THE VILLAGE DOCTOR.

BY THE LATE COUNTESS D’ARBOUVILLE.

[MAGA. May 1849.]

What is that?” exclaimed several persons assembled in the dining-room of the chateau of Burcy.

The Countess of Moncar had just inherited, from a distant and slightly regretted relation, an ancient chateau which she had never seen, although it was at barely fifteen leagues from her habitual summer residence. One of the most elegant and admired women in Paris, Madame de Moncar was but moderately attached to the country. Quitting the capital at the end of June, to return thither early in October, she usually took with her some of the companions of her winter gaieties, and a few young men, selected amongst her most assiduous partners. Madame de Moncar was married to a man much older than herself, who did not always protect her by his presence. Without abusing the great liberty she enjoyed, she was gracefully coquettish, elegantly frivolous, pleased with trifles—with a compliment, an amiable word, an hour’s triumph—loving a ball for the pleasure of adorning herself, fond of admiration, and not sorry to inspire love. When some grave old aunt ventured a sage remonstrance—“Mon Dieu!” she replied; “do let me laugh and take life gaily. It is far less dangerous than to listen in solitude to the beating of one’s heart. For my part, I do not know if I even have a heart!” She spoke the truth, and really was uncertain upon that point. Desirous to remain so, she thought it prudent to leave herself no time for reflection.

One fine morning in September, the countess and her guests set out for the unknown chateau, intending to pass the day there. A cross road, reputed practicable, was to reduce the journey to twelve leagues. The cross road proved execrable: the travellers lost their way in the forest; a carriage broke down; in short, it was not till mid-day that the party, much fatigued, and but moderately gratified by the picturesque beauties of the scenery, reached the chateau of Burcy, whose aspect was scarcely such as to console them for the annoyances of the journey. It was a large sombre building with dingy walls. In its front a garden, then out of cultivation, descended from terrace to terrace; for the chateau, built upon the slope of a wooded hill, had no level ground in its vicinity. On all sides it was hemmed in by mountains, the trees upon which sprang up amidst rocks, and had a dark and gloomy foliage that saddened the eyesight. Man’s neglect added to the natural wild disorder of the scene. Madame de Moncar stood motionless and disconcerted upon the threshold of her newly-acquired mansion.

“This is very unlike a party of pleasure,” said she; “I could weep at sight of this dismal abode. Nevertheless here are noble trees, lofty rocks, a roaring cataract; doubtless, there is a certain beauty in all that; but it is of too grave an order for my humour,” added she with a smile. “Let us go in and view the interior.”

The hungry guests, eager to see if the cook, who had been sent forward upon the previous day, as an advanced guard, had safely arrived, willingly assented. Having obtained the agreeable certainty that breakfast would soon be upon the table, they rambled through the chateau. The old-fashioned furniture with tattered coverings, the arm-chairs with three legs, the tottering tables, the discordant sounds of a piano, which for a good score of years had not felt a finger, afforded abundant food for jest and merriment. Gaiety returned. Instead of grumbling at the inconveniences of this uncomfortable mansion, it was agreed to laugh at everything. Moreover, for these young and idle persons, the expedition was a sort of event, an almost perilous campaign, whose originality appealed to the imagination. A faggot was lighted beneath the wide chimney of the drawing-room; but clouds of smoke were the result, and the company took refuge in the pleasure-grounds. The aspect of the gardens was strange enough: the stone-benches were covered with moss; the walls of the terraces, crumbling in many places, left space between their ill-joined stones for the growth of numerous wild plants, which sprung out erect and lofty, or trailed with flexible grace towards the earth. The walks were overgrown and obliterated by grass; the parterres, reserved for garden-flowers, were invaded by wild ones, which grow wherever the heavens afford a drop of water and a ray of sun; the insipid bear-bine enveloped and stifled in its envious embrace the beauteous rose of Provence; the blackberry mingled its acrid fruits with the red clusters of the currant-bush; ferns, wild mint with its faint perfume, thistles with their thorny crowns, grew beside a few forgotten lilies. When the company entered the enclosure, numbers of the smaller animals, alarmed at the unaccustomed intrusion, darted into the long grass, and the startled birds flew chirping from branch to branch. Silence, for many years the undisturbed tenant of this peaceful spot, fled at the sound of human voices and of joyous laughter. The solitude was appreciated by none—none grew pensive under its influence; it was recklessly broken and profaned. The conversation ran upon the gay evenings of the past season, and was interspersed with amiable allusions, expressive looks, covert compliments, with all the thousand nothings, in short, resorted to by persons desirous to please each other, but who have not yet acquired the right to be serious.

The steward, after long search for a breakfast-bell along the dilapidated walls of the chateau, at last made up his mind to shout from the steps that the meal was ready—the half-smile with which he accompanied the announcement, proving that, like his betters, he resigned himself for one day to a deviation from his habits of etiquette and propriety. Soon a merry party surrounded the board. The gloom of the chateau, its desert site and uncheery aspect, were all forgotten; the conversation was general and well sustained; the health of the lady of the castle—the fairy whose presence converted the crazy old edifice into an enchanted palace, was drunk by all present. Suddenly all eyes were turned to the windows of the dining-room.

“What is that?” exclaimed several of the guests.

A small carriage of green wicker-work, with great wheels as high as the body of the vehicle, passed before the windows, and stopped at the door. It was drawn by a grey horse, short and punchy, whose eyes seemed in danger from the shafts, which, from their point of junction with the carriage, sloped obliquely upwards. The hood of the little cabriolet was brought forward, concealing its contents, with the exception of two arms covered with the sleeves of a blue blouse, and of a whip which fluttered about the ears of the grey horse.

Mon Dieu!” exclaimed Madame de Moncar, “I forgot to tell you I was obliged to invite the village doctor to breakfast. The old man was formerly of some service to my uncle’s family, and I have seen him once or twice. Be not alarmed at the addition to our party: he is very taciturn. After a few civil words, we may forget his presence; besides, I do not suppose he will remain very long.”

At this moment the dining-room door opened, and Dr Barnaby entered. He was a little old man, feeble and insignificant-looking, of calm and gentle countenance. His grey hairs were collected into a queue, according to a bygone fashion; a dash of powder whitened his temples, and extended to his furrowed brow. He wore a black coat, and steel buckles to his breeches. Over one arm hung a riding-coat of brown taffety. In the opposite hand he carried his hat and a thick cane. His whole appearance proved that he had taken unusual pains with his toilet; but his black stockings and coat were stained with mud, as if the poor old man had fallen into a ditch. He paused at the door, astonished at the presence of so many persons. For an instant a tinge of embarrassment appeared upon his face; but recovering himself, he silently saluted the company. The strange manner of his entrance gave the guests a violent inclination to laugh, which they repressed more or less successfully. Madame de Moncar alone, in her character of mistress of the house, and incapable of failing in politeness, perfectly preserved her gravity.

“Dear me, doctor! have you had an overturn?” was her first inquiry.

Before replying, Dr Barnaby glanced at all these young people in the midst of whom he found himself, and, simple and artless though his physiognomy was, he could not but guess the cause of their hilarity. He replied quietly:

“I have not been overturned. A poor carter fell under the wheels of his vehicle; I was passing, and I helped him up.” And the doctor took possession of a chair left vacant for him at the table. Unfolding his napkin, he passed a corner through the button-hole of his coat, and spread out the rest over his waistcoat and knees. At these preparations, smiles hovered upon the lips of many of the guests, and a whisper or two broke the silence; but this time the doctor did not raise his eyes. Perhaps he observed nothing.

“Is there much sickness in the village?” inquired Madame de Moncar, whilst they were helping the new-comer.

“Yes, madam, a good deal.”

“This is an unhealthy neighbourhood?”

“No, madam.”

“But the sickness. What causes it?”

“The heat of the sun in harvest time and the cold and wet of winter.”

One of the guests, affecting great gravity, joined in the conversation.

“So that in this healthy district, sir, people are ill all the year round?”

The doctor raised his little grey eyes to the speaker’s face, looked at him, hesitated, and seemed either to check or to seek a reply. Madame de Moncar kindly came to his relief.

“I know,” she said, “that you are here the guardian genius of all who suffer.”

“Oh, you are too good,” replied the old man, apparently much engrossed with the slice of pasty upon his plate. Then the gay party left Dr Barnaby to himself, and the conversation flowed in its previous channel. If any notice was taken of the peaceable old man, it was in the form of some slight sarcasm, which, mingled with other discourse, would pass, it was thought, unperceived by its object. Not that these young men and women were generally otherwise than polite and kind-hearted; but upon that day the journey, the breakfast, the merriment and slight excitement that had attended all the events of the morning, had brought on a sort of heedless gaiety and communicative mockery, which rendered them pitiless to the victim whom chance had thrown in their way. The doctor continued quietly to eat, without looking up, or uttering a word, or seeming to hear one; they voted him deaf and dumb, and he was no restraint upon the conversation.

When the guests rose from table, Dr Barnaby took a step or two backwards, and allowed each man to select the lady he wished to take into the drawing-room. One of Madame de Moncar’s friends remaining without a cavalier, the village doctor timidly advanced, and offered her his hand—not his arm. His fingers scarcely touched hers as he proceeded, his body slightly bent in sign of respect, with measured steps towards the drawing-room. Fresh smiles greeted his entrance, but not a cloud appeared upon the placid countenance of the old man, who was now declared blind, as well as deaf and dumb. Quitting his companion, Dr Barnaby selected the smallest, humblest-looking chair in the room, placed it in a corner, at some distance from everybody else, put his stick between his knees, crossed his hands upon the knob, and rested his chin upon his hands. In this meditative attitude he remained silent, and from time to time his eyes closed, as if a gentle slumber, which he neither invoked nor repelled, were stealing over him.

“Madame de Moncar!” cried one of the guests, “I presume it is not your intention to inhabit this ruin in a desert?”

“Certainly I have no such project. But here are lofty trees and wild woods. M. de Moncar may very likely be tempted to pass a few weeks here in the shooting season.”

“In that case you must pull down and rebuild; clear, alter, and improve!”

“Let us make a plan!” cried the young countess. “Let us mark out the future garden of my domains.”

It was decreed that this party of pleasure should be unsuccessful. At that moment a heavy cloud burst, and a close fine rain began to fall. Impossible to leave the house.

“How very vexatious!” cried Madame de Moncar. “What shall we do with ourselves? The horses require several hours’ rest. It will evidently be a wet afternoon. For a week to come, the grass, which overgrows everything, will not be dry enough to walk upon; all the strings of the piano are broken; there is not a book within ten leagues. This room is wretchedly dismal. What can we do with ourselves?”

The party, lately so joyous, was gradually losing its gaiety. The blithe laugh and arch whisper were succeeded by dull silence. The guests sauntered to the windows and examined the sky, but the sky remained dark and cloud-laden. Their hopes of a walk were completely blighted. They established themselves as comfortably as they could upon the old chairs and settees, and tried to revive the conversation; but there are thoughts which, like flowers, require a little sun, and which will not flourish under a bleak sky. All these young heads appeared to droop, oppressed by the storm, like the poplars in the garden, which bowed their tops at the will of the wind. A tedious hour dragged by.

The lady of the castle, a little disheartened by the failure of her party of pleasure, leaned languidly upon a window-sill, and gazed vaguely at the prospect without.

“There,” said she—“yonder, upon the hill, is a white cottage that must come down: it hides the view.”

“The white cottage!” cried the doctor. For upwards of an hour Dr Barnaby had been mute and motionless upon his chair. Mirth and weariness, sun and rain, had succeeded each other without eliciting a syllable from his lips. His presence was forgotten by everybody: every eye turned quickly upon him when he uttered these three words—“The white cottage!”

“What interest do you take in it, doctor?” asked the countess.

Mon Dieu, madame! Pray forget that I spoke. The cottage will come down, undoubtedly, since such is your good pleasure.”

“But why should you regret the old shed?”

“I—Mon Dieu! it was inhabited by persons I loved—and—”

“And they think of returning to it, doctor?”

“They are long since dead, madam; they died when I was young!” And the old man gazed mournfully at the white cottage, which rose amongst the trees upon the hill-side, like a daisy in a green field. There was a brief silence.

“Madam,” said one of the guests in a low voice to Madame de Moncar, “there is mystery here. Observe the melancholy of our Esculapius. Some pathetic drama has been enacted in yonder house; a tale of love, perhaps. Ask the doctor to tell it us.”

“Yes, yes!” was murmured on all sides, “a tale, a story! And should it prove of little interest, at any rate the narrator will divert us.”

“Not so, gentlemen,” replied Madame de Moncar, in the same suppressed voice. “If I ask Dr Barnaby to tell us the history of the white cottage, it is on the express condition that no one laughs.” All having promised to be serious and well-behaved, Madame de Moncar approached the old man. “Doctor,” said she, seating herself beside him, “that house, I plainly see, is connected with some reminiscence of former days, stored preciously in your memory. Will you tell it us? I should be grieved to cause you a regret which it is in my power to spare you; the house shall remain, if you tell me why you love it.”

Dr Barnaby seemed surprised, and remained silent. The countess drew still nearer to him. “Dear doctor!” said she, “see what wretched weather; how dreary everything looks. You are the senior of us all; tell us a tale. Make us forget rain, and fog, and cold.”

Dr Barnaby looked at the countess with great astonishment.

“There is no tale,” he said. “What occurred in the cottage is very simple, and has no interest but for me, who loved the young people; strangers would not call it a tale. And I am unaccustomed to speak before many listeners. Besides, what I should tell you is sad, and you came to amuse yourselves.” And again the doctor rested his chin upon his stick.

“Dear doctor,” resumed the countess, “the white cottage shall stand, if you say why you love it.”

The old man appeared somewhat moved; he crossed and uncrossed his legs; took out his snuff-box, returned it to his pocket without opening it; then, looking at the countess—“You will not pull it down?” he said, indicating with his thin and tremulous hand the habitation visible at the horizon.

“I promise you I will not.”

“Well, so be it; I will do that much for them; I will save the house in which they were happy.”

“Ladies,” continued the old man, “I am but a poor speaker; but I believe that even the least eloquent succeed in making themselves understood when they tell what they have seen. This story, I warn you beforehand, is not gay. To dance and to sing, people send for a musician; they call in the physician when they suffer, and are near to death.”

A circle was formed round Dr Barnaby, who, his hands still crossed upon his cane, quietly commenced the following narrative, to an audience prepared beforehand to smile at his discourse.

“It was a long time ago, when I was young—for, I, too, have been young! Youth is a fortune that belongs to all the world—to the poor as well as to the rich—but which abides with none. I had just passed my examination; I had taken my physician’s degree, and I returned to my village to exercise my wonderful talents, well convinced that, thanks to me, men would now cease to die.

“My village is not far from here. From the little window of my room, I behold yonder white house upon the opposite side to that you now discern. You certainly would not find my village handsome. In my eyes, it was superb; I was born there, and I loved it. We all see with our own eyes the things we love. God suffers us to be sometimes a little blind; for He well knows that in this lower world a clear sight is not always profitable. To me, then, this neighbourhood appeared smiling and pleasant, and I lived happily. The white cottage alone, each morning when I opened my shutters, impressed me disagreeably: it was always closed, still and sad like a forsaken thing. Never had I seen its windows open and shut, or its door ajar; never had I known its inhospitable garden-gate give passage to human being. Your uncle, madam, who had no occasion for a cottage so near his chateau, sought to let it; but the rent was rather higher than anybody here was rich enough to give. It remained empty, therefore, whilst in the hamlet every window exhibited two or three children’s faces peering through the branches of gillyflower at the first noise in the street. But one morning, on getting up, I was quite astonished to see a long ladder resting against the cottage wall; a painter was painting the window-shutters green, whilst a maid-servant polished the panes, and a gardener hoed the flower-beds.

“All the better,” said I to myself; “a good roof like that, which covers no one, is so much lost.

“From day to day the house improved in appearance. Pots of flowers veiled the nudity of the walls; the parterres were planted, the walks weeded and gravelled, and muslin curtains, white as snow, shone in the sun-rays. One day a post-chaise rattled through the village, and drove up to the little house. Who were the strangers? None knew, and all desired to learn. For a long time nothing transpired without of what passed within the dwelling. The rose-trees bloomed, and the fresh-laid lawn grew verdant; still nothing was known. Many were the commentaries upon the mystery. They were adventurers concealing themselves—they were a young man and his mistress—in short, everything was guessed except the truth. The truth is so simple, that one does not always think of it; once the mind is in movement, it seeks to the right and to the left, and often forgets to look straight before it. The mystery gave me little concern. No matter who is there, thought I; they are human, therefore they will not be long without suffering, and then they will send for me. I waited patiently.

“At last one morning a messenger came from Mr William Meredith, to request me to call upon him. I put on my best coat, and, endeavouring to assume a gravity suitable to my profession, I traversed the village, not without some little pride at my importance. That day many envied me. The villagers stood at their doors to see me pass. ‘He is going to the white cottage!’ they said; whilst I, avoiding all appearance of haste and vulgar curosity, walked deliberately, nodding to my peasant neighbours. ‘Good-day, my friends,’ I said; ‘I will see you by-and-by; this morning I am busy.’ And thus I reached the hill-side.

“On entering the sitting-room of the mysterious house, the scene I beheld rejoiced my eyesight. Everything was so simple and elegant. Flowers, the chief ornament of the apartment, were so tastefully arranged, that gold would not better have embellished the modest interior. White muslin was at the windows, white calico on the chairs—that was all; but there were roses, and jessamine, and flowers of all kinds, as in a garden. The light was softened by the curtains, the atmosphere was fragrant; and a young girl or woman, fair and fresh as all that surrounded her, reclined upon a sofa, and welcomed me with a smile. A handsome young man, seated near her upon an ottoman, rose when the servant announced Dr Barnaby.

“‘Sir,’ said he, with a strong foreign accent, ‘I have heard so much of your skill that I expected to see an old man.’

“‘I have studied diligently, sir,’ I replied. ‘I am deeply impressed with the importance and responsibility of my calling: you may confide in me.’

“‘’Tis well,’ he said. ‘I recommend my wife to your best care. Her present state demands advice and precaution. She was born in a distant land: for my sake she has quitted family and friends. I can bring but my affection to her aid, for I am without experience. I reckon upon you, sir. If possible, preserve her from all suffering.’

“As he spoke, the young man fixed upon his wife a look so full of love, that the large blue eyes of the beautiful foreigner glistened with tears of gratitude. She dropped the tiny cap she was embroidering, and her two hands clasped the hand of her husband. I looked at them, and I ought to have found their lot enviable, but somehow or other, the contrary was the case. I felt sad; I could not tell why. I had often seen persons weep, of whom I said—They are happy! I saw William Meredith and his wife smile, and I could not help thinking they had much sorrow. I seated myself near my charming patient. Never have I seen anything so lovely as that sweet face, shaded by long ringlets of fair hair.

“‘What is your age, madam?’

“‘Seventeen.’

“‘Is the climate of your native country very different from ours?’

“‘I was born in America—at New Orleans. Oh! the sun is far brighter than here.’

“Doubtless she feared she had uttered a regret, for she added—

““But every country is beautiful when one is in one’s husband’s house, with him, and awaiting his child!’

“Her gaze sought that of William Meredith: then, in a tongue I did not understand, she spoke a few words which sounded so soft that they must have been words of love.

“After a short visit I took my leave, promising to return. I did return, and, at the end of two months, I was almost the friend of this young couple. Mr and Mrs Meredith were not selfish in their happiness; they found time to think of others. They saw that to the poor village doctor, whose sole society was that of peasants, those days were festivals upon which he passed an hour in hearing the language of cities. They encouraged me to frequent them—talked to me of their travels, and soon, with the prompt confidence characterising youth, they told me their story. It was the girl-wife who spoke:—

“‘Doctor,’ she said, ‘yonder, beyond the seas, I have father, sisters, family, friends, whom I long loved, until the day when I loved William. But then I shut my heart to those who repulsed my lover. William’s father forbade him to wed me, because he was too noble for the daughter of an American planter. My father forbade me to love William, because he was too proud to give his daughter to a man whose family refused her a welcome. They tried to separate us; but we loved each other. Long did we weep and supplicate, and implore the pity of those to whom we owed obedience; they remained inflexible, and we loved! Doctor, did you ever love? I would you had, that you might be indulgent to us. We were secretly married, and we fled to France. Oh how beautiful the ocean appeared in those early days of our affection! The sea was hospitable to the fugitives. Wanderers upon the waves, we passed happy days in the shadow of our vessel’s sails, anticipating pardon from our friends, and dreaming a bright future. Alas! we were too sanguine. They pursued us; and, upon pretext of some irregularity of form in our clandestine marriage, William’s family cruelly thought to separate us. We found concealment in the midst of these mountains and forests. Under a name which is not ours, we live unknown. My father has not forgiven—he has cursed me! That is the reason, doctor, why I cannot always smile, even with my dear William by my side.’

“How those two loved each other! Never have I seen a being more completely wrapped up in another than was Eva Meredith in her husband! Whatever her occupation, she always so placed herself, that, on raising her eyes, she had William before them. She never read but in the book he was reading. Her head against his shoulder, her eyes followed the lines on which William’s eyes were fixed; she wished the same thoughts to strike them at the same moment; and, when I crossed the garden to reach their door, I smiled to see upon the gravel the trace of Eva’s little foot always close to the mark of William’s boot. What a difference between the deserted old house you see yonder, and the pretty dwelling of my young friends! What sweet flowers covered the walls! What bright nosegays decked the tables! How many charming books were there, full of tales of love that resembled their love! How gay the birds that sang around them! How good it was to live there, and to be loved a little by those who loved each other so much! But those are right who say that happy days are not long upon this earth, and that, in respect of happiness, God gives but a little at a time.

“One morning Eva Meredith appeared to suffer. I questioned her with all the interest I felt for her. She answered me abruptly.

“‘Do not feel my pulse, doctor,’ she said; ‘it is my heart that beats too quick. Think me childish if you will, but I am sad this morning. William is going away. He is going to the town beyond the mountain, to receive money.’

“‘And when will he return?’ inquired I, gently.

“She smiled, almost blushed, and then, with a look that seemed to say, Do not laugh at me, she replied, ‘This evening!

“Notwithstanding her imploring glance, I could not repress a smile. Just then a servant brought Mr Meredith’s horse to the door. Eva rose from her seat, went out into the garden, approached the horse, and, whilst stroking his mane, bowed her head upon the animal’s neck, perhaps to conceal the tear that fell from her eyes. William came out, threw himself lightly into the saddle, and gently raised his wife’s head.

“‘Silly girl!’ said he, with love in his eyes and voice. And he kissed her brow.

“‘William, we have never yet been so many hours apart!’

“Mr Meredith stooped his head towards that of Eva, and imprinted a second kiss upon her beautiful golden hair; then he touched his horse’s flank with the spur, and set off at a gallop. I am convinced that he, too, was a little moved. Nothing is so contagious as the weakness of those we love; tears summon tears, and it is no very laudable courage that keeps our eyes dry by the side of a weeping friend. I turned my steps homeward, and, once more in my cottage, I set myself to meditate on the happiness of loving. I asked myself if an Eva would ever cheer my poor dwelling. I did not think of examining whether I were worthy to be loved. When we behold two beings thus devoted to each other, we easily discern that it is not for good and various reasons that they love so well; they love because it is necessary, inevitable; they love on account of their own hearts, not of those of others. Well, I thought how I might seek and find a heart that had need to love, just as, in my morning walks, I might have thought to meet, by the road-side, some flower of sweet perfume. Thus did I muse, although it is perhaps a wrong feeling which makes us, at sight of others’ bliss, deplore the happiness we do not ourselves possess. Is not a little envy there? and if joy could be stolen like gold, should we not then be near a larceny?

“The day passed, and I had just completed my frugal supper, when I received a message from Mrs Meredith, begging me to visit her. In five minutes I was at the door of the white cottage. I found Eva, still alone, seated on a sofa, without work or book, pale and trembling. ‘Come, doctor, come,’ said she, in her soft voice; ‘I can remain alone no longer; see how late it is!—he should have been home two hours ago, and has not yet returned!’

“I was surprised at Mr Meredith’s prolonged absence; but, to comfort his wife, I replied quietly, ‘How can we tell the time necessary to transact his business? They may have made him wait; the notary was perhaps absent. There were papers to draw up and sign.’

“‘Ah, doctor, I was sure you would find words of consolation! I needed to hear some one tell me that it is foolish to tremble thus! Gracious heaven, how long the day has been! Doctor, are there really persons who live alone? Do they not die immediately, as if robbed of half the atmosphere essential to life? But there is eight o’clock!’ Eight o’clock was indeed striking. I could not imagine why William was not back. At all hazards I said to Mrs Meredith, ‘Madam, the sun is hardly set; it is still daylight, and the evening is beautiful; come and visit your flowers. If we walk down the road, we shall doubtless meet your husband.’

“She took my arm, and we walked towards the gate of the little garden. I endeavoured to turn her attention to surrounding objects. At first she replied, as a child obeys. But I felt that her thoughts went not with her words. Her anxious gaze was fixed upon the little green gate, which had remained open since William’s departure. Leaning upon the paling, she suffered me to talk on, smiling from time to time, by way of thanks; for, as the evening wore away, she lacked courage to answer me. Grey tints succeeded the red sunset, foreshadowing the arrival of night. Gloom gathered around us. The road, hitherto visible like a white line winding through the forest, disappeared in the dark shade of the lofty trees, and the village clock struck nine. Eva started. I myself felt every stroke vibrate upon my heart. I pitied the poor woman’s uneasiness.

“‘Remember, madam,’ I replied (she had not spoken, but I answered the anxiety visible in her features), ‘remember that Mr Meredith must return at a walk; the roads through the forest are not in a state to admit fast riding.’ I said this to encourage her; but the truth is, I knew not how to explain William’s absence. Knowing the distance, I also knew that I could have gone twice to the town and back since his departure. The evening dew began to penetrate our clothes, and especially Eva’s thin muslin dress. Again I drew her arm through mine and led her towards the house. She followed unresistingly; her gentle nature was submissive even in affliction. She walked slowly, her head bowed, her eyes fixed on the tracks left by the gallop of her husband’s horse. How melancholy it was, that evening walk, still without William! In vain we listened: there reigned around us the profound stillness of a summer night in the country. How greatly does a feeling of uneasiness increase under such circumstances. We entered the house. Eva seated herself on the sofa, her hands clasped upon her knees, her head sunk upon her bosom. There was a lamp on the chimney-piece, whose light fell full upon her face. I shall never forget its suffering expression. She was pale, very pale—her brow and cheeks exactly the same colour; her hair, relaxed by the night-damp, fell in disorder upon her shoulders. Tears filled her eyes, and the quivering of her colourless lips showed how violent was the effort by which she avoided shedding them. She was so young that her face resembled that of a child forbidden to cry.

“I was greatly troubled, and knew not what to say or how to look. Suddenly I remembered (it was a doctor’s thought) that Eva, engrossed by her uneasiness, had taken nothing since morning, and her situation rendered it imprudent to prolong this fast. At my first reference to the subject she raised her eyes to mine with a reproachful expression, and the motion of her eyelids caused two tears to flow down her cheeks.

“‘For your child’s sake, madam,’ said I.

“‘Ah, you are right!’ she murmured, and she passed into the dining-room; but there the little table was laid for two, and at that moment this trifle so saddened me as to deprive me of speech and motion. My increasing uneasiness rendered me quite awkward; I had not the wit to say what I did not think. The silence was prolonged; ‘and yet,’ said I to myself, ‘I am here to console her; she sent for me for that purpose. There must be fifty ways of explaining this delay—let me find one.’ I sought, and sought—and still I remained silent, inwardly cursing the poverty of invention of a poor village doctor. Eva, her head resting on her hand, forgot to eat. Suddenly she turned to me and burst out sobbing.

“‘Ah, doctor!’ she exclaimed, ‘I see plainly that you too are uneasy.’

“‘Not so, madam—indeed not so,’ replied I, speaking at random. ‘Why should I be uneasy? He has doubtless dined with the notary. The roads are safe, and no one knows that he went for money.’

“I had inadvertently revealed one of my secret causes of uneasiness. I knew that a band of foreign reapers had that morning passed through the village, on their way to a neighbouring department.

“Eva uttered a cry.

“‘Robbers! robbers!’ she exclaimed. ‘I never thought of that danger.’

“‘But, madam, I only mention it to tell you it does not exist.’

“‘Oh! the thought struck you, doctor, because you thought the misfortune possible! William, my own William! why did you leave me?’ cried she, weeping bitterly.

“I was in despair at my blunder, and I felt my eyes fill with tears. My distress gave me an idea.

“‘Mrs Meredith,’ I said, ‘I cannot see you torment yourself thus, and remain by your side unable to console you. I will go and seek your husband; I will follow at random one of the paths through the forest; I will search everywhere and shout his name, and go, if necessary, to the town itself.’

“‘Oh, thanks, thanks, kind friend!’ cried Eva Meredith, ‘take the gardener with you and the servant; search in all directions!’

“We hurried back into the drawing-room, and Eva rang quickly and repeatedly. All the inhabitants of the cottage opened at the same time the different doors of the apartment. ‘Follow Dr Barnaby,’ cried Mrs Meredith.

“At that moment a horse’s gallop was distinctly heard upon the gravel of the garden. Eva uttered a cry of happiness that went home to every heart. Never shall I forget the divine expression of joy that illumined her face, still inundated with tears. She and I, we flew to the house-door. The moon, passing from behind a cloud, threw her full light upon a riderless and foam-covered horse, whose bridle dragged upon the ground, and whose dusty flanks were galled by the empty stirrups. A second cry, this time of intensest horror, burst from Eva’s breast; then she turned towards me, her eyes fixed, her mouth half open, her arms hanging powerless.

“The servants were in consternation.

“‘Get torches, my friends!’ cried I, ‘and follow me! Madam, we shall soon return, I hope, and your husband with us. He has received some slight hurt, a strained ankle, perhaps. Keep up your courage. We will soon be back.’

“‘I go with you!’ murmured Eva Meredith in a choking voice.

“‘Impossible!’ I cried. ‘We must go fast, perhaps far, and in your state—it would be risking your life, and that of your child—’

“‘I go with you!’ repeated Eva.

“Then did I feel how cruel was this poor woman’s isolation! Had a father, a mother been there, they would have ordered her to stay, they would have retained her by force; but she was alone upon the earth, and to all my hurried entreaties she still replied in a hollow voice: ‘I go with you!’

“We set out. The moon was again darkened by dense clouds; there was light neither in the heavens nor on the earth. The uncertain radiance of our torches barely showed us the path. A servant went in front, lowering his torch to the right and to the left, to illumine the ditches and bushes bordering the road. Behind him Mrs Meredith, the gardener, and myself, followed with our eyes the stream of light. From time to time we raised our voices and called Mr Meredith. After us a stifled sob murmured the name of William, as if a heart had reckoned on the instinct of love to hear its tears better than our shouts. We reached the forest. Rain began to fall, and the drops pattered upon the foliage with a mournful noise, as if everything around us wept. Eva’s thin dress was soon soaked with the cold flood. The water streamed from her hair over her face. She bruised her feet against the stones of the road, and repeatedly stumbled and fell upon her knees; but she rose again with the energy of despair, and pushed forwards. It was agonising to behold her. I scarcely dared look at her, lest I should see her fall dead before my eyes. At last—we were moving in silence, fatigued and discouraged—Mrs Meredith pushed us suddenly aside, sprang forward and plunged into the bushes. We followed her, and, upon raising the torches—alas! she was on her knees beside the body of William, who was stretched motionless upon the ground, his eyes glazed and his brow covered with blood which flowed from a wound in the left temple.

“‘Doctor?’ said Eva to me. That one word expressed—‘Does William live?’

“I stooped and felt the pulse of William Meredith; I placed my hand on his heart and remained silent. Eva still gazed at me; but, when my silence was prolonged, I saw her bend, waver, and then, without word or cry, fall senseless upon her husband’s corpse.

“But, ladies,” said Dr Barnaby, turning to his audience, “the sun shines again; you can go out now. Let us leave this sad story where it is.”

Madame de Moncar approached the old physician. “Doctor,” said she, “I implore you to continue; only look at us, and you will not doubt the interest with which we listen.”

There were no more smiles of mockery upon the young faces that surrounded the village doctor. In some of their eyes he might even distinguish the glistening of tears. He resumed his narrative.

“Mrs Meredith was carried home, and remained for several hours senseless upon her bed. I felt it at once a duty and a cruelty to use every effort to recall her to life. I dreaded the agonising scenes that would follow this state of immobility. I remained beside the poor woman, bathing her temples with fresh water, and awaiting with anxiety the sad and yet the happy moment of returning consciousness. I was mistaken in my anticipations, for I had never witnessed great grief. Eva half opened her eyes and immediately closed them again; no tear escaped from beneath their lids. She remained cold, motionless, silent; and, but for the heart which again throbbed beneath my hand, I should have deemed her dead. Sad is it to behold a sorrow which one feels is beyond consolation! Silence, I thought, seemed like a want of pity for this unfortunate creature: on the other hand, verbal condolence was a mockery of so mighty a grief. I had found no words to calm her uneasiness; could I hope to be more eloquent in the hour of her great suffering? I took the safest course, that of profound silence. I will remain here, I thought, and minister to the physical sufferings, as is my duty; but I will be mute and passive, even as a faithful dog would lie down at her feet. My mind once made up, I felt calmer; I let her live a life which resembled death. After a few hours, however, I put a spoonful of a potion to her lips. Eva slowly averted her head. In a few moments I again offered her the drug.

“‘Drink, madam,’ I said, gently touching her lips with the spoon. They remained closed.

“‘Madam, your child!’ I persisted in a low voice.

“Eva opened her eyes, raised herself with effort upon her elbow, swallowed the medicine, and fell back upon her pillow.

“‘I must wait,’ she murmured, ‘till another life is detached from mine!’

“Thenceforward Mrs Meredith spoke no more, but she mechanically followed all my prescriptions. Stretched upon her bed of suffering, she seemed constantly to sleep; but at whatever moment I said to her, even in my lowest whisper, ‘Drink this,’ she instantly obeyed; thus proving to me that the soul kept its weary watch in that motionless body, without a single instant of oblivion and repose.

“There were none beside myself to attend to the interment of William. Nothing positive was ever known as to the cause of his death. The sum he was to bring from the town was not found upon him; perhaps he had been robbed and murdered; perhaps the money, which was in notes, had fallen from his pocket when he was thrown from his horse, and, as it was some time before any thought of seeking it, the heavy rain and trampled mud might account for its disappearance. A fruitless investigation was made and soon dropped. I endeavoured to learn from Eva Meredith if her family, or that of her husband, should not be written to. I had difficulty in obtaining an answer. At last she gave me to understand that I had merely to inform their agent, who would do whatever was needful. I hoped that, at least from England, some communication would arrive, decisive of this poor creature’s future lot. But no; day followed day, and none seemed to know that the widow of William Meredith lived in utter isolation, in a poor French village. To endeavour to bring back Eva to the sense of her existence, I urged her to leave her bed. Upon the morrow I found her up, dressed in black; but she was the ghost of the beautiful Eva Meredith. Her hair was parted in bands upon her pale forehead, and she sat near a window, motionless as she had lain in bed.

“I passed long silent evenings with her, a book in my hand for apparent occupation. Each day, on my arrival, I addressed to her a few words of sympathy. She replied by a thankful look; then we remained silent. I waited an opportunity to open a conversation; but my awkwardness and my respect for her grief prevented my finding one, or suffered it to escape when it occurred. Little by little I grew accustomed to this mute intercourse; and, besides, what could I have said to her? My chief object was to prevent her feeling quite alone in the world; and, obscure as was the prop remaining, it still was something. I went to see her merely that my presence might say, ‘I am here.’

“It was a singular epoch in my life, and had a great influence on my future existence. Had I not shown so much regret at the threatened destruction of the white cottage, I would hurry to the conclusion of this narrative. But you have insisted upon knowing why that building is hallowed to me, and I must tell you therefore what I have thought and felt beneath its humble roof. Forgive me, ladies, if my words are grave. It is good for youth to be sometimes a little saddened; it has so much time before it to laugh and to forget.

“The son of a rich peasant, I was sent to Paris to complete my studies. During four years passed in that great city, I retained the awkwardness of my manners, the simplicity of my language, but I rapidly lost the ingenuousness of my sentiments. I returned to these mountains, almost learned, but almost incredulous in all those points of faith which enable a man to pass his life contentedly beneath a thatched roof, in the society of his wife and children, without caring to look beyond the cross above the village cemetery.

“Whilst contemplating the love of William and of Eva, I had reverted to my former simple peasant-nature. I began to dream of a virtuous, affectionate wife, diligent and frugal, embellishing my house by her care and order. I saw myself proud of the gentle severity of her features, revealing to all the chaste and faithful spouse. Very different were these reveries from those that haunted me at Paris after joyous evenings spent with my comrades. Suddenly, horrible calamity descended like a thunderbolt upon Eva Meredith. This time I was slower to appreciate the lesson I daily received. Eva sat constantly at the window, her sad gaze fixed upon the heavens. The attitude, common in persons of meditative mood, attracted my attention but little. Her persistence in it at last struck me. My book open upon my knees, I looked at Mrs Meredith; and well assured she would not detect my gaze, I examined her attentively. She still gazed at the sky—my eyes followed the direction of hers. ‘Ah,’ I said to myself with a half smile, ‘she thinks to rejoin him there!’ Then I resumed my book, thinking how fortunate it was for the weakness of women that such thoughts came to the relief of their sorrows.

“I have already told you that my student’s life had put evil thoughts into my head. Every day, however, I saw Eva in the same attitude, and every day my reflections were recalled to the same subject. Little by little I came to think her dream a good one, and to regret I could not credit its reality. The soul, heaven, eternal life, all that the old priest had formerly taught me, glided through my imagination as I sat at eventide before the open window. ‘The doctrine of the old curé,’ I said to myself, ‘was more comforting than the cold realities science has revealed to me.’ Then I looked at Eva, who still looked to heaven, whilst the bells of the village church sounded sweetly in the distance, and the rays of the setting sun made the steeple cross glitter against the sky. I often returned to sit opposite the poor widow, persevering in her grief as in her holy hopes.

“‘What!’ I thought, ‘can so much love address itself to a few particles of dust, already mingled with the mould; are all these sighs wasted on empty air? William departed in the freshness of his age, his affections yet vivid, his heart in its early bloom. She loved him but a year, one little year—and is all over for her? Above our heads is there nothing but void? Love—that sentiment so strong within us—is it but a flame placed in the obscure prison of our body, where it shines, burns, and is finally extinguished by the fall of the frail wall surrounding it? Is a little dust all that remains of our loves, and hopes, and passions—of all that moves, agitates, and exalts us?’

“There was deep silence in the recesses of my soul. I had ceased to think. I was as if slumbering between what I no longer denied, and what I did not yet believe. At last, one night, when Eva joined her hands to pray, beneath the most beautiful starlit sky possible to behold, I know not how it was, but I found my hands also clasped, and my lips opened to murmur a prayer. Then, by a happy chance, and for the first time, Eva Meredith looked round, as if a secret instinct had whispered her that my soul harmonised with hers.

“‘Thanks,’ said she, holding out her hand, ‘keep him in your memory, and pray for him sometimes.’

“‘Oh, madam!’ I exclaimed, ‘may we all meet again in a better world, whether our lives have been long or short, happy or full of trial.’

“‘His immortal soul looks down upon us!’ she replied in a grave voice, whilst her gaze, at once sad and bright, reverted to the star-spangled heavens.

“Since that evening, when performing the duties of my profession, I have often witnessed death; but never without speaking to the sorrowing survivors a few consoling words on a better life than this one; and those words were words of conviction.

“At last, a month after these incidents, Eva Meredith gave birth to a son. When they brought her her child,—‘William!’ exclaimed the poor widow; and tears, soothing tears too long denied to her grief, escaped in torrents from her eyes. The child bore that much-loved name of William, and a little cradle was placed close to the mother’s bed. Then Eva’s gaze, long directed to heaven, returned earthwards. She looked to her child now, as she had previously looked to her God. She bent over him to seek his father’s features. Providence had permitted an exact resemblance between William and the son he was fated not to see. A great change occurred around us. Eva, who had consented to live until her child’s existence was detached from hers, was now, I could plainly see, willing to live on, because she felt that this little being needed the protection of her love. She passed the days and evenings seated beside his cradle; and when I went to see her, oh! then she questioned me as to what she should do for him, she explained what he had suffered, and asked what could be done to save him from pain. For her child she feared the heat of a ray of sun, the chill of the lightest breeze. Bending over him, she shielded him with her body, and warmed him with her kisses. One day, I almost thought I saw her smile at him. But she never would sing, whilst rocking his cradle, to lull him to sleep; she called one of her women, and said, ‘Sing to my son that he may sleep.’ Then she listened, letting her tears flow softly upon little William’s brow. Poor child! he was handsome, gentle, easy to rear. But, as if his mother’s sorrow had affected him even before his birth, the child was melancholy: he seldom cried, but he never smiled: he was quiet; and at that age quiet seems to denote suffering. I fancied that all the tears shed over the cradle froze that poor little soul. I would fain have seen William’s arms twined caressingly round his mother’s neck. I would have had him return the kisses lavished upon him. ‘But what am I thinking about?’ I then said to myself; ‘is it reasonable to expect that a little creature, not yet a year upon the earth, should understand that it is sent hither to love and console this woman?’

“It was, I assure you, a touching sight to behold this young mother, pale, feeble, and who had once renounced existence, clinging again to life for the sake of a little child which could not even say ‘Thanks, dear mother!’ What a marvel is the human heart! Of how small a thing it makes much! Give it but a grain of sand, and it elevates a mountain; at its latest throb show it but an atom to love, and again its pulses revive; it stops for good only when all is void around it, and when even the shadow of its affections has vanished from the earth!

“Time rolled on, and I received a letter from an uncle, my sole surviving relative. My uncle, a member of the faculty of Montpellier, summoned me to his side, to complete in that learned town my initiation into the secrets of my art. This letter, in form an invitation, was in fact an order. I had to set out. One morning, my heart big when I thought of the isolation in which I left the widow and the orphan, I repaired to the white cottage to take leave of Eva Meredith. I know not whether an additional shade of sadness came over her features when I told her I was about to make a long absence. Since the death of William Meredith such profound melancholy dwelt upon her countenance that a smile would have been the sole perceptible variation: sadness was always there.

“‘You leave us?’ she exclaimed; ‘your care is so useful to my child!’

“The poor lonely woman forgot to regret the departure of her last friend; the mother lamented the loss of the physician useful to her son. I did not complain. To be useful is the sweet recompense of the devoted.

“‘Adieu!’ she said, holding out her hand. ‘Wherever you go, may God bless you; and should it be His will to afflict you, may He at least afford you the sympathy of a heart compassionate as your own.’

“I bowed over the hand of Eva Meredith; and I departed, deeply moved.

“The child was in the garden in front of the house, lying upon the grass, in the sun. I took him in my arms and kissed him repeatedly; I looked at him long, attentively, sadly, and a tear started to my eyes. ‘Oh, no, no! I must be mistaken!’ I murmured, and I hurried from the white cottage.”

“Good heavens, doctor!” simultaneously exclaimed all Dr Barnaby’s audience, “what did you apprehend?”

“Suffer me to finish my story my own way,” replied the village doctor; “everything shall be told in its turn. I relate these events in the order in which they occurred.

“On my arrival at Montpellier, I was exceedingly well received by my uncle; who declared, however, that he could neither lodge nor feed me, nor lend me money, and that as a stranger, without a name, I must not hope for a patient in a town so full of celebrated physicians.

“‘Then I will return to my village, uncle,’ replied I.

“‘By no means!’ was his answer. ‘I have got you a lucrative and respectable situation. An old Englishman, rich, gouty, and restless, wishes to have a doctor to live with him, an intelligent young man who will take charge of his health under the superintendence of an older physician. I have proposed you—you have been accepted; let us go to him.’

“We betook ourselves immediately to the residence of Lord James Kysington, a large and handsome house, full of servants, where, after waiting some time, first in the anteroom, and then in the parlours, we were at last ushered into the presence of the noble invalid. Seated in a large arm-chair was an old man of cold and severe aspect, whose white hair contrasted oddly with his eyebrows, still of a jet black. He was tall and thin, as far as I could judge through the folds of a large cloth coat, made like a dressing-gown. His hands disappeared under his cuffs, and his feet were wrapped in the skin of a white bear. A number of medicine vials were upon a table beside him.

“‘My lord, this is my nephew, Dr Barnaby.’

“Lord Kysington bowed—that is to say, he looked at me, and made a scarcely perceptible movement with his head.

“‘He is well versed in his profession, and I doubt not that his care will be most beneficial to your lordship.’

“A second movement of the head was the sole reply vouchsafed.

“‘Moreover,’ continued my relation, ‘having had a tolerably good education, he can read to your lordship, or write under your dictation.’

“‘I shall be obliged to him,’ replied Lord Kysington, breaking silence at last, and then closing his eyes, either from fatigue, or as a hint that the conversation was to drop. I glanced around me. Near the window sat a lady, very elegantly dressed, who continued her embroidery without once raising her eyes, as if we were not worthy her notice. Upon the carpet at her feet a little boy amused himself with toys. The lady, although young, did not at first strike me as pretty—because she had black hair and eyes; and to be pretty, according to my notion, was to be fair, like Eva Meredith; and, moreover, in my inexperience, I held beauty impossible without a certain air of goodness. It was long before I could admit the beauty of this woman, whose brow was haughty, her look disdainful, and her mouth unsmiling. Like Lord Kysington, she was tall, thin, rather pale. In character they were too much alike to suit each other well. Formal and taciturn, they lived together without affection, almost without converse. The child, too, had been taught silence; he walked on tiptoe, and at the least noise a severe look from his mother or from Lord Kysington changed him into a statue.

“It was too late to return to my village; but it is never too late to regret what one has loved and lost. My heart ached when I thought of my cottage, my valley, my liberty.

“What I learned concerning the cheerless family I had entered was as follows:—Lord James Kysington had come to Montpellier for his health, deteriorated by the climate of India. Second son of the Duke of Kysington, and a lord only by courtesy, he owed to talent and not to inheritance his fortune and his political position in the House of Commons. Lady Mary was the wife of his youngest brother; and Lord James, free to dispose of his fortune, had named her son his heir.

“Towards me his lordship was most punctiliously polite. A bow thanked me for every service I rendered him. I read aloud for hours together, uninterrupted either by the sombre old man, whom I put to sleep, or by the young woman, who did not listen to me, or by the child, who trembled in his uncle’s presence. I had never led so melancholy a life, and yet, as you know, ladies, the little white cottage had long ceased to be gay; but the silence of misfortune implies reflections that words are insufficient to express. One feels the life of the soul under the stillness of the body. In my new abode it was the silence of a void.

“One day that Lord James dozed and Lady Mary was engrossed with embroidery, little Harry climbed upon my knee, as I sat apart at the farther end of the room, and began to question me with the artless curiosity of his age. In my turn, and without reflecting on what I said, I questioned him concerning his family.

“‘Have you any brothers or sisters?’ I inquired.

“‘I have a very pretty little sister.’

“‘What is her name?’ asked I, absently, glancing at the newspaper in my hand.

“‘She has a beautiful name. Guess it, Doctor.’

“I know not what I was thinking about. In my village I had heard none but the names of peasants, hardly applicable to Lady Mary’s daughter. Mrs Meredith was the only lady I had known, and the child repeating, ‘Guess, guess!’ I replied at random,

“‘Eva, perhaps?’

“We were speaking very low; but when the name of Eva escaped my lips, Lord James opened his eyes quickly, and raised himself in his chair, Lady Mary dropped her needle and turned sharply towards me. I was confounded at the effect I had produced; I looked alternately at Lord James and at Lady Mary, without daring to utter another word. Some minutes passed: Lord James again let his head fall back and closed his eyes, Lady Mary resumed her needle, Harry and I ceased our conversation. I reflected for some time upon this strange incident, until at last, all around me having sunk into the usual monotonous calm, I rose to leave the room. Lady Mary pushed away her embroidery frame, passed before me, and made me a sign to follow. When we were both in another room she shut the door, and raising her head, with the imperious air which was the most habitual expression of her features: ‘Dr Barnaby,’ said she, ‘be so good as never again to pronounce the name that just now escaped your lips. It is a name Lord James Kysington must not hear.’ She bowed slightly, and re-entered her brother-in-law’s apartment.

“Thoughts innumerable crowded upon my mind. This Eva, whose name was not to be spoken, could it be Eva Meredith? Was she Lord Kysington’s daughter-in-law? Was I in the house of William’s father? I hoped, but still I doubted; for, after all, if there was but one Eva in the world for me, in England the name was, doubtless, by no means uncommon. But the thought that I was perhaps with the family of Eva Meredith, living with the woman who robbed the widow and the orphan of their inheritance, this thought was present to me by day and by night. In my dreams I beheld the return of Eva and her son to the paternal residence, in consequence of the pardon I had implored and obtained for them. But when I raised my eyes, the cold impassible physiognomy of Lord Kysington froze all the hopes of my heart. I applied myself to the examination of that countenance as if I had never before seen it; I analysed its features and lines to find a trace of sensibility. I sought the heart I so gladly would have touched. Alas! I found it not. But I had so good a cause that I was not to be discouraged. ‘Pshaw!’ I said to myself, ‘what matters the expression of the face? why heed the external envelope? May not the darkest coffer contain bright gold? Must all that is within us reveal itself at a glance? Does not every man of the world learn to separate his mind and his thoughts from the habitual expression of his countenance?’

“I resolved to clear up my doubts, but how to do so was the difficulty. Impossible to question Lady Mary or Lord James; the servants were French, and had but lately come to the house. An English valet-de-chambre had just been despatched to London on a confidential mission. I directed my investigations to Lord James Kysington. The severe expression of his countenance ceased to intimidate me. I said to myself, ‘When the forester meets with a tree apparently dead, he strikes his axe into the trunk to see whether sap does not still survive beneath the withered bark; in like manner will I strike at the heart, and see whether life be not somewhere hidden.’ And I only waited an opportunity.

“To await an opportunity with impatience is to accelerate its coming. Instead of depending on circumstances we subjugate them. One night Lord James sent for me. He was in pain. After administering the necessary remedies, I remained by his bedside, to watch their effect. The room was dark; a single wax candle showed the outline of objects, without illuminating them. The pale and noble head of Lord James was thrown back upon his pillow. His eyes were shut, according to his custom when suffering, as if he concentrated his moral energies within him. He never complained, but lay stretched out in his bed, straight and motionless as a king’s statue upon a marble tomb. In general he got somebody to read to him, hoping either to distract his thoughts from his pains, or to be lulled to sleep by the monotonous sound.

“Upon that night he made sign to me with his meagre hand to take a book and read, but I sought one in vain; books and newspapers had all been removed to the drawing-room; the doors were locked, and unless I rang and aroused the house, a book was not to be had. Lord James made a gesture of impatience, then one of resignation, and beckoned me to resume my seat by his side. We remained for some time without speaking, almost in darkness, the silence broken only by the ticking of the clock. Sleep came not. Suddenly Lord James opened his eyes.

“‘Speak to me,’ he said. ‘Tell me something; whatever you like.’

“His eyes closed, and he waited. My heart beat violently. The moment had come.

“‘My lord,’ said I, ‘I greatly fear I know nothing that will interest your lordship. I can speak but of myself, of the events of my life,—and the history of the great ones of the earth were necessary to fix your attention. What can a peasant have to say, who has lived contented with little, in obscurity and repose? I have scarcely quitted my village, my lord. It is a pretty mountain hamlet, where even those not born there might well be pleased to dwell. Near it is a country house, which I have known inhabited by rich people, who could have left it if they liked, but who remained, because the woods were thick, the paths bordered with flowers, the streams bright and rapid in their rocky beds. Alas! they were two in that house—and soon a poor woman was there alone, until the birth of her son. My lord, she is a countrywoman of yours, an Englishwoman, of beauty such as is seldom seen either in England or in France; good as, besides her, only the angels in heaven can be! She had just completed her eighteenth year when I left her, fatherless, motherless, and already widowed of an adored husband; she is feeble, delicate, almost ill, and yet she must live;—who would protect that little child? Oh! my lord, there are very unhappy beings in this world! To be unhappy in middle life or old age is doubtless sad, but still you have pleasant memories of the past to remind you that you have had your day, your share, your happiness; but to weep before you are eighteen is far sadder, for nothing can bring back the dead, and the future is dim with tears. Poor creature! We see a beggar by the road-side suffering from cold and hunger, and we give him alms, and look upon him without pain, because it is in our power to relieve him; but this unhappy, broken-hearted woman, the only relief to give her would be to love her—and none are there to bestow that alms upon her!

“‘Ah! my lord, if you knew what a fine young man her husband was!—hardly three-and-twenty; a noble countenance, a lofty brow—like your own, intelligent and proud; dark-blue eyes, rather pensive, rather sad. I knew why they were sad. He loved his father and his native land, and he was doomed to exile from both! And how good and graceful was his smile! Ah! how he would have smiled at his little child, had he lived long enough to see it. He loved it even before it was born: he took pleasure in looking at the cradle that awaited it. Poor, poor young man!—I saw him on a stormy night, in the dark forest, stretched upon the wet earth, motionless, lifeless, his garments covered with mud, his temples shattered, blood escaping in torrents from his wound. I saw—alas! I saw William—’

“‘You saw my son’s death!’ cried Lord James, raising himself like a spectre in the midst of his pillows, and fixing me with eyes so distended and piercing, that I started back alarmed. But notwithstanding the darkness, I thought I saw a tear moisten the old man’s eyelids.

“‘My lord,’ I replied, ‘I was present at your son’s death, and at the birth of his child!’

“There was an instant’s silence. Lord James looked steadfastly at me. At last he made a movement; his trembling hand sought mine, pressed it, then his fingers relaxed their grasp, and he fell back upon the bed.

“‘Enough sir, enough; I suffer, I need repose. Leave me.’

“I bowed, and retired.

“Before I was out of the room, Lord James had relapsed into his habitual position; into silence and immobility.

“I will not detail to you my numerous and respectful representations to Lord James Kysington, his indecision and secret anxiety, and how at last his paternal love, awakened by the details of the horrible catastrophe, his pride of race, revived by the hope of leaving an heir to his name, triumphed over his bitter resentment. Three months after the scene I have described, I awaited, on the threshold of the house at Montpellier, the arrival of Eva Meredith and her son, summoned to their family and to the resumption of all their rights. It was a proud and happy day for me.

“Lady Mary, perfect mistress of herself, had concealed her joy when family dissensions had made her son heir to her wealthy brother. Still better did she conceal her regret and anger when Eva Meredith, or rather Eva Kysington, was reconciled with her father-in-law. Not a cloud appeared upon Lady Mary’s marble forehead. But beneath this external calm how many evil passions fermented!

“When the carriage of Eva Meredith (I will still give her that name) entered the courtyard of the house, I was there to receive her. Eva held out her hand—‘Thanks, thanks, my friend!’ she murmured. She wiped the tears that trembled in her eyes, and taking her boy, now three years old, and of great beauty, by the hand, she entered her new abode. ‘I am afraid,’ she said. She was still the weak woman, broken by affliction, pale, sad, and beautiful, incredulous of earthly hopes, but firm in heavenly faith. I walked by her side; and as she ascended the steps, her gentle countenance bedewed with tears, her slender and feeble form inclined towards the balustrade, her extended arm assisting the child, who walked still more slowly than herself, Lady Mary and her son appeared at the door. Lady Mary wore a brown velvet dress, rich bracelets encircled her arms, a slender gold chain bound her brow, which in truth was of those on which a diadem sits well. She advanced with an assured step, her head high, her glance full of pride. Such was the first meeting of the two mothers.

“‘You are welcome, madam,’ said Lady Mary, bowing to Eva Meredith.

“Eva tried to smile, and answered by a few affectionate words. How could she forbode hatred, she who only knew love? We proceeded to Lord James’s room. Mrs Meredith, scarcely able to support herself, entered first, took a few steps, and knelt beside her father-in-law’s arm-chair. Taking her child in her arms, she placed him on Lord James Kysington’s knee.

“‘His son!’ she said. Then the poor woman wept and was silent.

“Long did Lord James gaze upon the child. As he gradually recognised the features of the son he had lost, his eyes became moist, and their expression affectionate. There came a moment when, forgetting his age, lapse of time, and past misfortune, he dreamed himself back to the happy day when he first pressed his infant son to his heart. ‘William, William!’ he murmured. ‘My daughter!’ added he, extending his hand to Eva Meredith.

“My eyes filled with tears. Eva had a family, a protector, a fortune. I was happy; doubtless that was why I wept.

“The child remained quiet upon his grandfather’s knees, and showed neither pleasure nor fear.

“‘Will you love me?’ said the old man.

“The child raised its head, but did not answer.

“‘Do you hear? I will be your father.’

“‘I will be your father,’ the child gently repeated.

“‘Excuse him,’ said his mother; ‘he has always been alone. He is very young; the presence of many persons intimidates him. By-and-by, my lord, he will better understand your kind words.’

“But I looked at the child; I examined him in silence; I recalled my former gloomy apprehensions. Alas! those apprehensions now became a certainty; the terrible shock experienced by Eva Meredith during her pregnancy had had fatal consequences for her child, and a mother only, in her youth, her love, and her inexperience, could have remained so long ignorant of her misfortune.

“At the same time with myself Lady Mary looked at the child. I shall never forget the expression of her countenance. She stood erect, and the piercing gaze she fixed upon little William seemed to read his very soul. As she gazed, her eyes sparkled, her mouth was half-opened as by a smile—she breathed short and thick, like one oppressed by great and sudden joy. She looked, looked—hope, doubt, expectation, replaced each other on her face. At last her hatred was clear-sighted, an internal cry of triumph burst from her heart, but was checked ere it reached her lips. She drew herself up, let fall a disdainful glance upon Eva, her vanquished enemy, and resumed her usual calm.

“Lord James, fatigued by the emotions of the day, dismissed us, and remained alone all the evening.

“Upon the morrow, after an agitated night, when I entered Lord James’s room, all the family were already assembled around him, and Lady Mary had little William on her knees: it was the tiger clutching its prey.

“‘What a beautiful child!’ she said. ‘See, my lord, these fair and silken locks! how brilliant they are in the sunshine! But, dear Eva, is your son always so silent? does he never exhibit the vivacity and gaiety of his age?’

“‘He is always sad,’ replied Mrs Meredith. ‘Alas! with me he could hardly learn to laugh.’

“‘We will try to amuse and cheer him,’ said Lady Mary. ‘Come, my dear child, kiss your grandfather! hold out your arms, and tell him you love him.’

“William did not stir.

“‘Do you not know how? Harry, my love, kiss your uncle, and set your cousin a good example.’

“Harry jumped upon Lord James’s knees, threw both arms round his neck, and said, ‘I love you, dear uncle!’

“‘Now it is your turn, my dear William,’ said Lady Mary.

“William stirred not, and did not even look at his grandfather.

“A tear coursed down Eva Meredith’s cheek.

“‘’Tis my fault,’ she said. ‘I have brought up my child badly.’ And, taking William upon her lap, her tears fell upon his face: he felt them not, but slumbered upon his mother’s heavy heart.

“‘Try to make William less shy,’ said Lord James to his daughter-in-law.

“‘I will try,’ replied Eva, in her submissive tones, like those of an obedient child. ‘I will try; and perhaps I shall succeed, if Lady Mary will kindly tell me how she rendered her son so happy and so gay.’ Then the disconsolate mother looked at Harry, who was at play near his uncle’s chair, and her eyes reverted to her poor sleeping child. ‘He suffered even before his birth,’ she murmured; ‘we have both been very unhappy! but I will try to weep no more, that William may be cheerful like other children.’

“Two days elapsed, two painful days, full of secret trouble and ill-concealed uneasiness. Lord James’s brow was care-laden; at times his look questioned me. I averted my eyes to avoid answering. On the morning of the third day, Lady Mary came into the room with a number of play-things for the children. Harry seized a sword, and ran about the room, shouting for joy. William remained motionless, holding in his little hand the toys that were given to him, but not attempting to use them; he did not even look at them.

“‘Here, my lord,’ said Lady Mary to her brother, ‘give this book to your grandson; perhaps his attention will be roused by the pictures it contains.’ And she led William to Lord James. The child was passive; he walked, stopped, and remained like a statue where he was placed. Lord James opened the book. All eyes turned towards the group formed by the old man and his grandson. Lord James was gloomy, silent, severe; he slowly turned several pages, stopping at every picture, and looking at William, whose vacant gaze was not directed to the book. Lord James turned a few more pages; then his hand ceased to move; the book fell from his knees to the ground, and an irksome silence reigned in the apartment. Lady Mary approached me, bent forward as if to whisper in my ear, and in a voice loud enough to be heard by all—

“‘The child is an idiot, doctor!’ she said.

“A shriek answered her. Eva started up as if she had received a blow; and seizing her son, whom she pressed convulsively to her breast—

“‘Idiot!’ she exclaimed, her indignant glance flashing, for the first time, with a vivid brilliance; ‘idiot!’ she repeated, ‘because he has been unhappy all his life, because he has seen but tears since his eyes first opened! because he knows not how to play like your son, who has always had joy around him! Ah! madam, you insult misfortune! Come, my child!’ cried Eva, all in tears. ‘Come, let us leave these pitiless hearts, that find none but cruel words to console our misery!’

“And the unhappy mother carried off her boy to her apartment. I followed. She set William down, and knelt before the little child. ‘My son! my son!’ she cried.

“William went close to her, and rested his head on his mother’s shoulder.

“‘Doctor!’ cried Eva, ‘he loves me—you see he does! He comes when I call him; he kisses me! His caresses have sufficed for my tranquillity—for my sad happiness! My God! was it not then enough? Speak to me, my son; reassure me! Find a consoling word, a single word for your despairing mother! Till now I have asked nothing of you but to remind me of your father, and leave me silence to weep. To-day, William, you must give me words! See you not my tears—my terror? Dear child, so beautiful, so like your father, speak, speak to me!’

“Alas! alas! the child remained motionless, without sign of fear or intelligence; a smile only, a smile horrible to behold, flitted across his features. Eva hid her face in both hands, and remained kneeling upon the ground. For a long time no noise was heard save the sound of her sobs. Then I prayed heaven to inspire me with consoling thoughts, such as might give a ray of hope to this poor mother. I spoke of the future, of expected cure, of change possible—even probable. But hope is no friend to falsehood. Where she does not exist her phantom cannot penetrate. A terrible blow, a mortal one, had been struck, and Eva Meredith saw all the truth.

“From that day forwards, only one child was to be seen each morning in Lord James Kysington’s room. Two women came thither, but only one of them seemed to live—the other was silent as the tomb. One said, ‘My son!’ the other never spoke of her child; one carried her head high, the other bowed hers upon her breast, the better to hide her tears; one was blooming and brilliant, the other pale and a mourner. The struggle was at an end. Lady Mary triumphed. It was cruel how they let Harry play before Eva Meredith’s eyes. Careless of her anguish, they brought him to repeat his lessons in his uncle’s presence; they vaunted his progress. The ambitious mother calculated everything to consolidate her success; and, whilst abounding in honeyed words and feigned consolation, she tortured Eva Meredith’s heart each moment in the day. Lord James, smitten in his dearest hopes, had resumed the cold impassibility which I now saw formed the foundation of his character. Strictly courteous to his daughter-in-law, he had no word of affection for her: only as the mother of his grandson could the daughter of the American planter find a place in his heart. And he considered the child as no longer in existence. Lord James Kysington was more gloomy and taciturn than ever, regretting, perhaps, to have yielded to my importunities, and to have ruffled his old age by a painful and profitless emotion.

“A year elapsed; then a sad day came, when Lord James sent for Eva Meredith, and signed to her to be seated beside his arm-chair.

“‘Listen to me, madam,’ he said, ‘listen with courage. I will act frankly with you, and conceal nothing. I am old and ill, and must arrange my affairs. The task is painful both for you and for me. I will not refer to my anger at my son’s marriage; your misfortune disarmed me—I called you to my side, and I desired to behold and to love in your son William, the heir of my fortune, the pivot of my dreams of future ambition. Alas! madam, fate was cruel to us! My son’s widow and orphan shall have all that can insure them an honourable existence; but, sole master of a fortune due to my own exertions, I adopt my nephew, and look upon him henceforward as my sole heir. I am about to return to London, whither my affairs call me. Come with me, madam—my house is yours—I shall be happy to see you there.’

“Eva (she afterwards told me so) felt, for the first time, her despondency replaced by courage. She had the strength that is given by a noble pride: she raised her head, and her brow, less haughty than that of Lady Mary, wore all the dignity of misfortune.

“‘Go, my lord,’ she answered, ‘go; I shall not accompany you. I will not witness the usurpation of my son’s rights! You are in haste to condemn, my lord. Who can foresee the future! You are in haste to despair of the mercy of God!’

“‘The future,’ replied Lord James, ‘at my age, is bounded by the passing day. What I would be certain to do I must do at once and without delay.’

“‘Act as you think proper,’ replied Eva. ‘I return to the dwelling where I was happy with my husband. I return thither with your grandson, William Kysington; of that name, his sole inheritance, you cannot deprive him; and though the world should know it but by reading it on his tomb, your name, my lord, is the name of my son!’

“A week later, Eva Meredith descended the stairs of the hotel, holding her son by the hand, as she had done when she had entered this fatal house. Lady Mary was a little behind her, a few steps higher up: the numerous servants, sad and silent, beheld with regret the departure of the gentle creature thus driven from the paternal roof. When she quitted this abode, Eva quitted the only beings she knew upon the earth, the only persons whose pity she had a right to claim—the world was before her, an immense wilderness. It was Hagar going forth into the desert.”

“This is horrible, doctor!” cried Dr Barnaby’s audience. “Is it possible there are persons so utterly unhappy? What! you witnessed all this yourself?”

“I have not yet told you all,” replied the village doctor; “let me get to the end.

“Shortly after Eva Meredith’s departure, Lord James went to London. Once more my own master, I gave up all idea of further study; I had enough learning for my village, and in haste I returned thither. Once more I sat opposite to Eva in the little white house, as I had done two years before. But how greatly had intervening events increased her misfortune! We no longer dared talk of the future, that unknown moment of which we all have so great need, and without which our present joys appear too feeble, and our misfortunes too great.

“Never did I witness grief nobler in its simplicity, calmer in its intensity, than that of Eva Meredith. She forgot not to pray to the God who chastened her. For her, God was the being in whose hands are the springs of hope, when earthly hopes are extinct. Her look of faith remained fixed upon her child’s brow, as if awaiting the arrival of the soul her prayers invoked. I cannot describe the courageous patience of that mother speaking to her son, who listened without understanding. I cannot tell you all the treasures of love, of thought, of ingenious narrative she displayed before that torpid intelligence, which repeated, like an echo, the last of her gentle words. She explained to him heaven, God, the angels; she endeavoured to make him pray, and joined his hands, but she could not make him raise his eyes to heaven. In all possible shapes she tried to give him the first lessons of childhood; she read to him, spoke to him, placed pictures before his eyes—had recourse to music as a substitute for words. One day making a terrible effort, she told William the story of his father’s death; she hoped, expected a tear. The child fell asleep whilst yet she spoke: tears were shed, but they fell from the eyes of Eva Meredith.

“Thus did she exhaust herself by vain efforts, by a persevering struggle. That she might not cease to hope, she continued to toil; but to William’s eyes pictures were merely colours; to his ears words were but noise. The child, however, grew in stature and in beauty. One who had seen him but for an instant would have taken the immobility of his countenance for placidity. But that prolonged and continued calm, that absence of all grief, of all tears, had a strange and sad effect upon us. Suffering must indeed be inherent in our nature, since William’s eternal smile made every one say, ‘The poor idiot!’ Mothers know not the happiness concealed in the tears of their child. A tear is a regret, a desire, a fear; it is life, in short, which begins to be understood. Alas! William was content with everything. All day long he seemed to sleep with his eyes open; anger, weariness, impatience, were alike unknown to him. He had but one instinct: he knew his mother—he even loved her. He took pleasure in resting on her knees, on her shoulder; he kissed her. When I kept him long away from her, he manifested a sort of anxiety. I took him back to his mother; he showed no joy, but he was again tranquil. This tenderness, this faint glimmering of William’s heart, was Eva’s life. It gave her strength to strive, to hope, to wait. If her words were not understood, at least her kisses were! How often she took her son’s head in her hands and kissed his forehead, as long and fervently as if she hoped her love would warm and vivify his frozen soul! How often did she dream a miracle whilst clasping her son in her arms, and pressing his still heart to her burning bosom! Often she lingered at night in the village church. (Eva Meredith was of a Roman Catholic family.) Kneeling upon the cold stone before the Virgin’s altar, she invoked the marble statue of Mary, holding her child in her arms, ‘O virgin!’ she said, ‘my boy is inanimate as that image of thy Son! Ask of God a soul for my child!’

“She was charitable to all the poor children of the village, giving them bread and clothes, and saying to them, ‘Pray for him.’ She consoled afflicted mothers, in the secret hope that consolation would come at last to her. She dried the tears of others, to enjoy the belief that one day she also should cease to weep. In all the country round, she was loved, blessed, venerated. She knew it, and she offered up to Heaven, not with pride but with hope, the blessings of the unfortunate in exchange for the recovery of her son. She loved to watch William’s sleep; then he was handsome and like other children. For an instant, for a second perhaps, she forgot; and whilst contemplating those regular features, those golden locks, those long lashes which threw their shadow on his rose-tinted cheek, she felt a mother’s joy, almost a mother’s pride. God has moments of mercy even for those He has condemned to suffer.

“Thus passed the first years of William’s childhood. He attained the age of eight years. Then a sad change, which could not escape my attentive observation, occurred in Eva Meredith. Either that her son’s growth made his want of intelligence more striking, or that she was like a workman who has laboured all day, and sinks at eve beneath the load of toil, Eva ceased to hope; her soul seemed to abandon the task undertaken, and to recoil with weariness upon itself, asking only resignation. She laid aside the books, the engravings, the music, all the means, in short, that she had called to her aid; she grew silent and desponding; only, if that were possible, she was more affectionate than ever to her son. As she lost hope in his cure, she felt the more strongly that her child had but her in the world; and she asked a miracle of her heart—an increase of the love she bore him. She became her son’s servant—his slave; her whole thoughts were concentrated in his wellbeing. If she felt cold, she sought a warmer covering for William; was she hungry, it was for William she gathered the fruits of her garden; did she suffer from fatigue, for him she selected the easiest chair and the softest cushions; she attended to her own sensations only to guess those of her son. She still displayed activity, though she no longer harboured hope.

“When William was eleven years old, the last phase of Eva Meredith’s existence began. Remarkably tall and strong for his age, he ceased to need that hourly care required by early childhood: he was no longer the infant sleeping on his mother’s knees; he walked alone in the garden; he rode on horseback with me, and accompanied me in my distant visits; in short, the bird, although wingless, left the nest. His misfortune was in no way shocking or painful to behold. He was of exceeding beauty, silent, unnaturally calm—his eyes expressing nothing but repose: he was not awkward, or disagreeable, or importunate: it was a mind sleeping beside yours, asking no question, making no reply. The incessant maternal care which had served to occupy Mrs Meredith, and to divert her mind from dwelling on her sorrows, became unnecessary, and she resumed her seat at the window, whence she beheld the village and the church-steeple—at that same window where she had so long wept her husband. Hope and occupation successively failed her, and nothing was left her but to wait and watch, by day and by night, like the lamp that ever burns beneath cathedral vaults.

“But her forces were exhausted. In the midst of this grief which had returned to its starting-point, to silence and immobility, after having in vain essayed exertion, courage, hope, Eva Meredith fell into a decline. In spite of all the resources of my art, I beheld her grow weak and thin. How apply a remedy, when the sickness is of the soul?

“The poor foreigner! she needed her native sun and a little happiness to warm her; but the ray of sun and the ray of joy were alike wanting. It was long before she perceived her danger, because she thought not of herself; but when at last she was unable to leave her arm-chair, she was compelled to understand. I will not describe to you all her anguish at the thought of leaving William without a guide, without friend or protector—of leaving him alone in the midst of strangers, he who needed to be cherished and led by the hand like a child. Oh, how she struggled for life! with what avidity she swallowed the potions I prepared! how many times she tried to believe in a cure, whilst all the time the disease progressed! Then she kept William more at home,—she could no longer bear to lose sight of him.

“‘Remain with me,’ she said; and William, always content near his mother, seated himself at her feet. She looked at him long, until a flood of tears prevented her distinguishing his gentle countenance; then she drew him still nearer to her, and pressed him to her heart. ‘Oh!’ she exclaimed, in a kind of delirium, ‘if my soul, on leaving my body, might become the soul of my child, how happy should I be to die!’ No sufferings could make her wholly despair of divine mercy, and when all human possibility disappeared, this loving heart had gentle dreams out of which it reconstructed hopes. But how sad it was, alas! to see the poor mother slowly perishing before the eyes of her son, of a son who understood not death, and who smiled when she embraced him.

“‘He will not regret me,’ she said: ‘he will not weep: he will not remember.’ And she remained motionless, in mute contemplation of her child. Her hand then sometimes sought mine: ‘You love him, dear doctor?’ she murmured.

“‘I will never quit him,’ replied I, ‘so long as he has no better friends than myself.’ God in heaven, and the poor village doctor upon earth, were the two guardians to whom she confided her son.

“Faith is a great thing! This woman, widowed, disinherited, dying, an idiot child at her side, was yet saved from that utter despair which brings blasphemy to the lips of death. An invisible friend was near her, on whom she seemed to rest, listening sometimes to holy words, which she alone could hear.

“One morning she sent for me early. She had been unable to get up. With her wan, transparent hand she showed me a sheet of paper on which a few lines were written.

“‘Doctor,’ she said, in her gentlest tones, ‘I have not strength to continue; finish this letter!’

“I read as follows:—

“‘My Lord,—I write to you for the last time. Whilst health is restored to your old age, I suffer and am about to die. I leave your grandson, William Kysington, without a protector. My Lord, this last letter is to recall him to your memory; I ask for him a place in your heart rather than a share of your fortune. Of all the things of this world, he has understood but one—his mother’s love; and now she must leave him for ever! Love him, my Lord,—love is the only sentiment he can comprehend.’

“She could write no more. I added:—

“‘Mrs William Kysington has but few days to live. What are Lord James Kysington’s orders with respect to the child who bears his name?’

“This letter was sent to London, and we waited. Eva kept her bed. William, seated near her, held her hand in his: his mother smiled sadly upon him, whilst I, at the other side of the bed, prepared potions to assuage her pains. Again she began to talk to her son, as if no longer despairing that, after her death, some of her words might recur to his memory. She gave the child all the advice, all the instructions she would have given to an intelligent being. Then she turned to me—‘Who knows, doctor,’ she said, ‘one day, perhaps, he will find my words at the bottom of his heart!’

“Three more weeks elapsed. Death approached, and submissive as was the Christian soul of Eva, she yet felt the anguish of separation and the solemn awe of the future. The village priest came to see her, and when he left her I met him and took his hand.

“‘You will pray for her,’ I said.

“‘I have entreated her to pray for me!’ was his reply.

“It was Eva Meredith’s last day. The sun had set: the window, near which she so long had sat, was open: she could see from her bed the landscape she had loved. She held her son in her arms and kissed his face and hair, weeping sadly. ‘Poor child! what will become of you? Oh!’ she said, with tender earnestness, ‘listen to me, William:—I am dying! Your father is dead also; you are alone; you must pray to the Lord. I bequeath you to Him who watches over the sparrow upon the house-top; He will shield the orphan. Dear child, look at me! listen to me! Try to understand that I die, that one day you may remember me!’ And the poor mother, unable to speak longer, still found strength to embrace her child.

“At that moment an unaccustomed noise reached my ears. The wheels of a carriage grated upon the gravel of the garden drive. I ran to the door. Lord James Kysington and Lady Mary entered the house.

“‘I got your letter,’ said Lord James. ‘I was setting out for Italy, and it was not much off my road to come myself and settle the future destiny of William Meredith: so here I am. Mrs William——?’

“‘Mrs William Kysington still lives, my lord,’ I replied.

“It was with a painful sensation that I saw this calm, cold, austere man approach Eva’s chamber, followed by the haughty woman who came to witness what for her was a happy event—the death of her former rival! They entered the modest little room, so different from the sumptuous apartments of their Montpellier hotel. They drew near the bed, beneath whose white curtains Eva, pale but still beautiful, held her son upon her heart. They stood, one on the right, the other on the left of that couch of suffering, without finding a word of affection to console the poor woman who looked up at them. They barely gave utterance to a few formal and unmeaning phrases. Averting their eyes from the painful spectacle of death, and persuading themselves that Eva Meredith neither saw nor heard, they passively awaited her spirit’s departure—their countenances not even feigning an expression of condolence or regret. Eva fixed her dying gaze upon them, and sudden terror seized the heart which had almost ceased to throb. She comprehended, for the first time, the secret sentiments of Lady Mary, the profound indifference and egotism of Lord James; she understood at last that they were enemies rather than protectors of her son. Despair and terror portrayed themselves on her pallid face. She made no attempt to soften those soulless beings. By a convulsive movement she drew William still closer to her heart, and, collecting her last strength—

“‘My child, my poor child!’ she cried, ‘you have no support upon earth; but God above is good. My God! succour my child!’

“With this cry of love, with this supreme prayer, she breathed out her life: her arms opened, her lips were motionless on William’s cheek. Since she no longer embraced her son, there could be no doubt she was dead—dead before the eyes of those who to the very last had refused to comfort her affliction—dead without giving Lady Mary the uneasiness of hearing her plead the cause of her son—dead, leaving her a complete and decided victory.

“There was a moment of solemn silence: none moved or spoke. Death makes an impression upon the haughtiest. Lady Mary and Lord James Kysington kneeled beside their victim’s bed. In a few minutes Lord James arose. ‘Take the child from his mother’s room,’ he said, ‘and come with me, doctor; I will explain to you my intentions respecting him.’

“For two hours William had been resting on the shoulder of Eva Meredith, his heart against her heart, his lips pressed to hers, receiving her kisses and her tears. I approached him, and, without expending useless words, I endeavoured to raise and lead him from the room; but he resisted, and his arms clasped his mother more closely. This resistance, the first the poor child had ever offered to living creature, touched my very soul. On my renewing the attempt, however, William yielded; he made a movement and turned towards me, and I saw his beautiful countenance suffused with tears. Until that day, William had never wept. I was greatly startled and moved, and I let the child throw himself again upon his mother’s corpse.

“‘Take him away,’ said Lord James.

“‘My lord,’ I exclaimed, ‘he weeps! Ah, check not his tears!’

“I bent over the child, and heard him sob.

“‘William! dear William!’ I cried, anxiously taking his hand, ‘why do you weep, William?’

“For the second time he turned his head towards me; then, with a gentle look, full of sorrow, ‘My mother is dead,’ he replied.

“I have not words to tell you what I felt. William’s eyes were now intelligent: his tears were sad and significant; and his voice was broken as when the heart suffers. I uttered a cry; I almost knelt down beside Eva’s bed.

“‘Ah! you were right, Eva!’ I exclaimed, ‘not to despair of the mercy of God!’

“Lord James himself had started. Lady Mary was as pale as Eva.

“‘Mother! mother!’ cried William, in tones that filled my heart with joy; and then, repeating the words of Eva Meredith—those words which she had so truly said he would find at the bottom of his heart—the child exclaimed aloud,

“‘I am dying, my son. Your father is dead; you are alone upon the earth; you must pray to the Lord!’

“I pressed gently with my hand upon William’s shoulder; he obeyed the impulse, knelt down, joined his trembling hands—this time it was of his own accord—and, raising to heaven a look full of life and feeling: ‘My God! have pity on me!’ he murmured.

“I took Eva’s cold hand. ‘Oh mother! mother of many sorrows!’ I exclaimed, ‘can you hear your child? do you behold him from above? Be happy! your son is saved!’

“Dead at Lady Mary’s feet, Eva made her rival tremble; for it was not I who led William from the room, it was Lord James Kysington who carried out his grandson in his arms.

“I have little to add, ladies. William recovered his reason and departed with Lord James. Reinstated in his rights, he was subsequently his grandfather’s sole heir. Science has recorded a few rare instances of intelligence revived by a violent moral shock. Thus does the fact I have related find a natural explanation. But the simple women of the village, who had attended Eva Meredith during her illness, and had heard her fervent prayers, were convinced that, even as she had asked of Heaven, the soul of the mother had passed into the body of the child.

“‘She was so good,’ said they, ‘that God could refuse her nothing.’ This artless belief took firm root in the country. No one mourned Mrs Meredith as dead.

“‘She still lives,’ said the people of the hamlet: ‘speak to her son, and she will answer you.’

“And when Lord William Kysington, in possession of his grandfather’s property, sent each year abundant alms to the village that had witnessed his birth and his mother’s death, the poor folks exclaimed—‘There is Mrs Meredith’s kind soul thinking of us still! Ah, when she goes to heaven, it will be great pity for poor people!’

“We do not strew flowers upon her tomb, but upon the steps of the altar of the Virgin, where she so often prayed to Mary to send a soul to her son. When bearing thither their wreaths of wild blossoms, the villagers say to each other—‘When she prayed so fervently, the good Virgin answered her softly: “I will give thy soul to thy child!”’

“The curé has suffered our peasants to retain this touching superstition; and I myself, when Lord William came to see me, when he fixed upon me his eyes, so like his mother’s—when his voice, which had a well-known accent, said, as Mrs Meredith was wont to say, ‘Dear Doctor, I thank you!’ Then—smile, ladies, if you will—I wept, and I believed, like all the village, that Eva Meredith was before me.

“She, whose existence was but a long series of sorrows, has left behind her a sweet, consoling memory, which has nothing painful for those who loved her.

“In thinking of her we think of the mercy of God, and those who have hope in their hearts, hope with the greater confidence.

“But it is very late, ladies—your carriages are at the door. Pardon this long story: at my age it is difficult to be concise in speaking of the events of one’s youth. Forgive the old man for having made you smile when he arrived, and weep before he departed.”

These last words were spoken in the kindest and most paternal tone, whilst a half-smile glided across Dr Barnaby’s lips. All his auditors now crowded round him, eager to express their thanks. But Dr Barnaby got up, made straight for his riding-coat of brown taffety, which hung across a chair back, and, whilst one of the young men helped him to put it on—“Farewell, gentlemen; farewell, ladies,” said the village doctor. “My chaise is ready; it is dark, the road is bad; good-night: I must be gone.”

When Dr Barnaby was installed in his cabriolet of green wicker-work, and the little grey cob, tickled by the whip, was about to set off, Madame de Moncar stepped quickly forward, and leaning towards the doctor, whilst she placed one foot on the step of his vehicle, she said, in a low voice—

“Doctor, I make you a present of the white cottage, and I will have it fitted up as it was when you loved Eva Meredith!”

Then she ran back into the house. The carriages and the green chaise departed in different directions.