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kinsfolk should come to know him better, they might be fain to reverse their hasty judgment, and account him worthy of a place in their liking. But, until that time should arrive,-though he would do anything in reason to help it on, there was nothing to encourage or to warrant any overflow of personal confidences.
It was scarcely possible, under the circumstances, that Bergan should have reached a different conclusion Of his meeting with Mr. Bergan and Carice, during his frenzy of rage and intoxication, he retained but the vaguest recollection; and he had totally failed to recognize either his uncle or cousin as his co-actors in the dim and misty adventure. Nor was this the only miss ing link in the chain of events. Dr. Remy's casual talk, in the visit immediately preceding his own, which had first made Mr. Bergan acquainted with the fact of his nephew's presence in the neighbourhood, and gradually led to his identification with the intoxicated cavalier of whom he entertained so disagreeable an impression; Carice's subsequent recognition of him, as soon as his features were distinctly revealed to her; and his aunt's later discovery of the same lamentable identity ;-all these facts were necessary to a clear understanding of the situation, and its requirements. Without them, no wonder that Bergan was led astray both in his conclusions and in his acts; the former being the inevitable result of the false logic of the few facts of which he knew, and the latter going to help the equally false logic of the facts known to others, of which he knew nothing.
So, after Mr. Bergan had politely assented to his observations upon the dullness of Berganton, and somewhat pointedly remarked that perseverance and energy, when conjoined with upright habits, were pretty sure to command a reasonable measure of success anywhere, the conversation turned aside into other channels. The opportunity for a frank explanation—which could alone have placed him upon his proper footing with his newfound relatives-was lost. It would not return until it was too late to be of any considerable service.
Nevertheless, at the dinner-table, the moral atmo. sphere cleared a little. Mr. Bergan could not, in justice to himself, allow any guest at his board-much less his sister's son—to shiver long in an impalpable mist of coolness and reserve. His wife gladly seconded his efforts toward geniality and cheerfulness. Under this opportune sunshine, Bergan's manner soon lost its reflected touch of constraint, and sparkled with pleasant humour, or was warmed through and through with a rich glow of enthusiasm. Despite their prejudices, his relatives could not but feel its potent charm. Under protest, as it were, they yielded him a portion of their liking, even while they refused him their confidence. “What a pity,” they thought, “that he is so dissipated, when he can be so captivating! What a fine character his might be, but for its one miserable, ruinous flaw!”
Especially was this thought prominent in the mind of
Carice, as she listened delightedly to the pleasant flow of his talk, and her youthful enthusiasm involuntarily sprang forward to meet his. Two or three times, he caught her eyes fixed upon him with an expression that not only puzzled, but pained him. But for the absurdity of the supposition, he would have said that it was pity!
In the hope of finding a clue to the mystery, he took a position near her, when they rose from the table,leaning with an easy grace against the mantel, while she occupied the low window-seat,--and the two were soon deep in a conversation of absorbing interest. Beginning with books, it slowly led, by way of the morning's service and sermon, up to vital questions of duty and morals. In its course, it developed so many points of sympathy between the colloquists,-such happy correspondence of opinion, without lifeless unanimity, so many dove-tailed segments of thought, glad to meet in close and completing union,—that Mr. and Mrs. Bergan, listening, at first, with indulgent interest, finally began to exchange uneasy glances, and, at length, withdrew to the piazza for a hurried consultation.
For this fair daughter of theirs—this blue-eyed Carice, with the lily-like pose, and the rose-like face was their idol. Not specially congenial on other points, they were yet made one by their engrossing devotion to her. She was at once their exceeding joy and their exquisite pain. Although she had scarcely been ill a day in her life, she had a seeming delicacy of constitution that kept them in a constant quake of terror. She had also a sensitiveness of temperament, as well as a singular purity and simplicity of character, that filled them with nameless forebodings for her happiness. All their days were spent in keeping safe watch and ward between her and the first threatenings of evil, of whatever nature. Every coming shadow, every adverse influence, was foreseen or forefelt, and turned aside, before it could reach her.
Especially, of late, -seeing her continual growth in loveliness, of a character at once so rare and so attractive—they had charged themselves with the duty of watching against any unwise bestowal of her affections, and consequent misery. And, up to this time, there had been no cause for alarm. But now, as Mrs. Bergan glanced back through the window at the rapt talker and listener, noting the earnestness and heightened colour of the one, and the unwonted brightness half-bidden under the drooping lashes of the other, she turned to her: husband with an anxiety that needed no further explanation.
“They are cousins, remember," said Mr. Bergan, snatching at the first thread of hope, though not without a sufficient sense of its fragility.
“Only half-cousins, at best,-or rather, at worst," replied his wife. “And so utterly different in type and temperament, that the relationship could never be set up as an insurmountable barrier. Besides, having never met before, they now meet as strangers.”
“Then it will not do to encourage him in coming Nix, sat on his haunches at a little distance, watching the here," said Mr. Bergan, after a pause. "I could never scene with sympathetic, intelligent eyes. give Carice to a drunkard, though he were fifty times as Cathie was already Bergan's fast friend. During handsome and talented.”
yesterday's work of arrangement, she had at first hovered At this moment, Carice, awaking as from a dream, around him at a distance; then, yielding to the unconlooked round for her parents. Seeing them on the scious fascination of the young man's look and smile, as piazza, she quickly rose, and came toward them, fol- well as the irresistible attraction of the litter of books and lowed by Bergan. There was something in the action papers, she had drawn nearer ; later on, she had eagerly inexpressibly reassuring to the troubled spectators. favoured him with the somewhat questionable help of her The engrossing spell of the young man's conversation small fingers, and the amusing chatter of her tireless was so suddenly broken, when she missed her father
tongue; and she had ended by giving him all her childish and mother from her side! They looked at each confidence, and a large share of her freakish affections. other with a smile, and Mrs. Bergan playfully whis-, Freakish-because Cathie was a sort of elf-child; or pered, —
it might be truer to say that, in her small compass, there " I suspect that we are two fools !”
were many elf-children; manifesting their several indiNevertheless, enough of the effect of these few vidualities through her changeable moods, and sending moments of parental anxiety remained, to fling a slight their various gleams through the almost weird splendour shadow over the party. Carice felt it first, in her quick of her dark eyes. She could be wild and tender, playful sympathy with all her parents' moods; and Bergan caught and passionate, wise and simple, by turns; or in such it from her as speedily as if there were already some quick and capricious succession that she seemed to be all invisible bond between the two. Without knowing why,
at once. She took as many shapes, in her flittings about he very soon became aware that the atmosphere was the house, as there were hours in the day; now a teasing again growing chill around him. He had been basking, sprite, now a dancing fairy ; at this moment, a tender not in a broad glory of summer, but only in a flicker of human child, melting into your arms with dewy kisses winter sunshine.
the next, a mocking elf, slipping from your grasp like Under these circumstances, Mr. Bergan's announce- quicksilver, and leaving you with a doubt if there could ment that it was time to set forth for the five o'clock be anything human about her; and anon, a fiery little service, was heard as a relief. Almost immediately, demon, with enough of concentrated rage in her small however, it was followed by an unreasoning pang of
frame to suffice for a giant. regret. It needed no soothsayer to tell him that moments It was in this latter phase that she was now exhilike those just passed were to be rare in his immediate biting herself. experience of life.
“I won't believe it!” she screamed, clenching her Dusk was fast gathering in the corners and under small tists, and jumping up and down in a fury of excitethe arches of the little church, when the service was over. ment. “I won't believe it! It isn't true! Miss Ferrars Parting with his relatives at the door, Bergan went his is a solitary way to his lodgings, through the deepening “Hush!” said the mother, softly, hearing the sound twilight. He walked slowly, not that the road was so of Bergan's step. pleasant, but because the end had so little attraction. “– A mean, lying old maid,” went on Cathie, The walls and furniture of his room were still strangers without an instant's hesitation. “I wish I had told her to him; no one corner would allure him with a more so! I will, when I see her again !” familiar charm than another, no particular chair would “ Hush !” said the mother again, more decidedly; draw him irresistibly to its accustomed arm. no sweet, laying her hand over the rebellious mouth, by way of tangled crop of associatiuns would fing their mingled enforcing the mandate. light and shadow across the floor. It would all be dim, But Cathie broke from her, and ran towards Bergan. blank, lonely. And the foot falls but heavily on the At a few paces distant, she stopped and underwent one of path, the termination of which neither satisfies habit nor her sudden metamorphoses; the convulsive fury left her excites imagination !
features, and in its stead, there came a grave sorrow and Nevertheless, the slowest progress brings one quickly wistfulness, piteous to behold. Fixing her dark, bright to the end, if the journey be short ; and Bergan's lingering eyes full on Bergan's face, she solemnly askedsteps brought him to Mrs. Lyte's gate ere the dusk had “ Are you bad, Mr. Arling? Tell me, are you really deepened into total obscurity. Entering the wide hall, a bad man?" which extended through the whole depth of the house, he Whatever mistakes Bergap may have made in his life, saw Mrs. Lyte seated at the further end, in a doorway or may make hereafter-whatever sins he may commit, opening on the garden. Her little daughter Cathie was through ignorance, or in sudden passion, let it be resobbing at her side, in what seemed an uncontrollable membered, to his credit, that he could meet those clear, passion of grief and indignation. The child's protector innocent, child-eyes, without a blush, and answer the and playmate, a half-superannuated old mastiff, named question as gravely and simply as it had been asked
“No, Cathie, I do not think that I am."
The truthful accents found their instant way to the child's heart. Her confidence-which, in truth, had really never been lost—was restored fourfold. She threw herself into his arms, and laid her young cheek against his, in a loving attempt to atone for the wrong that had been done him. Nix came also, and rubbed his great head against the young man's knee, with an apparent understanding of the whole matter.
Nor was the child's mind the only one to which Bergan's words had brought quick conviction. Hearing his low, grave tones of denial, Mrs. Lyte felt a weight lifted from her spirits. She had just been listening to the story of Bergan's intoxication, with adornments, brought by a gossiping neighbour, and her heart had sunk with fear lest trouble and discomfort had found their way under her roof, with the new inmate. But seeing him thus acquitted by the child and the dog-two most unprejudiced judges, she thought-she quietly dismissed her fears. For, though so gentle and shrinking in manner as to give the impression of having no character at all, Mrs. Lyte was yet quite capable of forming an independent opinion, and of abiding by it.
So, when Bergan came toward her, leading Cathie by the hand, she did not hesitate to point him to a seat.
“Your room must be lonely,” said she, kindly. “Will you sit with us for awhile ? "
But Bergan did not heed, if he heard the invitation. He merely looked his hostess in the eyes, and said,
“Mrs. Lyte, will you be so kind as to tell me what made Cathie ask me that question just now?”
“Certainly, if you wish it. But, Mr. Arling, the subject was closed for me, with her question and your answer. Would it not be as well for you to let it rest there also ?”
Bergan only shook his head. And after a moment's study of his grave face, Mrs. Lyte, very quietly, as if it were a matter in which she had no concern, mentioned the report that had been brought her. As quietly, Bergan told her the whole story of his stay at the Hall ; doing so the more readily, it needs not to be said to those anywise skilled in the intricacies of the human mind, because he felt that it was not required of him. For, though Mrs. Lyte listened with the kindest interest and sympathy, she took care to show by her manner that she did so more to satisfy him than herself. In matters like this, she was accustomed to trust her instincts more implicitly than her reason ; and she was wise enough to know that trust is the short road to truth, in all characters not radically bad.
And thus, with the singular inconsequence of human life, the explanation was made where it was not needed, and left unspoken where it would have availed much against future misunderstanding, trouble, wrong, and sorrow!
Five or six weeks now glided slowly by, without working any change in either the circumstances or the relations of the characters with whom this history has to do. Bergan still shivered in the still remoteness of position into which he had been Aung, partly by his fault and partly by his misfortune. Not only between him and his relatives, but dividing him from the whole reputable outside world, there seemed to be a gulf fixed, impassable save to formal courtesies and commonplace usages. Any. thing warmer, more personal, more exacting, sought in vain for an eligible crossing place; and, if it leaped the grey chasm, it was only to lose itself among chill, illusive shapes of mist on the opposite side.
Thus excluded from the only society for which he cared, Bergan did not, as a weaker character might have done, betake himself for. consolation to the lower circles of vice and dissipation that would have welcomed him rapturously. He could better afford to stand alone, he thought, than to throw himself into arms whose embrace would soil, and whose seeming support was an insidious undermining. Besides, it was much more in accordance with his character to regard the exclusion from which he suffered as a challenge to be answered, an adversary to be overcome, rather than a verdict to be acquiesced in. He would prove to the world that it had been mistaken.
Day after day, therefore, he spent in his office—as many a new-fledged lawyer had done before him-waiting with what patience he might for the clients that never came, and reading hard, by way of preparation for the cases that never presented themselves. It was dull and lonely work; yet it did him good service in giving him time for thought and reflection, and in making him acquainted with his own resources of will, courage, patience,
The only persons who came within the circle of loneliness that surrounded him were Mrs. Lyte, Cathie, and Dr. Remy. The first showed him much gentle, unobtrusive kindness, chiefly manifesting itself in a motherly oversight of his rooms and prevision of his wants. The second fluttered in and out of his office, like a bird or a butterfly, affording him much amusing, and often opportune, distraction from hard study or sober-hued thought. But neither of these two, for obvious reasons, could give him just the close, helpful friendship of which he stood in need.
Neither did he find it in Dr. Remy. Though he met the physician daily, and often engaged with him in hourlong colloquies upon all sorts of topics, he never felt that he really knew him any better than on the first day of their acquaintance. The doctor's peculiar frankness, , which had seemed, at first sight, to promise such facility of intimacy, proved to be really more of the nature of an elastic barrier, yielding everywhere to the slightest
pressure, but nowhere completely giving way; or, it might be still more fitly characterized as a deceitful quagmire, wherein the curious explorer sank indefinitely, but never touched solid bottom.
Not that the doctor was at all reticent in regard to the main facts of his outward life. In a desultory way he had furnished Bergan with a sufficiently distinct outline sketch of his somewhat eventful career up to the present moment-a career which, for shifts and turns, outdid that of Gil Blas. According to this, he was born in New Orleans, the posthumous son of a French refugee by an American wife. When he was twelve years old, his mother had presented him with a stepfather. The gift proved so little to his taste that, two years later, he ran away from the pair, and Aung himself into that El Dorado of boyish imagination-life at sea. In one capacity or another during the next twelve years, he not only contrived to visit most of the countries of Europe, but also, by dint of natural aptitude for study, to pick up a language or two, and to acquaint himself with the essential part of a college curriculum. It now occurred to him to return to New Orleans, and claim the modest patrimony awaiting him there in the hands of his father's executors. He found that his stepfather had been dead for three or four years, and his mother, after having exhausted her own scanty resources, was sinking, with her two children, into the dreary depths of poverty. It cost her some effort to recognize the slender stripling of her memory in the brown, bearded, broad-shouldered man who now presented himself before her as her son. However, his identity was satisfactorily established, both by certain indisputable personal marks, and by the presumptive evidence of his willingness to assume the burden of her support.
His next step had been to place himself in a lawyer's office, where, in virtue of close application, he made months do the work of years. Admitted by-and-by to the Bar, he had practised his profession for a brief space ; but, finding the legal life not wholly to his taste, he had fung it aside, and, with the ready facility which had characterized his whole career, had betaken himself to the study and the practice of medicine. Here, he averred, he had found his true vocation, the rightful mistress of his intellect, and should undergo no more transformations and indulge in no more wanderings.
So far, Dr. Remy gave quite as frank an account of himself as could be expected or desired ; but when it came to his inner life of thought, opinion, principle, his frankness was of the sort that obscures rather than explains. It put forth jest and earnest reason, and sophistry, airy spirituality and dead materialism, with equal readiness and with as much show of interest in one as the other. If Bergan caught at what seemed to be substance, it turned to shadow in his grasp. If he grappled with apparent earnest, it quickly resolved itself into a hollow helmet of sudden championship, or a thin mask of irony. He was often startled with a doubt
whether the doctor had any settled opinions or principles. He pulled down, but he built not up; he attacked, but he rarely defended; or, if he defended a thing to-day, more likely than not he would assault it to-morrow. All Bergan's own opinions and beliefs seemed to lose their consistency in the universal solvent of the doctor's talk, and only took shape again after a protracted process of precipitation in his own mind and heart.
If the latter organ made any part of Doctor Remy's bodily system, it never manifested itself to Bergan by any noticeable throb or sensible warmth. The young man was often puzzled by the question whence came the doctor's evident interest in himself, since it seemed so plain that it did not spring from any warm personal liking. He felt himself to be the object of his carefal study, frequently; of his spontaneous affection and sympathy, never. He could not but wonder at such an amount and duration of a purely intellectual interest for such he decided it to be—when it promised so little result.
However, the doctor's was the only society, worthy of the name, that was offered to him ; his, too, the only friendship, or semblance thereof, that came within his reach. He gratefully availed himself of both, even while conscious that neither fully met his wants, or would have been the object of his deliberate choice. Without this resource, the flow of Bergan's life would have been characterized by a drearier monotony, even, than at present.
The first slight break in its placid current occurred one morning on his return from breakfasting at the hotel. To his surprise, Vic was tied before Mrs. Lyte's gate, arching her neck, and twisting her ears about, in her usual wild and nervous fashion. In most confiding proximity to her restless heels, Brick lay fast asleep on the sunshiny sward.
Roused by the sound of approaching footsteps, the latter sprang to his feet, and donned the palm-leaf debris that he termed his hat, in time to doff it in reverential acknowledgment of Bergan's surprised greeting.
“Why, Brick! how do you do? Is anything the matter at the Hall ?"
“No, massa Harry, nothing 't all. Only, ole massa, he say we's gittin lazy, Vic an' me; an' he tought you'd better be gettin' some good out ob us, dan to leab us in de stable; no, I mean in the cabin; no, one in de stable and turrer in the cabin-a-eatin' our heads off ; dat's jes' what he said, massa. So he clared us off in a hurry, an' tole us to gib you his lub, and tell you dat he 'sposed you'd kinder forgotten 'bout us."
There could be no question but that the overture was kindly meant, on the Major's part, but it was one that Bergan could not possibly accept. Judging from present indications, it would be long before his professional income would suffice for his own support, to say nothing of the additional expense of a servant and horse. Besides, he had never regarded either Brick or the filly as
actual gifts, but only convenient loans, for his use while at the Hall. Any other view of the matter would, by no means, have suited his independent character. And, if this had been the case before the rupture with his uncle, it was doubly so now. Major Bergan must not be suffered to think that his resentment had given way, or that his goodwill had been restored, by the aid of any gifts, however valuable, or kindly bestowed.
Yet he would be glad to send his uncle a friendly message, to show that he was really grateful for his kindness, and ready to accept any overture which would not burden him with too heavy a sense of obligation. To ensure its safe delivery, without the risk of hopeless travesty, at Brick's hands, he went to his desk, and wrote:
“Dear Uncle,—Thank you for sending me your love; that is a thing which I am glad to get and keep. But I cannot keep either Brick or Vic; I have no present use for them, and no means of providing for them, if I had. Besides, I never regarded either as mine, except while I remained at the Hall. Many thanks all the same, for
no avail, he was finally forced to mount Vic, and turn homeward, a picture of the blackest despair. On the
way, his mind was illumined with a gleam of hope. Like all the negroes of the plantation, he had large faith in the occult power of old Rue. His present journey, he well knew, was mainly owing to her influence. If she could be made to see the propriety of his immediate return to Bergan's service, as he did, no doubt she could find a way to bring it to pass. And her conversion to his views could be effected, he shrewdly thought, by a skilful use of Bergan's confession of straitened circumstances, as well as a certain suggestive increase of gravity that he had observed in the young man's manner. His smile had not come quite so readily and brightly to his lips as in the old days at Bergan Hall. No doubt he was poor, lonely, and troubled. He needed some one to take care of him, and watch over him. And who so eligible to this position as himself? For Brick had inherited his grandmother's devotion to the Bergan blood, and believed that the chief end of his being was to live and die loyally in its service. Moreover, his young master had not only taken tenacious hold of his affections, but also of that still stronger faculty of the negro mind-his imagination. Though he might be a distressed knight, just at present, Brick's faith was firm that his time of triumph was not far off; and then, he wanted to be “there to see!”
He lost no time, therefore, in presenting himself before Rue, on his arrival at Bergan Hall. And so dexterously did he work upon her love and pride, by the deplorable picture that he drew of Bergan's sadness and poverty, that the faithful old nurse straightway betook herself to her master, and never left him till she had persuaded him to mount his horse, and set forth, at a brisk trot, toward Berganton.
In truth, the Major was only too glad to be so persuaded. His anger towards his nephew had quickly burned out by reason of its own fury, and, in thinking, the matter over, he had come to be more tickled by the young man's
than he had at first been displeased by his flight.
“ You should have seen him knocking those fellows around like so many ninepins!” he exclaimed, exultingly to Rue. “I couldn't have done it more neatly myself in my best days. I tell you he is a true Bergan at bottom, if he has got a few crinks and cranks at top. What a pity he could not make up his mind to stay quietly on the old place where he belongs, and which he might have done what he pleased with if he had only taken me on the right tack! But he'll come back-he'll come back! Estates like Bergan Hall don't grow on every bush. It won't take him long to find out that he can't raise one from the law; and then he'll be glad to come back to
and I'll receive him as the father did the prodiga
The signature was written only after considerable hesitation. His note would be sure to fail of the desired conciliatory effect, if it wholly ignored the name upon which his uncle had so strenuously insisted. Yet he could not bring himself to incorporate it with his lawful sign-manual. He was forced to compromise matters by thus using it as a sort of sobriquet.
Giving the note to Brick, he bade him take it straightway to his master. The negro's face instantly fell; then it brightened again with the light of a plausible explanation.
“I’spec l'se to come back, arter I'se 'livered it? he asked, anxiously.
“No, Brick," Bergan gravely answered. “I cannot afford to keep you; it is as much as I can do, just now, to keep myself.” “ But, massa Harry,” remonstrated Brick,
you know I 'longs to you? I'se your nigger, sure as deff; ole massa gib me to you, an' tole me to wait on you, don' you ʼmember? An' how's I a goin' to wait on you, I'd jes' like to know, wid tree good miles atween us? 'Sides, I'd feel so mortify to go right back dar, like a dog dat don' own no massa, arter i done tole 'em all I's coming to lib wid you."
It was not without difficulty that Brick was convinced of the inevitableness of his return to Major Bergan. Not only did his heart yearn to be in the service of his young master, but he was fully persuaded that he could help, rather than hinder, his fortunes. He forcibly expressed his willingness to work his fingers off in the cause, and gravely proposed to put himself on a course of semistarvation, in the matter of “keep." All this being of