Page images

"No; it does not visit our western villages.”

“Then, I advise you to take refuge in one of them for the next three months. It is certain to visit Berganton ere long."

“Indeed!” said Bergan, with more curiosity than alarm. “Why do you think so ?”

“From the weather, the atmosphere, the present type of disease-a dozen indications patent to the eye of experience. Besides, I am informed by a private letter that it has already appeared in New Orleans. Its arrival here is but a question of time, and I assure you that its acquaintance is to be avoided.”

“Doubtless; and I shall do my best to avoid it, except by running away."

“ You might as well say," answered Doctor Remy, drily, “that you will take every precaution against drowning, except to keep your head above water. Don't be foolbardy, Arling. Yellow Jack has a keen appetite for strangers ; that is to say, for all who are not nativeborn. If he spares any, it is usually the sickly and feeble, not the strong and vigorous. He would consider you a toothsome morsel. Take my advice, and go home, or go north, or take a sea-voyage; do anything rather than remain here during the last of summer and the beginning of autumn. It will be no loss to you. After the first of next month, there will be absolutely nothing for a lawyer to do here but try to keep cool.”

And you ?” asked Bergan.

“Oh, I stay, of course. An epidemic is a physician's harvest time. Besides, I have had the yellow fever."

" Then the native-born do not all escape?

“By no means. Besides, I lost my birthright by many years' absence in Europe. It was immediately after my return that I was taken. Now I may consider myself acclimated.”

“As I must be," replied Bergan, “if, as is likely, I am to spend the remainder of my life at the south. Thank you for your friendly warning, but I think I must stay."

Doctor Remy shrugged his shoulders, and said no more. He had merely tried the first and simplest expedient which occurred to him for removing Bergan from the neighbourhood. He was not surprised nor troubled that it had failed; he had expected as much. But there were other and surer means to his end, he believed, at his command.

However, he was not obliged to resort to them. Early next morning Bergan came into his office, with an open letter in his hand and a most anxious face.

Read that,” said he, huskily," and tell me if there is any hope.”

Doctor Remy obeyed, reading the letter not once only, but twice, and looking long and meditatively at the signature. Then he lifted his eyes to Bergan's face.

“Plenty of hope, in my opinion," said he. “I do not attach as much importance as this Doctor Trubie

does to your mother's fancy that she is going to die. It only argues a depressed state of mind, corresponding to a low state of body. Nevertheless, it is well to do what. ever can be done to raise her spirits, and I suspect that your presence at her bedside will avail much to that end. Of course, you set out at once?"

Certainly. Can you tell me at what hour the next train leaves Savalla?"

Doctor Remy glanced at his watch. “In an hour and a half. That gives you ample time--fifteen minutes to throw a few things into a portmanteau, and tell me what I can do for you while you are away; five minutes for adieux', and an hour and ten minutes to reach Savalla, in the saddle, with a swift horse."

“If I can find one at such short notice," said Bergan, doubtfully.

Doctor Remy pulled a bell-wire, and Scipio's black head appeared as instantaneously as if he had been attached to the other end of it.

“Saddle the roan, and take him round to the front gate,” said Doctor Remy. “Mr. Arling will ride him to Savalla. You will go after him, by the stage, this afternoon. Quick now!"

The head ducked, and disappeared.

“How can I thank you ?" exclaimed Bergan, wringing the Doctor's hand.

"By attending to the portmanteau business at once. I will come with you; we can talk while you work. I want to ask something about this Doctor Trubie. Does he keep up with the times-in medicine, that is?"

“ I don't know-I believe so."

" H'm; there have been some recent discoveries of great value in the treatment of typhoids, when they run long and low, as they are apt to do. Suppose I write down a few suggestions, which, if there is grave need, you can commend to Doctor Trubie's favourable consideration, Otherwise, don't interfere."

Bergan tried once more to express his gratitude, as the folded paper was put in his hand; but Doctor Remy cut him short.

“If you really want to thank me,” said he," do it by staying away until the sickly season is over ; I shall have yellow fever patients enough without you. Indeed, you must; having left, it would be suicidal to come back before the first of November. Tell your mother that I said so, when she is convalescent."

“When she is convalescent,” repeated Bergan, quickly. “Then you do hope?"

“Of course I do. There is every reason for it. Your mother, being a Bergan, has a sound constitution, and an almost indomitable vitality; and she is not yet old. If Trubie makes a good fight, he is sure to win. At any rate, never despair till the breath is out of the body; nor even then, till you are certain that it cannot be brought back."

Bergan could not but feel a pang of self-reproach for bis lorg-smothered dislike and distrust of the man who

[ocr errors]

was thus loading him with obligations-help on his way “ Thank you. I shall expect to hear from you through to his mother, ready encouragement, and valuable profes- Doctor Remy—all of you, I mean. He has promised to sional advice. It did not occur to him that there is such let me know how everything goes on here." a thing as doing good that evil may come.

Astra lifted her eyes searchingly to his face. Her fine Doctor Remy looked after him with a triumphant perceptions had not failed to take note of his inadvertent smile. “One out of my way already!” he exclaimed. linking together of Doctor Remy and herself, and his quick " It would seem that the devil (another name for fate or attempt to conceal it. She divined that he knew her chance) has helped me."

secret. Her eyes fell, and her face flushed. Bergan next sought Mrs. Lyte and Astra, for a part- Bergan took her hand, and lifted it, in gentle, chivaling word. He found the latter in her studio, sitting idly rous fashion, to his lips. “I wish you every happiness,” by a window, with her hands folded listlessly in her lap, said he, in a tone that said more than the words—“every and a weary, dejected face that went to his heart. Never sunshine, and few clouds. Good-bye." before had he seen her otherwise than busy, bright, and "Good-bye," she answered, withdrawing her hand, earnest ; never had she met his look with so faint and yet not without a certain lingering pressure, that seemed transient a smile.

even sadder than her face, and that Bergan felt long after“ I am sorry that you are going," said she, sombrely ; wards, And he left her sitting where he found her. si sorrier, perhaps, than the occasion may seem to war- Mrs. Lyte and Cathie followed him to the door, the rant; but I cannot rid myself of a suspicion that this one with much quiet sympathy and regret, the other with phase of our life and friendship is finished; and who can passionate tears and lamentations. tell what the next may be? Do you remember our first “He will not come back! he will not come back!” meeting under the oaks, and the red sunset-light, and the she screamed, wringing her hands, as he rode away ; and dark sunset-cloud? You interpreted them to mean that the mournful cry followed him down the street, like a we were to know sunshine and shade together, did you prophecy of woe. not? Well, we have had the sunshine; now it is time A little farther on, he discovered that Nix was trotting for the shade.

quietly alongside of his horse. And so intimately had the “You forget," said Bergan, kindly," that the cloud was dog been connected with all his sojourn under Mrs. Lyte's but for a moment, and the sunshine returned.”

roof, that, in sending him back, he seemed to close the “No, I remember it well. But the cloud was very final

page of this whole epoch of his life. dark while it lasted, and the shine was not quite so bright His road skirted a retired portion of the grounds of afterward. It was nearer to its setting.”

Oakstead. Suddenly he espied Carice, standing on the Bergan could scarcely believe that it was Astra who bank of the creek, with her eyes thoughtfully fixed upon spoke. Hitherto she had been the moral sunshine of the its rippling flow. His sad heart yearned towards her with house, felt even where it did not directly fall. Her spirit, irresistible force. Glancing at his watch, he saw that in its potency of cheer, resembled the sunbeam which, there was yet time for a brief, parting word. He Aung though it kindle but one little spot on the floor into actual himself from his horse, threw the bridle over a gatepost, brightness, diffuses its light and cheerfulness through- and ran quickly towards her. out a whole room. As every article of furniture, every “I am so glad to find you here!” he exclaimed, as he picture, every face, in the room, is the brighter for the drew rear ; “ otherwise, I must have gone without saying sunbeam, so every inmate of Mrs. Lyte's rambling old good-bye. I am sent for, in great haste ; my mother is dwelling had been the happier for Astra's presence and

very ill, and" influence. The sound of her clear, buoyant voice, the He stopped, his grave face said the rest. thought of her light, busy figure, just across the hall, had “I am very, very sorry!" putting her hand in his, always served to quicken and brighten his own energies. with quick, earnest sympathy. “When did you hear ? ” It had been very much his wont to bring all his shadows, “ This morning. She insisted that I should be sent for, discouragements, and despondencies, to be dissipated by as soon as she was taken ill ; she believed that she could contact with her breezy activity and cheery hopefulness. not recover. It is the typhoid fever." What had come over her, that she met him now with Carice's face blanched suddenly. “Ah! that has a such dreary premonition of ill, such persistent dwelling fearful sound,” she said, shiveringly. “My two upon the dark side? He looked down upon her with the brothers --" question in his eyes, if not on his lips.

Her voice failed, and her slight frame shook with She understood and answered it.

sudden emotion. It was the first time that Bergan had “It is only a dark mood," said she, passing her hand heard her allude to the only sorrow which she had yet over her brow, “ not an actual trouble--at least, not yet. known ; but the effect of which had been all the more But forgive me for afflicting you with it now, when you keenly felt, doubtless, because, for her parents' sake, she are under the shadow of a real cloud. Let us hope that had shut it resolutely into the depths of her heart, never it will pass quickly. When you reach home, may the allowing its shadow to be seen for a moment on the face sunshine be already there!"

wherein they now looked for consolation and cheer.

At the same time, Doctor Remy stood smiling to himself, in his office,-a dark, ominous smile.

“I am sure of three months," said he. “And in three months, tact and perseverance can accomplish a

great deal.”

At the same time, too, Astra rose suddenly from the chair, where Bergan had left her sitting, and begun to pace up and down the room.

“I have been idle too long," she said to herself; “I have let myself dream till my world is peopled with shadows, and I cannot distinguish the false from the true. Work is what I want. Work will exorcise these phantoms, and make my brain clear and strong again.”

She stopped and looked fixedly into vacancy, striving to recall a former conception that had been dazzled out of sight in the golden dawn of her love. In a moment, it rose again before her; a great, stalwart, straining figure,a man struggling up out of the waves that had well nigh worsted him, with a little child on his shoulders.

Quickly she improvised a kind of platform, and brought out her fertile box of clay. Nervously, she fastened her supports together; rapidly around them rose the soft grey plastic material in the rude, rough resemblance of a human form.


Much moved, Bergan put his arm round the slender tremulous form. At first, it was only the blind, manly instinct of help and support that prompted him ; but with the act there came a swift revelation, a great rush of tenderness that almost took his breath away. Though he had never suspected it till now, he knew, in an instant, beyond the possibility of a doubt, not only that he loved Carice, but that he had loved her long.

Carice, on her part, was quick to feel the sudden, subtile change in the character of the support given her, and made a fluttering movement of escape. But Bergan would not let her go.

“Carice,” said he, gravely,“ if I should return sorrowing, will you

console me? “If I can,” she answered, simply, raising her blue eyes to his face.

“If you can!” he repeated, with a deep, tender intonation,—"oh, Carice! it must be a heavy sorrow indeed that you cannot console!”

As he spoke, the day, which had hitherto been cloudy, suddenly broke into a smile, pouring a flood of golden light on the river, trickling through the boughs of the overhanging trees in great shining drops, and flinging a yellow gleam far down their grey trunks. Wondrous sympathy of Nature with the bliss of two spirits made one,—the tender joy that keeps, throughout the musty years, the freshness and fragrance of its Eden birth! Yet, had the day still held its gloom, it would have been bright in Carice's eyes, and bright in Bergan's. Wherever Love is newly born, it creates a sunshine of the heart, which overflows upon the outward world, and fills it with celestial radiance.

Five minutes later, and Carice was alone by the river's bank, blushing to hear how persistently the little stream kept whispering and singing of what it had just seen and heard. The leaves, too, seemed to be softly talking it over among themselves; and a red bird and a grey one were gossiping merrily about it among the branches.

Still more plainly, Carice's face told the story, when she sought her parents. They saw at once that it was not the same face which had gone out from them an hour before. It had changed as an opening rosebud must have changed in the same time, under the balmy breathing of the warm south wind. Its merely girlish loveliness was over; playing about the mouth, and shining from the eyes, there was a bright and tender smile that seemed gushing from the very heart of awakening womanhood. Never had she seemed so lovely, never so radiant. Looking upon her, it was easy to divine the secret of angelic beauty. The heavenly existences are immortally beautiful because immortally happy.

“Did you engage yourself to him?” asked Mr. Bergan almost sternly, when her brief tale was told.

“Of course not,” answered Carice, opening wide her blue eyes at the unusual tone, -"not until you and mamma are consulted. Only we know that we love each other."


Now and then, on a summer's day, the air is suddenly filled with minute, swarming insects of the genus ephemera. They come unnoticed and unheralded; the air is thick with them ere one is aware ; ears, mouths, and nostrils are filled with them, despite all efforts to the contrary; they are variously regarded from the scientific, the poetic, and the moral point of view, or merely as nuisances; by and by, they are gone as they came.

In just such wise, a swarm of rumours prejudicial to the reputation of Bergan Arling suddenly filled the air of Berganton; coming no one knew whence, but quickly circulating everywhere, to be variously met with surprise, doubt, belief, regret, anger, and indifference. It was averred that he had gone home deeply in debt, at least to his good friend Doctor Remy, who certainly deserved better treatment at his hands. It was alleged that he was hopelessly the victim of a depraved appetite for strong drink, although, by the help of the same good friend, he had managed, thus far, to save himself from public exposure. It was affirmed that he had persuaded Astra Lyte into a secret engagement, perhaps for the sake of mere, pastime, perhaps with a view to the ultimate possession of the roof which had so long sheltered him, or to the union of his own with Astra's chances for the future ownership of Bergan Hall. Finally, it was shrewdly suspected that, having grown weary alike of the debts, the engagements, and the measure of constraint only too glad to prescribe immediate change of air and


which he had hitherto exercised over himself, he had suddenly broken away from all three, with the trumped-up excuse of his mother's illness, and taken himself off, not to return.

Coming, as has been said, no one knew from whence, and having no apparent vouchers, these rumours nevertheless penetrated to counting-rooms and boudoirs, to offices and to bar-rooms, to Major Bergan on his vast estate, and Dick Causton in his narrow cabin, to Godfrey Bergan at his desk, and Carice beside her mother-everywhere, save to the two persons most directly interested; namely, Bergan Arling on his rapid way homeward, and Astra Lyte in her studio.

Astra was hard at work now. Every hour, her clay model grew in strength or symmetry under her rapid touches. Yet her hope of finding clearness and quietness of mind in the exercise of her beloved art, had been woefully disappointed. The phantoms of doubt and anxiety which had haunted her idleness were not laid by her industry, but only held in abeyance until the inevitable moment of exhaustion, or of suspended inspiration, brought them upon her again, with tenfold power to annoy. Do what she would, she could not shut her eyes to the fact that a change had come over Doctor Remy, nor prevent herself from speculating as to its nature and cause.

At first, it was only that miserable and dream-like change of look and manner which forbids one to complain, because it gives no lucid explanation of itself to the intellect, however it may disturb and depress the heart. Its effect was magical, nevertheless, in clearing Astra's vision from that soft, transfiguring haze of the imagination through which love delights to gaze at its object, and in giving her occasional glimpses into the depths and intricacies of Doctor Remy's character. Unconsciously, whenever he came near her, she fell to watching his words, his tones, his looks, even his motions and attitudes, for indications of the hidden, inner man, upon whose qualities and tendencies her happiness so largely depended. The object of this scrutiny was too keen-witted not to be aware of it, and too subtle not to avail himself of it to further his own ends. With apparent carelessness, but consummate art, he allowed more and more of his true character to come to the surface; he showed himself scornful toward religion, faithless toward mankind, indifferent and unsympathizing toward herself, in the hope of quickly transforming her affection into disgust, and forcing her to put a speedy end to their engagement. Doing this whenever he met her, he none the less took good care to make it manifest that he avoided her as far as possible.

Under these circumstances, no wonder that Astra grew pale and thin, that alternately she worked as in a fever, or stood idle as in a dream, that her old, cheery alacrity gave place to sombre restlessness, and her glow of happy spirits to pale depression, that, in short, she speedily became so unlike herself as greatly to alarm Mrs. Lyte, who finally appealed to Doctor Remy. He was

Mrs. Lyte stood aghast.

“I do not see how I can manage it,” said she, slowly. • My income is just sufficient for our present mode of life; there is no surplus to meet the added expense of a health trip."

Doctor Remy mused for a moment. “We will talk over this matter again,” said he, at length, looking at his watch; “just now I have an engagement. But trust my assurance that wherever there is a plain necessity for a thing, there is a way to obtain it. Good morning.”

Doctor Remy's engagement did not prevent him from repairing straightway to Bergan Hall, whither the rumours already alluded to had preceded him. And so artfully did he work upon Major Bergan's hasty and arbitrary temper as to induce him forthwith to warn Mrs. Lyte of the existence of the forfeited mortgage, and his intention to foreclose at an early day. Be it said, however, in the Major's behalf, that he graciously designed said warning to play somewhat of the part of a blessing in disguise. For, having first shown Mrs. Lyte how completely she was in his power, it was his generous intention to offer her the largest mercy thereafter, even to the immediate relinquishment of every claim against her estate, on the easy condition that she and her daughter should at once break off all relations and engagements with his nephew, Bergan Arling. Thus, he would save Astra from what he was easily persuaded would turn out to be a most unhappy marriage ; at the same time that he would gratify a certain odd itching in his fingers to meddle in Bergan's affairs. The whole business was arranged in less than an hour, and Doctor Remy returned homeward triumphant.

Nor was his elation at all shadowed by any thought of the suffering about to be inflicted at his instigation. Men of his naturally hard and forceful character, intensified by long culture of the intellect at the expense of the sensibilities, are apt to take a terribly straight path in one sense, if a woefully crooked one in another, to whatever end they have in view. The feelings of others, where they cannot be made to subserve their purposes, are regarded as so many obstructions in their way ; to be pushed aside, or trampled under foot, as the case may be.

Possibly, too, they do not credit others with a greater depth of feeling than they are conscious of in themselves. Certainly, Doctor Remy, knowing nothing by experience, of the tender and sacred associations that cluster around the home of years, was not likely to concern himself about the probable grief of Mrs. Lyte, at leaving hers, except as. it might hinder or prevent her departure. For, go she must—at least, for a time-since Astra would not be likely to go without her. His present task was so to smooth and clear the way for them, on the one hand, while he furnished the necessary degree of motive power on the other, that they should be gone ere Major Bergan was aware, or had submitted his terms of compromise to their consideration.


OVERBURDENED. CARICE BERGAN was gifted with instincts singularly quick and delicate. She had not long breathed the same atmosphere with Astra and Doctor Remy, before she felt it growing heavy around her with some intensity of emotion which she neither shared nor understood. It might be sympathy, it might be aversion; in either case, its effect was to make her feel confused and constrained in their presence. At one moment, she seemed to behold them afar off, as it were, in a sphere of their own, whither she had neither the right nor the ability to follow them; at another, she felt herself standing between them, barring their way to a free and satisfactory interchange of thought and feeling; and again, she believed that Doctor Remy alone was responsible for her discomfort, interrupting, by his presence, the cordial flow of sympathy between Astra and herself. At any rate, it would be a relief to escape from so oppressive an atmosphere; accordingly, she took her departure, leaving the lovers—if such they can be called-together.

Certainly, there was nothing lover-like in the manner with which they faced each other, a few moments after the door had closed behind her. That brief interval had been spent by both in preparation for the crisis which the one knew, and the other felt, to be approaching. Astra awaited it with a mixture of eagerness and dread; she was weary of wearing the checkered tissue of suspense and anxiety; she would be glad to know exactly what was in store for her, even though the bitter fruit of such knowledge should be mortification and anguish. Doctor Remy's face was set and hard ; over it a sombre emotion, like the grey shadow of a cloud on a rock, now and then passed swiftly, taking nothing from its sternness, but adding much to its gloom. He looked like a man who, at no slight cost to himself, has braced his soul with iron for the performance of some heavy, but necessary, task. Little as he likes it, he will carry it out pitilessly to the end.

With an inauspicious frown on his brow-none the less dark because it must have been assumed-he now opened the conversation by saying, abruptly

“Astra, I have heard some very strange rumours of late.”

“Indeed!” she returned, with a note of disappointment, as well as of surprise, in her voice. This was but a roundabout road to explanation, she thought; it would have pleased her better had the Doctor chosen a more direct one.

She looked round for a chair, and sat down wearily, as if to wait his pleasure with such patience as she could command,

However, Doctor Remy was going as straight to the point-his point, at least as could be wished. • “Perhaps you will be less indifferent to these rumours,” he continued, insinuatingly, “when you understand that they concern you, and your good name, much.”

A slight Aush rose to Astra's face, and her eyes lit; but she kept her seat, and she answered not a word, though Doctor Remy waited a moment, as if he expected her to speak.

Seeing her silent, however, he went on slowly, and with seeming reluctance; yet, to a keen and disinterested observer, it might have appeared that he was trying his best to provoke her.

“I once told you that it was not in my nature to trust,” said he. “But I have trusted you, Astra, even to blindness, else I should not have been indebted to others for the first intimation of things that I ought to have seen for myself. I should have discovered what sort of game you were playing, before the knowledge was forced upon me at the hands of public rumour. I suppose that I ought to take shame to myself for being so easily deceived—I do; nevertheless, your shame is certainly the greater for having so deceived me."

The flame in Astra's eyes was kindling brightly now, and her breath came quick and short; nevertheless, it was in a tone of the coldest and quietest dignity that she answered

“I am not quick at reading riddles; be so good as to tell me, plainly, what you mean.”

“As plainly as the subject allows," returned Doctor Remy, in a tone that was in itself a taunt. “I mean that the names of Astra Lyte and Bergan Arling are ringing together from one end of the town to the other in a way which, it may readily be believed, is not pleasant to my ears. It is confidently asserted—and believed that a secret engagement exists between them ; that is to say, the lady has long admitted the gentleman to a degree of daily intimacy and familiarity, which she could not with propriety have accorded to any other than her promised husband ; some say, not even to him. Mr. Arling has been observed to be in her studio for hours together; he has been seen strolling with her in the outskirts of the town; the twain have been noticed talking earnestly together in that out-of-the-way spot known as the oak amphitheatre. On all these occasions the lady has been observed to be so much the more demonstrative of the two, as to give rise to the suspicion that the gentleman's sudden journey westward has been taken, mainly, for the purpose of freeing himself from entanglements not approved by his better judgment."

As these atrocious sentences fell, one by one, with distinct and cutting emphasis, from Doctor Remy's lips, Astra rose to her feet; the flush on either cheek settled into a vivid crimson spot, in the midst of a deadly pallor ; her eyes darted fire ; her lips trembled with the rush of an indignation too tumultuous, as yet, for word or action. Noting these signs, Doctor Remy congratulated himself upon the successful progress of his experiment. Already, the lioness was at bay; with a little more provocation, she would think only of vengeance.

He resumed his statement. "At first, of course, I paid no attention to these rumours; my ears and eyes were closed against them by that blind, foolish trust in

« PreviousContinue »