"Stuff! nonsense!" exclaimed Major Bergan, bluntly. "I defy you to make a poor planter under my tuition,—I claim to understand that business. As for dependence, never you fear but that I shall get aid and comfort enough out of you to make our accounts square. For, after all, Harry, it is a dreary kind of a life that I'm leading, without chick or child, kith or kin, to speak to, or to care for. I cannot help asking myself, sometimes, what is the good of it all, and how Is it to end. But with a fine young fellow like you here, to enter into my plans now, and carry them out after I'm gone,—why, it would be like a fresh lease of life to me! We'll rebuild the old house, you shall drop the 'Arling,' and behold the seventh Harry Bergan of Bergan Hall, on this side the water! And really, I don't see how you can do better, Harry. Here are wealth, position, influence, and a chance to oblige your old uncle,—ready to your hand. Stay, my boy, stay!"
To his amazement, it was already occupied. A lady was quietly seated therein, her cheek resting on her hand, her eyes (as he judged from her pose, for her back was toward him) fixed on the glowing sky.Bergan shook his head, with a faint smile. "Very badly, I should say,—if anything can be said to go badly, which is so entirely in the hands of Providence. I confess that I can make nothing of it."
"Perfectly so. When I left the Major last night, I knew that he must be a dead man by morning. He had taken no poison then,—except the slow one that he has been taking for years."
"You are looking wonderfully well," she concluded; "one would think you had been rusticating in the mountains, instead of spending a hot and lonely summer in the city. But I suppose that you are lonely no longer; you must be very glad to have your brother with you; my father told me of his arrival.""Why is he not here, then?" asked Doctor Remy, pointedly.
Bergan reflected for a moment. "By this time," said he, "Doctor Gerrish must be on his way to the Hall. From what I have known and heard of him, I believe him to be both a promising physician and an honorable man. Send Bruno to intercept him, on the plea that the dead can wait for his services better than the living. Then tell him, in strict confidence, enough of Carice's condition to make him understand the case; but you need say nothing of Doctor Remy, except that he is not at hand, and you feared to wait. Finally, ask, as a special favor, that he will not mention his visit to Doctor Remy, lest the latter be annoyed. He will think you weak and overscrupulous, but he will promise."Yet—the bed-linen, how strangely yellow!—the shawl, how dim and faded!—the flowers, how withered! He advanced again; he began to understand that the maiden who had dreamed on that pillow, whose hand had left its dainty mould in that glove, the sweetness of whose virgin breath still lingered in the room with the scent of the withered rosebuds, went out from it years ago,—a bride,—to be known thenceforth as wife and mother,—his mother! His eyes grew moist; one by one he touched the little possessions left behind with her girlhood, striving thus to come a little closer to the fair, shy image, that moved him with such unutterable tenderness, yet seemed so far beyond his ken. Reverently, at last, he closed the door, as upon a still, white, smiling corpse, at once ineffably beautiful and ineffably sad."If you do not mind a little mud," said the Major, at the dinner-table, "we will order our horses, and ride over to Berganton this afternoon. You must be tired of being cooped up in the house, by this time, in spite of your ready knack at finding occupation and amusement where most people would gape their heads off with ennui. Besides, it is high time that you should see something of the neighborhood, outside our own plantation,—as well as the village which your ancestors founded. To be sure, there is precious little to see,—Berganton is not what it was once,—but I shall be glad to show you that little, and also, to introduce you to some of my old acquaintances."
"I do not expect it," answered Bergan, seriously. "Errors in judgment, I take it for granted that I shall make, being mortal; but errors in will, I mean to do my best, with God's help, to avoid."Meantime, Mr. Bergan was forced to fill the gap created by his departure; indeed, until his brother's will should be made known, he was both his natural and legal representative, he appointed the time, and decided the manner, of the funeral; he sent for a lawyer, and had seals affixed to all drawers and boxes likely to contain papers of value; he gave orders for the lower rooms to be cleaned and fitted, as far as might be, for the lying in state, and the reception of guests;—in short, he was kept busy until long past noon, when he was fain to go home for rest and refreshment, as well as to satisfy himself of the state of Carice. She was still sleeping peacefully, and there was no cause for alarm."A word without an idea," returned the doctor,—"unless, indeed, you mean to apply it to that life-principle, which belongs to plants and animals, as well as men."
Chapter 10 A WICKED DEVICE.
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Chapter 3 BUILDING ANEW."Mr. Trubie," said he, turning round, with the open phial in his hand, "did your friend ever say anything to you, that indicated a disposition to suicide?""Mr. Arling, I believe," said one, touching his hat. "We have been asking at the Hall for you, and a doctor that we saw there told us that you were coming this way, and asked us to say, if we met you, that he begged you would hurry."
Major Bergan frowned. "I don't see what my nephew has to do with it," said he, surlily."Impossible, father! He had such a fine, noble countenance!"详情
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