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Title: True Love: A Story of English Domestic Life
Author: Farro, Sarah E.
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.

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  TRUE LOVE

  A STORY OF
  ENGLISH DOMESTIC LIFE.

  BY

  SARAH E. FARRO.


  DONOHUE & HENNEBERRY,
  PRINTERS AND BINDERS,
  CHICAGO.



COPYRIGHT SECURED 1891.



PREFACE.


The author is aware that she is entering a field which has been
diligently cultivated by the best minds in Europe and America. Her
design in the preparation of this story is to give to the public a
sketch of her ideas on the effect of “true love.” I have tried to make
the plot exciting without being sensational or common, although within
the bounds of proper romance, and create a set of characters most of
whom are like real people with whose thoughts and passions we are
able to sympathize and whose language and conduct may be appreciable
or reprehensible according to circumstances. Great pains have been
taken to make this work superior in its arrangement and finish and in
the general tastefulness of its mechanical execution. How nearly the
author has accomplished her purpose to give to the public in one volume
a clear and complete treatise on this subject, combining many fine
qualities of importance to the reader, the intelligent and experienced
public must decide.

                                                         SARAH E. FARRO.



[Illustration: True Love.]

BY SARAH E. FARRO.



CHAPTER I.

MRS. BREWSTER’S DAUGHTERS.


A fine old door of oak, a heavy door standing deep within a portico
inside of which you might have driven a coach, brings you to the
residence of Mrs. Brewster. The hall was dark and small, the only
light admitted to it being from windows of stained glass; numberless
passages branched off from the hall, one peculiarity being that you
could scarcely enter a single room in it but you must first go down a
passage, short or long, to get to it; had the house been designed by
an architect with a head upon his shoulders and a little common sense
within it, he might have made a respectable house to say the least;
as it was, the rooms were cramped and narrow, cornered and confined,
and the good space was taken up by these worthless passages; a plat
of ground before it was crowded with flowers, far too crowded for good
taste, as the old gardener would point out to her, but Mrs. Brewster
loved flowers and would not part with one of them. Being the daughter
of a carpenter and the wife of a merchant tailor, she had scrambled
through life amidst bustle and poverty, moving from one house to
another, never settled anywhere for long. It was an existence not to
be envied, although it is the lot of many. She was Mrs. Brewster and
her husband was not a very good husband to her; he was rather too fond
of amusing himself, and threw all the care upon her shoulders; she
spent her time nursing her sickly children and endeavouring to make one
dollar go as far as two. One day, to her unspeakable embarrassment,
she found herself changed from a poor woman in moderate circumstances
to an heiress to a certain degree, her father having received a legacy
from a relative, and upon his death it was willed to her. She had much
sorrow, having lost one child after another, until she had but two
left. Then she lost her husband and father; then settled at Bellville
near her husband’s native place, upon her limited means. All she
possessed was the interest upon this sum her father had left her, the
whole not exceeding $2,000. She had two daughters, Mary Ann and Janey;
the contrast between them was great, you could see it most remarkably
as they sat together, and her love for them was as contrasted as light
is with darkness. Mary Ann she regarded with an inordinate affection
amounting almost to a passion; for Janey she did not care; what could
be the reason of this; what is the reason that parents, many such may
be found, will love some of their children and dislike others they
cannot tell any more than she could; ask them and they will be unable
to give you an answer. It does not lie in the children; it often
happens that those obtaining the least love will be the most deserving
of it. Such was the case here. Mary Ann Brewster was a pale, sickly,
fretful girl, full of whims, full of complaints, giving trouble to
everybody about her. Janey, with her sweet countenance and her merry
heart, made the sunshine of her home; she bore with her sister’s
exacting moods, she bore with her mother’s want of love, she loved them
both and waited on them, and carrolled forth her snatches of song as
she moved around the house, and was as happy as the day was long. Ask
the servants--they kept only two--and they would tell you that Mrs.
Brewster was cross and selfish, but Miss Janey was worth her weight in
gold; the gold was soon to be transplanted to a home where it would be
appreciated and cherished, for Janey was the affianced wife of Charles
Taylor. For nearly a mile beyond Bellville lived Charles Taylor, a
quiet, refined gentleman, and the son of a wealthy capitalist; his
father had not only made a fortune of his own, but had several bestowed
upon him; he had died several years before this time, and his wife
survived him one year. There were three sisters, a cousin and two
servants that had lived in this family for a number of years.

The beams of the setting sun streamed into the dining-room of the
Taylor mansion; it was a room of fine proportions, not dull and heavy
as it is the custom of some dining-rooms, but light and graceful as
could be wished. Charles Taylor, with his fine beauty, sat at one
end of the room, Miss Mary Taylor, a maiden lady of mature years,
good looking also in her peculiar style, sat opposite him, she wore a
white dress, its make remarkably young, and her hair fell in ringlets,
young also; at her right-hand sat Matilda, singularly attractive in
her quiet loveliness, with her silver dotted muslin dress trimmed
with white ribbons; at her left sat Martha, quiet in manner, plain in
features; she had large gray eyes, reflective strangely deep, with a
circle of darker gray around them, when they were cast upon you it
was not at you they looked, but at what was within you, at your mind,
your thoughts; at least such was the impression they carried. Thus
sat this worthy group, deep in thought, for they had been conversing
about the weather, that had been so damp, for it had been raining for
months, and the result was a malarial fever, visiting the residents of
Bellville, and it was very dangerous, for the sufferer would soon lapse
into unconsciousness and all was over; and it was generally believed
that the fever was abated. A rap at the door brought Charles Taylor to
his feet, it was George, the old gardener, he had come to tell them
the fever had broken out again. “What!” exclaimed Charles. “The fever
broken out again?” “Yes, it have,” said George, who had the build of a
Dutchman, and was taciturn upon most subjects; in manner he was most
surly and would hold his own opinion, especially if it touched upon his
occupation, against the world.

The news fell upon Charles’ heart like a knell; he fully believed the
danger to have passed, though not yet the sickness. “Are you sure that
the fever has broken out again, George?” he asked, after a pause. “I
ain’t no surer than I was told,” returned George. “I met Doctor Brown,
and he said as he passed, that the fever had broken out again.” “Do you
know where?” asked Charles. “He said, I believe, but I didn’t catch it;
if I stopped to listen to the talk of fevers where would my work be?”
George moved on ere he had done speaking, possibly from the impression
that the present talk was not forwarding his work. Taking his black
silk hat Charles said, “I shall go out and see if I can glean any news;
I hope it may be a false report.” He was just outside the walks when
he saw Doctor Brown, the most popular doctor in the village, coming
along quickly in his buggy; Charles motioned his hand, and the driver
pulled up. “Is it true, this fresh report of fever?” “Too true, I
fear,” replied the doctor. “I am on my way now, just summoned.” “Who’s
attacked?” “Mary Ann Brewster.” The name appeared to startle Charles.
“Mary Ann Brewster,” he uttered, “she will never pull through it.” The
doctor raised his eye-brows as if he thought it doubtful, and motioned
to his driver to move on. On the morning in question Mary Ann Brewster
awoke sick; in her impatient, fretful way she called out to Janey, who
slept in an adjoining room. Janey was fast asleep, but she was used to
being aroused out of her sleep at unreasonable hours by Mary Ann and
she threw on her dressing-gown and hastened to her. “I want some tea,”
began Mary Ann, “I am as sick and thirsty as I can be.” She was really
of a sickly constitution and to hear her complain of being “sick and
thirsty” was nothing unusual. Janey in her loving nature, her sweet
patience, received the information with as much concern as though she
had never heard it before. She bent over Mary Ann and spoke tenderly,
“where do you feel pain, dear, in your head or chest, where is it?” “I
told you that I was sick and thirsty, and that’s enough,” peevishly
answered Mary Ann. “Go and get me some tea.” “As soon as I can,” said
Janey, soothingly. “There is no fire yet, the girls are not up, I do
not think it can be later than four, by the look of the morning.” “Very
well,” cried Mary Ann, the sobs being contrived by the catching up of
her breath in temper not by tears, “you can’t call the maids I suppose,
and you can’t put yourself the least out of the way to alleviate my
suffering; you want to go to bed again and sleep till nine o’clock;
when I am dead you will wish you were more like a sister; you possess
great, rude health yourself, and you feel no compassion for those who
do not.” An assertion unjust and untrue like many others made by Mary
Ann. Janey did not possess rude health, though she was not like her
sister always complaining, and she had more compassion for Mary Ann
than she deserved. “I will see what I can do,” she gently said, “you
shall soon have some tea.” Passing into her own room Janey hastily
dressed herself. When Mary Ann was in one of her exacting moods there
could be no more sleep for Janey.

“I wonder,” she said to herself, “whether I could not make the fire
without waking the girls, they had such a hard day’s work yesterday
cleaning house; yes, if I can get some chips I will make a fire.” She
went down to the kitchen, hunted up what was required, laid the fire
and lighted it; it did not burn quickly, she thought the chips might be
damp and she got the bellows; there she was on her knees blowing at the
chips and sending the blaze amid the coals, when some one entered the
kitchen. “Miss Janey!” It was one of the girls, Eliza; she had heard a
noise in the kitchen and had arisen. Janey explained that her sister
was sick and tea was wanted. “Why did you not call us?” “You went to
bed so late and had worked so hard, I thought that I would not disturb
you.” “But it is not lady’s work, Miss.” “I think ladies should put on
gloves when they undertake it,” gayly laughed Janey; “look at my black
hands.” “What would Mr. Taylor say if he saw you on your knees lighting
a fire?” “He would say I was doing right, Eliza,” replied Janey, a
shade of reproof in her firm tones, though the allusion caused the
color to crimson her cheeks; the girl had been with them some time and
assumed more privilege than a less respected servant would have been
allowed to do. The tea ready Janey carried a cup of it to her sister,
with a slice of toast that she had made. Mary Ann drank the tea at a
draught, but she turned with a shiver from the toast, she seemed to
be shivering much. “Who was so stupid as to make that? you might know
I could not eat it, I am too sick.” Janey began to think she looked
very sick, her face was flushed shivering though she was, her lips
were dry, her bright eyes were unnaturally heavy; she gently laid her
hands, cleanly washed, upon her sister’s brow; it felt burning, and
Mary Ann screamed out, “Do keep your hands away, my head is splitting
with pain.” All at once Janey thought of the fever, the danger from
which they had been reckoning to have passed. “Would you like me to
bathe your forehead with water, Mary Ann?” asked Janey, kindly. “I
would like you to stop until things are asked for and not to worry me,”
replied Mary Ann. Janey sighed, not for the cross temper, Mary Ann was
always cross in sickness, but for the suffering she thought she saw
and the half-doubt, half-dread which had arisen within her. I think
I had better call mamma, she thought to herself, though if she sees
nothing unusual the matter with Mary Ann she will only be angry with
me; proceeding to her mother’s chamber Janey knocked gently, her mother
slept still, but the entrance aroused her. “Mamma, I do not like to
disturb you, but Mary Ann is sick.” “Sick again, and only last week she
was in bed three days, poor, dear sufferer; is it her chest?”

“Mamma she seems unusually ill, otherwise I should not have disturbed
you, I feared, I thought you will be angry with me, if I say, perhaps”;
“say what, don’t stand like a statue, Janey.” Janey dropped her voice,
“dear mamma, suppose it should be the fever?” For one startling moment
Mrs. Brewster felt as if a dagger was piercing her heart; the next she
turned upon Janey. “Fever for Mary Ann! How dared she prophesy it, a
low common fever confined to the poor and the town and which had gone
away or all but; was it likely to turn itself back again and come up
here to attack her darling child?” Janey, the tears in her eyes, said
she hoped it would prove to be only a common headache; that it was her
love for Mary Ann which awoke her fears. The mother proceeded to the
sick-chamber and Janey followed. Mrs. Brewster was not accustomed to
observe caution and she spoke freely of the “fever” before Mary Ann;
seemingly for the purpose of casting blame upon Janey. Mary Ann did not
catch the fear, she ridiculed Janey as her mother had done; for several
hours Mrs. Brewster did not catch it either, she would have summoned
medical aid at first, but Mary Ann in her fretfulness protested that
she would not have a doctor; later she grew worse and Doctor Brown was
sent for, you saw him in his buggy going to the house.

Mrs. Brewster came forward to meet him, Janey, full of anxiety, near
her. Mrs. Brewster was a thin woman, with a shriveled face and a sharp
red nose, her gray hair banded closely under a white cap, her style
of head-dress never varied, it consisted always of a plain cap with a
quilled border trimmed with purple ribbon, her black dresses she had
not laid aside since the death of her husband and intended never to
do so. She grasped the arm of the doctor, “You must save my child!”
“Higher aid permitting me,” answered the surgeon. “What makes you think
it’s the fever? For months I have been summoned by timid parents to any
number of fever cases and when I have arrived in haste they have turned
out to be no fever at all.” “This is the fever,” Mrs. Brewster replied;
“had I been more willing to admit that it was, you would have been
sent for hours ago, it was Janey’s fault; she suggested at daybreak
that it might be the fever, and it made my darling girl so angry that
she forbade my sending for advice; but she is worse now, come and see
her.” The doctor laid his hand upon Janey’s head with a fond gesture
as he followed Mrs. Brewster; all the neighbors of Bellville loved
Janey Brewster. Tossing upon her uneasy bed, her face crimson, her hair
floating untidily around it, lay Mary Ann, still shivering; the doctor
gave one glance at her, it was quite enough to satisfy him that the
mother was not mistaken.

“Is it the fever,” impatiently asked Mary Ann, unclosing her hot
eyelids; “if it is we must drive it away,” said the doctor cheerfully.
“Why should the fever have come to me?” she rejoined in a tone of
rebellion. “Why was I thrown from my buggy last year and my back
sprained? Such unpleasant things do come to us.” “To sprain your back
is nothing compared with this fever; you got well again.” “And we will
get you well if you will be quiet and reasonable.” “I am so hot, my
head is so heavy.” The doctor, who had called for water and a glass,
was mixing up a brown powder which he had produced from his pocket;
she drank it without opposition, and then he lessened the weight of
the bed-clothes, and afterwards turned his attention to the bed-room.
It was close and hot, and the sun which had just burst forth brightly
from the gray sky shone full upon it. “You have got the chimney stuffed
up,” he exclaimed. “Mary Ann will not allow it to be open,” said Mrs.
Brewster; “she is sensitive to cold, and feels the slightest draught.”
The doctor walked to the chimney, turned up his coat cuff and wristband
and pulled down a bag filled with shavings; some soot came with it and
covered his hand, but he did not mind that; he was as little given to
ceremony as Mrs. Brewster was to caution, and he walked leisurely up to
the wash-stand to wash it off. “Now, if I catch that bag or any other
bag up there obstructing the air, I shall pull down the bricks and make
a good big hole that the sky can be seen through; of that I give you
notice, madam.” He next pulled the window down at the top behind the
blind, but the room at its best did not find favor with him. “It is
not airy; it is not cool,” he said. “Is there not a better ventilated
room in the house? if so, she shall be moved to it.” “My room is a cool
one,” interposed Janey eagerly; “the sun never shines upon it, doctor.”
It appears that Janey, thus speaking, must have reminded the doctor
that she was present for in the same unceremonious fashion that he had
laid his hands upon the chimney bag, he now laid them upon her shoulder
and walked her out of the room. “You go down stairs, Miss Janey, and
do not come within a mile of this room again until I give you notice.”
During this time Mary Ann was talking imperiously and fretfully. “I
will not be moved into Janey’s room; it is not furnished with half the
comforts of mine; it has only a little bed-side carpet; I will not go
there, doctor.” “Now, see here, Mary Ann,” said the doctor firmly, “I
am responsible for getting you well, and I shall take my own way to do
it. If I am to be contradicted at every suggestion, your mother can
summon some one else to attend you, I will not undertake it.”

“My dear you shall not be moved to Janey’s room;” said her mother
coaxingly; “you shall be moved to mine, it is larger than this, you
know, doctor, with a draught through it, if you wish to open the door
and windows.”

“Very well,” replied the doctor, “let me find her in it when I come
again this evening, and if there’s a carpet on the floor take it up,
carpets were never intended for bed-rooms.” He went into one of the
sitting-rooms with Mrs. Brewster as he descended; “What do you think of
the case,” she earnestly inquired. “There will be some difficulty with
it,” was his candid reply. “Her hair must be cut off.” “Her hair cut
off!” screamed Mrs. Brewster, “that it never shall! She has the most
beautiful hair, what is Janey’s compared to her’s?”

“You heard what I said,” he positively replied.

“But Mary Ann will not allow it to be done,” she returned, shifting
the ground of remonstrance from her own shoulders, “and to do it
in opposition would be enough to kill her.” “It will not be done
in opposition,” he answered, “she will be unconscious before it is
attempted.” Mrs. Brewster’s heart sank within her. “You anticipate
she will be dangerously ill?” “In such cases there is always danger,
but worse cases than, as I believe hers will be, are curable.” “If I
lose her I shall die myself;” she exclaimed, “and if she is to have it
badly she will die! Remember, doctor, how weak she has always been.”
“We sometimes find that the weak of constitution battle best with an
epidemic,” he replied, “many a hearty one is stricken down with it and
taken off, many a sickly one has pulled through it and been the better
afterwards.”

“Everything shall be done as you wish,” said Mrs. Brewster humbly in
her great fear. “Very well. There is one caution I would earnestly
impress upon you, that of keeping Janey from the sick-room.” “But there
is no one to whom Mary Ann is so accustomed as a nurse,” objected
Mrs. Brewster. “Madam,” burst forth the doctor angrily, “would you
subject Janey to the risk of taking the infection in deference to
Mary Ann’s selfishness or to yours, better lose all the treasures
your house contains than lose Janey, she is the greatest treasure.”
“I know how remarkably prejudiced you have always been in Janey’s
favor,” spitefully spoke Mrs. Brewster. “If I disliked her as much as I
like her, I should be equally solicitous to guard her from the danger
of infection,” said Doctor Brown. “If you chose to put Janey out of
consideration you cannot put Charles Taylor; in justice to him she must
be taken care of.”

Mrs. Brewster opened her mouth to reply, but closed it again; strange
words had been hovering upon her lips. “If Charles Taylor had not
been blind his choice would have fallen upon Mary Ann, not upon
Janey.” In her heart there was a sore topic of resentment; for she
fully appreciated the advantages of a union with the Taylors. Those
words were swallowed down to give utterance to others. “Janey is in
the house, and therefore must be liable to take the fever; whether
she takes the infection or not, I cannot fence her around with an
air-tight wall so that not a breath of tainted atmosphere shall touch
her, I would if I could, but I cannot.” “I would send her from the
house, Mrs. Brewster; at any rate, I would forbid her to go near her
sister; I don’t want two patients on my hands instead of one,” he
added in his quaint fashion as he took his departure. He was about to
step into his buggy when he saw Charles Taylor advancing with a quick
step. “Which of them is it that is seized?” he inquired as he came
up. “Not Janey, thank goodness,” replied the doctor. “It is Mary Ann;
I have been persuading the madam to send Janey from home; I should
send her were she a daughter of mine.” “Is Mary Ann likely to have it
dangerously?” “I think she will. Is there any necessity for you going
to the house just now, Mr. Taylor?” Charles Taylor smiled. “There is no
necessity for my keeping away; I do not fear the fever any more than
you do.” He passed into the garden as he spoke, and the doctor drove
on. Janey saw him and came running out. “Oh! Charles, don’t come in;
do not come.” His only answer was to take her upon his arm and enter.
He raised the drawing-room window, that as much air might circulate
through the house as was possible, and stood at it with her holding
her before him. “Janey, what am I to do with you?” “To do with me?
What should you do with me, Charles?” “Do you know, my dear, that I
cannot afford to let this danger touch you?” “I am not afraid,” she
gently said. He knew that she had a brave unselfish heart, but he was
afraid for her, for he loved her with a jealous love, jealous of any
evil that might come too near her. “I should like to take you out of
the house with me now, Janey. I should like to take you far from this
fever-tainted town; will you come?” She looked up at him with a smile,
the color coming into her cheeks. “How could I, Charles?” Anxious
thoughts were passing through the mind of Charles Taylor. We cannot
put aside the conventionalities of life, though there are times when
they press upon us as an iron weight; he would have given his own life
almost to have taken Janey from that house, but how was he to do it?
No friend would be likely to receive her; not even his own sisters;
they would have too much dread of the infection she might bring. He
would fain have carried her to some sea-breezed town and watch over
her and guard her there until the danger should be over. None would
have protected her more honorably than Charles Taylor. But those
conventionalities the world has to bow down to, how would the step have
accorded with them? Another thought passed through his mind. “Listen,
Janey,” he said, “suppose we get a license and drive to the parson’s
house; it could all be done in a few hours, and you could be away
with me before night.” As the meaning dawned upon her, she bent her
head, and her blushing face, laughing at the wild improbability. “Oh!
Charles, you are only joking; what would people say?” “Would it make
any difference to us what they said?” “It could not be, Charles; it is
a vision impossible,” she replied seriously. “Were all other things
meet, how could I run away from my sister on her bed of dangerous
illness to marry you?”

Janey was right and Charles Taylor felt that she was; the
conventionalities must be observed no matter at what cost. He held her
fondly against his heart, “if aught of ill should arise to you from
your remaining here I should never forgive myself.” Charles could not
remain longer, he must be at his office, for business was urging. His
cousin, George Gay, was in the private room alone when he entered, he
appeared to be buried five feet deep in business, though he would have
preferred to be five feet deep in pleasure. “Are you going home to
supper this evening?” inquired Charles. “The fates permitting,” replied
Mr. Gay, “You tell my sisters that I will not return until after tea,
Mary will not thank me for running from Mrs. Brewster’s house to hers,
just now.” “Charles,” warmly spoke George in an impulse of kindly
feeling, “I do hope the fever will not extend itself to Janey.” “I hope
not,” fervently breathed Charles Taylor.



CHAPTER II.

THE RESIDENCE OF CHARLES TAYLOR.


In the heart of Bellville was situated the business house of Bangs,
Smith & Taylor, built at the corner of a street, it faced two ways, the
office and its doors being on L street, the principal street of the
town. There was also a dwelling-house on M street, a new short street
not much frequented. There were eight or ten houses on this street all
owned by the Taylors, and this street led to the open country and to
a carriage way that would take you to the Taylor mansion. It was in
one of these houses that Charles Taylor had concluded to live after
his marriage with Janey Brewster, as it was near his business and he
wanted his sisters to live there with him as it was their mother’s
last request that they keep together, but up to the present time he
had never talked the matter over with them. This house attached to the
office was a commodious one, its rooms were mostly large and handsome
and many in number, a pillared entrance to which you ascended by steps
took you into a large hall, on the right of this hall was a room used
for a dining-room, a light and spacious apartment, its large window
opening on a covered terrace where plants could be kept and that again
standing open to a sloping lawn surrounded with shrubs and flowers.
On the left of the hall was a kitchen, pantries and such like, at the
back of the hall beyond the dining-room a handsome staircase led to
the apartments, one of which was a fine drawing-room. From the upper
windows at the back of the house a full view of the Taylor mansion
might be obtained, rising high and picturesque, also the steeple of a
cathedral gray and grim, not of the cathedral itself, its surrounding
trees concealed that.

In the dining-room of the Taylor mansion one evening sat Charles Taylor
and his eldest sister, Mary. This room was elegant and airy and fitted
up with exquisite taste; it was the ladies’ favorite sitting-room. The
drawing-room above was larger and grander but less used by them. On the
evening in question, Charles Taylor was arranging plans for a business
trip with his sister, though her removal to town was uppermost in his
mind. About ten days previous to this, Marshall Bangs, one of the
partners, had been found insensible on the floor of his room; he was
subject to attacks of heart-disease, and this had proved to be nothing
but a fainting spell, but it had caused plans to be somewhat changed,
for Mr. Bangs would not be strong enough for business consultation,
which would have been the chief object of his journey. As I said
before, Charles and his sister were sitting alone, their cousin,
George Gay, had gone out for a walk and Martha was spending the evening
at Parson Davis’, for she and Mrs. Davis were active workers in church
affairs. The dessert was on the table, but Charles had turned from it
and was sitting opposite the fireplace. Miss Taylor sat opposite him,
nearer the table, her fingers busy with knitting, on which fell the
rays of the chandelier. “Mary,” said Charles, earnestly, “I wish that
you would let me bring Janey here on a visit to you.” Mary laid down
her knitting. “What, do you mean that there should be two mistresses
in the house, she and I? No, Charles, the daftest old wife in all the
world would tell you that would not do.” “Not two mistresses; you would
be sole mistress, as you are now; Janey and I your guests, indeed Mary,
it would be the best plan. Suppose we all move to town together,” he
said. “It was mother’s desire that we should remain together.” “No,
Charles, it would not do; some of the partners have always resided near
the office, and it is necessary, in my opinion, that you should let
business men be at their business. When do you contemplate marrying
Janey,” she inquired, after a few minutes of thought. “I should like
her to be mine by Thanksgiving,” was the low answer. “Charles! and
November close upon us.” “If not, some time in December,” he continued,
paying no heed to her surprise. “It is so decided.” Miss Taylor drew
a long breath. “With whom is it decided?” “With Janey.” “You marry a
wife without a home to bring her too; had cousin George told me that
he was going to do such a thing I would have believed him, not of you,
Charles!” “Mary, the home shall no longer be a barrier. I wish you
would receive Janey here as your guest.”

“It is not likely that she would come; the first thing a married woman
looks out for is a home of her own.”

Charles laughed. “Not come? Mary, have you yet to learn how unassuming
and meek is the character of Janey? We have spoken of this plan
together, and Janey’s only fear is lest she should be in the way of
Miss Taylor failing in the carrying out of this project. Mary (for I
see you are as I thought you would be, prejudiced against it) I shall
take one of the houses near the office in town and there I shall take
Janey. The pleasantest plan would be for me to bring Janey here,
entirely as your guest; it is what she and I would both like. If you
object, I shall take her elsewhere.”

Mary knitted a whole row before she spoke. “I will take a few days to
reflect upon it, Charles,” she said. “Do so,” he replied, rising and
glancing at his watch. “Half past eight. What time will Martha expect
me? I wish to spend half an hour with Janey, shall I go for Martha
before or afterwards?”

“Go for her at once, Charles; it will be better for her to be home
early.”

Charles Taylor went to the hall door and looked out upon the night;
he was considering whether he need put on an overcoat. It was a
bright moonlight night, pleasant and genial, so he closed the door and
started. “I wish the cold would come,” he exclaimed half aloud; he was
thinking of the fever which still clung to Bellville, showing itself
fitfully and partially in fresh places about every three or four days.
He took the path leading to L. street, a lonely road and at night
unfrequented; the pathway was so narrow that two people could scarcely
walk abreast without touching the trunks of the maple trees growing on
either side and meeting overhead. Charles Taylor went steadily on, his
thoughts running upon the subject of his conversation with Mary.

It is probable that but for the difficulty touching a residence, Janey
would have been his the past summer. Altogether, Charles’ plan was the
best, if Mary could be brought to see it, that his young bride should
be her guest for a short time. Charles, in due course of time, arrived
at the walk’s end and passed through a large gate. The town lay in
front of him, gray and sombre, as it was nearly hidden by trees; he
looked at it fondly, his heart yearned to it, for it was to be the
future home of Janey and himself.

“Hello! who’s there? Oh, I beg your pardon, Mr Taylor.”

The speaker was Doctor Brown. He had come swiftly upon Charles Taylor,
turning from the corner around the maple trees; that he had been to
see the sick was certain, but Charles had not heard of any one being
sick in that direction. “Neither had I,” said the doctor, in answer
to the remark, “until I was sent for an hour ago in haste.” A thought
crossed Charlie’s mind, “Not a case of fever, I hope.” “No; I think
that’s leaving us. There’s been an accident to the parson’s wife--at
least what might have been an accident, I should rather say,” added
the doctor, correcting himself; “the injury is so slight as not to be
worth the name of one.” “What has happened?” asked Charles Taylor. “She
managed to set her sleeve on fire. A muslin, falling over the merino
sleeve of her gown, in standing near a candle, the flame caught it;
but just look at her presence of mind! Instead of wasting time running
through the house from top to bottom, as most of them would have done,
she instantly threw herself down on the rug and rolled herself into it.
She’s the kind of a woman to go through life.” “Is she much burnt?”
“No; many a child gets more burnt a dozen times in its first dozen
years. The arm, between the elbow and wrist, is a little scorched; it’s
nothing; they need not have sent for me; a drop of cold water applied
will take out all the fire. Your sister Martha was much more frightened
than she was.” “I’m really glad it’s no worse,” said Charles Taylor.
“I feared the fever might have broken out again.” “That is taking its
departure, I think, and the sooner it’s gone the better; it has been
capricious as a coquette’s smiles; it is strange that in many houses it
should have attacked only one inmate and spared the rest.” “What do
you think, now, of Mary Ann Brewster?” The doctor shook his head, and
his voice grew insensibly low. “In my opinion, she is sinking fast. I
found her worse this afternoon, weaker than she has been at all; her
mother thought that if she could get her to Newtown she might improve;
but the removal would kill her; she would die on the road. It will be
a terrible blow to her mother if it does come; and, though it may be
harsh to say it, a retort upon her selfishness. Did you hear that she
used to make Janey head nurse while the fever was upon her?” “No,”
exclaimed Charles Taylor. “They did, though; Mrs. Brewster let it out
to-day unintentionally. Dear girl! if she had caught it, I should never
have forgiven her mother, whatever you may have done. I have a few more
visits to make now before bedtime. Good-night!”

“Worse!” exclaimed Charles, as he walked on, “poor Mary Ann, but I
wonder”--he hesitated as the thought struck him whether if the worse
should come, as the doctor seems to anticipate, if it would delay
Janey’s marriage, what with one delay and another. He walked on to
the parson’s house where he found Mrs. Davis, playing the invalid,
lying on a sofa, her auburn hair was disheveled, her cheeks flushed;
the burnt arm, her muslin sleeve pinned up, was stretched out on a
cushion, a pocket handkerchief, saturated with water, resting lightly
on the burns, a basin of water stood near with another handkerchief
in it, and the maid was near to exchange the handkerchiefs as might
be required. Charles Taylor drew his chair near to Mrs. Davis and
listened to the account of the accident, giving her his full sympathy,
for it might have been a bad one. “You must possess great presence of
mind,” he observed. “I think your showing it, as you have done in this
instance, has won the doctor’s heart.” Mrs. Davis smiled. “I believe I
do possess presence of mind; once we were riding out with some friends
in a carriage when the horses took fright, ran away, and nearly tore
the carriage to pieces; while all were frightened in a fearful manner
I remained calm and cool.” “It is a good thing for you,” he observed.
“I suppose it is; better at any rate than to go mad with fear, as some
do. Martha has had enough fright to last her for a year.” “What were
you doing, Martha?” asked her brother. “I was present but I did not
see it,” replied Martha; “it occurred in her room, and I was in the
hall looking out of the window with my back to her; the first I knew or
saw, Mrs. Davis was lying on the floor with the rug rolled around her.”
Tea was brought in and Mrs. Davis insisted that they should remain to
it. Charles pleaded an engagement but she would not listen; they could
not have the heart to leave her alone, so Charles, the very essence of
good feeling and politeness, remained. Tea having been over, Martha
went upstairs to get her wraps. Mrs. Davis turned her head as the door
was closed and then spoke abruptly: “I am glad that Mr. Davis was
not here, he would have magnified it into something formidable, and I
should not have been let stir for a month.” The door opened, Martha
appeared, they wished Mrs. Davis “good night,” a speedy cure from her
burns, and departed, Charles, taking the straight path this time,
which did not lead them near the maple trees. “How quaint old Doctor
Brown is,” said Martha, as they walked along; “when he had looked at
Mrs. Davis’ arm he made a great parade of getting out his glasses and
putting them on, and looking again.”

“What do you call it, a burn?” he asked her. “It is a burn, is it not,”
she answered, looking at him. “No,” said he, “its nothing but a singe,”
it made her laugh heartily. “I guess she was pleased to have escaped
with such slight damage.” “That is just like Doctor Brown,” said
Charles.

Having arrived at home, Miss Taylor was in the same place knitting
still; it was half past ten, too late for Charles to pay a visit to
Mrs. Brewster. “Mary, I fear you have waited tea for us,” said Martha.
“To be sure child, I expected you home to it.”

Martha explained why she did not come, telling of the accident to Mrs.
Davis. “Ah, careless! careless! careless! she might have been burned to
death,” said Mary, lifting her hands. “She would have been much more
burnt had it not been for her presence of mind,” said Charles slowly.
Miss Taylor laid down her knitting and approached the tea-table, none
must preside at the meals but herself. She inquired of Charles whether
he was going out again. “I think not,” he replied indecisively, “I
should like to have gone though, the doctor tells me Mary Ann Brewster
is worse.” “Weaker I conclude,” said Mary. “Weaker than she has been
at all, he thinks there is no hope for her now. No, I will not disturb
them,” he positively added, “it would be nearly twelve by the time I
reached there.”



CHAPTER III.

CHARLES TAYLOR RECEIVES A MESSAGE.


“What a loud ring,” exclaimed Mary Taylor, as the bell, pulled with
no gentle hand, echoed and echoed through the house; “should it be
cousin George come home, he thinks he will let us know who is there.”
It was not George. A servant entered the room with a telegram, “the
man is waiting, sir,” he said, holding out the paper for Charles to
sign. Charles affixed his signature and took up the dispatch; it came
from Waterville, Mary laid her hand upon it ere it was open, her face
looked ghastly pale. “A moment of preparation,” she said. “Now, Mary,
do not anticipate evil, it may not be ill news at all.” He glanced his
eye rapidly and privately over it while Martha came and stood near with
a stifled sob, then he held it out to Mary, reading it aloud at the
same time, “Mrs. Bangs to Charles Taylor, come at once to Waterville,
Mr. Bangs wishes to see you.” Mary, her extreme fears having been
relieved, took refuge in displeasure. “What does Mrs. Bangs mean by
sending a vague message like that?” she uttered. “Is Mr. Bangs worse,
is he sick, is he in danger or has the summons not reference at all to
his state of health?” Charles had taken it in his hand again and was
studying the words--as we are all apt to do when in uncertainty.

He could make no more out of them. “Mrs. Bangs might have been more
explicit,” he resumed. “She has no right to play upon our fears,” said
Mary. “Well, what are you going to do?” inquired Mary of her brother.
“I will do as the dispatch desires me, go at once, which will be at
midnight.” “Give it to me again,” said Mary. He put the dispatch
into her hand, and she sat down with it, apparently studying its
every word. “Vague! Vague! Can anything be possibly more vague,” she
exclaimed. “It leaves us utterly in doubt of her motive for sending,
she must have done it on purpose to try our feelings.” “She has done
it in carelessness, carelessness,” surmised Charles. “Which is as
reprehensible as the other,” severely answered Mary. “Charles, when
you get there, should you find him dangerously ill dispatch to us at
once.” “I should be sure to do so,” was his answer. “Where are you
going?” asked Mary, for he was preparing to go out. “As far as Mrs.
Brewster’s.” Leaving the warm room for the street, the night air seemed
to strike upon him with a chill which he had not experienced when he
went out previously, and he returned and put on his overcoat. He could
not leave before 2 o’clock, unless he had engaged a special train,
which the circumstances did not appear to call for. At 2 o’clock a mail
train passed through the place, stopping at all stations, and on that
he concluded to go. He walked briskly along the path, his thoughts
running upon many things, but chiefly on the unsatisfactory dispatch,
very unsatisfactory he felt it to be, and a vague fear crossed his mind
that his friend and partner might be in danger, looking at it from a
sober point of view his judgment said “no,” but we cannot always look
at suspense soberly, neither could Charles Taylor.

Before reaching Madam Brewster’s on the walk that Charles had taken,
you pass the church and residence of Parson Davis. Nature had not
intended Mr. Davis for a pastor, and his sermons were the bane of
his life; an excellent man, a most efficient pastor for a village, a
gentleman, a scholar, abounding in good, practical sense, but not a
preacher; sometimes he wrote sermons, sometimes he tried them without
the book, but let him do as he would, there was always a conviction of
failure as to his sermons winning their way to his hearers hearts. He
was of medium height, keen features, black hair, mingled with gray. The
house was built of white stone and was a commodious residence; some
of the rooms had been added to the house of late years. Mrs. Davis’
room was very pleasant to sit in on a summer’s day when the grass
was green and the many colored flowers with their gay brightness and
their perfume gladdened the senses, and the birds were singing and
the bees and butterflies sporting. Mrs. Davis was a lady-like woman
of middle height and fair complexion, she was remarkably susceptible
to surrounding influences, seasons and weather held much power over
her. A dark figure was leaning over the gate of Parson Davis, shaded
by the dark trees, but though the features of the face were obscure,
the outline of the clerical hat was visible, and by that Mr. Davis
was known. Charles Taylor stopped: “You are going this way late” said
the parson. “It is late for a visit to Mrs. Brewster’s, but I wish
particularly to see them.” “I have just returned from there,” said
Mr. Davis. “Mary Ann grows weaker, I hear.” “Yes, I have been holding
prayer with her.” Charles Taylor felt shocked. “Is she so near death as
that,” he inquired in a hushed tone. “So near death as that” repeated
Mr. Davis in an accent of reproof. “I did not expect to hear such a
remark from you, Mr. Taylor; my friend, is it only when death is near
that we are to pray?” “It is mostly when death is near that prayers are
held over us,” replied Charles Taylor. “True, for those who have known
when and how to pray for themselves; look at that girl passing away
from among us, with all her worldly thoughts, her selfish habits, her
evil, peevish temper, but God’s ways are not like our ways; we might
be tempted to ask why such as these are removed, such as Janey left,
the one child as near akin to an angel as it is possible to be here;
the other, in our blind judgment, we may wonder that she, most ripe
for heaven, should not be taken to it, and the other one left to be
pruned and dug around, to have, in short, a chance given her of making
herself better.” “Is she so very sick?” “I think her so, as well as the
doctor, it was what he said that sent me up; her frame of mind is not
a desirable one, and I have been doing my best; I shall be with her
again to-morrow.” He continued his way and Mr. Davis looked after him
until his form disappeared in the shadows cast by the roadside trees.
The clock was striking twelve when Charles Taylor opened the iron gate
that led to Mrs. Brewster’s house; the house, with the exception of one
window looked dark, even the hall lamp was out and he was afraid that
all had retired. From that window a dull light shone behind the blind;
a stationary light it had been of late, to be seen by any wayfarer all
night long for it came from the sick girl’s room. A rap upon the door
brought Eliza.

“Oh, sir,” she exclaimed in surprise of seeing him so late, “I think
Miss Janey has gone to bed.” Mrs. Brewster came running down the
stairs as he stepped into the hall; she also was surprised at his late
visit. “I would not have disturbed you, but I am about to depart for
Waterville,” he explained. “A telegram has arrived from Mrs. Bangs,
calling me there. I should like to see Janey before I go. I don’t know
how long I may be gone.” “I sent Janey to her bed, her head ached,”
said Mrs. Brewster, “she has not been up very long. Oh, Mr. Taylor,
this has been such a day of grief, heads and and hearts alike aching.”
Charles Taylor entered the drawing-room, and Mrs. Brewster proceeded
to her daughter’s chamber; softly opening the door, she looked in.
Janey, undisturbed by the noise of his visit, for she had not supposed
it to be a visit relating to her, was kneeling down by the bed saying
her prayers, her face buried in her hands, and the light from the
candle shining on her smooth hair. A minute or so her mother remained
silent, and then Janey arose; she had not begun to undress. It was
the first intimation she had that anyone was there, and she recoiled
with surprise. “Mamma, how you scared me! Mary Ann is not worse?”
“She can’t well be worse on this side of the grave. Mr. Taylor is in
the drawing-room, and wishes to see you.” She went down at once. Mrs.
Brewster did not go with her, but went into her sick daughter’s room.
The fire in the drawing-room was low, and Eliza had been in to stir it
up. Charles stood before it with Janey, telling her of his unexpected
journey. The red embers threw a glow upon her face, her brow looked
heavy, her eyes swollen. He saw the signs, and laid his hand fondly
on her head. “What has given you the headache, Janey?” The tears came
into her eyes. “It does ache very much,” she answered. “Has crying
caused it?” “Yes,” she said, “it is of no use to deny it, for you could
have seen it by my swollen eyelids. I have wept to-day until it seems
I can weep no longer, and it has made my eyes ache and my heart dull
and heavy.” “But, my dear, you should not give way to this grief; it
may render you seriously ill.” “Oh, Charles, how can I help it,” she
replied with emotion, as the tears rolled swiftly down her cheeks.

“We begin to see that there is no hope of Mary Ann’s recovery; the
doctor told mamma so to-day, and he sent over Mr. Davis.” “Will
grieving alter it?” Janey wept silently; there was full and complete
confidence between her and Charles Taylor. She could tell him all her
thoughts, her troubles, as she could a mother if she had one that loved
her. “If she was more ready to go, the pain would seem less,” breathed
Janey. “That is, we might feel more reconciled to losing her, but
you know how she is, Charles, when I have tried to talk to her about
Heaven, she would not listen. She said it made her dull; it gave her
the horrors. How can she, who has never thought of God, be fit to meet
him?” Janey’s tears were deepening into sobs. Charles Taylor thought of
what the minister had said to him. His hand still rested on the head
of Janey. “You are fit to meet him,” he exclaimed, sadly. “Janey, what
makes such a difference between you, you are sisters, raised in the
same home?” “I do not know,” said Janey, slowly, “I have always thought
a great deal about Heaven ever since I first went to Sunday-school.”
“And why not Mary Ann?” “She would not go; she liked balls, parties and
such like.” Charles smiled; the words were so simple and natural. “Had
the summons gone forth for you instead of her, it would have brought
you no dismay?” “Only that I must leave all of my friends behind me,”
she answered, looking up at him, a bright smile shining through her
tears. “I should know that God would not take me unless it was for the
best. Oh, Charles, if we could only save her!” “Child, you contradict
yourself. If what God does must be for the best, you should reconcile
yourself to parting with Mary Ann.” “Yes,” hesitated Janey, “but I fear
she has never thought of it herself or in any way prepared for it.”
“Do you know that I am going to find fault with you, Janey?” he added,
after a pause. She turned her eyes upon him in complete surprise,
the tears drying up. “Did you not promise me--did you not promise
the doctor that you would not enter your sister’s chamber while the
fever was upon her?” The hot color flashed into her face. “Forgive me,
Charles,” she whispered, “I could not help myself; Mary Ann, on the
fifth morning of her illness, began to cry for me very much, and mamma
came to my room and asked me to go to her. I told her that the doctor
had forbidden me and that I had promised you; it made her angry; she
took me by the arm and pulled me in.” Charles stood looking at her;
there was nothing to answer. He had known in his deep and trusting love
that it was no fault of Janey’s. Thinking he was vexed, she answered,
“You know, Charles, so long as I am here in mamma’s home, her child,
it is to her that I owe obedience; as soon as I am your wife I shall
owe it and give it to you.” “You are right, my darling.” “And it has
been productive of no ill consequences,” she said. “I did not catch the
fever; had I found myself growing the least sick, I should have sent
for you and told you all.” “Janey,” he cried, “had you caught the fever
I should never have forgiven those who led you into the danger.”

“Listen,” said Janey, “mamma is calling.” Mrs. Brewster had been
calling to Mr. Taylor. Thinking that she was not heard she came down
the stairs and entered the room wringing her hands; her eyes were
moist, her sharp thin red nose was redder then ever. “Oh, dear, I
don’t know what I shall do with her,” she sobbed. “She is so sick and
fretful, Mr. Taylor, nothing will satisfy her now but she must see
you.” “See me,” repeated he. “She will,” she says. “I told her you was
leaving for Waterville and she burst out crying and said if she was
to die she would never see you again, do you mind going in, you are
not afraid?” “No, I am not afraid,” said Charles, “the infection can
not have remained all this while, and if it had I should not fear it.”
Mrs. Brewster led the way upstairs, Charles followed her, Janey came in
afterwards. Mary Ann lay in bed, her thin face, drawn and white, raised
upon the pillow, her hollow eyes were strained forward with a fixed
look. Sick as he had thought her to have been he was hardly prepared
to see her like this; and it shocked him. “Why have you never come to
see me?” she asked in a hollow voice as he approached and leaned over
her, “you would never have come till I died, you only care for Janey.”
“I would have come to see you had I known you wished it,” he answered,
“but you do not look strong enough to receive visitors.” “They might
cure me if they would,” she said, her breath panting, “I want to go
away somewhere and that Brown won’t let me; if it were Janey he would
cure her.” “He will let you go as soon as you are able,” said Charles.
“Why did this fever come to me, why didn’t it go to Janey instead,
she is strong and would have got well in no time, that is not fair.”
“My dear child you must not excite yourself,” implored her mother. “I
will speak,” cried Mary Ann with a touch, feeble though it was, of her
peevish vehemence. “Nobody’s thought of but Janey, if you had your
way,” looking hard at Mr. Taylor, “she would not have been allowed
to come near me, no, not if I had died.” She altered into whimpering
tears, her mother whispered to him to leave the room, it would not do,
this excitement. “I will come and see you again when you are better,”
he soothingly whispered. “No, you won’t,” said Mary Ann, “and I shall
be dead when you return, good-by, Charles Taylor.” These last words
were called after him as he left the room, her mother went with him
to the door, her eyes full, “you see there is no hope of her,” she
wailed. Charles did not think there was, it appeared to him that in a
few hours, hope for Mary Ann would be over. Janey waited for him in
the hall and was leading the way to the drawing-room, but he told her
that he could not stay longer and opened the door. “I wish you were
not going away,” she said, her spirits being very unequal caused her
to see things with a gloomy eye. “I wish you were going with me,” said
he, “don’t cry, I shall soon be back again.” “Everything makes me cry
to-night, you might not get back until the worst is over, oh, if she
could be saved.” He held her face close to him and took from it his
farewell kiss. “God bless you, my darling, forever.” “May he bless you
Charles,” she said, with streaming eyes and for the first time in her
life his kiss was returned, then they parted.



CHAPTER IV.

AN UNEXPECTED DEATH.


Charles having reached the station, taken the train to Waterville
in response to the telegram, and when he reached there taken a
carriage and was driven to the residence of Marshall Bangs, he found
the decaying invalid sitting on a sofa in his bed-room; he had just
recovered from a fainting spell, and he had recovered only to be the
more weak. He was standing on the lawn before his house talking with
a friend when he suddenly fell to the ground. He did not recover
consciousness until evening, and nearly the first wish he expressed
was a desire to see his friend and partner, Charles Taylor. “Dispatch
for him” he said to his wife. Mrs. Bangs had a horror for fevers,
especially when they were confined to everybody; at the present time
she considered herself out of the reach of it, and no amount of
persuasion could induce her to return, but her husband had grown tired
and restless and was determined to go home, but let her remain until
the fever had taken its departure, hence the dispatch. On the second
day he was well enough to converse with Charles on business affairs,
and that over, he expressed the wish that Charles would take him home.
Charles mentioned it to Mrs. Bangs; it did not meet her approbation.
“You should have opposed it entirely,” she said, in a firm tone. “But
why so, Mrs. Bangs, if he desires to return, I think he should.” “Not
while the fever lingers there; were he to take it and die I should
never forgive myself.” Charles had no fear of the fever for himself,
and did not fear it for his friend; he intimated as much, “it is not
the fever that will hurt him, Mrs. Bangs.” “You have no right to say
that. Mrs. Brewster, a month ago, would have said that she did not
fear it for Mary Ann, and now she is dying, or dead, you confess you
did not think that she could last more than a day or two when you
left.” “I certainly did not,” said Charles. “She looked fearfully
ill and emaciated, but that has nothing to do with Mr. Bangs.” “I
cannot conceive how you could be so imprudent as to venture into her
sick-room,” cried Mrs. Bangs, “indeed that you went to the house at
all while the fever was in it.” “There could be no risk in my going
into her room, nothing is the matter with her now but debility.” “We
cannot tell, Mr. Taylor, when risk ends or when it begins; had not so
many hours elapsed before you came here I should feel afraid of you.”
Charles smiled. But he wished he had said nothing of his visit to the
sick-room, for he was one of those who observe strict consideration
for the feelings and prejudices of others; there was no help for it
now. “It is not I that shall be returning to Bellville yet,” said Mrs.
Bangs, “the sickly old place must give proof of its renewed health
first; you will not get either me nor Mr. Bangs there for quite a
while.”

“What does the doctor think of the fever, that it will linger long?”
“On the night I came away he told me he believed it was going at last.
I hope he will prove right.”

Charles Taylor spoke to his partner of his marriage arrangements. He
had received a letter from Mary the morning after he left, in which she
agreed to the proposal that Janey should be her temporary guest. This
removed all barriers to the immediate union. “But, Charles, suppose
Mary Ann should die,” observed Mr. Bangs. This conversation was taking
place on the day previous to their leaving Waterville, where Charles
had now been three days. “In that case, I suppose it will have to be
postponed,” he replied, “but I hope for better news. That she is not
dead yet is certain, or they would have written to me, and in such
cases, if a patient can pull through the first debility, recovery may
be possible.” “Have you heard from Janey?” “No. I have written to her
twice, but in each letter I told her I would soon be home; therefore,
most likely she did not write, thinking it would miss me. Had the worst
happened, they would have written to me at all events.” “So you will
marry soon, if she lives?” “Very soon.” “I hope that God will bless
you both,” cried the invalid. “She will be a wife in a thousand.”
Charles thought she would, but did not say so. “I wish I had never left
Bellville,” he said, turning his haggard, but still fine blue eyes upon
his friend. Charles was silent. None had regretted the departure more
than he. “I wish I could go back to it to die.” “My dear friend, I hope
you may live many years to bless us. If you can get through the winter,
and I see no reason why you should not, with care, you may regain your
strength and be as well as ever.” The invalid shook his head. “It will
never be.” While they were thus engaged a servant called Charles from
the room. A telegram had arrived for him at the station, and a boy had
brought it over. A conviction of what it contained flashed over Charles
Taylor’s heart as he opened it; the death of Mary Ann Brewster. From
Mrs. Brewster it proved to be, not much more satisfactory than Mrs.
Bangs, for if hers was unexplanatory this was incoherent. “The breath
has just left my daughter’s body. Mrs. Brewster.” Charles returned to
the room, his mind full; in the midst of his sorrow and regret for
Mary Ann, his compassion for her mother, and he did really feel sorry,
intruded the thoughts of his marriage; it must be postponed now. “What
did he want with you,” asked Mr. Bangs when Charles returned to him.
“He brought me a telegram from Bellville.” “A business message?” “No,
sir; from Mrs. Brewster.” By the tone of his voice, by the falling of
his countenance, he could read what had occurred, but he kept silent,
waiting for him to speak. “Poor Mary Ann is gone.” “It will make a
delay in your plans, Charles,” said Mr. Bangs sorrowfully, after some
minutes had been given to expressions of regret. “It will, sir.” The
invalid leaned back in his chair, and said in a low voice, “I shall not
be long after her, I feel that I shall not.”

Very early indeed did they start in the morning, long before daybreak.
They would reach Bellville at twelve at night, all things being well;
a weary day, a long one at any rate, and the train steamed into
Bellville. The clock was striking twelve. Mr. Bangs’ carriage stood
waiting. A few minutes was spent in collecting baggage. “Shall I give
you a seat as far as the bank, Mr. Taylor?” inquired Mr. Bangs. “Thank
you; no I shall just go for a minute’s call on Mrs. Brewster.” Mr.
Davis who was in the station getting mail heard the words, he turned
hastily, caught Charles by the hand and drew him aside. “Are you
aware of what has happened?” “Yes,” replied Charles, “Mrs. Brewster
telegraphed to me last night.” Mr. Davis pressed his hand and moved on,
Charles taking the road that would lead him to Mrs. Brewster’s house.
It is now ten days since he was there, the house looked precisely as it
did then, all in darkness, except the dull light that burned from Mary
Ann’s sick room; it burnt there still; then it was lighting the living;
now--Charles Taylor rang the bell gently, does any one like to go with
a fierce peal to a house where death is an inmate? Eliza opened the
door as usual and burst into tears when she saw who it was. “I said
it would bring you back, sir!” she exclaimed. “Does Mrs. Brewster bear
it pretty well,” he asked, as she showed him into the drawing-room.
“No, sir; not over well,” sobbed the girl. “I’ll tell the mistress that
you are here.” He stood over the fire as he had done before, it was
low now like it was then, strangely still seemed the house, he could
almost have told that one was lying dead in it, he listened waiting
for the step of Janey, hoping that she would be the first to meet him.
Eliza returned. “My mistress says, would you be kind enough to come
to her.” Charles followed her upstairs, she went to the room where he
had been taken the other time, Mary Ann’s room, in reality the room
of Mrs. Brewster; but it had been given to Mary Ann for her sickness.
Eliza with soft tread crossed the corridor to the door and opened it.
Was she going to show him into the presence of the dead. He thought
she must have mistaken Mrs. Brewster’s orders and he hesitated on the
threshhold. “Where is Miss Janey,” he whispered. “Who, sir;” “Miss
Janey, is she well?” The girl stared at him, flung the door wide open
and gave a loud cry as she flew down the stairs. He looked after her in
amazement, had she gone mad, then he turned and walked into the room
with a hesitating step. Mrs. Brewster was coming forward to meet him,
she was convulsed with grief, he took both her hands in his with a
soothing gesture, essaying a word of comfort, not of inquiry why she
should have brought him to this room, he glanced at the bed expecting
to see the corpse upon it; but the bed was empty and at that moment his
eyes caught another sight.

Seated by the fire in an invalid chair surrounded by pillows covered
with shawls, with a wan, attenuated face and eyes that seemed to have
a glaze over them was--who? Mary Ann? It certainly was Mary Ann, in
life yet, for she feebly held out her hand in welcome, and the tears
suddenly gushed from her eyes, “I am getting better, Mr. Taylor.”
Charles Taylor--how shall I write it, for one minute he was blind
to what it could all mean, his whole mind was a chaos of astonished
perplexity, and then when the dreadful truth burst upon him he
staggered against the wall with a wailing cry of agony, it was Janey
who had died. Charles Taylor leaned against the wall in his shock
of agony; it was one of those moments that can come only once in a
life-time, in many lives never, when the greatest of earthly misery
bursts upon the startled spirit, shattering it for all time. Were
Charles Taylor to live a hundred years he could never know another
moment like this, the power so to feel would have left him. It had not
left him yet; it had scarcely come to him in its full realization;
at present he was half stunned. Strange as it may seem, the first
impression upon his mind was that he was so much nearer the next world.
How am I to define this nearness? It was not that he was nearer to it
by time or in goodness; nothing of that.



CHAPTER V.

CHARLES TAYLOR’S REGRETS.


Janey had passed within its portals, and the great gulf which divides
time from eternity seemed to be but a span. Now, to Charles Taylor,
it was as if he in spirit had followed her in from being a place far
off. Vague, indefinite, indistinct, it had suddenly been brought
to him close and palpable, or he to it. Had Charles Taylor been an
atheist, denying a hereafter--Heaven in its compassion have mercy upon
all such--that one moment of suffering would have recalled him to a
sense of his mistake. It was as if he looked aloft with the eyes of
inspiration and saw the truth; it was as a brief passing moment of
revelation from God. She, with her loving spirit, her gentle heart,
her simple trust in God, had been taken from this world to enter
upon a better. She was as surely living in it, had entered upon its
mysteries, its joys, its rest as that he was living here. She, he
believed, was as surely regarding him now, and his great sorrow as that
he was left alone to battle with it. From this time Charles Taylor
possessed a lively, ever-present link with that world, and knew that
its gates would, in God’s good time, be open for him. These feelings,
impressions, facts--you may designate them as you please--took up their
places in his mind, all in that first instant, and seated themselves
there forever; not yet very consciously to his stunned senses. In
his weight of bitter grief nothing could be to him very clear; ideas
passed through his brain quickly, confusedly, like unto the changing
scenes in a phantasmagoria. He looked round as one bewildered, the bed
smoothed ready for occupancy, on which on entering he had expected to
see the dead, but not her. There was between him and the door Mary Ann
Brewster, in her invalid chair by the fire, a table at her right hand,
covered with adjuncts of the sick room, a medicine bottle with its
accompanying wine-glass and tablespoon, jelly and other delicacies to
tempt a faded appetite.

Mary Ann sat there and gazed at him with her hollow eyes, from which
the tears dropped slowly on her cadaverous cheeks. Mrs. Brewster
stood before him, sobs choking her voice, wringing her hands. Yes,
both were weeping, but he-- It is not in the presence of others that
man gives way to grief, neither will tears come to him in the first
leaden weight of anguish. Charles Taylor listened mechanically, as one
cannot do otherwise, to the explanations of Mrs. Brewster. “Why did you
not prepare me? why did you let it come upon me with this startling
shock?” was his first remonstrance. “I did prepare you,” sobbed Mrs.
Brewster. “I telegraphed to you as soon as it happened; I wrote the
message to you with my own hand, and sent it to the office before I
turned my attention to anything else.” “I received the message, but
you did not say--I thought it was--” Charles Taylor turned his eyes
toward Mary Ann. He remembered her condition in the midst of his own
anguish and would not alarm her. “You did not mention Janey’s name,”
he continued, to Mrs. Brewster; “how could I suppose you alluded to
her or that she was sick?” Mary Ann divined his motive of hesitation;
she was uncommonly keen in penetration, sharp--as the world goes--as
the world says, and she had noted his words on entering, when he began
to soothe Mrs. Brewster for the loss of a child. She had noticed his
startled recoil when the news fell on him. She spoke up; a touch of her
old vehemence; the tears stopped on her face and her eyes glistened.
“You thought it was I who had died! Yes, you did, Mr. Taylor; and
you need not try to deny it; you would not have cared, so that it
was not Janey.” Charles had no intention of contradicting her; he
turned from her in silence to look inquiringly and reproachfully at
her mother. “Mr. Taylor, I could not prepare you better than I did,”
said Mrs. Brewster, “when I wrote the letter telling of her illness.”
“What letter?” interrupted Charles; “I received no letter.” “But you
must have received it,” replied Mrs. Brewster, in her quick and sharp
manner, not sharp with him, but from a rising doubt whether the letter
had been miscarried. “I wrote it, and I know that it was safely mailed;
you should have received it before you did the dispatch.” “I never
had it,” said Charles. “When I waited in your drawing-room now I was
listening for Janey’s footsteps to come to me.” Charles Taylor upon
inquiry found that the letter had arrived duly and safely at Waterville
at the time mentioned by Mrs. Brewster, but it appears that it was
overlooked by the postmaster; but the shock had come now. He took a
seat by the table, and covered his eyes with his hands, as the mother
gave him a detailed account of her sickness and death. Not all the
account that she or anybody else could give could take one iota from
the dreadful fact staring him in the face; she was gone, gone forever
from this world; he could never meet the glance of her eyes again or
hear her voice in response to his own. Ah! reader, there are griefs
that tell, rending the heart as an earthquake would rend the earth,
and all that can be done is to sit down under them and ask of heaven
strength to bear--to bear as best we can, until time shall shed a few
drops of healing balm from its wings.

On the last night that Charles had seen her, Janey’s eyes and brow
were heavy, she had cried much during the day and supposed the pain
to have arisen from that circumstance. She had given this explanation
to Charles Taylor. Neither he nor she had a thought that it could
come from any other source. More than a month ago Mary Ann had taken
the fever; fears of it for Janey had passed away, and yet those dull
eyes, that hot head, that heavy weight of pain, were only the symptoms
of the sickness approaching. A night of tossing and turning, in fits
of disturbed sleep, of terrifying dreams, and Janey awoke to the
conviction that the fever was upon her.

About the time she generally arose she rang the bell for Eliza. “I do
not feel well,” she said, “as soon as mamma is up will you ask her to
come to me? do not disturb her before.”

Eliza obeyed her orders. But her mother, tired and worn out with her
attendance upon Mary Ann, with whom she had been up half the night,
did not rise until between nine and ten. The maid went to her then and
delivered the message.

“In bed, still; Miss Janey in bed, still?” exclaimed Mrs. Brewster. She
spoke in much anger, for Janey had to be up in time, attending to Mary
Ann, it was required of her to be so. Throwing on a dressing-gown, Mrs.
Brewster proceeded to Janey’s room, and there she broke into a storm of
reproach and anger, never waiting to ascertain what might be the matter
with Janey, anything or nothing.

“Ten o’clock, and that poor child to have been till now with nobody
to go near her but a servant!” she reiterated, “you have no feeling,
Janey!”

Janey drew the covering from her flushed face and turned her glittering
eyes, dull last night, shining with the fever now upon her, upon her
mother.

“Oh, mamma, I am sick; indeed I am. I can hardly lift my head for the
pain; feel how hot it is. I did not think I ought to get up.”

“What is the matter with you?” sharply inquired Mrs. Brewster.

“I cannot tell,” answered Janey, “I know that I feel sick all over. I
feel, mamma, as if I could not get up.”

“Very well; there’s that dear, suffering angel lying alone, and you can
think of yourself before her; if you choose to lie in bed you must,
but you will reproach yourself for your selfishness when she is gone;
another twenty-four hours and she may not be with us; do as you think
best.”

Janey burst into tears and caught hold of her mother’s robe as she was
turning away. “Mamma, do not be angry with me; I hope I am not selfish,
mamma,” and her voice sank to a whisper, “I have been thinking that it
may be the fever.”

“The fever?” reproachfully echoed Mrs. Brewster, “Heaven help you for a
selfish and fanciful child; did I not send you to bed with a headache
last night, and what is it but the remains of that headache that you
feel this morning? I can see what it is, you have been fretting about
the departure of Charles Taylor; get up out of that hot bed and dress
yourself, and come in and attend on your sister; you know she can’t
bear to be waited on by anybody but you; get up, I say.”

Will Mrs. Brewster remember this to her dying day? I should were I in
her place. She suppressed all mention of it to Charles Taylor. “The
dear child told me that she did not feel well, but I only thought she
had the headache and that she would feel better up,” were the words
that she used to him.

What sort of a vulture was gnawing at her heart as she spoke them? It
was true that in her blind selfishness for one undeserving child she
had lost sight of the fact that sickness could come to Janey; she had
not allowed herself to believe the probability; she, who accused of
selfishness that devoted, generous girl, who was ready at all hours to
put her hands under her sister’s feet, and would have given her own
life to save Mary Ann’s. Janey got up, got up as best she could, her
limbs aching, her head burning; she went into her sister’s room and
did for her what she was able, gently, lovingly, anxiously, as before.
Ah, my dear reader, let us be thankful that it was so; it is well to
be stricken down in the active path of duty, working until we can work
no more. She did so. She stayed where she was until the day was half
gone, bearing up it is hard to say how. She could not eat breakfast;
she could not eat anything. None saw how sick she was; her mother was
wilfully blind. Mary Ann had eyes and thoughts for herself alone. “What
are you shivering for?” her sister once fretfully asked her. “I feel
cold, dear,” was Janey’s unselfish answer; not a word more did she
say of her illness. In the afternoon Mrs. Brewster was away from the
room attending to domestic affairs, and when she returned the doctor
was there; he had been prevented from calling earlier in the day; they
found Mary Ann dropped into a doze and Janey stretched out on the floor
before the fire, groaning; but the groans ceased as she entered. The
doctor, regardless of the waking invalid, strode up to Janey and turned
her face to the light. “How long has she been like this?” he asked, his
voice shrill with emotion. “Child, child, why did they not send for
me?” Poor Janey was then too sick to reply. The doctor carried her up
to her room in his arms, and the servants undressed her and laid her in
the bed from which she was never more to rise. The fever took violent
hold of her, precisely as it had attacked Mary Ann, though scarcely as
bad, and danger for Janey was not looked for by her mother. Had Mary
Ann not got over a similar crisis they would have feared for Janey, so
given are we to judge by collateral circumstances. It was on the fourth
or fifth day that highly dangerous symptoms supervened, and then her
mother wrote to Charles the letter which had not reached him; there was
this much of negative consolation to be derived from the non-receipt,
that had it been delivered to him on the instant of its arrival he
could not have been in time to see her. “You ought to have written to
me as soon as she was taken sick,” he said to Mrs. Brewster. “I would
have done it had I apprehended danger,” she repentantly answered, “but
I never did, and the doctor never did. I thought how pleasant it would
be to get her safely through the danger and sickness before you knew of
it.” “Did she not wish me written to?” The question was asked firmly,
abruptly, after the manner of one who will not be cheated out of his
answer. Her mother could not evade it; how could she, with her child
lying dead over her head?

“It is true she did wish it, it was on the first day of her illness
that she spoke, ‘Write and tell Charles Taylor,’ she never said it but
once.” “And you did not,” he uttered, his voice hoarse with emotion.
“Do not reproach me! Do not reproach me!” cried Mrs. Brewster, clasping
her hands in supplication, and the tears falling in showers from her
eyes, “I did all for the best, I never supposed there was danger. I
thought what a pity it would be to bring you back such a long journey,
putting you to so much unnecessary trouble and expense.” Trouble and
expense--in a case like that she could speak of expense to Charles--but
he thought how she had to battle with both trouble and expense her
whole life long, and that for her they must wear a formidable aspect,
he remained silent. “I wish now I had written,” she resumed in the
midst of her choking sobs, “as soon as the doctors said there was
danger, I wished it, but,” as if she would seek to excuse herself,
“what with the two upon my hands, she upstairs, Mary down here, I had
not a moment for proper reflection.” “Did you tell her you had not
written?” he asked, “or did you let her lie day after day, hour after
hour, waiting and blaming me for my careless neglect?” “She never
blamed any one, you know she did not,” wailed Mrs. Brewster, “and I
think she was too sick to think even of you, she was only sensible at
times. Oh, I say, do not reproach me, Mr. Taylor, I would give my own
life to bring her back. I never knew her worth until she was gone, I
never loved her as I love her now.” There could be no doubt that Mrs.
Brewster was reproaching herself far more bitterly than any reproach
could tell upon her from Charles Taylor, an accusing conscience is
the worst of all evils. She sat there, her head bent, swaying herself
backwards and forwards on her chair, moaning and crying. It was not
a time Charles felt to say a word of her past heartless conduct in
forcing Janey to breathe the infection of her sister’s sick room,
and all that he could say, all the reproaches, all the remorse and
repentance would not bring her back to life. “Would you like to see
her,” whispered her mother, as he rose to go? “Yes.” She lighted a
candle and led the way upstairs. Janey had died in her own room. At the
door he took the candle from Mrs. Brewster. “I must go in alone.” He
passed into the chamber and closed the door, on the bed laid out in a
white robe, lay all that remained of Janey Brewster. Pale, still, pure,
her face was wonderfully like what it had been in life, and a calm
smile rested upon it, but Charles wished to be alone. Mrs. Brewster
stood outside, leaning against the opposite wall, weeping silently,
the glimmer from the hall lamp below faintly lighting the corridor,
and she fancied that a sound of choking struck upon her ears, and she
pulled around her a small black shawl that she wore, for grief had
made her chilly, and wept the faster. He came out by and by, calm and
quiet as ever, he did not see Mrs. Brewster standing there in the
dimly lighted hall, and went straight down, carrying the candle. Mrs.
Brewster caught up with him at Mary Ann’s room, and took the candle
from him.

“She looks very peaceful, does she not?” was her whisper. “She could
not look otherwise.” He went on down alone, intending to let himself
out, but Eliza had heard his steps and was waiting at the door. “Good
night Eliza,” he said, as he passed her. The girl did not answer, she
slipped out into the yard after him. “Oh, sir, and didn’t you hear
of it?” she whispered. “No.” “If anybody was ever gone away to be an
angel, sir, its that sweet young lady, sir,” said Eliza, letting her
tears and sobs come forth as they would, “She was just one here and she
has gone to her own fit place.” “Yes, that is so.” “You should have
been in this house throughout the whole of the illness to have seen the
difference between them, sir. Nobody would believe it; Miss Brewster
angry and snappish, and not caring who suffered or who was sick, or
who toiled, so that she was served, Miss Janey lying like a tender
lamb, patient and meek, thankful for all that was done for her. It
does seem hard, sir, that we should lose her forever.” “Not forever,
Eliza,” he answered. “And that is true, too; but sir, the worst is,
one can’t think of that sort of consolation just when one’s troubles
are the freshest. Good night, to you, sir.” Charles Taylor walked on,
leaving the high road for a less frequented one; he went along, musing
in the depth of his great grief; there was no repining. He was one to
trace the finger of God in all things. A more entire trust in God it
was, perhaps, impossible for any one to feel than was felt by Charles
Taylor; it was what he lived under. He could not see why Janey should
have been taken, why this great sorrow should fall upon him, but that
it must be for the best he implicitly believed--the best, for God
had done it. How he was to live on without her he did not know. How
he could support the lively anguish of the future he did not care to
think. All his hopes in this life gone, all his plans, his projects
uprooted by a single blow, never to return. He might look yet for the
bliss of a Hereafter that remains for the most heavy laden, thank
God, but his sun of happiness in this world had set forever. The moon
was not shining as it was the night he left Janey, when he left his
farewell kiss. Oh! that he could have known that it was the last on the
gentle lips of Janey. There was no moon now; the stars were not showing
themselves, for a black cloud enveloped the skies like a pall, fit
accompaniment to his blasted hopes and his path altogether was dark.
But, as he neared the office of the doctor, he could see him sitting in
his accustomed place. Charles thought that he would like to have a few
minutes conversation with him. He walked to the door, opened it, and
saw that the doctor was alone.



CHAPTER VI.

DR. BROWN EXPLAINS TO CHARLES.


“Doctor, why did you not write to me?” the doctor brought down his
fist on his desk with such force as to cause some of his vials to fall
over and waste their contents; he had been bottling up his anger for
some time against Mrs. Brewster, and this was the first explosion.
“Because I understood that she had done so. I was there when the poor
child asked her to do it. I found her on the floor in Mary Ann’s room;
on the floor, if you will believe it, lying there because she could
not hold her head up. Her mother had dragged her out of the bed that
morning, sick as she was, and forced her to attend as usual upon Mary
Ann. I got it all out of Eliza. ‘Mamma,’ she said, when I pronounced it
to be the fever, though she was almost beyond speaking then, ‘you will
write to Charles Taylor?’ I never thought but what she had done it;
your sister inquired if you had been written for and I told her yes.”
“Doctor,” came the next sad words, “could you not have saved her?”
The doctor shook his head and answered in a quiet tone, looking down
at the stopper of a vial which he had caused to drop upon the floor,
“neither care nor skill could save her. I did the best that could be
done, Taylor,” raising his quick, dark eyes, flashing them with a
peculiar light; “she was ready to go; let it be your consolation.”
Charles Taylor made no answer, and there was a pause of silence. The
doctor continued: “As to her mother, I hope that she may have her heart
wrung with remembrance for years to come. I don’t care what people
preach about charity and forgiveness, I do wish it; but she will be
brought to her senses, unless I am mistaken. She has lost her treasure
and kept her bane a year or two more, and that is what Mary Ann will
be.” “She ought to have written to me.” “She ought to do many things
that she does not; she ought to have sent Janey from the house, as I
told her, as soon as the disorder appeared in it. No, she kept her in
her insane selfishness, and now I hope she is satisfied with her work.
When alarming symptoms showed themselves in Janey, on the fourth day of
her illness, I think it was, I said to her mother, it is strange what
can be keeping Mr. Taylor. ‘Oh,’ said she, ‘I did not write for him.’
‘Not write!’ I answered; and I fear I used an ugly word to her face.
‘I’ll write at once,’ returned she, humbly. ‘Of course,’ said I, ‘after
the horse is stolen we always shut the barn door it’s the way of the
world.’” Another pause.

“I would have given anything to have taken Janey from the house at
the time; to take her away from the town,” observed Charles in a low
tone. “I said so then, but it could not be.” “I should have done it
in your place,” said the doctor; “if her mother had said no, I would
have carried her away in front of her face. ‘Not married,’ you say.
Rubbish to that; everybody knows she would have been safe with you, and
you would have been married as soon as you could. What are forms and
ceremonies and long tongues in comparison with a life like Janey’s?”
Charles Taylor leaned his head upon his hand, lost in the retrospect.
Oh that he had taken her, that he had set at naught what he had then
bowed to, the conventionalities of society, she might have been by his
side now in health and life to bless him. Doubting words interrupted
the train of thoughts. “And yet I don’t know,” the doctor was repeating
in a dreamy manner, “what is to be will be; we look back, all of us,
and say, if I had acted thus, if I had done the other thing, it would
not have happened; events would have turned out differently, but who
is to be sure of it. Had you carried Janey out of harm’s way, as we
might have thought, there is no telling but what she might have had the
fever just the same; her blood might have become tainted before she
left the house, there is no knowing, Mr. Taylor.” “True. Good evening,
doctor.” He turned suddenly and hastily to go out of the door, but the
doctor caught him before he had crossed the threshhold, and touched his
arm to detain him. They stood there in obscurity, their faces shaded
in the dusky night. “She left you a parting word, Mr. Taylor, an hour
before she died; she was calm and sensible, though extremely weak. Mrs.
Brewster had gone to her favorite, and I was left alone with Janey.
‘Has he not come yet?’ she asked me, opening her eyes. ‘My dear,’ I
said, ‘he could not come, he was never written for,’ for I knew she
alluded to you, and was determined to tell her the truth, dying though
she was. ‘What shall I say to him for you?’ I continued. She raised her
hand to motion my face nearer hers, for her voice was growing faint.
‘Tell him, with my dear love, not to grieve,’ she whispered between
her panting breath, ‘tell him that I am but gone on before.’ I think
they were almost the last words that she spoke.” Charles Taylor leaned
against the post of the office entrance, and drank in the words; then
he shook the doctor’s hand and departed, hurrying along like one who
shrank from observation, for he did not care just then to encounter
the gaze of his fellow-men. Coming with a quick step up the same
street on which the office is situated was the Reverend Mr. Davis. He
stopped to address the doctor. “Was that Mr. Taylor?” “Yes; this is
a blow for him.” Mr. Davis’ voice insensibly sank to a whisper. “My
wife tells me that he did not know of Janey’s death and sickness until
he arrived here. He thought it was Mary Ann who died; he went to her
mother’s thinking so.” “Mrs. Brewster is a fool,” was the complimentary
rejoinder of the doctor. “She is in some things,” warmly assented the
pastor. “The telegram she sent was so obscurely worded as to cause him
to assume that it was Mary Ann.” “Well, she is only heaping burdens on
her conscience,” rejoined the doctor in a philosophic tone, “she has
lost Janey through want of care, as I firmly believe, in not keeping
her out of the way of the infection, she prevented their last meeting
through not writing to him, she--”

“He could not have saved her had he been here,” interrupted Mr. Davis.
“Nobody said he could; there would have been satisfaction in it for
him though, and for her, too, poor child.” Mr. Davis did not contest
the point, he was so very practical a man that he saw little use in
last interviews; unless they were made productive of actual good he
was disposed to regard such as bordering on the sentimental. “I have
been over to see Bangs,” he remarked. “They sent to the house after
me while I was after mail; the boy said he did not believe he would
live through the night and wanted the parson. I had a great mind to
send word back that if he was in want of a parson he should have seen
him before.” “He’s as likely to live through this night as he has been
any night for the last six months,” said the doctor. “Not a day since
then but what he has been as likely to die as not.” “And never to
awaken to a thought that it might be desirable to make ready for the
journey until the twelfth hour,” exclaimed the parson. “‘When I have
a convenient season I will call for thee.’ If I have been to see him
once I have been twenty times,” asserted the pastor, “and never could
get him to pray. He wilfully put off all thought of death until the
twelfth hour and then sends for me or one of my brethren and expects
one hour’s devotion will ensure his entrance into heaven. I don’t keep
the keys.” “Did Bangs send for you or did the family?” inquired the
doctor. “He, I expect; he was dressed for the occasion.” “Will he live
long?” “It is uncertain; he may last for six months or a year and he
may die next week; it will be sudden when it does come.” The pastor
walked away at a brisk rate. Mrs. Davis was out of the room talking
with some late applicant when he arrived at home. Laying aside her wrap
Mrs. Davis seated herself before the fire in a quiet merino dress, the
blaze flickering on her face betrayed to the keen glance of the pastor
that her eyelashes were wet. “Grieving about Janey, I suppose?” his
tone a stern one. “Well,” continued the pastor, “she is better off.
The time may come, we none of us know what is before us, when some of
us who are left may wish we had died, as she has; many a one battling
for very existence with the world’s carking cares wails out a vain
wish that he had been taken early from the evil to come.” “It must
be dreadful for Charles Taylor,” she resumed, looking straight into
the fire and speaking as if in communion with herself more than her
husband. “Charley Taylor must find another love.” It was one of those
phrases spoken in satire only, to which the pastor of this village was
occasionally given. He saw so much to condemn in the world, things
which grated harshly on his superior mind, that his speech had become
imbued with a touch of gall, and he would often give utterance to
cynical remarks not at the time called for. There came a day, not long
afterwards, when the residents of Bellville gathered at the church to
hear and see the last of Janey Brewster. As many came inside as could,
for it was known to the public that nothing displeased their pastor so
much as to have irreverent idlers standing around the church staring
and gaping and whispering their comments while he was performing the
service of the burial of the dead, and his wishes were generally
respected.

The funeral now was inside the church. It had been in so long that some
eager watchers, estimating time by their impatience, began to think it
was never coming out, but a sudden movement in the church reassured
them. Slowly, slowly, on it came, the Reverend Mr. Davis leading the
way, the coffin next, then came her mother and a few other relatives,
and Charles Taylor with a stranger by his side; nothing more, save the
pall-bearers with white scarfs and the necessary attendants. It was a
perfectly simple funeral, corresponding well with what the dead had
been in her simple life. The sight of this stranger took the curious
gazers by surprise. Who was he? A stout gentleman, past middle age,
holding his head high, with gold spectacles. He proved to be a cousin
of Mrs. Brewster. The grave had been dug in a line with others not far
from the edge of the burying ground. On it came, crossing the broad
churchyard path which wound round to the road, crossing over patches
of grass, treading between mounds and graves. The clergyman took his
place at the head, the mourners near him, the rest disposing themselves
quietly around. “Man, that is born of woman, hath but a short time
to live, and is full of misery. He cometh up and is cut down like a
flower; he fleeth as it were a shadow, and never continueth in one
place.” The crowd held their breath and listened and looked at Charles
Taylor. He stood there, his head bowed, his face still, the gentle
wind stirring his thin dark hair. It was probably a wonder to him in
afterlife how he had contrived in that closing hour to retain his
calmness before the world. “The coffin is lowered at last,” broke out
a little boy who had been more curious to watch the movements of the
men than the aspect of Charles Taylor. “Hush, sir,” sharply rebuked
his mother, and the minister’s voice again stole over the silence.
“For as much as it has pleased Almighty God of His great mercy to take
unto himself the soul of our dear sister here departed, we, therefore,
commit her body to the ground, earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to
dust, in sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life,
through our Lord Jesus Christ, who shall change our vile bodies that
they may be like unto His glorious body, according to the mighty
working whereby He is able to subdue all things to himself.” Every
word came home to Charles Taylor’s senses, every syllable vibrated
upon his heart-strings; that sure and certain hope laid hold of his
soul never again to leave it. It diffused its own holy peace and calm
in his troubled mind, and never until that moment did he fully realize
the worth, the truth of her legacy. “Tell him that I am but gone on
before,” a few years. God, now present with him alone, knew how few or
how many, and Charles Taylor would have joined her in eternal life.
But why did the minister come to a temporary pause? Because his eyes
had fallen upon one then coming up from the entrance of the burying
ground to take his place among the mourners, and who had evidently
arrived in a hurry. He wore neither scarf nor hat-band, nothing but a
full suit of plain black clothes. “Look, mamma,” cried a little boy. It
was George Taylor, the cousin of Charles Taylor. He stood quietly by
the side of his cousin, his hat in his hand, his head bowed, his curly
hair waiving in the breeze. It was all the work of an instant, and
the minister continued: “I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me,
write, from henceforth blessed are the dead which die in the Lord, even
so, sayeth the spirit, for they rest from their labors,” and so went
on the service to the end. The passage having been cleared, several
mourning carriages were in waiting. Charles Taylor come forth leaning
on his cousin’s arm, both of them still bare headed. They entered one,
the friends and relatives filled the others, and soon several men were
shovelling earth upon the coffin as fast as they could, sending it with
a rattle on the bright plate which told who was moldering within, Janey
Brewster, aged twenty-one years. “Charles,” cried his cousin George,
leaning forward and seizing his cousin’s hand impulsively, as the
carriage moved slowly on, “I should have been here in good time, but
for a delay in the train.”

“Where did you hear of it? I did not know where to write to you,”
calmly asked Charles. “I heard of it in Gray Town and I came up here at
once; Charles, could they not save her?” A slight negative movement was
all Charles Taylor’s answer.

The time went on, several months had passed, positions changed and
Bellville was itself again; the unusually lovely weather which had
prevailed so far as it had gone had put it into Mrs. Brown’s head
to give an out-door entertainment, the doctor had suggested that
the weather might change, that there was no dependence to be placed
in it, but she would not change her plans if the worst came to the
worst, at the last moment she said they must do the best they could
with them inside. But the weather was not fickle, the day rose warm,
calm and wonderfully bright, and by five in the afternoon, most of
the gay revellers had gathered on the grounds. George Taylor, a
cousin of Charles arrived, one of the first; he was making himself
conspicuous among the many groups, or perhaps, it was they that made
him so by gathering around him, when two figures in mourning came up
behind him, one of whom spoke “How do you do, Mr. George Taylor,” he
turned, and careless and thoughtless and graceless, as he was reported
to be, a shock of surprise not unmixed with indignation swept over
his feelings, for there standing before him were Mrs. Brewster and
Mary Ann. She--Mary Ann--looked like a shadow, still peevish, white,
discontented; what brought them there, was it so they showed their
regrets for the dead Janey, was it likely that Mary Ann should appear
at a feast of gayety in her weak state, sickly, not yet recovered
from the effects of the fever, not yet out of the first deep mourning
for Janey. “How do you do, Mrs. Brewster,” very gravely responded
George. Mrs. Brewster may have discerned somewhat his feelings from the
expression on his face, not that he intentionally suffered it to rise
in reproof of her. George Taylor did not set himself up in judgment
against his fellow-men. Mrs. Brewster drew him aside with her after he
had shaken hands with Mary Ann. “I am sure it must look strange to you
to see us both here, Mr. Taylor, but poor child, she continues so weak
and poorly that I scarcely know what to do with her, she set her heart
upon coming here ever since Mrs. Brown’s invitation arrived; she has
talked of nothing else, and I thought it would not do to cross her.”
“Is Mr. Taylor here?” “Oh no,” replied George, with more haste than he
need have spoken. “I thought he would not be, I remarked so to Mary Ann
when she expressed a hope for seeing him, indeed I think it was that
hope which chiefly urged her to come; what have we done to him, Mr.
George, he scarcely ever comes near the house?” “I don’t know anything
about it,” returned George; “I can see that my cousin feels his loss
deeply, yet it may be that visits to your house remind him of Janey
too forcibly.” “Will he ever marry, do you think?” said Mrs. Brewster,
lowering her voice to a confidential whisper.

“At present I should be inclined to say he never would,” answered
George, wondering what in the world it would matter to her and thinking
she evinced little sorrow or consideration for the memory of Janey.
“But time works surprising changes,” he added. “And time may affect Mr.
Taylor,” Mrs. Brewster paused, “How do you think she looks, my poor
child?” “Miserable” almost rose to the tip of George’s tongue, “she
does not look well,” he said aloud. “And she does so regret her dear
sister, she’s grieving after her always,” said Mrs. Brewster, putting
her handkerchief to her eyes. I don’t believe it, thought George to
himself. “How did you like Graytown?” she resumed, passing with little
ceremony to another topic. “I liked it very well; all places are pretty
much alike to a bachelor, Mrs. Brewster.” “Yes, so they are, you won’t
remain a bachelor very long,” continued Mrs. Brewster with a smile of
jocularity. “Not so very long I dare say,” acknowledged George. “It
is possible I may put my head in the noose some time in the next ten
years.” She would have detained him further, but George did not care
to be detained, he went after more attractive companionship. Chance
or accident led him to Miss Flint, a niece of Mrs. Brown. Miss Flint
had all her attractions about her that day, her bright pink silk--for
pink was a favorite color of hers--was often seen by the side of George
Taylor, once they strayed to the borders of a river in a remote part of
the village, several were gathered there, a row on the water had been
proposed and a boat stood ready, a small boat, capable of holding very
few persons, but of these George and Julia Flint made two; could George
have foreseen what that simple little excursion was going to do for
him, he would not have taken part in it; how is it no sign of warning
comes over us at these times; how many a day’s pleasure began as a
jubilee, how many a voyage entered upon in hope ends but in death. Oh,
if we could but lift the veil what mistakes might be avoided! George
Taylor, strong and active, took the oars, and when they had rowed about
to their hearts’ content and George was nearly overdone from exertion,
they thought that they would land for awhile on what is called Dark
Point, a mossy spot green and tempting to the eye. In stepping ashore
Miss Flint tripped and lost her balance, and would have been in the
water, but for George who saved her, but could not save her parasol, an
elegant one, for which Miss Flint had paid a round sum of money just
the day before; she naturally shrieked, when it went plunge into the
water, and George, in recovering it, nearly lost his balance, and went
in after the parasol, nearly not quite; he got himself pretty wet, but
he made light of it, and sat on the grass with the others. The party
were all young, old people don’t venture much in skiffs, but had any
been there of mature age, they would have ordered him home to get a
change of clothes, and a glass of brandy. By and by he began to feel
chilly, it might have occurred to him that the intense perspiration he
had been in had struck inwards, but it did not. In the evening he was
dancing with the rest of them thinking no more of it, apparently having
escaped all ill effects from the wetting.



CHAPTER VII.

JOHN SMITH’S DINNER PARTY.


The drawing-rooms of John Smith’s mansion were teeming with light,
with noise, and with company; a dinner party had taken place that day,
a gentleman’s party. It was not often that he gave one, and when he
did it was thoroughly well done. George Taylor did not give better
dinners than Mr. Smith. The only promised guest who had failed in
his attendance was Charles Taylor. Very rarely indeed did he accept
of invitations to dinner. If there was one man in all the county to
whom Mr. Smith seemed inclined to pay court, to treat with marked
consideration and respect, that man was Charles Taylor; he nearly
always declined--declined courteously, in a manner which could not
afford the slightest evidence of offense; he was of quiet habits, not
strong in health of late, and, though he had to give dinner parties
himself and attend some of his cousins’ for courtesy’s sake, his
friends nearly all were kind enough to excuse him frequenting theirs in
return. This time Charles Taylor had yielded to Mr. Smith’s pressing
entreaties made in person and promised to be present, a promise which
was not, as it proved to be, kept. All the rest of the guests had
assembled and they were only waiting the appearance of Mr. Taylor to
sit down when a hasty note arrived from Miss Taylor. “Mr. Taylor was
taken sick while dressing, and was unable to attend.” So they sat down
without him. The dinner having been over most of the guests had gone
to the drawing-room, which was radiant with light and noisy with the
hum of many voices. A few had gone home, a few had taken cigars and
were strolling outside the dining-room windows in the bright moonlight.
Miss Taylor’s note that her brother had been taken sick while dressing
for the dinner was correct; he was dressing in his room when he was
attacked by a sharp internal pain, he hastily sat down, a cry escaping
his lips and drops of water gathering on his brow; alone he bore
it, calling for no aid; in a few minutes the paroxysm had partially
passed and he rang for his servant, who had for many years attended
his father. “George, I am sick again,” said Charles, quietly. “Will
you ask Miss Taylor to write a line to Mr. Smith, saying that I am
unable to attend.” George cast a strangely yearning look on the pale
suffering face of his master, he had been in these paroxysms of pain
once or twice. “I wish you would have Mr. Brown called in, sir,” he
cried. “I think I shall, he may give me some ease, possibly; take my
message to your mistress, George.” The effect of the message was to
bring Mary to his room, “taken sick, a sharp inward pain,” she was
repeating after George. “Charles, what kind of a pain is it, it seems
to me that you have had the same before?” “Write a few words the first
thing, will you, Mary; I do not like to keep them waiting for me.” Mary
was as punctilious as Charles, and as considerate as he was for the
convenience of others, and she sat down and wrote the note, dispatching
it at once by Billy, another of the servants; few could have sat
apart and done it as calmly as Mary, considering that she had a great
thumping at her heart, a fear which had never penetrated it until this
moment. Their mother’s sickness was similar to this, a sharp acute
pain had occasionally attacked her, the symptom of the inward malady
of which she had died. Was the same fatal malady attacking him? The
doctors had expressed their fears then that it might be hereditary. In
the hall, as Mary was going back to Charles’ room, the note having been
written, she met George, the sad apprehensive look in the old man’s
face struck her, she touched his arm and motioned him into another
room. “What is it that is the matter with your master?” “I don’t know,”
was the answer; but the words were spoken in a tone which caused Mary
to think that the old man was awake to the same fears that she was.
“Miss Mary, I am afraid to think what it may be.” “Is he often sick
like this?” “I know but of a time or two ma’am, but that’s a time or
two too many.” Mary entered his room, Charles was leaning back in his
chair, his face ghastly, apparently prostrate from the effects of the
pain; if a momentary thought had crossed her mind, that he might have
written the note himself, it left her; now things were coming into her
mind one by one, how much time he had spent in his room of late; how
seldom, comparatively speaking, he went to his office; how often he
called for the carriage, when he did go, instead of walking; only this
last Sunday he had not gone near the church all day long, her fears
grew into certainties. She took a chair, drawing it near to Charles,
not speaking of her fears, but asking him in an agreeable tone how he
felt, and what had caused his illness. “Have you had this pain before?”
she continued, “Several times,” he answered, “but it has been worse
to-night than I have previously felt it. Mary I fear it may be the
warning of my call, I did not think that I would leave you so soon.”
Except that Mary’s face turned nearly as pale as his and that her
fingers entwined themselves together so tightly as to cause pain, there
was no outward sign of the grief that laid hold of her heart. “Charles,
what is the complaint you are fearing?” she asked after a pause, “The
same that my mother had,” he quietly answered, speaking the words that
Mary would not speak. “It may not be so,” gasped Mary. “True, but I
think it is.” “Why have you never spoken of this?” “Because, until
to-night, I have doubted whether it was so or not; the suspicion that
it might be so, certainly was upon me, but it amounted to no more than
a suspicion; at times when I feel quite well I argue that I must be
wrong.”

“Have you consulted a doctor?” “I am going to do so now. I have just
sent George after one.” “It should have been done before, Charles.”
“Why, if it is as I suspect, Brown and all his brethren cannot save
me.” Mary clasped her hands upon her knee and sat with her head
bowed. It seemed that the only one left on earth with whom she could
sympathize was Charles, and now perhaps he was going. The others had
their own pursuits and interests, but she and Charles seemed to stand
together; with deep sorrow for him, the brother whom she dearly loved,
came other considerations, impossible not to occur to a practical,
foreseeing mind like Mary’s. His elbow on the arm of his chair, and his
head resting upon his hand, sat Charles, his mind in as deep a reverie
as his sister’s. Where was it straying? To the remembrance of Janey,
to the day that he had stood over her grave when they were placing her
in it, was the time come, or nearly come, to which he had from that
time looked forward--the time of his joining her. Perhaps the fiat of
death could have come to few who could meet it as serenely as Charles
Taylor. It would hardly be right to say welcome it, but certain it was
that the prospect was one of pleasure rather than pain to him; to one
who had lived near to God on earth the anticipation can bring no great
dismay. It brought none to Charles Taylor, but he was not done with
earth and its cares yet. Matilda Taylor was away from home that week,
she had gone to spend it with some friends at a distance. Martha was
alone when Mary returned to the drawing-room, she had no suspicion of
the sorrow that was overhanging the house. She had not seen Charles
go to his office, and felt surprised at his tardiness. “How late he
will be, Mary.” “Who?” “Charles.” “He is not going, he is not very
well to-day,” was the reply. Martha thought nothing of it, how should
she. Mary buried her fears within her, and said no more. Martha Taylor
has had a romance in her life as so many have had. It had partially
died out years ago, not quite; its sequel had to come. She sat there
listlessly, her pretty hands resting on her knees, her beautiful face
tinged with the sunlight--sat there thinking of him--Mark Blakely.
A romance it had really been. Martha had paid a long visit to Mrs.
Blakely some four or five years before this time. She, Mrs. Blakely,
was in perfect health then, fond of gayety, and had many visitors, and
before he and Martha knew well what they were about, they had learned
to love. He was the first to awake from the pleasant dream, to know
what it meant, and he directly withdrew himself out of harm’s way. Harm
only to himself, as he supposed. He never suspected that the like love
had won its way to Martha’s heart. A strictly honorable man, he would
have killed himself in self-condemnation had he suspected that it had.
Not until he had gone did Martha find out that he was a married man.
When only nineteen years of age he had been drawn into one of those
unequal and unhappy alliances that can only bring a flush to the face
in after years. Many a hundred times had it dyed that of Mark Blakely.
Before he was twenty he had separated from his wife, when Miss Martha
was still a child, and the next six years he traveled on the continent,
striving to lose its remembrance. His own family, you may be sure,
did not pain him by alluding to it then or after his return. He had
no residence in the neighborhood of Bellville. When he visited the
town he was the guest of the postmaster, Mr. Hunt. So it happened when
Martha met him at his home she never thought of his being a married
man. On Mrs. Blakely’s part, she never thought that Martha did not
know it. Mark supposed she knew it, and when the thought would flash
over him, he would say mentally, “how she must despise me for my mad
folly.” He had learned to love her, to love her passionately, never so
much as harboring the thought that it could not be reciprocated--he
a married man. But this was no less folly than the other had been,
and Mark Blakely had the good sense to leave the place. A day or two
after he left his mother received a letter from him. Martha was in her
dressing-room when she read it. “How strange,” was the comment of Mrs.
Blakely. “What do you think, Martha?” she added, lowering her voice.
“When he reached Paris there was a note sent to him saying that his
wife was dying, and imploring him to come and see her.” “His wife,”
cried Martha; “whose wife?” “My son’s; have you forgotten that he had a
wife? I wish that we all could really forget it; it has been the blight
upon his life.” Martha had discretion enough left in that unhappy
moment not to betray that she had been ignorant of the fact. When her
burning cheeks had cooled a little, she turned from the window where
she had been hiding them and escaped to her own room. The revelation
had betrayed to her the secret of her own feelings for Mark Blakely,
and in her pride and rectitude she thought that she would die. A day or
two more and he was a widower. He suffered some months to elapse and
then came to Bellville, his object being to visit Martha Taylor. She
believed that he meant to ask her to be his wife, and Martha was not
wrong. She could give herself up now to the full joy of loving him.
Busy tongues, belonging to some young ladies who could boast more wit
than discretion, hinted something of this to Martha. She, being vexed
at having her private feelings suspected, spoke slightingly of Mark
Blakely. “Did they think that she would stoop to a widower, one who
had made himself so notorious by his first marriage?” she asked, and
this, word for word, was repeated to Mark Blakely; it was repeated to
him by those false friends, and Martha’s haughty manner as she spoke it
offensively commented upon. Mark Blakely, believing it fully, judged
that he had no chance with Martha, and, without speaking to her of his
intentions, he again left. But now no suspicion of this conversation
having been repeated to him ever reached Martha. She considered his
behavior very bad. Whatever restraint he had laid upon his manner
towards her when at his home, he had been open enough since, and she
could only believe his conduct unjustifiable, the result of fickleness.
All this time, between two and three years, had she been trying to
forget it. If she had received an offer of marriage from a young and
handsome man; it would have been in every way desirable; but poor
Martha found that Mark Blakely was too deeply seated in her heart for
her to admit thought of another. And again Mark Blakely had returned to
Bellville, and, as Martha had heard, dined at Mrs. Hunt’s, the wife of
the postmaster; he had called at her house since his return, but she
was out.

She sat there thinking of him, her prominent feeling against him being
anger. She believed until this hour that he had treated her mean; that
his behavior had been unbecoming a gentleman. Her reflections were
disturbed by the entrance of Doctor Brown. It was growing dark then,
and she wondered what brought him there so late--in fact, what brought
him there at all. She turned and asked the question of Mary. “He has
come to see Charles,” replied Mary; and Martha noticed that her sister
was sitting in a strangely still attitude, her head bowed down; but she
did not connect it with the real cause. It was nothing unusual to see
Mary lost in deep thought. “What is the matter with Charles, that Mr.
Brown should come?” inquired Martha. “He did not feel well and sent for
him.” It was all that Mary answered, and Martha continued in blissful
ignorance of anything being wrong and resumed her reflections on Mark
Blakely. Mary saw the doctor before he went away; afterward she went to
Charles’ room, and remained in it. Martha remained in the dining-room,
buried in her dream of love. The rooms were lighted, but the blinds
were not closed.

Martha was near the window, looking forth into the bright moonlight.
It must have been getting quite late, when she discovered some one
approaching their house. She thought at first that it might be her
cousin George, but, as the figure drew nearer, her heart gave a great
bound, and she saw that it was he upon whom her thoughts had been
fixed. Yes, it was Mark Blakely. When he mentioned to Mrs. Hunt that
he had a visit to pay to a sick friend, he had reference to Charles
Taylor. Mark Blakely, since his return, had been struck with the change
in Charles Taylor; it was more perceptible to him than to those who
saw Charles habitually, and, when the apology came for Mr. Taylor’s
absence, Mark determined to call upon him at once, though, in talking
with Mrs. Hunt, he nearly let the time for it slip by. Martha arose
when he entered; in broad day he might have seen, beyond a doubt, her
changing face, telling of emotion. Was he mistaken in fancying that
she was agitated? His pulses quickened at the thought, for Martha was
as dear to him as she had ever been. “Will you pardon my intrusion at
this hour?” he asked, taking her hand and bending towards her with his
sweet smile. “It is later than I thought it was--indeed, the hall clock
was striking ten! I was surprised to hear of your brother’s illness,
and wished to hear how he was before I left for home.” “He has kept his
room this evening,” replied Martha. “My sister is sitting with him; I
do not think it is anything serious, but he has not appeared very well
of late.” “Indeed, I trust it is nothing serious,” warmly responded
Mark Blakely. Martha fell into silence; she supposed that the servant
had told Mary that he was there and that she would be in. Mark went
to the window. “The same charming scene,” he exclaimed; “I think the
moonlight view from this window is beautiful, the dark trees around,
and these white stone mansions, rising there, remain on my memory like
the scene of an old painting.” He folded his arms and stood there
gazing still. Martha stole a look up at him at his pale, attractive
face, with its expression of care. She had wondered once why that look
of care was conspicuous there; but not after she became acquainted with
his domestic history.

“Are you going away to remain Mr. Blakely,” the question awoke him from
his reverie, he turned to Martha and a sudden impulse prompted him to
address her on the subject nearest his heart. “I would remain if I
could induce one to share my name and home. Forgive me, Martha, if I
anger you by speaking so hastily; will you forget the past and help me
to forget it; will you let me make you my dear wife?” In saying will
you forget the past, Mark Blakely alluded to his first marriage in his
extreme sensitiveness on that point, he doubted whether Martha would
object to succeed the dead Mrs. Blakely, he believed those hasty and
ill-natured words reported to him as having been spoken by her, bore on
that point alone. Martha on the contrary assumed that her forgetfulness
was asked for his own behavior to her in so far that he had gone away
and left her without a word of explanation. She grew quite pale with
anger. Mark Blakely resumed; his manner earnest, his voice low and
tender, “I have loved you Martha from the first day that I saw you at
my mother’s, I dragged myself away from the place because I loved you,
fearing that you might come to see my folly, it was worse than folly
then, for I was not a free man. I have continued loving you more and
more from that time to this. I went abroad this last time hoping to
forget you; but I cannot do it, and my love has only become stronger.
Forgive, I say, my urging it upon you in this moment of impulse.”
Poor Martha was greatly excited, went abroad hoping to forget her,
striving to forget her, it was worse and worse. She pushed his hand
away. “Oh! Martha, can you not love me?” he exclaimed in agitation.
“Will you not give me hopes that you will some time be my wife.” “No,
I cannot love you; I will not give you hopes. I would rather marry
any man in the world than you; you ought to be ashamed of yourself,
Mr. Blakely!” Not a very dignified rejoinder, and Martha first with
anger and then with love, burst into even less dignified tears, and
left the room in a passion. Mark Blakely bit his lips in disgust. Mary
entered unsuspicious; he turned from the window and smoothed his brow,
gathering what equanimity he could as he proceeded to inquire after Mr.
Taylor. About a month after this interview Martha Taylor walked out
from the dining-room to enjoy the beauty of the spring evening, or to
indulge her own thoughts as might be. She strayed to the edge of the
grounds and there sat down on the garden bench, not to remain alone
long. She was interrupted by the very man upon whom, if the disclosure
must be made, her evening thoughts had centered. He was coming up
with a quick step, seeing Martha he stopped to accost her, his heart
beating, beating from the quick steps or from the sight of Martha, he
best knew. Many a man’s heart has beaten at the sight of a less lovely
vision. She wore white, set off with blue ribbons, and her golden hair
glittered in the sunlight. She nearly screamed with surprise; she had
been thinking of him, it was true, but as one who was miles away. In
spite of his stormy and not long past rejection, he went straight to
her and held out his hand. Did he notice that her blue eyes dropped
beneath his as she rose to answer his greeting? that the soft color
on her cheeks changed to a hot damask. “I fear I have surprised you,”
said Mark. “A little,” acknowledged Martha. “I did not know you were in
Bellville. Charles will be glad to see you.”

She turned to walk with him to the house and as in courtesy bound,
Mark Blakely offered her his arm, and Martha condescended to accept
it; neither broke the silence, and they reached the large porch at the
Taylor mansion. Martha spoke then. “Are you going to make a long stay
in England?” “A very short one; a party of friends are leaving for New
York, and they wish me to accompany them, I think I shall go.” “To New
York that is a long distance.” Mark smiled, “I am an old traveler, you
know.” Martha opened the dining-room door, Charles was alone, he had
left the table and was seated in his armchair by the window, a glad
smile illumed his face when he saw Mark, he was one of the very few of
whom Charles had made a close friend, these close friends, not more
than one or two perhaps, can we meet in a life-time; acquaintances
many, but friends, those to whom the heart can speak out its inmost
thoughts who may be as our own souls, how few. “Have you been to tea?”
asked Charles. “I have dined at the hotel,” replied Mark. “Have you
come to make a long stay?” inquired Charles. “I shall leave to-morrow,
having nothing to do I thought that I would come and see you, I am
pleased to see you looking better.” “The warm weather seems to be doing
me a little good,” was Charles Taylor’s reply; a consciousness within
him of how little better he really was, Charles proceeded with Mark to
the drawing-room where his sisters were, and a pleasant hour or two
they all spent together.



CHAPTER VIII.

GEORGE TAYLOR GIVES A PARTY.


Matilda laughed at him a great deal about his proposed expedition to
New York, telling him she did not believe that he was serious in saying
he entertained it. It was a beautiful night, soft, warm and lovely, the
clock was striking ten when Mark arose to depart. “If you will wait a
few minutes I will go a little way with you,” said Charles Taylor, he
withdrew to another room for his coat, then he rejoined him, passed his
arm in Mark Blakely’s and went out with him. “Is this New York project
a joke?” asked Charles. “Indeed, no, I have not quite made up my mind
to go, I think I shall; if so, I shall go in a week from this, why
should I not go, I have no settled home, no ties?” “Should you not,
Mark, be the happier if you had a settled home; you might form ties,
I think a roving life must be a very undesirable one.” “It is one I
was never fitted for, my inclination would lead me to love home and
domestic happiness, but as you know, I put that out of my power.” “For
a time, but that is over, you might marry again.” “I do not think I
ever shall,” returned Mark Blakely, feeling half prompted to tell his
unsuspicious friend that his own sister was the barrier.

“You have never married,” he resumed, allowing the impulse to die away.
Charles Taylor shook his head; “the cases are different,” he said: “In
your wife you lost one whom you could not regret.” “Don’t call her by
that name Charles;” burst forth Mark Blakely. “And in Janey I lost
one who was all the world to me who could never be replaced,” Charles
resumed, after a pause; “the cases were widely different.” “Yes,
widely different,” assented Mark Blakely, they walked on in silence,
each buried in his own thoughts, at the commencement of the road, Mark
Blakely stopped, and took Charles Taylor’s hand in his, “you shall not
come any farther with me.”

Charles stopped also, he had not intended to go farther. “You shall
really go to New York then.” “I believe I shall.” “Take my blessing
with you, then Blakely we may never meet again in this world.”

“What!” exclaimed Mark. “The medical men entertain hopes that my life
may not be terminated so speedily, I believe that a few months will end
it, I may not live to welcome you home.” It was the first intimation
Mark Blakely had received of Charles fatal malady, Charles explained
to him; he was overwhelmed. “Oh my friend! my friend! can not death
be coaxed to spare you!” he called out in excitement, how many have
vainly echoed the same cry! A few more words, a long grasp of the
lingering hands, and they parted, Charles with a God speed, Mark with a
different prayer, a God save upon his lips. Mark Blakely turned to the
road, Charles towards home. George Taylor’s dinner-table was spacious,
but the absence of one person from it was conspicuous. Mr. Blakely’s
chair was still left. “He would come yet.” George said there was no
clergyman present, and Charles Taylor said the grace, he sat at the
foot of the table opposite his cousin.

“We are thirteen!” exclaimed Mr. Feathersmith, a young man of this
aristocratic gathering, “it is the ominous number, you know.” Some of
them laughed. “What is that peculiar superstition?” asked Major Black,
“I have never been able to understand it.” “The superstition is that
if a party of thirteen sit down to dinner one of them is sure to die
before the year is up,” replied the young man, speaking with grave
seriousness. “Why is not thirteen as good a number to sit down as any
other number?” cried Major Black. “As good as fourteen, for instance?”
“It’s the odd number.” “The odd number; it’s no more the odd number
than any other number is odd that’s not even. What do you say to
eleven? What do you say to fifteen?” “I can’t explain it,” returned
the young man, with an air of indifference. “I only know that the
superstition does exist, and that I have noticed in more instances than
one that it has been carried out. Three or four parties of thirteen
who have sat down to dinner have lost one of their number before the
close of the year. You laugh at me, of course. I have been laughed at
before; but suppose you notice it now; there are thirteen of us, see
if we all are alive at the end of the year.” Charles Taylor in his
heart thought it not unlikely that one of them, at any rate, would
not be living. Several faces were smiling with amusement, the most
serious of them was Mark Blakely. “You don’t believe in it, Blakely?”
cried one, in surprise, as he gazed at him. “I certainly do not, why
should you ask it?” “You look so grave over it.” “I never like to
joke, though it be but a smile, on the subject of death,” replied
Mark. “I once received a lesson on the point, and it will serve me for
life.” “Will you tell us what it was?” interposed Mr. Feathersmith,
who was introduced to Mr. Blakely that day. “I cannot tell it now,”
replied Mark. “It is not a subject suited to a merry party,” he frankly
added, “but it would not tend to bear out your superstition, sir; you
are possibly thinking that it might.” “If I have sat down once with
thirteen, I have sat down fifty times,” cried Major Black, “and we
all lived the year out and many after that. I would not mention such
nonsense again, if I were you.” The young man did not answer for a
moment, he was enjoying a glass of wine. “Only notice, that’s all,”
said he, “I don’t want to act the simpleton, but I don’t like to sit
down with thirteen.” “Could we not make Bell the scapegoat and invoke
the evil to fall on his head?” cried a mocking voice. “It is his
fault.” “Mr. Feathersmith,” interrupted another, “how do you estimate
the time? Is the damage to accrue before this year is out or do you
give us full twelve months from this evening?” “Ridicule me as much as
you like,” said the young man, good humoredly. “All I say is, notice
if every one of us now here are alive this time next year, then I’ll
not put faith in it again. I hope we shall be.” “I hope we shall be,
too,” said Major Black. “You are a social subject, though, to invite
to dinner. I should fancy Mr. George Taylor was thinking so.” Mr.
George Taylor appeared to be thinking of something that rendered him
somewhat mentally disturbed, in point of fact his duties as host
were considerably broken into by listening at the door; above the
conversation, the clatter of plates, the drawing of corks, his ear was
alive, hoping for the knock which would announce Mr. Bell.

It was, of course, strange that he neither came nor sent, but no knock
seemed to come and George could only rally his powers and forget him.
It was a recherche repast. George Taylor’s state dinners always were;
no trouble or expense was spared at them; luxuries in season and out
of season were there; the turtle would seem richer at his table than
any other, the venison more than venison, the turkeys had a sweeter
flavor, the sparkling champagne was of the rarest vintage, the dinner
this day did not disgrace its predecessors and the guests seemed to
enjoy themselves to the utmost in spite of the absence of Mr. Bell and
Mr. Feathersmith’s prognostications thereon. The evening was drawing
on, and some of the gentlemen were solacing themselves with a cup of
coffee, when the butler slipped a note into George’s hand. “The man is
waiting for an answer, sir,” he whispered. George glided out of the
room and read it, so fully impressed was he that it came from Mr. Bell
explaining the cause of his absence that he had to read it twice over
before he could take in the fact that it was not from him; it was few
lines in pencil from the popular hotel and running as follows: “Dear
George, I am not feeling well and have stopped here on my journey, call
at once or I shall be gone to bed, Adam Miller.” One burning desire had
hung over George all the evening that he could run up to Bell’s, and
learn the cause of his absence. His absence in itself would not in the
least have troubled George, but he had a most urgent reason for wishing
to see him, hence his anxiety. To leave his guests to themselves would
have been scarcely the thing, but this note appeared to afford just
the excuse wanting, at any rate he determined to make it the excuse.
“A messenger brought this, I suppose,” he said to the butler. “Yes,
sir.” “My compliments and I will be with Mr. Miller directly.” George
went into the room again, intending to proclaim his proposed absence
and plead Mr. Miller’s illness which he would put up in a strong
light as his justification for the inroad upon good manners a sudden
thought came over him that he would only tell Charles. George drew him
aside, “Charles, you be host for me for half an hour,” he whispered.
“Mr. Miller has just sent me an urgent summons to come and see him at
the hotel; he was passing through here and was compelled to stop for
sickness.” “Won’t to-morrow morning do?” asked Charles. “No, I will be
back before they have time to miss me, if they do miss me, say it is
a duty of friendship that any one of them would have answered as I am
doing, if called upon. I’ll soon be back.” Away he went. Charles felt
unusually well that evening and exerted himself for his cousin. Once
out of the house George hesitated whether he should go to see Mr. Bell
or Mr. Miller. He went to Mr. Miller. They had been friends first at
school, then at college, and since up to now. “I am sorry to have sent
for you,” exclaimed Mr. Miller holding out his hand. “I hear you have
friends this evening.” “It’s the kindest thing you could have done for
me this evening,” answered George. “I would have given anything for
a plea to be absent myself, and your letter came and afforded it.”
What, else they said, was between themselves; it was not much, and in
five minutes he was on his way to Bell’s; on he strode his eager feet
scarcely touching the ground, he lifted his hat and wiped his brow,
hot with anxiety; it was a very bright night the moon high; he reached
the mansion, and rang the bell: “Is Mr. Bell at home?” “He’s gone to
the North River,” was the answer. “A pretty trick he played me this
evening,” said George in a tone of dismay. “What trick,” repeated the
house-keeper. “Gone to North River, it cannot be.” “He is,” said she
positively; “when I came from market, I found him going off by the
train he had received a message which took him up.”

“Why did he not call upon me, he knew the necessity there was for me
to see him, he ought to have come.” “I conclude he was in a hurry to
catch the train,” said she. “Why did he not send?” “I heard him send
a verbal message by one of the servants to the effect that he was
summoned unexpectedly to North River, and could not, therefore, attend
your dinner. How early you have broken up!” “We have not broken up,
I left my guests to see after him. No message was brought to me.”
“Then I will enquire,” began she, rising, but George waved her back.
“It is of little consequence,” he said. “It might have saved me some
suspense, but I am glad I got the dinner over without knowing it. I
would like to see him.” George arose to go. “Not there, not that way,”
she said, for George was turning as if he would go into a dark hall,
and she arose and went with him to the door. He intended to take the
lonely road homewards, that dark, narrow road you may remember, where
the maple trees met overhead. All at once George Taylor did take a
step back with a start, when just inside the walk there came a dismal
groan from some dark figure seated on a broken bench. It was all dark
there, the thick maple trees hid the moon. George had just emerged
from where her beams shone bright and open, and not at first did he
distinguish who was sitting there, but his eyes grew accustomed to the
obscurity. “Charles,” he uttered in consternation, “is that you?” For
answer, Charles Taylor caught hold of his cousin, bent forward and
laid his head on George’s arm, another deep groan breaking from him;
that George Taylor would rather have been waylaid by a real ghost than
by his cousin at that particular time and place, was certain; better
that the whole world should detect any undue anxiety for Mr. Bell’s
companionship then than Charles Taylor, at least George thought so,
but conscience makes the best of us cowards, nevertheless he gave his
earnest sympathy to his cousin. “Lean on me Charles, let me support
you, how have you been taken sick?” another minute and the paroxysm of
pain was past. Charles wiped the moisture from his brow, and George sat
down on the narrow bench beside him. “How came you to be here alone,
Charles. Where is your carriage?” “I ordered the carriage early and it
came just as you were going away,” explained Charles. “Feeling well, I
sent it away again, saying I would walk home, the pain struck me just
as I reached this spot and but for the bench I should have fallen.”
“But George, what brings you here?” was the next very natural question.
“You told me that you was going to see Miller?” “So I was--so I did,”
said George, speaking volubly. “I found him poorly, I told him that
he would do better in bed and came away; it was a nice night; I felt
inclined for a run, and went to Bell’s to ask what kept him away. He
was sent for up at North River it seems, and sent an apology, but I
did not get it. In some way or other I think it was misplaced by the
servants.” Charles Taylor might well have rejoined “If Bell was away
where did you stop,” but he made no remark. “Are they all gone,” asked
George, alluding to his guests. “They are all gone, I made it right
with them respecting your absence; my being there was almost the same
thing, they appeared to regard it so. George, I believe I must have
your arm as far as the house, see what an old man I am getting to be.”
“Will you not rest longer, I am in no hurry as they have gone? What can
this pain be that seems to be attacking you of late?” “Has it never
occurred to you what it might be?” rejoined Charles. “No,” replied
George, but he noticed that Charles’ tone was a peculiar one, and he
began to think of all the ailments that flesh is heir to. “It cannot be
rheumatism, can it Charles?” “It is something worse than rheumatism,”
he said, in his serene, ever thoughtful tone. “A short time George,
and you will control my share of the business.” George’s heart seemed
to stand still and then bound onward in a tumult. “What do you mean,
Charles; what do you think is the matter with you?” “Do you remember
what killed my mother?” There was a painful pause. “Oh, Charles!”
“That is it,” said Charles quietly. “I hope you are mistaken! I hope
you are mistaken!” reiterated George. “Have you a physician; you must
have advice!” “I have had it, Brown confirms my suspicions. I asked
for the truth.” “Who is Brown,” returned George, disparagingly. “Go to
London, Charles, and consult the best medical men there.”

“For the satisfaction of you all I can do so,” he replied; “but it will
not benefit me.” “Good heavens! what a dreadful thing,” uttered George,
with feeling; “what a blow to fall upon you.” “You would regard it so
were it to fall upon you, and naturally you are young, joyous, and have
something to live for.” George Taylor did not feel joyous then, had not
felt particularly joyous for a long time; some how his own care was
a burden to him; he lifted his right hand to his temple and kept it
there; Charles suffered his own hand to fall upon George’s left, which
rested on his knee. “Don’t grieve, George, I am more than resigned. I
think of it as a happy change; this world at its best is full of care;
if we seem free from it one year it only falls more unsparingly the
next; it is wisely ordered, were the world made too pleasant for us, we
might be wishing it was our permanent home; few weary of it, whatever
may be their care, until they have learned to look for a better. In the
days gone by, I have felt tempted to wonder why Janey should have been
taken,” resumed Charles. “I see now how merciful the fiat was, George.
I have been more thoughtfully observant perhaps, than many are, and I
have learned to see, to know, how marvelously all the fiats are fraught
with mercy; full of dark sorrows as they may seem to us, it would have
been a bitter trial to me to leave her here unprotected in deep sorrow.
I scarcely think I could have been reconciled to go, and I know what
her grief would have been. All’s for the best.” Very rare was it for
undemonstrative Charles thus to express his hidden sentiments. George
never knew him to do so before; the time and place were peculiarly
fitted for it, the still, bright night, telling of peacefulness, the
shady trees around, the blue sky overhead; in these paroxysms of pain
Charles felt himself brought face to face with death. “It will be a
blow to Mary,” said George, the thought striking him. “She will feel
it as one. Charles, can nothing be done for you?” was the impulsive
rejoinder. “Could it have been done for my mother?” “I know, but
since then science has been broadened; diseases once incurable yield
now to medical skill. I wish you would go to London. There are some
diseases which bring death with them in spite of human skill, which
will bring it to the end of time,” rejoined Charles. “This is one.”
“Well, Charles, you have given me enough for to-night, and for a great
many more nights and days, too. I wish I had not heard it; it is a
dreadful affliction for you. I must say it is a dreadful affliction.”
“The disease or the ending you mean?” asked Charles, with a smile.
“Both are, but I spoke more particularly of the disease. The disease in
itself is a lingering death, and nothing better.” “A lingering death
is the most favored, as I regard it; a sudden death the most unhappy
one. See what time has given me to set my house in order,” he added,
the sober smile deepening. “I must not fail to do it well.” “And the
pain, Charles, that will be lingering, too.” “I must bear it.” He
rose as he spoke, and put his arm in his cousin’s. He stood a minute
or two as if getting strength, and then walked on, leaning heavily
on George. It was the pain, the excessive agony, that unnerved him;
a little while, and he would seem in the possession of his strength
again. “George, I can not tell how you will manage the business when I
am gone,” he continued, more in a business-like tone. “I think of it a
great deal. Sometimes I fancy it might be better if you took a staid,
sober partner, one of middle age, a thorough man of business. Great
confidence has been accorded me, you know, George. I suppose people
like my steady habits.”

“They like you for your honest integrity;” returned George, the words
seemed to break from him impulsively, “I shall manage very well, I dare
say, when the time comes, I suppose I must settle down to business
to be more like what you have been, I can,” he continued in a sort
of soliloquy, “I can, and I will.” But they walked on slowly neither
saying a word until they reached the house. George shook hands with
his cousin, “don’t you attempt to come to business to-morrow,” he said,
“I will come up in the evening to see you.”

“Won’t you come in now, George?” “Thank you. Good night, Charles, I
heartily wish you better.” There went on the progress of a few days
and another week had dawned and Charles seemed to all appearances to
be improving, he arose now to the early breakfast table, he began to
hasten to business for there was much work there with the accounts,
and one morning when they were at breakfast the old servant entered
with one or two letters for Charles, but before the old man could
reach his master, whose back was toward the door, Mary made him a
sign and he laid the letters down on a remote table. Charles had been
receiving a large number of letters of late, and Mary was fearful that
so much business might bring on another of those spells and deemed it
just as well that he should at least eat his breakfast in peace. The
circumstances of the letters having passed from her mind he ate on in
silence, but Martha and Matilda were discussing certain news which they
had received the previous day, news which had surprised them concerning
the engagement of a lady who had looked upon matrimony as folly.



CHAPTER IX.

CHARLES RECEIVES ANOTHER STROKE.


Busy talking they did not particularly notice that Charles had risen
from his chair at the breakfast table and was seated at a distant
table opening his letters until a faint sound, something like a groan,
startled them; he was leaning back in his chair seemingly unconscious,
his hands had fallen, his face gave signs of the grave; surely those
dews upon it were not the dews of death! Martha screamed, Matilda flung
open the door and called out for help; Mary only turned to them her
hands lifted to enjoin silence, a warning word upon her lips, their
old servant came running in and looked at Charles. “He’ll be better
directly,” he whispered. “Yes, he will be better,” assented Mary, “but
I should call the doctor.” Charles began to revive. He slowly opened
his eyes and raised his hand to wipe the moisture from his white brow.
On the table before him lay one of the letters open. Mary pushed the
letters aside with a gesture of grievous vexation. “It is this business
that has affected you,” she cried out with a wail. “Not so,” breathed
Charles. “It was the pain here.” He touched himself below the chest
in the same place where the pain had been before. What had caused the
pain, mental agony arising from overwork or the physical agony arising
from disease? Probably some of both. He stretched out his hand toward
the letters making a motion that they should be placed in envelopes.
George, who could not have read a word without his glasses, took up the
letters, folded them and put them in their envelopes. Charles’ mind
seemed at rest and he closed his eyes again. “I’ll step for the doctor
now,” whispered George to Mary, “I shall catch him before he goes out
on his rounds.” He took his hat and went down the road to the office,
putting forth his best step, when he reached the office the doctor had
gone. “Will he be long,” asked George? “I don’t know,” was the reply,
“he was called out at seven this morning.” “He is wanted at the Taylor
mansion. Mr. Taylor is worse.” “Is he?” returned the assistant, his
quick tone indicating concern. “I can tell you where he is, and that’s
at Bangs,” continued the assistant. “You might call and speak to him if
you like, it’s on your way home.” George hastened there and succeeded
in finding the doctor. He informed him that Charles was worse; was
very sick. “One of the old attacks of pain, I suppose,” said the
doctor. “Yes, sir,” answered George. “He was taken sick while answering
letters. Miss Mary thought it might be overwork that brought it on.”

“Ah!” said the doctor, and there was a world of emphasis on the
monosyllable. “Well, I shan’t be detained here over half an hour
longer, and I shall come straight up.” He reached there within half
an hour after George. Mary saw him approaching and came into the hall
to meet him. She was looking very sad and pale. “Another attack, I
hear,” began the doctor, in his unceremonious mode of salutation,
“bothered into it, I suppose; George says it came on while he was
reading letters.” “Yes,” answered Mary, in acquiescence, her tone a
resentful one. “It was brought on by overwork.” The doctor gave a groan
as he turned towards the stairs. “Not there,” interposed Mary, “he
is in the dining-room.” With the wan, white look upon his face, with
the moisture of pain on his brow lay Charles Taylor. He was on the
sofa now, but he partially rose from it and assumed a sitting posture
when the doctor entered. A few professional questions and answers and
then the doctor began to scold. “Did I not warn you that you must
have perfect tranquility,” cried he, “rest of body and of mind?” “You
did, but how am I to get it, even now I ought to be at the office. I
shall die however it may be, doctor,” was the reply of Charles Taylor.
“So will most of us, I expect,” returned the doctor, “but there’s no
necessity for us to be helped on to it ages before death would come
of itself.” “True,” replied Charles, but his tone was not a hopeful
one. There was a pause, Charles broke it. “I wish you could give me
something to avert these sharp attacks of pain, doctor, it is agony in
fact, not pain.” “I know it,” replied the doctor. “What’s the use of
my attempting to give you anything? You don’t take my prescription.”
Charles lifted his eyes in surprise. “I have taken all that you desired
me.” “No, you have not; I prescribe tranquillity of mind and body; you
take neither.” Charles leaned nearer to the doctor and paused before he
answered. “Tranquillity of mind for me has passed, I can never know it
again; were my life to be prolonged by the great healer of all things,
time might bring it to me in a degree, but for that I shall not live,
doctor; you must know this to be the case under the calamity which has
fallen upon my head.” “At any rate you cannot go on facing business
any longer.” “I must, indeed, there is no help for it.” “And suppose
it kills you,” was the retort. “If I could help going I would,” said
Charles. “George has gone away.” The doctor arose and departed after
giving Charles a severe lecture. Miss Taylor sat at one of the west
windows, her cheek rested pensively on her fingers as she thought,
oh, with what bitterness of the grievous past she sat there losing
herself in regret after regret. If my father and mother had not died;
she lost herself, I say, in these regrets, bitter as they were vain.
How many of these useless regrets might embitter the lives of us all,
how many do embitter them? If I had but done so and so; if I had taken
the right when I turned to the wrong; if I had known who that person
was from the first and shunned his acquaintance; if I had chosen that
path in life instead of this one; if I had, in short, done exactly
the opposite to what I did do. Vain, vain repinings; vain, useless
repinings. The only plan is to keep them as far as possible from our
hearts. If we could foresee the end of a thing at its beginning, if we
could buy a stock of experience at the outset of life, if we could, in
fact, become endowed with the light of divine wisdom, what different
men and women the world would see. But we cannot undo the past, it
is ours with all its folly, its shortsightedness. Perhaps its guilt,
though we stretch out our yearning and pitiful hands to Heaven in their
movement of agony, though we wail out our bitter my Lord pardon me!
heal me! help me! though we beat on our remorseful bosom and tear away
its flesh piecemeal in bitter repentance. We cannot undo the past; we
cannot undo it. The past remains to us unaltered, and must remain so
forever. Perhaps some idea of this kind of the utter uselessness of
these regrets, but no personal remorse attached to her, was making
itself heard in the mind of Miss Taylor even through her grief. She
had clasped her hands upon her bosom now and bent her head downwards,
completely lost in retrospect.

She was aroused by the entrance of Charles. He sat opposite her at
the other corner of the window; he appeared to be buried in thought,
neither spoke a word; presently Mary arose to leave the room and
George met her almost immediately, showing in Mr. Blakely. He hastened
forward to prevent Charles from rising. Laying one hand upon his
shoulder and the other on his hands he pressed him down and would not
let him rise. The slanting rays of the setting sun were falling on
the face of Charles Taylor, lighting up its handsome outlines, the
cheeks were thinner, the hair seemed scantier, the truthful gray eyes
had acquired an habitual expression of pain. Mr. Blakely leaned over
him and noted it all. “Sit down,” said Charles, drawing the chair
which had been occupied by Mary nearer to him. Mr. Blakely accepted
the invitation, but did not release the hand. They subsided into
conversation, its theme as was natural, the health of Charles and the
topics of the day and weather. Charles sat in calmness waiting for him
to proceed; nothing could stir him greatly now. Mr. Blakely gave him
the outline of the past, of his love for Martha and her rejection of
him. “There has been something in her manner of late,” he continued,
“which has renewed hope within me, otherwise I should not be saying
this to you now; quite of late, since her rejection of me, I have
observed what I could not describe, and I have determined to risk my
fate once more.” “But I did not know that you loved Martha.” “I suppose
not. It has seemed to me, though, that my love must have been patent
to the world. You would give her to me, would you not?” “Thankfully,”
was the warm answer. “The thought of leaving these girls unprotected
has been one of my cares. Let me give you one consolation Blakely, that
if Martha has rejected you she has rejected others. Mary fancied she
had some secret attachment; can it have been concerning yourself?” “If
so why has she rejected me?” “I don’t know; she has been grievously
unhappy since I have been sick, almost like one who had no further hope
in life.” “What is it, George?” “A message has come from Mrs. Bangs.”
Charles spoke a word of apology to Blakely and left the room; in the
hall he met Martha crossing to it; she went in quite unconscious who
was its occupant; he rose to welcome her. A momentary hesitation in
her steps, a doubt whether she should not run away again, and then
she recalled her senses and went forward. How it went on and what was
exactly said or done neither of them could remember afterwards. A
very few minutes and Martha’s head was resting upon his shoulder; all
the mistakes of the past cleared up between them. She might not have
confessed to him how long she had loved, all since that long time when
they were together at his home, but for her dread that he might think
she was only accepting him on account of Charles’ days being numbered.
She told the truth, that she had loved him and him only all along.
“Martha, my dear, what a long misery might have been spared me had I
known this.” Martha looked down. Perhaps some might have been spared
her also. “Would you like to live here?” asked Mark. “Oh, yes; if it
can be.” “They will be glad to have me set a price on some of these
houses around here.” Martha’s eyelids were bent on her hot cheeks; she
did not raise them. “If you like we might ask Mary and Matilda to live
with us,” resumed Mark Blakely in his thoughtful consideration. “Our
home will be large enough.” “Their home is decided upon,” said Martha
shaking her head, “and they will remain in their own home. Mary has an
annuity, you know; it was money left to her by mamma’s sister, so that
she is independent; can live where she pleases; but I am sure she will
go to New York on a visit as soon as”--“I understand you Martha; as
soon as Charles shall have passed away.” The tears were glistening in
her eyes. “Do you not see a great change in him?”

“A very great one, Martha; I should like him to give you to me. Will
you waive ceremony and be mine at once?” “At once,” she repeated,
stammering and looking at him. “I mean in the course of a week or two,
as soon as you can make it convenient. Surely we have waited long
enough.” “I will see,” murmured Martha, a grave expression arose to
Mr. Blakely’s face. “It must not be very long, Martha, if you would be
mine while your brother is in life.” “I will! I will! it shall be as
you wish,” she answered, the tears falling from her eyes, and before
she could make any rejoinder she had hastily quitted him, and standing
before the window stealthily drying her wet cheeks, for the door had
opened and Charles Taylor had entered the room.

All the neighbors of Bellville lingered at its doors and windows
curious to witness the outer signs of Martha Taylor’s wedding; the
arrangements for it were to them more a matter of speculation than of
certainty since various rumors had been afloat and were eagerly caught
up, although of the most contradictory character, all that appeared
certain as yet, was that the day was charming and the bells were
ringing; to keep the crowd back was an impossibility and when the first
carriage came, the excitement in the street was great; it was drawn
by two beautiful horses, the livery of the postillions and the crest
on the panels of the carriage proclaimed it to be Charles Taylor’s.
Mark Blakely sat inside with Martha, the next carriage contained the
sisters and Charles Taylor, the third contained the bridesmaids wearing
hats and beautiful gowns, and the others coming up contained the
aristocratic friends of the parties concerned; there was a low murmur
of sorrow, of sympathy and it was called forth by the appearance of
Charles Taylor; it was some little time now since Charles Taylor had
been seen in public and the change in him was startling; he walked
forward leaning on the arm of George Taylor, lifting his hat to the
greeting that was breathed around, a greeting of sorrow meant, as he
knew, for him and his blighted life, the few scanty hairs stood out to
their view as he uncovered his head, and the ravages of the disease
that was killing him were all too conspicuous on his wasted features.
“God bless him, he’s very near to the grave,” who said this among the
crowd, Charles could not tell, but the words and their pathos full of
rude sympathy came distinctly upon his ear. The Reverend Mr. Davis
stood at the altar, he, too had changed, the keen, vigorous, healthy
man had now a gray worn look; he stood there waiting for the wedding
party; the pews were filled with ladies dressed appropriately for the
occasion, and the church was filled with sweet-smelling flowers and
their fragrance filled the air; the bridesmaids led the way, then came
Martha and Charles Taylor; she wore an elegant gown of white satin,
a tulle veil and orange blossoms, diamond ornaments, the gift of the
groom--as lovely a bride as ever stood at the altar. Mr. Blakely
and Miss Mary Taylor came next; she wore a gray silk of rare modern
pattern. The recollection of the wedding service that he had promised
to perform for Charles Taylor and Janey Brewster caused the pastor’s
voice to be subdued now as he read; how had that contemplated union
ended; the pastor was thinking it over now. This one was over, the
promises made, the register signed and parson Davis stepped before them
and took the hand of Martha. “I pray God that your union may be a happy
one; that rests in a great degree with you; Mark Blakely, take care of
her,” her eyes filled with tears, but Blakely grasped his hand warmly
and said: “I will! I will.” “Let me bless you both, Blakely,” broke in
the quiet voice of Charles Taylor. “It may be that I shall not see you
again.”

“Oh! but we shall meet again, you must not die yet,” exclaimed Mark
Blakely with feverish eagerness. “My friend I would rather part with
the whole world, save Martha than with you.” Their hands lingered
together and separated. They reached the carriage, notwithstanding the
crowd pushed and danced around it, the placing in of Martha, and Mark
taking his seat beside her, seemed to be but the work of a moment,
so quickly was it done, and Mark Blakely, a pleasant smile upon his
face, bowed to the shouts on either side as the carriage wended its
way through the crowd, not until it had got into clear ground did the
postillions put their horses to a canter, and the bride and groom
were fairly on their bridal tour. There was more ceremony needed to
place the ladies in the other carriages. Miss Taylor’s skirts in their
extensive richness took five minutes to arrange themselves, ere a space
could be found for Charles beside her, the footman held the door for
him, the other carriages drove up in order and were driven quietly
away, after having been filled with fair ladies and their escorts.



CHAPTER X.

A PEACEFUL HOUR.


In the old porch at Bellville, of which you have read so much, sat
Charles Taylor. An invalid-chair had been placed there, and he lay
back on its pillows in the beams of the afternoon sun of the late
autumn; a warm sunny day it had been. He was feeling wonderously well;
almost, but for his ever present weakness, quite well; his fatigue
of the previous day, that of Martha’s wedding, had left no permanent
effects upon him, and had he not known thoroughly his own hopeless
state he might have fancied this afternoon that he was approaching
convalescence. Not in his looks, pale, wan, ghastly were they, the
shadow of the grim implacable visitor, that was so soon to come, was
already on them; but the face in its calm, stillness told of ineffable
peace. The brunt of the storm had passed. The white walls of the Taylor
mansion glittered brightly in the distance, the dark blue sky was seen
through the branches of the trees, growing bare and more bare against
the coming winter. The warm rays of the sun fell on Charles Taylor. In
his hand he held a book from which others than Charles Taylor have
derived consolation and courage. “God is love.” He was reading at that
moment of the great love of God towards those who strive as he had done
to live for him. He looked up, repeating the sentence, “He loves them
in death and will love them through the never ending ages to come.”
Just then his eyes fell on the figure of George, their old servant man,
who was advancing towards the mansion. Charles closed his book and held
out his hand. “You are not going to leave us yet, Mr. Taylor.” “I know
not how soon it may be George, very long it cannot be; sit down.” He
stood yet, however, looking at him, disregarding the bench to which
he had pointed, stood with a saddened expression and compressed lips.
George’s eye was an experienced one, and it may be that he saw the
picture which had taken up its abode in his face.

“You be going to see my old master and mistress sir,” he said dashing
some rebellious moisture from his eyes. “Mr. Charles do you remember
it, my poor mistress sat here in this porch the very day she died.” “I
remember it well, George. I am dying quietly, thank God, as my mother
died.” “And what a blessing it is when folks can die quietly with their
conscience, and all about ’em at peace,” ejaculated George. “I am on
the threshold of a better world, George,” was his quiet answer, “one
where sorrow cannot enter.” George sat for some little time on the
bench talking to him, they had gone back in thought to old times, to
the illness and death of his mother, to the long gone scenes of the
past, whether of pleasure or pain--a past which for us all seems to
bear a charm when recalled to the memory which it had never borne; at
length George arose to depart, declining to remain longer; Charles was
in his armchair seated by the fire as Mary entered the room, his face
would have been utterly colorless save for the bluish tinge which had
settled there a tinge distinguishable even in the red blaze. “Have you
come back alone,” asked Charles, turning towards her. “George Taylor
accompanied me as far as the head of the street. Have you had your
medicine, Charles?” “Yes.” Mary drew a chair near to him, and sat down,
glancing almost stealthily at him; when this ominous look appears on
the human face we do not like to look into it too boldly lest its
owner, so soon to be called away, may read the fiat in our own dread
countenance, she need not have feared its effects, had he done so,
on Charles Taylor. “How are you feeling to night?” somewhat abruptly
asked Mary. “Never better of late days; it seems as if ease both of
mind and body has come to me.” Mary turned her eyes from the fire that
the tears rising in them might not be seen to glisten, and exclaimed:
“What a misfortune.” “A misfortune to be taken to my rest, to the good
God who has so loved and kept me here. A few minutes before you came
in I fell into a doze and I dreamt I saw Jesus Christ standing by the
window waiting for me, he had his hand stretched out to me with a
smile, so vivid had been the impression that when I awoke, I thought
it was a reality. Death a misfortune! no, Mary, not for me.” Mary rang
the bell for lights to be brought in, Charles, his elbow resting on the
arm of his chair, bent his head upon his hand and became lost in the
imagination of glories that might so soon open to him, bright forms
were flitting around a throne of wondrous beauty, golden harps in their
hands, and in one of them, her harp idle, her radiant face turned as if
watching for one who might be coming, he seemed to recognize Janey. A
misfortune for the good to die! No.

George Taylor, a cousin to this family, was seated at his desk in the
office when his attention was called by a rap at the door. George
opened the door, and the old servant came in. “It is all over, sir,” he
said; his manner strangely still, his voice unnaturally calm and low,
as is sometimes the case where emotion is striven to be suppressed.
Miss Mary bade me come to you with the tidings. George’s bearing was
suspiciously quiet, too. “It is very sudden,” he presently rejoined.
“Very sudden, sir, and yet my mistress did not seem unprepared for it,
he took his tea with her, and was so cheerful over it that I began
to hope he had taken a fresh turn, my mistress called me in to give
directions about a little matter she wanted done to-morrow, and while
she was speaking to me, Miss Matilda cried out. We turned round and
saw her leaning over my master, he had slipped back in his chair
powerless, and I hastened to raise and support him. Death was in his
face, there was no mistaking it, but he was quite conscious, quite
sensible and smiled at us. ‘I must say farewell to you,’ he said, and
Miss Matilda burst into a fit of sobs, but my mistress kneeled down
quietly before him and took his hands in hers and said, ‘Charles, is
the moment come?’ ‘Yes, it is come;’ he answered, and tried to look
round at Miss Matilda, who stood a little behind his chair. ‘Don’t
grieve,’ he said, ‘I am going on first,’ but she only sobbed the more.
‘Good by, my dear ones,’ he continued, ‘I shall wait for you all as
I know I am being waited for.’ ‘Fear?’ he went on, for Miss Matilda
sobbed out something that sounded like the word. ‘Fear, when I am going
to God, when I saw Jesus--Jesus--’” George fairly broke down with a
great burst of grief, and the tears were silently rolling over the
old man’s cheeks. “It was the last word he spoke, ‘Jesus,’ his voice
ceased, his hands fell, and the eyelids dropped, there was no struggle,
nothing but a long gentle breath, and he died with the smile upon his
lips.” Cousin George leaned his head on the side of the window to
subdue his emotion, to gather the outward calmness that man likes not
to have ruffled before the world; he listened to the strokes of the
passing bell ringing out so sharply in the still night air, and every
separate stroke was laden with its weight of pain.

You might have taken it for Sunday in Bellville, except that Sundays in
ordinary do not look so gloomy; the stores were closed, a drizzling
rain came down, and the heavy bell was booming out at solemn intervals;
it was tolling for the funeral of Charles Taylor. Morning and night
from eight to nine had it so tolled since his death, he had gone to his
long home, to his last resting-place, and Bellville mourned for him
as for a brother. Life wears different aspects for us and its cares
and its joys are unequally allotted, at least they appear so to be.
One glances up heavily from careworn burdens, and sees others without
care basking in the sunshine, but I often wonder whether those who
seem so gay whose path seems to be cast on the broad sunshiny road of
pleasure whether they have not a skeleton in their closet; nothing
but gayety, nothing but lightness, nothing to all appearances, but
freedom from care. Is it really so, perhaps with some, a very few.
Is it well for those few? Oh, if we could but see the truth when the
burden upon us is heavy and pressing. Fellow sufferers, if we could
but read that burden aright, we should see how good it is, and bless
the hand that sends it. But we never can; we are but mortal; born with
a mortal’s keen susceptibility to care and pain, we preach to others
that these things are sent for their good, we say so to ourselves when
not actually suffering, but when the fiery trial is upon us then we
groan out in our sore anguish that it is greater than we can bear. The
village clock struck eleven and the old sexton opened the doors of the
church, and the inhabitants of this beautiful village assembled to see
the funeral as it came slowly winding along the street to the sound of
the solemn bell; they might have attended him to the grave following
unobtrusively, but that was known to be the wish of the family that
such demonstration should not be made. “Bury me in the plainest manner
possible” had been his directions when the end was drawing near. The
hearse and carriages are standing at the mansion; fine horses, with
splendid trappings, in modern carriages, have come from the various
parts of the country near and distant to show their owners’ homage to
that good man who had earned their deepest respect through life; slowly
the procession reached the church, and the hearse and carriages stopped
at it; some of the carriages filed off, and the drivers turned their
horses’ heads to face the church, and waited still and quiet while the
hearse was emptied. The Reverend Mr. Davis stood at the altar, book in
hand, reciting the commencement of the service for the burial of the
dead, “I am the resurrection and the life,” with measured steps slowly
following went those who bore the coffin; their heads covered with a
black pall, the sisters and their cousin George came next, with their
old servants following, thus they entered the church, he remained at
the altar, but not reading from it, the church was nearly filled by
ones and twos; they had come in, and when all was quiet, he read the
history of the life of the deceased in a solemn manner, there was
not a dry eye in the audience; the sermon having been finished, they
repaired to the grave, the pastor taking his place at the head, and
read the service as the coffin was lowered, the mourners stood next to
him, and the other friends were clustered around, their heads bent,
the drizzling rain beat down upon their bare heads, the doctor came
up, unable to attend earlier, he came now at the last moment, just as
George Taylor had come years ago to the funeral of Janey Brewster.
Did the pastor of Bellville, standing there with his pale face, his
sonorous voice echoing over the graves, recall those back funerals,
when he over whom the service was now being read had stood as chief
mourner? No doubt he did. Did George recall it? The pastor glanced at
him once, and saw that he had a difficulty in suppressing his emotion.
“I heard a voice from Heaven saying unto me, write from henceforth
blessed are the dead which die in the Lord, even so saith the Spirit,
for they rest from their labors.” So profound was the silence, that
every word as it fell solemnly from the lips of the minister might be
heard in all parts of the churchyard; if ever that verse could apply
to frail humanity, with its unceasing struggle after holiness, and its
unceasing failure here, it most surely apply to him over whom it was
being spoken. Bend forward, as so many of those spectators are doing,
and read the inscription on the plate, Charles Taylor, aged 40 years.
Only forty years, a period at which some men think they are beginning
life, it seemed to be an untimely death, and it would have been, after
all his pain and sorrow, but that he had entered upon a better life.

They left him in the vaulted grave, his coffin near his mother’s, who
lay beside his father; the spectators began to draw unobtrusively away,
silently and solemnly. In the general crowd and bustle, for everybody
was on the move, George turned to the pastor and shook hands with him.
“It was a peaceful ending.” George was gazing down dreamily as he spoke
the last words; the pastor looked at him. “A peaceful ending! yes;
it could not be otherwise with him.” “No, no,” murmured George; “Not
otherwise with him.” “May God in his mercy send us all as happy a one
when our time shall come.” As the words left the pastor’s lips the loud
and heavy bell boomed out again, giving notice to the town that the
last rites were over, that life had closed forever on Charles Taylor.

[Illustration]



TRANSCRIBER’S NOTES:


  Obvious typographical errors have been corrected.

  Inconsistencies in hyphenation have been standardized.

  Archaic or alternate spelling has been retained from the original.





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