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momentary grace around his words and actions. It was like the sunbeams that occasionally glimmer out over a cloudy landscape, attracting the gaze even more surely than any full blaze of splendour, yet causing a certain impatience, as if they ought either to kindle into satisfactory brightness, or be wholly extinguished. The rudeness of his ordinary manner was only thrown into bolder relief by these flashes of a half-extinct good breeding.
To meet the demands of thirst, a bottle of brandy, and another of water, stood by Major Bergan's plate, and, after filling his own glass, he pushed the spirit over to his nephew.
“There, Harry! that is what will put new life into you, after your journey."
“ Thank you ; but I seldom use brandy.”
"A little too strong for you, eh?” returned the Major, indulgently. “Well, there's a stock of wine in the cellar of the Hall-I reckon some of it must be fifty or sixty years old, it has been there ever since I can remember-1'll send for a bottle or two of that.” And he uplifted a stentorian call of “ Jip,” which brought that urchin-of-all-work to the door, in breathless haste.
"Uncle," begun Bergan, but the Major was thundering out minute directions about cellars, and keys, and tiers, and labels, and either could not, or would pot, hear.
"I am sorry that you have given yourself the trouble," said Bergan, when quiet was restored. “I do not care for wine."
Major Bergan set down his glass, and looked at his nephew sternly and gloomily. “Don't tell me that you are a mean-spirited teetotaller," he growled. “I can't say how I might take it. There never was a milksop in the family yet.”
“No, I am hardly that. But I am not accustomed to use spirituous liquors of any sort, and I certainly do not need them. I am in perfect health ; I hardly know what it is to feel tired.” .
“I wish I didn't!” muttered his uncle, a little less savagely. “ I'm pretty hearty, for my years, to be sure. But an ache gets into my bones now and then, just to remind me that I am not so young as I was once; and the best thing to rout it is a good glass of brandy. Better take one?"
"Not if you will be so good as to excuse me,” replied Bergan, with a smile so frank and a gesture so courteous, that the Major was irresistibly mollified.
"A guest's wish is a command," said he, with one of his rare glimmers of courtesy. “But here comes the wine! I really cannot excuse you from that—at least, I should be very loath to do so. I'll even join you in a glass. Here's to your mother's health and happiness! You won't refuse to drink that, not on the place where she was raised.”
If Bergan was annoyed by his uncle's persistency, he forebore to show it. But, having duly honoured the
toast, he pushed his glass aside, and declined every invitation to have it refilled.
“Well, well,” said his uncle, at last, in a tone of resignation, " we won't quarrel about it now. But I see that (your education is incomplete, and I shall take it upon myself to finish it. If I don't teach you to drink like a gentleman in a month, I shall know that you are no true Bergan, in spite of your looks."
Bergan only smiled.
“Your temperance is the one thing I don't like about you,” pursued his uncle, filling his own glass to the brim. “Ah, yes, there's one more; your mother writes that you have studied law, and mean to practise it.”
“Yes; I received my licence just two months ago.”
“Humph! it's well named! “Licence,' indeed! Licensed to lie, cheat, steal; or, at least, to help others to do so, which amounts to the same thing. No, no, Harry, it may be well to know law enough to keep one from being imposed upon, but a Bergan can't stoop to practise it. Lawyers are, without exception, a set of miserable, lying sneaking pettifoggers. You could drop the souls of a dozen into a child's thimble, and they'd rattle in the end of it after she had put it on her finger.”
Bergan's cheek fushed a little, but he was more im. pressed by the comic than the provoking side of his uncle's dogged prejudice, and he only answered goodhumouredly
“I am sorry that you should have had occasion to think so badly of the profession. I shall feel that it is incumbent upon me to make you change your opinion."
“Never !” growled Major Bergan, with an oath. “You would find it easier to lift the Gibraltar rock on the point of a needle. Unless,” he added, after a moment, “ you can tell me how to make a suit lie against Godfrey Bergan. I've been trying it for ten years, and I've spent money enough to buy another plantation as large as this.”
“My uncle Godfrey !” exclaimed Bergan, in much surprise. “Why, what has he done?”
“You had better not call him your 'uncle Godfrey' in my hearing,” responded the Major, grimly. “In ceasing to be my half-brother, he ceased to be your uncle. Done! What hasn't he done? First, he got his head filled with cursed Abolitionist notions, and freed all his slaves. Next, he offered the greater part of his land for sale at public auction; just think of it! some of the old lands of Bergan Hall put up to be knocked down to the highest bidder! But I settled that business, by proclaiming far and wide that whoever bid for them might expect to reckon with me for his impertinence; and as I'm known to be a man of my word, no one 'dared to lift his voice at the sale, and I got them at my own price. Finally, Godfrey capped the climax of his degeneracy by opening a hardware store in Berganton. Think of that, Harry!-a Bergan of Bergan Hall, with a long pedigree of warriors and nobles at his back, standing behind a
counter, selling hoes and tea-kettles to negroes and “I should deserve to be given up," replied Bergan, crackers !”
smiling, “if I were lightly to forsake a vocation for which Bergan was silent. Though not without some touch I am fitted both by taste and education, to enter upon one of family pride, derived from his mother, he had neverthe- of which I know absolutely nothing. I may reasonably less been taught to believe all upright labour honourable, hope to succeed as a lawyer ; I fear I should make but a to hold that life was ennobled from within, by its motive poor planter. Moreover, it would not suit me to be and aim, rather than from without, by its place and form. dependent upon any one." He could not help suspecting, therefore, that his host, “Stuff! nonsense!" exclaimed Major Bergan, bluntly deliberately leading the narrow life of an overseer of “I defy you to make a poor planter under my tuition ; I slaves, on his ancestral estate, was in reality a more claim to understand that business. As for dependence, degenerate son of his house than the relative whom he so never you fear but that I shall get aid and comfort enough bitterly contemned. Yet he foresaw that any attempt to out of you to make our accounts square. For, after all, defend Godfrey Bergan would but result in bringing Harry, it is a dreary kind of a life that I'm leading, witbdown upon himself a torrent of fierce, half-drunken out chick or child, kith or kin, to speak to, or to care for. vituperation. Seasoned vessel though he was, the I cannot help asking myself, sometimes, what is the good Major's repeated draughts of brandy, very little diluted, of it all, and how is it to end. But with a fine young had not been without effect, in Aushing his face and in- fellow like you here, to enter into my plans now, and flaming his habitually irritable temper.
carry them out after I'm gone--why, it would be like a mood would ill brook contradiction.
fresh lease of life to me! We'll rebuild the old house, Fortunately, he neither expected nor waited for an you shall drop the Arling,' and behold the seventh answer. Hastily emptying his glass and filling it again, Harry Bergan of Bergan Hall, on this side the water ! he went on.
And really, I don't see how you can do better, Harry. “Now, Harry, if you can tell me any way by which Here are wealth, position, influence, and a chance to I can ruin his business, turn him out of his house, and oblige your old uncle, ready to your hand. Stay, my boy, make him quit the country, I'll own that I've done the law an injustice, and give you a handsome fee besides. The Major's bluff voice had sunken to a hoarse tone Can the thing be done?”
of sadness, in his confession of loneliness, and finally, to Bergan silently shook his head; he would not trust one of entreaty, that touched his nephew's heart. Nor himself to speak.
was the prospect held up before him without its own “Just as I told you!” exclaimed the Major, with peculiar and powerful attraction. He looked thoughtfully great virulence of expression. "The law has plenty of into the fire, debating with himself what and how he quibbles and quirks for the help of rogues and scoundrels,
should reply. His uncle watched him keenly for a but it can't lend a hand to an honest cause, at a pinch ! moment, and then said, in his kindest tone and mannerI'll none of it, Harry! I'll none of it! Get what you "Well, Harry, I won't press you for an answer, now. know of it out of your head as soon as you can.”
Stay here a month or two, and look around you; and The Major paused long enough to empty his glass, then, we'll talk the matter over again, and see if we cannot and then resumed, in a more amiable tone. “The best settle upon something that shall be mutually satisfactory. thing you can do, Harry, is to stay here with me; I'll For so long, surely, you can afford to be my guest." make a rice-planter of you. It doesn't take a ninny for that, by any means; your talents will not be thrown away. And if we suit each other, as I think we shall, I'll give you Bergan Hall when my title to it expires.
III. To be sure, I'm strong and hearty yet ; but no one lasts for ever. And as you are named after me, and I like your
Pattern OF OLD Fidelity.” Jooks, I would rather give it to you than anybody else. In fact, I've had it in my mind, for some time, to write Before Bergan could answer, there came a low tap at to Eleanor and ask her to do just what she has done- the door. A negro woman of unusual height, and singusend one of her boys to live with me, and be my heir." larly venerable and dignified aspect, stood courtesying
“You mistake,” said Bergan, quickly, “neither my slightly, on the threshold. She was plainly of great age mother nor myself had any such idea. She merely
- her face was deeply furrowed, and her hair, where it wished me to consult you about commencing my pro- could be seen under the dark blue kerchief that covered fession in--"
her head, was white as snow,—yet her shoulders had not “Tut! tut! Harry," interrupted his uncle," I meant bent under the burden of years, her tall frame, though you
and she did not And I mean it more than ever gaunt, was little palsied by the touch of actual infirmity. now; that is, if you'll yield to my wish about the law. But Although she carried a cane, it was not so much for its if you persist in sticking to that, I give you up, once for support, as for its aid in feeling out her way along her all-mind, I give you up!"
accustomed paths; she had been blind for many years.
“ Master Harry," said she, clasping her hands over the head of her cane, and speaking in a slow, somewhat tremulous tones, but with neither the slovenly utterance nor the vicious pronunciation of the ordinary slave, * Master Harry, excuse me if I interrupt you, but I could not wait any longer, I wanted so much to see Miss Eleanor's son!”
" It is Maumer Rue," said Major Bergan, not only with unwonted kindness of tone, but with something akin to respect in his manner ;-"your mother must have spoken to you of our old nurse, Harry ? "
"Indeed she has !” exclaimed Bergan, earnestly, starting up to take the blind woman's hand. “Your name has always been a household word with us. The story of your devotion to my mother, in saving her from the flames, at the risk of your own life, and with the ultimate loss of your sight, was the one story of which we children never used to tire. Probably we felt, in our vague, childish way, that it was the one which came from the profoundest depth in her own heart,-since she could never tell it to us without a little tremor in her voice, and a soft dewiness in her eyes,—and that was the secret of its charm for us. You may be sure that she has never forgotten how much she owes you!”
The old woman's lips trembled, and large tears gathered in her sightless eyes. “The Lord bless my dear young lady!” she ejaculated fervently, “I knew she would never forget her old Maumer. And it's like her to make much of my little service; but I did nothing but what was my duty-nothing."
“ She thinks otherwise," replied Bergan, kindly. “She regards it as one of those rare instances of courage and devotion, for which the whole world is better (and brighter. She bade me give you her kindest love, and tell you that you must not despair of meeting her once more, even on this side the grave. When the new railroad is finished, as far as our place,—which it promises to be in a year or two,-she fully intends to revisit her childhood's home, and look once more upon the faces of her childhood's friends. She furthermore charged me to pay you an early visit, in your own quarters, and tell you everything about her Western home and life that you might care to hear."
“How kind of Miss Eleanor to think of that!” responded the blind woman delightedly. “It shows that she's just her own self, always trying to think what every body would like, and then doing her best to give it to them. Of course, there's a hundred questions that I should like to ask about her; and if you really don't mind answering them, and will do me the honour to step into my little cabin, some day when you're passing by, I shall be more obliged to you than I can rightly tell. But as to my ever seeing Miss Eleanor again, I beg your pardon, sir; you see I've not yet learned to say Mrs. Arling,—though there's nothing on earth that would make me so glad as to meet her again, and hear the sound of her sweet, cheery voice, yet I'm getting
to be too old to dare to reckon much upon the future. But the next best thing to meeting her, is to meet her son, here on the old place; and I thank the Lord He has let me live long enough for that.”
The old negress bent her head devoutly for a moment, and then turned to Major Bergan. “Does he favour Miss Eleanor much, Master Harry ? ” she asked.
“Yes, he is a good deal like her, Maumer ; he has her eyes exactly. But he is even more like what I was forty years ago ; it really makes me feel young again to look at him. He's a real Bergan, I can tell you
that." Maumer Rue smiled as if well pleased; yet the smile seemed a little burdened with sadness, too; and Bergan saw that it was followed by a look of extreme wistfulness.
“Can I do anything for you?” he asked, kindly,
"Nothing, master, -unless--if it is not asking too much,-and if you would not mind the touch of an old woman's fingers, that have to serve her instead of eyes, I could get so much clearer an idea of your looks,and she finished the sentence by raising her hand significantly towards his face.
Bergan was much moved. “Of course I should not mind,” said he, drawing near to her ;—"examine me as closely as you like. It would be strange indeed if there were anything unpleasant to me in the touch of hands that have done so much for my mother!”
“It's easy to see that you are Miss Eleanor's son, you have just her kind, pleasant ways," responded the blind woman, gratefully. “He is a little taller than you, Master Harry,” she continued turning toward the Major, as she laid her hand on Bergan's head,-"yes, just a little taller, though not much.".
" All the better for that,” remarked the Major, parenthetically, "the Bergans must not degenerate."
Maumer Rue went on, without noticing the interruption ; passing her fingers lightly over Bergan's features, as she spoke. “His brow is square and full, like yours, and he has the same straight nose; but his eyes are not so deep-set, nor his eyebrows so heavy. His jaw is like yours, too,--the set, square jaw of the Bergans,—but his mouth is more like Miss Eleanor's :- :-a sweet, pleasant mouth she had, the mouth of the Habershams, her mother's family. Yet it could be firm enough, too, when there was need ; our Miss Eleanor had plenty of character. And I'm right glad to see that you are so much like her; you couldn't resemble any one better or handsomer.”
She made a slight pause, and then added, in a halfhumorous way,—“I reckon she couldn't give you any spice of the 'black Bergan temper, as she had none of it herself.”
“I am afraid she did," answered Bergan, laughing, yet colouring, too; "and many a scrape it has gotten me into before now. But I hope that I am learning to control it a little."
“I don't see why you should,” broke in the Major, gruffly. “The Bergan temper is an heir-loom to be proud of; it identifies the breed. It has run in the blood from time immemorial. A Bergan without it—that is, a male, of course a woman counts for nothing-would be no Bergan at all."
“You say true, Master Harry,” rejoined Rue, composedly; "it's always run in the blood, and heated it more than was good for it, many a time. Yet now and then, there has been a Bergan who has learried how to keep it under, and been all the better for doing it. You surely must recollect what a mild, kind gentleman your father was, young as you were when he died; and I've heard say that there never was a truer Bergan, or one more respected all the country through."
The Major made a grimace, and muttered something unintelligible, in a tone half of acquiescence, half of irritation,
Rue turned again to Bergan. “ You have been very patient with an old woman's talk, and an old woman's infirmity,” said she, with a kind of natural dignity—“I will not trouble you any longer. Good night, and thank you, Master—what name shall I say?”
Bergan hesitated, and looked doubtfully at his uncle.
“He says his name is Bergan,” explained the Major, shortly; "but I have given him to understand that he is to be known by my own name, Harry, while he stays here.”
Rue shook her head. "There can be but one Master Harry for me,” she said, quietly—"the one that I nursed as a babe and petted as a child, the one that I have lived with so many years, and who has always been so kind to me-kinder even than he has been to himself. So please let me call him Master Bergan; but, of course, the rest of the people will give him any name that you say."
“Of course they will," returned the Major, haughtily, “or I'll know the reason why. As for you, Maumer, I shall let you do as you please'; you've had your own way too long to be balked of it now. But take care that the others don't hear and imitate you, or you know what they'll get."
“ Thank you, Master Harry," replied Rue, as gratefully as if the assent had been more graciously given, “you are always good to your poor old Maumer. Goodnight.” And she turned to go.
But on the threshold, she paused, and lifted her sightless face toward the dim night-sky, across which dark clouds were swiftly scudding.
“Master Harry,' said she, suddenly, “Do you remember how I told you, six months ago, that the Bergan star was set, and how angry you were ?
“Yes, yes, I remember," exclaimed the Major, hoarsely and eagerly; "what of it?"
She slowly raised her right hand, and pointed skyward, with a strange, intent, watchful expression in her uplifted face. “See! it is rising !” said she; “it comes up through the clouds—they try to hold it back, but they cannot—it grows brighter! it rises higher !-ah!”. drawing her breath hard and gaspingly—“it stops-it goes down again !--the clouds cover it!--it is-No! it is
not gone! it shines faintly behind the clouds—it breaks through-slowly, slowly, slowly--it rises ! it rises !"
Yielding, half-unconsciously, to the powerful influence of the blind woman's rapt, ecstatic manner, Bergan had drawn near to her, and now saw, with surprise, a single star shining for a moment through the rifts of the clouds. Glancing at the Major, whom he had before seen to be hanging with breathless interest upon the words of the old negress, he perceived that his eyes were fixed upon it also, with a gaze that was half-awed, halftriumphant. He knew not what to think.
Maumer Rue still stood in the same commanding attitude, with raised hand, and intent, uplooking face. Suddenly, her arm fell by her side; her head drooped on her breast; the majesty that had informed her pose and gesture went out like an expiring fame; she shivered, tottered, and would have fallen but for the Major's prompt support. Without a word, he guided her safely to the door of her cabin.
Coming back, he reseated himself at the table, which had been cleared of everything but the bottles and glasses, and hastily poured out and swallowed some raw brandy. Then he remarked, in a half-explanatory and half-apolo getic tone,
“She enjoys the reputation of a seer, or prophetess, among the negroes ; 'and I really think she has some faith in it herself. Certainly, she seems to have strange visions now and then ; and some of her predictions have come true; I confess she puzzles even me. At all events, she is the best and most faithful old creature that ever lived. She was born on the estate, brought up in the Hall with my father and his sisters, shared their education, is thoroughly steeped in the family traditions, duly infected with the family pride, and entirely devoted to the family interests. She is the only person that 1 allow to do pretty much as she pleases; her long and faithful services to my father, Eleanor, and myself, deserve that much, I think. And really, she is of great use to me;
I scarcely know what I should do without her.
The negroes all believe her to be a hundred years old-undoubtedly she is past ninety—and that, together with her reputation as a prophetess, gives her great power over them, and saves me a heap of trouble in managing them. She has very good judgment, too, in many things; 1 frequently take her advice, and never yet had occasion to regret doing so. Indeed, it was chiefly at her instigation and entreaty that I had made up my mind, as I told you, to write to your mother about sending me one of her sons."
He paused for a moment, and then asked, in a careless tone, but with a quick, keen glance at his nephew, from under his shaggy brows, “ Did you see that star?
“Yes," answered Bergan. “ It was a curious coincidence."
Hum-very," returned his uncle, evidently not quite satisfied with this view of the matter. But he said
traditions on which his childish imagination had fed, of his youthful studies and aspirations, of his recent journey, and the disappointment in which it had ended, mingled with half-conceived plans and half-acknowledged hopes,-a vague, changeable, teasing, tireless procession of thoughts and images,-filed slowly through his mind, compelling his reluctant gaze, and blocking up every avenue to Slumber-land. And if, for an instant, the vexing march stopped, and the importunate images began to waver and blend, sounds of stamping feet, of jingling glass, of muttered oaths and sentences, or two or three half-sung, half-shouted lines of a drunken ditty, coming up from below, startled him once more into wakefulness, and told him that his uncle's solitary debauch was not yet ended. It was already grey dawn, when, worn out with restlessness, he fell into a brief slumber, and dreamed that old Rue, with the Bergan star in her hand, was beckoning him to follow her over a dreary, desolate country, full of briers and pitfalls, wherein he was so constantly entangled that, in spite of his best endeavours, he could never get any nearer to her. Turning suddenly, she flashed the star into his eyes, and-oh, horror of horrors !-he was blind !
Starting up, all in a tremble, he found that the risen sun was shining full in his face, through the uncurtained window. It was morning.
The conversation now turned into various other channels. It touched for a brief space upon the inde. fatigable quoter of proverbs whom Bergan had overtaken on his way to the Hall; and whom the Major declared to be the only living representative of one of the oldest and most influential families in the county. He had been reared in affluence, had been educated in Europe, and had inherited a large fortune and a fine estate. But he had early fallen into bad habits-not so much from viciousness of temper and taste, as from weakness of will and consequent inability to resist temptation-bad run a short, rapid career of folly, extravagance, and dis. sipation, in which he had frittered away his inheritance, and so had gradually sunken into his present state of semi-vagabondage. He lived, by sufferance, in a little cabin, on one corner of the estate which he had formerly owned. From his wholesale shipwreck of fortune, position, will, energy, and hope, he had saved but one thing -his love of proverbs. It had even grown stronger in proportion as other things wasted and failed-like a plant striking deep root into soil enriched by the decay of many sister plants. He had learned several languages solely for the sake of their proverbs; he had even been seen to hesitate and waver long between the diverse, but powerful, attractions of a bottle of ardent spirits and a dingy old collection of saws, when but one came within the compass of his purse; and he was known far and wide by the sobriquet of “Proverb Dick.” His real name was Richard Causton.
In listening to this history, Bergan could not but be struck by the curiously-discriminating character of the Major's animadversion. He had little or nothing to say in disapproval of the depraved and ungovernable appetite for strong drink which, it was easy to see, had played so important part in ruining poor Richard Causton ; while he could find no words strong enough to express his bitter contempt for the flabby will, the pitiable irresolution, and the insane extravagance, which had joined hands with that appetite for his complete destruction. Tender, as a mother to her babe, over the fault which he knew himself to possess (if he secretly acknowledged it to be a fault), Major Bergan was merciless to the weaknesses from which he was saved by a hardier will and a more energetic temperament.
But as the evening wore on, and the brandy slowly worked its way up to the stronghold of his brain, the Major's talk grew discursive, profane, and incoherent ; until Bergan, shocked and pained, and anxious to escape from the mortifying spectacle, pleaded fatigue, and begged permission to retire. Jip was accordingly summoned, and he was conducted to a little low room under the cottage roof, where his portmanteau had been bestowed, and some little provision made for his comfort.
Here Bergan quickly threw himself on the bed, to find, for the first time in his life, that it was one thing to woo the fair maiden Sleep, and another to win her. Recollections of his Western home, of his mother, of the ancestral
A Goodly Heritage. Early as was the hour, Bergan found the table already laid for breakfast in the room below, where he was soon joined by the Major. He brought with him (besides a noticeable odour of brandy) a cordial morning greeting, and a temper whích, though by no means urbane, had a certain favour of bluff good nature, in pleasing contrast with his extreme irritability of the preceding evening. Encouraged by these and similar signs of a clearer mental atmosphere, Bergan ventured to mention his uncle Godfrey, and to remark that he had been charged with a letter to him from his mother, which he must take an early opportunity to deliver.
“Eh ! what ? ” asked the Major, laying down his knife and fork, with the look and tone of a man who doubts the evidence of his own senses.
Bergan quietly repeated his words.
The Major's face grew dark, and his eyebrows met in a heavy frown. “I shall take it mighty hard of you, if you do,” said he, sternly and gloomily. “I tell you, Harry, he is no Bergan at all, and he ought not to be treated like one. Eleanor would never have written to him, nor desired you to visit him, if she had known the true state of affairs;—you can safely take that for granted, and act accordingly. Besides,” he went on, after a slight pause, “it is only fair to warn you that any one who goes from Bergan Hall over to Oakstead (that's what he calls his place), doesn't come back again,-with my consent.