Gambar halaman
PDF
ePub

.

"The dog don't like me,” said Dr. Hornbeam, “because I don't jike dogs. They know more of us than we of them, by a longshot.”' He took in the group with a glance, saw and understood Mrs. Yarrow's stained fingers, frowned, then smiled effusively, seated himself alongside Mr. Yarrow, and taking the clergyman's limp thin hand in his own, where it lay like an oyster on a round of mottled beef, he felt the pulse carefully. “That is well," said he at last, "improving graciously. But who could help it, with so good a nurse, who comprehends the uses of air and fruit. Only, madam,” said he, “let me recommend cream with strawberries. There is a very pretty romance in eating them thus, al fresco, but believe my experience when I tell you that good rich cream puts more iron in the blood than whole volumes of soft imaginings.”

Mrs. Yarrow's lip curled a little. “It was convenience only, doctor, not romance, I assure you. Bartram would have lost his appetite by going to the house, and old Quamash is not waiter enough to carry picnic-baskets about.”

“I am improving then, you think, doctor?" asked the invalid, with an appearance of eagerness that contrasted vividly enough with his former listlessness. “I will soon be well enough to get to my work ?"

“That depends upon what sort of work you propose to do, Mr. Yarrow," answered Dr. Hornbeam, eyeing his patient with curious intentness, while at the same time he carelessly resumed control of the wrist and pulse, as if he were not aware what he did. The wife saw it all. “You can row your boat, or dig in the garden, or gallop the country round, just as soon as you feel the power in you to do it. As for preaching sermons, you must wait several months yet. As for writing sermons, I see the student's pucker about your brow; so such tasks must remain in the Index Expurgatorius at least a year. As for the reveries upon Aelia Laelia and the apocalyptic trances done up in crabbed Greek and Latin, which gentlemen of your cloth are apt to indulge in, never again, with a doctor's consent. Let theology alone,

. if you don't want to make an apothecary shop of yourself."

Mr. Yarrow shook his head sorrowfully. “I scarcely expect to preach again,” he said ; “ that was not the work I "

Mrs. Yarrow interrupted him. “I thought you had forbidden Mr. Yarrow to speak of his work, doctor !” said she hastily, and it seemed nervously.

“On the contrary, let him speak of it rather than nurse it so fretfully in his thoughts as I see he does. Tell me of this work, Mr. Yarrow; I am curious to know all about it.” He still retained hold of Mr. Yarrow's hand and pulse.

“I am sure you will not speak of it, Bartram,” said his wife eagerly, almost imploringly. “It is something the doctor, the world at large, may not appreciate, may not understand —"

Mr. Yarrow, showing strange excitement, retorted, “You are wrong! It is not a secret, it is not a discovery ; it is an intuition, an instinct, an act of grace that I will proclaim on the house-tops and annunciate from the high places, that all -"

Mrs. Yarrow started forward, put her hand hurriedly upon his unoccupied arm, and cried entreatingly, “ Dear, dear! you will excite yourself! Forbear! Oh, doctor, make him forbear!"

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

Dr. Hornbeam sat quietly holding his patient's pulse, but not long. Mr. Yarrow got to his feet and stood swaying and trembling before his wife, a wild, baleful, ominous light quivering and flickering in his eyes, and his pale lips getting blue.

“Woman!” he cried, “woman, how dare you tempt me thus to betray my holy mission! Apage!”

And instantly, with a strange circling sweep of his long, thin arms, and a low gurgling moan, the unhappy man fell

, prone to the ground, face downward, struggled an instant, then was quiet.

“I knew it!” cried the wife, kneeling by his side. “He has fainted ! Fetch water, doctor!”

“Stop!” said Doctor Hornbeam ; "this is epilepsy. Let me bave him.” He lifted the invalid up, raised his head upon his own knees, untied the cravat, and looked searchingly into the pallid, sunken face.

“Do not be alarmed, madam ; he will soon revive. I had better carry him to the house

- he is not heavy,” continued the doctor, and he lifted the invalid up in his arms as one might lift a bolster.

“Let me summon Quamash," said Mrs. Yarrow. “There is no need,” answered Dr. Hornbeam, “if you will only whip off that — that dog," for Fido was barking furiously at bis heels.

Before they had gone many steps Mr. Yarrow opened his eyes and revived sufficiently to walk with confused steps, and leaning on his wife and the doctor, to the house and to his chamber, where the doctor, after again feeling his pulse and giving some simple directions, left him, saying to Mrs. Yarrow in a low voice as he went out the door, “As soon as he sleeps, leave him to Quamash. I want to speak with

“Wait in the morning room then, doctor,” she answered.

a

you."

II.—THE MORNING ROOM.

The brilliant veranda at Grayrue Hall, with its clustering masses of geraniums, fuchsias and other flowers, had two open windows of the morning room abutting upon it. Through one of these Dr. Hornbeam entered. It was a handsome room, furnished with great taste and very richly. Larger than such apartments usually are in country houses, a piano, a harp, a large organ, several pictures, and plenty of comfortable furniture deprived it of the barn-like appearance such rooms commonly have. Upon one side an open door revealed what must have been Mrs. Yarrow's own boudoir, from which came the voices of many cage-birds singing cheerily. Another open door showed a room garnished with books, desk, papers, etc., the retreat of the reverend gentleman most probably.

Dr. Hornbeam seated himself in a large covered chair and knit his brows in deep thought. Presently the Indian Quamash entered, drew a small table near the doctor, and placed on it a flagon of claret, glasses, ice and cake. He was silently withdrawing when the doctor stopped him with a gesture.

“Does Mr. Yarrow have many of these — these fainting spells, Quamash, do you know?"

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

“ Did Mrs. Yarrow tell you to ask me?” said the Indian. “No ; why ask that?"

“Neither did she bid me to tell you, sir,” said Quamash, as he left the room in his grave, noiseless way.

The doctor laughed, poured himself out a goblet full of wine which he drank off, despising the ice, filled and drank again ; then filling the glass a third time, sat and nibbled a morsel of cake.

Deep water! deep water!” he muttered.

The birds in the adjacent room sang out more loudly than ever, and Mrs. Yarrow entered. Dr. Hornbeam rose,

"You look pale,” he said. “Perhaps you had better take a sip or two of this wine," and he offered to pour for her.

“None, if you please,” she answered, and seated herself opposite to him, with some light knitting work to occupy her fingers. “Mr. Yarrow is quietly asleep now,” she added.

“He has had several of these attacks, I believe?" asked the doctor. “Yes; he has fainted several times since he was so ill,” she said.

Dr. Hornbeam resumed his seat, took up the glass of wine, looked into it, sipped a mouthful, put the glass down again.

“Mrs. Yarrow, I must have your perfect confidence if I am to restore your husband to health. You are aware as well as I am that there is no time to spare. Just now you prevented him from telling me what it is that oppresses his mind. I have been aware that there was something of the sort ever since my first visit. You will do well to tell me yourself what you did not seem to think it was sase to let him talk about. One must have no secrets from the doctor."

Mrs. Yarrow flushed and paled alternately under the doctor's searching gaze. “There is no secret, sir, none,” she said. “My husband, as you must have noticed, since you have seen him daily for a fortnight, is a man with an exalted opinion of his sacred office, and a most poignant sense of duty. He has not regained his strength since the severe attack of brain-fever of which he told you. He is impatient at feeling himself restrained from his sphere of usefulness, and, as you must have seen, is hypochondriacal and nervous. That is all."

“So!" said the doctor ; "that is all !” "That is all,” responded Mrs. Yarrow.

Again the doctor looked into the glass of claret, and sipped it, and put it down. Then he raised his eyes to Mrs. Yarrow's, and saw that she was watching him.

“Do you know that you are the handsomest woman I ever saw, Mrs. Yarrow!” said he, gazing at her with admiration so undisguised that it bordered upon impudence. At least that was what Mrs. Yarrow took it for, as she rose “like a queen” (so the romances phrase it), and darting a look at him, cried

“Sir! you have surely forgotten yourself!”

Instantly dismissing the offensive manner he had assumed, he said with a certain sort of dignity, “Not at all, Mrs. Yarrow. Be seated, and hear me out. I

say, I see that you are handsome, and I am told that you are very rich

"Mr. Yarrow is rich," she answered, still standing, and putting emphasis upon the “Mr. Yarrow.”

[ocr errors]

66

“Ah,” he answered carelessly, “I understood that the money was yours, and that he was only a poor parson when you married him.”

"I do not understand the purport of this cross-questioning, Doctor Hornbeam,” said she, “and I think you had better discontinue it.”

“No, I think not," answered he, decisively, "and I believe you wili agree with me presently.

She looked puzzled, like one who knows there is a ruse, yet cannot decide on which side to suspect it.

“Do you love him?" asked the doctor, pointing towards the ceiling with his thumb, then instantly adding, “but of course you do! Nothing but love could have forced a woman like you to marry such a monk!”

Instantly all the woman was up in arms. She forgot the coarse insolence of the remark in the slur upon her husband, and her whole frame glowed with resentment. She drew her breath hard. “Doctor Hornbeam !” she said, “this is three times you have insulted me within ten minutes! Fortunately for you my husband is not within hearing, or he would soon show you whether he is more monk than man. You will oblige me by leaving the house and not returning again. I will employ another physician.”

“And yet,” said he, as if he had not heard a word she said, “and yet, loving him as you do, worshipping him as you do, sacrificing yourself and your fortune for him as you do, you are determined to make an incurable madman of him in less than three months, sooner than put me in possession of the knowledge I need in order to cure him.”

She sank into a chair, and quivered with emotion, covering her face with her hands, and sobbing, almost gasping.

The doctor looked at her as she sat there, no longer defiant, but indeed quite vanquished before him. A peculiar smile flitted across his face for a moment, then suddenly vanished, and he spoke again in firm, grave tones, yet kindly withal.

“Mrs. Yarrow," said he, “there are cases in our profession when cruelty is kindness. Yours is one of them. You have been pursuing an entirely wrong course, under entirely mistaken ideas, and the result would have been lamentably fatal had I not suspected what you so resolutely sought to conceal, and had I not had the courage to wring the secret from you at all hazards. You do not thank me now, thinking me a brute, but you will by-and-bye.”

“I will thank you now, doctor,” she murmured, without looking up, “if you will only give me assurance that it is not too late."

“I do not think it is too late," he rejoined ; "and I believe I have made a clever diagnosis of the case too. Stop: tell me if my conjectures are right now, so that I may judge whether I am able to guess deeper in the matter. I know that your husband, a fervent, devoted pastor, broke himself down by overwork in pulpit and in study. He had a terrible brain-fever that brought him down to the very jaws of death. When he had got better, and was able to get about again, you noticed — here I begin my conjectural diagnosis — that – all was not exactly right — there was something — a disturbance

“Yes, yes," she whispered.

a—"

[ocr errors]

“You thought time and strength would rectify this. In your pride for him, your devotion to him, in your secret heart of love

“Say my folly and selfish pride," she murmured.

“I will say no such thing, Mrs. Yarrow. In your beautiful sheltering love you were minded to have him away privily, where this — this aberration would not be noticed — would be hidden away among the secret sorrows of your own heart. You brought him here, to this property of your own, with only Quamash to help you care for him, and here you hoped that good air, and exercise, and rest, and placid meditation, would work the cure —”

“Yes! yes! And I was all wrong! all wrong!

“You were all wrong, certainly, but beautifully wrong, and it is not too late to bring things right again. My further conjecture is that this aberration, this mental warp, takes the form of some sort of hallucination, that impairs the judgment on certain points, but leaves the balance of the mind unclouded and the spirit quite serene?”

"You are precisely right. Oh why did I not confide in you sooner?”

"There is time enough, my dear madam — time enough. The mistake you made was in fancying that hallucinations are likely to cure themselves with the ordinary tonics of air, exercise and rest. Something more is needed. Hallucination is the herald that madness sends to announce its coming. If you do not send him back, with a peremptory message, madness is sure to come.”

“Oh, doctor! doctor! Anything but that!”

“You are right, madam — anything but that!' He rose, and took his hat and gloves. “I can cure Mr. Yarrow,” said he, "if you will trust me."

“Trust you! I bless you! I will be grateful to you as long as I live!” And she put her warm hand in his, and looked into his eyes with her own eyes swimming, and showed him there all the impulses and regrets and longings and fears and hopes of her tumultuous heart.

“ Be cheerful,” he said; “I must ride now, but I will return tomorrow and begin your husband's cure. Let him rest to-day in bed. Good morning." And he departed, drawing on his gloves.

Mrs. Yarrow stood looking after him by one of the windows that opened upon the veranda.

"He is going to cure my husband, Quamash!” said she to the old Indian, who came into the room to remove the glasses.

“Not trust um, madam ; bad man ! White in um eye!” said Quamash.

“I care not if he is thrice a villain," said Mrs. Yarrow, he restores Bartram."

Meantime, Doctor Anacharsis Hornbeam, as he was going through the garden-gate, turned to Fido barking at his heels, and, with a smile of strange exultation, said: “You dog! When your lovely mistress with the melting eyes is mine — entirely mine - I shall wring your neck for you, you whelp!”

so that

[ocr errors]
« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »