought only present irksomeness and future
condemnation.

The hymn being finished, Mr. Islay ascended the pulpit, and, laying his
manuscript open before him, looked round on the crowded congregation,
with serious, almost melancholy, eyes.  Perhaps he sought, amid those
upturned faces, for some sign of human sympathy, to lighten a little
his heavy sense of responsibility; perhaps he wondered to which of
these souls his words were now to prove a savor of life unto life, and
to which, a savor of death unto death.  Deep and clear, and full of a
solemn music, his voice broke the silence.

"In the fifth, chapter of Proverbs, and in the twenty-second verse, it
is written:

'HE SHALL BE HOLDEN WITH THE CORDS OF HIS SINS.'"


Three faces were at once alive with interest.  Doctor Remy, indeed,
gave a slight and almost imperceptible start, as if his intellect not
only, but his memory or his conscience, had felt an awakening touch.
Bergan Arling merely fixed his eyes more intently on the speaker, with
the aspect of a man who was glad to find that the coming discourse was
likely to link into, and carry on, some previous train of thought.  As
for Dick Causton, the word "Proverbs" was sufficient to command his
earnest, and even critical, attention.  He believed that he knew a good
deal about proverbs himself; he had made a lifelong study of their
characteristics and principles of interpretation; he had often declared
those of Solomon--such as were strictly proverbs--to be of the best; he
would stay and hear what a tyro like Mr. Islay had to say about this
particular one.

This, briefly, was what the clergyman said.

"Many texts are like rosebuds.  They have a simple form, and an obvious
signification.  But if you steep them in the dew of meditation and the
sunshine of faith, they begin to unfold meaning after meaning, as the
rosebud petal after petal; and in the centre there is a golden
heart,--the gracious blessing of God on the fervent and prayerful
spirit, and the inquiring and teachable mind.  Let us pray that the
text which we are considering, may prove such an one to each of us.

"A man's sin is sure to find him out.  It may have been committed in
secret, muffled thickly with caution, and finally buried deep under
time and distance and circumstance; it may remain hidden for years; it
may have been forgotten, except for an occasional dark moment, by the
sinner himself; yet, some time, some day, what seems to be a chance,
but is truly a providence, lifts the veil, and takes hold of the
clue,--or death throws the lurid light of his inverted torch over the
dark transaction,--and the liar, the thief, the adulterer, the
murderer, or whatever may be the miserable man's miserable name, is
brought to the bar either of human or divine justice.  And there is no
escape.  The bands of his iniquity are around him; they bind him hand
and foot; he is holden with the cords of his sins.

"This is perhaps the first and most obvious meaning of the text.  It
assures us that, 'though punishment be lame, it arrives.'  It warns us
not to make cords which are certain to be used, some day, for our own
binding.

"But men are apt to think lightly of a remote evil.  The present
monopolizes their fears, as it does their labors.  Moreover (they say),
there are dozens of little, everyday sins, which entail no such fearful
consequences.  Let us see how our text bears upon these points.

"Sin is not a simple, but a complex, thing.  It is a cord twisted of
many threads, and some of them begin very far back.  A man is seldom
taken in the toils of a sudden, single temptation, or bound with the
cords of an utterly unimagined and unpremeditated sin.  He has made the
way and work easy to each of them, by yielding to preliminary
temptations, and carelessly allowing the binding of preparatory sins.
He is holden with the cords of the evil thought to the unhallowed
desire and the foul gratification.  He is holden with the cords of that
seemingly venial sin to this final burden of guilt and shame, by that
unbridled passion to this startling, terrible crime.  The slender cord
draws the stout one after it: at sight of _that_, the man may start and
shrink, but he is already half-bound, and his resistance is feeble.
Having taken the first step, he is committed to the second; having
admitted the premise, he is bound to the logical conclusion.  Here, as
before, he is holden with the cords of his sins.

"Moreover, there are few things stronger, for good or ill, than habit.
And every sin, however small, _may_ begin an evil habit, and is _sure_
to confirm one.  Round and round goes the slender cord, till it binds
as strongly as a chain of iron.  One part after another yields to the
subtle, stealing influence; first, the will succumbs; then, the reason;
finally, the conscience.  Day by day, good ceases to attract, and evil
to repel.  Day by day, the right becomes more difficult, and the wrong
easier.  The habit soon becomes fixed; the man is firmly bound.  To the
side of evil, and the service of Satan, he is holden with the cords of
his sins.

"Again: If thought be the spring of action, action is also the spring
of thought.  If it be true that, 'as a man thinks, he is,' so it is
true that as he is, he thinks.  Thought is by turns cause and effect.
If a man's sins are the result of his evil thoughts, so his evil and
erroneous thoughts are sometimes the result of his sins.  He cannot
long continue to think right if he act wrong.  After breaking the
Sabbath awhile, he ceases to think of it as a holy day.  After
committing murder, he ceases to regard life as sacred.  Violating human
law, it becomes a terror instead of a protection.  Defying the Divine
law, he soon denies its authority.  Sin distorts his views, as well as
his life.  The truths of religion lose their clearness to his mind with
their power to influence his action.  Doubts, scepticism, infidelity,
find an open door, and an easy road, to his heart.  If a man would keep
fast hold of his Christian faith, let him take care to order his
actions, as far as possible, in conformity to its precepts.  But, on
the other hand, let him give free rein to his appetites and
ambitions,--yea, even to the commission of absolute crime,--if he
wishes to become a mocker and an infidel, without love of God or man,
without correct views of time or clear ones of eternity.  For, to all
these things, he will be sure to be holden with the cords of his sins.

"Finally; All men love liberty.  But sin, though it may seem, at first,
to be the wildest liberty, soon proves to be the narrowest bondage.
The sinner is the slave of appetites, of habits, of thoughts, that are
hard task-masters; and the wages of which are every kind of death.  For
there are many kinds,--social, political, moral, before the final,
everlasting death;--and one, or all, of these, he is sure to taste, as
the reward of his faithful service of Satan.  His health is undermined,
or his reputation destroyed; his fortune is dissipated, or his gold
corroded in the using; he is shaken with the terrors of conscience, or
hardened into the semblance of stone; he is without adequate
consolation in the day of trouble, and without strengthening hope in
the day of death; but his slavery is abject and absolute.  He neither
will nor can escape.  He is holden with the cords of his sins.

"Thus you will see, beloved, that our text has a word of solemn warning
for the present, as well as for the future.  The holding of sin is to
be dreaded in life, not less than at death.  One sin holds fast to
another.  Single sins twist together into the strong cord of habitual
sin.  The sinful act draws after it evil thoughts and loose opinions.
Sin is a continual, daily bondage, as well as a final retribution.

"Beware then, oh, ye young! how you bind yourselves with cords of
sinful thoughts, or habits, or opinions, or passions, to the exclusion
of that blessed liberty which is in Christ Jesus.  Beware, oh, ye
adults! how you go on adding sin to sin, and cord to cord, till you are
bound hand and foot, thought and will, body and soul; and are finally
cast down to perdition, in bonds of your own industrious
forging--holden with the cords of your sins!

"But,--do you say?--we are all sinners, we are all 'holden,' how are we
to break from the cords of our sins?  Go to Christ.  At His feet, all
bonds are broken, all slavery ends.  He leads captivity captive, and
His service is perfect freedom.  He is our righteousness, and the man
that trusteth in Him, shall no more be holden with the cords of His
sins."

Such was the substance of the sermon.  But in the delivery, there was a
warmth and an earnestness, a happiness of expression and illustration,
and a deep solemnity, that held the congregation spell-bound with
interest, to the end!

Perhaps no one had listened more attentively, or humbly, than Bergan
Arling.  So recently had he felt the irksome holding of the cords of
his sins!  And he would still, no doubt, be holden to their
consequences, all the days of his life, if not to their guilt.

As for Doctor Remy, there was an unusual pallor in his face, when he
rose, at the singing of the last hymn.  But it was quickly gone; he
came out of the church with much of his usual cold, composed demeanor.
His sins had held him too long to loosen their stricture at one
transient quake of conscience.

Dick Causton had listened for some time with marked attention, and
apparent approval.  Then, a kind of haze had slowly bedimmed his sight
and beclouded his brain.  When the congregation came down the aisles,
he was fast asleep, with his head drooping heavily on his breast.  If
anything could have added to the effect of the sermon, this sight ought
to have done so.  Most certainly, poor Dick was "holden with the cords
of his sins."

When the church was empty, he was shaken rudely by the sexton, and
turned out, muttering caustic proverbs by way of retaliation.



V.

PARTINGS.

Bergan and Doctor Remy walked home from the church, as they had gone
thither, side by side; yet, for a considerable time, neither spoke.  If
not altogether congenial spirits, they were on sufficiently easy and
familiar terms, in virtue of their almost daily association, to allow
each to pursue his own train of thought, on occasion, without reference
to the other.

To Bergan, Mr. Islay's sermon had been interesting and effective, not
only for what it contained, but for what it suggested.  Naturally,
therefore, his mind was now busy in following out those suggestions to
the point where they bore upon his own experience, and unfolded their
lessons for his own soul.

But Dr. Remy's thoughts had long since strayed away from any channel
into which the sermon was calculated to lead them.  There had been some
brief moments, during its delivery, to be sure, when he had shrunken
inwardly, iron-nerved though he were, from the deep, sharp probing of
certain of its sentences; and there had been a single instant, perhaps,
wherein he had been made dimly to see, or to suspect, that his own life
and character--much as he had prided himself upon being the independent
artificer of them both--were really the results to which he had been
holden by the cords of former, half-forgotten sins.  But he had made
haste to shake himself free from both the idea and its effect, with one
smile of scorn at his own folly, and another at what he chose to
consider the weak superstition of the clergyman and his awed,
interested flock.  He thanked God--using the phrase in a vague, general
sense which, perhaps, was only equivalent to thanking himself--that he
was not as these men were.  And no sooner was he in the open air than
he set his busy mind to the consideration of his own projects.  Some
clue to its workings may perhaps be afforded by the question with which
he finally broke the silence.

"Have you ever had the yellow fever, Arling?"

"No; it does not visit our western villages."

"Then, I advise you to take refuge in one of them, for the next three
months.  It is certain to visit Berganton ere long."

"Indeed!" said Bergan, with more curiosity than alarm.  "Why do you
think so?"

"From the weather, the atmosphere, the present type of disease,--a
dozen indications patent to the eye of experience.  Besides, I am
informed by a private letter that it has already appeared in New
Orleans.  Its arrival here is but a question of time.  And I assure you
that its acquaintance is to be avoided."

"Doubtless.  And I shall do my best to avoid it--except by running
away."

"You might as well say," answered Doctor Remy, dryly, "that you will
take every precaution against drowning--except to keep your head above
water.  Don't be fool-hardy, Arling.  Yellow Jack has a keen appetite
for strangers,--that is to say, for all who are not native born.  If he
spares any, it is usually the sickly and feeble, not the strong and
vigorous.  He would consider you a toothsome morsel.  Take my advice,
and go home, or go North, or take a sea-voyage,--do anything rather
than remain here during the last of summer and the beginning of autumn.
It will be no loss to you.  After the first of next month, there will
be absolutely nothing for a lawyer to do here but try to keep cool."

"And you?" asked Bergan.

"Oh, I stay, of course.  An epidemic is a physician's harvest time.
Besides, I have had the yellow fever."

"Then the native-born do not all escape?"

"By no means.  Besides, I lost my birthright by many years' absence in
Europe.  It was immediately after my return that I was taken.  Now I
may consider myself acclimated."

"As I must be," replied Bergan, "if, as is likely, I am to spend the
remainder of my life at the South.  Thank you for your friendly
warning, but I think I must stay."

Doctor Remy shrugged his shoulders, and said no more.  He had merely
tried the first and simplest expedient which occurred to him, for
removing Bergan from the neighborhood.  He was not surprised nor
troubled that it had failed.  He had expected as much.  But there were
other and surer means to his end, he believed, at his command.

However, he was not obliged to resort to them.  Early next morning
Bergan came into his office, with an open letter in his hand, and a
most anxious face.

"Read that," said he, huskily, "and tell me if there is any hope."

Doctor Remy obeyed, reading the letter not once only, but twice, and
looking long and meditatively at the signature.  Then he lifted his
eyes to Bergan's face.

"Plenty of hope, in my opinion," said he; "I do not attach as much
importance as this Doctor Trubie does to your mother's fancy that she
is going to die.  It only argues a depressed state of mind,
corresponding to a low state of body.  Nevertheless, it is well to do
whatever can be done to raise her spirits; and I suspect that your
presence at her bedside will avail much to that end.  Of course, you
set out at once?"

"Certainly.  Can you tell me at what hour the next train leaves
Savalla?"

Doctor Remy glanced at his watch.  "In an hour and a half.  That gives
you ample time;--fifteen minutes to throw a few things into a
portmanteau, and tell me what I can do for you while you are away; five
minutes for _adieux_, and an hour and ten minutes to reach Savalla, in
the saddle, with a swift horse."

"If I can find one at such short notice," said Bergan, doubtfully.

Doctor Remy pulled a bell-wire, and Scipio's black head appeared as
instantaneously as if he had been attached to the other end of it.

"Saddle the roan, and take him round to the front gate," said Doctor
Remy.  "Mr. Arling will ride him to Savalla, You will go after him, by
the stage, this afternoon.  Quick now!"

The head ducked, and disappeared.

"How can I thank you!" exclaimed Bergan, wringing the doctor's hand.

"By attending to the portmanteau business at once.  I will come with
you; we can talk while you work.  I want to ask something about this
Doctor Trubie.  Does he keep up with the times,--in medicine, that is?"

"I don't know--I believe so."

"H'm; there have been some recent discoveries of great value in the
treatment of typhoids, when they run long and low, as they are apt to
do.  Suppose I write down a few suggestions, which, if there is grave
need, you can commend to Doctor Trubie's favorable consideration.
Otherwise, don't interfere."

Bergan tried once more to express his gratitude, as the folded paper
was put in his hand; but Doctor Remy cut him short.

"If you really want to thank me," said he, "do it by staying away until
the sickly season is over; I shall have yellow fever patients enough
without you.  Indeed, you _must_; having left, it would be suicidal to
come back before the first of November.  Tell your mother that I said
so, when she is convalescent."

"When she is convalescent," repeated Bergan, quickly.  "Then you _do_
hope!"

"Of course I do.  There is every reason for it.  Your mother, being a
Bergan, has a sound constitution, and an almost indomitable vitality;
and she is not yet old.  If Trubie makes a good fight, he is sure to
win.  At any rate, never despair till the breath is out of the body;
nor even then, till you are certain that it cannot be brought back."

Bergan could not but feel a pang of self-reproach for his
long-smothered dislike and distrust of the man who was thus loading him
with obligations,--help on his way to his mother, ready encouragement,
and valuable professional advice.  It did not occur to him that there
is such a thing as doing good that evil may come!

Doctor Remy looked after him with a triumphant smile.  "One out of my
way already!" he exclaimed.  "It would seem that the Devil (another
name for Fate or Chance) _has_ helped me!"

Bergan next sought Mrs. Lyte and Astra, for a parting word.  He found
the latter in her studio, sitting idly by a window, with her hands
folded listlessly in her lap, and a weary, dejected face that went to
his heart.  Never before had he seen her otherwise than busy, bright,
and earnest; never had she met his look with so faint and transient a
smile.

"I am sorry that you are going," said she, sombrely; "sorrier, perhaps,
than the occasion may seem to warrant.  But I cannot rid myself of a
suspicion that this phase of our life and friendship is finished; and
who can tell what the next may be!  Do you remember our first meeting
under the oaks, and the red sunset light, and the dark sunset cloud?
You interpreted them to mean that we were to know sunshine and shade
together, did you not?  Well, we have had the sunshine; now, it is time
for the shade."

"You forget," said Bergan, kindly, "that the cloud was but for a
moment, and the sunshine returned."

"No, I remember it well.  But the cloud was very dark while it lasted,
and the shine was not quite so bright afterward.  It was nearer to its
setting."

Bergan could scarcely believe that it was Astra who spoke.  Hitherto,
she had been the moral sunshine of the house, felt even where it did
not directly fall.  Her spirit, in its potency of cheer, resembled the
sunbeam which, though it kindle but one little spot on the floor into
actual brightness, diffuses its light and cheerfulness throughout a
whole room.  As every article of furniture, every picture, every face,
in the room, is the brighter for the sunbeam, so every inmate of Mrs.
Lyte's rambling old dwelling had been the happier for Astra's presence
and influence.  The sound of her clear, buoyant voice, the thought of
her light, busy figure, just across the hall, had always served to
quicken and brighten his own energies.  It had been very much his wont
to bring all his shadows, discouragements, and despondencies, to be
dissipated by contact with her breezy activity and cheery hopefulness.
What had come over her, that she met him now with such dreary
premonition of ill, such persistent dwelling upon the dark side?  He
looked down upon her with the question in his eyes, if not on his lips.

She understood and answered it.

"It is only a dark mood," said she, passing her hand over her brow,
"not an actual trouble,--at least, not yet.  But forgive me for
afflicting you with it now, when you are under the shadow of a real
cloud.  Let us hope that it will pass quickly.  When you reach home,
may the sunshine be already there!"

"Thank you.  I shall expect to hear from you through Doctor Remy--all
of you, I mean.  He has promised to let me know how everything goes on
here."

Astra lifted her eyes searchingly to his face.  Her fine perceptions
had not failed to take note of his inadvertent linking together of
Doctor Remy and herself, and his quick attempt to conceal it.  She
divined that he knew her secret.  Her eyes fell, and her face flushed.

Bergan took her hand, and lifted it, in gentle, chivalrous fashion, to
his lips.  "I wish you every happiness," said he, in a tone that said
more than the words,--"every sunshine, and few clouds.  Good-bye."

"Good-bye," she answered, withdrawing her hand, yet not without a
certain lingering pressure, that seemed even sadder than her face, and
that Bergan felt long afterwards.  And he left her sitting where he
found her.

Mrs. Lyte and Cathie followed him to the door, the one with much quiet
sympathy and regret, the other with passionate tears and lamentations.

"He will not come back!  He will not come back!" she screamed, wringing
her hands, as he rode away; and the mournful cry followed him down the
street, like a prophecy of woe.

A little farther on, he discovered that Nix was trotting quietly
alongside of his horse.  And so intimately had the dog been connected
with all his sojourn under Mrs. Lyte's roof, that, in sending him back,
he seemed to close the final page of this whole epoch of his life.

His road skirted a retired portion of the grounds of Oakstead.
Suddenly, he espied Carice, standing on the bank of the creek, with her
eyes thoughtfully fixed upon its rippling flow.  His sad heart yearned
towards her with irresistible force.  Glancing at his watch, he saw
that there was yet time for a brief, parting word.  He flung himself
from his horse, threw the bridle over a gatepost, and ran quickly
towards her.

"I am so glad to find you here!" he exclaimed, as he drew near.
"Otherwise, I must have gone without saying good-bye.  I am sent for,
in great haste; my mother is very ill, and--"

He stopped; his grave face said the rest.

"I am very, very sorry!" putting her hand in his, with quick, earnest
sympathy.  "When did you hear?"

"This morning.  She insisted that I should be sent for, as soon as she
was taken ill; she believed that she could not recover.  It is the
typhoid fever."

Carice's face blanched suddenly.  "Ah! that has a fearful sound," she
said, shiveringly.  "My two brothers"--

Her voice failed, and her slight frame shook with sudden emotion.  It
was the first time that Bergan had heard her allude to the only sorrow
which she had yet known; but the effect of which had been all the more
keenly felt, doubtless, because, for her parents' sake, she had shut it
resolutely into the depths of her heart, never allowing its shadow to
be seen for a moment on the face wherein they now looked for
consolation and cheer.

Much moved, Bergan put his arm round the slender, tremulous form.  At
first, it was only the blind, manly instinct of help and support that
prompted him; but with the act there came a swift revelation, a great
rush of tenderness, that almost took his breath away.  Though he had
never suspected it till now, he knew, in an instant, beyond the
possibility of a doubt, not only that he loved Carice, but that he had
loved her long.

Carice, on her part, was quick to feel the sudden, subtile change in
the character of the support given her, and made a fluttering movement
of escape.  But Bergan would not let her go.

"Carice," said he, gravely, "if I should return sorrowing, will you
console me?"

"If I can," she answered, simply, raising her blue eyes to his face.

"If you can!" he repeated, with a deep tender intonation,--"oh, Carice!
it must be a heavy sorrow indeed that you cannot console!"

As he spoke, the day, which had hitherto been cloudy, suddenly broke
into a smile, pouring a flood of golden light on the river, trickling
through the boughs of the overhanging trees in great, shining drops,
and flinging a yellow gleam far down their gray trunks.  Wondrous
sympathy of Nature with the bliss of two spirits made one,--the tender
joy that keeps, throughout the musty years, the freshness and fragrance
of its Eden birth!  Yet, had the day still held its gloom, it would
have been bright in Carice's eyes, and bright in Bergan's!  Wherever
Love is newly born, it creates a sunshine of the heart, which overflows
upon the outward world, and fills it with celestial radiance.

Five minutes later, and Carice was alone by the river's bank, blushing
to hear how persistently the little stream kept whispering and singing
of what it had just seen and heard.  The leaves, too, seemed to be
softly talking it over among themselves; and a red bird and a gray one
were gossiping merrily about it among the branches.

Still more plainly, Carice's face told the story, when she sought her
parents.  They saw at once that it was not the same face which had gone
out from them an hour before.  It had changed as an opening rosebud
must have changed in the same time, under the balmy breathing of the
warm south wind.  Its merely girlish loveliness was over; playing about
the mouth, and shining from the eyes, there was a bright and tender
smile that seemed gushing from the very heart of awakening womanhood.
Never had she seemed so lovely, never so radiant.  Looking upon her, it
was easy to divine the secret of angelic beauty.  The heavenly
existences are immortally beautiful because immortally happy.

"Did you engage yourself to him?" asked Mr. Bergan, almost sternly,
when her brief tale was told.

"Of course not," answered Carice, opening wide her blue eyes at the
unusual tone,--"not until you and mamma are consulted.  Only, we know
that we love each other."

At the same time, Dr. Remy stood smiling to himself, in his office,--a
dark, ominous smile.

"I am sure of three months," said he.  "And, in three months, tact and
perseverance can accomplish a great deal."

At the same time, too, Astra rose suddenly from the chair, where Bergan
had left her sitting, and began to pace up and down the room.

"I have been idle too long," she said to herself; "I have let myself
dream till my world is peopled with shadows, and I cannot distinguish
the false from the true.  Work is what I want.  Work will exorcise
these phantoms, and make my brain clear and strong again."

She stopped and looked fixedly into vacancy, striving to recall a
former conception that had been dazzled out of sight in the golden dawn
of her love.  In a moment, it rose again before her; a great, stalwart,
straining figure,--a man struggling up out of the waves that had
wellnigh worsted him, with a little child on his shoulders.

Quickly she improvised a kind of platform, and brought out her fertile
box of clay.  Nervously, she fastened her supports together; rapidly
around them rose the soft, gray, plastic material in the rude, rough
resemblance of a human form.



VI.

WITH A DOUBLE HEART.

Now and then, on a summer's day, the air is suddenly filled with
minute, swarming insects of the genus _ephemera_.  They come unnoticed
and unheralded; the air is thick with them ere one is aware; ears,
mouths, and nostrils are filled with them, despite all efforts to the
contrary; they are variously regarded from the scientific, the poetic,
and the moral point of view, or merely as nuisances; by and by, they
are gone as they came.

In just such wise, a swarm of rumors prejudicial to the reputation of
Bergan Arling suddenly filled the air of Berganton; coming no one knew
whence, but quickly circulating everywhere, to be variously met with
surprise, doubt, belief, regret, anger, and indifference.  It was
averred that he had gone home deeply in debt, at least to his good
friend Doctor Remy, who certainly deserved better treatment at his
hands.  It was alleged that he was hopelessly the victim of a depraved
appetite for strong drink, although, by the help of the same good
friend, he had managed, thus far, to save himself from public exposure.
It was affirmed that he had persuaded Astra Lyte into a secret
engagement, perhaps for the sake of mere pastime, perhaps with a view
to the ultimate possession of the roof which had so long sheltered him,
or to the union of his own with Astra's chances for the future
ownership of Bergan Hall.  Finally, it was shrewdly suspected that,
having grown weary alike of the debts, the engagement, and the measure
of constraint which he had hitherto exercised over himself, he had
suddenly broken away from all three, with the trumped-up excuse of his
mother's illness, and taken himself off, not to return.

Coming, as has been said, no one knew from whence, and having no
apparent voucher, these rumors nevertheless penetrated to
counting-rooms and boudoirs, to offices and to bar-rooms, to Major
Bergan on his vast estate, and Dick Causton in his narrow cabin, to
Godfrey Bergan at his desk, and Carice beside her mother,--everywhere,
save to the two persons most directly interested; namely, Bergan Arling
on his rapid way homeward, and Astra Lyte in her studio.

Astra was hard at work now.  Every hour, her clay model grew in
strength or symmetry under her rapid touches.  Yet her hope of finding
clearness and quietness of mind in the exercise of her beloved art, had
been wofully disappointed.  The phantoms of doubt and anxiety which had
haunted her idleness were not laid by her industry, but only held in
abeyance until the inevitable moment of exhaustion, or of suspended
inspiration, brought them upon her again, with tenfold power to annoy.
Do what she would, she could not shut her eyes to the fact that a
change had come over Doctor Remy, nor prevent herself from speculating
as to its nature and cause.  At first, it was only that miserable and
dream-like change of look and manner which forbids one to complain,
because it gives no lucid explanation of itself to the intellect,
however it may disturb and depress the heart.  Its effect was magical,
nevertheless, in clearing Astra's vision from that soft, transfiguring
haze of the imagination through which love delights to gaze at its
object, and in giving her occasional glimpses into the depths and
intricacies of Doctor Remy's character.  Unconsciously, whenever he
came near her, she fell to watching his words, his tones, his looks,
even his motions and attitudes, for indications of the hidden, inner
man, upon whose qualities and tendencies her happiness so largely
depended.  The object of this scrutiny was too keen-witted not to be
aware of it, and too subtile not to avail himself of it to further his
own ends.  With apparent carelessness, but consummate art, he allowed
more and more of his true character to come to the surface; he showed
himself scornful toward religion, faithless toward mankind, indifferent
and unsympathizing toward herself, in the hope of quickly transforming
her affection into disgust, and forcing her to put a speedy end to
their engagement.  Doing this whenever he met her, he none the less
took good care to make it manifest that he avoided her as far as
possible.

Under these circumstances, no wonder that Astra grew pale and thin,
that alternately she worked as in a fever, or stood idle as in a dream,
that her old, cheery alacrity gave place to sombre restlessness, and
her glow of happy spirits to pale depression, that, in short, she
speedily became so unlike herself as greatly to alarm Mrs. Lyte, who
finally appealed to Doctor Remy.  He was only too glad to prescribe
immediate change of air and scene.

Mrs. Lyte stood aghast.

"I do not see how I can manage it," said she, slowly.  "My income is
just sufficient for our present mode of life; there is no surplus to
meet the added expense of a health trip."

Doctor Remy mused for a moment.  "We will talk over this matter again,"
said he, at length, looking at his watch; "just now I have an
engagement.  But trust my assurance that wherever there is a plain
necessity for a thing, there is a way to obtain it.  Good morning."

Doctor Remy's engagement did not prevent him from repairing straightway
to Bergan Hall, whither the rumors already alluded to had preceded him.
And so artfully did he work upon Major Bergan's hasty and arbitrary
temper as to induce him forthwith to warn Mrs. Lyte of the existence of
the forfeited mortgage, and his intention to foreclose at an early day.
Be it said, however, in the Major's behalf, that he graciously designed
said warning to play somewhat of the part of a blessing in disguise.
For, having first shown Mrs. Lyte how completely she was in his power,
it was his generous intention to offer her the largest mercy
thereafter, even to the immediate relinquishment of every claim against
her estate, on the easy condition that she, and her daughter should at
once break off all relations and engagements with his nephew, Bergan
Arling.  Thus, he would save Astra from what he was easily persuaded
would turn out to be a most unhappy marriage; at the same time that he
would gratify a certain odd itching in his fingers to meddle in
Bergan's affairs.  The whole business was arranged in less than an
hour, and Doctor Remy returned homeward triumphant.

Nor was his elation at all shadowed by any thought of the suffering
about to be inflicted at his instigation.  Men of his naturally hard
and forceful character, intensified by long culture of the intellect at
the expense of the sensibilities, are apt to take a terribly straight
path in one sense, if a wofully crooked one in another, to whatever end
they have in view.  The feelings of others, where they cannot be made
to subserve their purposes, are regarded as so many obstructions in
their way; to be pushed aside, or trampled under-foot, as the case may
be.

Possibly, too, they do not credit others with a greater depth of
feeling than they are conscious of in themselves.  Certainly, Doctor
Remy, knowing nothing, by experience, of the tender and sacred
associations that cluster around the home of years, was not likely to
concern himself about the probable grief of Mrs. Lyte, at leaving hers,
except as it might hinder or prevent her departure.  For, go she
must,--at least, for a time,--since Astra would not be likely to go
without her.  His present task was so to smooth and clear the way for
them, on the one hand, while he furnished the necessary degree of
motive power, on the other, that they should be gone ere Major Bergan
was aware, or had submitted his terms of compromise to their
consideration.

In furtherance of this design, he had tapped lightly at the door of
Astra's studio, ere the sound of voices from within told him that she
was not alone.  Carice Bergan was with her, and both were discussing
Astra's statue of clay; unto the creation of which she had lately
turned--with such scanty measure of success--for distraction, if not
for comfort.  With a slight bow and a word of greeting to Doctor Remy,
Carice went on with what she was saying, in her own singularly gentle,
yet frank and fearless, fashion.

"As I said just now, it is simply wonderful, in its way; but, Astra, I
don't like its way at all.  The Offero (for I suppose he is not to be
called Saint Christopher yet,) is much too near to falling and fainting
under his burden,--"

"Perhaps he may literally do so," interrupted Astra, with a sad and
bitter smile.  "Nay, you need not look so startled, I only mean that I
fear his supports are not strong enough; I did not realize what would
be the gravitation of such a huge mass of clay.  The figure is
certainly settling more than I like to see."

"I did not allude to material supports," replied Carice, steadily, "but
to that spiritual aid which the Christ-Child would be sure to give to
one who bore Him so cheerfully and bravely as Offero did, however
heavily He might be pleased to burden him.  There should be more of
steady hope and courage, as well as of wonder at the supernatural
weight of his small burden, instead of that terrible strain and agony
of effort, and that dreary, dogged sort of resolve."

"You forget," said Astra, "that he does not yet understand the nature
of his burden, nor wherefore it is laid upon him;--neither," she added
mournfully to herself, "neither do I."

Carice shook her head.  "You have forgotten," she replied, "that he is
not bearing the burden _for himself_, but for love of that far-off,
mighty King of whom he has heard; which feeling ought to strengthen his
heart and his sinews, and shine out in his face."

Astra turned away her head.  As she had unconsciously wrought her own
wretched, despondent moods of the past week into the sensitive clay, so
Carice's comments upon the result had their sidelong application to
herself.

"As for the Christ-Child," continued Carice, raising her eyes from the
Bearer to the Burden, "how did you ever get that look of immitigable
fate into a child's rounded face?  As a piece of work, it is almost
miraculous; but, as a conception of the Christ-Child--I beg your
pardon, Astra--it is absolutely dreadful."

"It may stand for Offero's idea of the face which he cannot see,"
suggested Astra, in a low voice.

"Well, perhaps it might, if he were thinking of the face, which I
doubt.  That is to say, the true Offero would be thinking of the King
whom he was trying to serve, rather than the burthen that he was
bearing.  At any rate, it is just because he cannot see the face that
he has such an idea of it.  But to us, who can see it, it ought to show
itself most benignant, most pitying, most tender and satisfying in
every respect.  Else, we miss the only really helpful lesson that your
Offero is calculated to teach."

Astra looked at her friend half sadly, half-wonderingly.  "Let no one
trust your gentle, innocent look, Carice," said she; "you are a
sharp-sighted critic, and as severe as you are sharp-sighted."

"On the contrary," returned Carice, "I am not criticising at all; I am
merely telling you how your statue looks to me, in its unfinished
condition.  No doubt every stroke of that magical scraper of yours will
take away something of the look which I do not like, and put in
something of that which I long to see."

"I do not know," responded Astra drearily, shaking her head.  "I have
not your singular depth and simplicity of vision, in spiritual things."

"Nay," Carice, "you have something more than that,--the power to
create; I have only the power to discern.  That cherub yonder, for
instance;--I am glad that I am able to see that it is lovely beyond
expression, but the power to make it so, ah! that is beyond me!"

And Carice moved away to the object of her admiration, and seemed to
forget herself and all around her, in contemplating it.

Doctor Remy remained, looking critically at the clay figure.

"You have not yet said what you think of it," said Astra, turning and
looking him intently in the face.

"I had nothing to say--from the spiritual side," he answered, coolly.
"Miss Bergan exhausted that; besides, it is not in my line.  But, if
you are pleased to desire my sort of criticism, here it is.  That arm
is too long, and that clavicle is not sufficiently raised, and this
muscle is too flat.  For the rest," he added, after a slight pause, "it
is a sufficiently ambitious work."

There was a touch of mockery in his tone which did not escape the
sensitive ear of his listener.  "You think it too ambitious, perhaps,"
she said, quietly, yet not without a keen glance at his face.

He gave the clay figure another comprehensive look; then he turned to
Astra with a gentler expression than she had seen in his eyes for many
days past.

"Poor child!" said he, pityingly, "what disadvantages your genius has
to labor under, in this little, remote town, where you never see a work
of art, nor an artist, from month's end to month's end!  Why do you not
go--for awhile, at least--where you can find something for your genius
to feed upon?  It is a law of life that there can be no good growth
without proper food."

"You know," replied Astra, very gravely, "that I cannot leave my home
and my mother."

"Then," returned Doctor Remy, with equal gravity, "it would be a kindly
blast--though it might not seem so, at first--that should blow you all
to some point where your genius could find fuller and freer
development.  If such an one should ever come to you, I hope you will
be able to regard it as--what Miss Bergan would doubtless call a
providence."

Carice was looking towards them, now; and his last words were spoken
with a smiling glance that was apparently meant to draw her into the
conversation.

"And what would Doctor Remy call it?" she asked, but without any
answering smile.

"Doctor Remy does not concern himself about names, but things," he
replied, pleasantly.

"Things answer to names," she rejoined, quickly; "and if Doctor Remy to
call a providence a chance, for instance, let him not wonder if it
prove a chance--to him."

"I am afraid that I am wofully obtuse," returned the doctor, with the
air of a man who asks for a further explanation.

"From the hand of Chance," she answered briefly, "one gets little good,
and much harm; from the hand of Providence, only good, however
disguised.  The difference is in the taking and the using."

She turned towards the window as she finished, with the air of who
dismisses the subject.

Astra, meanwhile, stood gazing at the doctor with a most anxious,
disturbed expression.  She was beginning to understand too well that
under many of his seemingly most careless utterances, there lurked a
deep significance and design.  In the tone of his last speech to her,
there had been something which caused her a vague alarm.

"What did he mean?" she asked herself, wearily putting her hand to her
brow,--"What did he mean?"



VII.

OVERBURDENED.

Carice Bergan was gifted with instincts singularly quick and delicate.
She had not long breathed the same atmosphere with Astra and Doctor
Remy before she felt it growing heavy around her with some intensity of
emotion which she neither shared nor understood.  It might be sympathy,
it might be aversion; in either case, its effect was to make her feel
confused and constrained, in their presence.  At one moment, she seemed
to behold them afar off, as it were, in a sphere of their own, whither
she had neither the right nor the ability to follow them; at another,
she felt herself standing between them, barring their way to a free and
satisfactory interchange of thought and feeling; and again, she
believed that Doctor Remy alone was responsible for her discomfort,
interrupting, by his presence, the cordial flow of sympathy between
Astra and herself.  At any rate, it would be a relief to escape from so
oppressive an atmosphere; accordingly, she took her departure, leaving
the lovers--if such they can be called--together.

Certainly, there was nothing lover-like in the manner with which they
faced each other, a few moments after the door had closed behind her.
That brief interval had been spent by both in preparation for the
crisis which the one knew, and the other felt, to be approaching.
Astra awaited it with a mixture of eagerness and dread; she was weary
of wearing the checkered tissue of suspense and anxiety; she would be
glad to know exactly what was in store for her, even though the bitter
fruit of such knowledge should be mortification and anguish.  Doctor
Remy's face was set and hard; over it a sombre emotion, like the gray
shadow of a cloud on a rock, now and then passed swiftly, taking
nothing from its sternness, but adding much to its gloom.  He looked
like a man who, at no slight cost to himself, has braced his soul with
iron for the performance of some heavy, but necessary, task.  Little as
he likes it, he will carry it out pitilessly to the end.

With an inauspicious frown on his brow--none the less dark because it
must have been assumed--he now opened the conversation by saying,
abruptly;--

"Astra, I have heard some very strange rumors, of late."

"Indeed!" she returned, with a note of disappointment, as well as of
surprise, in her voice.  This was but a roundabout road to explanation,
she thought; it would have pleased her better had the doctor chosen a
more direct one.  She looked round for a chair, and sat down wearily,
as if to wait his pleasure with such patience as she could command.

However, Doctor Remy was going as straight to the point--his point, at
least--as could be wished.  "Perhaps you will be less indifferent to
these rumors," he continued, insinuatingly, "when you understand that
they concern you, and your good name, much."

A slight flush rose to Astra's face, and her eyes lit; but she kept her
seat, and she answered not a word, though Doctor Remy waited a moment,
as if he expected her to speak.  Seeing her silent, however, he went
on, slowly, and with seeming reluctance; yet, to a keen and
disinterested observer, it might have appeared that he was trying his
best to provoke her.

"I once told you that it was not in my nature to trust," said he.  "But
I have trusted you, Astra, even to blindness,--else I should not have
been indebted to others for the first intimations of things that I
ought to have seen for myself.  I should have discovered what sort of
game you were playing, before the knowledge was forced upon me at the
hands of public rumor.  I suppose that I ought to take shame to myself
for being so easily deceived;--I do,--nevertheless your shame is
certainly the greater for having so deceived me."

The flame in Astra's eyes was kindling brightly now, and her breath
came quick and short; nevertheless, it was in a tone of the coldest and
quietest dignity that she answered;--

"I am not quick at reading riddles--be so good as to tell me, plainly,
what you mean."

"As plainly as the subject allows," returned Doctor Remy, in a tone
that was in itself a taunt.  "I mean that the names of Astra Lyte and
Bergan Arling are ringing together from one end of the town to the
other, in a way which, it may readily be believed, is not pleasant to
my ears.  It is confidently asserted--and believed--that a secret
engagement exists between them.  That is to say; the lady has long
admitted the gentleman to a degree of daily intimacy and familiarity,
which she could not with propriety have accorded to any other than her
promised husband;--some say, not even to him.  Mr. Arling has been
observed to be in her studio for hours together; he has been seen
strolling with her in the outskirts of the town; the twain have been
noticed talking earnestly together in that out-of-the-way spot known as
the oak amphitheatre.  On all these occasions the lady has been
observed to be so much the more demonstrative of the two, as to give
rise to the suspicion that the gentleman's sudden journey westward has
been taken, mainly, for the purpose of freeing himself from
entanglements not approved by his better judgment."

As these atrocious sentences fell, one by one, with distinct and
cutting emphasis, from Doctor Remy's lips, Astra rose to her feet; the
flush on either cheek settled into a vivid crimson spot, in the midst
of a deadly pallor; her eyes darted fire; her lips trembled with the
rush of an indignation too tumultuous, as yet, for word or action.
Noting these signs, Doctor Remy congratulated himself upon the
successful progress of his experiment.  Already, the lioness was at
bay; with a little more provocation, she would think only of vengeance.

He resumed his statement.  "At first, of course, I paid no attention to
these rumors; my ears and eyes were closed against them by that blind,
foolish trust in you, of which I have spoken.  By and by, they came
thicker and faster, and in a shape to compel my consideration.  I began
to understand that the possible heir of Bergan Hall possessed an
immense advantage over the humble physician;--although it might be well
to keep a hold on the latter until the former was secure, and his
inheritance certain.  By way of two strings to the bow, there might be
two secret engagements.  I commenced an investigation.  I traced the
reports which I have mentioned back to their source--"

"You did!" interrupted Astra, with indignation that she could no longer
repress.  "Instead of sending these foul slanders back down the throats
which invented them, you--"  She stopped, choked by her bitter sense of
indignity and wrong.

"--took the pains to verify them," rejoined Doctor Remy, coolly
finishing her sentence.  "Every accusation was established in the
mouths of several witnesses.  Arling himself had spoken frankly, as
well as lightly, of his engagement, to more than one person."

"It is false, and you know it!" exclaimed Astra.  "Mr. Arling is
incapable of such baseness."

"Never mind defending _him_," said Doctor Remy, with a curl of the lip.
"What have you to say for yourself?"

Astra walked to the door, and flung it wide open.  "I have _that_ to
say," she replied, turning upon him with a look of ineffable scorn, and
a queenly gesture of dismissal.  "Go!"

Doctor Remy stood for a moment irresolute, with an unwonted flush of
shame rising to his brow.  The climax had not only come sooner than he
anticipated, but in an unexpectedly embarrassing shape,--a shape that
gave him a sudden, startling perception of the vileness of the task
which he had set himself to do.  Naturally, he was inclined to be angry
with Astra for the action to which he owed this moment of
self-recognition; yet, on the whole, it was the most bewitching thing
that he had ever seen her do.  Never had she attracted him so strongly
as while she thus stood pointing him to the door.  Her free and noble
attitude, the wonderful vividness of her expression, the maidenly
dignity of her tacit refusal to descend for one moment to his level,
and discuss with him the points that he had raised, thrilled him with
involuntary admiration.  It irked him to think that he must needs give
her up.  Was there really no way to keep her, and at the same time win
Bergan Hall?  He sent his thoughts back over the road which they had
trodden so often, during the past fortnight, and decided once more that
the risk was too great.  He must persevere in the course upon which he
had entered.  Nor did a little present mortification matter, in
comparison with hopeful progress.  Astra was only helping him forward
in the way that he wished to go.  How easily the affections and
passions of others became the puppets of his will!

Nevertheless, it was not without a softened, almost regretful, tone
that he finally said,--"If I go, Astra, you understand that our
engagement is at an end."

"Our engagement!" repeated Astra, looking at him with a kind of
scornful amaze.  "How dare you insult me thus?  I was never engaged to
you,--never!"

Doctor Remy stood aghast.  For one moment, he believed that her senses
were taking leave of her.

"Never!" repeated Astra, with proud emphasis.  "I was engaged," she
went on, after a moment, in an altered and tremulous tone, "to a
MAN,--a calm, wise, noble man,--not a monster, nor a piece of
mechanism.  I was engaged to an earnest seeker after truth, a
courageous grappler with problems that other men shunned, an honest
speaker of his own thoughts and moulder of his own opinions,--a man
who, though he might be temporarily led astray by the very excess of
his virtues of candor, boldness, and integrity, would be sure to come
right in the end.  He is dead,--or he never lived, except in my
imagination,--_requiescat in pace_.  But to _you_,--a body without a
soul, an intellect without a heart, a will without a faith, a kind of
human beast of prey, intent on nothing but the gratification of his own
selfish ends,--to you I was never pledged.  I would as soon have bound
myself to a corpse, or a calculating machine."

"This is plain talk, Astra," said Dr. Remy, growing pale with anger and
mortification.  "If you were not a woman, it would be easier to answer
it."

"It is not only plain talk, but plain sight," replied Astra.  "The
scales have fallen from my eyes; at last, I see you as you are.  The
most that can be said for you, as well as in excuse for my late
infatuation (for I would not seem altogether despicable in my own
eyes), is that great and rich capabilities have been miserably
perverted, in your person.  A grand soul has somehow been strangled
within you.  Some hidden canker--beginning I know not when nor where,
but to which your surgeon's knowledge ought to have impelled you long
ago to put the surgeon's knife--has slowly eaten out everything that
was sound and good, in your moral system, and left nothing but
rottenness.  And it is now too late for remedy.  If it were not,--if
there were any hope that I could help to save you, by clinging to
you,--I think I have the strength and courage to do it.  As it is, I
should only corrupt myself.  Indeed, I fear it will be long ere I get
rid of the virus of doubt and captiousness, which, I find, you have
already introduced into my mind; and of which that figure" (she pointed
to the statue of clay) "is the legitimate outcome.  You have given a
bias to my mode of thought, which has already shaken my faith to its
foundations,--and might, in time (but for the scathing commentary of
your life upon your opinions), have destroyed it.  Leave me now.  We
have done with each other."

Perhaps Dr. Remy's good angel, absent from his side for many years,
hovered, at that moment, above his head, with a wistful--almost a
hopeful--face.  For, at last, the strong man was visibly affected.
Some chance word of Astra's had found a joint in his iron armor, and
penetrated to the living flesh.  His lip trembled,--it may have been
with an unshaped prayer to Astra to make that effort to save him, of
which she had declared herself capable,--it may have been with a sudden
perception of the barrenness of his life, and the valuelessness of its
ends, disposing him, for a moment, to try whether any richer realities
were to be reaped from an unselfish human affection and an
unquestioning heavenly faith.

But not thus easily and quickly was the whole bent of a life to be
changed, not thus the holding of the cords of evil to be loosed!
Suddenly, between him and Astra, rose a vision of Bergan Hall, with its
immense revenues, its ancient and aristocratic _prestige_, the vast
power and influence that it would impart to capable hands, the abundant
means and leisure that it would allow for scientific pursuits.  For, if
Doctor Remy lived for anything besides himself, it was for science.  He
had managed to persuade himself that the interests of the two were
identical.  He had embodied his selfishness, as it were, in a theory;
for the development, confirmation, and proclamation, of which, he
believed that he desired leisure and wealth, far more than for himself;
and through which he meant to be a benefactor to his race, as well as
to wreathe his own name with undying laurels.  On the one hand, then,
was this wide prospect of wealth, freedom, usefulness, and fame; on the
other, Astra, and a life of restrictions and limitations, narrowed down
to the daily necessity of daily bread.  Quickly he made his choice.
The angel spread his white wings, and flew upward,--never to return!

Doctor Remy turned to Astra, and held out his hand.  "Let us part
friends," said he.

"Not so," replied Astra; "let us part--as we are to remain--strangers.
No need to mock the sacred past with the commonplace civilities of
ordinary intercourse.  The relation that once existed between us is
simply dead, not changed into something else."

"As you will," returned Doctor Remy, after a pause.  "At least let me
wish you a short mourning, and a bright thereafter.  Adieu."

He went out as he spoke, closing the door behind him.  In his
excitement, he used more force than he was aware of, and it fell to
with a clangor that reverberated loudly through the large, uncarpeted
room, and jarred painfully upon Astra's nerves.  She shivered, and her
eyes fell upon the clay figure.  Apparently, it was trembling with
sympathetic emotion; it even bent toward her, as if suddenly endued
with life; for one moment, the old fable of Pygmalion seemed coming
true, in her modern experience.  Then, the limbs gave way, the trunk
fell forward, down went Bearer and Child together, the faces of each
giving her one last, distorted look of malign meaning, ere they crushed
into fragments on the platform.

"It is not the only ruin that he has left behind him," murmured Astra
to herself, with a sad and bitter smile.

In another moment, she too began to sink.  The long fever of suspense
was ended; the excitement that had carried her through the late trying
interview was over; the inevitable time of reaction and depression had
come.  The thought of the terrible blank left in her heart and life, of
the woful loss of affection, faith, and hope, that she had suffered, of
the miserable waste in her past, and of the chaotic emptiness in her
future, came over her with awful force.  Slowly she sank, as if an
invisible weight were pressing her to the earth.  Settling upon her
knees, she leaned her head on the ruins of her statue, and shook with
sobs of tearless agony.

She knew not how long a time went by thus; it seemed to her to stretch
its slow length over an age.  But it is a merciful provision that acute
sorrow soon exhausts itself.  The mind, like the body, has beneficent
limits to its power of endurance.  In due time, Astra exchanged the
anguish of wretchedness for its torpor.  Her sobs died away, the
convulsive trembling of her frame ceased, she sat up and looked around
her with a face of quiet misery.  Perhaps it was a little hard, too.
Her pride was coming to her aid in bearing the burden for which, she
told herself, she was largely accountable, and must therefore struggle
along with as best she could.  It was miraculously heavy, it would tax
all her strength and resolution, she saw that plainly enough; but she
forgot to look into it for any sign of divine origin, or promise of
divine help.  The baleful effect of Doctor Remy's influence still
followed her, making God an overhanging Law, instead of a surrounding
Love.  She could not even read aright the lesson of her own fragments
of clay!

She was struggling up to her feet, when Mrs. Lyte hurriedly entered,
holding an open letter in her hand, and looking both frightened and
bewildered.  Perhaps nothing could have been better for either mother
or daughter, at that moment, than to see the other's troubled face.  In
both countenances, there was a quick change of expression,--something
of sorrow and anxiety gone, something of loving sympathy in its
place,--as each uttered the eager inquiry;--

"What is the matter?"

Fortunately, Astra was not obliged to answer.  Mrs. Lyte instantly
discovered the fallen statue, and connected it, though not without a
degree of surprise, with her daughter's woe-begone face.  For Astra had
been wont to bear disaster with more fortitude!  Still, this was the
largest work that she had yet undertaken; besides, she had seemed so
far from well, of late!  Mrs. Lyte's heart thrilled with motherly
sympathy.

"I am so sorry!" she said, pityingly.  "Is it an utter ruin?"

"Utter," replied Astra, with dreary emphasis.  "But never mind about it
now.  What has happened to distress you?"

Mrs. Lyte put the letter into Astra's hand.  "Read that," said she,
"and see what you can make of it."

It was not without difficulty, under the pressure of her own misery,
that Astra made herself comprehend the purport of the document before
her, through the disguise of the legal terms wherein it had duly been
couched by the lawyer employed by Major Bergan.  With enlightenment,
however, strange to say, came a quick sense of relief.  Here, at least,
was a necessity for action; and the trouble which is attended by that,
is never so great as one which calls only for patient endurance.
Besides, how glad would she be to leave Berganton at this juncture, to
escape at once from its curiosity, its sympathy, or its censure, to be
spared the pain of meeting Doctor Remy's altered face, and the
irksomeness of going on with the old life, in the old scene, after it
had lost all the old color and substance.  Her face brightened so much,
as she looked up from the letter, that Mrs. Lyte gave a sigh of relief.

"Then it is not so bad as I thought," said she.

Astra's heart smote her for her selfishness.  She reflected what grief
it would cause her mother to be thrust out from the home endeared to
her by so many and sacred associations.  Her face fell, and her heart
sank again.  Covering her eyes with her hands, she burst into a sudden
passion of tears,--a softer agony than had shaken her before, but still
so plainly an agony disproportionate to the occasion, that Mrs. Lyte's
eyes suddenly opened to the perception of some hitherto unsuspected
sorrow.  She put her arms round her daughter, and drew her head on to
her bosom, as in the days of her childhood.

"What is it, darling?" she asked.

The soft tone, the affectionate touch, the motherly sympathy, were
irresistible.  Before she well knew what she was doing, Astra was
pouring forth all her sad story.

"Oh, mother!" she moaned, as she finished, "if we could only go
away,--just for a time, at least, until I have recovered myself a
little!  If we could only go at once, too, without explanations or
farewells!"

"We will, my child," returned Mrs. Lyte, soothingly,--"that is, if I
can manage it."

Then followed a long consultation.



VIII.

A BUSINESS LETTER.

From Astra's studio, Doctor Remy went to his office, and devoted an
hour to the task of writing a letter; which seemed to make an unusual
demand upon his skill, either of composition or penmanship.  Three
different sheets were defaced and destroyed, ere the work was
accomplished to his mind.  The epistle was addressed to Mrs. Lyte,
enclosing what purported to be the amount of an old, outlawed debt to
her deceased husband; of which the debtor, having recently met with a
stroke of good fortune, was glad to relieve his conscience.  In good
time, after making a short _détour_, it arrived at its destination; and
played an important part in events, by furnishing Mrs. Lyte with an
opportune sum of ready money.

Five days afterward, as Major Bergan was about to sally forth for his
customary morning visit to his beloved rice fields, a letter was put
into his hands.  It ran as follows:


"DEAR MAJOR BERGAN: I duly received your notice of foreclosure, and I
thank you for the measure of forbearance that you have hitherto
exercised toward me.  As you are doubtless aware, I have no means of
paying off the mortgage, except by the sale of the property which it
covers.  As I am about to leave Berganton, for a time, on account of my
daughter's health, I hereby surrender my house and grounds into your
hands, to be sold, or otherwise disposed of, as you may deem best for
our mutual interests.  If they sell for more than the amount of the
mortgage (as I hope they will), I know I may safely trust to you, as a
man of honor, and a good friend of my late husband, to hold the balance
subject to my order.  You will find the house in charge of my old and
faithful servant, Cato; whom I also venture to commend to your kind
care, until I shall be able to send for him.  I cannot find it in my
heart to sell him; besides, he is too old to be of much value, though
still quite able to earn his bread, on your plantation.

"This is not a man's way of doing business, I am well aware; it is only
a woman's way of shirking responsibility, in matters that she does not
understand.  I know that my interests are safer in your hands than in
my own.  As soon as I am comfortably settled anywhere, I will let you
know my address.  Till then, believe me,

  "Very truly yours,
      "CATHERINE LYTE."


It will be seen that this epistle was a masterpiece of diplomacy, in
its way.  Though it proved Mrs. Lyte to be a most unbusiness-like
woman, it none the less evinced her thorough knowledge of the one-sided
and contradictory character of the man with whom she had to deal.
Grasping and impracticable as Major Bergan would be sure to be, with a
surly and obstinate debtor who met him squarely on his own ground, she
believed that he would not fail to show himself scrupulously just, and
even generous, to the woman who, without a word of reproach or
remonstrance, quietly resigned herself and her affairs into his hands,
to be dealt with according to his good pleasure.

In this conclusion, she was justified by the event.  A more astonished
and disgusted man than Major Bergan, after he had mastered the contents
of her letter, it would be hard to find.  For once, even his brandy
bottle was empty of comfort.  He could only partially relieve his mind,
while his horse was being saddled, by pouring forth volley upon volley
of curses; distributed, impartially, at first, among Mrs. Lyte, Doctor
Remy, his nephew, his frightened servants, and himself.  Later, his
wrath began to concentrate itself on Doctor Remy.  That personage had
undoubtedly influenced him to the commission of the act which he now
stigmatized, in his most emphatic manner, as unworthy a Bergan and a
gentleman.  In return, he threatened to break every bone in the
doctor's body, and grimly consigned the fragments to a place of deposit
always much in favor with men of his habits.  Finally, he mounted his
horse, and trotted rapidly toward Berganton.

His first visit was, of course, to Doctor Remy.  With the most
imperturbable good humor, that gentleman listened to the flow of his
oaths and objurgations, until it had partially exhausted itself by its
own fury.  He then assured the Major that his surprise and regret at
Mrs. Lyte's departure were fully equalled by his own.  The thing had
been managed so quietly and adroitly, that he had not suspected it,
until his attention had been attracted by the deserted look of the
house.  At the same time, he must acknowledge that it was only a short
time since he had advised Mrs. Lyte to try a change of air, both for
herself and her daughter; and doubtless that had had its share in
influencing her action.  Besides, it was on the whole the best thing
that could do to take Miss Astra out of the way, until the present
cloud of gossip had blown over.  Finally, he threw out a suggestion
that the twain had possibly gone to join Mr. Arling.

Hereupon, Major Bergan's wrath broke out afresh.  It was not in human
nature--certainly not in that particular species of human nature
represented by the Major--to hear with equanimity that the very measure
which he had taken to prevent what he considered to be an unsuitable
marriage, had possibly availed to hasten it forward.  The walls of the
doctor's office trembled with the oral thunderbolts launched at the
offenders.  In due time, however, these also subsided into the low
growl of the exhausted tempest; dying away, at last, in muttered
imprecations upon that curious turn of events--the grim humor of which
the Major was now quite capable of appreciating--which had made him the
trustee of Mrs. Lyte's affairs, and the guardian of her interests.

To the Major's credit be it spoken, that he was incapable of betraying
the trust thus committed to him.  Quitting Doctor Remy's office, he
went in search of old Cato, put the premises in his charge during the
absence of his mistress, promised him an occasional visit of inspection
(and a sound thrashing if all was not found in complete order), made
due provision for his maintenance, and then took himself grumblingly
home, to drown the remnant of his chagrin in the Lethean glass that had
already swallowed up so many of his better thoughts, impulses, and
characteristics.

Of course, Mrs. Lyte's departure--or flight, as it was not infrequently
termed--made the nine days' wonder of Berganton.  Some few gentle,
charitable souls there were, no doubt, who, judging their neighbor by
themselves, saw no harm either in the fact or the manner of her going.
She was ill; so was her daughter; they had neither time nor heart for
leavetakings.  But there were others, wise in the crooked ways of the
human heart through much practice therein, who scrupled not to find
motives and objects for the course of the pale-faced widow and her
gifted daughter, with which it is not necessary to stain this page.
There was the more room for this, inasmuch as Major Bergan, partly out
of consideration for Mrs. Lyte, and partly out of shame on his own
account, had taken care that the existence of the mortgage should not
transpire.  Yet Mrs. Lyte had depended upon the ultimate disclosure of
this fact, to furnish that explanation of her departure which she had
shunned to give herself, and to turn the current of popular sympathy in
her favor.  In yielding to Astra's morbid desire not only to leave the
scene of her untoward love behind, but to do it in such swift and
silent wise that neither curiosity, nor sympathy, nor malevolence,
could immediately follow them, to inflict their various torture upon
her sore heart, Mrs. Lyte had looked confidently forward to this
forthcoming justification of her step.  Her old friends, she thought,
would be sure to understand the feeling that led her to flee from the
sight of the sale of her lifelong home (it might be under the
auctioneer's hammer), and to shut off all means of communication
between herself and the painful transaction, until time had given her
strength to bear it.

Next to Major Bergan, the person who felt most aggrieved at the fact
and manner of her departure was Carice.  Astra, to be sure, had not
failed to send her friend a brief note of farewell; but it was couched
in such vague terms, owing to the confusion and distress of mind in
which it had been written, as to afford little satisfaction to the
reader.  She could only gather from it that, in one way or another,
Astra's happiness was very seriously compromised; so much so as to make
a change desirable, though it were only a change of pain.  And, in
Carice's present circumstances, this was either too much or too little.
The rumors which had filled Berganton had found their way to Oakstead
also; and, for the first time in their lives, parents and daughter were
divided in sentiment, and alien in sympathy.  Mr. and Mrs.
Bergan--terrified that their idolized child should have given her heart
to a man persistently held up to view as a thin mask of outward
morality over an inward rottenness of intemperance, indebtedness, and
unscrupulous trifling with affection--could think of no better way of
correcting the mischief than by continually repeating in her unwilling
ears the various dark rumors in circulation, together with such facts
and theories as tended to confirm them.  Carice, on her part, turned
from them all with the instinctive disgust of a pure mind, and the
generous faith and confidence of a true affection.  And she was right.
Trust, as long as it is in anywise possible, is the heart's deepest
wisdom, as well as its surest instinct.

Nevertheless, it was hard to find her parents arrayed against her, with
all the rest of the world.  Duty, decorum, forbade her to set up her
own opinion in opposition to theirs; often she had but to listen in
silence to statements and inferences which she could neither admit nor
disprove.  She would have been glad, therefore, had Astra's note
furnished one scrap of evidence in support of her own convictions; on
the contrary, its testimony went quite the other way.  She could only
neutralize its effect upon herself by supposing that Astra had given
her affections to Bergan unsought, and was now suffering from a
disappointment none the less bitter that she had brought it upon
herself.  But Carice was too delicate and generous to breathe this
suspicion aloud; at the same time she knew that it would have no weight
with minds so deeply prejudiced as those of her parents.

Carice's worst trial was, however, her growing wonder why nothing was
heard from Bergan.  His last words to her had been a promise to write
immediately, both to her father and herself,--to the former by way of
frankly avowing his love, and asking for permission to address his
daughter; to the latter, as a necessary sequence to that brief
interview by the singing river, the thought of which was Carice's one
subject of delightful contemplation.  But no letter came, not so much
as a word of regret or excuse for necessary delay.  As time dragged its
slow length along, a touching look of wistfulness, mingled with a
sorrowful patience, came into the face that had lately been so serenely
happy,--a look over which Mr. and Mrs. Bergan scarcely knew whether
most to lament or to rejoice, it was grievous to behold it there; and
yet, if Bergan would only keep silent, she must eventually give him up!

Alas for Carice! there was no doubt whatever that Bergan would keep
silent--or seem to do so.  Her parents' minds would have been set at
rest on that point, if they could invisibly have followed Doctor Remy
into the Berganton Post Office some weeks previous, and listened to his
conversation with the pale, slight, weak-looking young man in charge.
One month before, he had so obstinately and successfully fought death
at the bedside of this young man's newly wedded wife, as to call forth
an unusual amount of gratitude.  To this fact he now alluded.

"Well, Jekyll," said he, "I have come to make trial of that eternal
gratitude which you swore to me, not long ago."

"I am glad of it, sir," responded Jekyll, warmly.  "What can I do for
you?"

"The question is rather, what _will_ you do for me?" returned the
doctor, with marked emphasis.

"Anything, anything, that is not wrong," replied Jekyll.

"Right and wrong are relative terms," replied Doctor Remy, quietly.
"If you had understood the nature of the drugs which I gave your wife
the other night, you would have said that I was trying to poison
her;--yet, you see, I saved her life.  It is the motive which
determines the character of the act."

"Y-e-s, sir," rejoined Jekyll, considerably bewildered; but,
nevertheless, feeling quite certain that so learned a man as Doctor
Remy must understand these matters a great deal better than he did.

"And so," continued the doctor, suavely, "what I am about to ask you to
do, is not really wrong, though it may seem so at first sight.  It is
only a quiet method of averting a great deal of trouble and scandal
from a very worthy family.  Should you recognize this handwriting, if
you were to see it again?"

Jekyll looked at the paper held towards him, and answered,--"Yes,
certainly; it is--"

"Never mind whose it is," interrupted the doctor; "it is just as well
not to know anything about that.  Well, Jekyll, what I want you to do,
is simply to keep a sharp lookout for any letters, in that handwriting,
which may come to Godfrey Bergan, or his daughter, or his wife, and
hand them over to me."

Jekyll opened his eyes wide with surprise and terror.  "Good gracious!"
he exclaimed, "it's a penitentiary business!"

"Not at all," replied Doctor Remy, calmly.  "In the first place, no one
will know anything about it but you and me.  In the second, you are not
doing this thing for your own advantage, but just to help me to save
certain excellent people from sore sorrow and trouble."

Jekyll did not answer, but he still looked dismayed and unconvinced.

"If it will ease your scruples any," pursued the doctor, after a pause,
"I don't mind telling you, in confidence, that Mr. Godfrey Bergan very
much desires the suppression of these letters, though he does not want
to appear in the matter himself.  And you must admit that he has a
right to control the correspondence of his own household.

"But why does he want his own letters stopped?" asked Jekyll.

"For the best of reasons,--he does not want to receive them.  He
prefers to be able to say that he hears nothing, and knows nothing.
Therefore, you will readily understand that nothing is to be said, or
even hinted, to him.  He puts the matter in my hands, and you are
responsible to me only."

It is unnecessary to trace the conversation to the end.  Its results
are already patent to the reader.  Doctor Remy was specious and
plausible; Jekyll was weak and grateful; the yielding of the pliant
nature of the former to the stronger one of the latter, could only be a
question of time.



IX.

SMOOTHER THAN BUTTER.

No sooner was the way made clear, by the removal of Bergan and Astra,
than Doctor Remy began to visit assiduously at Oakstead; taking good
care, at first, that the object of these visits should seem to be
anything but Carice.  He came to discuss local politics or town hygiene
with Mr. Bergan; or he sought to interest his wife in some newly
discovered object of charity.  By and by, it was a mere matter of
pleasant habit, apparently, that he stopped at Oakstead four or five
times a week, as he came and went on his professional rounds.

If Carice was absent, on these occasions, he never asked for her; if
she was present, he rarely addressed his conversation to her;
nevertheless he weighed every word, and shaped every sentence, with
artful reference to its effect upon her ear and mind.  Every resource
of his tact and skill was exhausted, in his effort to attract and keep
the attention of the fair, silent girl, sitting in the shadow, with the
drooping head, and the patient, preoccupied face.

It was long ere he could congratulate himself upon any measure of
success.  The little that Carice had hitherto known of Doctor Remy, she
had intuitively disliked.  She now acknowledged that she had scarcely
done him justice in her thought; or he had changed since then.
Occasionally, in his mention of his poorer patients, there peeped out
traits of thoughtful kindness and generosity,--or something that looked
like them,--for which she would never have given him credit.  She was
glad to know that he was better than he had seemed.  But here the
matter ended, so far as she was concerned.  She did not care for him,
personally; she shunned his visits, as much as possible; when compelled
to be present, she oftenest sat a little apart, thinking her own
thoughts over her embroidery or her drawing, and letting the brightest
flow of his conversation pass by her unheeded.

But so consummate a social strategist as Doctor Remy was not thus to be
baffled.  One day, he took fitting occasion to bring Bergan's name into
his talk,--speaking of him quietly and unconcernedly, as it was natural
to speak of a man with whom he had been intimately associated for some
months,--and speaking of him kindly, too, as of one for whom he
entertained a real regard.  Carice turned away her head, and tears
sprang to her eyes.  It was so long since she had heard Bergan's name
spoken in a friendly tone, and unaccompanied by a disparaging
commentary!  When she ventured to look at Doctor Remy, it was with a
soft, grateful expression, which he did not fail to detect and
understand.  There was a certain wistfulness, also, as of a flower
which, having been refreshed by one little drop of unexpected dew,
opens its petals for more.  This, too, the doctor understood, and was
too wise to disappoint.

"By the way," said he, turning to Mr. Bergan, "perhaps I can give you
the latest news from your sister,--I had a letter from Mr. Arling this
morning."

Carice's heart gave a great leap, of mingled pleasure and pain.  At
last she was to hear something;--yet, certainly, it ought not to be in
this roundabout way.

"It will be the earliest news as well as the latest," responded Mr.
Bergan, drily; "I have heard nothing, as yet."

"Is it possible!" exclaimed Doctor Remy, with well-feigned surprise; "I
had no idea of that.  Still, severe sickness is an engrossing guest in
a house, as I often have occasion to notice; outside friends are apt to
be forgotten, or rather ignored, except as they can be made useful.
Probably, Arling would not have written to me, if he had not wanted
something supplementary to certain medical suggestions with which I
furnished him, when he left, and which seem to have been of use.
Anyway, I am glad to be able to tell you that the fever has passed the
crisis."

"I am glad to hear it," returned Mr. Bergan, heartily enough, yet with
an evident dislike of the subject.  Carice being present, he could not
forget that talking of Mrs. Arling was the next thing to talking of her
son.

Mrs. Bergan, however, was more alive to the demands both of kinship and
of courtesy.  "Is our sister out of danger, then?" she asked with
interest.

"Except as there is always danger of a relapse," answered Doctor Remy.
"Still, judging from Mr. Arling's letter, I should say that there is
good reason to hope that his mother's convalescence will be sure and
swift.  In that case, we may look for him back among us, ere long."

Mr. Bergan frowned; Carice turned away her face, that her gladness
might not be seen shining in her eyes.  This, then, was the reason why
Bergan had not written to Oakstead.  At first, there had been
engrossing anxiety and fear; then, finding that he should soon be able
to come and plead his cause in person, he had not thought it wise to
commit it to the colder advocacy of a letter.  There were many
advantages in a face-to-face discussion; especially where, as he
doubtless suspected, prejudice was to be met and overcome!  And he
could not honorably write to her, until he had written to her father.

Nor would she admit, even to herself, that this explanation did not
quite cover every point, that it hardly excused Bergan for subjecting
her to so long a strain of expectation and suspense.  She was so glad,
poor child! to discern even the outline of a reasonable solution of the
mystery that had so oppressed her!  And, for the rest, was he not
coming soon, to make everything smooth and plain?  Might he not be here
in a few days,--a week,--a fortnight,--at farthest?  Or, suppose it
should be a month:--well, no need for her heart to sink thus,--could a
month ever seem long again, in comparison with that which was just past?


Perhaps it may be well to offset the foregoing scene with one or two
veritable paragraphs from Bergan's letter:--

"The crisis of the fever, Doctor Trubie thinks, was passed a week ago.
But my mother does not rally, in the least.  We just succeed in keeping
her alive--if anything so like death can be called life--by the means
which you suggested.  If she does live, we shall owe it, under God, to
you.  The great obstacle to her recovery, now, is the ulceration
mentioned above; Doctor Trubie warns us that it may terminate fatally,
any day.  If you have any further suggestions to offer, I need not say
how gratefully we shall accept them.

"Can you tell me if they are all well at Oakstead?  I wrote some time
ago, but have heard nothing."

The second of these paragraphs, Doctor Remy had dismissed with a single
reading and a sinister smile; but, over the first, he had knitted his
brows into their sternest, deepest lines of thought,--the look of a man
hurling all his reserved force into the fight, and determined to wring
victory from defeat.

"She must not die!" he muttered to himself,--"that would set Arling
free too soon.  The longer and slower her convalescence, the
better,--but she _must not die!_"

And the return mail carried back to Mrs. Arling's bedside--where the
battle seemed wellnigh over--the strong reinforcements of Doctor Remy's
science and experience, to carry on the fight.

From all of which, it will easily be seen that Carice's days of
suspense were not yet over.  Doctor Remy had artfully lifted her a
little way into the sunshine, first, as a means of commending himself
to her favor, and next, in order that her lapse into the shadow should
be the more complete.

In the first of these objects, he was measurably successful.  Carice no
longer shunned him.  He was certain to see her, soon or late, whenever
he came to Oakstead.  With the current of feeling setting so strongly
against Bergan, in every other quarter, she could not afford to lose
any kindly mention of him, in this one.  Though she still sat a little
apart, it was plain that she lost no word of his conversation.  Her
face, as she listened, had the same look of patient interest, with
which a solitary prisoner might watch for the flight of a bird across
the small square of blue sky which is his only prospect.

Her parents noticed the change, and rejoiced in it, inasmuch as they
did not suspect its cause.  For it must be confessed that Doctor Remy
acquitted himself marvellously well of the delicate task of mentioning
Bergan in terms at once pleasant to the daughter's ears, and void of
offence to those of the parents.  He understood perfectly the art of
constructing two-sided sentences, which gave Carice the impression that
he was the young man's stanch, if undemonstrative, friend, at the same
time that Mr. and Mrs. Bergan found in them abundant confirmation of
their prejudices.

Of course, neither party discussed these impressions with the other.
Carice, feeling the uselessness of the task, had long since ceased to
defend Bergan; her parents, believing that his silence was operating
more powerfully against him than any arguments of theirs could do, had
ceased to attack him.  Nor will it seem any paradox to say that, while
they were unspeakably glad of his omission to write, it was, on the
whole, his worst fault, in their eyes.  They resented the slight to
their daughter none the less, because it hastened the end which they
ardently desired.  To have sought her love was bad enough, but to have
flung it aside so quickly, as a thing of no value, was a thousand times
worse.  Godfrey Bergan gnashed his teeth, whenever he thought of it,
with an indignation for which he had no words.

One day, Doctor Remy, to his great gratification, found Carice alone in
the library; and at once seized upon the opportunity to speak of
Bergan, in kinder and fuller strain than he had ever yet ventured to
do,--though not in a way to suggest that he was aware of any special
bond between his listener and his subject.  He described his first
meeting with the young man, and its immediate results; he sketched
various pleasant scenes and incidents that had come to pass under Mrs.
Lyte's kindly roof; and he dwelt with hearty admiration upon Bergan's
oratorical and intellectual gifts.  Carice listened like one entranced.
Her joy was too perfect to admit of any alloy, even when Doctor Remy
went on to speak of Bergan as a young man whose character was still in
process of formation, whose talents were, as yet, far in advance of his
judgment, and whose kindly impulses often led him into error.  Yet
these few words, of all that had ever been spoken disparagingly of
Bergan, in her hearing, were the only ones that had yet effected any
lodgment in her mind.  So artfully thrown in, among much that was
friendly and encomiastic, as to be scarcely noticed at the moment, the
time came when these words shot up, in Carice's memory, into manifold
thorn-branches of suggestion.

At present, however, she was inexpressibly cheered by this hour's talk
on the subject that lay nearest her heart.  She greeted her parents,
upon their return, with a face so much more like that which had once
been the sunshine of their hearts, that they exchanged looks of
surprise and delight.  They were looks of questioning too.  Was this
pleasant change owing to Doctor Remy's influence?  Was he beginning to
think of Carice, in lover's wise?  Was she beginning to turn
unconsciously from the love that had failed her, to the calm and mature
affection that was certain to stand by her?  Then, by all means, let
the matter so arrange itself.  Though Doctor Remy was not quite the man
whom they would have chosen for Carice, he was infinitely better and
safer than their nephew.  His reputation was fair, his talents
undeniable; he was certain to win eminence in his profession; and
possibly, fame beyond it, as a man of science.  If he had seemed a
little cold and hard, hitherto, love would soften him.  Who could be
otherwise than soft to Carice!

And so, Doctor Remy came and went, and unlimited opportunities were
given him to talk to Carice,--of Bergan, or of anything else,--of which
he failed not to make artful use, with reference both to the present
and the future.  In due time, she came to look upon him somewhat as
Astra had once done,--as a man more wise and calm than tender, more
just than genial, but a man to be greatly esteemed and trusted,
nevertheless; and, certainly a true, if not an enthusiastic, friend of
Bergan.  Yet she never thought of him, strange to say, as a friend to
herself.  Her instincts were far too fine and clear for that.  If ever,
for a moment, she felt inclined to turn to him for sympathy, she
immediately shrank back from him, as powerless to give her what she
sought.  It was precisely the same feeling--though she did not
recognize it as such--with which she would have turned away from an
image in a mirror, which, during a single illusive moment of twilight,
she had mistaken for a living form.

And the days came and went, and another month drew nigh its close.



X.

A WICKED DEVICE.

Carice was strolling languidly along the bank of the creek, the
heaviness of her heart easily discoverable in her absent face and
languid step.  Her eyes rested on the same stream, her ears were filled
with the murmur of the same leaves, which had witnessed her parting
with Bergan, nearly two months before, yet neither made any distinct
impression on her mind; she saw and heard but the flow and murmur of
her own troubled thoughts.  She had noticed a singular change of tone
in Doctor Remy, of late, with respect to Bergan.  He no longer made the
young man the subject of free and frank conversation; if obliged to
mention him at all, he did it with a certain reserve and caution, an
air of picking and choosing his phrases, which at first puzzled, and
was now beginning to alarm, the poor girl, already worn and nervous
with the long sickness of hope deferred.

Her fears, however, took a different direction from what Doctor Remy
had anticipated.  He had intended his alteration of manner to suggest
the grave, stern reserve of a man, who, though he had himself lost
confidence in his friend, is still honorably reluctant to injure him in
the estimation of another.  But from any such suggestion, Carice's mind
was shielded by her loyal faith in her lover, as by an armor of proof.
Dr. Remy's change of manner only served to strengthen her growing
conviction that Bergan's failure either to write, or to appear in
person, could be caused by nothing short of some great and unexpected
calamity.  As her eyes followed a swift cloud-shadow from object to
object of the summer landscape, so her mind followed the dark shade of
her fears from point to point of possible ill.  Perhaps the fever,
quitting his mother, had fastened upon Bergan himself; perhaps he was
ill, suffering, unconscious, dying, even, or--the thought shook her
like a sudden blow--dead!  Gasping for breath, she leaned against a
friendly tree, and closed her eyes, as if to shut out the agonizing
vision, which, nevertheless, rose but the more vividly before her.
Quickly opening them again, she saw Doctor Remy coming toward her from
the direction of the cottage.  He had espied her from the piazza, as he
was taking his leave, after having spent a half-hour with her mother.

She was glad to see him.  He could set her free from the intolerable
chafing of suspense, though it were but to hand her over to the chill
bondage of despair.  He would doubtless have done so, ere this, but for
some request or warning of her parents to the contrary.  How far this
might have let him into the secret of her relations with Bergan, she
know not,--neither did she care much, just now; how far it might avail
to close his lips was a much more important consideration,--still she
believed that she could gather something from the expression of his
face, even though he should think it right to evade her questions.

She seized upon the first opportunity, therefore, to look him, steadily
in the face, though her own flushed a little, as she did so; and to
ask, quietly,--"Have you heard anything from my cousin Bergan lately?"

Doctor Remy's face underwent a quick change of expression, none the
less effective that it was obedient to his will.  "Yes," replied he,
sombrely, "I had a letter from him two or three days ago."

Carice could scarcely restrain a cry of joy; it was such a relief to
know that Bergan was alive, and able to write.  But her immediate
perception that something was kept back, saved her self-possession.

"And my aunt," she went on, as soon as she could, command her voice,
"is she quite recovered?"

"Yes,--that is, I inferred so."

Carice looked a little surprised.  It would seem that Bergan's letter
had made no mention of his mother.  "Has the fever attacked any of the
others?" she continued.

"None."

"And Bergan is quite well himself?"

"He says nothing to the contrary."

Satisfactory as were these replies, in substance, there was a degree of
dryness and brevity about them which was far otherwise.  Unwilling to
quit the subject thus, Carice ventured another query:--"Then, I suppose
he may be expected back very soon?"

Doctor Remy looked grave even to sternness.  "No, I think not."

Carice's heart sank.  "Did he not say when he should come?" asked she,
anxiously.

Doctor Remy seemed to become suddenly aware that she really had
something more than a conventional interest in the subject, and to be
willing to gratify it, to the best of his ability.

"I forget exactly what he said about it," replied he, "but I think I
have his letter in my pocket-book."  He drew forth a closely written
sheet, and glanced rapidly over it, but seemed not to find what he
sought.  Applying again to the envelope, he produced a separate bit of
paper.  "Ah, yes, here we have it, in this slip of a postscript," he
went on,--"'In order to'--um--um--'I think I shall postpone my return
until after Christmas.'  That is all."

Carice stood as in a dream.  Bergan well!  Bergan silent only to her!
Bergan not coming back for three months yet!--her mind utterly refused
to receive three such incongruous ideas.  There must be some miserable
mistake,--but where?  She put her hand to her brow with a piteous
gesture of perplexity and bewilderment.

Doctor Remy, meanwhile, failed not to observe the effect of his words,
though apparently thinking only of refolding and rearranging his
papers.  It was precisely what he had expected; and, feeling quite
secure, for the moment, from Carice's observation, he took occasion, as
he returned Bergan's letter to his pocket-book, to let the postscript
drop to the ground, taking care to conceal it with his foot during the
remainder of his stay, which he wisely made short.

"Can I do anything more for you?" he asked, graciously, as he put up
his pocket-book.

Carice gave a slight start, and turned toward him, with an inquiring
look.  She had heard, but she had not understood.  He repeated his
question.

"No, thank you," replied Carice, letting her eyes go back to the far,
dark line of the pine forest.

"Then I must leave you.  I only stopped to say good morning and
good-bye.  I had already spent my few moments of leisure with Mrs.
Bergan."

He raised his hat courteously, and was gone.

Carice remained, trying her best to reduce the confusion of her mind to
order, and, especially, to discover some clue to the mystery of
Bergan's doings and intentions.  She gave up the difficult task, at
last, with a weary little shake of the head, and a smile of pity at her
own helplessness.

"It is too deep for me," she said to herself, "but Bergan will be sure
to explain it all.  I must just go on trusting till he comes, or
writes.  He shall never be able to say that my faith in him was
conquered by the first difficulty!"

There was something quieting and strengthening in the mere resolve.
Trust has its own special delight,--a far subtler and sweeter thing
than any satisfaction of the understanding.  Carice's face was almost
bright, as she turned to go home.

A folded paper lay directly in her path.  Mechanically she picked it
up; mechanically she read it almost through, before her mind, busy with
other thoughts, began, even vaguely, to grasp its meaning.

It ran thus:--

"P.S. I cannot understand how my foolish engagement to Astra Lyte
should have leaked out.  With all due respect for your opinion, I
cannot think of fulfilling it; indeed, I wrote to break it off
immediately after coming home.  I should never have entered into it,
but for a mistaken notion that it would advance my interests in a
certain quarter.  Finding that it was likely to do just the opposite,
there was nothing for it but to take the shortest cut out of the
scrape.  Never fear for Astra, she does not belong to the Ophelia order
of women, she has pride and pluck enough to carry her through a worse
disappointment; besides, hearts are never broken except in novels and
plays.  I am much obliged to her for leaving Berganton, the affair will
blow over the sooner.  In order to give it time to do so, I think I
shall postpone my return until after Christmas.  "Yours, B.A."


Twice did Carice read the paper's contents through, before she began to
understand what it was, and whence it came.  She had seen Bergan's
handwriting a few times, in notes addressed to her mother; and she
remembered enough of its peculiarities to recognize them in the lines
before her, as soon as her mind was able to grasp the fact that, in
this heartless production, she beheld the postscript which she had seen
in Doctor Remy's hand, and which he had doubtless dropped accidentally,
while replacing his papers in his pocket-book.  That it should have
been deliberately forged, and designedly put in her way--a sort of
moral torpedo, loaded with mischief--was a depth of wickedness, of
which, in her innocence, she could never have conceived.  She could
scarcely make herself comprehend the evil tenor of the words before her
eyes.  She read them over again, with a feeling that either their form
or their purport must change, if she only studied them carefully
enough; it was impossible that she had read them aright.

No, they would not alter.  Her efforts only served to brand them more
deeply on her mind.  She looked up, at last, with a kind of wonder that
the earth was still firm under her feet, and the sky's arch entire
above her head.  It would have seemed more in keeping to have beheld
the universe crashing backward into chaos.

Not that she suffered very keenly yet.  She was too much stunned to
realize the extent of her wounds and bruises.  She picked herself up,
as it were, after the fall and the shock, and walked mechanically
homeward.  Her strength did not give way until she found herself in her
room, shutting her door behind her, and felt what a different being had
gone out of it only a little while before.

An hour after, Mrs. Bergan found her lying on her bed, white and still,
more like a corpse than a living, suffering girl.

"Carice!" she cried, appalled, but not without an intuitive perception
of the truth,--"Carice, my child! what is the matter?"

"I don't know--don't ask me," replied Carice, turning her face to the
wall.

Mrs. Bergan burst into tears, and stole softly away.  Here was a grief
in which even she could only intermeddle as a stranger.  She could
simply commend her child to tenderer, wiser hands than hers.

A day or two went by, and Carice was down-stairs again, white; still,
patient; filling her old place, and doing her old tasks, with a sad
composure that was more affecting than any abandonment of sorrow.  Her
woe seemed to take the form of torpor, rather than of anguish.  It was
that chill and heavy misery, that dismal realization of the actual
presence and power of evil in the world, which never comes to us except
through the sin of some cherished, trusted friend; standing hitherto as
the representative of all that is good and true, the earthly type of
the Divine perfection.  Falling, he falls not alone, but drags down
with him the supports of every earthly confidence, and even makes the
foundation of our heavenly faith to tremble.  Such grief is dumb and
tearless; it coils itself round the heart in cold, serpent-like folds,
chilling the blood, and oppressing the breath; but it makes no single,
special wound, to call forth cries and sobs of pain.

Meanwhile, the yellow fever, as foreseen long ago by Doctor Remy, made
its silent entry into Berganton.  One day a single case was reported in
the outskirts of the town; another week, and there was scarcely a
threshold which it had not crossed, either to strike or slay.  The town
put on sackcloth and ashes; business was suspended, except the business
of nursing the sick and burying the dead; the streets were deserted,
except by hearses and doctors.  Or, it would be truer to say, a doctor;
for Doctor Gerrish, being unacclimated, was one of the earliest
patients; and Doctor Harris, being old and infirm, quickly sank
exhausted; so Doctor Remy was soon left to face the pestilence alone,
and multiply himself as best he could, to meet the demands of a whole
people.

Let us do him ample justice.  All that an iron frame, a steady courage,
admirable executive ability, profound medical skill, and deep
scientific interest, could prompt or do, he did.  He organized and
instructed a corps of nurses, and made them do effective work; he
scattered printed suggestions and directions broadcast over the town,
for the behoof of sick and well; he was himself constantly in the
thickest of the fight, animating the workers, cheering the sick,
wellnigh raising the dead,--doing everything but comfort the mourners,
for that he had neither time nor talent.  The town rang with praises of
his energy and skill; his presence had brought back hope to many a
house whence it seemed to have flown forever, joy into many a heart
that had only made itself ready for sorrow.  Even Carice, as her
private grief half-sank, for the time, under the great wave of public
calamity, was moved to a degree of respect and admiration for the
doctor, of which, two or three weeks before, she could not have
believed herself capable.  There was still a hero, and room for
heroism, in the world!

By and by, Mr. Bergan fell ill, not of the fever, but of one of the
sympathetic diseases, which often go hand in hand with it.  There were
a few days of intense anxiety, during which the wife and daughter
lived, as it were, on the words of Doctor Remy's mouth, and the look of
his eyes.  After these came slow weeks of convalescence, of exacting
feebleness and irritable complaint.

It was during these that Doctor Remy spoke.

Is it necessary to describe the conflict, or designate the result?  On
the one side were parental wisdom, love, and authority, with the strong
sanction of recent danger and present feebleness; on the other, filial
respect, affection, and obedience, and a great self-distrust.  For
Carice remembered that she had taken her own way before, and whither it
had led; now, ought she not to submit to the guidance ordained of God?

October found her bound fast by a promise, held irrevocably to a day.
The outward conflict was over; but the inward struggle, she found, was
scarce begun!  Under that, she paled and wasted; sleep and appetite
forsook her; her eyes grew to have the pathetic, pleading look of a
dumb animal taken in a net.  Finally, worn-out nature took refuge in
apathy that nothing seemed to disturb.



XI

A CLUE.

A chill November day was drawing near its close.  With the evening dusk
snowflakes filled the air, and began to whiten the swells and slopes of
the Arling farm, and lay the foundation of future drifts beside the
doorstep and under the eaves of the Arling homestead.  This structure
had begun life as a log cabin, but had grown, by the simple and natural
process of adding on a room or a wing, as fast as it was required and
could be afforded, into a large, and somewhat picturesque, cluster of
roofs and gables; beneath which there might easily be not only room for
the fullest, heartiest flow of domestic and social life, but also means
and influences to a considerable degree of refinement and culture.

Toward it, a stout, broad-shouldered personage was making his way,
through the dusk and the snow, with a cheery face and an energetic
tread, that plainly minded neither.  Tramp, tramp, went the brisk
footfalls up the gravel walk, the bright brass knocker was made to send
a note of warning through the house, and the wayfarer admitted himself
into a lighted hall, through which he strode to the open door of the
sitting-room at the farther end.

A pleasant family picture was before him.  Bergan Arling, on one side
of the crimson-covered centre-table, looked up, smiling, from the book
out of which he had been reading aloud.  Two of his sisters sat near
him, busy with crotchet needles and bright worsteds.  Still another was
drawing at a side-table; and over her, giving her the benefit of his
criticism, leaned her brother Hubert, scarce two years younger than
Bergan, and so strikingly like him, that one was often taken for the
other, outside the family circle.  At one side of the fire-place sat
the master of the house, a tall, noble-looking man, with eye undimmed
and hair unfrosted by the snows of over sixty years.  Opposite him was
the home's true light and centre, the house-mother.  She reclined in a
large, low easy chair, the paleness on her face half concealed by the
glow of the blazing fire, and her eyes shining with that tender joy and
peace which convalescents sometimes bring back from the edge of the
grave,--a reflection, perhaps, from the paradise that was already
opening before the gaze of the half-freed spirit.

Doctor Trubie paused for a moment in the doorway, to master the details
of the scene.  He has changed but little since he was introduced to the
reader, fourteen years ago, in his medical Alma Mater.  His figure has
gained in breadth and strength, and his features in character, but it
is the same frank, genial face, and the same good-humored smile.  No
one that knew him then, could fail to recognize him now.

In a moment, he caught sight of Mrs. Arling, and hastened toward her
with outstretched hand.  "I don't know whether to congratulate or to
scold you," he began, smiling, yet shaking his head with mild
disapproval.

Hubert Arling came forward to Bergan's side.  "I can settle the
question for you," said he.  "Congratulate her, and scold us.  We
brought her down, chair and all; she did not touch foot to the floor in
the transit."

"Then I will save my scolding until it is needed.  It seems little less
than miraculous to see you here," he went on, turning to Mrs. Arling,
"when I think how things seemed to be going, a few weeks ago.  It has
been a hard pull, and a long one."

"And a strong one, and a pull altogether," added Hubert Arling,
merrily, by way of arresting the tears that he saw starting into his
sisters' eyes.

"The strong pull," remarked Doctor Trubie, "came from my medical
brother, down South."

"You underrate yourself," replied Mr. Arling.  "Of what avail would
Doctor Remy's suggestions have been, without your indefatigable
vigilance, and your professional skill and knowledge to carry them out?"

"That is to say," returned Doctor Trubie, "that a good
commander-in-chief can do nothing without good generals.  At all
events, Doctor Remy is a wonderfully talented fellow.  He seems to keep
not only abreast of medical science, but in advance of it.  That very
suggestion of his, which proved most valuable to us, was mentioned in
my last medical review, as the latest discovery at Paris.  There is
something about his bold, yet scientific mode of reasoning which
reminds me strangely of an old fellow-student.  But Doctor Remy, I
hope, is a better fellow than _he_ was.  By the way," he added, turning
to Bergan, "I came near forgetting that I have brought you a letter
from him, as I judge from the handwriting."

Bergan tore open the letter, and with an apologetic bow to the company,
began eagerly to read it.  Doctor Trubie seated himself by the table,
picked up the rejected envelope, and gave it a critical examination.

"That's what I call a good hand," said he, "a round, clear, energetic
hand, that neither tries your eyesight, nor rouses your distrust.
There is no crookedness nor meanness in it; yet there is plenty of
character; one can see, at a glance, that the writer is bold and
sagacious as well as profound, a man of action as well as a man of
science."

Bergan had finished the letter, which was short; and he now looked up
with a much amused face.  "I ought to tell you," said he, "that Doctor
Remy possesses the rare accomplishment of being able to write with
either hand; he uses the right or the left, at pleasure.  But the two
handwritings are entirely distinct.  That address was written with his
left hand, and so, I remember, were the suggestions and prescriptions
that I handed over to you.  But this letter was written with his right
hand; see what you can make of it," and Bergan pushed the open sheet
across the table.

The change in Doctor Trubie's face was startling.  "This!" he
exclaimed, his voice trembling with excitement, "who did you say wrote
this?"

"Doctor Remy, the same man who wrote that address."

Doctor Trubie glanced back at the letter, and his eyes lit with a
strange, stern joy.  "At last!" he muttered through his set teeth.

Mrs. Arling leaned forward, and her face grew pale.  "What is it,
doctor?" she asked, trembling.  "What is the matter?"

Doctor Trubie glanced at her excited face, and saw what mischief he was
doing.  "Nothing," he hastened to answer, "nothing, only an old sore
pressed on suddenly.  This handwriting reminds me of one that--I never
expected to see again."

He gave the letter a long, moody look, then refolded it, and handed it
back to Bergan.

Mrs. Arling looked anxiously at her son.  "Does Doctor Remy give you
any special news?" she asked.

"Not much.  Uncle Godfrey is better, and the fever is over.  Business
is still dull."

"Then you will not need to hurry back?"

Bergan knelt by his mother's side.  "My dear mother," he whispered,
"you know it is not for the sake of my business that I am anxious to
return, as soon as I may.  I must see Carice, and satisfy myself that
nothing is amiss."

Mrs. Arling smiled, yet she sighed, too.  "Ah, yes, I remember," said
she, "and you are quite right."

Doctor Trubie rose, and came to the other side of Mrs. Arling's chair.
"I am glad to see that I am not wanted here any longer," he began,
pleasantly;--

"But you are wanted," interrupted Mrs. Arling; "you are always wanted,
as a friend."

"Thank you; but I am wanted elsewhere as a physician; so I must take my
leave, for the present."

He shook hands with Mrs. Arling, and gave Bergan a meaning glance, as
he did so.  The young man rose.  "I will walk a little way with you, if
you like," said he.  "I have a boyish delight in the first snow, and I
did not see any last winter, you remember."

The two gentlemen were hardly outside the gate, before Doctor Trubie
asked;--"What do you know of this Doctor Remy's antecedents?"

Bergan narrated the facts which he had gathered, from time to time,
from Doctor Remy's conversation.

"So, he would have us believe," said Doctor Trubie, contemptuously,
"that he transformed himself from a poor lawyer into a scientific
physician, in a year and a half, by the help of a friendly doctor, and
a course of lectures!  There is falsehood on the face of it."

"He had a genius for the study," replied Bergan.

"Aye, I'll warrant! that is the saving grain of truth in the whole
story.  Do you remember the circumstances of your elder brother's
death?"

"Not very distinctly.  I was so young, at the time; and then, you know,
mother could never bear to hear any allusion to them."

"You know that he was murdered?"

Bergan looked surprised.  "I know there was talk of suicide," said he,
"but I thought it was decided that he was poisoned by mistake."

"He was murdered," asserted Doctor Trubie, getting his teeth, "foully
murdered by the man who professed to be his friend,--a man who wrote a
hand as much like this Doctor Remy's as one side of your face is like
the other.  I charged him with it, at the time, and I have always
believed that I should live to see the charge proven."  And he finished
by giving a succinct account of the circumstances attending Alec
Arling's death.

Bergan listened attentively and critically, as became his legal
training.  "I do not understand why the finding of the diamond was such
conclusive evidence of guilt," said he, when the doctor paused.

"Because Roath swore, at the inquest, that he did not touch either
bottle or glass, and did not even go to that end of the table.  That
was where he overreached himself; without that, the stone in the glass
would not have been such a damning circumstance.  He recognized it as
such himself;--else why did he fly?"

"Well, you may be right about the murder," said Bergan, after a little
consideration, "but I think you have mistaken the man."

"Let us see," said Doctor Trubie.  "He is about my height?"

"Yes,--perhaps a little taller."

"He stoops a little?"

"Not at all, he is uncommonly erect."

"He has dark hair?"

"It may have been so, it is prematurely gray."

Doctor Trubie looked a little discomfited.  "Give me a sketch of his
character," said he.

Bergan hesitated.  It was a difficult thing to do, on the instant.  His
impressions of Doctor Remy's character had varied, as he remembered.

"On second thought," said Doctor Trubie, "I will give you one.  All of
him, that is not intellect, is ice.  In religious matters, he is an
utter sceptic.  Socially, he is brilliant; but he has no intimate
friends, and he makes no confidants.  Men and women, to him, are
subjects of study, not objects of affection.  He cares for nothing but
himself and his profession.  And no one cares for him--much.  They may
admire, but they cannot love."

Bergan looked considerably startled.  "Your sketch tallies well with
some impressions of mine, which I did my best to rid myself of," said
he.  "But Doctor Remy has befriended me, from the first, and you
yourself say that he has been largely the means of saving my mother's
life."

"He has had his own reasons for both; Edmund Roath never did anything
without a reason, and a selfish one.  Has he anything to gain by
keeping you out of the way?"

"Nothing, that I can imagine."

"When do you return to Berganton?"

"Mother has consented that I shall start on Monday, if she is no worse."

"She will be much better.  Do not delay longer than that.  I will
accompany you; I want to see this Doctor Remy.  Seeing is believing.
But, mind, not a word of my coming, to him or any one else.  Now, go
back to your mother, or she will be alarmed.  Good night."

Bergan walked back slowly and thoughtfully.  Without being fully
convinced of the truth of Doctor Trubie's suspicions, he was strangely
disturbed and startled.  Reaching the gate, he turned his face
south-eastward, and gazed across the white meadows, toward the dim
outline of the distant hills.  His thoughts overleaped even that far
barrier, and took an air line to Oakstead and to Carice.  Her face rose
vividly before him, not, strange to say, as he had seen it last, rosy
and bright, but pale and piteous, and gazing toward him with a look
that besought sympathy and succor, plainer than any speech.  His eyes
grew moist, his breath tremulous; his heart swelled with passionate
love and longing.

"I will beg my mother to consent to my going at once," said he to
himself.  "I cannot wait another day."

The next afternoon, he was on his way to Berganton, whither Doctor
Trubie was shortly to follow him.



XII.

TOO LATE.

In those days, there was a pleasant spice of uncertainty about Southern
journeyings.  Cars, steamboats, and stages ran in happy independence of
each other and the time-table.  The traveller never knew at what point
of juniper swamp, or pine barren, or cotton plantation, he would be set
down to while away some hours in botanical or ethnological
investigations, if his mind were sufficiently at ease, or in chewing
the bitter cud of impatience, if it were not.  Defective machinery and
lazy officials labored mightily together to miss connections, and
wherever human inefficiency came short, down swept a hurricane from the
skies, and strewed the roads with prostrate trunks of trees, through
which the cumbrous stage coach had literally to hew its path.

More than one such delay attended Bergan's progress southward.  Under
their teasing friction, the shadowy anxiety with which he had set out,
increased to a positive weight of alarm.  Reaching Savalla on the
twelfth evening, he stopped neither for rest nor refreshment, but
looked up a horse, flung himself into the saddle, and set off toward
Berganton at a rapid rate.  Outside the city limits, however, he was
forced to slacken his pace.  The night was dark, no faintest gleam of
moon or star tempered the black obscurity of the tree-arched and
swamp-bordered road.  Compelled thus to feel his way, as it were, it
was near midnight when he came upon the outlying fields of Oakstead.
Reluctantly he told himself that an interview with Carice, to-night,
was out of the question; she and all the household were certain to be
fast asleep, it was doubtful if even the faintest outline of the
darkened dwelling would be discernible through the murky night.  He had
no choice but to ride on to Berganton.

Scarcely had he reached this conclusion, when a radiant window shone
vision-like through the trees; a little farther on, and the cottage,
though yet distant, came full into view through an opening in the
forest, brilliantly illuminated from roof to foundation as for a
festivity of no ordinary magnitude.  Even the surrounding lawn was
lighted up into the semblance of day; and in its remotest corner, a
group of negroes, dancing to some strain of music inaudible to the
wondering spectator, looked fantastic enough for the unsubstantial
images of a dream.

For a moment or two, Bergan suspected his jaded senses of playing him
false, as a step preparatory to taking leave of him altogether.  There
was something too incongruous to be real, between this gay scene of
festivity and the picture presented by Doctor Remy's last letter,--a
dull, silent house, its master a feeble, exacting convalescent, its
mistress and daughter worn out with anxiety and watching.  An intuition
of some unlooked-for calamity seized him.  Putting spurs to his horse,
he dashed over the mile that intervened between him and the cottage, at
a scarcely less furious rate than that with which Vic had borne him
over the same road--how well he remembered it!--just one year ago.  He
did not suspect that he was now to taste the bitterest consequences of
that ride.

In a very few moments, he rode through the open gates of Oakstead.
Here, he found the avenue to the house encumbered with teams and
saddle-horses, tied to every tree and post.  The every-day aspect of
these sleepy animals was like a bucket of cold water to his excited
imagination.  Strains of dancing music, too, came to his ear,--flutes
and violins, none too well played, sent forth the notes of a popular
air.  Plainly, he had been a fool to connect the thought of calamity
with anything so exceedingly common-place as an evening party.  If
Godfrey Bergan chose to call in his friends and neighbors to dance over
his restoration to health, who should gainsay him?  Convalescents had
their fancies, and must be humored.

In this cooler frame of mind, it naturally occurred to Bergan that he
was in no fit condition to face a festal throng.  His appearance, thus
way-worn and travel-stained, would be scarcely more timely than that of
the Ancient Mariner to the wedding guest.  It would look as if he, too,
had a tale of horror to impart, and Carice might be unpleasantly
startled,--Carice, who little imagined him so near to her!  At the
thought, a strange, indefinable thrill and shiver passed over him, hard
to define as either pleasure or pain.

After a moment's consideration, he dismounted, and walked quietly round
to the spot where the negroes still kept up their lively dance.  One of
them, Bruno by name, stood a little apart, a smiling spectator of the
merriment that he was too old to join.  It was easy to touch him on the
shoulder, without attracting the notice of the rest.  The negro turned,
and instantly recognized Bergan; but his exclamation of surprise was
cut short by the young man's significant gesture, and he silently
followed him to a spot equi-distant between the cottage and the dancers.

"All well, Bruno?" was Bergan's first inquiry.

"All bery well, Massa Arling.  You's welcome back, sah.  But I'se sorry
you's too late for de weddin'."

_The wedding_,--the word fell almost meaninglessly on Bergan's ear, so
intent was he upon satisfying himself that his late anxieties had been
groundless.  "And Miss Carice," he went on, "is she quite well, too?"

Bruno smiled.  "Yes, massa, I 'spec so, tho' she do look mighty pale
and peaked, dese yere last weeks.  But dey mostly look so, at sich
times, I s'pose.  She'll be better when de weddin's ober, an' all de
fuss and flurry."

This second mention of "the wedding" penetrated to Bergan's
understanding, and awakened a faint emotion of surprise.

"The wedding!--whose wedding?" he asked.

Bruno opened his eyes wide in astonishment.  "Why, don' you know, sah?
I thought you'd come on purpose.  Miss Carice's weddin', to be sure."

It was Bergan's turn to look more than astonished, confounded.  "Miss
Carice's wedding!" he repeated, as doubting the trustworthiness of his
own ears.

"Yes, sah, to Doctor Remy, sah.  Dey had--"

Bruno stopped short in alarm.  Bergan's face had grown deadly pale, his
blank stare was that of a man who neither saw nor heard.  For a few
merciful moments, he was simply stunned with the suddenness and
severity of the shock.  Too soon his benumbed senses began to revive,
he put his hand to his head, where a dull, heavy pain was beginning to
make itself felt; mechanically he sat down on the grass, and his breath
came hard like that of a man stricken with apoplexy.

With a delicacy not uncommon in his race, Bruno turned his eyes away.
A trusted servant of the household, he had seen Bergan and Carice
together enough to be able to divine something of the state of the case.

Slowly, one by one, Bergan's thoughts came out of chaos, and ranged
themselves into something like order.  This, then, was the reason why
Doctor Remy had so persistently discouraged his earlier return to
Berganton, and allayed his anxiety with plausible statements respecting
Carice and her father,--that he might supplant him in her affections.
But why?  It must be taken as evidence that he had estimated the
doctor's character more correctly than he knew, that it never once
occurred to him as possible that love for Carice had been the doctor's
motive; yet, considered solely as holding the reversion of the Oakstead
estate, her hand was scarcely worth the labor and treachery it had cost.

There was so little to reward investigation in this direction, that
Bergan's thoughts came back to his own blighted hopes, and here he was
pierced with the sharpest pain that he had yet felt.  The treachery of
the doctor was as nothing to the faithlessness of Carice.  Two
months,--yea, two days ago, he would have staked all his hopes for time
and eternity on her truth.  Fair and delicate as was the cast of her
beauty, and sweet and gentle as was her manner, there had always been a
certain quiet steadfastness about her, which was one of her most potent
charms.  All hearts felt intuitively that they might safely trust in
her.  What subtle or powerful influence could have been brought to bear
upon her, to make her so belie herself!

He looked up.  "Bruno, how long has this been going on?"

The negro did not quite understand, but made shift to guess what was
meant.

"De engagement, sah? since October, I b'lieve."

"And how long has Doctor Remy visited here?"

"Oh, a good while, 'bout eber since you went away.  But after massa was
took sick, he come oftener, ob course--ebery day, sometimes two, tree
times a day.  Massa got so--'pendent on him, like, he couldn't bear to
have him out ob de house, one time."

Bergan fell into thought again.  He began dimly to understand something
of the sort of pressure to which Carice had been subjected, and the
motives that had governed her,--not that he held her exonerated, by any
means--only she was a little less culpable than she had seemed, at
first.  But if she had sinned, poor child! how miserably she would be
punished!  What a sterile soil, what a chill, unfriendly climate,
awaited this delicate flower, in Doctor Remy's hands!  It was as if a
lily should think to root itself in a rock, or a rose expect to bud and
blossom on an iceberg.  Besides--why had he not thought of it
before?--to-morrow, perhaps, in two or three days, at farthest, Doctor
Trubie would be here, with authority, if it seemed good to him, to take
this man, _her husband_, into custody as a murderer!

Bergan's was the fine, strong temperament, which rises to the greatness
of a crisis.  With the necessity of action, the chaos of his mind began
to clear itself.  "Bruno," he asked, suddenly, "does--Miss Carice love
this man?"

Bruno looked surprised, as well he might, at the question; but there
was something in Bergan's tone that made him answer at once, and
frankly; "I don' know,--de servants do say she done it to please her
father."

Bergan laid his hand impressively on the old negro's shoulder.  "Bruno,
I must see her at once.  Her happiness--more than her happiness, the
honor and peace of the whole family--is at stake.  Find some way to let
her know, quietly, that I am here, and that I must see her for one
moment.  Hurry! there's no time to waste."

Bruno was so thoroughly mastered by Bergan's earnestness, that he
started swiftly toward the cottage, without a word.  As he ascended the
piazza steps, however, he began to be appalled at the difficulty of the
task that he had undertaken.  Looking into the window, he saw Carice
standing at the farther end of the long parlor, with her bridesmaids
clustered around her.  He could neither get at her, nor she escape,
without challenging a good deal of wondering observation.  While he
stood hesitating, Godfrey Bergan came out into the hall, and caught
sight of his troubled face.

"Well, Bruno, what do you want?"

"I--jes' wanted to speak to Miss Carice," stammered the negro.

The request was an odd one, at that moment; still, Mr. Bergan might
have been moved to grant it, as the whim of an old and faithful
servant, if the negro's disturbed face and faltering tone had not
excited his suspicions that something unusual was on foot.  "What is
the matter?" he asked.  "What do you want to speak to her for?"

Bruno was wholly unprepared for this question.  Vainly he racked his
brains for a plausible answer, but nothing better rewarded his efforts
than,--"I jes' wanted to speak to her, dat's all;"--a reply so little
congruous with his frightened face and voice, that Mr. Bergan's
suspicions were confirmed.  He stepped out on the piazza, and closed
the door behind him.

"How, Bruno," said he, sternly, "I want to know what this means.  Come,
no shuffling; tell the truth."

Bruno's self-possession gave way entirely.  "I--I--I--it's only Mr.
Arling."

Mr. Bergan started.  "My nephew, Bergan Arling, do you mean?"

"Yes, massa."

"What--where?"

"Out dar, under de larches, massa."

"And he--he dared to ask for my daughter?"

Mr. Bergan's voice shook with anger.  Bruno tried to explain, not very
coherently.

"He didn't mean no harm, massa, I'se _sartain_.  He said her happiness
and all you'se happiness, was at de stake."

"Did he!" muttered Mr. Bergan, scornfully.  "Hark you, Bruno, not a
word of this to anybody--to _anybody_, mind you!  Now, go back to your
dance,--I'll see Mr. Arling."


Bergan's impatience had brought him from under the larches to a point
commanding a view of the path to the cottage.  He was both surprised
and disappointed to see his uncle instead of Carice; nevertheless, he
came frankly forward to meet him, holding out his hand.

Mr. Bergan took no notice of the friendly offer.  "How dare you show
yourself here?" he began, his voice quivering with rage.  "How dare you
insult my daughter with your presence, at this time?  Have you not done
harm enough already?"

"Uncle," replied Bergan, gently, "I know not what you mean.  I have
never harmed Carice, that I know of, and now I came here to save her,
if it be not too late.  Oh! uncle"--and here his calmness began to fail
him, and his voice grew eager--"do not, _do_ not let this marriage
proceed,--at least, not until you have heard my story, and have
satisfied yourself of the real character of this Doctor Remy!"

"What have you to say against his character?" demanded Mr. Bergan,
icily.

Bergan felt the full disadvantage of his position.  It was a heavy
charge that he had to make against a man of Doctor Remy's standing,
without documents or witnesses, nothing to substantiate it but his
single assertion.  Besides, to say truth, there was nothing to allege
against Doctor Remy but Doctor Trubie's suspicions.  He hesitated, and
his hesitation was not lost upon his uncle; neither was the want of
assurance with which he finally spoke.

"Uncle, there is great reason to believe--or, at least to suspect--that
Doctor Remy is a--murderer,--the murderer of my brother Alec."

Godfrey Bergan stood in silent scorn.  The accusation struck him as too
extravagant, too baseless, to be seriously discussed.  His nephew must
be drunk, or mad, to make it.  And, now that he looked at him more
narrowly, his face was haggard and his dress disordered enough to befit
either condition.

Bergan saw the impression that he had made, and a cold, sick despair
crept over him.  "I beg of you, uncle," he exclaimed, vehemently, "as
you value your own future peace of mind, put a stop to this unhappy
business, ere it be too late."

"It is too late now," said Mr. Bergan, impatiently, "Carice is already
married."

"Must she, therefore, be left in the hands of a murderer?  Save her, at
least, from further contamination.  If you will do nothing else, call
her, and let her decide the matter for herself."

"Impossible," answered Mr. Bergan, decidedly.  "Carice has already
borne and suffered too much; her nerves are in an exceedingly sensitive
state; this story would kill her, I verily believe.  If you really have
her happiness at heart, go away quietly, and leave her to the care of
the husband she has chosen."

"Chosen?" repeated Bergan, bitterly,--"has she chosen him, or has she
only been forced to wed him?"

Godfrey Bergan's eyes lit.  "You forget to whom you are speaking," said
he, coldly.  "Enough of this, my patience is exhausted.  I have
listened to your drivel longer than it deserves.  The quicker you take
your leave, the better."

Bergan drew himself up haughtily, and his eyes flashed back an
answering flame.  "My patience is also exhausted," said he.  "I have
begged and pleaded long enough.  I tell you now, uncle, that I will not
go, until I have seen Carice, if I seek her out among the wedding
guests."

Godfrey Bergan set his teeth hard.  "Will not?" he repeated angrily.
"_Will not_!  I will have you to understand, young man, that there is
neither _will_, nor _will not_, on these premises, but mine.  On my
soul, if you do not go, and quickly, I will call my servants, and have
you put off from the place as a drunkard and a vagabond."

At this threat, the hereditary temper, scotched in Bergan's heart, but
not yet killed, reared its evil head aloft, and sent its deadly poison
burning through all his veins.

"Call them," he retorted, in a voice deep and low as a distant thunder
peal, and lifting his clenched hand on high,--"call them, if it so
pleases you!  Their blood be on your head, not mine."

Godfrey Bergan was no coward, yet he might well stand aghast at the
unexpected fury of the tempest that he had evoked.  Moreover, to put
his threat in execution, he now saw, to court that publicity which he
specially desired to avoid.  He stood irresolute, questioning within
himself how best to deal with the emergency.

He was saved the trouble of a decision.  While he still hesitated,
Bergan's hand fell by his side, his eyes softened, and a spasm of
anguish passed over his face.  "God forgive me!" he murmured,
shudderingly,--"I, too, was a murderer--in heart!"

He bowed his head on his hands.  Woful was the inner conflict.  Within
his soul, the "black Bergan temper" was gasping out its last venomous
breath, with the clutch of a firm hand on its throat.  Agonizing were
its death-throes.  They ceased at last.  It would never trouble him
more.

Godfrey Bergan, standing by, saw something of the struggle, yet did not
understand it in the least.  "A drunkard's aimless wrath!" he said to
himself,--"quenched in its own fury."

So carelessly does the world construe the deeper soul-conflicts that
come under its observation!

Bergan lifted his head, and his face was ashy pale.  "I go, uncle,"
said he, hoarsely, "since that is your wish.  In all that I have said,
though said never so unwisely, I assure you that I have had only
Carice's happiness at heart; and I pray God that you may not have cause
to rue it, to your dying day, that you did not listen to me!"

He turned and plunged into the darkness, not knowing whither he went.



XIII.

ESCAPED.

Godfrey Bergan stood motionless for some minutes.  His nephew's
persistency had irritated his nerves, if it had not convinced his
understanding.  Nor was he altogether unimpressed by the solemnity of
the young man's parting words.  Though he had not condescended to state
the fact to Bergan, it was still true that he had exacted what he
considered to be very complete and satisfactory evidence, touching the
correctness of Doctor Remy's antecedents, before giving him his
daughter.  Yet it was only after he had recapitulated this evidence to
himself, point by point, and had also taken into account the doctor's
late brilliant achievements, present high standing, and promising
prospects for the future, that he could rid himself of a certain chill
weight of responsibility, which seemed somehow to have been flung upon
his shoulders by Bergan's last sentence.

On entering the cottage, he met Carice in the hall, encircled by her
bridesmaids.  He was half pleased, half startled to see that the
singular listlessness, amounting to a degree of apathy, which had
characterized her for some weeks, had given place to a certain
tremulous agitation.  A round red spot burned on either cheek, where of
late the bloom had been both rare and faint; and her eyes were bright
and wistful almost to wildness.  With a sudden impulse of tenderness,
he put his arms round her, and pressed her to his heart.

"Father," she whispered, with her lips close to his ear, "am I dreaming
or mad?  I have heard a voice in the air--Bergan's voice.  I was
standing by the window, and I heard it distinctly,--no words, only
tones,--pleading, pleading, until I thought they would break my heart.
Then all at once, they changed to anger,--fierce, bitter anger!  And
they ended in despair!  Father, what could it mean!"

"My child," said Godfrey Bergan, after a pause, and there was a
perceptible tremor in his voice, "you are very weak and nervous, and
these wedding gayeties have been too much for you.  Go to rest, and
sleep away your fatigues and your fancies together; joy cometh in the
morning.  The wife of Felix Remy will hear no voices in the air.
Good-night."

He unclasped his arms, and her bridesmaids, again clustering round her,
led her upstairs in triumph.

But no sooner had they freed her from her bridal garniture,--the veil's
soft mistiness, the robe's heavy, satiny folds, the fragrant orange
blossoms, already beginning to fade!--than she put them gently aside.

"Bid me good-night, now," she said, with quiet decision.  "I am very
tired, and I want to be alone for awhile.  Rosa will do the rest."

There was something in her tone which forbade remonstrance; quickly the
door shut out the fresh, young faces, and snowy, fluttering robes.

Was she, as she had desired to be, alone?

Alas! no.  The image evoked by that "voice in the air," had followed
her across the threshold, and still faced her with sad, upbraiding
eyes.  Instinctively, she threw herself upon her knees to exorcise it
by the spell of prayer.  Though no intelligible word might come to her
trembling lips, though not a coherent thought might shape itself in her
dizzy brain, she was, nevertheless, prostrate at the foot of the cross,
and the Saviour would understand!

And so--let us not presume to doubt it--He did, and, moreover,
answered.  But the ways of Providence are utterly inscrutable; and the
answer came in no shape that would have been likely to present itself
to her mind, had she been capable of definite thought.  She rose from
her knees but little comforted.

For the delirious disquietude that had taken possession of her, had its
physical, not less than its mental, side.  The long overstraining of
the delicate nerves, the long overburdening of the heart that knew its
own bitterness, were fast reaching the point beyond which must needs
come fever, or insanity, or death.  Nature--often the wisest of
physicians, when left to herself--had sought to work restoration by
means of the apathy aforementioned, wrapping her mind and heart as with
quilted armor; but the events of this night had pierced quite through
the soft sheathing, and set every nerve quivering with pain.  Unable to
remain long in one position, she soon began to pace restlessly up and
down the room.  She was dimly aware that Rosa had come in, and was
waiting her commands; but she never once looked to see with what a
disturbed and doubtful face the young negress was regarding her.

Getting weary, at last, of her monotonous march to and fro, she went to
the window, and leaned out to bathe her fevered temples in the cool
night air.  Suddenly she cried out;--

"Rosa, see!  Is not that a light in the old Hall?"

"Yes, Miss Carice, it's just that," answered Rosa, impressively.  "It's
in Mr. Arling's room.  He's here."

"Here!" Carice started, and turned round with eager, expectant eyes.

"No, no," Rosa hastened to say, "not here,--at least, not now."

"Not now," repeated Carice, wonderingly.  "When was he here, then?"

Rosa hesitated for an instant, and then flung herself at her mistress's
feet.  "I will tell you," she cried, vehemently,--"master may kill me,
if he likes, but I _will_ tell you!  Mr. Arling was here not much more
than half an hour ago."

Carice smiled,--a strange, wan smile, with no spirit of mirthfulness in
it, but something of gentle triumph, as well as relief.  "It was no
fancy, then," she murmured, softly.

Rosa went on.  "I was walking down by the river--with Tom, you
know--when I thought it must be getting late, and you might want me,
and so I took the short cut through the larches.  And who should I see
standing there but Mr. Arling, and your father coming to meet him!  So
I slipped back behind the trees, meaning to come round the other way;
but I caught a few words, and then I listened;--I couldn't help it,
Miss Carice, if I'd died for it.  For Mr. Arling began to beg and plead
that your father wouldn't let your wedding go on, if he cared anything
about your happiness.  He said there was something dreadful against
Doctor Remy,--oh!  Miss Carice, I don't like to say it, but I think you
ought to know,--he said he was a"--sinking her voice almost to a
whisper--"a murderer."

Carice's eyes dilated with horror.  "A murderer!" she gasped,--"oh! no,
no, Rosa; you could not have heard him right!"

"Indeed I did," rejoined Rosa, firmly.  "That's the very word he
used,--more than once, too.  At least, he said there was great reason
to believe so; and he begged your father to wait until he could make
sure about it.  Oh!  Miss Carice, I never did like Doctor Remy, but I
always liked Mr. Arling, and I don't believe he'd say a word that
wasn't true.  Do pray wait, as he said, until you can find out the
whole truth, before you have anything more to say to the doctor.  Lock
your door, and say you're sick--I'm sure you look as if you might
be--and I'll promise to keep him out, if he were ten Doctor Remys."

And Rosa set her teeth and clenched her hands, in a way that promised
much for her valor in the cause of her young mistress.

Carice put her hand to her brow, and tried to think, but merely
succeeded in bewildering herself with images of horror.  That frightful
word, murderer, continually sounded in her ears, to the effectual
hindrance of anything like connected thought.  Only one idea presented
itself to her confused brain with even tolerable distinctness,--Bergan
was near, Bergan was in possession of knowledge that might yet relieve
her, to some extent, from a burden too heavy to be borne,--a burden
which she ought never to have consented to take upon herself, nor ever
would have done, had she not first been bound fast with a torpor that
benumbed both feeling and will.  Still, having so consented, she would
have tried, but for Rosa's terrible revelation, to endure it patiently.
Now, it seemed to her, this was no longer possible.

Again she fixed her eyes upon the gleaming light from the old Hall; the
only star of hope or suggestion that had yet risen upon her darkness.
What could she do, in her mortal terror and bewilderment, but follow it?

"Rosa," she said, suddenly, "I am going to the Hall.  I must see
Bergan, and hear what he has to say; then I can decide what it is right
to do."

"And so I would," rejoined Rosa, approvingly.  "Just let me slip this
dark wrapper on you, and wind this scarf round your head, and well over
your face,--so;--why, your own father wouldn't know you, if he were to
meet you!  Now, we'll be off."

Carice hesitated.  "No, Rosa, that will never do; our absence would be
quickly discovered.  You must stay and keep the door."

"But, Miss Carice, you can't go alone!"

"I can, and must.  It is the only way to prevent discovery.  Remember,
no one is to be let in, upon any consideration, until I return."

"Let me alone for that," responded Rosa, emphatically.  And having seen
Carice safely down the steps from the upper piazza, and watched her
light form till it was lost among the trees, Rosa returned to mount
guard over the door of the deserted chamber.


Godfrey Bergan had been unaccountably shaken by that brief meeting and
parting with his daughter, in the hall.  Watching her slender form as
it toiled up the staircase, with the languid step that betrays a heavy
or a reluctant heart, he sighed to think with what a graceful alacrity
she had used to flit upward, as if lifted on invisible wings, her happy
smile seeming to make a little illuminated space about her, like the
light which is seen irradiating angelic forms, in old pictures.  A
sudden burden of despondency fell upon his heart, whereof he understood
neither the purport, nor whether it bore reference to her or himself,
but only knew that it quite unfitted him for playing the part of a gay
and gracious host to his guests.  Seeing Miss Ferrars coming toward
him, with her stereotyped smile, an impulse of flight seized him; and
hastily stepping through one of the long windows, he soon found himself
once more under the sighing trees, which were swaying to and fro under
the first breathings of a rising wind.

The night was no longer dark.  Here and there, a star looked through
the broken clouds, and lighted him to the river's bank, down which he
walked slowly; torturing himself, as he went, with that weary
after-birth of doubts and questions, which often follows hard upon the
accomplishment of a cherished purpose.  Had he done well in wedding
Carice to the doctor?  Had he not done wrong in refusing to listen to
Bergan, at least with courtesy and calmness?  Was it barely possible
that there could have been some small grain of truth at the bottom of
the young man's turbid story?  What was the meaning of that odd, wild
look in Carice's eyes?  Had he been thrusting himself, as it were, into
the awful place of Providence, only, by reason of his human
short-sightedness, to work irremediable ruin?

At that moment, a dark, slender woman's figure hurried past him, toward
the ruined foot-bridge, which was near at hand.  "One of my brother's
servants, who has stolen over to dance with mine," he said to himself,
turning idly to watch her progress.

To his utter amazement, at the further end, he seemed to see her cast
herself deliberately into the water!

Godfrey Bergan was a practised swimmer, and, after the first motionless
moment of astonishment, he threw off his coat, plunged into the stream,
which, at this point, was neither rapid nor deep, and swam rapidly
toward the spot where he had seen the body disappear.  Here, the water
was scarcely up to his armpits; in a few moments, he had caught the
floating garments, and borne the lifeless form to land.  The heavy head
fell back on his arm; the scarf trailed away from the white features;
he recognized Carice!

With a thick, muffled cry of horror, the father sank upon his knees,
not so much of devotional intent, as crushed under the double-weight of
his physical burden and mental anguish.

"Oh, God! have mercy upon us!" he ejaculated, brokenly,--"I have driven
my child to suicide!"



XIV.

THE WAY STOPPED.

Bergan Arling, on quitting his uncle, had flung himself into the
surrounding darkness, without aim, without hope; conscious only of an
intolerable burden of grief and despair.  Coming to the river, he had
mechanically strode down its bank.  Mechanically, too, he had crossed
the foot-bridge, when it came in his way; and was scarcely aware that
its last rotten plank, on the Hall end, had given away under his feet,
and that he had narrowly missed being precipitated into the water.  In
due time, he found himself standing before the deserted mansion,
looking up to its dark front with eyes just beginning to be capable of
intelligent vision, and acknowledging to himself that, though his path
had been but blindly chosen, it had brought him to a fitting goal.

"A ruined home, and a ruined life," he murmured, with a kind of bitter
mournfulness,--"they will suit each other well!"

The door was locked, but there was a dilapidated flight of steps
leading to the rotten upper piazza, and the window of his old room
yielded readily to pressure.  The lamp, too, was in its remembered
place, and, having lighted it, he threw himself into a chair, to sum up
the record of his past life, and strike the balance.

Not that he did this consciously.  Although he felt intuitively that he
had reached a turning-point in his path, from whence its course and
circumstance, if not its aim, might well be changed, it was with the
future only--the consideration of the question what to do next--that he
purposed to occupy himself.  But the sight of the familiar room, and
the ancient furniture and ornaments wherewith he had filled it, having
inevitably recalled the period of his first occupancy, and the occasion
of his sudden departure, he could not fail to see how all his life
since had seemed to hinge on that one deplorable incident.  Had he
resisted Major Bergan's will in the single particular of entering that
vile tavern, or refused, first as well as last, to drink at his
bidding, doubtless he would have lost _his_ favor all the same, but he
would scarcely have been so completely subjugated by his own fierce
temper, he would not have commenced his career in Berganton under such
a cloud, he would not have been left to drift in so inauspicious an
intimacy with Doctor Remy, his Uncle Godfrey would not have become so
deeply prejudiced against him,--possibly, even, the course of his love
might have run smooth, despite the verdict of the immortal poet, nor
yet have vitiated its claim to be a "true" one.  What a pregnant
commentary was all this upon that wonderful text of Mr. Islay's
memorable sermon.  How tightly had he been "holden with the cords of
his sins" to a long and wearisome discipline, and a final mystery of
retribution,--a retribution involving, alas! the innocent not less than
the guilty.  Poor, poor Carice! how much easier would it be to bear his
own portion, if only hers could be remitted!

Hark! was not that a cry from the direction of the river?  He leaned
out of the window, and listened attentively; but the sound--if sound it
were, and not the simple product of his own disordered fancy--was not
repeated.  Nothing was to be heard save the low sough of the rising
wind, and the melancholy voices of the trees, as one solemn old oak-top
leaned toward another, and talked mysteriously of some woful event that
it had witnessed--perhaps a century ago, perhaps later--or recounted
drearily the long list of human sorrows and sins and retributions
stored up in its dreamy old memory.  There might have been heard, too,
in its further talk, if only the ear were fine enough that
listened,--something of patience born of sorrow, and blessedness
wrenched from the hand of suffering; of lofty hopes blossoming out of
the ashes of despair, and fair, new temples, vocal with the anthem of
glory to God and good will to man, built over and out of heaps of
ruins.  A few words, too, might have been added of love--human love--as
the crowning grace and gladness of a man's life,--the delicate carving
beautifying the arches, capitals, and pinnacles of the temple, the
thick greenery softening its sharp outlines, and the odorous blossoms
rooting themselves in its angles and hollows; but neither its strong
foundations, its majestic walls, nor the upward spring of its
spire,--and never, in any sense, the object of its rightful worship.

Perhaps Bergan heard something of all this; at any rate, that cry from
the river, whether real or imagined, had broken the thread of his
review of the past, and brought back his mind to the question of the
future.  What was to be done?  Leave Berganton, of course.  The place
was not wide enough to hold Carice and himself, with comfort to either.
If her marriage had been brought about in the way that he suspected,
the sight of him would scarce conduce to her peace; while the sight of
her, in her new relation, could only cause him useless pain.  Moreover,
he had seen, from the first, that Berganton afforded little scope for
talent; none whatever for ambition.  And, now that his life seemed
likely to be limited to its public side, and to have no sweet,
compensating domestic one, he felt the necessity of directing its
course to some quarter where there was room for proper expansion.

Happily, the way was open.  Only a short time ago, he had received a
most favorable offer, which he still held under consideration,--an
invitation to enter into partnership with an eminent lawyer of Savalla,
beginning to succumb to the infirmities of old age, and likely, ere
long, to surrender to him all the active business of the firm.  Nothing
could suit him better.  Here was scope for all his talent, employment
for all his energy.  He would be near enough to Berganton, too, for any
good name that he might win to reach thither, and clear away whatever
prejudice against him still lingered there; yet not near enough to be
necessarily brought into contact with its inhabitants.

So much for the future; what of the present?

First, he would see Mrs. Lyte and Astra, bid them farewell, and arrange
for the removal of his effects.  Then he would hasten to Savalla, to do
the last kindness that it was in his power to do for Carice, even
though it would seem to justify her father's late incredulity and
contemptuous treatment,--namely, meet Doctor Trubie, and dissuade him
from any further proceedings against Doctor Remy.  There was still room
for a doubt that the latter was the murderer of Alec Arling;--let it
remain forever a doubt!  No weapon should be lifted against him, that
must needs fall most heavily upon Carice!

It was gray dawn when this conclusion was reached.  The stars were
fading from the sky, as a hint that it was time to extinguish his lamp.
The East showed a broad rim of light,--only a silver one now, but with
some mystic intimation of the gold to which it would soon be
transmuted.  Was any similar change beginning to show itself in
Bergan's heart?

If so, he was in nowise conscious of it.  His mind having attained to a
comparative degree of composure, his body began to press its claims
upon him with some pertinacity.  It was twenty-four hours since he had
taken food, and nearly double that time since he had slept; this, too,
on the end of a long, tedious journey, and while undergoing sore
anxiety and distress of mind.  No wonder that his head was aching
furiously at the temples, and seemed to have a ponderous weight on top,
nor that he had a sensation of dizziness at times, while a blinding
mist came before his eyes.

He prepared to leave Bergan Hall.  That, too, was to be henceforth, so
far as he was concerned, a thing of the past.  It had given him needful
solitude and shelter, in his hour of deep despair; it had been the
fittest possible place wherein to take leave of the old life and its
shattered hope; but for the new, it had nothing to offer,--except,
perhaps, a warning.  The stream of active, expansive, beneficent life
must forever flow away from its faded splendor, its crumbling
massiveness, its dusty traditions and aristocratic genealogies, and its
corrupt feudal laws and customs, as well as from that moral ruin, its
selfish, tyrannic, besotted master.  Together, they might well be
likened to a half-buried, decomposing corpse; showing still, through
the overspreading mould and fungi, some faint trace of its former grace
and nobility of shape and feature, but chiefly impressing the spectator
with the carelessness of its exposure and the unsightliness of its
decay.

And yet, how strong a hold, after all, had both master and mansion upon
his heart!  Some time, surely, when he should have won fame and fortune
enough to be above all suspicion of self-seeking, he might come back to
visit them, and see what could be done for both.

With this thought in his mind, he was about to quit the room as he had
entered it, by the window, when a light knock on the door arrested his
attention.  Almost immediately, Rue entered, and bade him good morning.

"How did you know I was here?" was Bergan's first startled inquiry.

"I heard you when you came," she answered, quietly, "and I knew your
step.  I always spend this night in the old house; it is the
anniversary of your mother's wedding; and she comes back to me in all
her youth and beauty, and the rooms light up, and flowers sweeten the
air, and there is music and dancing, and the sound of gay young voices;
and then, all goes out, and I remember that earth grows dim as heaven
draws near.  Yes, Master Bergan, I heard you when you came, and I
should have come to you at once, only that there was something in your
step which told me you came with a heavy heart, and would not like to
be disturbed.  It is lighter now?"

"A little, maumer; though it is heavy enough yet."

"And nothing will lighten it but time,--and that means the Lord, for
time is the Lord's servant, and does His will."

"You know, then,"--began Bergan, and stopped, unable to finish the
sentence.

"I know much, Master Bergan; more than you think.  Many voices come to
whisper in the old blind woman's ear."

"Do you know," asked Bergan, suddenly, "why Doctor Remy has married
Carice?"

"Certainly,--to make himself master of Bergan Hall.  The more fool he!
Rue could have told him it was written on the stars that it should have
another and a better master; and the stars do not lie.  But I am sorry
for Miss Carice; I would have saved her if I could, but there the stars
were silent."

"I could have helped the stars in that matter, if I had known," thought
Bergan.  But he only asked, doubtfully;--"How should Doctor Remy expect
to get the Hall by marrying Carice?"

"Because your Uncle Harry has made his will, giving it to her.  Never
doubt me, Master Bergan, I know what I am talking of; and when I tell
you that you shall yet own Bergan Hall, and all the gold that is hidden
in it, and every foot of land that belongs to it, you may believe it as
implicitly as if it were written in your Bible."

Bergan shook his head; the Hall had ceased to have any value in his
eyes, as a possession of his own, or any place in the future that he
proposed to himself.  Apparently, Rue understood his silence as well as
if he had spoken, for she did not press the subject.

She next inquired into his plans, and he explained them to her, as far
as they concerned himself.

"It is well," she said, after a moment of reflection.  "You could not
stay here, of course,--you would be eating your heart out in this dull
place.  Do your duty in the path that lies so straight before you, and
trust God for the rest."

As he quitted the old Hall it occurred to him how strangely events were
repeating themselves.  Once more, Rue stood in the doorway, in the gray
light of the dawn, and promised him its future ownership; once more, he
took the road to Berganton, leaving behind him one phase of his life,
and entering upon a new one.

Arrived at the hotel he learned that the horse, which he had left at
Oakstead on the previous evening, had been sent to the stables, with
strict injunctions that he should be notified accordingly, immediately
on his arrival,--the friendly act, no doubt, of old Bruno.

Here, too, he first learned the absence of Mrs. Lyte and her family; a
piece of information which he received with much unmistakable surprise
and wonder, that the landlord, who, like most of the Berganton folk,
had suspected him of some connection with their departure, was
constrained to believe him innocent.

There being now nothing to detain him in Berganton, he ordered his
horse for an immediate return to Savalla.  First, however, he went to
the breakfast-room, but found that he was unable to eat; food was like
ashes in his mouth; the most that he could do was to swallow a cup of
coffee.

That ride to Savalla remained always a horrible nightmare in his
memory.  Sometimes he was riding through the darkness of infinite
space; sometimes through whirling trees, over a road heaving as with
the throes of an earthquake, and seemingly interminable.  Now and then,
his senses seemed slipping entirely from his grasp, and were only
dragged back by the convulsive effort of an iron will.  Reaching the
office of the Pulaski House, where he was well known, he just managed
to hold them together long enough to scratch a few lines on a sheet of
paper, and give directions for its delivery.  Then, with a wan smile of
relief, he relaxed his hold, and let them slide swiftly away into
oblivion.


Two days later, Doctor Trubie, arriving at the same hotel, according to
previous agreement, was met by the information that Mr. Arling was
lying dangerously ill with that fever which guards, like a flaming
sword, the gates of the sunny South; and the letter was put into his
hands.  Tearing it open, he read:--


"I charge you, by everything that is sacred, to take no further step in
the business that brings you here, until I recover, and we can consult
together; and, if I die, I charge you, as you would have me rest
quietly in my grave, to take none at all.  BERGAN."


Doctor Trubie flung down the letter with a most disgusted face.  "To
think that Roath should escape me thus!" he exclaimed, discontentedly.
"That is, to be sure, if Bergan does not recover.  He _shall_ recover!"

Upstairs he sprang, two steps at a time.  But, once in Bergan's
chamber, his heart failed him.  The patient lay in a stupor that seemed
very near of kin to death.  Two physicians stood by the bed, and the
first words that met his ear were,--"No hope."



PART FOURTH.

A NEW FIELD.



I.

ALIVE IN FAMINE.

Rarely does a man go down to the verge of the grave, and look into its
profound and pregnant depths, without carrying from henceforth traces
of the journey.  His views of life will be truer, if not sadder,
forever afterward.  The laws of moral perspective, though they do not
change, will be better understood; so that objects at a distance are no
longer dwarfed to the understanding, however they may appear to the
eye.  Character becomes the central "point of sight," toward which duty
continually draws converging right lines, by the aid of which
happiness, fame, and wealth, fall into their proper places, and assume
their true proportions.

Bergan Arling was seated in his office at Savalla.  At first sight, it
might seem that he was little changed, but a closer inspection would
have awakened some surprise that the lapse of little more than a year
could have changed him so much.  The youthfulness had gone out of his
face,--that half-eager, half-wistful look which says so plainly, "The
world is all before me, where to choose;"--it was now the face of a man
among men, who had found his place and his work, who had grappled with
many hard problems, and solved some, who was accustomed to deal with
serious subjects in a serious way, and who had withal, a definite rule
and object of life.  In short, it was informed with a positive and
noble individuality, born out of suffering, and not yet wholly
oblivious of the pangs that had given it birth, but certain, in good
time, to attain to the fulness of an inward joy, which, having a deep
wellspring of its own, would be little dependent upon the ebb and flow
of outward circumstance.

Nor had the year been fruitless of exterior results.  Scarcely had
Bergan mastered the details of his new office, when his partner, Mr.
Youle, was taken sick, and he was left to conduct its affairs pretty
much alone.  Several cases of importance being in hand, he was thus
afforded a rare opportunity to achieve a rapid fame.  His reputation
already overshadowed that of many of his legal brethren who had greatly
the advantage of him in years and experience.

From the first, he had made it an invariable rule never to speak
against his clear convictions of right; and it was curious to observe
what an influence the knowledge of this fact was beginning to have upon
the community.  The cause which he embraced, however hopeless its
aspect, always commanded a degree of respect, and was watched with a
certain reservation of judgment, in consideration of his acknowledged
integrity of purpose; while, as a necessary sequence (from which
Bergan, in his humility, would have been glad to escape), the cause
which he was understood to have declined was apt to be pronounced
suspicious in the popular judgment, however it might go in the courts.
So certain is the talent which is known to be conjoined with a pure aim
and an upright life, to win, soon or late, high place and strong
influence, even in a world that disallows its very principle of being!
The visible fruits of righteousness commend themselves to all lips,
whatever is thought of the root from whence they spring.

Bergan's desk was littered with papers, but his eyes were studying only
the opposite wall, half in abstraction, half in perplexity.  Nor did
their expression alter much when the door opened, and he rose to greet
Mr. Youle, who came in slowly and feebly, leaning on a cane.  He was of
medium height, with gray hair, a thin face, and a kindly blue eye; and
it was easy to see, was on the best of terms with his talented young
partner.  No room in that ripe intellect and gentle nature for so
ignoble a passion as jealousy!

"There, that will do, Arling," he said, humorously, when Bergan had
helped him carefully to a chair; "the old gentleman is as comfortable
as he's likely to be,--or deserves to be, for that matter.  Well, how
goes on our case?"

Bergan shook his head, with a faint smile.  "Very badly, I should
say,--if anything can be said to go badly, which is so entirely in the
hands of Providence.  I confess that I can make nothing of it."

Mr. Youle looked grave.  "I warned you in the beginning," said he,
"that there was not a reasonable peg to hang a line of defence on."

"But I believe the man to be innocent," rejoined Bergan.  "And," he
added, smiling, "'I warned you, in the beginning,' that I should never
advocate a cause which seemed to be unrighteous, nor refuse one that
seemed to be just, though the one should offer me a fortune in fees,
and the other not a cent."

"Yes, yes, I know," replied Mr. Youle.  "And I must admit that your two
rules have worked miraculously well thus far; we have lost but one
case, I believe, since you came into the office.  Well, well, such a
vein of good luck cannot be expected to last forever,--after the
nugget, the rock or the sand.  But I don't see how it is that you are
so strongly persuaded of Unwick's innocence."

"You would easily understand, if you had looked into his face once; it
is a clean passport to confidence.  Besides, there is the unvarying
testimony of his past life, as set forth by everybody that knows
him.--sober, honest, frank, kind, religious, everything that is
desirable.  A man does not become a murderer in cold blood, all at
once; he has to prepare himself for it by vice, or intemperance, or a
course of hard, cold, selfish living.  There is always a downward
slope, before the final plunge."

"Granted; but I doubt if you can make the jury see it clearly enough to
ground a verdict of acquittal upon it, in the face of all that terribly
strong circumstantial evidence."

Bergan mused for a little time without answering.  "I cannot rid
myself," he said, at length, "of a conviction that that son of the
murdered man could throw some light on the subject, if he chose."

Mr. Youle stared.  "I did not know that he had been suspected, for a
moment," said he.

"Nor has he.  But he is the one who profits most by the murder, since
he is heir-at-law.  And what a reckless and disobedient youth he has
been!--always on bad terms with his father, when he was at home, and
doing nothing but write letters for money, while he was in Europe.  By
the way, I can't help wondering if he _was_ in Europe, all this past
year; though really, I don't know why I should doubt it.
Well,"--rising and looking at his watch,--"it is time to go to court."

"And, as I am feeling better to-day, I think I'll go along," said Mr.
Youle.  "Since you seem to think that Providence has the case very
specially in His hands,--indeed, I don't mean it irreverently,--I'd
like to see how He conducts it."

"I am glad to think that He _is_ conducting it," said Bergan, in a low
voice; "else I should be utterly discouraged."

The trial dragged its slow length through the greater part of the
morning, without any incident of interest.  One witness after another
came upon the stand, was examined, and dismissed; each adding something
to the weight of evidence against the prisoner, Unwick.  The son of the
murdered man, Varley by name, sat nearly opposite to Bergan, by the
side of the prosecuting attorney; and being of a restless temperament,
as well as gifted with extraordinary facility in the use of a pencil,
he busied himself, as he listened to the monotonous drone of a witness,
with mechanically sketching the faces of the witnesses or the
spectators, or scenes and places that he had visited, recalled to his
mind by the evidence, or by his own roving thoughts.  One of these
caught Bergan's eye, and he furtively watched its progress, while
seeming to be occupied with his papers.  When finished, it was
carelessly dropped on the floor, like those which had preceded it; and
the skilful pencil quickly set to work on a new subject.  In a moment
or two, Bergan dropped one of his papers, in a way to take it well
under the table, and immediately stooped to get it.  When he
reappeared, a close observer might have noticed that the look of
patient watchfulness, which his face had worn so long, was gone; but
the keenest eyes would have been puzzled to read his present
expression.  Was it triumph, or thankfulness, or perplexity, or a
mixture of all?

Mr. Varley was now put upon the stand, to furnish some small link in
the chain of evidence that the prosecution was drawing so skilfully
around the prisoner.  The little that he was desired to say being said,
the opposing counsel politely inquired if Mr. Arling had any questions
to ask.

"One or two, if you please," answered Bergan, quietly; and rising, and
turning toward the witness, he said:--

"I believe you stated, Mr. Varley, that you had never seen the place
where your father died?"

"No; he bought it, and removed to it after I went abroad."

"Have you visited it, since your return?"

"I have not.  I only got here just before the commencement of this
trial, and I have been kept too busy since to find time for the trip."

"Then you have never seen the room where your father came to his death?"

"No, certainly not," returned the witness, beginning to look a little
startled by this unaccountable persistency.

"Has it ever been very minutely described to you?"

Varley hesitated;--more, it was evident, to consider what could be the
possible drift of the question, than to search his memory for a correct
answer.  He finally ventured to say that to the best of his
recollection he had been favored with no such description.

"According to my notes of the evidence taken during this trial,"
pursued Bergan, "the only facts about the room brought out with much
distinctness, were the positions of the bedstead and the window near
it;--does your memory serve you with any additional particulars?"

"N--o," faltered the witness, with symptoms of growing uneasiness.

"Then," said Bergan, with very distinct and deliberate emphasis, "if,
as you say, you never have seen this room, nor heard it minutely
described, how is it that you have been able to make so accurate a
representation of it as this which I hold in my hand?"

There was a breathless silence, while Bergan held up a small, but
distinct, pencil sketch to the view of the pale and trembling witness.

"This sketch," continued Bergan, after waiting a few moments for the
answer that did not come, "as I can vouch, and as many of these
witnesses can testify, is an exact representation of the room in
question, as it would appear from the head of the bedstead;--the very
spot in which, it will be remembered, the prosecution has assumed that
the murderer must have been concealed; and where, doubtless, he
remained long enough to fix all the details of this sketch in his
memory.  Here is the peculiar double window, facing the east, and
wreathed round with vines, which is so marked a feature of the room,
yet which there has been no need to mention, during this trial, except
in the most casual way; and here, on the right, are the round table and
large armchair, where Mr. Varley wrote, and, on the left, an
old-fashioned chest of drawers, with a plaster cast of Shakespeare on
top;--all in their proper places, just as I saw them when I visited the
room, after undertaking the defence of this case.  How is it, I ask
again," he went on, turning to the witness, "how is it that you could
make this sketch, if you never saw the room?"

"Who says he made it?" demanded the opposing counsel, sharply.

"I say it," calmly replied Bergan.  "I saw him draw it, not half an
hour ago, on a piece of the same paper that you are using for your
notes, as you can satisfy yourself, if you choose to compare them.
Besides," he added, looking keenly at the witness, "Mr. Varley will not
deny that he made it."

No, plainly he would not, for he was physically incapable of speech.
He was shivering as with an ague fit, his knees knocked together, his
lips trembled convulsively, but no articulate sound came forth.  In
another moment, he fell forward heavily on the rail that divided the
witness-stand from the lawyers' table.

"Carry him out!  Give him air!" cried a dozen voices; "he has fainted."

"Yes, carry him out," said Bergan gravely, and not without a touch of
compassion in his voice; "since he is not on trial, we have no further
need of him.  But let me recommend that he be not lost sight of, till
this present trial is over."

And it was over very quickly.  The influence of the scene just
witnessed was not to be ignored nor overcome.  Prosecution and defence
were alike glad to waste no time on the road to a foregone conclusion.
The summing up, on both sides, was brief almost beyond precedent, the
judge's charge was correspondingly so, and the jury returned a verdict
of "Not Guilty," without leaving their seats.


"Well," exclaimed Mr. Youle, when he and Bergan had finally succeeded
in escaping from the gratitude of Unwick, and the congratulations of
friends.  "I must say, I never saw such a sudden turn of events as
that, in all my legal experience."  And after a moment, he added, with
unusual gravity, "It does seem as if the blessing of God were with you,
and your two rules, Arling."

"I hope so," rejoined Bergan, quietly, "for I have learned that I can
do nothing worth doing, without it."

"I really think," mused Mr. Youle, "if I were to live my life over
again, I would adopt your plan.  I am afraid that I have helped to save
many a scoundrel from deserved punishment, as well as to rob an honest
man, now and then, of his just rights; and when one comes to look back
on it all, from the stand-point of my age, it does seem as if one might
have been in better business.  Yes, I believe you are right, Arling;
and you have my cordial consent from this time forth, to keep on as you
have begun.  I confess I thought it was a freak, a whim at first, that
would soon give way to the temptations--what we usually call the
necessities--of actual, steady practice; but I see that you have a
solid principle at the bottom which there's no shaking.  Nevertheless,
Arling, you can't expect that your judgment is going to be
infallible,--that you will never mistake the guilty man for the
innocent one, and _vice versa_."

"I do not expect it," answered Bergan, seriously.  "Errors in judgment,
I take it for granted that I shall make, being mortal; but errors in
will, I mean to do my best, with God's help, to avoid."

A plain carriage, with a trim African on the box, was in waiting when
the two gentlemen descended the courthouse steps.

"Come, Arling," said Mr. Youle, in a tone of command rather than
invitation, "go home and dine with me; there are several things I want
to talk to you about."

Bergan hesitated; it was easy to see that the plan did not commend
itself to his taste.

"Never rack your brain for excuses; they won't serve," pursued Mr.
Youle, with good-natured peremptoriness; "I mean to take you with me,
whether you will or no.  It is time for you to overcome your morbid
dislike of society; besides, you will see no one but my own family."

Thus urged, Bergan could only take a seat in the carriage, and be
driven off; albeit, in direct contravention of his inclinations and
habits.  For, although, on coming back to life and health from the
borders of death, he had been quick to hear, and to heed, the plain,
stern call of Duty to work while it is yet day, there had been no
gracious response in his heart, as yet, to that softer voice wherewith
she enjoins brotherly kindness, as well in gentle, social courtesies
and amenities as in deeds of benevolence.  Life had become too serious
a thing, he thought, to be wasted in trifles such as these.  Busy at
the centre of the circle, he had lost sight of the circumference;
intent upon the weightier matters of the law, he forgot the tithes of
mint, anise and cummin, which yet, said the Master, ought not to be
left undone.  But it was a natural mistake, under the circumstances;
and there was still time for him to learn that, in every well-ordered
life, there is a place for little things,--little courtesies, little
duties, little friends.



II.

NEW ACQUAINTANCES.

"Well, Coralie," said Mr. Youle, an hour later, as he preceded Bergan
into the drawing-room of the fine old family mansion that had been the
home of the Youles for many years, "bring out your laurels, I have
brought you a conquering hero."

"Oh! it is Mr. Arling; he is very welcome."  And Coralie, who had seen
Bergan two or three times in her father's office, greeted him with
marked cordiality, and gave him her small, soft hand.

It is odd how strong a resemblance can co-exist with perfect
dissimilarity of features and complexion.  Though she was very
lovely--this Coralie Youle--and with a blithesome and bewitching
loveliness all her own, Bergan had never been able to look upon her,
nor could he see her now, without some deep, keen pain, as from an
unhealed wound.  There were tones in her voice which reminded him of
one that he would hear no more; and she had ways and gestures which
continually awakened memories not yet softened by distance into lines
and tints of perfect purity and peace.  And yet, what an irresistible,
subtle charm in her was this very power to pain him!

"You said that Mr. Arling was a _conquering_ hero, papa," she went on,
turning to Mr. Youle.  "Have you gained the case, then, after all?
That is wonderful indeed!  How did it happen?  Tell me all about it."

Nothing loath, Mr. Youle gave a sufficiently graphic account of the
scene in the court-room, taking occasion to lavish no small amount of
hearty encomium upon Bergan's share in it.

"How I wish I could have been there to see!" exclaimed Coralie, when
the recital was ended, her cheeks glowing with sympathetic excitement;
"it sounds like a chapter out of a novel, rather than a bit of real
life.  Mr. Arling does, in truth, deserve the laurels of victory; and,
by the way--Diva! where are you?--here is some one who is worthy to
give them to him."

No one had noticed, until now, that a lady was standing in the window,
half concealed by the curtain.  But, as she came forward everything
else seemed to fade out of sight, for the moment, and leave only her,
standing there alone in the clear, cold light of her marvellous beauty.

Before this, Bergan's ideal of proud and queenly beauty had been
painted with dark hair and eyes; he now saw reason to change it at once
and forever.  The lady was the most perfect blonde that he had ever
seen.  Her hair was of the palest brown, with only a faint gold light
in it; her eyes were blue or gray, he could not tell which, at the
moment, nor would he have been less puzzled after a much longer
acquaintance; and her complexion was fair and colorless, almost, as
marble; yet never had he beheld anything so stately, so proud, so calm,
and--it must needs be said--so cold.  She came forth from the shadow of
the curtain as Galatea might have done, had she been endowed with life
only, not with love.

Worthy she might be to crown a victor, in right of her queenliness, but
the laurels from her hands, Bergan thought, would be very chill!

"Miss Thane!" exclaimed Mr. Youle, "why this _is_ a surprise, and a
most pleasant one.  It is seldom that you allow any of us to see you
here, except Coralie."

"Because my visits are usually morning visits," replied Miss Thane, in
a low, yet singularly musical monotone, that harmonized perfectly with
her face, "when I know that you are sure to be better engaged than in
gossipping with me."

Mr. Youle slightly raised his eyebrows, in good-humored recognition of
the possibly careless, possibly studied, ambiguity of this explanation;
but he let it pass without comment, as Coralie hastened to present her
guests to each other.

Bergan bowed low, with the graceful deference which always marked his
bearing toward women; but Miss Thane was guilty of no waste of
civility.  She slightly inclined her head, vouchsafed him a single
glance out of her wondrous eyes, and coolly turned back to the window,
to lose herself, a moment after, in a fit of abstraction.

Miss Youle--Mr. Youle's maiden sister, and the mistress of his
household since his wife's death, many years ago--now appeared, clad in
a thick, black silk that rustled like a field of corn in the wind, and
dropped Bergan her stately, old-time courtesy.  And Coralie immediately
began to repeat the story of the trial to her, aided and abetted by Mr.
Youle; from which embarrassing iteration Bergan would have been glad to
escape, by joining Miss Thane at her window, had not her manner seemed
to indicate so clearly that she was amply sufficient to herself, and
did not care to be anything to anybody else.  But the eloquence of
Coralie and Mr. Youle finally came to a pause, if not to an end; Miss
Thane roused from her abstraction; and the party went down to dinner.

Bergan was inclined to be somewhat silent, at first.  Lonely dweller in
offices, hotels, and restaurants, that he had been, for the year past,
he had half lost the habit of conversation; besides, Coralie's tones
continually swept the chords of association in a way to thrill him with
a sombre mixture of pain and pleasure, and keep his mind confusedly
vibrating between the present and the past.  But he was too
conscientiously courteous to allow himself long to remain a dead weight
upon his hosts; and, though it cost him an effort, he was soon talking
with the old ease and fluency, enriched by a profounder thoughtfulness,
and a subtler play of imagination.  In his hands, commonplace subjects
discovered hidden treasures; while loftier themes gleamed and glowed
like stained windows seen against a golden western sky.  Miss Thane
lost something of her apathetic manner, after awhile, and paid him the
compliment of listening with attention, if not with interest.  And
opposite to him was Coralie's listening, speaking face, full of such
quick comprehension and sympathy, that he could scarcely help being
beguiled into a fuller, freer expression of thought, opinion, and
feeling, than he would have believed possible, an hour before.

But was it not Miss Thane's subtle management, rather than Coralie's
sympathy, which finally led the talk into the sombre channels dug by
human disappointments, losses, and failures, and kept it there until
they had returned to the drawing-room?  Then Bergan said, by way of
dismissing the subject:--"But all these things are to be looked at as
materials, not results.  Happy the prophetic vision which sees the
perfect form of the Future rising from the chaos of past and
present!--as a sculptor sees before him, not a rough block of marble,
but the finished statue,--an architect, not shapeless heaps of stone
and mortar, but the grand completed temple."

"Let him but look far enough," rejoined Miss Thane, "and he can behold
a sadder phase,--the statue broken and defaced, the temple overthrown
and prostrate; once more a rough block of marble, and shapeless heaps
of stone."

"Nay," replied Bergan, "it is at that very point that Prophecy should
spread her whitest wings, and soar to the temple not made with hands,
and the jewelled walls of the city let down from the clouds.  Miss
Coralie," he continued, glancing at the open piano, "do you sing?"

"Not much; I play mostly.  But Miss Thane does.  Dear Diva, won't you
sing for us?"

Miss Thane looked at Bergan, but he said nothing.  If he had added a
word to Coralie's entreaty, the chances are that she would not have
sung.  But since she had only Coralie to oblige--Coralie, who alone
seemed to have found the deep way to her heart, and to whom she rarely
refused anything--she went straight to the piano, took the first music
that presented itself, which happened to be Rossini's "Cujus Animam,"
and began to sing, not only with perfect method--that might have been
expected--but with exquisite feeling.  Her voice was a rich contralto,
deep and broad as a river flowing to the sea, and bearing the listener
whither it pleased.  There were tears in the eyes of her auditors, when
she had finished, and would have been, doubtless, had she sung anything
else, for the quality of her voice touched that point of perfection,
which, in this world, gives a pleasure closely akin to pain.

She waited a moment, but no one spoke; then she put her fingers again
on the keys, and, looking far out into the evening dusk, sang a dismal,
hopeless dirge, which Bergan felt intuitively to be her own; and which
wrung his heart with passionate longing and pain.  She would sing no
more.

Yet no one could talk after those heartbreaking strains.  So Bergan
quietly took his leave.

Coralie wound her arm round her friend's waist, and drew her to the
window, to watch him down the street.  "What do you think of him?" she
asked.

"I think--that he has a genius for conversation," replied Miss Thane,
coolly.

"Oh, Diva, you know that is not what I mean!  How do you like him?"

"I like no one--but you.  I think I might respect him in time.  As for
you, little one, take care you do not like him too well."

"Why?" asked Coralie, blushing.

"Because he has buried his heart--the best part of it--in somebody's
grave."



III.

FARVIEW.

Diva Thane, it is perhaps needless to say, was a child of the North.
Her peculiar type of beauty blossoms only out of soil, which, for half
the year, withdraws its warmth into its deep heart, and wraps itself in
a chill, white robe of snow.  She had made her appearance in Savalla,
about a twelvemonth before, unheralded and unknown, had rented the
parlor of a decayed aristocratic mansion as a studio, and had tacked on
the door a card signifying to the public that she was a painter in
oils.  She had thenceforth been an example of that freedom and
independence of life which Art makes possible for its votaries, of
either sex, as a compensation, in some sort, for the sacrifices that
they are bound to make to her.

It soon became known that the Youles endorsed Miss Thane to the fullest
extent, both socially and financially; else society might have given
her a cool reception.  But it could scarcely, in its haughtiest mood,
have meted out to her a fuller measure of scornful indifference than
she accorded to it, when, in due time, it made up its mind to hold out
a condescending hand to her.  She declined its invitations, she took no
notice of its calls, she would none of its patronage.  Just in
proportion as it grew more eager, piqued by her indifference, and
curious to penetrate the mystery which surrounded her, she became
colder and more distant.  Finally, society was compelled to understand
that the sole favor which she would accept at its hands, was
forgetfulness of her existence.

Nor was the public treated much better, in her capacity of artist.
Visitors at her studio found free admission, and opportunity to
examine, at their leisure, the pictures, sketches, and studies, which
crowded the walls; but rarely did she turn from her easel, to give them
more than the briefest glimpse of her statuesque beauty, or the most
concise of answers to their questions.  Generally, she found some
reason for declining their orders; and fully one half of the pictures
on her walls were labelled, "Not to be Sold," while the sale of the
remainder was plainly a matter of the profoundest indifference to her.
It must needs be inferred that she had means of subsistence other than
her art, amply sufficient for her quiet, inexpensive mode of life.

Nevertheless, she worked with indefatigable industry, as well as
undeniable talent.  If her pictures evinced some lack of technical
skill, they were endued with a force and feeling which more than atoned
for its absence; since the one would address itself chiefly to
connoisseurs, while the other went straight to the universal heart.
They covered a wide range of subjects, yet a profound observer would
have traced a certain connection and sequence in them all.  The earlier
and cruder efforts of her pencil were pleasant outdoor
scenes,--children wading in a sunshine brook, farm youths and maidens
tossing about new-mown hay, and village girls dancing under
wide-spreading boughs,--scenes so perfect in their idealization as to
seem familiar to every eye, yet never without that inestimable
something added or eliminated, which constitutes the difference between
the picturesque and the commonplace.  After these came works not only
marked by greater skill of design and felicity of color, but informed
with a deeper feeling;--yet so delicately indicated that none but the
finest instinct would have perceived how softly Love illumined the
landscape, or shone in the smile of the youth, or looked up to the
maiden from her own downcast eyes reflected in the water.  Then came a
sudden change,--pictures and sketches wherein the artist's pencil must
have been driven by some terrible intensity of feeling, to have wrought
with such sombre power;--such as an illimitable desert, with a man
riding fast toward a wan, setting sun, and his long, backward shadow
falling upon a woman's outstretched, yearning hands,--or the black
silhouette of a drifting and dismantled ship, seen against a blood-red
moon, setting in a dun and angry sea,--or a deep and dismal cavern,
with a female figure lying bruised and broken at the bottom of a
fissure, and a man, also torn and bleeding, seen at the end of a long
vista, searching for what he will not find.  These pictures affected
the spectator like a nightmare; there was such a fell shadow of
immitigable fate in them all, and so notable an absence of anything
like hope or faith, that while he acknowledged their power, he
shuddered at their spirit.

Of course, Rumor could not help busying herself with a subject so
inviting as the artist, though so bare of definite results.  She was
variously reported to be an escaped nun, a bride that had nearly lost
her life at the hands of an insane bridegroom, a widow--barely one
month a wife--seeking to throw off an intolerable burden of grief by
the help of new scenes, new faces, and a new manner of life, and an
heiress, fled from the importunities of harsh guardians and an
unwelcome suitor.  It will serve as an indication of the occasional
correctness of the popular instinct, that not one of these conjectures
cast any shadow upon the whiteness of her fame.  Not more inevitably
did her face suggest snow, marble, and whatever was at once white and
cold, than her demeanor suggested their chill purity.  Moreover,
notwithstanding that she led so unfettered and independent a life, as
compared with the majority of her sex--dwelling under her own
guardianship, and ordering her day's routine to her own liking--the
closest scrutiny could not detect anything therein, that was not
austere, lonely, and laborious enough to suit the cell of an anchorite.

Yet, though there was so little in her way of living to suggest
affluence, it soon became known that her hands were open, and her purse
deep, to any claim upon her benevolence.  While it never appeared that
she set herself to seek out objects of charity, to such as came to her,
either in person or by proxy, her bounty was generally far in excess of
the demand.  The only grace which it lacked, was that subtle element of
the giver in the gift, which imparts a sympathetic warmth to the silver
or the gold, as it is dropped in the outstretched hand; augmenting, to
a degree incalculable by any known arithmetic, its power of relieving
the distressed heart.  Though Miss Thane gave generously, she gave none
the less carelessly and coldly.

The only person whom she distinguished by any mark of affection, or
measure of confidence, was Coralie Youle.  The two had been classmates
at a Northern boarding-school, where the native girl had first soothed
and petted the stranger through a severe attack of homesickness, and
then had been devotedly nursed, in her turn, during a trying
dispensation of scarlet fever; in consequence of which a friendship of
more than ordinary warmth and tenacity had grown up between them;
manifesting itself on Coralie's part, by a half worshipping admiration,
and on Diva's, by the strong, yearning clasp of a nature that puts
forth no slender, fragile tendrils, but clings only in virtue of a bend
or coil of its own tough fibre.  To Coralie she was never cold, never
unresponsive; the girl knew that there was no veiled, inner chamber of
her friend's heart to which she had not some time penetrated, and which
she would be allowed to enter again, whenever her presence could throw
one ray of light across its dusk.  With that she was satisfied.  One
thing the two possessed in common--the most absolute trust in each
other.

Still, though Diva always received Coralie at her studio with deep-lit
eyes of welcome, and a hand-clasp into which she had the power of
putting more tenderness than ordinary women would express by a close
embrace, and though she often joined her in long walks through the city
and suburbs, it was rarely that she could be persuaded to visit her in
her own home.  If she did so, it was usually at an hour when she would
be little likely to meet the other members of the family.  It was as a
great favor, therefore, that she had consented to stay to dinner, on
the day when Bergan had met her.  Nevertheless, when Coralie really set
her heart upon anything in her friend's power to give, she always
gained her point.  And so it came to pass that, a few weeks later, when
the family left for their summer residence of Farview, in the
hill-region of the State, she carried Diva with her, for a visit of a
fortnight.

Thither, also, after awhile, came Bergan; yielding to Mr. Youle's
entreaty that he would close the office, for at least a day or two, and
give himself a breath of fresh air.  Secure in his dearly bought
acclimation, he had not purposed to leave the city; anticipating no
worse effect from its summer atmosphere than a kind of dreamy languor,
which, in his present state of mind, was perhaps more to be desired
than any bracing of his energies.  Nevertheless, he had come to feel
for Mr. Youle a degree of filial affection; and he would not pain him
by a churlish disregard of his kindness.

He reached Farview about sunset.  For the last three or four miles, he
had seen the low roof and broad piazzas of his goal looking down upon
him from the hill top, as he journeyed up the valley, and when he
finally stood on the green and flowery lawn, he felt as if his own
being were suddenly and sympathetically magnified an hundred degrees,
so wide was the lovely and luxuriant Southern landscape outspread
before him.  Field and forest spotted it with various verdure; a river
drew a bright, wavy line across it; here, the yellow sunshine brought
out clearly every line and tint; there, the clouds dimmed it with
patches of shadow; and all around was a massive framework of
sunset-gilded hills.

Half involuntarily, Bergan took off his hat.  "How good are the works
of God, and how harmonious in their relations to one another, when we
get high enough to command a wide view of them!" he reverently thought.
"So, too, I doubt not, I shall find it with the dealings of His
providence, when once I have climbed to a proper standpoint whence to
view them as a whole.  Till then, let faith accept the truth which is
hidden from sight!"

A larger party than he had expected to see, was gathered in the
dining-room.  A legal brother, who had received a general invitation
from Mr. Youle to visit him during the Summer, had hit upon this
occasion; one planter from the neighborhood was present by appointment,
and another by accident; and there was also a lady friend of Miss
Youle, with her young daughter, Nina, besides Miss Thane.  The latter
signified her remembrance of Bergan by a cool bow; but it was not until
dinner was over, and the evening tolerably well advanced, that he found
himself in her immediate vicinity.  Coralie had been led to the piano,
leaving him in a somewhat isolated position, near one of the long
windows; and, while the notes of a fairy-like waltz seemed to be
dropping from her slender fingers, as they flitted up and down the
ivory key-board, he thought he might venture to step out on the moonlit
piazza, for a few moments, without being missed.  Suiting the action to
the thought, he discovered that Miss Thane had made her escape before
him.  She was leaning against a pillar, looking out over the
moon-silvered valley with a weary and wistful expression scarcely in
keeping with the calm, icy indifference of her wonted aspect.  With a
brief apology for interrupting her, he was about to retire, when she
spoke, in a tone that seemed to accord him permission to stay if he
chose.

"Coralie's music sounds sweeter outside than within."

Bergan drew near to her, not to let his voice penetrate to the parlor.

"That is true, I suspect, of many things in life.  To feel their full
sweetness, one must get a little out of their immediate sphere."

"Is that true of persons, also?" she asked, with a keen glance.

Some moments elapsed before Bergan could answer.  Compelled by the
question to make a sudden, rapid investigation into the deeper things
of the heart, he was confounded at the unexpected result.  Too
truthful, however, to attempt to hide it, he finally answered,
thoughtfully;--

"In some measure, I think it is.  Miss Thane, did you ever experience
quite that deep delight in the presence of a friend, which you
sometimes (please remember, I say only, sometimes) derive from the
thought of him or her in absence?"

She did not answer the question.  She only said, in a tone of cool
irony;--"You do not flatter your friends, Mr. Arling."  But in another
moment, she exclaimed, with a sudden, startling intensity of passion
and longing;--"Is there, then, _nothing_,--neither love, nor
friendship,--absolutely nothing, which answers expectation, and
satisfies desire?  Horrible, horrible thought!"

"I do not think so," replied Bergan, gently; "though I confess that I
was troubled, at first, by the necessity of answering your question as
I did.  But I now recognize the fact thus revealed to me as very
satisfactory evidence that our affections, our friendships, are to know
a richer and lovelier development than they can ever attain to on this
earth.  In heaven there must be room for every lofty ideal."

Then, with a sudden deep intuition of the real necessities of the soul
beside him, he went on to say;--"Yet there, as here, I suppose, the one
satisfying, completing thing will be the love of God.  The soul was
made to look up, not along a level; it can only find its highest joy in
something superior to itself."

She turned, and looked him intently in the face.

"Do you believe what you say?" she asked, doubtfully.

Very solemnly Bergan answered;--"I do."

"Belief is nothing," she rejoined, after a pause, "action is the test.
Do you _live_ your belief?"

Bergan drew a deep breath.  "I try to do so, Miss Thane."

She went on, seemingly so intent upon her own train of thought as to be
utterly unmindful of the solemn and searching nature of the questions
that she was putting;--

"You feel, then, this all-satisfying love of God in your heart?"

"In some measure, I trust I do."

"And when the sun suddenly dropped, or faded, out of your sky, and the
past became a corpse, and the present a burden, and the future a blank,
what comfort did it give you?"

"The comfort of knowing that all things work together for the good of
those that love God," responded Bergan, not without a momentary wonder
at the curious appositeness of the question to his recent experiences,
but quickly divining that she was looking more into her own heart than
his, in asking it.

"Good," she repeated, musingly; "you did not say, happiness."

"Good is a better word than happiness, in this world.  In the world to
come, they will be synonyms."

She gave him another long, penetrating look.  Then she said, quite
simply, and evidently with no thought or intention of paying him
compliments;--"You have talents, you have culture, you have a clear and
powerful intellect (I heard Judge Emly begin an argument with you just
now, and you soon cut the very ground from under his feet), you have
been wonderfully successful, too, considering your years,--yet you do
not hesitate to bind yourself to these narrow theories."

"Narrow, do you think them?  Broad, rather, since they link eternity to
time, and give one the long outlook and overlook which alone reveal
things in their true relations.  No one can construe this world aright,
or even satisfactorily, without doing it by the light of the next.  As
for intellect, Miss Thane, some of the most commanding intellects of
the world have been defenders of the 'faith once delivered.'  And, if
such had been lacking, there is a certain Book that Time has not been
able to make obsolete, nor Science to nullify, which tells how,
aforetime, God chose the foolish things of the world to confound the
wise: and He can do it again, when the necessity arises."

"You are content, then, to feel that your intellect, your learning,
give you no advantage, in these matters, over the most ignorant of your
neighbors?"

"I am content to know that, in religion as in most other things, though
books may help, thorough knowledge is of experience.  The man who feels
most of the Spirit of God in his heart, and makes it most clearly
manifest in his life, is the man most competent, other things being
equal, to analyze its operations and effects.  Political economy, Miss
Thane, is not the only subject about which men may prate very
learnedly, and know very little."

Coralie's music ceased suddenly.  There was a little stir in the
parlor, and a murmur of voices, as if some subject of interest were
under discussion.

"Go," commanded Miss Thane, "they will be looking for you.  I will
follow you in a few moments."

He stepped back through the window.  Coralie came toward him.  "We are
talking," said she, "of going down to the negroes' camp-meeting, a
little below here; Mr. Sypher was just telling us that it is a sight
well worth seeing, by night.  Will you go?"

"I am entirely at your service," replied Bergan, courteously.

"And Diva!--where is she?  Oh, there she comes."

Bergan turned.  Miss Thane was standing between the curtains, with her
usual expression of calm indifference.

Coralie explained what was wanted.  "Would you like it?" she inquired,
twining her arm round her friend.  "There will be some fine artistic
effects."

Miss Thane looked down upon her, with a softness that Bergan had never
before seen in her face, and which gave it a marvellous beauty.  "I
like whatever you like, child," she answered, evasively.

In the hall, she stopped, and took a shawl from the rack.

"Oh, Diva," exclaimed Coralie, "you will not need that, it is so warm."

Miss Thane stood doubtful, with the shawl in her hand.  Bergan took it
from her quietly, and threw it across his broad shoulder.  "It is
always safe to carry a shawl, if not to wear it," said he, lightly.

There was no formal arrangement of the party.  The path lay through the
fields, and was often too narrow to admit more than one person; at
other times, partnerships of two or three were formed or broken, very
much by chance.  A broad glory of moonshine not only lighted them on
their way, but surrounded them with enchantment,--softening lines, and
deepening shadows, and turning the whole earth into a new creation of
silver and ebony.



IV.

A WORD IN DUE SEASON.

Ere long, the shadowy wood-line was reached, and very soon a red
twinkle of light became visible through the trees, broadening and
brightening as they advanced.  The sweet and solemn notes of a hymn,
sung by many voices, next pervaded the air; and in a few minutes more,
they were standing on the edge of the camp-ground, interested observers
of a singularly picturesque scene.

Opposite to them was the speaker's stand, well lighted, covered with
evergreen boughs, and affording accommodation to a goodly company of
preachers, but too distant to be unpleasantly prominent.  Between them
and it, the whole vast space was crowded with negro worshippers; some
sitting, some kneeling; here, an uncouth figure bowed in an attitude of
absorbed meditation (or, it might be, indulging in a peaceful sleep);
there, a dusky, upturned face, intent, or agonized, or rapturous,
according as the owner was devoutly receptive, torn with conviction of
sin, or blissfully assured of pardon.  From among them the brown trunks
of the forest trees rose straight and shapely as the pillars of a vast
temple; and overhead, the under surfaces of the leaves showed gray and
spectral against the sombre night sky.  Here and there, lanterns were
fastened to the trees, but the place was chiefly illuminated by great
fires of pitch pine, whence clouds of smoke arose ever and anon, and
hung trembling in the tree-tops; and the flames of which, as they rose
and fell, cast alternate glow and gloom upon the upturned faces, and
seemed to work corresponding changes of expression,--sudden transitions
of joy and sorrow for which there was no apparent cause.  Outside of
these fires, scattered groups of spectators now came out into bold
relief, and now lost themselves in shadow; strong profiles caught the
eye, and then vanished; here and there, too, white faces offered an
effective contrast to their darker neighbors.

Altogether, it was a picture to delight an artist's eye; yet Miss Thane
seemed scarcely to enjoy it.  On the way hither she had been silent,
shut up within herself, neither seeking nor giving amusement; and she
now stood a little apart, letting her eyes rove absently from point to
point, but without appearing to take intelligent cognizance of any!
Yet she seemed to be listening, after awhile, to the voice of the
white-haired negro preacher who occupied the stand, and talked of the
comfort of religious faith in a way to argue profound personal
knowledge of the subject,--albeit, his phraseology was illiterate, and
occasionally absurd, calling a smile to some faces in the party.  But
Diva did not smile; her thoughts were evidently far below the surface
of the subject, in depths where the gleaming ripple of the comic was
unfelt and unseen.

The party was considerably scattered.  Miss Youle and her friend, tired
with their walk, had found a seat on the outermost of the benches,
watched over by Judge Emly; the youthful Miss Nina and one of the
planters had gone round to get a view from the other side; Coralie
stood near a fire, listening to the low comments of Mr. Sypher; and Mr.
Youle and Bergan were quite in the background, silent spectators, for
the most part, of what was going on.

The white-haired speaker brought his brief address to a close; and a
number of negroes quitted the benches and came up the path.
Mechanically, Coralie stepped back to make way.

"Take care," exclaimed Mr. Sypher, in a warning voice, "you will catch
fire."

But he was too late.  She had moved within reach of the draft, and her
light muslin robe was wafted into the blaze.  Instantly, she felt the
heat, saw over her shoulder a rising tongue of flame, and with the
insane impulse which usually seizes upon those in like peril, turned to
flee from the danger which it was so impossible to distance.  But
scarcely had she taken a step, before Bergan's strong arm caught her,
and flung her, face downward, on the ground; with a deft movement of
the other hand and arm, Miss Thane's shawl was shaken out and thrown
over her; and, in spite of her frantic struggles, she was held fast by
one knee, while he applied both hands to the task of smothering the
flames.  Miss Thane was the first to come to his aid; then the rest of
the party woke from their momentary stupor of alarm, and joined their
efforts to hers.  In very brief space of time, the work of
extinguishment was complete, and Coralie, being lifted to her feet,
still enveloped in the friendly shawl, was found to be comparatively
uninjured.  Her floating curls were singed at the ends, one arm was
slightly reddened and smarting, and her nerves were considerably
shaken--that was all;--all I where there might so easily have been
death, or torture and disfigurement worse than death.

The whole thing had taken place so suddenly and swiftly, that only such
persons as were in the immediate vicinity had been aware either of the
peril or the rescue; so that it was by chance, as it were, that the
whole vast multitude now burst forth with the solemn old Doxology;--

  "Praise God from whom all blessings flow."


The great wave of sound flowed round and over the little breathless
party, and charitably veiled or soothed its emotions.  Mr. Youle,
standing with his arm round his daughter, bowed his face on her head,
and a large tear glistened on her soft curls; Miss Youle sank on her
knees by the bench where she had been sitting, and wept silently;
others of the party bent their heads, or lifted their hats; Diva Thane
held one of Coralie's hands close clasped in hers, but her face was
turned away.  Suddenly, she threw her voice into the last line of the
Doxology,--

  "Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,"

with a richness and power that were like the swell of an organ.  It
appeared to pervade and sustain the whole chorus of voices, and
impressed them inevitably with its own character; which, to Bergan's
ear, seemed not so much an expression of thankfulness, as the
irresistible outbreak of a feeling that would gladly have given itself
the more effectual relief of moaning aloud, had the opportunity been
afforded it.

A bystander now considerately offered Mr. Youle the loan of his horse
and buggy, and Coralie and her aunt were swiftly driven homeward.  The
remainder of the party walked back as they had come, Miss Thane and
Bergan being in the rear.  As they turned into the narrow wood-path,
she motioned him to precede her; and he quietly obeyed, understanding,
better than she knew, her desire to feel herself free from observation.
Yet he failed not to listen for the sound of her light footsteps behind
him, and to adapt his pace to hers.  Meanwhile, his mind busied itself,
almost against his will, with a new and serious question.  In the
little interval before the starting of the buggy, Coralie had taken his
hands in hers, and thanked him for the service rendered her, with a
look that haunted him still.  There had been nothing in that look but
what was most delicate and maidenly,--an involuntary attempt to help
out with her eyes the broken words which yet expressed her gratitude so
well; nevertheless, it had been possessed of some indefinable quality
which had touched him deeply at the time, and now set him gravely to
question within himself whether he had any right to be the object of a
second look of the kind; at least, while the past was still a desolate
grave, over which no grass yet grew green, no flowers bloomed.  Trained
to look difficult questions in the face, stripping them of all
confusing or meretricious appendages, it did not take him long to
arrive at an emphatic "No," as the only possible answer to this one.
Fortunately, he had not committed himself to any particular length of
stay at Farview, and the sudden recollection of an important paper that
he had locked up in his desk, instead of committing it to the safer
guardianship of the fire-proof safe, suggested itself as an excellent
excuse for a speedy departure.  He decided that he would take his leave
early in the morning, and see Coralie no more until he had determined
that the past had become so far a dream as to admit of a new dream of
the future.

This honorable decision being reached, his mind was sufficiently at
ease to allow him to notice that his pace had gradually become a very
slow one, in half unconscious conformity to the lagging footsteps
behind him,--footsteps which spoke so unmistakably of a troubled mind
or an exhausted frame.  It even appeared that Miss Thane stopped
altogether, now and then, by reason of absorbing thought, or from the
necessity of taking breath.  Bergan hesitated for a moment, divided
between the fear of being intrusive, and the kindly impulse to afford
timely help; but the latter prevailed, and, the path having widened
somewhat, he turned and offered her his arm.  She shook her head
absently, at first; then seemed to become suddenly aware that support
was needful, and accepted it.

"We are privileged to be silent, I believe," said Bergan, as they moved
on together, "only in the presence of strangers or friends.  Count me
in either category, as you please, and do not trouble yourself to talk.
I see you are tired."

"Thank you," returned Miss Thane, in a cool tone of acquiescence.

Across the next two fields, their own linked shadows, sliding slowly
over the ground in advance of them, were not more silent than they.
The voices of their companions, who had far outstripped them, reached
their ears only in subdued and harmonious murmurs.  The moonlight lay
over the earth like a visible blessing of peace; and even threw a kind
of reflected brightness into Miss Thane's heart, by the aid of which
she was better able to try to find some pathway out of its shadows.  In
that one terrible moment, when she had seemed to see Coralie wrapped in
flames, a swift vision of herself, left standing alone in the
world--without relative, without friend, without human affection, hope,
or solace--a lonely, empty, unsatisfied heart--had risen before her,
and left her appalled, even in the midst of her thankfulness that it
was only a vision as yet, and not a reality.  For, how easily, through
the agency of a boat or an engine, a fever or a chill, a thousand
every-day accidents, it might still become a reality!  With what was
she then to supply Coralie's place in her heart and life?

Awhile ago, she would have answered confidently, "With Art."  Now, she
knew better.  For two years she had been testing Art's capacity to fill
and satisfy an empty human heart, and her soul was exceeding bitter
with the unexpected result.  She had painfully experienced the truth
(though she could hardly be said to understand it as yet) that he who
embraces Art with a thought of self and not of service, will find it
turn to ice or to ashes in his arms.  In itself, it has neither balm
for affliction, nor skilful surgery for remorse, nor sunshine to throw
athwart the black gloom of despair.

Out of this bitter knowledge Miss Thane finally spoke, apparently
recurring in thought to their previous talk on the piazza;--

"Mr. Arling, how is one to love God, if one does not?"

It was perhaps the most difficult of all questions to answer.  How are
the blind eyes to be opened, and the deaf ears unstopped?  How is the
frozen heart to be softened, and the slumbering affection to be wakened
into leaf and bloom?  How is the Father to be made acceptable to the
children that are insensible of His goodness, and will none of His
reproof?  And how is the Saviour to be presented unto those to whom He
has hitherto been without form or comeliness, in such beauty as that
they shall desire Him?

"I think, where it is not spontaneous," Bergan answered, after a
moment's consideration, "that such love is most surely to be attained
through prayer and service;--a frequent lifting up of the heart to Him
whom it would fain love; a constant endeavor to do His will, as the
best means of developing and manifesting love."

Miss Thane looked down thoughtfully.  "I have known--a man,"--she began
slowly, with a shade of irrepressible sadness in her tone,--"a man not
less gifted with talent and intellectual power than yourself, and with
a somewhat longer and more varied experience in the use of his gifts,
who would have laughed at the idea of any virtue in prayer, except as
affording a pleasant illusion to a weak mind."

"I, too, have known such a man," replied Bergan, the image of Doctor
Remy rising irresistibly before his mind, and causing a dull ache in
his heart; "but was he--was this man of whom you speak--or had he ever
been, in the devout, habitual use of prayer?"

She shook her head.  "I do not know; probably not."

"Miss Thane, you would scarcely need to have me warn you that no man is
to be accepted as authority, in law or medicine, who is not thoroughly
conversant with the subject, both by study and practice.  So those, and
those only, who pray themselves, humbly, devoutly, persistently, have
any right to pronounce upon the efficacy of prayer."

She looked up at him quickly and keenly.  "Pardon me, but--have you the
right to speak with authority?"

"In some small measure, yes.  I can certify you that the medicine is
good, because I have taken it; that the staff is strong, because I have
leaned upon it; that the weapon is efficient, because I have fought
with it.  Allow me to hope that you do not need the certification."

Her eyes fell, and her cheek flushed slightly, but she answered with
her usual straightforward candor:--"I was never taught to pray;--my
mother died when I was born, and my father believed none of these
things.  I have no habit of prayer."

"Does no one pray for you?"

"I don't know--Coralie, perhaps."

Bergan looked down upon her, and a sudden moisture dimmed his eyes.
His heart was taken complete possession of, for the moment, by a vast,
sorrowful pity for this beautiful and gifted woman, who masked so empty
and aching a heart with so cold a demeanor, impelling him irresistibly
to help her, as he could.

"When you are next asked that question," said he, and there was a deep,
rich melody in his voice, "do not say that you 'don't know,' for I
promise to put up a prayer for you daily, from henceforth, until you
send me word that you have learned to pray habitually and gladly for
yourself.  Hereafter, when you lie down to rest, remember that
another--claiming no title of friend, but simply that of neighbor--has
asked forgiveness for your day, protection for your night, and every
strength that you need for your morrow."

The proud heart was touched at last.  That is to say, Bergan's words
were the effectual "last drop" in the full cup of the evening's varied
emotions,--comparatively insignificant perhaps in itself, but none the
less inevitably productive of overflow.  Miss Thane's lips parted with
a kind of gasp, scarcely distinguishable as sound, but profoundly
suggestive of pain; and a perceptible tremor ran over her from head to
foot.  Suddenly releasing Bergan's arm, she sat down on a fallen tree
by the side of the path, and covered her face with her hands, while
tears, dripping through her slender fingers, glistened gem-like in the
moonlight.

Yet it argued much for her power of self-control, that she made no
sound, nor shook with any sob.  Grief must be content to exercise over
her limited, not absolute dominion.

Bergan withdrew to a little distance, and waited silently, looking out
over the shadowy valley to the fair, flowing outline of the
moon-silvered hills.  Those womanly tears, he was certain, would afford
most safe and seasonable relief to whatever pain and excitement,
whatever distressful memories or dismal forebodings, had resulted from
the evening's events.  For himself, comparative stranger as he was, he
had no right to give Miss Thane more than the silent sympathy of a
heart itself not unacquainted with sorrow.

Suddenly, the deep silence was broken by the soft whirr of wings.  A
bird, flying as straight over the moonlighted fields as if let loose by
an unseen hand for that purpose, alighted in the boughs over the two
motionless figures, and shook down upon them a shower of liquid
notes,--sweet, clear, and joyous,--a very prophecy of hope.

The song being sung, the bird soon spread its wings and flew back to
its nest and its mate.  Then Diva rose, and held out her hand to Bergan.

"I accept your offer," said she.  "Something tells me that the time
will come when I can repay you in degree, if not in kind."

And Bergan, as he took the white, cool hand--empty now, except perhaps
of a half-reluctant gratitude, and a moderate measure of good-will--had
a singular intuition that some day it would be held out to him with an
inestimable gift in it.



V.

INTERCEPTED.

"You are up early," said Diva Thane, when she entered Coralie's room on
the morrow, and found her standing by the window, enjoying the fresh,
fragrant air, and the innumerable sweet and cheery sounds of the summer
morning.  "I thought that you would sleep late after your accident,--or
what came so near to being one."

"How could I sleep late, when I was ordered off to bed so early?"
rejoined Coralie, smiling brightly, and turning her clear brown eyes on
her friend.  "Besides, I had so much to think about," she added, softly
and gravely, letting her glance go back to the flower-beds on the lawn.

But it was evident that her reflections, though possibly not without an
occasional deep bass note of solemnity, had for the most part sung her
a very siren's song of pleasantness and hope; none the less entrancing
because a song without words of definite purport.  The smile and the
flush, with which she had listened, still brightened her face; and a
corresponding light was seen shining from what seemed an interminable
depth in her eyes,--eyes never so deeply illumined till now.  Indeed,
it struck Diva with a kind of vague amaze and sadness, that she had
never seen this Coralie before!  There was an unfamiliar freshness and
softness about her, as if she were newly created.  The brightness of
her face, too, was such as to make her seem more nearly akin to the
summer sunshine falling on her through the window, than to mortal
shadows and sorrows.  In truth, Diva found herself fancying that the
sunshine was a good deal the brighter for the happy glow that it caught
from her features.

Surprised, ere long, at Diva's silence, Coralie lifted her eyes, and
encountered her friend's intent gaze.  Immediately she seemed to become
aware that a wonderfully subtle and delicate insight was making, not
her face only, but her heart, the subject of its deep regard.  The
moment before, she did not know that there was anything in either which
she cared to hide.  Now, as if the existence of some secret were
suddenly suggested to her by the fear of another's perception of it,
she let her eyes fall, and a deep flush overspread her features.

Diva turned away with a sigh.  She felt scarcely less lonely than she
had seen herself in the vision of the preceding evening, when Coralie
had seemed to be passing swiftly beyond her reach and ken, in a chariot
of flame.

Nor was her sadness wholly for herself.  She was gifted with a singular
clearness of intuition, in regard to the relations of others; and
Coralie's face affected her much as it would have done to find a rose
suddenly budding out on a sunny winter's day, and mistaking it for the
beginning of summer.  Still, as is often the case with persons thus
endowed, she did not fully trust her own intuitions, for the reason
that they could give no clear account of themselves to her intellect.
She now told herself, therefore, that her impressions were doubtless
wrong, inasmuch as they were destitute of solid basis; she was even
glad to believe so, quickly losing the thought of herself in that of
her friend.  Or it might be that she was seized with a diviner
selfishness,--the certainty that, if any winter's night of frost and
dusk were in store for Coralie, she herself must needs partake largely,
through sympathy, of its chill and gloom.

As the friends stood thus silent, each busy with her own impressions
(for they were of much too thin a consistency to be called thoughts),
certain sounds from below, coming up to the window, attracted their
notice.  A horse was brought round to the side door, and, soon after,
Bergan's voice was distinctly heard, speaking to Mr. Youle.

"That will do, thank you.  I shall quite enjoy my ride through the
valley, this lovely morning.  Present my adieux to Miss Coralie; I
trust that her night's rest has obliterated every trace of her last
evening's experience.  Good-bye."

"Why, that is Mr. Arling!" exclaimed Coralie, in sudden consternation.
"What can have happened to take him away so suddenly?"

"I heard him telling your father, last night," answered Diva, calmly,
"that he would be forced to return to town early this morning on
business of importance."

"And he did not bid me good-bye!" murmured Coralie, discontentedly.
"Besides, I have not half thanked him for saving me from those dreadful
flames,"--and she shuddered at the recollection.  "Oh, I _must_ speak
to him, before he goes."

She leaned out of the window, apparently with the intention of calling
to him, but it was too late; he was already trotting down the avenue,
followed by the groom who was to bring back the horse.  She looked
after him with a wistful gaze, and her eyes filled with tears.

Diva watched her thoughtfully,--intent, it would seem, upon some deeper
and more perplexing phase of the matter than that immediately presented
to her.  Finally, she said, as if struck by a sudden thought:--

"If you want to speak to him so much, there is a way.  You know the
shorter path through the shrubbery to the entrance gate; we can
intercept him."

"Oh, no!  I could not do that," exclaimed Coralie, shrinking back and
blushing deeply, "he would think--that is, it would look like thrusting
myself in his way."

"He would think nothing," affirmed Diva, coolly, "except that we are
out for a morning walk, as we have a good right to be; there never was
a lovelier sky or earth to tempt one forth.  Come, we must be quick."

And, without waiting for consent, or listening to remonstrance, Diva
seized Coralie's hand, and hurried her down the stairs, and out through
a different door from that by which Bergan had taken his
departure,--where Mr. Youle still lingered,--so that they reached the
shrubbery unobserved.  Here, Diva slackened her pace a little, though
she still kept hold of her half reluctant, and nearly breathless
companion.  They reached the gate before Bergan came in sight.

"Let us go back a little way," pleaded Coralie; "I don't want to be
found waiting here."

"Why not?" asked Diva, composedly, seating herself on a low, broad
stump by the way-side.  "Mr. Arling is not a vain man, he will never
suspect us of waiting for _him_.  But if you must have an excuse for
lingering here,--why, there are some exquisite ferns yonder,--gather
them for your parlor vases."

Coralie hesitated, doubtful whether to stay or flee.  Diva plucked a
dainty leaf of wood-sorrel, and put it between the perfect curves of
her own lips.

"Coralie," she suddenly asked, "how old am I?"

Despite her perplexity, Coralie could not help smiling at the absurdity
of the question.  "Are you losing your memory?" she inquired; "you are
two years older than I."

"Oh, is that all?  I thought I must have been at least a hundred,--it
seemed such an age since I used to eat this green stuff with relish.
But you are certainly young yet, though you do look a year or two older
than you did yesterday."

Coralie quickly stooped over the ferns to hide her deeply-diffused
cheeks.  Diva continued, apparently without noticing her confusion:--

"However, if the little plant has lost much to the taste, it has gained
more to the eye.  I never noticed, in those days, what a delicately
outlined leaf, and slender, translucent stem it had, nor how fresh was
its tint of green.  If Mr. Arling were here, now, he would turn that
into a simile,--something about a spiritual sense developed out of an
earthly one, or a refined enjoyment only to be attained through some
loss of the capacity for commoner pleasures;--isn't that a little in
his style?  Ah! there he is."

Bergan was looking straight before him, so much absorbed in his own
thoughts that he did not see the friends until he was close at hand.
He immediately dismounted, flung his bridle to the groom, and came
toward them with extended hand.

"So you were going to leave without bidding us good-bye," said Miss
Thane, coolly, ignoring the offered hand, but looking him searchingly
in the eyes.

If Bergan felt a little embarrassment under that look, he did not
betray it.

"I supposed that you were not up," he answered, with perfect composure.
"And whoever travels at this season of the year, had best do it betimes
in the morning, before the sunbeams are hot as well as bright.  Miss
Coralie, I am glad to see you looking so fully yourself."

His sentence ended a little abruptly, as if whatever else he had
intended to say was suddenly put out of his head.  He, too, had become
dimly aware of some subtle change or development in Coralie, since the
evening before,--a more womanly grace, a new character of beauty;
which, however, only served to bring the image of Carice vividly before
him--Carice, as he had seen her last, and would never see her again,
under the shadowy pines, by the dreaming river, with the newborn
love-light in her eyes, and the dawn-rose of love in her cheeks.
Scarce knowing what he did, he lifted his hand, to see if, haply, he
might shut out both images together.

Coralie's eyes fell on that hand, which was carefully bandaged from
wrist to knuckles; and the unconquerable shyness which had seized her,
on Bergan's appearance, was instantly dissipated.

"What is that?" she asked;--"oh, Mr. Arling, were you burned last night
in trying to save me?"

Bergan looked at Diva and smiled.  "It is nothing," said he,
lightly,--"only your aunt and Miss Thane insisted upon binding it up
after I got home; and the least that I can do is to wear their kindly
handiwork for a day or two."

"Oh, Diva," exclaimed Coralie reproachfully, the quick moisture coming
into her eyes, "why did you not tell me?"

"Why should I?" replied Diva, with somewhat bitter emphasis; "_hands_
heal quickly."

"Miss Thane is quite right," said Bergan; "the matter was not worth
mentioning.  Certainly, it was not worth one of those tears, Miss
Coralie; you will make me too proud of having gotten a small scratch in
the fray.  If it were ten times as much, it would in nowise offset what
I owe your father.  Now I must bid you farewell, or I shall miss the
train."

"Will you not come up again soon?" asked Coralie, coloring a little,
but strong in the certainty that she could not err in showing her
preserver the most cordial courtesy.  "It must be good for you to leave
the city as often as you can.  And you have certainly earned the right
to consider Farview as your home, whenever it suits you to do so."

"Thank you," said Bergan, bowing in acknowledgment of the kind and
thoughtful invitation.  "But I am necessarily a busy and homeless man,
and it is the truest wisdom for me not to stray too far out of my
proper orbit, lest I get dissatisfied with it.  When I become more
fully and firmly settled therein, a day's absence may not matter so
much; and then, if your invitation still holds good, I shall be only
too happy to avail myself of it."

"It must always hold good, just as a kindness once done is done
forever," replied Coralie warmly, turning a deaf ear to the
unseasonable inner voice that cried out against the coolness and
reserve of Bergan's response, and holding out a tremulous little hand,
by way of signature and seal to her promise.

Bergan gave the hand a friendly pressure, and bowed low to Miss Thane.
"A pleasant summer to you both," said he, "full of flowers and
sunshine, both material and metaphorical.  Farewell."

He lifted his hat as he rode through the gate; very soon a turn of the
road hid him from sight.  Coralie stood looking somewhat wistfully at
the point where he had disappeared.

"Peace go with him!" said Diva lightly.  "He was in a great hurry to
leave us, but he said 'Farewell' in a way to indicate that he should
not be in a hurry to return.  Fortunately, we are not the sort of
damsels to pine after an unwilling knight."

Coralie turned instantly, and, with heightened color, signified her
readiness to go home.

For some days her spirits were fitful and changeable; nothing now so
gay, nothing now so sad, as her smile.  During this time Diva watched
over her with a silent, patient, careful devotion that surrounded her
like the atmosphere, viewless, but beneficent.  She saved her from
annoyance; she shielded her from observation; she stood between her and
her guests, taking up the burden of their entertainment in a way that
would have seemed incredible to those accustomed to see her only
languidly indifferent or coldly haughty.  Though her heart might be
narrow, it was certainly deep.

By and by, Coralie began to smile naturally once more, and Diva was
satisfied that, though the rose could not "shut and be a bud again," it
had received no lasting blight.  If it could be kept from further harm,
it might be expected to develop naturally into perfection of bloom and
beauty,--not the hasty and one-sided maturity that comes of a worm at
the heart.

She could now think of herself.  Unselfish anxiety and effort had been
very good for her thus far, there was not a doubt of that.
Nevertheless, she was beginning to feel urgent need of
quiet,--opportunity to commune with her own heart, and be still,--time
to deal justly and thoroughly with questions seething in her mind ever
since her talks with Bergan.  But it was vain to look for quiet at
Farview; the house was fast filling up with gay guests; and having once
dropped her ice-mantle of reserve, she could not resume it without
giving pain to her hosts.  So, as Coralie was now quite capable of
taking her rightful place as queen of the festivities, and as she had
already stayed twice as long as had been contemplated at first, Diva
went back to her studio.



VI.

AN AIMLESS STROLL.

Late one afternoon, about a month after Bergan's return to Savalla, he
quitted the office, which seemed to have grown unaccountably barren and
dreary of aspect, and set out for an aimless stroll through the city.
The air was fresh and moist from a recent shower, and the slanting
sunbeams were working alchemic wonders in the streets and squares;
turning the polished leaves of the oak and olive trees to silver, and
hanging them with prismatic jewels, enriching the grass with a vivider
green, and the earth with a rich golden brown, and imprinting the
sensitive surface of every tiny rain-pool with a lovely picture of blue
sky, fleecy clouds, and pendent sprays of foliage.

Through all these pleasant sights Bergan moved slowly and half
absently, occupying himself less with their beauty than with the sober
monologue of his own thoughts.  Yet his gaze was not without occasional
moments of intelligence, and in one of these he noticed a child,
attended by a large dog, standing with a curiously doubtful, undecided
air, in the midst of the square that he was crossing.  Suddenly making
up her mind, it would seem, she held out her hand to a gentleman coming
from the opposite direction, who took no further notice of the mute
appeal than was implied by a shake of the head.  The sight was a
comparatively strange one in those days, when begging was resorted to
as an occasional resource, rather than followed as a regular trade; and
Bergan continued to observe the child with a certain degree of
interest, though not with a wholly unpreoccupied mind, as he advanced
toward her.

All at once, it struck him that there was something oddly familiar
about her slender little figure.  As for the dog, he was certainly an
old acquaintance, as could easily be proven; and Bergan's lips emitted
a low, peculiar whistle.  There was an instant pricking up of the
canine ears, and an inquisitive turning sidewise of the canine head,
but the faithful animal would not leave his young mistress until he was
absolutely certain that he recognized a friend.  She, meanwhile, seemed
to notice neither the whistle nor its effect; nor could she distinctly
see what manner of man drew near, her eyes being dazzled by the level
sun-rays, but she again mutely held out her hand.

It was instantly taken possession of.  "Cathie," said Bergan,
wonderingly, "what does this mean?"

She looked at him a moment in blank bewilderment, but ended by
recognizing him and flinging herself into his arms exactly as the
Cathie of a year before would have done; but with a deep, long-drawn,
repressed sob, implying a profounder sorrow than had ever darkened the
horizon of even that child of many and incomprehensible moods.

Yet Bergan was considerably relieved by her first words;--"Oh, Mr.
Arling, don't tell mamma--don't tell Astra--please don't!"  It seemed
probable that the episode of the begging was simply one of the child's
strange freaks.

"Did you do it for fun, then?" he asked.

"Fun?" repeated Cathie, with indignant emphasis, "do you think it's fun
to beg, Mr. Arling?  I don't.  I was so ashamed that I wanted to hide
my face with both hands."

"Then why did you do it?" asked Bergan, gravely.

The child's lip assumed its most sorrowful curve.  "To get some money
to give Astra," she answered. "We are very poor now; the Bank went and
got broke, with all mamma's money in it; and she was taken sick, and
Astra couldn't get much to do, and we've had to move into a little mean
house, in a dirty little street, where there are no flowers, nor trees,
nor anything that's nice.  And this morning I saw Astra take the last
money out of her purse, to pay the rent, and she looked--oh! I can't
tell how she looked,--something like that big gray man, with the little
boy on his back, that she made so long ago; and I did so wish that I
could do something to help her, just a little bit.  So, when she sent
me out to take a walk with Nix, it came into my head that I could beg
for her, if I couldn't do anything else, and I thought I'd try it.  Was
it doing wrong?"

Bergan did not answer except by stooping to kiss the child's upturned
face.  His eyes grew moist.

"I know it must be wrong," pursued Cathie, innocently, "if it makes you
cry, Mr. Arling."

"No, Cathie," replied Bergan, smiling reassuringly.  "I do not think it
was wrong,--at least, you did not mean to do wrong, and that makes a
great difference.  But I don't think that you will need to try it
again.  Now, certainly you can do something better; that is, take me
home with you."

On the way, Cathie, secure in the sympathy of this trusted friend of
better days, gave a more detailed account of the misfortunes that had
befallen the little family, since it left Berganton.  His heart ached
as he pictured to himself the weary and wasting struggle with poverty
that Astra had maintained so bravely, yet so hopelessly; heavily
weighted, on the one hand, with the burden of disappointed affection,
and, on the other, with the anxiety caused by her mother's severe
illness.  For works of art, there had been no demand; for portrait
busts and medallions, there had been only a scanty and fitful one.  Her
last resource had been pupils in drawing, but these had now failed her,
in consequence of the usual summer exodus of the city's wealthier
population; by reason of which she was reduced to the bitter straits
shadowed forth by Cathie's earlier communications.  It was touching,
too, to see what real nobleness of character had all along been hidden
under the child's caprice and waywardness, as evinced by the fact that
she said little of the privations that had fallen to her own lot, but
dwelt chiefly on her mother's lack of accustomed comforts, and the
forlorn face that Astra wore, when out of that mother's sight.

The house was reached before the story had come to an end.  It was a
little better than Bergan's fears, but far worse than his hopes.  It
smote him to the heart to contrast it with the comfortable and spacious
mansion that had opened its doors so readily to him at Berganton, and
wherein he had come to feel himself so pleasantly at home.

Cathie ushered Bergan into the dingy little room that served both for
parlor and studio, and then rushed through the opposite door, full of
the importance of the news that she had to impart.  There was a
smothered exclamation of surprise from the adjoining room, followed by
a murmured consultation; and then Astra appeared in the doorway.

But it was by no means the Astra of Bergan's remembrance.  The features
were the same, to be sure, but the light, the hope, the energy, that
had animated them, and informed them with such rich and varied
expression, was utterly lacking.  There was a perceptible line between
the eyebrows, as if the brow were wont to be knit over difficult
problems; and the mouth expressed a settled melancholy, which a smile
seemed only to vary slightly, not to displace.  Nor could Bergan help
detecting a little hardness in it,--the look of a defeated general,
forced to lay down his weapons, but still unsubdued in will.

What he most marvelled at, however, was that it immediately brought
Diva Thane's face before him, as if there were some subtle relation
between them, though there was not the slightest resemblance.

Astra's manner to him was scarcely less altered than her face.  It was
not exactly cold, but it lacked much of the old warmth and heartiness.
Bergan took no notice of it; he readily divined what chords of painful
association were thrilled at the sight of him, and how inevitably her
pride revolted against being seen in her present surroundings.  Her
hand was so cold, when he took it in his, that he pressed it between
both his own, with a vague idea of warming it; then, stirred by a
sympathy too deep for ordinary expression, he bent over and touched it
with his lips.

"You are not wise," said Astra, with a faint smile; "you should not do
homage to a fallen princess."

"Neither do I," rejoined Bergan, with a deep music in his voice.  "She
is not fallen, but holding out most bravely against the time when she
may expect succor."

"Succor?" responded Astra, with a mixture of pride and
mournfulness,--"from what or whom could acceptable succor come?"

Bergan smiled, and pointed upward.  "From the Source of all succor,
whatever be the channel."

Astra shook her head, and the lines of her mouth grew set and hard.
"Acceptable succor comes in season," said she, "and through legitimate
channels."

Bergan was confounded.  This lack of faith, this arraignment of
Providence, argued a more amazing change in Astra than he had yet
suspected.  At the same time it afforded him a clue to that mysterious
connection, in his mind, between her face and Miss Thane's.  Under the
hardness of the one and the coldness of the other, the same scepticism
lay hidden,--possibly engendered by similar causes.  In Astra's case,
he had no hesitation in attributing it to Doctor Remy's influence; and
he could not but wonder at the singular and fatal power of the man over
the minds of those who were brought into close contact with him.  Was
this deadly poison to be also instilled into the pure mind of Carice?
He shuddered at the thought.  Better for her to lie dead at the bottom
of the river, by which he had last seen her soft, rapt face.

Feeling that this was no time to argue with Astra, Bergan turned to the
table, which was littered with drawings and sketches, plaster reliefs,
and small clay models, to a degree that implied no lack of patient
industry, despite the want of encouragement, and the absence of faith.

"What are you doing?" he asked.

"Nothing, just now," she answered, mournfully.  "I believe my hands
have lost their cunning,--if ever they had any.  That is the last."
She pointed to a small bas-relief.

It represented a child, skipping lightly down a flowery slope, trailing
a vine behind her.  The face was turned so far away from the beholder,
as to show only the rounded outline of the youthful cheek and brow, but
the figure expressed a wonderful joyousness.  In more senses than one,
it was plainly, "In the Sunshine;" which title was lightly scratched in
the plaster.

Bergan studied it attentively.  "It is as fresh as a rose," said he,
"and as sweet."

"The analogy, if there be any, goes deeper than that," rejoined Astra,
bitterly.  "A rose is born out of darkness and dampness and decay, and
this is the offspring of pain and discouragement, and all that makes
the hand weak and the heart sick."

"And that is probably the secret of its perfection," remarked Bergan,
meditatively.  "The loveliest graces of character--such as charity that
thinketh no evil, and hope that lives by faith, not by sight--are the
legitimate children of suffering.  Then why not the finer works of art?"

Astra's eyes fell, and she did not answer.

"At any rate," pursued Bergan, "this 'Sunshine' is just what I want to
brighten my office.  I was thinking, this very day, that something must
be done to make it less dismal.  I suppose it is for sale?"

Astra bent her head a little stiffly.  She doubted the reality of this
new-born desire for office decorations.

He took out his purse, and laid a folded bank-note on the table.  He
expected that she would not look at it, until after he had gone, but
she immediately took it up, opened it, and tendered it back to him.

"It is too much," said she proudly.  And her look added, "I am no
beggar."

"Is it?" inquired Bergan, with apparent surprise.  "I thought it agreed
tolerably well with the prices that you used to mention as the least
you would receive for your works, in the future."

"I have lived to grow wiser," replied Astra,

"It is all the same," rejoined Bergan composedly, "I was about to say
that, as my mother has long been entreating me to send her some sort of
a portrait, it occurs to me that I cannot do better than to get you to
make a medallion or a bust of me, whichever you please.  The balance of
the note can go toward the first payment.  We will arrange for the
sittings, as soon as you are at leisure."

Astra's lip trembled.  Put in this way, the note might be retained; and
no one knew so well as herself what an amount of relief to her, and of
comfort to her mother, it ensured.  But her pride was very sore,
nevertheless, and her face was little grateful, as she dropped the note
on the table, somewhat as if it had burned her fingers.

Bergan hastened to change the subject.  "I am sorry not to see your
mother," he began; but Astra interrupted him.

"She would like to see you very much," said she, "if you don't mind
coming to her room.  It is several days since she has left it; though I
really think that she is better to-day."

"Why should I mind?" asked Bergan, smiling.  "She used to call me her
son sometimes; though you do take such pains to give me to understand
that you utterly repudiate me as a brother."

Astra turned her face aside, to conceal the sudden unbending of the set
mouth.  "Indeed, I do not," she faltered.

Bergan drew her toward him, just as a brother would have done.  "Then
you will help me to persuade her to move into more comfortable
quarters, at once.  I promise you that it shall be arranged so
carefully as to give her the least possible fatigue."

Astra shook her head.  "It cannot be; it would excite her too much.
Her disease is of the heart; and joy kills as surely as sorrow.  When I
moved her here,--being imperatively forced to do so, because I could
not afford to stay where we were,--I determined that, let come what
would, she should not be stirred again, until she is a great deal
better or--worse.  Thank you for the kind thought, but indeed she is
best off here, for the present,--now that I have the means of making
her tolerably comfortable."

In the last sentence, there was some trace of Astra's old self; and,
glad to have gained thus much, Bergan followed her to Mrs. Lyte's
bedside.

If he still cherished any belief in the feasibility of removing her, it
vanished with the first sight of her face.  He wondered what could have
led Astra to think her better.  Even to his inexperienced eyes, the
struggling breath, the beaded forehead, the ashy pallor, indicated but
too plainly that the thread of her life was wellnigh spun.

Yet she was less changed, in some respects, than Astra.  Her smile had
the old sweetness; her face--when the excitement caused by his
unexpected visit was calmed a little, and she could breathe easier--had
the old expression of gentle resignation.  It lighted up, too, at sight
of him;--as he had reminded Astra, she had come to regard him with a
half-motherly affection, during his residence in her house.

"It is very good of you to come to us," she said, gratefully; "it seems
a great while since I have seen any friendly face."

"If I had only known that you were in Savalla, I should have come much
sooner," answered Bergan.

"And if I had known that you were here," she responded, "I should
certainly have sent for you.  It is strange, Astra, that we never
happened to hear of him."

Astra's face flushed a little.  "We are not in the way of hearing
news," she replied, evasively.  "But now that he is here, to sit with
you a few minutes, I will run out and get that prescription filled,
which the doctor left this morning."

Bergan rose instantly.  "Let me go, rather," said he.

"N-o, no," said Mrs. Lyte, "it will do her good to have a little run.
Besides, I want to talk with you."

Bergan sat down again, and Cathie nestled to his side.  Nix, too, came
and lay down at his feet, quite in the old Berganton fashion.

"I am very glad to see you," continued Mrs. Lyte, when Astra had left
the room, "but I am afraid it is largely a selfish gladness.  I am so
certain that you will see what can be done for my children after I am
gone."

Bergan opened his lips to speak, but she lifted her hand with a
deprecating gesture, and went on:--

"Let me say what I want to say; I shall be so much easier in my mind.
Do you know how we came to leave Berganton?"

"I do not; I only heard of it when I went back there, in the Fall."

Mrs. Lyte briefly explained the circumstances which had led to the
removal.  She stated, furthermore, that she had written to Major
Bergan, upon the failure of the Bank where her money was invested, and
inquired if he had sold the house, and whether there was any balance in
her favor.  To which he replied that he had done nothing about the
matter, and proposed to do nothing, at present; he only wished that she
would come back, and live in it, as before.  But this was impossible,
she had now no means of maintaining so large and expensive a place.
She had, therefore, written again, to the effect that she asked nothing
better than the immediate foreclosure of the mortgage, and the sale of
the property.  Would he attend to it at his earliest convenience, and
forward her the balance?  To this letter there had been no reply; she
took it for granted that a purchaser had not been found.  What she
desired of Bergan, in the event of her death, which she believed to be
near at hand, was to hurry forward the sale of the place, and secure
something for Astra, if possible.  This he promised to do; and he
added, in a tone that brought instant conviction to her mind, and tears
of gratitude to her eyes, that, however this matter terminated, neither
Astra nor Cathie should lack friendly aid, at need.

When he finally took his leave, Bergan beckoned Astra to the door.
"Are you alone here?" he inquired.  "Is there no one to share your
labors and your cares?"

"We brought our old Chloe with us," replied Astra; "she would not be
left behind, and indeed, I do not know what we should have done without
her.  But lately the good old creature has insisted upon going out to
do a day's washing, now and then, to bring something into the family
purse; she is out to-day.  When she is home, she does all she can."

Bergan recollected the old slave, and doubted nothing of her fidelity.
But, in the woful event that he foresaw, Astra would need other help,
other sympathy, he thought.

"Is there no one you can send for,--no relative, no friend, in
Berganton, or elsewhere?" he persisted.

"None," replied Astra.  "And what accommodations have we for such a
friend, if we had one?"

There was nothing more to be said.  He shook her hand warmly, told her
that he had promised her mother to come again on the morrow, lifted his
hat, with his usual courtesy, and went down the street, in such a maze
of pity and perplexity, that he forgot to notice which way he went.

When he became cognizant of his whereabouts, he was standing before a
large, old-fashioned mansion fronting on one of the principal squares
of the city.  On the door was a silver plate, bearing the name of "DIVA
THANE, ARTIST."



VII.

ORDERED STEPS.

Bergan was much struck with the fact that his aimless walk--aimless, at
least, so far as his own intention was concerned--had first led him, in
virtue of his meeting with Cathie, to Mrs. Lyte's bedside, and next to
the studio of Miss Thane.  Accepting both these leadings as parts of
the same providential plan, though he could discern but the slightest
possible relation between them, he knocked at the studio door.

"Come in!" was the immediate response, in Miss Thane's clear, cold
monotone.

Bergan pushed open the door, which was a little ajar, and found himself
in the presence of the artist.  She was standing at her easel, palette
and brushes in hand; and she waited to give several touches to her
work, before turning toward her visitor.

If she felt any surprise at sight of him, her face betrayed none.  Yet
it seemed to Bergan that some change had come over that face since he
beheld it last--a certain suggestion of weariness under its languor, of
dissatisfaction under its chill pride--which he accepted as a good
augury for the task that he had in hand.

Miss Thane seemed to divine, at once, that his visit had some object
other than the pleasure of seeing either herself or her pictures.
After a few quiet words of greeting, she rested one hand upon her
easel, and stood waiting, calm, proud, and exceeding beautiful, to be
informed of its nature.

Bergan was scarcely prepared to make known his errand so abruptly.  He
had promptly entered the studio, in obedience to his first impulse; but
he had counted upon some little time thereafter to arrange his thoughts
and feel his way, some flow of conversation to be duly turned to his
advantage, or some clue to the deep mystery of Miss Thane's
sympathies,--possibly, too, some further light upon the inscrutable
design of Providence, in sending him hither.

After all, was not the most straightforward course likely to be the
best one?

"Miss Thane," said he, gravely, "my own volition has had so little to
do with bringing me here, that I scarcely know why I am come.  But I
believe that it is to try to interest you in a sister artist--a
sculptor--who is in sore need of aid that you might give her."

Miss Thane put her hand into her pocket, and drew out her purse; but
before she could open it, Bergan stopped her with a deprecating gesture.

"Pardon me," said he, "but that sort of aid, I can give myself, if it
be necessary."

"What am I to do, then?" asked Miss Thane, wonderingly.

"Whatever one delicate, refined, large-hearted woman can do for
another, in the way of cheer, encouragement, sympathy, and consolation."

Miss Thane gave him a long look out of her deep eyes, partly surprised,
partly meditative.

"What put it into your head to come to me on such an errand?" she
finally asked, with a singular, half satirical emphasis.

"Because when I was wondering to whom I could go," answered Bergan, "I
found myself standing before your door.  Because you did me the honor,
two weeks ago, to ask me a certain question, and I thought that this
might be the beginning of a better answer than I was able to give you."

Miss Thane slowly walked to the other end of the room, and fixed her
eyes on the deep red gold of the western horizon, whence the sun still
shed a soft posthumous influence over the earth.

"What does it matter," she murmured to Herself, "if I do surrender
somewhat of my freedom?  I have had a fair trial of an isolated
life--divested of every irksome bond, burden, and duty, shut up to the
one friend that I trust, and the one occupation that I love--and what
has it done for me?  Absolutely nothing; except to make me daily colder
in heart, and narrower in mind.  Is it not time to try something else?"

She turned back to Bergan, and her face, though it was still weary, was
no longer proud.

"I am sensible of the honor that you have done me," said she, with
unusual gentleness; "I will try to deserve your good opinion.  Where am
I to find the lady of whom you speak, and in what way can I render her
the most essential service?"

Bergan quietly placed a chair for her.

"Sit down," said he, "and let me tell you the whole story; at least, as
far as I know it myself."

As he talked, the gold faded out of the sky, and the gray twilight
shadows crept into the room, turning the pictures on the walls into
pale, vague outlines, and giving a wonderful softness to Miss Thane's
listening face.  Nor did the story end until the pictures had become
indistinguishable masses of shadow, and nothing was left of the face
but its deep, lustrous eyes.  Its owner had not once spoken; and it
quite escaped Bergan's notice, in the dimness, that she gave a sudden,
violent start when Mrs. Lyte's full name was mentioned.

"Thus, you see," he concluded, "it is not only a disappointed,
discouraged, anxious heart (soon, alas! to become a mourning one) that
I commend to your tender sympathies, but a sorely wounded faith.  If
you cannot heal the latter, do not, I charge you, help to destroy it."

"I will not," answered she, solemnly; "I promise you that I will not.
How could I, when I am half inclined to believe that such
faith--unfounded, illusory though it be--is a better thing than any
reality that we exchange it for."

Bergan slightly lifted his eyebrows.  "May I ask," said he, quietly,
"to what reality, or realities, you refer?"

"You press me hard," answered she, bitterly, after a pause; "none, none
that I can think of just now.  Everything seems vague, unreal,
unsubstantial."

"Fall back on faith," returned Bergan, smiling.  "If it be not a
reality itself, it works realities.  It fosters real virtues, and
inspires real heroism; by it men live nobly, and die courageously.
What reality can do more for them,--indeed, what one does so much?"

He waited for a moment, expecting an answer.  Seeing that none came, he
bowed, and left her sitting there, gazing out into the silent night.


On the following morning, Astra was in her studio, busily plying her
needle, while her mother slept, when there came a light knock on the
door.  Opening it, she found herself face to face with a lady of such
rare and remarkable beauty, that she stood motionless, lost in wonder
and admiration.

The stranger bent her head with the stately, yet friendly, grace of one
princess to another; and a smile just touched her lips, and then seemed
to sink into her eyes, shining farther and farther down in their clear
depths, until it vanished from sight.

"Will you allow me the pleasure of looking into your studio?" asked
she, in a voice as perfect as her face; "I have heard so much of its
marvels, that I am desirous of seeing them for myself."

Astra mutely made way; her visitor glided into the room, cast a quick,
comprehensive glance around, and sat down in front of the statue of
Mercury.

"Do not let me interrupt you," she said to Astra, "but just go on with
whatever you are about, and allow me to study this at my leisure."

Astra hesitated a moment, and then took up the work that she had
dropped,--one of Cathie's much-enduring aprons, that she was trying to
darn into some semblance of respectability.  But she could not help
stealing an occasional glance at the clear-cut profile of her guest,
until, all her artistic instincts being thoroughly aroused, she was
fain to seize upon crayon and cardboard, and make sure of the lovely
outline, ere it should vanish, as she expected it would soon do,
utterly and forever from her sight.

The guest, meanwhile, studied the Mercury in profound silence.  Yet
Astra soon felt that an uncommonly deep and delicate discernment was
brought to bear on her work, capable of accurately measuring both its
excellences and its faults.  There was something inspiriting in the
very thought,--it was so seldom that her sculpture was favored with a
really intelligent glance!  Her eyes brightened, her hands recovered
their cunning, the crayon sketch grew into lifelikeness without effort,
almost without consciousness, save when she stopped to marvel, now and
then, at its exceeding beauty and delicacy.  Yet it did no more than
justice to the original,--scarcely that, indeed;--where did she get
that face, and who could she be!

She had left the Mercury now, after a few--a very few words of
commendation, yet spoken so cordially and discriminately as to be worth
volumes of ordinary praise to Astra; and she was looking gravely into
the upturned eyes of the Cherub.  Glancing from, it to its creator, she
said, with a faint smile;--

"I wish you could put _that_ look into my face."

Astra shook her head.  "I could not put it anywhere _now_," she
answered, drearily.

The stranger gave her a compassionate glance.  "I wonder," said she,
musingly, "whether it is better to have had such faith and lost it, or
never to have had it at all."

"It is better to have lost it," replied Astra quickly, and with a
slight shudder.  "One can live in the hope of finding it again."

The visitor sighed, and turned to look at the sketches on the wall.

By and by, she slid easily into a discourse about various art-matters;
holding Astra spellbound, for awhile, with the fluent richness of her
diction, and the extent of her knowledge.  Nor was Astra allowed to
listen only.  A certain graphic portrayal of art-life in Italy having
stirred her to the depths, and kindled the old fire and energy of
enthusiasm in her eyes, she was skilfully drawn on to talk of herself
and her work, her aims, longings, limitations, and needs, as she had
never talked before, because she had never before met with so
understanding and sympathetic an auditor.

In the midst of one of her animated sentences, a low moan was heard
from the inner room.  "Excuse me," said Astra hurriedly, amazed to see
how completely she had forgotten her cares, fears, and griefs, in the
magic of the stranger's presence,--"Excuse me, I must go to my mother."

Mrs. Lyte had waked, as was too often the case, in a spasm of pain.
Astra hastened to call Cathie from the kitchen to assist the laboring
breath with gentle wafts of air from a fan, while she herself measured
some drops of a soothing mixture, and lifted her mother's head on her
arm, to enable her to swallow and to breathe more easily.  Several
anxious moments had passed thus, in silence broken only by the painful
respirations of the invalid, when a low, sweet strain of melody stole
so gently into the room that Astra could not tell, at first, from
whence it came.  So soft was it that it melted into the ear without
making any apparent demand upon the attention, yet so clear that not
one liquid note was lost.  The swollen veins of Mrs. Lyte's forehead
subsided; her chest ceased its agonized heaving; a peaceful, happy
smile broke over her face.

"What is it?" she asked, wonderingly, when the strain ended,--not
abruptly, but gradually growing fainter, until it was impossible to
tell just at what point sound became silence.

Astra whispered softly that she had left a strange visitor in the
studio, who appeared to be singing unconsciously to herself.

"If she would only sing again!" murmured Mrs. Lyte, wistfully.

With her usual impulsiveness, Cathie rushed to the studio door.  "Mamma
wishes you would sing--" she began, and then stopped short, no less
surprised and fascinated by the face that met her gaze than her sister
had been.

The stranger reflected for a moment, then her voice again pervaded the
air, as with the very soul of restful melody.  As she sang, the child
moved slowly toward her, drawn as irresistibly as the magnet to the
loadstone, till she stood close to her side, encircled by her arm, and
gazing at her with round, wondering eyes.  As the song ceased, she slid
her hand half-curiously, half-timidly over her shoulder.

"Have you wings?" she asked, earnestly.  "Did you fly down?"

Before the visitor could reply, except by a swift expression of
something like pain that flitted across her face, Astra appeared in the
doorway.

"Mother wishes to see you, and thank you," she said.  "Will you step
this way?"

The lady rose, and moved quietly into the inner room.  At sight of her
face, Mrs. Lyte gave a violent start; the thanks she was about to speak
died on her lips; she could only cry out in amazement;--"Who are you?"

The stranger knelt by the bedside, and took both Mrs. Lyte's hands in
her soft, cool grasp.  "I am the daughter of your runaway sister, Aunt
Katie," she answered, "and my name is Godiva Thane."

"But she died, and she left no child," said Mrs. Lyte, incredulously.

"She died in giving me birth," returned Diva, with convincing
positiveness.  "I have long suspected that my father did not let you
know, he never forgot the opposition to his marriage; besides, he was
jealous of his only child's affections.  You must needs forgive
him,--for he is dead."

Several questions followed, on Mrs. Lyte's part; to which Diva gave
long, detailed answers, skilfully contrived to satisfy her aunt's
curiosity, tranquillize her emotions, and bring her, in a brief space,
to a tolerably peaceful and composed state of mind.

"Can I do anything for you before I go?" she then asked.

"Nothing, dear, unless you will sing to me--a hymn; there are tones in
your voice which are more soothing than any anodyne."

Diva put her hand to her brow, and sent her thoughts back--a long, long
way, it seemed to her--to a period in her childhood, when she had been
under the care of a certain faithful nurse, afterwards discharged by
her father for putting foolish, superstitious notions--as he
averred--into her head.  There she found two or three hymns; keeping
tenacious hold of her memory, in virtue of their early grafting
therein; which she sang in such soft, even tones, that Mrs. Lyte was
first calmed, and then irresistibly lulled to sleep.

The two cousins stole out of the room together.  In the studio, Diva
put her arms around Astra and kissed her tenderly.

"Having found you, my little cousin, my art sister," said she, smiling,
"I shall never let you go!"



VIII.

THOUGH HE SLAY.

Miss Thane had all along understood that a meeting with her mother's
only and twin sister, either by accident or design, was quite within
the scope of possibilities.  She had even regarded it as perhaps the
brightest prospect which the future afforded her, in case her present
experiment in life should fail to give her satisfaction, or her heart
should suddenly utter an importunate cry for that cup of cold water of
human affection, which is only to be tasted in the society of one's own
kin.  Amid the gray monotony of her existence, she had often pictured
that meeting to herself in a variety of pleasant coloring and dramatic
shapes; but never, it is safe to say, in the solemn lights and sober
shadows in which it finally took its place among the memorable scenes
of her life.

Yet in no other way could it have operated so powerfully to awaken the
instinct of kinship within her, to melt her reserve, to draw out her
dormant sympathies,--in short, to call forth whatever was deepest,
richest, and womanliest in her nature.  And certainly, in no other way
could it have brought so strong and subtle an influence to bear upon
the sombre doubts and chill infidelities of her mind; setting over
against her cool, speculative belief in a blind Chance or an inflexible
Fate, Mrs. Lyte's calm trust in the goodness of God's providence,
against the blighting, chilling, unbeauteous effects of suffering on
her own heart, the gracious fruitage of patience, contentment, and
love, ripening under its touch in Mrs. Lyte's, against her own dim
outlook into an unknown future, her aunt's firm expectation of the
eternal weight of glory.  The contrast was too striking not to be
noticed, its testimony in favor of faith over unbelief too strong to be
ignored.  Daily, as she watched by her aunt's bedside, questions that
she had once settled, or laid aside as incapable of settlement, came up
again, to be examined in new and diviner lights.  Daily the good work
which Bergan had been instrumental in beginning in her heart, went
forward,--not like the work of doubt, tearing down what it could not
rebuild, and taking away bread to give a stone,--but bringing order out
of confusion, proportion out of inequality, solidity out of
disintegration.

On the other hand, her advent was no less beneficial, in its way, to
her aunt and cousins.  Not to speak of the material comforts and
luxuries which she managed so delicately to introduce into the
sick-room, as to make them seem much like direct gifts of Providence,
without any intervening hand, she brought into their forlorn, narrow,
monotonous life an element of variety and interest, as well as of
personal helpfulness, that was sorely needed.  Mrs. Lyte soon grew to
depend upon her constant presence and care scarcely less than upon
Astra's.  She never wearied of searching her beautiful face for fitful
touches of resemblance to the darling twin sister, whose runaway
marriage and subsequent death had been the great grief of her own
earlier years, nor of drawing out such facts in relation to that
sister's short married life, and Diva's birth, as the latter had been
able to gather from others, and store in her memory.  She was deeply
interested, too, in Diva's own history,--her motherless childhood, her
long sojourn in Europe, her art studies, her reasons for the isolated
life that she had been leading of late.  Especially did she delight in
hearing her sing.  Diva might busy herself in whatever part of the
house's narrow precinct she pleased, if only her voice floated into the
sick-room, and sweetened the air with the notes and words of some
favorite "hymn of the ages," or the soft Italian melodies that she had
learned in their native land.  While the lovely voice kept on, Mrs.
Lyte lay lapped in smiling content, or slept in perfect tranquillity,
lulled more effectually than by any anodyne.

Nor was Astra any less ready to accept her kinswoman as a timely boon
and blessing.  It was not only an unspeakable relief to feel a part of
her heavy burden of care lifted from her shoulders by hands so willing,
so tender, and with so undoubted a right to the privilege; it was also
a rare delight to have such thoroughly congenial companionship.  As for
Cathie, her heart was easily won,--all the more that she never seemed
to quite rid herself of her first impression that the new-comer was
celestial rather than human, and to be adored accordingly.  In short,
Diva soon found for herself so fit, definite, and essential a place in
all these hearts and lives as to suggest the idea that it must have
been prepared expressly, and kept waiting for her--she knew not how
long.  Nay, more,--_she_ must have been prepared for _it_; carefully
fitted, by many sad and stern circumstances, for this exchange of
helpful influences, for her part in that solemn symphony of events
which was rolling its profound harmonies through Mrs. Lyte's
sick-chamber.

For the invalid did not rally.  After one week of apparent pause, her
life's lapse went steadily on.  Day by day, she weakened and wasted;
day by day, the spirit loosened its mortal garments, and made itself
ready to put on immortality; day by day, her mind let go something of
earthly cares, anxieties, wishes, and fears, and fixed itself more
firmly upon the Rock of Ages, and the rest that remaineth.  Nothing of
life seemed left, by and by, but love; making manifest, by this true
"survival of the fittest," its Divine origin and destiny.

One summer afternoon, when the sun was flooding all the earth and sky
with the glory of his departure, Bergan knocked at the door of Astra's
studio, according to his daily habit, to inquire if he could be of any
service.  No answer being returned to his knock, he let himself in and
went softly to the bedroom door.  A scene too beautiful to be called
sad, though infinitely solemn, met his view.

Astra was seated on the bed, holding her mother in her arms, to afford
her a grateful change of position.  Cathie lay curled up at the
invalid's feet, with her large eyes fixed on the rapt, hushed
face,--the half-closed eyes and slightly parted lips of which suggested
a soft sinking into that sweet slumber, which is yet not so much
slumber as a happy dream.  Diva knelt by the bedside, with her aunt's
hand in hers, singing in tones that thrilled him through and through,
much as he had learned in these days, of the marvellous beauty and
pathos of her voice;--

  "When I rise to worlds unknown,
  And behold Thee on Thy Throne,
  Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
  Let me hide myself in Thee!"


As the last note died away, he stepped forward and lifted the
unconscious form from Astra's arms.  She looked up at him wonderingly.

"The earthly hymn was very sweet," said he gently, "but the song of the
redeemed in Paradise is sweeter still."

Still she seemed not to understand.  What words were at once tender and
solemn enough for the full explanation?  None but those of inspiration;
at once old and fresh; having poured their balm all along down through
the centuries, yet falling on each newly bereaved heart, as if still
moist and cool with the dew of their birth.  Reverently he quoted:--

"'Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea,
saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors; and their works
do follow them.'"


Mrs. Lyte was taken to Berganton, and laid in the churchyard by her
husband's side, amid much kindred dust.  Bergan accompanied the small
funeral train to within two or three miles of the village, and then
turned back; in obedience to Astra's wish, as expressed to him through
Diva Thane.  The poor girl remembered in what way her name and his had
been connected, and naturally shrank from anything that might seem to
give it confirmation.  But as the train passed the avenue to Bergan
Hall, the Major wheeled into the vacant place behind the carriage of
the chief mourners, assisted them out at the gate of the cemetery, and
offered Astra his arm.

"I am your father's nearest living relative," said he, huskily, "and
though I behaved like a brute to your mother at one time, I have been
sorry enough for it since, to have a right to follow her to the grave."

Many of Mrs. Lyte's old friends and neighbors gathered round to assist
in the last solemn rites, and some of them came afterward to say a few
words of sympathy and regret to Astra.  She was not surprised that
Doctor Remy was not of the number, but she did wonder a little that she
saw nothing of Carice.  She had observed Mrs. Bergan standing near the
foot of the grave, looking strangely old and altered; but she seemed to
have disappeared as soon as the service was ended.

Having conducted her back to the carriage, and seated her therein,
Major Bergan took a folded paper from her pocket, tore it in pieces,
and laid the fragments on her lap.

"There it is," said he; "and I wish that my hand had been sawed off
before I ever wrote to your mother, to tell her of its existence.  The
place is yours now, free and unincumbered, to do what you like with.
Good bye; and don't bear malice, if you can help it."

He gave her no opportunity to reply, but signalled to the coachman to
drive on.  Looking back, she saw him standing on the same spot, with
uncovered head, watching the carriage until it was out of sight.

She was in nowise disposed to bear malice.  She remembered too well how
glad she had been, at the time, of an available pretext for leaving
Berganton; besides, the Major had certainly made all possible amends
for his hasty action.

Moreover, Mrs. Lyte's death-bed had not been without its softening and
salutary effect upon her mind, also.  Although she had fallen, for a
time, into that saddest of all infidelities--a distrust of God's
goodness to His children--the last lovely moments of her mother's life,
the last grateful, joyous words from her mother's lips, and the still
brightness of her mother's dead face, had set her feet--for a little
while at least--on those Heights of Contemplation, whence life is seen
to be good and valuable, not for what it is, but for what it shapes
out; not for the materials that it heaps together, or the tools that it
uses, but for the character which it moulds unto perfection, the soul
which it slowly chisels into beauty and dignity and strength.  So
viewed, these last months of adversity became but the fine, finishing
touches of the Master's hand, to Mrs. Lyte's already lovely spirit, and
Major Bergan but one of the blind, necessary instruments, operating
better than he knew or willed.

And come what would, Astra could nevermore forget that broad view of
the real work and object of life's events; faith would ever after be
easier for those moments of clear sight.  She came back from her
mother's grave with a bereaved heart, but with a spirit more at rest
than it had been for many months; and her face wore the same expression
of gentle, sweet resignation, which had been the prevailing
characteristic of her mother's for years.

She came back--but not to the dingy little house, nor the desolate
rooms, and certainly not to the straitened circumstances.  Miss Thane
had taken Bergan into her confidence, on the day before, and asked the
favor of his superintendence of certain final steps toward the
accomplishment of a plan that she had conceived and partly executed.
Money and good-will, working together, usually achieve wonders in
comparatively short space of time; as the result of their present
cooperation, Astra was set down at Miss Thane's door on her return from
Berganton, late at night, and ushered into a suite of rooms, opposite
Diva's own, handsomely fitted up for the accommodation of herself and
Cathie.  One was a studio, to which all her own pictures, statues, and
other artistic belongings had been carefully transferred, and skilfully
arranged to produce an accustomed and home-like effect.  Another was a
pleasant little parlor, with her books and her work-basket on the
centre-table, to lend it a familiar grace; and in the bedroom beyond,
her faithful old Chloe was waiting, with joyful tears in her eyes, to
welcome and to attend upon her.

Astra turned to her cousin, and tried to speak; but the too heavily
freighted words were slow in coming forth, and Diva anticipated them by
taking both her hands in hers, and saying gently;--

"We are sisters, now, Astra: children of twin mothers, and left alone
in the world,--I more completely, even, than you; what better thing can
we do, at least for the present, than to unite our forces, having one
home, and living, loving, and laboring together for the same, or
kindred ends?  And Cathie shall be our joint charge; that, having two
watchful elder sisters, she may never know, even partially, what I know
so well, the misery of a motherless childhood.  Is it a compact?"

Astra bowed her head in acquiescence, and her eyes shone bright through
grateful tears.  She was relieved beyond measure, to know that she was
not to face the world single-handed.  The loneliness that she had so
dreaded was not to be encountered, the heavy responsibility of her
little sister's care and training was to be, in some degree, shared.
In Diva's strength and steadfastness of character, which she felt by
intuition, and in its sweetness, which she had found out at her
mother's bedside, as very few had done before her, there would be all
needful protection, aid, and comfort; while, in its subtle quality of a
wise and delicate reserve, there was ample assurance of respect for her
own individuality, freedom for her own way of thought and work.
Finally, thanks to Major Bergan's generous action in respect of the
mortgage, she need not fear to be a burden on her cousin.  Either by
sale or lease, the place could be made to yield her a fixed moderate
income, and her own labor would do the rest.

She did not suspect the extent of Diva's resources, nor what pleasant
plans for her own and Cathie's happiness and advantage she was turning
over in her mind.  Of these things Diva would breathe no word, until
the sisterhood of which she had spoken had become so real and firm a
bond as to preclude any sense of obligation.

Meanwhile, the fact of living no more to herself, of having some one
else to think of, to care for, to comfort and cheer, was doing
wonderfully effective work in clearing and softening Diva's own
character,--in uprooting the weeds which had chiefly testified to the
richness of the underlying soil heretofore, and giving the plants of
grace leave to branch out and blossom and bear fruit.  Daily, as Bergan
met her, in his visits to Astra's studio, or his walks, he saw that
something was gone from the chill pride and weariness of her old
expression, something added of sweetness, softness, and benignity, yet
without any loss of that still and stately grace, in which had
subsisted so potent a charm.  Daily, too, he marvelled at her
increasingly magnificent beauty; over which, none the less, still
lingered some faint shadow from the past, like the soft haze hanging
over an autumn landscape, and constituting its last, consummate grace.
He could not help wondering whence that shadow came, and how it was to
go, since it always gave him an indefinable impression of being
connected with his own destiny.

One day he met her in the street alone, but, as he never presumed in
the least upon the half confidential relations into which circumstances
had thrown them, he was passing on with a courteous bow, when she
stopped him.

"Mr. Arling," she said, flushing slightly, but in very clear, musical
tones, "I have much to thank you for, but most of all for the promise
which you made me at Farview, some weeks ago; and which, I doubt not,
you have conscientiously performed.  How much that performance has had
to do with the important events that have taken place since, I cannot
tell; but it is certain that I discern an order, a sequence, a relation
of means to an end, during these last weeks, which I have never before
been able to discover in the events of my life,--perhaps because my
days have never before been so regularly and earnestly recommended to
loving Divine guidance.  Be that as it may, the time of which you spoke
has come; I have learned to pray for myself--and for others.  Thank you
again, and good evening."

It was one of her peculiarities, resulting probably from some years of
residence abroad, that she seldom gave her hand to a gentleman.  Now,
however, she offered it to Bergan, for the second time, as he
remembered; and again, as before, he had a curious presentiment that
within that white hand there lay an invisible, but precious gift for
him, waiting its appointed time.



IX.

MISTAKES.

The summer ran its course, and came to an end.  With the first frost of
autumn, Hubert Arling arrived in Savalla, to pay a visit of indefinite
extent to his brother.  A few days after, Coralie, newly returned from
Farview, called at the office, expecting to find her father there,
according to appointment; but found only Bergan, as it appeared,
writing in his usual place.  He rose, bowed, and finally took her
offered hand, with what seemed to her an odd mixture of hesitation and
embarrassment, while she poured forth greetings, thanks, and questions.

"You are looking wonderfully well," she concluded; "one would think you
had been rusticating in the mountains, instead of spending a hot and
lonely summer in the city.  But I suppose that you are lonely no
longer; you must be very glad to have your brother with you; my father
told me of his arrival."

He looked much amused.  "I suspect that I am my brother," said he,
smiling.  "But I am not my brother whom you take me for.  I wish I
were,--to have the honor of your acquaintance."

It was Coralie's turn to look embarrassed.  "I thought--is it not Mr.
Arling?" she stammered.

"It is Mr. Arling--Hubert Arling, at your service.  Can I do anything
for you?"

Coralie was so much amazed, that it would have been difficult for her
to decide, at the moment, whether he could do anything for her or not.
But the entrance of Mr. Youle and Bergan relieved her from the
necessity of answering, and gave her opportunity to compare the
brothers at her leisure.  Unquestionably, they were singularly alike,
in personal appearance, manner, and somewhat, even, in mind.  Only,
when seen together, Bergan was found to be so much older and graver of
aspect--far more than was justified by his two years of seniority--that
she wondered how she could ever have mistaken one for the other.  And,
certainly, there was a rare charm about Bergan's gravity, a singular
fascination in looking into his deep, thoughtful, all-observant eyes,
and conjecturing what disappointment or sorrow lay darkly underneath.
Still, Hubert's buoyancy and animation were wonderfully taking, too, in
their way; and her youthfulness sprang involuntarily forward to meet
his.  On the whole, she was glad to know that Mr. Arling had a brother
every way so worthy of him.

Before she left, the brothers received and accepted an invitation from
Mr. Youle to dine with him.  But for Hubert's sake, Bergan would gladly
have declined it.  Having once introduced his brother into pleasant
society, however, he could leave him to make his own way in it,--as he
was fully qualified to do.

When the door closed on the father and daughter, Hubert looked at his
brother, and smiled meaningly.

"Why did you not tell me?" he asked.

"What should I tell?" rejoined Bergan, composedly.

"That your future was likely to atone so prettily and pleasantly for
your past."

Bergan looked grave.  "Not another word of that, Hubert, if you please.
The past is not atoned for, in that sense; in another, I hope it may
be.  Miss Coralie is, to me, simply my kind old partner's very
admirable and estimable daughter."

Hubert looked half incredulously into his eyes, but there was no
resisting the strong confirmation of their quiet, steady, answering
gaze.

"But, Bergan, you are a goose!" he broke out.

"At your service," was the reply, with a bow of mock courtesy.

"Pshaw!  Then, if I go and trade on your capital, you will never call
me to account?"

"Never."

Hubert held out his hand; Bergan gave it a firm, strong clasp.  There
was not another word; they understood each other.

In the midst of the desultory chat that followed, there came a knock at
the door; and in answer to Bergan's prompt "Come in," his former
client, Unwick, entered.

"My brother," explained Bergan, as the new comer looked a little
hesitatingly at Hubert.  "Would you like to see me alone?"

"As you please," replied Unwick.  "It is your business rather than mine
that brings me here; if anything so vague and indefinite can be called
business."

"Then, proceed.  I have no secrets from my brother.  Will you take a
chair?"

Unwick sat down, and cleared his throat.

"It is a long story; but I will make it as brief as I can.  You know
that my cousin Varley is now in prison, under sentence of death for the
murder of which I came so near to being convicted myself,--and should
have been, but for you.  Well, he sent for me a few days ago, to ask my
pardon, and to beg me to take charge of a certain child of his.  It
seems that, two or three years ago, he was inveigled into a marriage
with a beautiful but unprincipled girl, belonging to one of the worst
families in this vicinity; her parents keep a low tavern, generally
known, I believe, as the 'Rat-Hole,' about a mile out of town, on the
Berganton road.  Do you know it?"

"Yes, it has been pointed out to me," replied Bergan.

"Well, the girl is dead; but there is a child, left in the
grandmother's hands, which Varley wants me to get possession of, and
bring up in a respectable way.  Poor fellow! he has seen what is the
result of evil associations, and desires to save his child from a
similar fate.  Still, he wishes the matter to be arranged quietly, if
possible.  So, yesterday, I went out to see the grandmother--that
explains how I came to be in so vile a place.  Well, I was made to wait
for a half hour in a dirty little back room; and having nothing else in
the world to interest me, my attention was attracted by a conversation
on the other side of the thin board partition which divided the room
from the next one.  Still, I doubt if I should have taken the trouble
to try to make it out, if I had not heard your name spoken.  Then it
occurred to me that I might possibly be able to do you a good turn, in
part payment of what you had done for me.  So, swallowing my scruples
as best I could, I put my ear to one of the cracks, and listened.
There were two men on the other side, but they were wise enough not to
call names,--I did not get the least clue to whom or what they were.
One talked quite low, but in a clear, though rather thin voice, which
made it comparatively easy to catch what he was saying.  The other
talked louder, but pretty thick, as if he were a good deal the worse
for liquor; and he mixed up everything that he said with such a queer
medley of proverbs--"

"Proverbs!" interrupted Bergan, starting, and beginning to look
interested.

"Yes,--proverbs in every language under the sun,--Latin, Greek,
Spanish, German, and all the rest,--a regular Tower-of-Babel
performance.  Do you recognize him?"

"I suspect that I do.  Go on."

"Well, his companion,--have I given you any clue to _him_?"

"None as yet.  Perhaps I may get one as your story progresses."

"_He_ was persuading this old proverb-spouter to sign some paper,--a
will, I think; but it was only after a good deal of arguing, and
bribing, and threatening, that he succeeded in doing so.  Now comes
your part in the matter; the old fellow's great objection seemed to be
that he didn't want to injure you."

"Me!" repeated Bergan, in much astonishment; "what had I to do with it?"

"That is exactly what I couldn't find out; but I thought you might be
able to tell.  You cannot?"

"Not in the least.  What else was there?"

"Nothing, only the old bundle of proverbs also wanted to know 'what
would be to pay,' if they were found out,--would it be felony, or
compounding of felony, or what?"

"Why!" exclaimed Bergan, "the will was a forgery, then!"

"I cannot say as to that.  The man who _didn't_ spout proverbs set the
other's scruples at rest, first, by asserting that there was not the
least danger of detection; and secondly, by declaring that you would
not sustain any injury, because the property was certain to come to
him, soon or late, anyhow.  Whereupon the drunken Solomon muttered,
sotto voce, 'Into the mouth of a bad dog, often falls a good bone,' and
appeared to sign his name as required.  At least, I heard the
scratching of a pen on paper; and, after that, some money was told out
on the table, as a first instalment of the bribe agreed upon; and
another instalment was to be paid at the same place to-morrow.  Do you
get any light on the transaction yet?"

Bergan looked very grave.  He remembered old Rue's assertion that
Doctor Remy had wedded Carice simply to get possession of the Hall
estates, through his uncle's will in her favor.  "Was the first voice
that of an educated man?" he asked.

"Thoroughly so; an exceedingly distinct, even intonation, and the
language was well chosen, too.  It would have been a very pleasant
voice to the ear, except that it seemed to lack heart, emotion; it was
just clear and cold, like ice.  Are you beginning to see your way
through the affair?"

"Very dimly, if at all.  But I think that I know the parties."

"Is there anything to be done about it?  Can I help you in any way?"

Bergan shook his head.  He remembered that Doctor Remy was the husband
of Carice.  He sat silent, his heart swelling with unselfish pain and
pity for the pure, delicate nature thus linked to the dark and vile
one; he hoped that the latter had not lost the art of concealing
somewhat of its hideousness.

Mr. Unwick rose.  "I will not detain you any longer.  I am glad--or
sorry, whichever is proper--that my story proves to be of so little
importance."

"Thank you, nevertheless, for taking the trouble to come and tell it to
me.  By the way, did you get the child you went after?"

"Not yet; the grandmother declared that it was not in the house, though
I did not believe her.  Bad woman as she is, I think she really loves
it, and would like to keep it.  But I was authorized to offer her a
considerable sum of money to get it quietly out of her hands; and she
knows that the law gives the father the right to dispose of its future.
I am going, to-morrow afternoon, to get a final answer from her, after
she has consulted with her husband, who was out when I was there."

"Will you let me go with you?  I should like to see if I recognize any
old acquaintance around the place; and if I do, to give him a friendly
warning to take care not to be seen there again.  I happen to know that
the premises are now under constant surveillance, as a suspected
depository of stolen goods, and that the police are meditating a
descent upon them in a day or two."

"I shall be only too happy to have your company," replied Unwick,
courteously.

"And I will go along, too, if you don't object," remarked Hubert.  "If
the place is of the character you mention, the more the safer, as well
as merrier, I should say."

"Then, I will call for you to-morrow, at three o'clock," said Unwick,
"if that suits your convenience."


The "Rat-Hole" wore an appearance of exceeding quietness, in the sunny
autumn afternoon.  A half tipsy vagabond or two lounged about the
stoop, but the greater part of its frequenters were of the owl species,
careful not to show their heads in the daytime.

Having signified to the bar-keeper that his business was with the
mistress of the house, Unwick was shortly summoned to her presence,
leaving the brothers waiting in the bar-room.  After a considerable
time he reappeared, and beckoned to Bergan.

"I have persuaded Mrs. Smilt to allow of a witness to our transaction,"
said he.  And he added, in a low tone, "The pair that I spoke of, are
on the other side of the partition again; you can hear their voices,
and satisfy yourself whether you know them or not."

Mrs. Smilt was a hard, ill-favored woman, of about fifty; she had a
child on her lap, and there were tears in her eyes.

"Mr. Unwick wants a witness to our business," she remarked, grimly, to
Bergan.  "Well, here's the child, and there's the money that he's to
pay me for't.  It's a fair bargain, and I don't mean to shirk it;
though I'd rather keep the child, a good deal, myself.  But my husband
'ud rather have the money; and he's captain."

Bergan bowed.  He would not speak lest his voice should be heard and
recognized in the adjoining apartment.  He drew near the partition, but
there was only a sound of footsteps on the other side, and the closing
of a door; he was too late to get any satisfaction from this quarter.
He stood waiting impatiently for Unwick to bring his business to an
end, and half inclined to excuse himself, and make his escape, when he
heard a pistol-shot, and a brief struggle, ended by a heavy fall, in
the direction of the bar-room.  He opened the door, and ran thither,
closely followed by Unwick and Mrs. Smilt.

A singular scene was presented to his eyes.  Prostrate on the floor lay
Doctor Remy, with an exceedingly black and discomfited face; while
Hubert was standing over him like a young gladiator.  On one side,
stood Dick Causton pouring forth a volley of utterly incoherent
proverbs and entreaties, addressed to his "dear young friend Mr.
Bergan;" and, on the other, stood the barkeeper, so bewildered,
apparently, by this sudden and unaccountable fracas, as to be undecided
which side or what tone to take.  At sight of Bergan, Dick reeled
backward, and looked completely confounded; Doctor Remy set his teeth
hard, and his face grew blacker than ever.

Bergan looked at Hubert.  "What does this mean?" he asked.

"Upon my soul, I wish I knew!" responded Hubert.
"This--gentleman"--there was a deeply sarcastic emphasis on the
word--"did me the honor to point a pistol at me.  I knocked it up, and
him down; that is all I know about the matter."

Bergan motioned him to stand aside, and helped Doctor Remy to his feet.
"Thank God--if you ever do such a thing"--said he solemnly, "that you
have been saved from the commission of another crime.  Go, now; and,
for your own sake, as well as for the sake of those connected with you,
take care to be seen here no more.  I assure you that it is a dangerous
place for persons without legitimate business and fair credentials."

Doctor Remy had recovered his composure, in part.  He drew himself up
haughtily.  "Keep your advice for those who need it," he rejoined; "I
am here simply as a physician, in attendance upon a sick man.  What
your business may be, is none of mine: good evening."  And he strode
out of the door.

Hubert stood looking on, the picture of astonishment.  "Was there ever
such a riddle!" said he.  "First, an unknown man attempts my life; and
next, you bid him go in peace, or something very like it!"

"He took you for me," said Bergan, quietly.

"I appreciate the compliment.  But are you in the habit of serving for
a target?"

"Hush!  It was Doctor Remy."

Hubert looked more amazed than ever, for a moment; then his brow
flushed, and his eyes lit up.  "Lucky for him that you did not tell me
that before," said he.  "He should never have gotten out of my hands,
except into those of a policeman.  Why, Bergan, what are you thinking
of, to let him escape us thus?"

"I will explain all to you, when we get home," answered Bergan,
wearily.  "Mrs. Smilt, I beg your pardon for having been the
unintentional cause of such a commotion in your house; I think I can
assure you that no harm has been done.  Mr. Unwick, are you ready to
go?"

At the door, Bergan stopped and looked around for Dick Causton; but he
had taken advantage of the discussion between the brothers to sneak
out.  The fact was a suggestive one to Bergan, taken in connection with
Unwick's story of the preceding day.  Never before, in spite of his bad
habits and fallen estate, had Dick Causton been known to flee from
before any man's face.



X.

LIKE A THIEF IN THE NIGHT.

Bergan could not help wasting a little wonder on Doctor Remy's choice
of the "Rat-Hole" as a place for transacting business, of whatever
character.  Yet the explanation was simple.  The doctor was there, as
he had stated, professionally.  One of the _habitués_ of the place had
been severely wounded in an encounter with a policeman, some weeks
before; and although he had succeeded in escaping unrecognized, the
affair had made so much stir that his friends had not deemed it prudent
to put him into the hands of any of the city physicians, for treatment.
Doctor Remy had therefore been summoned from Berganton, and had not
only conducted the case with his usual skill, but, foreseeing a
possibility of turning the circumstance to future account, had won the
ruffian's warmest gratitude by keeping his secret and declining any
fee.  Having thus gotten the run of the place, and the good will of its
inmates, he had chosen it for the scene of his interviews with Dick
Causton, because he had his own excellent reasons for not wishing these
interviews to be seen or suspected by anybody in Berganton.  And Dick
made no objections, inasmuch as various small errands, which he
dignified with the title of "business," had taken him to Savalla, for
two or three consecutive days; and the "Rat-Hole" was a convenient
stopping-place, and, moreover, furnished liquor which had the two-fold
merit of being of a better quality than any to be had at the "Gregg
Tavern," and of being quaffed at Doctor Remy's expense.  Dick was not
likely to trouble his head much about the character of any house
possessing these strong recommendations.

In regard to the signing of the fraudulent will, he had shown himself a
little more scrupulous; his habit of intoxication had not yet
accomplished its evil work of obliterating all sense of right, and
every consideration of honor.  At the first broaching of the subject,
he had indignantly refused to listen to it for a moment.  Later
on--having apparently gotten some new lights on the question in the
meantime--he had quietly suffered his objections to give way, one after
another, to the doctor's arguments and bribes; to the great
satisfaction of the latter, who found his task, on the whole, easier
than he had expected.

Yet he might have felt some misgivings, if he had followed Dick out of
the house, immediately after the signing of the will, and heard the
low, satisfied chuckle with which he tumbled into his superannuated
chaise, and started his horse on a jog-trot toward Berganton.  The
potent draught just swallowed had as yet taken effect only in
quickening his sense of the humorous, and putting him on excellent
terms with his own self-conceit.  His eyes twinkled with amusement, too
intense to be denied the occasional vent of a loud burst of laughter,
or an appropriate string of proverbs.

"_Wer dem Spide zusicht, kann's am besten_, my dear Doctor Remy," he
muttered; "or, in other words, the looker-on sees more of the game than
the player.  What would you give to know what I know, I wonder!  Just
wait till the right time comes; then you'll find out that 'He is worst
cheated, who cheats himself.'"

A mile further on, his potations beginning to make themselves felt, he
suddenly broke out, with a tipsy laugh and leer;--"'_Man kan ei drage
haardt med brudet Reb_,' mine excellent doctor,--you cannot haul hard
with a broken rope!  Ha! ha!"

And, although his shamefaced flight from Bergan's presence, on the
second day, may seem to indicate that he was not quite certain of the
uprightness of all his acts and motives, no sooner was he fairly on the
road to Berganton than he began to chuckle again.

Bergan, meanwhile, was questioning within himself whether he ought not
to make known Unwick's story to Major Bergan.  He hesitated only
because he foresaw that the information might possibly be set down to
his self-interest, rather than his desire to serve his uncle.
Nevertheless, it did not take him long to decide that he must do what
he knew to be the right thing, regardless of consequences.  Nor was it
certain that his uncle would misconstrue his motives:--not long since,
he had received an intimation from Rue that he was sure to meet with a
cordial reception whenever he could make it convenient to visit
Berganton; the Major's anger having so completely wasted away under the
double attrition of time and favorable report,--not to mention her own
steady influence in his behalf,--that he had lately expressed a wish to
see him.  There was really no good reason, therefore, why he should
hesitate to present himself at the Hall, except that the whole
neighborhood was certain to bristle with unpleasant recollections.
However, he must face them some time, and as well now as ever.

Still, as nightfall was at hand, and he knew of no reason for hurry, he
thought it expedient to postpone the visit till the morrow.  He would
ride over to the Hall, he thought, betimes in the morning.  Having made
his arrangements accordingly, and committed his office to Hubert's
care, he retired early, and soon forgot the fatigues and excitements of
the day in a profound sleep.

He had not slept long, however, before he woke from a dream--wherein
Doctor Remy figured as an iconoclast, overthrowing and demolishing the
ancient gods of Bergan Hall--to the consciousness that some one was
knocking loudly at his door.

"Who is there?" he called.

"It's me, Massa Harry," responded a voice, with the unmistakable negro
intonation; but, nevertheless, a voice too much disconnected with the
present to meet with immediate recognition from his but half-awakened
faculties.

"Who is 'me'?" he demanded again.

"You's own boy Brick, Massa Harry," was the reply.

With an instant intuition of evil, Bergan sprang out of bed, and opened
the door.  "What is the matter?" he asked.

"Oh, Massa Harry! ole massa's dyin'," replied Brick; "an' gramma Rue,
she sent me for you to come right off'; she say,--'Tell him to ride
fast, dere's not a minit to lose.'  An' I'se brought Vic 'long for you;
an' while you's a-dressin', I'll jes' go an' give her a drink, an' rub
her down a lilly bit, so she'll be right smart and fresh when you's
ready to start."


It was one o'clock in the morning when Bergan saw the great dusky pile
of the Hall, and the dark masses of the live oaks, rise before him, in
the pale light of the waning moon.  He knew that its master lay within.
Brick had narrated how Rue had ordered and superintended his removal
thither, in one of his moments of comparative quiet and
exhaustion;--the old woman being of the opinion that it was not fitting
for him to die otherwhere than under the ancestral roof, in the same
room where one after another of his forefathers had likewise laid down
the burden of the flesh, and begun the new life of the spirit.  To this
room, Bergan was easily guided by his groans and cries.

Never before had he seen a man in the terrible grasp of delirium
tremens; and now, after a brief look, he was glad to turn away his eyes.

Major Bergan was on the bed, but he was only held there by the main
strength of two stout negroes.  A frightful spasm contorted his face
and twisted his limbs.  Great drops of perspiration stood on his brow;
and from his mouth flowed a mingled stream of oaths, curses, shrieks of
horror, threats of defiance, and groans of agony.  His bodily anguish
was only less than his mental torture.  His eyes started from his head
at the phantom-creations of his delirious imagination.  The furniture
was alive, watching him with fiery eyes, and threatening him with
envenomed teeth and claws; the shadows took mocking shapes and gibed
and jeered at him; and the pictures were demons setting them all on.
The very hairs of his head turned to slimy snakes, and the bed-clothes
were now damp winding-sheets, and now devouring flames.

"Have you had a doctor?" asked Bergan of Rue, who had met him at the
door.

"Yes; Doctor Remy has been here twice; he left not much more than half
an hour ago.  He said he had a critical case on hand, that must be seen
to; and there was nothing to be done here, except what we could do as
well as he."

"What are you doing?"

"Giving him soup to keep up his strength, and opium to quiet him.  A
few minutes ago, too, in a lucid moment, he called for some powders
that he has been in the habit of taking, which, he said, always did him
more good than anything else.  There were only two left; we gave him
one, as he was so bent on having it; I thought if it did no good, it
couldn't do any harm."

"Did Doctor Remy say that he would call again?"

"He did, but, Master Bergan, a blind woman's ears are quick at catching
meanings as well as words, and he did not mean to come very soon,--not,
I reckon, till all is over."

Bergan meditated.  Though he had long known that his uncle's habits
would be likely to bring him, sooner or later, to a drunkard's most
miserable end, he could not but think it somewhat suspicious that the
seizure should have followed so closely upon the completion of the
fraudulent will.

"When was my uncle taken?" he asked.

"Early this evening.  He had been drinking a good deal for two or three
days past; he said he did not feel well, and he would keep at the
brandy bottle, in spite of all that I could say to him.  About ten
o'clock this morning, Doctor Remy came in to see him, and I suspect,
told him something that made him angry,--for I heard him swearing
furiously to himself, after the doctor had gone.  And then, probably,
he fell to drinking worse than ever; but it was not until about four
o'clock that I heard him groaning and crying out, and he has kept it up
a good part of the time ever since.  But now, I think, he seems to be
getting a little easier."

Bergan turned to the bed.  The spasm was over, and the Major lay
exhausted, with his eyes closed.  Opening them, they immediately
brightened with a look of recognition.

"Is that you, Harry?" he asked, feebly.

"Yes, uncle," replied Bergan, taking his hand; "Rue sent for me, and I
came at once.  I am sorry to see you so ill."

"I think you are, my boy, I think you are," responded Major Bergan;
"you look like it, and besides, a Bergan never lies.  And I'm sorry,
too,--all the more, because I suspect that it's my own fault.  If ever
you learn to drink--and I don't feel quite so sure that it's necessary
as I did once--don't drink too hard, Harry, don't drink too hard!  If
ever I get over this bout, I swear I'll think twice, hereafter, before
I drink once.  And if I don't, I'm glad you're here, Harry, boy; it's
well for the new master to be on before the old one is off."

"I hope that you will live to carry your good resolutions into effect,"
said Bergan earnestly.

"Do you?  Well, so do I."

He lay quiet for a moment, busy with his own thoughts.  All at once he
started up, exclaiming;--

"Fire and fury! what's that?"

The negroes caught hold of him, expecting a fresh convulsion of the
same nature as the preceding ones; but, though his face was frightfully
distorted, and his form writhed with pain, there was no accompaniment
of phantasmal horrors.

"Brandy!" he finally gasped, through his set teeth.

Rue motioned to one of the women in waiting to bring some.  Bergan put
his hand on her arm.  "Surely you will not give it to him _now_," said
he, impressively.

"The doctor said he must have a little, now and then," she answered.

But before the glass could be put to his lips, he groaned, shuddered
from head to foot, and fell back on the pillow, with his eyes rolled up
in his head, his hands clenched, and a dark froth issuing from, between
his shut teeth.  He was dead.



XI.

AFTER MANY DAYS.

There was a sudden silence--the shadow of God's hand.  In it the lately
agonized, writhing body lay at peace, the anxious spectators stood awed
and motionless.  Yet this silence was more voiceful than any
sound,--full of solemn questionings and more solemn answers, subtle
suggestions, grave warnings, and momentous intimations.  Of the value
and the valuelessness of life, of the night and the morning of death,
of the character and the import of the Hereafter,--on all these topics
it discoursed more eloquently than the most silvery of oratorical
tongues.

It had also its more commonplace and definite purport to the
simple-minded dependents gathered in the gloom of the broad gallery and
the black oaken staircase; which was no sooner fully apprehended, than
the sound of weeping was heard among them,--though not noisily
demonstrative, according to the African wont, for their awe of their
late master had been greater than their affection, and was in nowise
diminished by the knowledge of the dread change that had come upon him.
It was genuine sorrow, nevertheless, for, though he had been a hard
master, of late, most of them remembered when he had been kinder; and,
at the worst, he had not been without gleams of good humor and
leniency, upon which their minds now dwelt willingly and tenderly.
Some few gray heads, too, there were among them, who recollected the
grace and promise of his youth, and how proud they had been of their
gay, handsome, generous, high-spirited master; and these, striving to
forget that the promise had not been kept, or to set down its failure
to adverse fate rather than wilful shortcoming, crowded the doorway, or
stole in pairs to the foot of the bed, and looked through tears at the
dead face, and whispered to each other that something of its youth had
come back to it;--the soul, as it took its departure, had stamped the
features with their original nobility and grace.  And then they stole
out, to prompt each other's memories with anecdotes of that vanished
youth, and to dilate the eyes of their juniors with descriptions of the
ancient splendors and hospitalities of the desolate old Hall;--the
banquets that had been served in the dusky dining-room, the gay
measures that had been trodden in the long parlor, the wedding-trains
and the funeral processions that had passed through the great door;
and, finally, of the ghosts that still walk the empty rooms, and may be
expected to be seen stalking through the long passages to-night, or
holding solemn conclave around the deserted tabernacle of the latest
comer among them.

Hark! is not that the sound of footsteps, falling airily, yet heavily,
too, in some distant chamber?  And there, in the upper gallery, is
certainly the rustle of the supernaturally stiff silk robe of the first
Lady Bergan, who was found dead in her bed, so many years ago!  And now
creaks the door at the end of the wing, through which old Sir Harry is
wont to march majestically forth, sword in hand, to take vengeance on
any degenerate scion of the house that he encounters in his path!  This
last apparition is too much for their nerves.  They shrink together,
and flee noiselessly to their cabins, hearing the footsteps of the
angry knight following them all the way, and leaving the old house
untenanted save by the-ghosts, and the few faithful watchers in the
death-chamber.

Rue is kneeling by the corpse.  She has closed the eyes--sightless as
her own;--she has smoothed back the disordered hair; she has pressed
the lips together over the set teeth; now she is passing her withered
hand gently over the blind features, thinking more of the baby that she
nursed, the child that she petted and spoiled, and the youth that she
admired and loved, than of the middle-aged man that she had served with
her best strength, or the elderly one that she had stood by so
faithfully, striving in vain to hold him back from his evil ways.
Finally, she touches the cold lips with her own.

"I kissed him when he was born," she murmurs, half apologetically, to
Bergan, "and there will be no kiss on his dead lips, unless I leave it
there."

Bergan looks at her wonderingly.  Her face is calm--there are no tears
in her eyes; she has the satisfied and relieved expression of one who,
after long and patient waiting, beholds the expected rest or gladness
close at hand, and is already half content.

"One little trust more to be fulfilled," she says softly to herself,
"and then my work is done, my long service of the family is over.  My
God, have I served Thee as well?"

And although, in her deep humility, she shakes her head, and pronounces
herself an unprofitable servant, we, who can hear better that voice in
the silence, making little of rank, wealth, talent, and culture, and
much of faith, patience, and integrity, may be sure that it utters
benignantly,--"Well done!"

Rising, at last, Rue turned to Bergan, and made him a low, reverential
courtesy.

"Master Bergan," she asked, "have you any orders to give?"

Bergan started.  There was a quiet significance in her tone and manner
that made his heart beat fast, for just one moment,--not with elation,
however, so much as with a heavy weight of responsibility; as if the
chill corpse, the crumbling Hall, the hundreds of negroes, the
far-stretching lands, and all the cares and complexities thereto
pertaining, had been suddenly flung on his shoulders.  But the feeling
passed quickly; he remembered the will in favor of Carice, as well as
its fraudulent successor (which, he now bethought himself, it might be
impossible to nullify, even if he could bring himself to come in
conflict with Carice's husband); and the weight slid easily from his
shoulders, though not without leaving some correlative heaviness in his
heart.

Still there were orders to be given; and, until a more legitimate
authority or a closer relationship should supersede him, he, being on
the spot, must answer the immediate need of headship.  He despatched
messengers, therefore, in various directions,--one to Godfrey Bergan to
apprise him that the long, bitter feud was ended, and between him and
the corpse of his brother there might be peace; another to Doctor Remy,
with a supplementary direction that if he was not to be found, Doctor
Gerrish should be summoned also; and a third to the undertaker, to
arrange for the sombre funeral paraphernalia.  When all was done, he
was glad to retire for awhile to his room, leaving Rue, as she desired,
alone with her dead.  Yes, hers,--no living person had so strong a
prescriptive right to that sad and tender vigil; no other love held the
sufficient warrant of such long and loyal service.

Bergan remembered, long afterward, just how she looked as he bade her
good night; standing, tall, gaunt, and erect, by the high,
old-fashioned bedstead, drawing the heavy curtains round the silent
dead with one hand, and extending the other toward him with a free and
lofty gesture that suggested the unveiling of a new and golden future.

"Good night, Master Bergan," said she, "or rather, good morning.  For
you, the night is past, and the dawn is near.  For you the Bergan star
shines bright in the morning sky; for you and the old Hall a new reign
of peace and prosperity is begun.  Neglect not the warnings of the
past; rejoice in the promise of the future.  God bless you, now and
evermore!"

The last words were spoken with a solemnity befitting a long farewell.
At the moment, a vague apprehension flitted across Bergan's mind; but,
looking back, he saw that she had seated herself quietly by the bed,
like one whose only purpose was to watch and wait.  Besides, she had
spoken freely of the morrow's necessities and duties, and of her own
part in them; it was plain that she had no apprehension for herself,
and he might dismiss his fears.

In the hall, he was met by the solemn ticking of the tall old clock,
which some one had set in motion; probably with a vague idea that a
human soul's last minutes of time should be carefully measured, and the
moment of its entrance upon eternity definitely marked.  He could not
help shivering at the sound.  His mind involuntarily followed the
departed soul in its journeyings beyond the bounds of time, picturing
the heights or depths it had already reached, the scenes opened to its
awed vision, the momentous truths dawning upon its startled
comprehension.  These thoughts not only accompanied him to his room,
but would not be shut out by the closing door.

Weary as he was, he had no disposition to sleep.  He sat down by the
table, leaned his head on his hand, and gave himself up to sombre
reflections.  The gloomy deathbed that he had just witnessed, the
emptiness and decay of the old ancestral home, the tangled questions of
right and expediency that might present themselves for decision at any
moment,--all these weighed heavily on his mind, and depressed his
spirits.  For one moment he half forgot his rooted trust in an
overruling Providence, at once wise and tender, in the contemplation of
the chill chain of events that appeared to be tightening around him,
the seemingly mysterious fate that had twice compelled his return to
this dreary old dwelling,--tomb rather,--to experience some new phase
of sin or sorrow, after he had turned his back upon it, as he believed,
for many years, if not forever.  No wonder the negroes thought it
haunted; its heavy, musty atmosphere was much better adapted for ghosts
to float about in than to be breathed into living lungs; it might well
be crowded with the spirits of his whole ancestry, to make it so
stifling!

He went to the window, to see if it were any better there.  Scarcely.
The moon had vanished behind a cloud; the night was dim; the outside
air seemed not less burdened with woe and mystery than that within; he
even fancied that he heard light footsteps on the path below.  He flung
himself again into his chair, and an almost superstitious awe stole
over him, a feeling that there was no such thing as emptiness, but only
invisibility,--that the air was teeming with mystic shapes, busily
tying circumstance to circumstance, cause to effect, motive to result,
and life to life, with cords of terrible strength and indestructibility.

_Cords_:--The word struck lightly on the sensitive chain of
association, and there was an instant response from the past;--"Holden
with the cords of his sins."  No doubt that was the essential truth.
Strictly speaking, a separate act or an individual life was an
impossibility; each was bound to each by influence or consequence; sin,
especially, entailed its results upon a wide circle of inheritors,--the
sinner himself, his kindred, friends, neighbors, even his descendants
unto remote generations.  Doubtless the sins of many old-time Bergans
had helped to twist the cords which had held the mansion of their pride
to so sad a period of desertion and decay, if not their scion to so
woful a death.  With how many such cords was he himself holden, and to
what, and for how long?

He lifted his eyes with a start.  A dim shadow had fallen on the floor;
something was intercepting the gray dawn-rays, which feebly lit the
room.  He looked at the open window; it framed a slight graceful
figure, a wan, but lovely face,--both so well remembered, so fondly
loved, so mournfully lost!  Of course, it was an apparition, a creation
of his own excited fancy, called forth to furnish another illustration
of the strange ramifications and knottings of those mystical cords, and
soon to disappear, and make way for some other sharer of his bonds.

And disappear it did; but with a sudden crash, and a startled cry of
"Bergan!"--neither of which had any touch of the supernatural.  The
unexpected sounds at once his awe; he ran to the window, saw that the
rotten flooring of the upper piazza had broken down under some recent
weight, leaped the gap, flew down the steps, and found lying underneath
a motionless form and a lily-pale face, both half hidden in long,
flowing tresses.  No apparition this, but a living, breathing
Carice,--or what had lately been such;--she looked deathlike enough now.

It may well be questioned whether love ever dies.  It disappears from
sight, no doubt; it ceases to be felt as motive or end; the very heart
from whence it sprang believes that it is no more; perhaps a new--and
true--affection occupies its place and does its work.  But is this
apparent death anything more than a partial decay, analogous to that by
which thousands of perennial plants seem annually to perish from the
face of the earth, under the frosts of autumn, but the roots of which,
nevertheless, carefully preserve their life-principle within, ready to
respond with swift springing verdure to the tender kisses and tears of
the springtime sun and rain?  Is not all death only a sleep?

Bergan had striven conscientiously to destroy his love for Carice, as a
thing which, however innocent in its birth, had grown to be a sin.  And
he had measurably succeeded.  His worst heartache was over.  Life had
ceased to look unattractive; if it did not promise happiness, it
offered plenty of work, and a sober well-being.  He was beginning to
feel the beneficent operation of the law of change, to find that sorrow
was not meant to be the life-tenant of any human heart.  If he had met
Carice under other circumstances, less calculated to throw him off his
guard, he would doubtless have approved himself master of the
situation; meeting her with calm cousinly courtesy and kindness, and
stifling only a momentary pang in his deep heart.  But seeing her
thus,--pale, motionless, unconscious,--dying, perhaps, if not already
dead,--flung back at his feet, for sympathy and succor, by some
mysterious turn of the same tide of circumstance which had borne her
away,--a lost jewel, restored after many days,--it is scarcely to be
wondered at that, for one moment, as he knelt by the inanimate form, he
forgot all the sorrowful past in the anxiety of the present, and
touched the mute lips with the warm kiss of a love which, though long
repressed and slumbering, seemed now to have neither wasted nor died.

He soon recollected himself, however; when, seeing that Carice still
breathed, and was probably only stunned by her fall, he at once
addressed himself to the consideration of the serious question what was
to be done with her.  She had fled suddenly, it would seem, led by some
wild, uncontrollable impulse; nothing shielded her from chill or from
observation but a nightdress and a light shawl; on one foot was a thin
slipper, the other was bare and bleeding; and her dishevelled hair fell
round her shoulders, some locks of which, he now noticed, were
encrimsoned by blood flowing from a deep cut in her head.

He glanced quickly round; the dawn was yet gray, there was no one astir
at the Hall, and probably not at Oakstead; unless she had been missed,
there was still time to save her from what, he knew, she would feel to
be worse than death, when fully restored to consciousness.  He lifted
her in his arms--it went to his heart, even at that moment, to feel how
thin and light she was--and bore her swiftly to the door of her home.
There Mr. Bergan and Rosa met him; they had just discovered her
absence, but had not given the alarm; they were still too bewildered to
know precisely what steps should be taken for her recovery.  Bergan
carried her to the library, and laid her on the sofa.  As he did so,
she opened her eyes, turned from him to Mr. Bergan, and cried out, in a
voice of mingled entreaty and determination;--

"Father, I _cannot_ be Doctor Remy's wife!"

Bergan looked at his uncle with a mixture of surprise and apprehension.
"She is delirious," said he.

"No, thank God!" answered Mr. Bergan, with a look of ineffable relief
and gladness; "she is herself again--clothed and in her right mind."



PART FIFTH.

A BITTER HARVEST.



I.

A CLOUD FOR A COVERING.

The twelvemonth gone by had not passed lightly over Godfrey Bergan.  He
was not the same man who had refused so peremptorily to listen to
Bergan, on that memorable eve of Carice's wedding.  Not only had he
grown grayer and thinner, slower of gait and heavier of step; not only
were his shoulders bent and his head drooping; but his face wore an
expression of settled gravity, bordering on melancholy, and his manner
was gentle, almost to submissiveness.  Since the night when he had
staggered into the cabin of the trusty Bruno, bending under the weight
of his dripping burden, he had never, in one sense, laid it down.  The
thought that he had forced his daughter into a marriage so abhorrent to
her that she had been fain to escape from it through the awful door of
suicide, had never ceased to haunt his mind, and burden his heart and
his conscience.

It had not occurred to him that the fall from the bridge was
accidental, inasmuch as Rosa had deemed it her duty to keep inviolate
the secret of her young mistress's errand abroad on that night; he was
therefore unable to conjecture why Carice should have sought the
river-side at so inopportune an hour, except with a purpose of
self-destruction.  Nor did it give him any comfort to reflect that her
mind must have been set all ajar, before she would have resorted to so
desperate an expedient; that only lifted the terrible responsibility
from her shoulders to lay it more crushingly on his own.  It was he,
who, without giving her time to recover from the shock of Bergan's
apparent infidelity, or the fatigue and anxiety occasioned by his own
illness, had urged her into a union with a man for whom she
persistently asserted that she neither had, nor would ever be likely to
have, any warmer feeling than respect for his intellectual attainments,
and admiration for his professional skill and devotion.  To be sure, he
had done it solely with a view to her happiness,--doing evil that good
might come, and finding too late that "Whatsoever a man soweth, that
shall he reap."

First, on that woful night, he had carried Carice to Bruno's cabin,
partly because it was nearer to the scene of the disaster, and partly
because he feared to encounter some lingering guest or indiscreet
servant, if he took her to the cottage.  Fortunately, Bruno and his
wife were both within; and the latter immediately applied herself to
the work of restoration according to her lights; while the former was
dispatched, with suitable injunctions to be secret and expeditious, to
bring more efficient aid in the person of Doctor Remy.

It soon appeared that--thanks to her father's promptness--Carice had
sustained little injury from her immersion in the water; but, though
heart and lungs were quickly brought to resume their functions, her
senses remained fast locked in stupor.  Knitting his brows, for a brief
space, over this unexpected complication, Doctor Remy betook himself to
a careful examination of the patient's head; and shortly announced that
he had discovered a severe contusion of the skull, implying more or
less serious injury to the brain.

The stupor would last hours--possibly days.  Meanwhile, many appliances
and comforts which the cabin could not afford, would be demanded; he
therefore advised her immediate removal to the cottage.  Mr. Bergan
hastened to break the distressing news to her mother, and to make sure
that the house and grounds were clear; then Carice was carefully placed
on a litter, and borne to her own room.

It was long before she showed any sign of consciousness, longer still
before she was free from the supervening fever and delirium, and
capable of coherent thought and expression.  When that time came, it
was found that her memory of the past five months was a blank.
Bergan's unaccountable silence, her father's trying illness, Doctor
Remy's unacceptable suit, and the ill-starred marriage
ceremony--everything which had distressed her mind or wounded her
heart, had been completely wiped out of her recollection as by some
friendly, pitying hand; and she was carried back, all unconscious of
the transit, to the tender joy and blissful content with which she had
parted from Bergan.  To her thought it was only a few days since he
went; yet, with a pleasant inconsequence, she was already beginning to
watch for his return.  At first, she had seemed a little bewildered by
the change of season; it was amidst the flower and foliage of early
summer that Bergan had said good-bye; now, the deciduous trees stood
bare against the sky, and the flower-beds were shorn of their glory.
But her mind was too feeble to reason, and she soon accepted the fact,
as she did many another, without trying to account for it.  Enough to
know that, winter being near, Bergan must be near also.

It may be noted as a curiously ironical turn of that blind Chance, or
Fate, in which Doctor Remy believed, that he was compelled, in his
professional capacity, to give orders that Carice should be carefully
humored, for the present, in this or any other delusion.  There was
something at stake of far more importance, to him, than his personal
feelings as a man or a bridegroom--namely, the ownership of Bergan
Hall.  In consideration of that, Carice must be spared everything
tending to excite or distress her, and indulged in whatever was
soothing to her mind, or pleasing to her fancy.

Meanwhile, he addressed himself, with renewed ardor and determination,
to the study of brain diseases.  His attention had already been engaged
by the recently promulged theory of Gall, that each faculty of the mind
had its distinct location in the brain; and he was quick to see the
fine field thereby opened to pathological investigation.  It was in
this direction that he hoped, some day, to make his name famous; and it
was chiefly as a means to this end that Bergan Hall was valuable in his
eyes.  He wanted wealth in order to be able to devote himself
exclusively to the study of this branch of medical science, and to
pursue it, unhampered by considerations of expense, throughout the
books and manuscripts, the practitioners and patients, the hospitals
and asylums, the morgues and the dissecting-rooms, of the whole world.
Till he could do that, he must content himself with the one patient
whom circumstance had thrown into his hands.

But here, he was unexpectedly disappointed, in a measure.  Whether it
were that enough of her recollection revived to associate him dimly
with anxiety and distress; or whether, her reason being in abeyance,
she was more controlled by her pure and delicate instincts; certain it
is, that Carice's fever no sooner left her, than she developed the most
unconquerable aversion to him, amounting in time to a degree of terror.
At his approach, she either hid her face, and trembled like an aspen
leaf, or she fled with cries of fright.  And these moments of
excitement were followed by such alarming prostration, that Doctor Remy
was reluctantly compelled to admit the necessity of keeping out of her
sight.  His investigations had thenceforth to be conducted through the
agency of her parents or of Rosa.  Now and then, when she slept,--and
her sleep was always singularly profound, the very twin brother of
death,--he stole into her room, to acquaint himself with some
particular of the location, depth, or progress in healing, of the
injury to her head, and to satisfy himself of the state of her general
health.

To every one but Doctor Remy, Carice was gentleness itself.  She was
happiness, too, in a touchingly quiet, dreamy, illogical form.  She was
content to spend hours at the window, watching for the first glimpse of
Bergan, with a smile on her lips, and her eyes bright with eager
expectation; and though she sometimes sighed, when the day ended, and
he did not come, she was ready to begin the same hopeful watch on the
morrow, and never seemed to know how long it had lasted.  As she grew
stronger, she resumed, in some measure, her old pursuits;--she busied
herself with light household tasks; she wrought dainty embroidery with
silks and worsteds; she read, chiefly poetry, the music of which seemed
to please her ear, without fatiguing her mind; she even noticed the
cloud on her father's brow, and made gentle war upon it,--conquering,
of course, as long as he was in her sight, and never suspecting how
heavily it settled back afterward.  But all this time, the veil over
the past never lifted, nor was the eager watch for Bergan ever
abandoned.

The few intimate friends, or the servants not of the household, who saw
her occasionally, noticed nothing unusual about her, except the
delicacy and languor consequent upon a severe illness; Mrs. Bergan
being always present to turn the conversation away from every dangerous
point, and guide it through safe channels.  To the rest of the world,
it was simply known that Carice had suddenly been stricken down, on her
wedding night, by a fever, supposed to be of the same nature as the one
which had lately prostrated her father; and that she was not yet
sufficiently strong to show herself abroad, or see much company at
home.  Doctor Remy, meanwhile, came and went, and spent as much time at
the cottage as could reasonably be expected of a physician with a large
area of practice, and an office three miles away from his nominal home.
Not a person, outside of the limited household, supposed that he never
saw Carice, except when she was fast asleep, and totally unconscious of
his presence.

So the months rolled away, and the year drew near to its close.  Doctor
Remy had prosecuted his abstruse study, by the dim light of the science
of that day, with characteristic energy and acuteness.  He had slowly
felt his way, from the premise that each faculty of the mind had its
appropriate seat in the brain, to the conclusion that every local
injury or disease would affect mainly the faculty corresponding to the
injured or diseased portion, thereby not only indicating the seat of
the impaired faculty, but suggesting the possibility of a local remedy
for the local disturbance,--probably a delicate and difficult surgical
operation, to remove pus, slivers of bone, or other foreign matter
pressing upon, piercing, or otherwise irritating the sensitive cellular
tissue of the brain.  Now, he only longed for an opportunity to test
his conclusions by experiment, and would certainly have attempted to
use Carice for this purpose, except that on her slender thread of life
hung his only chance of Bergan Hall.  It would not do to sacrifice the
immense future advantage to the small immediate gain.

Nature, meanwhile, was laboring in her slow, gentle way, to effect the
same end contemplated by the doctor's science.  With the beginning of
November, a change was observable in Carice.  Her sweet face lost its
look of happy anticipation, and grew weary and anxious.  There were
tokens that she was beginning to reason again, in a fitful, fragmentary
way, and to notice some of the many discrepancies between the facts and
the theories of her life; sometimes she put her hand to her head with a
piteous expression of doubt and bewilderment.  By and by, she became
possessed of a spirit of restlessness by day, and of sleeplessness by
night; making the care of her--hitherto an easy and a pleasant task--a
sufficiently onerous charge.  Thus it happened that she had made her
escape to the Hall, as heretofore narrated.  Her night had been
restless, beyond all previous precedent, keeping Rosa constantly on the
watch.  Toward dawn, she had fallen into a light slumber, during which
the weary attendant, sitting quietly by the bedside, had suddenly been
overcome by a profound sleep.  Waking ere long, and not wishing to
disturb her tired maid, Carice stole softly to the window, to look out,
as usual, for Bergan's coming, and saw the light shining again from the
window of his room in the old Hall.  The broken links in the chain of
association were stirred, if not reunited,--perhaps a dim reminiscence
of her former attempt to reach him woke within her,--she wrapped
herself in the first shawl that came to hand, thrust her feet into a
pair of slippers, and noiselessly made her way out of the house and
down to the river, exactly as she had done a year before.  At the gap
in the foot-bridge, through which she had fallen, she stopped and put
her hand to her brow, in a momentary perplexity.  Here, her memory of
the former expedition, which had led her thus far on her way, failed
her;--what was she to do next?

Lifting her eyes, she again caught sight of the light from the Hall,
which had recently been hidden by the trees.  Her lips parted in a
smile; her hesitation was at an end.  Clinging to the hand-rail of the
bridge, and sliding her feet carefully along the great beam underneath,
she safely passed the gap,--though she lost a slipper in the
transit,--and then hurried to the Hall, to meet with the accident
lately described.

All of the foregoing history--or at least as much of it as was known to
him--Mr. Bergan recounted to his nephew, in a long conversation held in
the parlor, after Carice had been soothed by her father's promise that
she should be compelled to do nothing but what was right and agreeable
in her own eyes, and left to the care of her mother and Rosa.  Now,
too, the loss of Bergan's letters to his uncle and Carice was
discovered; the false or distorted statements in those of Doctor Remy
to himself were brought to light and discussed; finally, Mr. Bergan was
glad to listen to a succinct recital of Doctor Trubie's reasons for
believing Felix Remy to be identical with Edmund Roath.

In the course of the conversation, all reserve between the uncle and
nephew insensibly melted away, and the last topic was discussed upon
terms of the most cordial confidence and sympathy.  Bergan's high
reputation in Savalla had not failed to reach his uncle's ears, and
sometimes to make him doubt if all his old prejudice was well founded;
and now, there was so much dignity and gentleness in his bearing, his
words were so full of unselfish consideration for others, he showed
himself so ready still, as heretofore, to sacrifice every merely
personal feeling to Carice's welfare, that Mr. Bergan's heart, softened
and humbled as it had been by adversity, was irresistibly won.  He was
glad to feel that he had so dispassionate a judgment, so wise a
counsellor, and so kind a friend, to lean upon, in this moment of
perplexity.

The talk was broken in upon by a message from Mrs. Bergan.  Carice,
after her manifold questions in regard to the circumstances in which
she found herself had been answered or evaded, had sunk into a deep,
but apparently natural sleep.  Still, her mother could not but be
extremely anxious about her; and she suggested that Doctor Remy, or
some one else, should be immediately sent for, to provide against the
contingency of her waking.

Mr. Bergan looked anxiously at his nephew.  "After what you have told
me," said he, "I do not feel that I can allow that man to enter
Carice's room again, even when she is sleeping.  Yet, be he what or
whom he may, his professional skill is undeniable, and her life or
reason may turn on those waking moments.  What is to be done?"

"Do you know where he is to be found?" asked Bergan.

"No.  He merely told me that he had a critical case on hand, which
would keep him out all night, and perhaps we should not see him before
noon to-day.  I suppose he can be heard of at his office."

Bergan reflected for a moment.  "By this time," said he, "Doctor
Gerrish must be on his way to the Hall.  From what I have known and
heard of him, I believe him to be both a promising physician and an
honorable man.  Send Bruno to intercept him, on the plea that the dead
can wait for his services better than the living.  Then tell him, in
strict confidence, enough of Carice's condition to make him understand
the case; but you need say nothing of Doctor Remy, except that he is
not at hand, and you feared to wait.  Finally, ask, as a special favor,
that he will not mention his visit to Doctor Remy, lest the latter be
annoyed.  He will think you weak and overscrupulous, but he will
promise."

This advice was acted upon.  Doctor Gerrish, after listening to Mr.
Bergan's statement and examining Carice as she lay asleep, decided that
the recent wound, which was in the neighborhood of the former one, had,
in some mysterious way, relieved the inflammation, or counteracted the
injury, caused by that--in short, had done precisely what Doctor Remy
proposed to do by means of an operation.  He furthermore believed that
Nature was making her final effort at restoration through the deep
sleep which held Carice in bonds so gentle and so firm; and he gave
strict orders that nothing should be suffered to break it.  It would
doubtless last some hours, perhaps the whole day; or if she woke, it
would be merely to swallow a little nourishment, which should be given
her, and then to fall asleep again.

Bergan had waited to hear this decision, and he now requested Doctor
Gerrish to ride on to the Hall, where he would join him almost
immediately, by the shorter way of the foot-bridge.  His uncle detained
him longer than he expected, however, for a final consultation about
several important matters; and he was conscious that Doctor Gerrish
must have been kept waiting for a considerable time, when he finally
quitted the house.  Hurrying to the foot-bridge, he saw two
rough-looking men crossing it from the direction of the Hall.  At sight
of him, they interchanged a few words, and then came to meet him.

"Mr. Arling, I believe," said one, touching his hat.  "We have been
asking at the Hall for you, and a doctor that we saw there told us that
you were coming this way, and asked us to say, if we met you, that he
begged you would hurry."

"Thank you," said Bergan.  "That is what I am doing."

"Not so fast," interrupted the other, who was a tall, muscular fellow
with a sinister countenance.  "You are that Lawyer Arling, I reckon,
who got my brother sentenced to state prison last month for burglary."

"I did my duty as prosecuting attorney for the State, if that is what
you mean," replied Bergan, coolly.

"You did, did you?  Well, I'm going to do mine, which is to knock you
down for it."

With these words, the man raised his powerful fist.  Bergan
instinctively threw himself into the attitude of defence; but the
ruffian's companion, who had edged behind him, caught hold of both his
arms; and the unparried blow felled him senseless to the ground.



II.

SWIFT FEET.

However cold a man's temperament may be by nature, however complete the
subjection of his passions to his reason and his will, he is nearly
certain, in the sudden excitement and confusion of detected guilt, to
be betrayed into some act instantly condemned by his better judgment.
Such had been the case with Doctor Remy, in his encounter with Hubert
Arling at the "Rat-Hole."  Mistaking Hubert for Bergan, and believing
him to be there only to spy out his actions and thwart his designs, it
had been his first impulse to draw the pistol, which he habitually
carried, according to the custom of the times and locality, and free
himself at once and forever from interference that he conceived to be
so dangerous.  His chagrin at finding that he had mistaken one brother
for the other, was only equalled by his surprise at his calm dismissal
and friendly warning, at Bergan's hands.  It did not take him long to
fix upon the hidden motive of this conduct,--to decide, with a bitter
smile, that he had been spared for the sake of Carice.

Yet he had no idea of the extent of Bergan's forbearance toward him on
this head.  It must be remembered that he never received the slightest
intimation of Doctor Trubie's suspicions, or of Bergan's visit to
Oakstead, on the night of the wedding.  Godfrey Bergan had omitted any
mention of either; first, because he had been prevented from doing so
by the overwhelming distress and anxiety that had come upon him so
suddenly; and afterward, because it had seemed wiser, on the whole, to
say nothing.  Doctor Remy, therefore, had no suspicion of the mine over
which he had been standing, on that night, nor how its explosion had
been averted.  From his point of view, Bergan's sudden removal to
Savalla, in consideration of the prospect there opened to him, was the
most natural thing in the world.  Nor did he know any reason why
himself and his former friend should not meet on the old terms, upon
occasion, except that the gain of the one had been the loss of the
other, in respect to Carice.  Even here, however, he held himself to be
ostensibly blameless, inasmuch as womankind was proverbially fickle,
and Bergan had no reason to suppose that he was aware of any relation
between him and Carice other than the outward one.  He deeply
regretted, therefore, that in a moment of surprise and confusion, he
should have put himself in a false position.  It would have been far
better to have met Bergan with the careless ease of a conscience void
of offence.  But, since he had not done so, it was well that Carice was
his sufficient safeguard against retaliation.

Yet one word had fallen from Bergan's lips, which had startled him at
the moment, and haunted him on his way homeward.  The young man had
seriously bidden him be thankful that he was saved from "_another_
crime."  Was the phrase accidental, or did it imply some knowledge of
the affair of the will?  In the latter case, was it likely that Bergan
would submit to the loss of what he had been encouraged, at one time,
to consider his lawful inheritance, without a most rigid scrutiny and
investigation of the document by which, while the property was
apparently given to Carice, it was done in such a way as to place it
absolutely in her husband's control.  Would Bergan's forbearance toward
her and hers be likely to extend as far as this?  Judging by himself,
and his experience of men in general, and especially of heirs, he did
not hesitate to affirm that it would not.  For, though Bergan had
seemed to be possessed of some unusually Quixotic notions of honor,
independence, and disinterestedness, during the period of their
intimate association, he had doubtless seen enough of life since then,
to grow more sensible.  What, then, had he not to dread from his
natural acuteness and legal skill, when both of these, sharpened by
interest, should be brought to bear on the false will?

Absorbed in these reflections, he had allowed his horse to choose his
own pace, which had gradually slackened, from a gallop to a trot, and
then into a walk, until, at last, he was easily overtaken by Dick
Causton, in whose eyes there still shone a humorous twinkle.

"Those Arlings seem to be pretty much of a piece," said he; "they both
give better than they take, when it comes to blows.  However, the
Italians say, _Tutto s'accommoda, eccetto l'osso del collo_,--that
means, Everything can be mended except the neck-bone.  Yours has come
safe out of this fray, but there's no telling how long 'twill stay so,
if you're so ready with your pistol."

"Pshaw!" exclaimed Doctor Remy, angrily.  "I am in no mood for jesting.
Do you suppose that Arling got any clue to our business in that den?"

"How should he?--'A man doesn't look behind the door unless he has been
there himself.'  Besides, Mr. Arling minds his own business,--which I
wish I did!--then I shouldn't have run from him like a dog caught
stealing.  By the way, Doctor, if the Major makes another will, which
cuts the throat of this one of ours, I suppose the forgery goes for
nothing?"

Doctor Remy looked at him darkly.  "What do you mean?" he asked.  "Is
he thinking of making another?"

"Not that I know of," replied Dick.  "But, 'At the game's end, see who
wins.'  There is time for him to make a dozen before he dies."

"We will see about that!" muttered the doctor.

"And if he does," persisted Dick, "our will goes for naught, of
course,--won't even be looked at, I suppose.  They'll 'trust to the
label of the bag,' seeing there's no necessity for opening it!"

Doctor Remy stopped short, and eyed his companion suspiciously, "See
here, Dick," said he, in a low, determined tone, "you had better not
venture to try any double dealing with me.  I will have you to know
that I can put you in prison, any day; and I will do it, too, even
though I have to go along with you, if you falter one step in the
course I have marked out for you.  Having begun with me in this
business, you will find it for your interest, in more senses than one,
to help me through with it."

"That is to say," muttered Dick, ruefully, "_Die met den duivel
ingescheept is, moet met hem overvaren_,--Having embarked with the
Devil, you have got to sail with him."

The sound of that word "prison" was by no means agreeable in his ears.
He had all a vagabond's love for open air and sunshine, and liberty to
go and come at his own fitful will.  He sickened at the bare idea of
prison walls between him and the sky, prison bars between him and the
fresh, roving air, prison restraints upon his freedom of action.

Doctor Remy saw the impression that he had made, and
proceeded:--"Wherefore, if you hear, or have heard, the Major express
any intention of making a new will, I need not suggest the propriety of
your giving me immediate warning."  The form of the sentence was that
of an assertion, but the tone was interrogative.

"_Dictum sapienti sat est_," answered Dick, sulkily, denying himself
the pleasure of translating, and immediately closing his lips tight, as
if he dared not trust himself to say another word.

In this mood, Doctor Remy thought it better not to press him further.
He had been made to see that he was in his power, and had even yielded
a reluctant assent to his will; this was gain enough for the present.
So, having reached the point where the roads diverged, he bade Dick a
smiling "Good-day," turned off toward the Hall; which, it occurred to
him, it might be worth while to visit, for the chance of securing
useful shreds of information, or of substituting the false will for the
true one.

Dick Causton looked after him with a moody, discontented brow.  "I am
like a leek, a gray head, and all the rest green," he groaned to
himself.  "I thought I had made a mighty sharp bargain, but it turns
out that I've only sold myself to the Devil, to fetch and carry at his
bidding.  I really gave myself credit for more sense; but, _Do entra
beber, sale saber_, When the drink's in, the wit's out."

With the last words, Dick heaved a deep sigh.  It was nothing new to
find that his darling sin was an inclined plane, down which he
continually slid into the grasp of divers other sins, less to his
taste; but never before had it done him so unkind a trick as to fling
him into the hands of a man quick to see, and unscrupulous to use, the
chance of turning him to account.  Yet so completely had all courage
and energy of will died out of him, and so thoroughly was he scared at
the idea of a prison as a possible termination of his career, that he
dared propose to himself only a feeble and covert resistance to Doctor
Remy's stern domination.  There was present safety in outward
submission; and as for the future!--he smiled in spite of his
discomfiture.

At the Hall, Doctor Remy was a little startled to find Major Bergan in
the clutch of so severe an attack of delirium tremens that death was
likely to be the speedy result.  It did not suit his plans that the
Major's decease should follow so quickly upon the completion of the
forged will; he wanted a little more time to mark out and make smooth
his future course, and obliterate his more recent track.  He therefore
set to work, with right good will, and science considerably in advance
of the times, to strengthen and quiet his patient, and so prolong his
life; certain that, whenever the strong hand of medical authority was
withdrawn, he would immediately drink himself into a relapse, which
could be allowed to prove fatal.  His efforts were not without a
measure of success; in three hours, he had so far reduced the fever and
excitement that he ventured to leave Rue in charge, while he paid a
brief visit to another patient, who had sent for him four or five times
during the evening.  This desertion of his post was fatal to him.  In
spite of Rue's best endeavors, Major Bergan succeeded in getting
possession of the brandy bottle, and draining it to the last drop.
When Doctor Remy returned, it was to find him once more a raving
maniac, and to learn to his consternation, that Bergan had been sent
for.  The Major would die, there was no help for that; but something
must be done to prevent the arrival of his nephew until after the true
will--and all other wills--had been found and destroyed, and the false
one put in its place;--even, if possible, until after the funeral was
over, the will read, and the property put into his own hands.  Once in
possession, he had reason to believe that he could not, or would not,
be disturbed.

His stay at the Major's bedside was short, and principally spent in
profound meditation; which was set down by the lookers-on to the
account of his deep solicitude for the patient.  His course was soon
decided upon.  In less than two hours he was back at the Rat-Hole, in
deep conversation with the convalescent, who was known as "Big Ben."
Its purport may be gathered from the closing remarks.

"You hit pretty hard, I suppose," said the doctor.

"Looks like it, don't it?" returned Big Ben, holding up his great fist
for inspection, with a satisfied smile.  "Make yourself easy; yonder
lawyer won't trouble you with any cross-questions for a month to come,
I'll promise you that.  He won't know his head from a bread-and-milk
poultice to-morrow morning, if he ever does."

"Take care!" replied the doctor, warningly; "you know I don't want him
killed,--only laid up for two or three weeks, and indisposed to meddle
with other people's affairs."

Big Ben smiled grimly.  "I'll take care not to do more than stun him,
on your account, doctor," he answered; "but I don't say what I shall
do, on my brother's.  A fellow don't always weight his blows exactly to
suit the skull they hit; and if I should happen to put an end to him,
without meaning it, you wouldn't take it much to heart, would ye?"

Doctor Remy did not move a muscle of his face, but his eyes sparkled,
in spite of himself.  Ben laughed, and nodded his head.

"Don't trouble yerself to answer," said he; "I understand you well
enough without."

"But, Ben--" began the doctor, in a tone of remonstrance.

"Enough said," interrupted the ruffian, impatiently.  "If it's me
you're afeard for, I'll jest let you know that I've got everything
fixed to leave these parts, to-morrow morning--I've heard of a better
opening for my talents--so I shall be off before this affair leaks out.
As for you, who knows that you've got anything to do with it?  It's
jest our own private squarin' of accounts; that's all.  You saved my
life; I squelch this lawyer for you.  At the same time I settle up with
him, for my brother.  If I swing for't, I'm not such a scoundrel as to
bring you in.  Now, I'm off; there's scant time to fix things, and get
to the Hall by day-break.  It's too late, you think, to stop him on the
way?"

"Most certainly; he must have started before this."

"And his room is on the south-east corner, you say?"

"Yes, with windows opening on the second piazza."


However,--thanks to Carice,--the room was empty when Big Ben and his
companion looked into it.  Determined not to be baffled thus, he
prowled around the house, until he was detected by Rue's quick ears in
the hall, and asked what was his business; when he truthfully replied
that he was seeking for Mr. Arling.  Hearing this, Doctor Gerrish came
forward, stated where Bergan could probably be found, and entrusted Ben
with the message, which, as we have seen, was scrupulously delivered.
Bergan was then knocked down; and the inanimate body was dragged by the
two ruffians to what seemed to be a remote point of the Oakstead
grounds, where it would not be likely to be discovered for some hours,
perhaps days.  There, Ben debated within himself, for a minute, whether
he would leave it its small remaining chance of life; but he remembered
that Bergan had seen both himself and his comrade face to face, and
would be able to identify them, on occasion.  He drew his knife,
muttered, "Dead men tell no tales," and sheathed it in the young man's
breast.

As he stood upright, his ear caught the faint jar of a closing door,
followed by the sound of slow footsteps, and a cracked voice humming a
song.  Apparently, the spot which he had chosen, lonely as it seemed,
was not far from some human dwelling.  He and his companion exchanged
startled glances, plunged into the underbrush, and fled silently and
swiftly.



III.

FATALITY OR TEMPTATION?

Doctor Remy, meanwhile, had made all possible speed from the Rat-Hole
to the bedside of a third patient; in order that his time, on that
night, might seem to be sufficiently accounted for by his professional
visits.  His horse was swift, and he had not spared it in his recent
expedition; it would seem impossible that he should have been at points
so wide apart, within so short a time.  By this means he expected to
secure himself from Justice, in her human shape; of her divine form, he
had no thought nor fear.  Yet, all the way, a voice from the Past,
which sounded curiously like his own, kept echoing in his ears, with a
dull, dead intonation,--"Crime is a mistake."

Well, suppose that it was, he had committed no crime.  He had merely
placed a particular powder, among many others, where a drunken old man,
whose life was of no moment to anybody, could take it or not, at
pleasure; he had altered a will in such manner as to give him absolute,
instead of partial, control of a certain property, which he intended to
use for the advance of science and the benefit of the race; and he had
provided for the temporary elimination from affairs of a person likely
to obstruct their proper sequence.  That was all.  What was there in it
to cause such a chill depression of spirits,--such an unreasoning dread
of--he knew not what?

Nothing, we may be sure, that was patent to the doctor's science.
Regarding right merely as another term for custom, policy, expediency,
and conscience as a softer name for cowardice, he was not likely to
discern clearly, nor explain correctly, phenomena by which even a lost
soul now and then asserts itself as of another nature than its
tabernacle of dust, subject to other laws, responsive to other
influences, thrilled with other pangs, fears, and longings.
Nevertheless, he sought for an answer to his question, and found a
plausible one in the fact that he was physically weary, and therefore
mentally ill at ease.  The night, too, was cool for the season, no
wonder that some of its chill had gotten into his mind as well as his
bones!  He buttoned his overcoat more closely around him, and spurred
on his flagging horse.

Yet he did not shut out the shiver, nor distance the uneasiness.  Some
importunate Cassandra of the depths still insisted upon its clearness
of vision, in respect to impending calamity.  Troubled in spite of
himself, he passed his recent operations in careful review, to see if
he had left any loophole open to invite detection or impediment.  None.
On the contrary, all seemed safe and propitious.  The Major was dying,
or dead, in consequence of his own self-will and folly.  Bergan Arling
would shortly be disabled, or killed,--but by another man's hand, and
ostensibly--really, even, in part--to gratify another man's thirst for
revenge.  The Major's will had been found and destroyed; and
another--its exact counterpart, except for the omission of a few absurd
conditions and restrictions--had been put in its place.  A few days
more, and the vast and valuable Bergan estate would be his own, and
available to his ends.  If his road to its possession had not been what
men accounted straight and clean, whose fault was it?  Had he not, in
virtue of his marked talents and abilities, a better right to wealth
and fame than most men?--and was he to blame for the fatality which
always placed some other life or heart between them and him?  Had he
not done his best to escape from it?  Had he not tried more legitimate
means to gain them, and failed?

If the doctor had been less intent upon special pleading, he might have
reminded himself that the records of crime show that a man seldom stops
with the commission of a single theft, forgery, murder, or other
offence.  The first one being the necessary sequence of an evil habit
of living or thinking, a second and a third follow as unavoidably as a
strict logical inference from admitted premises.  Might not the
fatality of which he complained be but the inevitable result of
indulging a certain kind of thought until it became a settled habit of
mind, sure to manifest itself, on occasion, in appropriate action?  Had
not this fatality first presented itself to him as a temptation,
suggesting a swift means to a desired end?--nay, was it not such still,
only treading more confidently a familiar track, and finding a readier
reception?

He had no time to answer these queries, if it had occurred to him to
ask them;--he was already at his destination.  With a mighty effort of
his will, he tore himself free of his anxieties and doubts, and bent
his mind steadily upon the surgical operation which he had come to
perform; and he performed it well, with a clear eye and a steady hand.
He then went on to his office, where he found Bergan's summons to the
death-bed waiting for him; in apparent obedience to which, he soon
after presented himself at the Hall.

In the avenue, he met Doctor Gerrish, who, having lost all patience at
Bergan's unaccountable tardiness, had finally started for home.  He
instantly turned back with Doctor Remy, and waited silently, with an
air of deep gravity, while the latter made a brief examination of the
corpse.  At first sight of it, he gave a little start; and when he had
finished his inspection, he stood silent and thoughtful.  He had
sneeringly committed a certain powder, he remembered, to the disposal
of "Providence;" it struck him as a little odd that it should have been
kept so long, and finally used only to put a merciful end to intense
bodily and mental torture.  Was there really a Power overruling the
acts of men, whether good or evil, to His own purposes?

"Well!" said Doctor Gerrish, growing tired of the prolonged silence,
"what do you think of it?"

Doctor Remy raised his eyes, and met the meaning glance of his
colleague.  "You suspect--" he began slowly, and then paused, as if not
quite willing to put his thought into words.

"Poison," returned Doctor Gerrish, promptly.  "Not a doubt of it.  The
question is, where did he get it--who gave it to him?  Is it accident,
or suicide, or murder?  What are we to do about it?"

Doctor Remy looked down thoughtfully.  He was at a loss how to treat
this new complication.  He had not expected it; he knew not how best to
weave it into the intricate web of his plans; he wanted time to
consider whether it could be turned to advantage.

"Your last question is the only one that I can answer," he said, at
length,--"let us wait.  There are many things to be considered.  In the
first place the poison only hastened the death that was certain to come
soon, anyway."

"Are you sure of that?"

"Perfectly so.  When I left the Major last night, I knew that he must
be a dead man by morning.  He had taken no poison then,--except the
slow one that he has been taking for years."

"Nevertheless," persisted Doctor Gerrish, "it was not _that_ poison
which killed him."

"I suppose there was no one present, when he died, except the
servants," remarked Doctor Remy.

"And Mr. Arling," answered Doctor Gerrish.

Doctor Remy lifted his eyebrows.  "That looks bad," said he, gravely.
"He is the heir, I suppose?"

"If you mean that it looks bad for Mr. Arling," returned Doctor
Gerrish, "I do not agree with you.  It was he who sent for me; and he
promised to meet me here soon."

"Why is he not here, then?" asked Doctor Remy, pointedly.

"I cannot tell.  He must have been unexpectedly detained."

Doctor Remy closed his lips like a man who forbears to argue, but is
not convinced.

Doctor Gerrish went to the door and called Rue, who had been desired to
wait outside during the examination.

"Did you notice anything unusual about your master's death?" he
inquired.

"I thought he died very sudden like," answered Rue; "and so I think did
Mr. Arling, for he immediately said that Doctor Remy, or some one else,
must be sent for, and gave very particular directions that the body
should not be disturbed before he arrived."

Doctor Gerrish shot a triumphant glance at Doctor Remy, who only
smiled, shook his head, and interrogated Rue, in his turn.

"What did your master take last?"

"A powder.  He insisted upon having it."

"Where is the glass from which he took it?"

"Here, sir; but it has been washed."

So it had, and so carefully that there was nothing to show what its
contents had been.  It also appeared that the paper in which the powder
had been folded, had been used to light a candle, and was burned to
ashes.

Doctor Gerrish took up the examination:--"Are there any more powders
like it?"

"One, sir;--here it is.  I think master said he had them from Doctor
Remy."

Doctor Remy bent his head in assent, thankful that no vestige of the
fatal powder was left, to make the admission dangerous.  The remaining
one, being examined, was proved to be innocuous.  Doctor Gerrish looked
puzzled.

"You see," said Doctor Remy, "that it comes back to what I said
first,--we must wait.  That is, until we can consult with the dead
man's brother and nephew.  At what hour this afternoon will it be
convenient for you to meet them, and me, here?"

"At any hour you please."

"Say three o'clock, then.  I will answer for Mr. Bergan's appearance.
Of course, Mr. Arling will be back--if ever--long before that time."

From the Hall, Doctor Remy hastened to Oakstead.  There was an unusual
quietude about the place, and he was met at the door by Mrs. Bergan,
with her finger on her lips, and the low-spoken information that, after
an excessively restless night, causing them all a good deal of trouble
and uneasiness, Carice had fallen into a deep sleep, and must not be
disturbed.  Would he be good enough to step noiselessly into the
parlor, and speak low?

She did her best not to seem less cordial than usual; nevertheless, it
did not escape the doctor's lynx-eyed observation that her tone and
manner were forced.  He pondered briefly within himself what this might
mean; but finally set it down to motherly anxiety for Carice, and a
consequent desire to get rid of him as quickly and quietly as possible.
He was willing to gratify the wish; he had too much upon his mind and
hands, just now, to bestow much thought or time upon Carice.  He could
safely leave her case to run its own course until after she had been
declared the owner of Bergan Hall; then it would be for his interest to
hasten her return to reason, since it was to her reason only--her
strict notions of right, and her devotion to duty--that he must look
for an acknowledgment of his claims as a husband, his right to control
herself and her property.  He did not flatter himself that he had any
strong hold upon her affections.

"Certainly, she must not be disturbed," he replied to Mrs. Bergan,
after a brief pause.  "Sleep, in her condition, poor child! is the best
of restoratives; it also shows a decided change for the better.  My
present business is with her father; is he in?"

"No; he went out a short time since.  He may be in the grounds, or he
may have gone to the Hall."

"Then he has heard of his brother's death?"

"Yes, the news came early this morning."

"It is not necessary for me to stop, then.  Please say to him that I
have engaged that he shall meet Doctor Gerrish, Mr. Arling, and myself,
at the Hall this afternoon, at three o'clock, for an important
consultation; I beg that he will not fail us.  Good morning.  Let me
know if any change takes place in Carice; for I am likely to be so very
busy for a day or two, that I may not present myself unless sent for.
I was not in bed at all last night, and probably shall not be to-night.
A physician's life is a slavish one."

"Yet you like it," replied Mrs. Bergan, feeling that she must say
something.

"Not the general practice; I like the science.  Good morning, again."



IV.

BLIND.

Mr. Bergan, meanwhile, had gone over to the Hall, partly to give a
regretful look at his brother's dead face, and partly to have some
further talk with Bergan.  Thick-growing memories beset him, at every
step of the way; and, the goal being reached, he had ample opportunity
to reflect upon the sin and folly of family feuds, the miserably thin
barriers which suffice to keep apart those who ought to be one in
affection and interest, as in blood.  He had not been very much to
blame for their erection between him and his brother, but he regretted
none the less that he had not wrought more perseveringly and lovingly
to break them down.  There had always been a generous side to Harry's
character, which might have been successfully appealed to, at least in
the earlier stages of the quarrel; his own influence might have been
exerted for good; the dreary, empty Hall might still have been a
pleasant home; this lonely death-couch might have been sweetened by the
tender touch and tears of kindred hands and hearts, and sanctified by
the gentle benedictions of religion.  It all might have been--it could
never be now!  Death had closed every door to reconciliation and
amendment, and written over each the mournful legend, "Too Late!"

He turned from the corpse to ask for Bergan, and was surprised to learn
that nothing was known of him at the Hall since he had retired to his
room just before day-break, further than that Doctor Gerrish had
mentioned meeting him at Oakstead.  However, being informed that two
men had inquired for him, and been sent to meet him, he took it for
granted that some unexpected emergency had compelled him to hasten back
to Savalla, at a moment's notice; he would be sure to return by
afternoon, or send some explanation of his absence.

Meantime, Mr. Bergan was forced to fill the gap created by his
departure; indeed, until his brother's will should be made known, he
was both his natural and legal representative, he appointed the time,
and decided the manner, of the funeral; he sent for a lawyer, and had
seals affixed to all drawers and boxes likely to contain papers of
value; he gave orders for the lower rooms to be cleaned and fitted, as
far as might be, for the lying in state, and the reception of
guests;--in short, he was kept busy until long past noon, when he was
fain to go home for rest and refreshment, as well as to satisfy himself
of the state of Carice.  She was still sleeping peacefully, and there
was no cause for alarm.

Returning to the Hall, at a few minutes past three, he found the two
physicians waiting in the library, but no sign or tidings of Bergan.

"Where can my nephew be?" he exclaimed in perplexity and even
displeasure.

"It is certainly very strange," replied Doctor Gerrish, gravely.

Doctor Remy said nothing; but he shrugged his shoulders in a manner
sufficiently expressive of disapprobation.

Yet he would have been glad to be able to answer the question,--at
least to himself.  He was completely in the dark as to how Big Ben and
his confederate had prospered in their evil undertaking.  He knew that
Bergan had not been found in his room, as was expected; but why he had
gone forth so early, and whether he had encountered the ruffians, was
altogether a mystery.  All day, he had been holding himself ready for
whatever might come,--Bergan's sudden appearance in the flesh, or the
bringing in of his dead body, or a summons to go and afford him medical
aid;--he did not mean to be taken off his guard, in any case.  But the
suspense was trying.  It had not been contemplated in his original
plan; it kept his mind and nerves continually on the stretch; it gave
him an uncomfortable feeling that other hands than his own were busy
with the dark threads of his schemes, weaving them into patterns that
he had not designed.  He longed to know precisely what he had to hope
or to dread.

Still, every moment of Bergan's absence was reasonable ground for
belief that Big Ben had not only carried out his purpose of revenge to
the full, but had succeeded wonderfully well in obliterating all trace
of his work.  So much the better.  Bergan once removed from his path,
it would become tolerably smooth and direct.

"I suppose that we shall have to proceed to business without my nephew,
since he is not come," said Mr. Bergan, after a prolonged pause.  "May
I ask what is the object of this meeting?"

The answer to this question, although very gently given by Doctor
Gerrish, was, of course, a severe shock; all the more, because Doctor
Remy took care to throw in a covert insinuation that Bergan's absence
betrayed some guilty connection with the disastrous event; bethinking
himself that, in case the young man should escape Big Ben, he could be
gotten rid of all the same, for the present, by being arrested for
murder.

Doctor Gerrish, however, repelled the insinuation, as he had done
before.  "To my mind," said he, "everything points to the opposite
conclusion.  If Mr. Arling had anything to gain by poisoning his uncle,
he must have gained it by staying here, and not by flight.  Besides, he
is too intelligent a man not to know that such flight would, in itself,
arouse suspicion, and imply guilt.  Having given the matter a good deal
of thought, since morning, I have decided that the poisoning must have
been accidental.  However, we will, with your permission, call in that
old 'Maumer' and examine her a little more minutely than we did before.
I have thought of several questions that it would be well to ask."

Rue was accordingly summoned from her faithful watch over her dead
master.  She declared positively that she had been with him from an
early stage of his attack, until his death; and that he had taken only
the medicines and food ordered by Doctor Remy, except the untimely
drink of brandy, and the afore-mentioned powder.  He had swallowed
nothing whatever after the arrival of Mr. Arling,--not even the brandy
for which he had called with almost his last breath.

"That certainly clears Mr. Arling," remarked Doctor Gerrish, in a low
voice.

"H'm--perhaps so," rejoined Doctor Remy, meditatively.  "Still, it is
evidence not worth a rush, you know, in a court of law."

"It is evidence perfectly satisfactory to me, nevertheless," interposed
Mr. Bergan, firmly, "and may be so to you.  I, as having known Maumer
Rue from my infancy, can vouch for her trustworthiness.  Her testimony
is as good as mine, or yours."

"Well, you ought to know best," returned Doctor Remy, carelessly.
"Still, the woman is old and blind, and cannot be expected to know all
that goes on in her presence.  Major Bergan might have swallowed
half-a-dozen things without her knowledge."

Rue had fallen into the back-ground, during this discussion; but she
now stepped forward and faced Doctor Remy, drawing herself up, and
smiling scornfully.

"Blind, am I?" she asked; "I am not so blind as those who have eyes,
Doctor Remy.  No one _saw_ you open my master's private drawer last
evening, during his worst paroxysm, but I heard you open and shut it,
distinctly, and the rustling of papers, too."

If Doctor Remy was both surprised and startled, he concealed it well,
thanks to the guard that he was keeping over himself.  He merely looked
at his companions, and said, disdainfully; "Of course, such a charge,
from such a source, is too ridiculous to be contradicted.  The poor old
woman has mistaken one sound for another; that is all."

"It is people who live by sight that mistake sounds, Doctor Remy,"
returned Rue, composedly; "a woman, who has lived by hearing for over
sixty years, does not.  Let me give you a proof of it.  These gentlemen
listen to your voice, as I do, and they do not hear anything unusual in
it,--nothing more than the seriousness, or the coldness, or the scorn,
that fits the words; but I hear in it anxiety and perplexity and
suspense and fear.  Since Mr. Arling has been missing, I have suspected
that you could tell us what had become of him, if you would.  But while
you have been talking about him here, my ears have been watching your
voice, your steps, your very breath; and I know now that you do not
know where he is any more than we do.  You are puzzled because he does
not come; you are continually expecting--I will not say, dreading--to
see him, or hear of him.  Is it not so?"

"And if it is," answered Doctor Remy, coolly, "what is there strange
about it?  Why should I not be puzzled at his unaccountable
disappearance, and anxious for his speedy return?"

"Anxious?" she repeated, with a low laugh; "yes, you are anxious; but
it will avail you nothing.  Go your way, rummage drawers and cupboards,
you will not find what you seek; plot and sin, you will not get what
you covet.  Blinder of understanding than I am of eyes, you dig, and
know not that it is a pit for your own feet; you plant and water, and
never remember that the expectations of the wicked shall be cut off.
Master Bergan will come back, and have his own, in spite of you!"

"I am very glad to hear it," responded Doctor Remy, with mock
earnestness.  Then he turned to his companions.  "Her master's death
has set her wits to wool-gathering," said he.  "Have we any more time
to listen to her maunderings?"

Rue opened her lips for a rejoinder, but Mr. Bergan, thinking that the
scene had lasted long enough, though he had not been unimpressed by it,
laid his hand on her arm.  Instantly acknowledging his authority, as
one of the family, she bent her head, and retired without a word.

Doctor Gerrish took out his watch.  "I shall soon have to leave," said
he.  "Mr. Bergan, what is to be done about this business?  I suppose it
is our duty to report it to the authorities."

"If you are willing to be guided by my wishes," Mr. Bergan replied,
after some consideration, "you will say nothing at present.  I have no
disposition to conceal a murder, if one has been committed; but, as you
have well remarked, all the circumstances indicate that the poison was
taken or administered accidentally.  Nevertheless, there is room for
evil minded persons to set afloat injurious reports concerning my
nephew, while he is absent, and unable to defend himself; or these
faithful servants of my brother, who, I am convinced, would not have
poisoned him any sooner than I would, may be subjected to a deal of
cruelty, from the fact that he was alone with them, much of the time,
and their evidence, as Doctor Remy has reminded us, is worth nothing in
law.  Let the funeral go on, without hindrance; the body will be laid
in the family vault, where it can be examined, and the presence of
poison proved, at any time, if it becomes necessary.  And it just
occurs to me, as a possible explanation of my nephew's absence, that he
may have gotten hold of some clue to this affair, and be following it
up before it has time to cool.  Let us wait until he appears, before we
make any stir that may only thwart his efforts."

"Very well," said Doctor Gerrish.  "My own preference is always for an
open, straightforward course; but if you think this one more expedient,
under the circumstances, and will take the responsibility of it, I will
not interfere.  Good day."



V.

MORE MYSTERY.

The funeral was over.  Major Bergan, with due pomp and circumstance of
woe, had been laid in the tomb of his forefathers, and left to mingle
his ashes with theirs.  Of all his possessions, he retained for his own
behoof simply a shroud and a coffin.  No good work of Church or State
would miss his helping hand.  He left no real, aching vacancy in any
human heart.  His imposing funeral train scattered to houses, places of
business, and street corners, some to forget the event at once, in the
absorbing interest of their own affairs; some to talk it over, and
then--forget it all the same.  Two or three remote cousins, sniffing
the air for legacies, went back to the Hall, to wait for the reading of
the will, and, meanwhile, to finish the funeral baked meats.  Mr.
Bergan had bidden them make themselves at home, and excused himself
from accompanying them: being greatly fatigued with the manifold duties
and emotions of the day, he was fain to spend the intervening time
quietly at Oakstead.

He found Carice on the piazza; she had been wheeled out in an easy
chair, to enjoy the beneficent air and sunshine.  She was pale and
feeble, but the light of restored reason shone in her eyes, and gave
animation and intelligence to their expression.  Also--light being the
mother of shadow--it imparted to them a deep seriousness.  She had
taken up the problem of life precisely where it had dropped with her
into the river, on the night of her wedding,--unconscious, as yet, of
the length of the blank between,--and addressed herself to its solution
with a clearer brain and a firmer courage.  She reflected that, in the
eyes of the world and the estimation of the law, she was Doctor Remy's
wife.  She had publicly entered into that relation, without denial or
protest; solemnly taking him as her husband, for better for worse, till
death them should part.  Did the fact that he had been accused of a
terrible crime, absolve her from this vow?  Did it not rather make it
more imperatively her duty to stand by him; to help him with her
countenance and sympathy, if he were innocent; to influence him to
repentance and confession, if he were guilty?  Was she to think only of
her happiness, not at all of his good?  Had he not a soul that might
still be saved, as God had saved the world, by love?

Hard questions these,--demanding for their consideration a clear head,
and a heart at once tender and strong.  Carice, being now fully
herself, had both; yet she might well delay coming to a decision so
momentous.  She was glad when her father's arrival broke the thread of
her meditations; albeit, it was only to give her a fresh subject of
anxiety.  He looked so strangely old and worn,--it struck her with new
wonder, new alarm, at every sight of him!  How was it possible for him
to change so much in the two or three days that she believed her
unconsciousness to have lasted, even though weighed down by the anxiety
consequent upon his interview with Bergan?--an interview which could
not have been without definite result, since she saw nothing of Doctor
Remy.  Indeed, his name had been mentioned to her but once, and then in
terms of manifest constraint, though of apparent excuse for his
absence.  No doubt her father had taken the thought of his possible
guilt very sorely to heart; no doubt, too, he blamed himself severely
for his advocacy of the marriage.  She must not let him do that!  She
knew so well that he had meant it for the best,--that he had erred in
judgment only, never in intention,--that pure, strong, unselfish love
for her had been the deep motive of his every act.  Her heart was very
tender, very pitiful, toward him as he came up the gravel-walk, with
that slow, stooping gait, and those sudden gray hairs, which made her
feel, every time that she saw him, as if she must have been dreaming
for years, or was dreaming now.

He brightened visibly at sight of her.  He was thankful, with all his
heart, for her restoration, even though it but served to increase his
perplexities.  For how was she to be given to understand, without a
harmful shook, that a year of her life had passed her by, and made no
sign?  With what face could he break it to her that the man whom he had
urged upon her as a husband, was likely to prove a murderer?  What
answer was he to make when she inquired after Bergan, as he was
constantly expecting her to do?

Needless anxieties, all, as he would duly discover.  Carice was already
feeling her way to the truth, as regarded the lapse of time, by means
of the incomprehensible changes that she saw about her; it would not so
much shock her as satisfy her with a reasonable explanation of them.
The accusation against Doctor Remy would be no surprise to her; on the
contrary, its dark shadow continually fell athwart her mind, and
prompted or modified all her thoughts.  Moreover, as long as her duty
to Doctor Remy was in question, she conscientiously checked every
thought, every wish, every emotion of curiosity even, that wandered
toward Bergan.  Knowing nothing of all this, however, and fearing lest
she should seize upon this opportunity to ask for the full explanation
that he was so loath to make, Mr. Bergan began a lengthened account of
the funeral ceremonies.  He had deemed it wise to tell her of her
uncle's death, both as affording a good excuse for postponing other
matters, and as a reason for his own troubled and abstracted face.

He was still busy with this theme, doing his best to imitate the
gold-beater's art of making a little material cover a large space, when
he heard a footfall behind him, on the gravel walk.  Looking quickly
round, he was delighted to behold his nephew coming up the steps, just
as he had first seen him two years before, with the same half-eager,
half-hesitating expression of one who feels himself at once a relative
and a stranger; yet mingled in the present instance, with what seemed
an inappropriate sternness.  The sight of him was none the less a
relief to his uncle.

"Thank Heaven! you are come at last, Bergan!" he exclaimed, starting up
to go and meet him.

But Carice put forth a staying hand,--the eyes of love are not so
easily deceived.  "You mistake, father," she said, in a low and
half-frightened voice, "this is not Bergan, though he is like him."

The new comer took off his hat, and bowed low.  "No, I am not Bergan; I
am Hubert," he said, but with no friendliness of tone or manner.  "And
you, I suppose, are my uncle Godfrey.  I am come to look for my
brother.  What have you done with him among you?  Where can I find that
villanous Doctor Remy, who, four days ago, made one attempt on his life
(or on mine, mistaking me for him), and has now probably--"

He was startled and silenced by a low, pathetic cry of that found an
instant way to his heart, despite its armor of prejudice and anger.  At
the same moment, Carice fell, white and insensible, across the arm of
her chair.

"You have killed her," said Mr. Bergan, not resentfully, but with the
still resignation of a man who feels that fate has done its worst for
him, and there is little left to dread, and to hope.

"Indeed, I trust not," replied Hubert, earnestly, dismayed at the
mischief that he had done, as well as softened by the sweet, death-like
face, which, he now knew, was not only the one that still kept its
place in Bergan's memory, and would not be cast out, but was correlated
to a heart not less interested than his own in Bergan's fate.  "I think
she has only fainted.  Let me take her in, while you summon assistance."

And without waiting for either consent or remonstrance, he lifted her
in his strong arms, and carried her to the library.  Almost
immediately, she showed signs of returning animation.  He then withdrew
to the piazza, where Mr. Bergan shortly joined him; and explanations
were mutually given and received.

Hubert had duly received the notice of his uncle's funeral.  It had
struck him as a little odd at first, that it should be addressed
jointly to his brother and himself; but he set it down as an absurd
legal formality, and thought no more about it.  He had intended to ride
over this morning, in time for the funeral; but just as he was about to
start, Mr. Youle had slipped and fallen on the office steps, and
received several severe cuts and bruises; which had made it necessary
for him to take him home, and do what he could to assist him and
reassure his family.  Thus it happened that he had arrived at the Hall
to find the funeral over, and to learn, to his surprise and alarm, that
his brother was not there, and that nothing was known of his
whereabouts, except that he was last seen at Oakstead.  There, also, he
was told Doctor Remy might be found.  Accordingly he had hastened
thither.

He now proposed to commence an immediate, thorough search for his
brother.

"Take my advice," said Mr. Bergan, "and wait a little longer.  I have
had, all along, an expectation--or, at least, a hope--that my brother's
will would give some clue to all these mysteries.  The time fixed for
the reading is now at hand.  Go with me, and be present thereat, as you
have a right to be.  Then, if we get any clue, I will do my utmost to
help you follow it out; if we do not, I shall be equally at your
service to seek for one elsewhere."

Chafing at the delay, but unable to suggest anything better to be done,
Hubert accompanied his uncle to the Hall.  In the library they found a
considerable party assembled, discussing Bergan's mysterious
disappearance.

"I hope," Doctor Remy was just saying, with apparent concern, "that
nothing worse is behind it all, than some foolish whim or
escapade"--when, hearing a step at the door, he turned and met Hubert
Arling's stern, threatening gaze.  In spite of his consummate
self-control, he could not help giving a violent start.  Recollecting
himself instantly, however,--inasmuch as he had just heard of Hubert's
previous visit,--he came forward and held out his hand.

"You have deceived me twice, Mr. Arling," he said, pleasantly; "your
resemblance to your brother is really quite wonderful, and must lead to
many entertaining mistakes.  I have to beg your pardon," he went on, in
a lower tone, "for my absurd conduct at our former meeting; I will
explain to you, by and by, what I had been led, by some malicious
persons, to believe that I might expect from your brother; which
indignity I hastily attempted to forestall.  I have since learned my
error, and I now beg you to believe that I have the most friendly
feelings toward you both.  I am scarcely less concerned than yourself
at your brother's absence, on this occasion."

Hubert drew back.  "I take no man's hand which I have reason to believe
is not clean," said he, haughtily.  "As to your relations with my
brother, he can settle them with you himself, if he still lives.  If he
does not, I warn you that any man whom I suspect to have been anywise
concerned in his death, will meet with little mercy at my hands."

Doctor Remy turned livid with anger.  Before he could reply, Mr. Tatum
(the lawyer whom Mr. Bergan had summoned) rapped on the table to
command attention, and held up the will to view, in order to show that
the seals were unbroken.  He then read it, slowly and distinctly.
After a few minor legacies, it gave the bulk of the Major's property
unconditionally to his niece, Carice Bergan.

There was a dead silence after the formal voice had ceased.

"Is that will in due form of law?" asked Mr. Bergan, breaking the pause.

"It seems so," replied Mr. Tatum; "it is clearly worded, and duly
signed and witnessed."

"I drew it up myself," observed Doctor Remy, "as you see.  It was over
a year ago, before the legatee became my wife.  But I am surprised to
hear it read on this occasion; I supposed that it grew out of a
momentary whim, and had long ago been nullified by some other
instrument."

"I am equally surprised," remarked Mr. Tatum, "for the excellent reason
that I drew up a very different will myself, only about a fortnight
since.  At that time, Major Bergan mentioned this one, or some
other,--for the provisions of this do not quite answer his
description,--and I advised him to destroy it, in order to prevent any
trouble."

"He may have returned to his first mind, and destroyed the second will
instead," suggested Doctor Remy.

"I cannot believe it," returned Mr. Tatum.  "Suppose we go in a body,
and make a fresh search.  Do you know, Mr. Bergan, any other receptacle
of papers than those already examined?"

"I do not," replied Mr. Bergan.  "Perhaps Maumer Rue might; she knows
the house, as well as my brother's habits, much better than I do."

Strange to say, however, when Rue was sought for, she was nowhere to be
found.  As messenger after messenger returned from the chambers, the
quarter, and the grounds, and reported that no trace of her could be
discovered, Doctor Remy and Mr. Bergan looked at each other in blank
amazement.  This new disappearance was equally startling and suspicious
to both; each thought that the other must be privy to it; each wondered
what it portended.

"So much the more reason to search," finally said Mr. Tatum; "we have
two things to look for,--the will and the old woman."

Hubert Arling rose.  "I must beg to be excused," said he.  "I have
neither time nor inclination to search for anybody, or anything, except
my brother."

Mr. Bergan laid his hand warningly on his shoulder.  "It seems to me,"
said he, "that you cannot begin your search better than in this house."

The search began.  Not a corner was left unexplored, not a shadow left
undisturbed.  Many strange relics of olden time were unearthed, much
venerable dust raised, but it was all unavailing, so far as either the
will or the blind woman was concerned.

Tired and disappointed, they returned to the library.  Then Doctor Remy
stood forth with the light of triumph shining in his eyes.  He had
schemed and sinned to some purpose; his reward was sure.

"I suppose that nothing remains," said he, "but for me to take
possession of the premises, in the name of my wife."

Mr. Bergan looked inquiringly at Mr. Tatum.  "I suppose that is the
proper thing," said the lawyer,--"at least, as long as the other will
is not found."

Hubert's long-repressed impatience here broke forth.  "Settle this
matter as you like," said he, "_I_ am going to look for my brother."

He strode out of the room.  Mr. Bergan hesitated a moment, and then
followed him.  At the door, he was met by a servant from Oakstead, who
delivered a message, in a low tone; of which Doctor Remy, who was
standing near, caught the words, "Richard Causton--business of
importance."  Mr. Bergan listened half-impatiently, gave a brief
answer, and hastened after Hubert.

Doctor Remy watched them down the avenue, with a clouded brow.  The
triumphant light had gone out in his eyes; a chill premonition of evil
was at his heart; already he seemed to feel his prize slipping from his
hand.  "Excuse me," he said, hurriedly, to those who remained, "I have
urgent business to attend to."  In another moment he was on his horse,
galloping swiftly across the fields.



VI.

HELP AT HAND.

Dick Causton's cottage--as it was called by courtesy, being, in truth,
only a better sort of cabin--stood on a sandy corner of the estate that
he had formerly owned.  At first, he had begged to remain there only
until he could fix upon some more eligible place of abode; but the
owner was good natured, and Dick was indolent to the point not only of
letting well enough alone, but bad enough, too; so it gradually came to
be understood that he was a life-tenant, by sufferance, of the place.
Nor did the owner deem it worth while to interfere, when, in course of
time, Dick made the discovery that the sand composing this small domain
was of superior quality, and proceeded to convert it into cash, at the
rate of two or three pennies a load, and to swallow it a second time,
in the shape of alcohol.  The process ceased only when the digging
threatened to undermine the cottage; which was thus left high and dry
upon a triangular sand promontory, with a deep excavation on each side.
The base of the triangle--a part of it, at least--touched the boundary
line of Oakstead, very near the point where Bergan had been left for
dead by "Big Ben."

Dick had risen unusually early on that morning.  Owing to his sudden
flight from the Rat-Hole, he had failed to replenish his stock of
brandy, as he had designed; and the small quantity on hand had been
insufficient to blunt the thorns in his pillow, planted partly by
Doctor Remy's threats, and partly by the reproaches of his own
conscience.  He had tossed about on their sharp points for the better
part of the night, and was glad when dawn brought such a measure of
relief as was to be derived from movement and occupation.  In the
absence of stronger stimulant, he was fain to brace his nerves with a
cup of tea; to which end a fire was unfortunately necessary, and fuel
must be sought in the adjoining woods of Oakstead.  While engaged in
this task, he, caught sight of a prostrate form, half-hidden in the
underbrush.

"_Quien busca, hallará_,--He who seeks will find, but he cannot tell
what," he muttered, peevishly.  "Is the fellow drunk, or only asleep, I
wonder?"

He stole some paces nearer, then gave a start and stopped; he had seen
blood stains on the man's clothing.  At the same moment, the lines of
the figure struck him as familiar, and while he strove to identify
them, a light breeze lifted the leaves of an overhanging bush, and
revealed an easily recognized profile.  Immediately he was kneeling by
Bergan, trying his best to discover some sign of life.

He was unsuccessful; yet, thanks to his store of proverbs, he did not
quite despair.  "No barber shaves so close that another cannot find
work," he said, encouragingly, to himself, and bent all his energies to
the difficult task of dragging Bergan into his cabin.  He dared not
wait to call assistance, none being within easy reach; besides, he
reasoned that the transit, if not too ungently managed, would tend to
restoration rather than, otherwise.  Moreover, having at once connected
Doctor Remy with Bergan's condition, and being thereby inspired with an
inordinate dread of the doctor's power to harm, he fancied that the
first necessity was to get the young man into a place of concealment.

"A good heart rids work," he murmured exultingly, when, panting and
exhausted, after many a pause for breath, and many a start of fright,
he at length dragged Bergan across his threshold, and closed and locked
the door.

He next applied himself, with good will and not unskilfully, to the
task of restoring animation.  The wound, it appeared, had touched no
vital part--Big Ben's intention having been better than his aim--and,
being helped by the position in which Bergan had lain, it had stanched
itself.  The blows of Ben's heavy fist had been much more effective.
Dick wellnigh gave up in despair before his efforts were rewarded by
the faintest sign that the soul had not forever quitted its earthly
house.  Taking heart then, he worked on till the eyes opened and the
lips moved, but not with intelligent sight or coherent speech.  The one
beheld only the misty phantoms, as the other gave utterance but to the
wild fancies, of a fevered and delirious imagination.  Now, his uncle's
death-bed was the gloomy subject of Bergan's ravings; now, he beheld
Carice in danger or distress, and sought to hasten to her relief,
making it necessary for Dick to hold him in bed by main strength.

For two nights and three days, Dick had thus been forced to keep watch
over him, not daring to leave him for a moment, lest he should do
himself irremediable harm, during his absence.  Nor was he disinclined
to the task.  Bergan had won all his heart by the courtesy and
consideration with which he had uniformly treated him, no less than his
admiration by his fearless, upright character.  "Your nephew has all my
best proverbs in his life, whereas, I only have them in my head," he
had once remarked to the Major, by way of lavishing his choicest
encomium upon the rejected heir; and he now did his best for the young
man's comfort and cure, with the somewhat meagre appliances at his
command.  In the way of nourishment, the cabin afforded only a little
tea and beef broth; in the way of medicine, nothing but two or three
soothing herb-drinks, cold water, pure air, and perfect silence.  With
the three last, however, nature can work wonders; and, in this case,
she wrought so effectively that, on the afternoon of the third day,
Bergan sank into a quiet sleep, to awake in great weakness, but fully
himself.

"Where am I?" he asked, feebly, glancing wonderingly around him.

"Where charity begins--at home," answered Dick, graciously; "that is,
if you will continue to make yourself so, as you have been doing for
the last three days."

"Three days!" exclaimed Bergan, trying to spring up, but failing by
reason of his weakness;--"what do you mean?"

Dick saw his mistake, but it was too late to retreat.  Bergan's mind
had at once recurred to the last item in his memory,--namely, Big Ben's
uplifted fist,--and had easily connected it with his present condition.
Being now made aware of the lapse of time since then by Dick's
incautious admission, nothing remained but to give truthful answers to
the questions that he rapidly put.  Quick at logical inference, the
facts that he had disappeared suddenly, and that no trace of him had
been found, were soon patent to him.  He was filled with dismay.  What
distress his mysterious absence must have cost his friends!  What evil
use of it might have been made by his enemy!  At the thought, he made
another attempt to rise, and partially succeeded, but only to fall back
again, half fainting.

"Take care.  _Quien mas corre, menos vuela_,--the more haste the worst
speed," said Dick, warningly.  "Stay a little, and news will find you."

"Not until it is too late, I fear," returned Bergan.  "Since I cannot
do it myself, I must beg you to go immediately to my Uncle Godfrey, and
let him know that I am here, and ask him to come and see me at once, if
possible.  Tell him privately, so as not to startle anybody else," he
added, with a thought of Carice; "and leave him to extend the
information to whomsoever he pleases."

"I would much rather go to your Uncle Harry," objected Dick, loath to
present himself at Oakstead, lest he should encounter Doctor Remy.

"He is dead," answered Bergan gravely.

Dick looked astonished, but muttered, resignedly,--"God sends no more
than can be borne."  Then he bowed low to Bergan.  "_Dopo un papa, se
ne fa un altro_," said he,--"The King is dead, long live the King; I
congratulate you."

"Upon what?" asked Bergan, with a keen glance;--"Doctor Remy's
succession?"

"Of course not," replied Dick, coloring and laughing.  "Doctor Remy
will find out that _Den sviges vaerst, som sviger sig selv_,--He is
worse cheated who cheats himself.  But," he added, with a quick change
of countenance, "he must have found it out already."

The thought was a startling one.  Much as Dick had enjoyed the
certainty of the doctor's final discomfiture, he had not expected that
it would come so soon; nor had he known, as now, the extent of the
doctor's resources in the way of his interest or his vengeance.  As he
pondered the matter, he was dismayed to recognize in the false will,
the Major's death, and the attempt on Bergan's life, apparent parts of
the same plan, and to infer therefrom the subtle and determined
character of the man whom he had ventured to try to outwit.  Had he
succeeded?  If so, he had everything to dread from the doctor's
resentment; if not--if Doctor Remy had found means to carry out his
plans to the end, and cover his tracks, as he seemed to have done thus
far--would he dare to open his mouth against him, only to take a share
in his punishment?  Right and honor were good things, but could they
make a prison a pleasant abode?

Here, Bergan broke in upon his troubled reflections.  "I must remind
you," said he, "that no time should be wasted.  My disappearance must
have caused much anxiety, and my uncle should be informed where I am,
without delay."

"Very well," said Dick, glad, on the whole, to be relieved from further
consideration of his difficulties.  "I'll be off instanter, if you'll
promise not to stir while I'm gone.  And if anybody knocks, don't
speak, or even breathe loud;--likely enough it will be Doctor Remy,
and, in your case, discretion is the better part of valor.  I'll make
all fast behind me, so that no one can get in.  And I'll hurry back,
and bring your uncle with me, if I can."

At Oakstead, Dick was informed that Mr. Bergan was at the Hall, and
wherefore.  He dared not go after him, knowing that Doctor Remy would
certainly be there also.  He debated with himself, for a moment,
whether it would not be well to make his errand known to Mrs. Bergan;
but murmuring cynically, "A woman conceals only what she don't know,"
he decided to entrust her with a message simply.  This was so
mysteriously and solemnly given, however, as necessarily to suggest to
her, after his departure, that he might possibly have found some clue
to the mystery of Bergan's absence; whereupon she dispatched a servant
to the Hall with the message,--though not without a strict injunction
that he should deliver it to his master privately.  But this, as has
been seen, was not so well observed as to prevent some portion of the
message from reaching Doctor Remy's ears, and exciting his suspicions.



VII.

THE SET TIME.

Dick Causton trudged back to his cabin in no tranquil frame of mind.
He had his own excellent reasons for believing that a more disappointed
and angry man than Doctor Remy, at that moment, was not to be found
under the sun.  Not only had he lost the coveted Bergan estate, but he
had been fooled and cheated by the very man whom he had taken to be his
most willing and despicable tool.  Nor would it be long, Dick foresaw,
before the doctor would seek to mitigate the bitterness of his chagrin
with whatever sweetness was to be derived from the thought and purpose
of revenge.  In that case, he would be the first point of attack.  What
a fool he had been to meddle or make with any of the doctor's affairs!
As if he did not know at least a dozen different proverbs in as many
languages, to the effect that prudence was better than repentance,
safety preferable to sorrow!  Of what use was it to have his head
stuffed with the consummate wisdom of all nations, if he only acted
like a consummate idiot!

A pertinent question, Richard Causton!  Showing the good results, too,
of your period of forced abstinence from strong drink, and your lonely
watch over the sick-bed--wellnigh the death-bed--of Bergan Arling.  Up
to this point, we have deemed your case hopeless; now, truly, we think
better of it.  To recognize one's folly is the first step toward
breaking from its bondage.  To have learned that the fruits of
righteousness do not ripen on the tree of worldly wisdom, is, perhaps,
to feel the first faint hunger for the saving fruitage of the tree of
life.  There may be the making of a man--a contrite, humbled, subdued,
scarred, but free man--in you yet!

Ignoring, or unconscious of, these grounds of hope for the future,
however, Dick continued to busy himself with his fears for the present.
Nor did they prove to be causeless; he was not yet in sight of his
door, when he heard the sound of impatient knocking thereat.  Stealing
to a point where he could see without being seen, his worst fears were
realized,--the unwelcome visitor was Doctor Remy.

"_De puerta cerrada el diablo se torna_,--From a locked door, the devil
turns away," he muttered, settling himself in his hiding place, with
the intention of remaining there until the anticipated departure.

But the doctor was not to be thus balked.  After repeated knockings,
with short intervals of waiting, he finally drew back from the door
with the evident intention of bursting it in; whereupon Dick hastened
to make his appearance, doing his best to assume an air of easy
nonchalance.

"He who brings good news, knocks hard," he called out, by way of
arresting the doctor's attention, and saving the door.  "Or, as the
Germans say, He who brings, is welcome; I suppose you have come to
settle our little account."

"Yes, I have come to settle accounts with you," replied Doctor Remy,
with grim irony.  "Why didn't you tell me about this other will?"

"What other will?" asked Dick, innocently.

"I am in no humor for trifling," returned Doctor Remy;--"Major Bergan's
will, that you witnessed a fortnight ago."

"_C'est la glose d' Orleans_,--that is to say, the commentary is more
obscure than the text," answered Dick, shaking his head, as if he could
make nothing of it.

"Don't try my patience too far," rejoined the doctor, menacingly.  "I
have just seen Mr. Tatum, and he told me of the will, and named you as
one of the witnesses."

"Did he?" asked Dick, shrugging his shoulders.  "Then I must be like
'_el escudero de Guadalaxara, que de lo que dice de noche, no hay nada
â la mañana_.'  Do you understand Spanish?"

"Do you understand English?" growled Doctor Remy.  "I asked you if you
had witnessed a will; and I want to know what was in it."

"And I gave you to understand that if I had, it must have been when I
was too drunk to remember anything about it," responded Dick.

Doctor Remy's eyes flashed ominously.  "I shall find a way to refresh
your memory," said he.  "One question more, and I warn you that you had
better give me a straightforward answer, and not try to put me off with
a proverb;--what was done with the will after it was made?"

"Why, hasn't it been found?" asked Dick, with surprise that was plainly
genuine.

"No, it has not," replied Doctor Remy, curtly.  "See here, Dick," he
added, after a pause, quitting his threatening tone for one of
persuasion; "I'll make it well worth your while to tell me all you know
about that will.  Open the door--I'm tired of standing--and we'll go in
and talk it over."

"I--I--it's pleasanter outside," stammered Dick, fairly driven to his
wit's end by this proposal.  "Besides, 'walls have ears;' no place like
the open air for your business--and mine."

"Your walls should be deaf," answered the doctor, looking at him
suspiciously; "you live alone, do you not?"

"Yes, certainly; but no walls are to be trusted; _mèfiance est mére de
sûretè_."

"Very true," replied Doctor Remy; "and I distrust you.  Open that door
at once, and let me see what or whom it is, that you are so anxious to
conceal."

Dick's consternation was extreme.  Still, he did what he could to gain
time; assistance might be on the road.  He began to fumble in his
pockets.  "Very happy to oblige you, I'm sure," he faltered, with a
poor assumption of graciousness.  "But, 'He that will be served must be
patient.'  I declare!  I believe I've lost that key!  Still, _Mais val
perder, que mais perd_--"

"Will you open that door?" interrupted Doctor Remy, fiercely, "or shall
I do it myself?"

Dick lifted his head boldly; his straining ears had caught the sound of
distant footsteps.  "A man's house is his castle," he began;--but
Doctor Remy stopped the rest of the sentence in his throat, with one
hand, while he thrust the other into his pocket for the key.  Dick
uttered a smothered cry.  Immediately Doctor Remy heard the door tried
from within; the next moment, the window beside it was flung open, and
the pale, stern face of Bergan Arling met his astonished sight.

At the same instant, he saw several persons emerging from the shadow of
the Oakstead woods.  Mr. Bergan, Hubert Arling, and Doctor Gerrish, he
recognized at a glance, and he stayed to recognize no more:--these, in
conjunction with Bergan--alive, and in possession of his
faculties--were enough to show him that his deep-laid scheme had come
to naught, that the prize for which he had thought, labored, and
sinned, was snatched from his hands in the very moment of success.
Some important figure--could it be Providence?--had been overlooked or
changed in his calculations, and made them all come wrong.

Yet he had failed before.  Bitterly he acknowledged to himself that,
despite his rich natural endowments of intellect, courage, will, and
resource, his life had been, on the whole, a succession of failures.
The consequences of one early mistake had followed, hampered, modified,
and defeated, every effort that he had made to rise above a certain
level of station, fortune, or reputation.  Nevertheless, he had saved
from every wreck, thus far, an unbroken spirit and an inexhaustible
invention.  What was there in the present one to cause his heart to
shiver and shrink with so deadly a chill of despair, to smite him with
so heavy an intuition that the measure of his opportunities for good or
evil was full, and that some set time of reckoning was at hand?  Nay,
he _would not_ be daunted!  There must be some expedient--some bold
stroke or crafty subterfuge--by which he could still wring safety, at
least, from the hands of defeat.

He ran his eye over the scene of his recent operations, as a general
might scan a disastrous battle-field.  Instantly, the intercepted
letters, the forged will, the poisoned powder, the attack on Bergan
Arling, set themselves in order before him,--revolted soldiers, once
his obedient servants, now gone over to the enemy.  No! the odds were
too great.  Nothing was left him but flight;--nay, it was a question if
even that remained,--pursuit was so near!  Still, it must be tried.

Giving Dick a final choke, to render him incapable of immediate action,
he flung him on the ground, and fled towards the nearest bank.  Once
across the excavation, there was a thick wood beyond, in which he would
quickly be lost to sight; and the present was all he had time to think
of; the future must care for itself.  One moment his tall form was
seen, by the approaching party, on the edge of the bank, clearly
defined against the twilight sky; the next, it sank suddenly from view,
both hands raised, apparently in a mocking gesture of farewell, or it
might be, of defiance.

Hubert Arling immediately recognized the fugitive, and hastened after
him.  Arrived at the brink of the excavation, he was amazed to find
that Doctor Remy was nowhere in sight, although it seemed incredible
that he could have traversed the sandy chasm so quickly.  Nothing
daunted, however, Hubert leaped the precipice, half-burying himself in
the soft sand at the bottom, struggled across, climbed the opposite
bank--taking much more time, it seemed to him, than his predecessor had
done--and plunged into the wood beyond.  Here, he soon found that all
the odds were against him; the underbrush was thick, the wood was soon
merged in a dense juniper swamp; the twilight was deepening; a hundred
men might easily elude his single search.  It was necessary to go back
and obtain organized assistance.

He was rejoiced to find Bergan in the cabin, though his state was such
as to cause intense anxiety.  The great exertion that he had made to
interfere between Doctor Remy and Dick--believing the latter to be in
danger of losing his life in behalf of his guest--had caused his wound
to re-open; and when Dick recovered himself sufficiently to make it
known that Bergan was within, and to unlock the door, he was found on
the floor under the window, in a death-like faint.  Doctor Gerrish,
however, at once took him in hand, with great personal good will, and
no small amount of medical efficiency.  And no sooner was he pronounced
out of immediate danger--although he had relapsed into fever and
delirium--than Hubert's mind recurred to the intermitted pursuit of
Doctor Remy.  From the first, he had shared Doctor Trubie's suspicions,
and having now heard the several stories of Mr. Bergan, Doctor Gerrish,
and Dick, and pretty accurately divined their logical connection and
drift, he was strongly of the opinion that the doctor's evil career
should be brought to a close.  No consideration of family, friendship,
or love, he thought, should interfere to save him from richly deserved
punishment, and leave him at large to work new wickedness.  So
thinking, he put his thoughts into prompt, resolute, persevering action.

But it was wholly in vain.  If the earth had opened and swallowed him
up, Doctor Remy could not have disappeared more effectually.  Far and
near, no trace was found of his course, no clue to his hiding place.
The flight of a bird through the air, the dart of a fish through the
wave, do not leave less visible track behind.  Day by day, Hubert had
to acknowledge himself baffled, puzzled, confounded; but he would not
be discouraged.  Doctor Trubie having been sent for, had joined him,
and between the two, the search went obstinately on.



VIII.

GIFT AND GIVER.

Carice was in her own room.  Her face was pale, her mouth and eyes
deeply serious.  At last, she had been put in possession of all the
facts hitherto concealed from her.  She knew by what base means she had
been separated from Bergan, and married to a man known to be a forger,
suspected to be a murderer, and now a fugitive from justice.  She was
also aware that, so far as her own consciousness went, she had lost a
year out of her life.  None the less, she felt in her deep heart that
her soul had not stood still during this suspension of certain of her
faculties, but had accomplished some rapid, sensible growth.  She was
not, in all respects, the same Carice who had fallen through the gap in
the foot-bridge.  She contemplated her situation with far less dismay
and bewilderment than that immaturer self could have done; in some
mysterious way, her year of unconsciousness had been also a year of
preparation for the difficulties that it had postponed; she now faced
them with a deeper insight, a broader comprehension, and a calmer
courage.  She blinded herself with no subtleties nor evasions; she
dimmed the clear medium of her integrity with no selfish breath; but
counted herself what that solemn marriage ceremony had made her--a
wife.  She must remain such until the plea of "wilful desertion for a
year," in the courts of law, should secure for her a certain personal
freedom.  But even then, she would be only a deserted wife;--in her
opinion, divorce was powerless except as regarded separation.  The
virtual relation, she believed, could only be dissolved by death; and
that meant, in this case, perhaps, the arrest, conviction, and
execution of Doctor Remy.  She shuddered at the thought.  She could not
wish the barrier between Bergan and herself to be thus removed.

Bergan?--She dared not think of him!  He was lying so dangerously
ill!--yet she must not go to him;--she could trust neither her thoughts
nor herself by that bedside.  She must just leave him, where she left
all her own cares and sorrows, in the hands of God.  She waited upon
Him: in His own good time and way, He would make it clear that He
reigned, and that His sceptre was justice, and His crown mercy.

Mrs. Bergan opened the door.  "My child," she asked, tenderly, "would
you like to see a visitor?"

"Whom?" asked Carice, with a little wonder;--her mother had been so
careful to spare her all intrusion, during these trying days.

Mrs. Bergan shook her head.  "I really don't know; I was so taken with
her face, that I forgot to ask her name.  She said that she was a
friend of Astra Lyte's, and of--Bergan's."

"Mamma, could I not be excused?"

"I suppose so,--if you really wish it.  But you would never think of
refusing her, if you once saw her; she has such a princess-like way
with her, as if she had never been refused anything in her life--except
happiness.  She has the most beautiful face that I ever saw, but there
is a shadow over it, as if she had known great sorrow."

Carice felt a jealous pang.  Beautiful! and Bergan's friend?  Sad? of
course, since he was in danger!

Mrs. Bergan went on.  "She said she had a story to tell you.  And when
I hesitated--fearing that it might be some new trouble or
excitement--you have had enough such, of late, dear--she smiled, as if
she knew what I was thinking, and said,--'Have no fear, madam; my story
will do her good, not harm!'  Shall I let her come up?"

An hour after, the door of Bergan's sick-room opened gently.  His eyes
were closed; he, too, had been thinking, as deeply as his weak, half
unconscious state permitted; and his thoughts had been strangely like
those of Carice.  The tangled web left behind by Doctor Remy would be
hard to unravel, he felt; and in the process, there would be much pain,
loss, anxiety, and disgrace,--especially for Carice.  His heart ached
for her;--and a little also--for he was very weak and weary--for
himself.  Would it not be well to have done with it all,--to let
thought, care, and life drift away together, as they seemed so ready to
do, if only he ceased to hold them back?  It would be so much easier to
let them go!--was there really any good reason why he should try to
live?

Hearing the door close, and the sound of light footsteps, he languidly
opened his eyes.  Diva Thane was standing at his bedside, holding the
blushing Carice by the hand, and smiling down upon him with eyes
deep-lit by a mysterious radiance.  There was a lofty beauty in her
face, a look of victory after conflict, that he had never seen there
before.

His heart gave a great bound.  He remembered his strange, repeated
intuition that that fair, firm hand would some day bestow upon him an
inestimable blessing.  Was the time come?

"I bring you a gift," said she, in low, rich tones, full of feeling as
of melody.  "This little, maiden hand--free from every claim as from
every stain--is the best return that I can make for what you have done
for me."  And, placing Carice's hand in his, she added, solemnly:--"I
give it to you, for I have the right: I am the wife of Edmund Roath."

The rush of joy was almost too great.  It swept over Bergan's senses
like a great whelming wave; speech and sound were lost in it; sight was
gone, except for Carice's sweet, fair face, the one point of light in a
vast ocean of blackness; feeling was annihilated, save that he clung to
that dear hand as to the one treasure that he would not be parted from,
let him be carried whither he might.  Firmly and tenderly it closed
upon his, too,--seeming to be the only thing which kept him from
drifting out into that wide obscurity, and brought him back to the
steady standing-ground of consciousness.  There he was met by a rush of
gratitude and sympathy only a little less overpowering.  He knew so
well what that avowal had cost Diva's pride!  He understood so clearly
whence came that solemn light of sacrifice in her eyes, that exalted
beauty in her face, and how dearly it had been won!  Still holding
Carice fast with one hand, he held out the other to her, with emotion
too deep for aught but a benediction.

"God bless you," he murmured, fervently.  And he added, in a tone of
entire conviction;--"I am sure He will."

She bent her graceful head,--no longer haughty in its pose,--gave his
hand an earnest, heartening pressure, and glided from the room.

All gentle, delicate souls, all sympathetic hearts, go with her;
curiosity, coldness, rudeness, must needs follow after.  In that
sick-room, Love only may remain,--Love which, by its long patience of
sorrow, its steady conscientiousness, its freedom from all
self-seeking, has won at last its blessed right to be,--and to be happy!


At a little distance from the cabin was a huge ilex tree, in the broad,
low shade of which Dick had once been moved to set up a rude bench.
Thither Diva betook herself to wait for Carice.  There was a pleasant
enough prospect before her, beyond the gulf of sand,--the creek on its
sunshiny way to the sea, the pines and water oaks mingling their
moss-hung boughs and diverse verdure,--but it is doubtful if she was
aware of it.  Her eyes--whether bent on the ground at her feet, or
lifted to some far point of the blue horizon--spoke plainly of a mind
too busy with its own reflections to be anywise cognizant of outward
objects.  She was reviewing the main events of her life by the new
light recently shed on them, discovering a connection, a harmony, and a
meaning in them unsuspected before, and gaining thereby a deeper sense
of the might and wisdom of that overruling Providence in whom she had
come so lately to believe.

She had been reared in almost princely affluence, as well as in
professed scepticism;--every material wish gratified, every material
caprice humored; no spiritual want recognized, no spiritual yearning
indulged.  Early accustomed to admiration and adulation, she grew up
proud, imperious, self-reliant, counting herself made of more excellent
clay than often went to the fashioning of human organisms, as she was
certainly endowed with an intellect of no common strength and fineness
of fibre, which her father took care to feed with all his own learned
and labored Philosophy of Doubt.  She was taught to scorn faith, to
deride inspiration, to scoff at worship, to acknowledge no law but her
own will, no higher rule of life than "_Noblesse oblige_."  Yet she had
generous impulses and strong affections; the very weeds that grew to
such rank luxuriance in her character bore witness to the natural
richness of the soil.  Nor was she without a deep, innate reverence,
inherited from the mother that she had never known,--which, being
diverted from its proper objects, fell to deifying human genius and
intellect, and suffered sorely in seeing them betray, soon or late, how
much of their substance was human dust.  Disappointed thus in the
concrete, she turned to the abstract; first Song, then Art, became the
idol of her imagination, the object of her devoted worship.  Her
father's health failing about this time, both looked to Italy as their
natural goal, the one for healing, the other for culture.  There they
met the man whose potent influence was to change the whole current of
her life.

He had everything necessary to recommend him to her favor;--a manly
figure and bearing, regular, clear-cut features, a bold, acute,
powerful intellect, and varied culture.  Moreover, there was a mystery
about him which acted as a stimulant to interest.  No one knew whence
he came, and he gave no account of himself beyond what was to be
inferred from chance words and phrases, coming by accident, as it were,
to the surface of the stream of conversation,--oracular utterances,
capable of diverse construction;--which, after being long brooded over
in her imagination, were turned into such rich, airy, poetic shapes, as
even he, with all his subtlety, would never have thought of suggesting.
None the less, they did him friendly service.  Moreover, he had, in
some way, acquired no small amount of medical science, which he put to
good use in alleviating her father's sufferings, although it had become
evident that his malady was incurable.  By this means, he soon acquired
such an ascendancy over the invalid's mind, and so firm a hold upon his
confidence, as to lead him easily to believe that he could do nothing
better for his child's future than to commit it to such strong, kind,
wise hands.  Accordingly, she was wedded, in the American Consulate at
Rome, to Earle Roy; under which suggestive name she had no doubt was
hidden a disguised noble, an exiled prince, or some equally exalted
seeker after disinterested love or sufficing consolation.

Descending the staircase, immediately after the ceremony, they met a
travel-stained gentleman coming up, who started at sight of her
husband, and uttered the name of "Edmund Roath."  _He_ started in his
turn, and grew deadly pale; nevertheless, he haughtily affirmed that it
was "a mistake," conducted her home, begged to be excused while he
attended to some forgotten formality, and left her with the careless
smile and bow that argues an immediate return.  Hours passed,--days
passed,--yet he came not; neither had he left any track, trace, or clue
behind.  It was as if he had melted into thin air.  There were those
who hinted that a flight so sudden, swift, and effectual, must all
along have been foreseen as a possible necessity, and provided for.
She poured her loftiest scorn on the imputation; she believed him to
have been murdered by robbers or secret political agents.

The shock hastened her father's death.  In one week she was both a
deserted bride and an orphan; free--with almost unlimited wealth at
command--to grieve or search, as she chose,--to avenge, if she could.
She threw herself into the work of investigation: the police were
marvellously ready to assist her, they took her money, and followed out
her suggestions; by-and-by, she was amazed to find that her own house
and movements enjoyed no inconsiderable share of their attention.  It
looked as if they suspected that her husband would return to her, and
meant to be on the spot!  The thought shook her with a sudden terror.
It was possible that he had fled--being warned in time to fly, but not
to explain--from some secret danger, some dark political vengeance, and
that she was only helping to hunt him down!

In this connection, she recalled that casual meeting on the Consulate
staircase, and hailed it as a possible clue.  She succeeded in finding
the traveller, and in forcing from him a reluctant
explanation,--reluctant because he had a kind heart, and was unwilling
to give pain.  His name was Mark Tracey; he had been a class-mate of
Edmund Roath, knew him well, and believed him to be the murderer of
Alec Arling.  He had deemed it his duty, on recognizing him, to inform
the Consul who and what he was; and measures were forthwith taken to
put him under surveillance.  Nevertheless, Roath had made good his
escape before the slow Italian officials could be made to comprehend
what was wanted, and set about it.  For himself, he had done only what
he thought right; yet, now that he saw what manner of bride had been so
wofully bereaved, he could almost wish that he had held his peace, and
left Roath to the new and better life which he might have led under
such fair auspices.  Still, he gently added, the holiest influences did
not always avail to straighten a warped mind and will, while these
often spread around them a fatal infection;--it were better to--

She stopped him there, thanking him for his sympathy, but rejecting his
conclusions.  Either the man that he had met was not Edmund Roath, or
Edmund Roath was the unhappy victim of a specious train of
circumstances.  One of these alternatives _must_ be true.  So she
proudly told him; so she tried to tell herself, turning a deaf ear to
every deep, inner voice that ventured to assail or to question her.
None the less, she had lost all heart for the search which, it now
appeared, she had not so much instituted as joined in.  On her part, it
was quietly allowed to drop.  All the same, news finally reached her
that Edmund Roath had died, and was buried, in a small, distant seaport
town.  Two men had been landed there from a foreign vessel, one an
invalid far gone with pneumonia, the other his faithful friend and
nurse.  The invalid had died in a day or two; the friend had reared a
stone "In memory of Edmund Roath" over his grave, and sailed away in
another ship.  His name was an unpronounceable foreign one; as to the
invalid's, they had never heard it until after his death, his friend
had always called him by some familiar sobriquet.

There was a suggestion in this last bit of history, which Diva was
quick to notice.  She had the coffin disinterred, and satisfied herself
that the body therein contained was not that of the man whom she had
married,--albeit, she found on its chill finger a ring which she had
given him, and saw that there were some striking similarities of
height, complexion, and color of hair and eyes.  She needed no further
proof that Earle Roy and Edmund Roath were one and the same, and she
believed that he still lived, answering to the dead man's name, and
playing his part, on some distant stage.  However, she took care that
her actions should express quite the contrary conviction; she caused
the re-interment to be so arranged as to suggest an intended removal;
she generously requited every kindness shown to the invalid; finally,
she put on deep widow's weeds, and sickened to feel them so
appropriate.  She had a sombre intuition that Edmund Roath was dead to
her.  Nothing remained of him but his backward shadow on her heart and
life.  The places that had known him grew dim and tomb-like.  The
wealth which had doubtless been his main object, became worthless in
her eyes.  The chill materialism with which he had imbued her mind, in
place of the more rationalistic creed of her father, made all things
ring hollow to her touch.  The charm of Italy was gone; its sky had
faded, its atmosphere was as heavy with the weight of a dead Past as
her own heart.  She longed for a new sky above, new earth below, new
air to breathe, a new life to live.  She longed, too,--poor, empty
heart! poor, hungry soul!--for something to love and to reverence,
though she was scarcely conscious of it; she knew only that she had a
deep thirst which nothing quenched.

To settle herself near her one intimate friend, Coralie Youle; to
reassume her maiden name, since she had no right to that of Roy, and
only wanted to forget that of Roath; to lead the simple, free,
independent life of an artist, without hampering ties, duties, or
responsibilities;--this was the shape into which her longing finally
crystallized.  Art had been her idol when Love came to dethrone it; she
had not had time to tire of it, to learn how inevitably it, also,
resolves itself into dust, unless breathed upon by a spirit Divine.  So
she came to Savalla, and was brought into contact with Bergan and his
firm, frank Christian faith,--which it was impossible to contemn, being
joined to an intellect so strong and fine, and a life so noble.  So she
found her aunt, and saw how even the Valley of Shadow was made radiant
by the gladness of her Christian hope.  Thus her scepticism was at
first melted by the sunshine, rather than worsted by force of arms.  By
and by, however, she dared Bergan to controversy, and found that she
had met her master.  Not for nothing had he been beaten in many of his
battles with Doctor Remy; he had since made it his business to be able
to give good reasons for the hope that was in him.  He could now make
it manifest that Christian Faith had quite as much to say for herself
as infidel doubt, and could say it quite as clearly, logically, and
cogently.  Mind and heart opened, at last, to receive the heavenly
guest, under whose fair, white garments, Diva now knew, was sometimes
hidden a coat of wrought mail that no sword could pierce, and who,
although she had wings to soar beyond the stars, had also feet to plant
firmly on the rock of truth.

Finally, she had learned the identity of Edmund Roath and Felix Remy by
means of a sketch accidentally discovered in Astra's portfolio; she
wondered that she had not suspected it before, seeing how plainly he
had left his evil mark on Astra's mind.  She was glad to think that she
had been instrumental in obliterating it; he himself having helped to
fit her for the work.  Meanwhile, he had married Astra's friend.  What
was her duty in this case; to speak, or to be silent?  Silence was the
pleasanter thing, speech might be the only right thing.  Sharp was the
conflict, puzzling the controversy.  It was not decided until she
happened to meet Hubert Arling, and learned in what search he was
engaged, and what state of things existed in Berganton.  Then, moved by
gratitude to Bergan, she had sought Carice.

But what was the meaning of it all?  Reared in faithlessness, she had
been led to faith.  Proud, she had been humbled.  Wedded to Edmund
Roath, she had been made to follow in his track, and undo, in some
degree, his wicked work.  So much was plain, even now; the rest would
be read, in time.  But oh! the mystery, the wonder, of that overruling
Providence, who caught up man's wilful designs, ere they were out of
his hands, and turned them to His own vast purposes!

A light footstep fell behind her.  Turning, she beheld Carice's soft
eyes,--eyes which, she thought half-enviously, showed so plainly that
they had never looked upward through the smoked glass of doubt, to
divest the sun of his glory, the sky of its blue, and call it seeing
more clear.

"We have been talking of you," said Carice, with gentle directness.

Diva smiled faintly.  "I thought you would have pleasanter topics," she
answered, half-absently, half-sadly.

"Where could we have found them?" asked Carice, earnestly.  "Oh, Diva,
you will never know--we shall never be able to tell you--what we think
of you!  But, Bergan says this search after the doctor must be stopped
at once."

"He is very kind," replied Diva, quietly; "I understand what he would
spare me.  Tell him to give himself no disquietude on that head.  I
dare not lift a finger to stay the feet of justice, if I could; I can
bear whatever Providence sends.  But my dread is not the expiation of
the scaffold, but the finding of no space for repentance.  My
conviction is strong that--my husband will never be taken alive."

The quick tears came into Carice's sympathetic eyes; but Diva only
fixed her sad, calm gaze on the shining river, and saw in it, perhaps,
the River of Life, "proceeding out of the throne of God."  After
victory is peace.



XI.

FAITHFUL UNTO DEATH.

Bergan now mended rapidly; a mind and heart at ease are excellent
medicines.  In a few days it was pronounced safe to remove him to
Oakstead.  Here he was informed of the strange disappearance of Maumer
Rue.

"Her grandson, Brick, was at the cabin two or three times," said Mr.
Bergan, "when you were too ill to allow his admittance.  He is here
now, and very anxious to see you.  May he come in?"

Brick, being admitted, burst into tears.  He was glad to see his
beloved master, but his heart and mind were heavily burdened.  When he
had last seen his grandmother, she had told him that she was going on a
long journey, and should not return; but she had charged him solemnly
to say nothing of this communication to anybody but Bergan; who, she
averred, would return in good time.  Then he was to bid him, in her
name, to "seek and find;" she had added, that he would know where to
look.

Bergan started up with a face of alarm.  "I must go at once," he ex
claimed; "I am afraid it is already too late!"

"But you are not strong enough," remonstrated Mr. Bergan.  "Tell us
where to look, we will go in your stead."

"I would gladly do so, if I knew how," answered Bergan, "but I am not
certain that I can find the place myself; I never saw it but once, and
then it was in the night.  At the worst, however, we can cut a way into
it.  Come, uncle; come, Hubert, you will both be needed; and we ought
to have a doctor, too.  The secret--for there is one--has long been
kept, but it must needs out now; and it is as well that it should, the
day of such things is over."

The carriage was ordered, and having set down the three gentlemen at
the Hall, went after Doctor Gerrish.

Bergan, meanwhile, sought for the hidden spring.  It required some time
and thought before he found and pressed it.  The secret chamber being
then exposed to view, Rue was discovered sitting at the massive
secretary, in a large arm-chair, with her head bowed on her folded
hands.  She was dead; Doctor Gerrish affirmed that she had been so for
some days.  Ample provision of food and water was near; she had died a
perfectly natural and peaceful death, from the infirmities of old age.
It was apparent that she had deliberately chosen this spot for her
death-chamber.  But why?  That was a mystery.

It was soon solved.  As they gently raised the body to lay it on the
same bed where her master, and so many of his race had slept their last
sleep before her, a folded paper dropped from her clasped hands, and
fell at Bergan's feet.  He picked it up, glanced at it, and laid it on
the desk without a word.  There was that in his face, however, which
made Hubert also look at it; and straightway he held it up to view with
the triumphant exclamation:

"The lost will, gentlemen, the lost will!  Bergan, let me be the first
to congratulate you."

It was easy to understand now, that, feeling her last hour at hand, and
knowing that no will left anywhere in the Hall, or in her own cabin,
would be likely to escape Doctor Remy's destructive touch, she had
taken this method of fulfilling her master's last command:

"See that Harry has Bergan Hall.  Give this will into his own hands,
and no one's else.  I trust none of them but you."

Well might he trust her!  Almost a century of loyal service had she
given to him and his house, ready at any time, if need be, to lay down
her life for their sake.  Well might Bergan give her tender, honorable
burial, and cause to be graven deep on her tombstone:

FAITHFUL UNTO DEATH.

      *      *      *      *      *

Hubert Arling wooed and won Coralie Youle.  His strong likeness to his
brother first found him favor in her eyes; by and by, she would have
been amazed to be told that she had ever cared for him, except on his
own sufficient account.

Diva Thane and Astra Lyte went to Italy, for some years, to give
Astra's genius fit food and training.  The direction of its future
labors was settled.  She would spend her life and strength in the
service of Christian art, trying to lose all thought of self in that of
consecration, and counting her work successful, though it never left
her studio, nor brought her either money or fame, if only it lifted the
minds of those who contemplated it to a point above itself, to a
loftier standard of living, a clearer conception of the beauty of
holiness, a more earnest aspiration after the glory that "shall be."
On her return, she brought with her a Saint Christopher that satisfied
even Carice.  The giant was kneeling before the Wondrous Child, who had
at once so burdened him, and so strengthened him to bear; his face was
full of awe and love; he recognized his Lord; he had found the King who
alone was worthy of his service, and whom alone he was content to serve.

As for Diva, there are sisters of charity, who wear no distinctive
garments, save patience and faith.  A gentleman once said to Bergan,
admiring her stately beauty, "She should be a queen."  "She is a
queen," was the quick reply, "a queen according to the Gospel pattern,
'Whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant.'"

In due time, Bergan restored the old Hall, although not without
reducing somewhat of its ostentatious size by cutting down the long
wings, and with no extravagant outlay.  He had learned that the
inevitable, and probably healthful, tendency of property in this
country, is to division.  The larger and costlier the dwelling, beyond
a certain extent, the more sure it is to prove too heavy a burden for
some inheritor, and the less likely to go down in a direct line.  The
man who would have his name live, must link it with some institution
more imperishable than a family home.  First of all, therefore, Bergan
took care to embody in carven stone and jewelled glass that fair vision
which he had seen on his first visit to the Berganton church.  This
being done, we may be sure that his more personal dreams of happiness
and honor came true, also.

A fair and gracious wife and mother was Carice!  She never lost the
flower-like grace and purity of her girlhood, nor her rare power of
seeing straight to the central truth of things.  "It is said that I
have lost a year of my life," he once remarked; "it is the year that I
count most truly saved."

Richard Causton, having learned, through his forced abstinence during
his long, lonely watch over Bergan, that existence was possible without
alcoholic stimulant, and being helped by Bergan's steady friendship and
countenance, made a determined effort at reformation, and succeeded,
though not without a sore struggle, and many lapses.  The last of his
backslidings was made memorable by the following incident.

Going too near the edge of the excavation aforementioned, he slipped
and fell over, displacing some of the sand at the foot of the bank by
his weight, which had also been much washed by a recent heavy rain.
Struggling to his feet, he was horrified to see a skeleton hand
pointing at him from the base of the precipice.  He fled, without
stopping to look behind him; but his story set other and acuter minds
to work, as well as, a little later, two or three careful spades; and
the body of Edmund Roath was exhumed, and the mystery of his
disappearance was explained.  The sand had suddenly caved in, under his
weight, and buried him, as he fell.  His flight had been short, in one
sense; far, very far, in another.  Had he witnessed such a termination
to another's career, he would, doubtless, have termed it Chance, or
Fate; but those who stood around his dead, shrunken body, with its
sunken eyes and its uplifted hands, looked awe-stricken in each other's
faces, and solemnly whispered, "Providence."  Nevertheless, some simple
souls murmured that he had escaped just punishment.  "Do you think so?"
asked Mr. Islay.  "So would not he who said 'It is a fearful thing to
fall into the hands of the living God.'  Be thankful, rather, that
justice to the guilty is so tempered with mercy to the innocent.  An
earthly scaffold would not have added one straw's weight to the despair
of that miserable soul, when he stood on the brink of death, and knew
that his failure was complete for time and eternity, but it would have
been a heavy burden to certain gentle hearts.  It is they who have
escaped, not he.  Where the cords of his sins do not hold a man to a
godly sorrow, they must needs hold him to a righteous retribution."

Richard Causton's old age had something of the mellow sweetness of a
late, frost-bitten apple, such as is occasionally plucked from the tree
in midwinter.  He lived to teach Bergan's eldest son many of his
favorite proverbs, in their many tongues, but he constantly impressed
upon him that the truest, most significant, most solemn of them all was
one from Holy Writ:

"HE SHALL BE HOLDEN WITH THE CORDS OF HIS SINS."



THE END.





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