Part 3 out of 4
hearts, and hopelessly, Jim and Sally piled blankets and pillows into
the wagon, and took all the restoratives they could think of. They
knew in their hearts all would be of no use. As they drove through the
village they gave the alarm; and, in an incredibly short time, the whole
shore of the lake was twinkling with lights borne high in the hands of
men who were searching. Two boats were rowing back and forth on the
lake, with bright lights at stern and prow; and loud shouts filled
the air. No answer; no clew: at last, from the island, came a pistol
shot,--the signal agreed on. Every man stood still and listened. Slowly
the boats came back to shore, drawing behind them Hetty's boat; bringing
one of the oars, and also Hetty's shawl, which they had found, just
where Raby had told them they would, in the wild-grape thicket.
"Found it bottom-side up," was all that the men said, as they shoved the
boat high up on the sand. Then they all looked in each other's faces,
and said no more. There was nothing more to be done: it was now ten
o'clock. Slowly the sad procession wound back to town through the
rayless hemlock woods. Midway in them, they met a rider, riding at the
maddest gallop. It was the doctor! No one had known where to send for
him; and there was no time to be lost. Coming home, and wondering, as he
entered, at the open doors and the unlighted windows, he had found Norah
sitting on the floor by the weeping Raby, and trying to comfort him.
Barely comprehending, in his sudden distress what they told him, the
doctor had sprung upon his horse and galloped towards the lake. As he
saw the group of people moving towards him, looking shadowy and dim in
the darkness, his heart stood still. Were they bearing home Hetty's
body? Would he see it presently, lying lifeless and cold in their arms?
He dashed among them, reining his horse back on his haunches, and
looking with a silent anguish into face after face. Nobody spoke. That
first instant seemed a century long. Nobody could speak. At a glance the
doctor saw that they were not bearing the sad burden he had feared.
"Not found her?" he gasped.
"No, doctor," replied one nearest him, laying his hand on his arm.
"Then by God what have you come away for! have you got the souls of men
in you?" exclaimed Eben Williams, in a voice which seemed to shake the
very trees, as he plunged onward.
"It's no use, doctor," they replied sadly.
"We found her boat bottom up, and one of the oars; and it was hours
since it capsized."
"What then!" he shouted back. "My wife was as strong as any man: she
can't have drowned; Hetty can't have drowned;" and his horse's hoofs
struck sparks from the stones as he galloped on. A few of the younger
men turned back and followed him; but, when they reached the lake, he
was nowhere to be seen. Old Caesar, who was sitting on the ground, his
head buried on his knees, said:
"He wouldn't hear a word. He jest jumped into one of thim boats, and he
was gone like lightning: he's 'way across the lake by this time."
Silently the young men re-entered their boats and rowed out, carrying
torches. Presently they overtook the doctor.
"Oh, thank God for that light!" he exclaimed, "Give one to me; let me
have it here in my boat: I shall find her."
Like a being of superhuman strength, the doctor rowed; no one could keep
up with him. Round and round the lake, into every inlet, close under
the shadows of the islands; again and again, over every mile of that
treacherous, glassy, beautiful water, he rowed, calling every few
moments, in heart-breaking tones, "Hetty! Hetty! Hetty! I am here,
As the hours wore on, his strength began to flag; he rowed more and more
slowly: but, when they begged him to give over the search, and return
home, he replied impatiently. "Never! I'll never leave this lake till I
find her." It was useless to reason with him. He hardly heard the words.
At last, his friends, worn out by the long strain, rowed to the shore,
and left him alone. As he bade them good-by, he groaned, "Oh, God! will
it never be morning? If only it were light, I am sure I should find some
trace of her." But, when the morning broke, the pitiless lake shone
clear and still, and all the hopelessness of his search flashed on the
bereaved man's mind: he dropped his oars, and gazed vacantly over the
rippleless surface. Then he buried his face in his hands, and sat
motionless for a long time: he was trying to recall Hetty's last looks,
last words. He recollected her last kisses. "It was as if they were to
bid me good-bye," he thought. Presently, he took up the oars and rowed
back to the shore. Old Caesar still sat there on the ground. The doctor
touched him on the shoulder. He lifted a face so wan, so altered, that
the doctor started.
"My poor old fellow," he said, "you ought not to have sat here all
night. We will go home now. There is nothing more to be done."
"Oh, yer ain't a goin' to give up, doctor, be yer?" cried Caesar. "Oh,
don't never give up. She must be here somewheres. Bodies floats allers
in fresh water: she'll come to shore before long. Oh, don't give up!
I'll set here an' watch, an' you go home an' git somethin' to eat. You
"No, no, Caesar," the doctor replied, with the first tears he had felt
yet welling up in his eyes, "you must come home with me. There is no
hope of finding her."
Caesar did not move, but fixed a sullen gaze on the water. The doctor
spoke again, more firmly:
"You must come, Caesar. Your mistress would tell you so herself." At
this Caesar rose, docile, and the two went home in silence through the
For three days the search for Hetty continued. It was suggested that
possibly she might have gone over to the Springton shore for some
purpose, and there have met with some accident or assault. This
suggestion opened up new vistas of conjecture, almost more terrible than
the certainty of her death would have been. Parties of three and four
scoured the woods in all directions. Again and again Dr. Eben passed
over the spot where she had lain crouched so long: the bushes which had
been brushed back as she passed, bent back again to let him go over her
very footsteps; but nothing could speak to betray her secret. Nature
seems most mute when we most need her help: she keeps, through all
our distresses, a sort of dumb and faithful neutrality, which is not,
perhaps, so devoid of sympathy as it appears.
After the third day was over, it was accepted by tacit consent that
farther search would be useless. Hetty was mourned as dead: in every
home her name was tenderly and sorrowingly spoken; old memories of her
gay and mirthful youth, of her cheery and busy womanhood, were revived
and dwelt upon. But in her own home was silence that could be felt. The
grief there was grief that could not speak. Only little Raby, of all the
household, found words to use; and his childish and inconsolable laments
made the speechless anguish around him all the greater. To Dr. Eben, the
very sight of the child was a bitter and unreasonable pain. Except for
Raby, he thought, Hetty would still be alive. He had never approved of
her taking him on the water; had remonstrated with her in the beginning,
but had been overruled by her impetuous confidence in her own strength
and skill. Now, as often as he saw the poor little fellow's woe-begone
face, he had a strange mixture of pity and hatred towards him. In vain
he reasoned against it. "He has lost his best friend, as well as I," he
said to himself; "I ought to try to comfort him." But it was impossible:
the child's presence grew more and more irksome to him, until, at last,
he said to Sally, one day:
"Sally, you and Raby are both looking very ill. I want you to go away
for a time. How would you like to go to 'The Runs,' for a month?"
"Oh, not there, dear doctor! please do not send us there!" cried Sally.
"Indeed I could not bear it. We might go to father's for a while. That
would be change enough; and Raby would have children to play with there,
in the village, all the time, and that would be the best thing for him."
So Jim and Sally went to Deacon Little's to stay for a time. Mrs. Little
welcomed them with a cordiality which it would have done Hetty's heart
good to see. Her old aversion to Sally had been so thoroughly conquered
that she was more than half persuaded in her own mind it had never
existed. When the doctor was left alone in the house, he found it easier
to bear the burden of his grief. It is only after the first shock of
a great sorrow is past that we are helped by faces and voices and the
clasping of hands. At the first, there is but one help, but one healing;
and that is solitude.
Dr. Eben came out from this grief an altered man. Poor Hetty! How little
she had understood her value to her husband! Could she have seen him
walking slowly from house to house, his eyes fixed on the ground, his
head bent forward; all his old elasticity of tread gone; his ready
smile gone; the light, glad look of his eyes gone,--how would she have
repented her rash and cruel deed! how would the scales have fallen from
her eyes, revealing to her the monstrous misapprehension to which she
had sacrificed her life and his! Even long after people had ceased to
talk about Hetty's death, or to remember it unless they saw the doctor,
the first sight of his tall bowed figure recalled it all; and again and
again, as he passed men on the street, they turned and said to each
other, with a sad shake of the head:
"He's never got over it."
"No, nor ever will."
On the surface, life seemed to be going on at "Gunn's" much as before.
Jim and Sally and Raby made a family centre, to which the lonely doctor
attached himself more and more. He came more and more to feel that Raby
was a legacy left by Hetty to him. He had ceased to have any unjust
resentment towards the child from his innocent association with her
death: he knew that she had loved the boy as if he were her own; and, in
his long sad reveries about the future, he found a sort of melancholy
pleasure in planning for Raby as he would have done had he been Hetty's
child. These plans for Raby, and his own devotion to his profession,
were Dr. Eben's only pleasure. He was fast becoming a physician of note.
He was frequently sent for in consultation to all parts of the county;
and his contributions to medical journals were held in high esteem. The
physician, the student, had gained unspeakably by the loss which had so
nearly crushed the man.
Development and strength, gained at such cost, are like harvests
springing out of land which had to be burned black with fire before it
would yield its increase.
Hetty first entered the village of St. Mary's at sunset. The chapel bell
was ringing for the Angelus, and as the nondescipt little vehicle, half
diligence half coach, crept through the sandy streets, Hetty, looking
eagerly out, saw men, women, and children falling on their knees by the
road-side. She recollected having noted this custom when she was in
St. Mary's before: then it had seemed to her senseless mummery; now it
seemed beautiful. Hetty had just come through dark places, in which she
had wanted help from God more than she had ever in her life wanted it;
and these evident signs of faith, of an established relation between
earth and heaven, fell most gratefully upon her aching heart. The
village of St. Mary's is a mere handful of houses, on a narrow stretch
of sandy plain, lying between two forests of firs. Many years ago,
hunters, finding in the depths of these forests springs of great
medicinal value, made a little clearing about them, and built there
a few rough shanties to which they might at any time resort for the
waters. Gradually, the fame of the waters was noised abroad, and drew
settlers to the spot. The clearing was widened; houses were built;
a village grew up; line after line, as a new street was needed, the
forests were cut down, but remained still a solid, dark-green wall and
background to the east and the west. On the outskirts of the village, in
the edge of the western forest, stood the Roman Catholic chapel,--a low
wooden building, painted red, and having a huge silver cross on the top.
At the moment of Hetty's arrival, a burial service was just about
to take place in this little chapel, and the procession was slowly
approaching: the priest walking in front, lifting up a high gilt
crucifix; a little white-robed acolyte carrying holy water in a silver
basin; a few Sisters of Charity with their long black gowns and flapping
white bonnets; behind these the weeping villagers, bearing the coffin on
a rude sort of litter. As Hetty saw this procession, she was seized with
an irresistible desire to join it. She was the only passenger in the
diligence, and the door was locked. She called to the driver, and at
last succeeded in making him hear, and also understand that she wished
to be set down immediately: she would walk on to the inn. She wished
first to go into the church. The driver was a good Catholic; very
seriously he said: "It is bad luck to say one's prayers while there is
going on the mass for the dead; there is another chapel which Madame
would find less sad at this hour. It is only a short distance farther
But Hetty reiterated her request; and the driver, shrugging his
shoulders, and saying in an altered tone:
"As Madame pleases; it is all the same to me: nevertheless, it is bad
luck;" assisted her to alight.
The procession had just entered the church. Dim lights twinkled on the
altar, and a smell of incense filled the place. Hetty fell on her knees
with the rest, and prayed for those she had left behind her. Her prayer
was simple and short, repeated many times: "Oh God, make them happy!
make them happy!" When the mass was over, Hetty waited near the door,
and watched anxiously to see if the priest were the same whom her father
had known so well twenty years before. Yes, it was--no--could this be
Father Antoine? This fat, red-faced, jovial-looking old man? Father
Antoine had been young, slender and fair; but there was no mistaking the
calm and serious hazel eyes. It was Father Antoine, but how changed!
"If I have changed as much as that," thought Hetty, "he'll never believe
I am I; and I dare say I have. Dear me, what a frightful thing is this
Hetty had resolved, in the outset, that she would take Father Antoine
into her confidence. She knew the sacredness of secrecy in which Roman
Catholic priests are accustomed to hold all confessions made to them.
She felt that her secret would be too heavy to bear unshared, and that
times might arise when she would need advice or help from one knowing
all the truth.
Early the next morning, she went to Father Antoine's house. The good old
man was at work in his garden. His little cottage was surrounded by beds
which were gay with flowers from June till November. Nothing was left in
bloom now, except asters and chrysanthemums: but there was no flower,
not even his July carnations, in which he took such pride, as in his
chrysanthemums. As he heard the little gate shut, he looked up; saw that
it was a stranger; and came forward to meet her, bearing in his hand one
great wine-colored chrysanthemum blossom, as large as a blush rose:
"Is it to see me, daughter?" he said, with his inalienable old French
courtesy. Father Antoine had come of a race which had noble blood in its
veins. His ancestry had worn swords, and lived at courts, and Antoine
Ladeau never once, in his half century of work in these Canadian
forests, forgot that fact. Hetty looked him full in the face, and
colored scarlet, before she began to speak.
"You do not remember me," she said.
Father Antoine shook his head. "It is that I see so many faces each
year," he replied apologetically, "that it is not possible to remember;"
and he gazed earnestly into Hetty's expressive face.
"It is twenty years since I was here," Hetty continued. She felt a great
longing that Father Antoine should recollect her. It would seem to make
her task easier.
A reminiscence dawned on the priest's mind. "Twenty years?" he said,
"ah, but that is long! we were both young then. Is it--ah, is it
possible that it is the daughter with the father that I see?" Father
Antoine had never forgotten the beautiful relation between Hetty and her
"Yes, I came with my father: you knew him very well," replied Hetty,
"and I always thought then that, if I had any trouble, I would like to
have you help me."
Father Antoine's merry face clouded over instantly. "And have you
trouble, my daughter? If the good God permits that I help you, I shall
be glad. I had a love for your father. He is no longer alive, or you
would not be in trouble;" and, leading Hetty into his little study,
Father Antoine sat down opposite her, and said:
"Tell me, my daughter."
Hetty's voice trembled, and tears filled her eyes: sympathy was harder
to bear than loneliness. The story was hard to tell, but she told it,
without pause, without reserve. Father Antoine's face grew stern as she
proceeded. When she ceased speaking, he said:
"My daughter, you have sinned; sinned grievously: you must return to
your husband. You have violated a holy sacrament of the Church. I
command you to return to your husband."
Hetty stared at him in undisguised wonder. At last she said:
"Why do you speak to me like that, sir? I can obey no man: only my own
conscience is my law. I will never return to my husband."
"The Church is the conscience of all her erring children," replied
Father Antoine, "and disobedience is at the peril of one's soul. I lay
it upon you, as the command of the Church, that you return, my daughter.
You have sinned most grievously."
"Oh," said Hetty, with apparent irrelevance. "I understand now. You took
me for a Catholic."
It was Father Antoine's turn to stare.
"Why then, if you are not, came you to me?" he said sternly. "I am here
only as priest."
Hetty clasped her hands, and said pleadingly:
"Oh no! not only as priest: you are a good man. My father always said
so. We were not Catholics; and I could not be of any other religion than
my father's, now he is dead," (here Hetty unconsciously touched a
chord in Antoine Ladeau's breast, which gave quick response): "but I
recollected how he trusted you, and I said, if I can hide myself in that
little village, Father Antoine will be good to me for my father's sake.
But you must not tell me to go back to my home: no one can judge about
that but me. The thing I have done is best: I shall not go back. And, if
you will not keep my secret and be my friend, I will go away at once and
hide myself in some other place still farther away, and will ask no one
again to be my friend, ever till I die!"
Father Antoine was perplexed. All the blood of ancient knighthood which
was in his veins was stirred with chivalrous desire to help Hetty: but,
on the other hand, both as man and as priest, he felt that she
had committed a great wrong, and that he could not even appear to
countenance it. He studied Hetty's face: in spite of its evident marks
of pain, it was as indomitable as rock.
"You have the old Huguenot soul, my daughter," he said. "Antoine Ladeau
knows better than to try to cause you to swerve from the path you have
chosen. But the good God can give you light: it may be that he has
directed you here to find it in his true Church. Be sure that your
father was a good Catholic at heart."
"Oh, no! he wasn't," exclaimed Hetty, impetuously. "There was nothing
he disliked so much as a Catholic. He always said you were the only
Catholic he ever saw that he could trust"
Father Antoine's rosy face turned rosier. He was not used among his
docile Canadians to any such speech as this. The unvarnished fashions of
New England honesty grated on his ear.
"It is not well for men of one religion to rail at the men of another,"
he said gravely. "I doubt not, there are those whom the Lord loves in
all religions; but there is but one true Church."
"Forgive me," said Hetty, in a meeker tone. "I did not mean to be rude:
but I thought I ought not to let you have such a mistaken idea about
father. Oh, please, be my friend, Father Antoine!"
Father Antoine was silent for a time. Never had he been so sorely
perplexed. The priest and the man were arrayed against each other.
Presently he said:
"What is it that you would have me do, my daughter? I do not see that
there is any thing; since you have so firm a will and acknowledge not
"Oh!" said Hetty, perceiving that he relented, "there is not any thing
that I want you to do, exactly. I only want to feel that there is one
person who knows all about me, and will keep my secret, and is willing
to be my friend. I shall not want any help about any thing, unless it is
to get work; but I suppose they always want nurses here. There will be
plenty to do."
"Daughter, I will keep your secret," said Father Antoine, solemnly:
"about that you need have had no fear. No man of my race has ever
betrayed a trust; and I will be your friend, if you need aught that I
can do, while you choose to live in this place. But I shall pray daily
to the good God to open your eyes, and make you see that you are living
in heinous sin each day that you live away from your husband;" and
Father Antoine rose with the involuntary habit of the priest of
dismissing a parishioner when there was no more needful to be said.
Hetty took her leave with a feeling of meek gratitude, hitherto unknown
in her bosom. Spite of Father Antoine's disapproval, spite of his
arbitrary Romanism, she trusted and liked him.
"It is no matter if he does think me wrong," she said to herself. "That
needn't disturb me if I know I am right. I think he is wrong to pray to
the Virgin and the saints."
Hetty had brought with her a sum of money more than sufficient to buy
a little cottage, and fit it up with all needful comforts. She had no
sentimental dispositions towards deprivation and wretchedness. All her
plannings looked toward a useful, cheery, comfortable life. Among her
purchases were gardening utensils, which she could use herself, and
seeds and shrubs suited to the soil of St. Mary's. Strangely enough, the
only cottage which she could find at all adapted to her purpose was one
very near Father Antoine's, and almost precisely like it. It stood in
the edge of the forest, and had still left in its enclosure many of the
stumps of recently felled trees. All Hetty's farmer's instincts revived
in full force; and, only a few days after Father Antoine's conversation
with her, he found her one morning superintending the uprooting of these
stumps, and making preparations for grading the land. As he watched her
active movements, energetic tones, and fresh open face, he fell into a
maze of wondering thought. This was no morbid sentimentalist; no pining,
heart-broken woman. Except that truthfulness was stamped on every
lineament of Hetty's countenance, Father Antoine would have doubted her
story; and, except that her every act showed such vigorous common sense,
he would have doubted her sanity. As it was, his perplexity deepened;
so also did his interest in her. It was impossible not to admire this
brisk, kindly, outspoken woman, who already moved about in the village
with a certain air of motherly interest in every thing and everybody;
had already begun to "help" in her own sturdy fashion, and had already
won the goodwill of old and young.
"The good God will surely open her eyes in his own time," thought Father
Antoine, and in his heart he pondered much what a good thing it would
be, if, when that time came, Hetty could be persuaded to become the Lady
Superior of the Convent of the Bleeding Heart, only a few miles from St.
Mary's. "She is born for an abbess," he said to himself: "her will is
like the will of a man, but she is full of succor and tender offices.
She would be a second Angelique, in her fervor and zeal." And the good
old priest said rosaries full of prayers for Hetty, night and day.
There were two "Houses of Cure" in St. Mary's, both under the care of
skilful physicians, who made specialties of treatment with the waters of
the springs. One of these physicians was a Roman Catholic, and employed
no nurses except the Sisters from the Convent of the Bleeding Heart.
They came in turn, in bands of six or eight; and stayed three months
at a time. In the other House, under the care of an English physician,
nurses were hired without reference to their religion. As soon as
Hetty's house was all in order, and her shrubs and trees set out, she
went one morning to this House, and asked to see the physician in
charge. With characteristic brevity, she stated that she had come to
St. Mary's to earn her living as a nurse, and would like to secure a
situation. The doctor looked at her scrutinizingly.
"Have you ever nursed?"
"What do you know about it then?"
"I have seen a great many sick people."
"How was that?"
Hetty hesitated, but with some confusion replied:
"My husband was a doctor, and I often went with him to see his
"You are a widow then?"
"What then?" said the physician, severely.
Poor Hetty! She rose to her feet; but, recollecting that she had no
right to be indignant, sat down, and replied in a trembling voice:
"I cannot tell you, sir, any thing about my trouble. I have come here to
live, and I want to be a nurse."
"Father Antoine knows me," she added, with dignity.
Father Antoine's name was a passport. Doctor Macgowan had often wished
that he could have all his nurses from the convent.
"You are a Catholic, then?" he said.
"No, indeed!" exclaimed Hetty, emphatically. "I am nothing of the sort."
"How is it that you mention Father Antoine, then?"
"He knew my father well, and me also, years ago; and he is the only
friend I have here."
Dr. Macgowan had an Englishman's instinctive dislike of unexplained
things and mysterious people. But Hetty's face and voice were better
than pedigrees and certificates. Her confident reference to Father
Antoine was also enough to allay any immediate uneasiness, and, "for
the rest, time will show," thought the doctor; and, without any farther
delay, he engaged Hetty as one of the day nurses in his establishment.
In after years Dr. Macgowan often looked back to this morning, and
thought, with the sort of shudder with which one looks back on a danger
"Good God! what if I had let that woman go?"
All Hetty's native traits especially adapted her to the profession of
nursing; and her superb physical health was of itself a blessing to
every sick man or sick woman with whom she came in contact. Before she
had been in Dr. Macgowan's house one week, all the patients had learned
to listen in the morning for her step and her voice: they all wanted
her, and begged to be put under her charge.
"Really, Mrs. Smailli, I shall have to cut you up into parcels," said
the doctor one day: "there is not enough of you to go round. You have a
marvellous knack at making sick people like you. Did you really never
"Not with my hands and feet," replied Hetty, "but I think I have always
been a nurse at heart. I have always been so well that to be sick seems
to me the most dreadful thing in the world. I believe it is the only
trouble I couldn't bear."
"You do not look as if you had ever had any very hard trouble of any
kind," said the doctor in a light tone, but watching keenly the effect
of his words.
Dr. Macgowan was beginning to be tormented by a great desire to know
more in regard to his new nurse. Father Antoine's guarded replies to all
his inquiries about her had only stimulated his curiosity.
"She is a good woman. You may trust her with all your house," Father
Antoine had said; and had told the doctor that he had known both her and
her father twenty years ago. More than this he would not say, farther
than to express the opinion that she would live and die in St. Mary's,
and devote herself to her work so long as she lived.
"She has for it a grand vocation, as we say."
Father Antoine exclaimed, "A grand vocation! Ah! if we but had her in
"You'll never get her there as long as I'm alive, Father Antoine!" Dr.
Macgowan had replied. "You may count upon that."
When Dr. Macgowan said to Hetty:
"You do not look as if you had ever had any very hard trouble of any
kind," Hetty looked in his face eagerly, and answered:
"Do I not, really? I am so thankful, doctor! I have always had such
a dread of looking woe-begone, and making everybody around me
uncomfortable. I think that's a sin, if one can possibly help it."
And by no sudden surprise of remark or question, could the doctor ever
come any nearer to Hetty's trouble than this. Her words always glanced
off from direct personal issues, as subtlely and successfully as if she
had been a practised diplomatist. Sometimes these perpetual evadings and
non-committals seemed to Dr. Macgowan like art; but they were really the
very simplicity of absolute unselfishness; and, gradually, as he came to
perceive and understand this, he came to have a reverence for Hetty. He
began to be ashamed of the curiosity he had felt as to the details of
the sorrow which had driven her to this refuge of isolation and hard
work. He began to feel about her as Father Antoine did, that there was a
certain sacredness in her vocation which almost demanded a recognition
of title, an investiture of office. Hetty would have been astonished,
and would have very likely laughed, had she known with what a halo of
sentiment her daily life was fast being surrounded in the minds of
people. To her it was simply a routine of good, wholesome work; of a
kind for which she was best fitted, and which enabled her to earn a
comfortable living most easily to herself, and most helpfully to others;
and left her "less time to think," as she often said to herself, "than
any thing else I could possibly have done." "Time to think" was the one
thing Hetty dreaded. As resolutely as if they were a sin, she strove to
keep out of her mind all reminiscences of her home, all thoughts of her
husband, of Raby. Whenever she gave way to them, she was unfitted for
work; and, therefore, her conscience said they were wrong. While she was
face to face with suffering ones, and her hands were busy in ministering
to their wants, such thoughts never intruded upon her. It was literally
true that, in such hours, she never recollected that she was any other
than Hibba Smailli, the nurse. But, when her day's work was done, and
she went home to the little lonely cottage, memories flocked in at the
silent door, shut themselves in with her, and refused to be banished.
Hence she formed the habit of lingering in the street, of chatting with
the villagers on their door-steps, playing with the children, and often,
when there was illness in any of the houses, going into them, and
volunteering her services as nurse.
The St. Mary's people were, almost without exception, of French descent,
and still kept up many of the old French customs of out-door _fetes_
and ceremonies. Hetty found their joyous, child-like ways and manners
singularly attractive and interesting. After the grim composure, and
substantial, reflective methods of her New England life, the _abandon_
and unthinkingness of these French-Canadians were bewildering and
delightful to her.
"The whole town is every night like a Sunday-school picnic in our
country," she said once to Father Antoine. "What children all these
"Yes, daughter, it is so," replied the priest; "and it is well. Does not
our good Lord say that we cannot enter into His kingdom except we become
as little children?"
"Yes, I know," replied Hetty; "but I don't believe this is exactly what
he meant, do you?"
"A part of what he meant," answered the priest; "not all. First,
docility; and, second, joy: that is what the Church teaches."
"Your Church is better than ours in that respect," said Hetty candidly:
"ours doesn't teach joy; it is pretty much all terror."
"Should a child know terror of its mother?" asked Father Antoine. "The
Church is mother, and the Holy Virgin is mother. Ah, daughter! it will
be a glad day when I see you in the beautiful sheltering arms."
Tears sometimes came to Hetty's eyes at such words as these; and
good Father Antoine went with renewed fervor to his prayers for her
In the centre of the village was a square laid out in winding paths, and
surrounded by fir trees. In the middle of this square was a great stone
basin, in which a spring perpetually bubbled up; the basin had a broad
brim, on which the villagers sat when they came of an evening to fill
jugs and bottles with the water. On a bright summer night, the circle
would often widen and widen, by men throwing themselves on the ground;
children toddling from knee to knee; groups standing in eager talk here
and there, until it seemed as if the whole village were gathered around
the spring. These were the times when all the village affairs were
discussed, and all the village gossip retailed from neighbor to
neighbor. The scene was as gay and picturesque as you might see in a
little town of Brittany; and the jargon of the Canadian _patois_ much
more confusing than any dialect one would hear on French soil. Hetty's
New England tongue utterly refused to learn this new mode of speech; but
her quick and retentive ear soon learned its meanings sufficiently to
follow the people in their talk. She often made one of this evening
circle at the spring, and it was a pleasant sight to see the quick stir
of welcome with which her approach was observed.
"Here comes the good Aunt Hibba from the Doctor's House," and mothers
would push children away, and gossips would crowd, and men would stand
up, all to make room for Hetty: then they would gather about her, and
those who could speak English would translate for those who could not;
and everybody would have something to tell her. It was an odd thing that
lovers sought her more than any one else. Many a quarrel Aunt Hibba's
good sense healed over; and many a worthless fellow was sent about his
business, as he deserved to be, because Aunt Hibba took his sweetheart
in hand, and made her see the rights of things. If a traveller,
strolling about St. Mary's of a June night, had come upon these
chattering groups, and seen how they centred around the sturdy,
genial-faced woman, in a straight gray gown and a close white cap, he
would have been arrested by the picture at once; and have wondered much
who and what Hetty could be: but if you had told him that she was a
farmer's daughter from Northern New England, he would have laughed in
your face, and said, "Nonsense! she belongs to some of the Orders." Very
emphatically would he have said this, if it had chanced to be on one of
the evenings when Father Antoine was walking by Hetty's side. Father
Antoine knew her custom of lingering at the great spring, and sometimes
walked down there at sunset to meet her, to observe her talk with the
villagers, and to walk home with her later. Nothing could be stronger
proof of the reverence in which the whole village held Hetty, than the
fact that it seemed to them all the most fitting and natural thing that
she and Father Antoine should stand side by side speaking to the people,
should walk away side by side in earnest conversation with each other.
If any man had ventured upon a jest or a ribald word concerning them, a
dozen quick hands would have given him a plunge headforemost into
the great stone basin, which was the commonest expression of popular
indignation in St. Mary's; a practice which, strangely enough, did not
appear to interfere with anybody's relish of the waters.
Father Antoine had an old servant woman, Marie, who had lived in the
Ladeau family since before he was born. She had been by the deathbed of
his mother, his father, his grandmother, and of an uncle who had died
at some German watering-place: wherever a Ladeau was in any need of
service, thither hasted Marie; and if the need were from illness, Marie
was all the happier; to lie like a hound on the floor all night, and
watch by a sick and suffering Ladeau, was to Marie joy. When the young
Antoine had set out for the wildernesses of North America, Marie had
prayed to be allowed to come with him; and when he refused she had wept
till she fell ill. At the last moment he relented, and bore the poor
creature on board ship, wondering within himself if he would be able to
keep her alive in the forests. But as soon as there was work to do for
him she revived; and all these years she had kept his house, and cared
for him as if he were her son. From the day of Hetty's first arrival,
old Marie had adopted her into her affections: no one, not born
a Ladeau, ever had won such liking from Marie. Much to Hetty's
embarrassment, whenever she met her, she insisted on kissing her hand,
after the fashion of the humble servitors of great houses in France.
Probably, in all these long years of solitary service with Father
Antoine, Marie had pined for the sight of some one of her own sex, to
whom she could give allegiance, for she was fond of telling long stories
about the beautiful ladies of the house of Ladeau; and how she had
attired them for balls, and had seen them ride away with cavaliers.
There was neither splendor nor beauty in Hetty to attract Marie's fancy;
but Marie had a religious side to her nature, almost as strong as the
worldly and passionate one. She saw in Hetty's labors an exaltation of
devotion which reminded her of noble ladies who had done penances and
taken pilgrimages in her own country. Father Antoine's friendship for
Hetty, so unlike any thing Marie had seen him feel towards any woman he
had met in these wilds, also stimulated her fancy.
"Ah! but it is good that he has at last a friend to whom he may speak as
a Ladeau should speak. May the saints keep her! she has the good heart
of one the Virgin loves," said Marie, and many a candle did she buy
and keep burning on the convent's shrines for Hetty's protection and
One night Marie overheard Father Antoine say to Hetty, as he bade her
good-night at the garden gate:
"My daughter, you look better and younger every day."
"Do I?" replied Hetty, cheerfully: "that's an odd thing for a woman so
old as I am. My birthday is next month. I shall be forty-six."
"Youth is not a matter of years," replied Father Antoine. "I have known
very young women much older than you." Hetty smiled sadly, and walked
on. Father Antoine's words had given her a pang. They were almost the
same words which Dr. Eben had said to her again and again, when she had
reasoned with him against his love for her, a woman so much older
than himself. "That is all very well to say," thought Hetty in her
matter-of-fact way, "and no doubt there are great differences in people:
but old age is old age, soften it how you will; and youth is youth; and
youth is beautiful, and old age is ugly. Father Antoine knows it just as
well as any man. Don't I see, good as he is, every day of my life, with
what a different look he blesses the fair young maidens from that with
which he blesses the wrinkled old women. There is no use minding it.
It can't be helped. But things might as well be called by their right
Marie sat down on a garden bench, and reflected. So the good Aunt
Hibba's birthday was next month, and there would be nobody to keep it
for her in this strange country. "How can we find out?" thought Marie,
"and give her a pleasure."
In summer weather, Father Antoine took his simple dinners on the porch.
It was cool there, and the vines and flowers gave to the little nook a
certain air of elegance which Father Antoine enjoyed without recognizing
why. On this evening Marie lingered after she had removed the table. She
fidgeted about, picking up a leaf here and there, and looking at her
master, till he perceived that she had something on her mind.
"What is it, Marie?" he asked.
"Oh, M'sieur Antoine!" she replied, "it is about the good Aunt Hibba's
birthday. Could you not ask her when is the day? and it should be a
_fete_ day, if we only knew it; there is not one that would not be glad
to help make it beautiful."
"Eh, my Marie, what is it then that you plan? The people in the country
from which she comes have no _fetes_. It might be that she would think
it a folly," answered Father Antoine, by no means sure that Hetty would
like such a testimonial.
"All the more, then, she would like it," said Marie. "I have watched
her. It is delight to her when they dance about the spring, and she has
the great love for flowers."
So Father Antoine, by a little circumlocution, discovered when the
birthday would come, and told Marie; and Marie began straightway to go
back and forth in the village, with a pleased air of mystery.
The birthday fell on a day in June. It so happened that Hetty was later
than usual in leaving her patients that night; and her purpose had been
to go home by the nearest way, and not pass through the Square. The
villagers had feared this, and had forestalled her; at the turning
where she would have left the main road, she found waiting for her the
swiftest-footed urchin in all St. Mary's, little Pierre Michaud. The
readiest witted, too, and of the freest tongue, and he was charged to
bring Aunt Hibba by the way of the Square, but by no means to tell her
"And if she say me nay, what is it that I am to tell her, then?" urged
"Art thou a fool, Pierre?" said his mother, sharply. "Thou'rt ready
enough with excuses, I'll warrant, for thy own purposes: invent one now.
It matters not, so that thou bring her here." And Pierre, reassured by
this maternal _carte blanche_ for the best lie he could think of, raced
away, first tucking securely into a niche of the stone basin the little
pot with a red carnation in it which he had brought for his contribution
to the birthday _fete_.
When Hetty saw Pierre waiting at the corner, she exclaimed:
"What, Pierre, loitering here! The sunset is no time to idle. Where are
"Milked an hour ago, Tantibba, and in the shed," replied Pierre,
with a saucy air of having the best of the argument, "and my mother
waits in the Square to speak to thee as thou passest."
"I was not going that way, to-night," replied Hetty. "I am in haste.
What does she wish? Will it not do as well in the morning?"
Alarmed at this suggestion, young Pierre made a master-stroke of
invention, and replied on the instant:
"Nay, Bo Tantibba, that it will not; for it is the little sister of
Jean Cochot which has been badly bitten by a fierce dog, and the mother
has her there in her arms waiting for thee to dress her wounds. Oh, but
the blood doth run! and the little one's cries would pierce thy heart!"
And the rascally Pierre pretended to sob.
[Footnote 1: "Tante Hibba."]
[Footnote 2: The French Canadians often contract "bonne" and "bon" in
this way. "Bo Tantibba" is contraction for "Bonne Tante Hibba."]
"Eh, eh, how happened that?" said Hetty, hurrying on so swiftly towards
the Square that even Pierre's brisk little legs could hardly keep up
with her. Pierre's inventive faculty came to a halt.
"Nay, that I do not know," he replied; "but the people are all gathered
around her, and they all cry out for thee by thy name. There is none
like thee, Tantibba, they say, if one has a wound."
Hetty quickened her pace to a run. As she entered the Square, she
saw such crowds around the basin that Pierre's tale seemed amply
corroborated. Pressing in at the outer edge of the circle, she
exclaimed, looking to right and left, "Where is the child? Where is Mere
Michaud?" Every one looked bewildered; no one answered. Pierre, with an
upward fling of his agile legs, disappeared to seek his carnation;
and Hetty found herself, in an instant more, surrounded by a crowd of
children, each in its finest clothes, and each bearing a small pot with
a flowering-plant in it.
"For thee! For thee! The good saints bless the day thou wert born!" they
all cried, pressing nearer, and lifting high their little pots. "See
my carnation!" shouted Pierre, struggling nearer to Hetty. "And my
jonquil!" "And my pansies!" "And this forget-me-not!" cried the
children, growing more and more excited each moment; while the chorus,
"For thee! For thee! The good saints bless the day thou wert born!" rose
on all sides.
Hetty was bewildered.
"What does all this mean?" she said helplessly.
Then, catching Pierre by the shoulder so suddenly that his red carnation
tottered and nearly fell, she exclaimed:
"You mischievous boy! Where is the child that was bitten? Have you told
me a lie?"
At this moment, Pierre's mother, pushing through the crowd, exclaimed:
"Ah! but thou must forgive him. It was I that sent him to lie to thee,
that thou shouldst not go home. We go with thee, to do our honor to the
day on which thou wert born!"
And so saying, Mere Michaud turned, and swinging high up in the air one
end of a long wreath of feathery ground-pine, led off the procession.
The rest followed in preconcerted order, till some forty men and women,
all linked together by the swinging loops of the pine wreath, were in
line. Then they suddenly wheeled and surrounded the bewildered Hetty,
and bore her with them. The children, carrying their little pots of
flowers, ran along shouting and screaming with laughter to see the good
"Tantibba" so amazed. Louder and louder rose the chorus:
"For thee! For thee! May the good saints bless the day thou wert born!"
Hetty was speechless: her cheeks flushed. She looked from one to the
other, and all she could do was to clasp her hands and smile. If she
had spoken, she would have cried. When they came to Father Antoine's
cottage, there he stood waiting at the gate, wearing his Sunday robes,
and behind him stood Marie, also in her best, and with her broad silver
necklace on, which the villagers had only two or three times seen her
wear. Marie had her hands behind her, and was trying to hold out her
narrow black petticoat on each side to hide something. Mysterious and
plaintive noises struggled through the woollen folds, and, at each
sound, Marie stamped her foot and exclaimed angrily:
"Bah! thou silly beast, be quiet! Wilt thou spoil all our sport?"
The procession halted before the house, and Father Antoine advanced,
bearing in his hands a gay wreath of flowers. The people had wished that
this should be placed on Hetty's head, but Father Antoine had persuaded
them to waive this part of the ceremony. He knew well that this would be
more than Hetty could bear. Holding the wreath in his hands, therefore,
he addressed a few words to Hetty, and then took his place by her side.
Now was Marie's moment of joy. Springing to one side as quickly as her
rheumatic old joints would permit, she revealed what she had been trying
to hide behind her scant petticoat. It was a white lamb, decorated from
ears to tail with knots of ribbon and with flowers. The poor little
thing tugged hard at the string by which it was held, and shook its
pretty head in restless impatience under its load of finery, and bleated
piteously: but for all that it was a very pretty sight; and the broken
English with which Marie, on behalf of the villagers, presented the
little creature to Hetty, was prettier still. When they reached Hetty's
gate, all the women who had hold of the long pine wreath gave their
places to men; and, in the twinkling of an eye, the lithe vigorous
fellows were on the fences, on the posts of the porch, nailing the
wreath in festoons everywhere; from the gateway to the door in long
swinging loops, above the porch, in festoons over the windows, under the
eaves, and hanging in long waving ends on the walls. Then they hung upon
the door the crown which Hetty had not worn, and the little children set
their gay pots of flowers on the window-sills and around the porch; and
all was a merry hubbub of voices and laughter. Hetty grasped Father
Antoine by the arm.
"Oh, do you speak to them, and thank them for me! I can't!" she said;
and Father Antoine saw tears in her eyes.
"But you must speak to them, my daughter," he replied, "else they will
be grieved. They cannot understand that you are pleased if you say no
word. I will speak first till you are more calm."
When Father Antoine had finished his speech, Hetty stepped forward, and
looking round on all their faces, said:
"I do not know how to thank you, friends. I never saw any thing like
this before, and it makes me dumb. All I can say is that you have filled
my heart with joy, and I feel no more a stranger: your village is my
"Thanks to thee, then, for that! Thanks to thee! And the good saints
bless the day thou wert born," shouted the people, and the little
children catching the enthusiasm, and wanting to shout something,
shouted: "Bo Tantibba! Bo Tantibba!" till the place rang. Then they
placed the pet lamb in a little enclosed paddock which had been built
for him during the day, and the children fed him with red clover
blossoms through the paling; and presently, Father Antoine considerately
led his flock away, saying,--"The good Aunt is weary. See you not that
her eyes droop, and she has no words? It is now kind that we go away,
and leave her to rest."
As the gay procession moved away crying, "Good-night, good-night!" Hetty
stood on the porch and watched them. She was on the point of calling
them back. A strange dread of being left alone seized upon her. Never
since she had forsaken her home had she felt such a sense of loneliness,
except when she was crouched under the hemlock-trees by the lake. She
watched till she could no longer see even a fluttering motion in the
distance. Then she went into the house. The silence smote her. She
turned and went out again, and went to the paddock, where the little
lamb was bleating.
"Poor little creature!" she said, "wert thou torn from thy mother? Dost
thou pine for one thou see'st not?" She untied it, led it into the
house, and spread down hay and blankets for it, in one corner of her
kitchen. The little creature seemed cheered by the light and warmth;
cuddled down and went to sleep.
Hetty's heart was full of thoughts. "Oh! what would Eben have said if he
could have seen me to-night?" "How Raby would have delighted in it all!"
"How long am I to live this strange life?" "Can this be really I?" "What
has become of my old life, of my old self?" Like restless waves driven
by a wind too powerful to be resisted, thoughts and emotions surged
through Hetty's breast. She buried her face in her hands and wept; wept
the first unrestrained tears she had wept. Only for a few moments,
however. Like the old Hetty Gunn of the old life, she presently sprang
to her feet, and said to herself, "Oh, what a selfish soul I am to
be spending all my strength this way! I shan't be fit for any thing
to-morrow if I go on so." Then she patted the lamb on its head, and
said with a comforting sense of comradeship in the little creature's
presence, "Good-night, little motherless one! Sleep warm," and then she
went to bed and slept till morning.
I have dwelt on the surface details of Hetty's life at St. Mary's, and
have said little about her mental condition and experiences: this is
because I have endeavored to present this part of her life, exactly as
she lived it, and as she would tell it herself. That there were many
hours of acute suffering; many moments when her courage wellnigh failed;
when she was almost ready to go back to her home, fling herself at her
husband's feet, and cry, "Let me be but as a servant in thy house,"--it
is not needful to say.
Hearts answer to hearts, and no heart could fail to know that a woman in
Hetty's position must suffer keenly and constantly. But this story would
do great injustice to her, and would be essentially false, if it spoke
often of, or dwelt at any length upon the sufferings which Hetty herself
never mentioned, and put always away from her with an unflinching
resolution. Year after year, the routine of her days went on as we
have described; unchanged except that she grew more and more into the
affections of the villagers among whom she came and went, and of the
hundreds of ill and suffering men and women whom she nursed. She was no
nearer becoming a Roman Catholic than she had been when she sat in the
Welbury meeting-house: even Father Antoine had given over hoping for her
conversion; but her position in St. Mary's was like the position of
a Lady Abbess in a religious community; her authority, which rarely took
on an authoritative shape, was great; and her influence was greater than
her authority. In Dr. Macgowan's House of Cure, she was second only to
the doctor himself; and, if the truth were told, it might have been said
she was second to none.
Patients went away from St. Mary's every year who stoutly ascribed
their cure to her, and not to the waters nor to the physicians. Her
straightforward, kindly, common sense was a powerful tonic, morally and
physically, to all invalids whom she nursed. She had no tolerance for
any weakness which could be conquered. She had infinite tenderness for
all weakness which was inevitable; and her discriminations between the
two were always just. "I'd trust more to Mrs. Smailli's diagnosis of any
case than I would to my own," said Dr. Macgowan to his fellow-physicians
more than once. And, when they scoffed at the idea, he replied: "I do
not mean in the technicalities of specific disease, of course. The
recognition of those is a matter of specific training; but, in all those
respects, a physician's diagnosis may be faultless; and yet he be much
mistaken in regard to the true condition of the patient. In this finer,
subtler diagnosis of general conditions, especially of moral conditions,
Mrs. Smailli is worth more than all the doctors in Canada put together.
If she says a patient will get well, he always does, and _vice versa_.
She knows where the real possibility of recuperation lies, and detects
it often in patients I despair of."
And now this story must again pass over a period of ten years in the
history of Eben and Hetty Williams. During all these years, Hetty had
been working faithfully in St. Mary's; and Dr. Eben had been working
faithfully in Welbury. Hetty was now fifty-six years old. Her hair was
white, and clustered round her temples in a rim of snowy curls, peeping
out from under the close lace cap she always wore. But the snowy curls
were hardly less becoming than the golden brown ones had been. Her
cheeks were still pink, and her lips red. She looked far less old for
her age at fifty-six than she had looked ten years before.
Dr. Eben, on the other hand, had grown old fast. His work had not been
to him as complete and healthful occupation as Hetty's had been to her.
He had lived more within himself; and he had never ceased to sorrow. His
sorrow, being for one dead, was without hope; save that intangible hope
to which our faith so pathetically clings, of the remote and undefined
possibilities of eternity. Hetty's sorrow was full of hope, being
persuaded that all was well with those whom she did not see.
Dr. Eben loved no one warmly or with absorption. Hetty loved every
suffering one to whom she ministered. Dr. Eben had never ceased living
too much in the past. Hetty had learned to live almost wholly in the
present. Hetty had suffered, had suffered intensely; but all that she
had suffered was as nothing in comparison with the sufferings of her
husband. Moreover, Hetty had kept through all these years her superb
health. Dr. Eben had had severe illnesses, which had told heavily upon
his strength. From all these things it had come to pass, that now he
looked older and more worn than Hetty. She looked vigorous; he looked
feeble; she was still comely, he had lost all the fineness of color and
outline, which had made him at forty so handsome a man. He had been
growing restless, too, and discontented.
Raby was away at college; old Caesar and Nan had both died, and their
places were filled by new white servants, who, though they served Dr.
Eben well, did not love him. Deacon Little had died also, and Jim and
Sally had been obliged to go back to the old homestead to live, to take
care of Mrs. Little, who was now a helpless paralytic.
"Gunn's," as it was still called, and always would be, was no longer the
brisk and cheerful place which it had once been. The farm was slowly
falling off, from its master's lack of interest in details; and the old
stone house had come to wear a certain look of desolation. The pines met
and interlaced their boughs over the whole length of the road from the
gate to the front-door; and, in a dark day, it was like an underground
passage-way, cold and damp. If Hetty could have been transported to
the spot, how would her heart have ached! How would she have seen, in
terrible handwriting, the record of her mistaken act; the blight which
her one wrong step had cast, not only upon hearts and lives, but even
upon the visible face of nature. But Hetty did not dream of this.
Whenever she permitted her fancy to dwell upon imaginings of her old
home, she saw it bright with sunshine, merry with the voices of little
children: and her husband handsome still, and young, walking by the side
of a beautiful woman, mother of his children. At last Dr. Eben took
a sudden resolution; the result, partly, of his restless discontent;
partly of his consciousness that he was in danger of breaking down and
becoming a chronic invalid. He offered "Gunn's" for sale, and announced
that he was going abroad for some years. Spite of the dismay with which
this news was received throughout the whole county, everybody's second
thought was: "Poor fellow! I'm glad of it. It's the best thing he can
Hetty's cousin, Josiah Gunn, the man that she had so many years ago
predicted would ultimately have the estate, bought it in, out-bidding
the most determined bidders (for "Gunn's" was much coveted); and paying
finally a sum even larger than the farm was really worth. Dr. Eben was
now a rich man, and free. The world lay before him. When all was done,
he felt a strange unwillingness to leave Welbury. The travel, the
change, which had looked so desirable and attractive, now looked
formidable; and he lingered week after week, unable to tear himself
away from home. One day he rode over to Springton, to bid Rachel Barlow
good-by. Rachel was now twenty-eight years old, and a very beautiful
woman. Many men had sought to marry her, but Dr. Eben's prediction
had been realized. Rachel would not marry. Her health was perfectly
established, and she had been for years at the head of the Springton
Academy. Doctor Eben rarely saw her; but when he did her manner had
the same child-like docility and affectionate gratitude that had
characterized it when she was seventeen. She had never ceased to feel
that she owed her life, and more than her life, to him: how much more
she felt, Dr. Eben had never dreamed until this day. When he told her
that he was going to Europe, she turned pale, but said earnestly:
"Oh, I am very glad! you have needed the change so much. How long will
"I don't know, Rachel," he replied sadly. "Perhaps all the rest of my
life. I have done my best to live here; but I can't. It's no use: I
can't bear it. I have sold the place."
Rachel's lips parted, but she did not speak; her face flushed scarlet,
then turned white; and, without a moment's warning or possibility
of staying the tears, she buried her face in her hands, and wept
convulsively. In the same instant, a magnetic sense of all that this
grief meant thrilled through Doctor Eben's every nerve. No such thought
had ever crossed his mind before. Rachel had never been to him any thing
but the "child" he had first called her. Very reverently seeking now to
shield her womanhood from any after pain of fear, lest she might have
betrayed her secret, he said:
"Why, my child! you must not feel so badly about it. I ought not to have
spoken so. Of course, you must know that my life has been a very lonely
one, and always must be. But I should not give up and go away, simply
for that. I am not well, and I am quite sure that I need several years
of a milder climate. I dare say I shall be home-sick, and come back
Rachel lifted her eyes and looked steadily in his. Her tears stopped.
The old clairvoyant gaze, which he had not seen on her face for many
"No. You will never come back," she said slowly. Then, as one speaking
in a dream, she said still more slowly, and uttering each word with
difficulty and emphasis:
"I--do--not--believe--your--wife--is--dead." Much shocked, and thinking
that these words were merely the utterance of an hysterical excitement,
Dr. Eben replied:
"Not to me, dear child; she never will be: but you must not let yourself
be excited in this way. You will be ill. I must be your doctor again and
prescribe for you."
Rachel continued to watch him, with the same bright and unflinching
gaze. He turned from her, and, bringing her a glass of water in which he
had put a few drops from a vial, said in his old tone:
"Drink this, Rachel."
She obeyed in silence; her eyes drooped; the tension of her whole figure
relaxed; and, with a long sigh, she exclaimed:
"Oh, forgive me!"
"There is nothing to forgive, my child," said the doctor, much moved,
and, longing to throw his arms around her as she sat there, so gentle,
appealing, beautiful, loving. "Why can I not love her?" "What else is
there better in life for me to do?" he thought, but his heart refused.
Hetty, the lost dead Hetty, stood as much between him and all other
women to-day, as she had stood ten years before.
"I must go now, Rachel," he said. "Good-by."
She put her cold hand in his. As he took it, by a curious freak of his
brain, there flashed into his mind the memory of the day when, by the
side of this fragile white little hand lying in his, Hetty, laughingly,
had placed her own, broad and firm and brown. The thought of that hand
of Hetty's, and her laugh at that moment, were too much for him, and he
dropped Rachel's hand abruptly, and moved toward the door. She gave a
low cry: he turned back; she took a step towards him.
"I shall never see you again," she said, taking his hand in hers. "I owe
my life to you," and she carried his hand to her lips, and kissed it
again and again. "God bless you, child! Good-by! good-by!" he said.
Rachel did not speak, and he left her standing there, gazing after him
with a look on her face which haunted him as long as he lived.
Why Doctor Eben should have resolved to sail for England in a Canadian
steamer, and why, having reached Canada, he should have resolved to
postpone his voyage, and make a trial of the famous springs of St.
Mary's, are mysteries hid in that book of Fate whose leaves no mortal
may turn. We prate in our shallow wisdom about causes, but the most that
we can trace is a short line of incidental occasions. A pamphlet which
Doctor Eben found in the office of a hotel was apparently the reason of
his going to St. Mary's; all the reason so far as he knew, or as any man
might know. But that man is to be pitied who lives his life out under
the impression that it is within his own guidance. Only one remove from
the life of the leaf which the winds toss where they list would be such
a life as that.
It was with no very keen interest that Doctor Eben arrived in St.
Mary's. He had some faint hope that the waters might do him good: but he
found the sandy stretches and long lines of straight firs in Canada very
monotonous; and he was already beginning to be oppressed by the sense of
homelessness. His quiet and domestic life had unfitted him for being a
wanderer, and he was already looking forward to the greater excitements
of European travel; hoping that they would prove more diverting and
entertaining than he had thus far found travel in America.
He entered St. Mary's as Hetty had done, just at sunset. It was a warm
night in June; and, after his tea at the little inn, Dr. Eben sauntered
out listlessly. The sound of merry voices in the Square repelled him;
unlike Hetty, he shrank from strange faces: turning in the direction
where it seemed stillest, he walked slowly towards the woods. He looked
curiously at the little red chapel, and at Father Antoine's cottage, now
literally imbedded in flowers. Then he paused before Hetty's tiny house.
A familiar fragrance arrested him; leaning on the paling he looked over
into the garden, started, and said, under his breath: "How strange! How
strange!" There were long straight beds of lavender and balm, growing
together, as they used to grow in the old garden at "Gunn's." Both the
balm and the lavender were in full blossom; and the two scents mingled
and separated and mingled in the warm air, like the notes of two
instruments unlike, yet in harmony. The strong lemon odor of the balm,
was persistently present like the mastering chords of the violoncello,
and the fine and subtle fragrances from the myriad cells of the
pale lavender floated above and below, now distant, now melting and
disappearing, like a delicate melody. Dr. Eben was borne away from the
present, out of himself. He thrust his hand through the palings, and
gathered a crushed handful of the lavender blossoms: eagerly he inhaled
their perfume. Drawers and chests at "Gunn's" had been thick
strewn with lavender for half a century. All Hetty's clothes--Hetty
herself--had been full of the exquisite fragrance. The sound of quick
pattering steps roused him from his reverie. A bare-footed boy was
driving a flock of goats past. The child stopped and gazed intently at
"Child, who lives in this little house?" said Dr. Eben, cautiously
hiding his stolen handful of lavender.
"Tantibba," replied the boy.
"What!" exclaimed the doctor. "I don't understand you. What is the
"Tantibba! Tantibba!" the child shouted, looking back over his shoulder,
as he raced on to overtake his goats. "Bo Tantibba."
"Some old French name I suppose," thought Dr. Eben: "but, it is very odd
about the herbs; the two growing together, so exactly as Hetty used to
have them;" and he walked reluctantly away, carrying the bruised
lavender blossoms in his hand, and breathing in their delicious
fragrance. As he drew near the inn, he observed on the other side of the
way a woman hurrying in the opposite direction. She had a sturdy thick-
set figure, and her step, although rapid, was not the step of a young
person. She wore on her head only a close white cap; and her gray gown
was straight and scant: on her arm she carried a basket of scarlet
plaited straw, which made a fine bit of color against the gray and white
of her costume. It was just growing dusk, and the doctor could not
distinguish her features. At that moment, a lad came running from the
inn, and darted across the road, calling aloud, "Tantibba! Tantibba!"
The woman turned her head, at the name, and waited till the lad came to
her. Dr. Eben stood still, watching them. "So that is Tantibba?" he
thought, "what can the name be?" Presently the lad came back with a
bunch of long drooping balm-stalks in his hand.
"Who was that you spoke to then?" asked the doctor.
"Tantibba!" replied the lad, hurrying on. Dr. Eben caught him by the
shoulder. "Look here!" he exclaimed, "just tell me that name again. This
is the fourth time I've heard it tonight. Is it the woman's first name
or what?" The lad was a stupid English lad, who had but recently come
to service in St. Mary's, and had never even thought to wonder what the
name "Tantibba," meant. He stared vacantly for a moment, and then said:
"Indeed, sir, and I don't know. She's never called any thing else that
"Who is she? what does she do?" asked the doctor.
"Oh, sir! she's a great nurse, from foreign parts: she has a power of
healing-herbs in her garden, and she goes each day to the English House
to heal the sick. There's nobody like her. If she do but lay her hand on
one, they do say it is a cure."
"She is French, I suppose," said the doctor; thinking to himself, "Some
"Ay, sir, I think so," answered the lad; "but I must not stay to speak
any more, for the mistress waits for this balm to make tea for the cook
Jean, who is like to have a fever;" and the lad disappeared under the
low archway of the basement.
Dr. Eben walked back and forth in front of the inn, still crushing in
his fingers the lavender flowers and inhaling their fragrance. Idly he
watched "Tantibba's" figure till it disappeared in the distance.
"This is just the sort of place for a tricky old French woman to make
a fortune in," he said to himself: "these people are simple enough
to believe any thing;" and Dr. Eben went to his room, and tossed the
lavender blossoms down on his pillow.
When he waked in the morning, his first thoughts were bewildered:
nothing in nature is so powerful in association as a perfume. A sound, a
sight, is feeble in comparison; the senses are ever alert, and the mind
is accustomed always to act promptly on their evidence. But a subtle
perfume, which has been associated with a person, a place, a scene, can
ever afterward arrest us; can take us unawares, and hold us spell-bound,
while both memory and knowledge are drugged by its charm.
Dr. Eben did not open his eyes. In an ecstasy of half consciousness he
murmured, "Hetty." As he stirred, his hand came in contact with the
withered flowers. Touch was more potent than smell. He roused, lifted
his head, saw the little blossoms now faded and gray lying near his
cheek; and saying, "Oh, I remember," sank back again into a few moments'
The morning was clear and cool, one window of the doctor's room looked
east; the splendor of the sunrise shone in and illuminated the whole
place. While he was dressing, he found himself persistently thinking of
the strange name, "Tantibba." "It is odd how that name haunts me," he
thought. "I wish I could see it written: I haven't the least idea how it
is spelled. I wonder if she is an impostor. Her garden didn't look like
it." Presently he sauntered out: the morning stir was just beginning
in the village. The child to whom he had spoken at "Tantibba's" gate,
the night before, came up, driving the same flock of goats. The little
fellow, as he passed, pulled the ragged tassel of his cap in token of
recognition of the stranger who had accosted him. Without any definite
purpose, Dr. Eben followed slowly on, watching a pair of young kids,
who fell behind the flock, frolicking and half-fighting in antics so
grotesque that they looked more like gigantic grasshoppers than like
goats. Before he knew how far he had walked, he suddenly perceived that
he was very near "Tantibba's" house.
"I'll walk on and steal another handful of the lavender," he thought;
"and if the old woman's up, perhaps I'll get a sight of her. I'd like to
see what sort of a face answers to that outlandish name."
As the doctor leaned over the paling, and looked again at Hetty's
garden, he saw something which had escaped his notice before, and at
which he started again, and muttered--this time aloud, and with
an expression almost of terror,--"Good Heavens, if there isn't a
chrysanthemum bed too, exactly like ours! what does this mean?" Hetty
had little thought when she was laying out her garden, as nearly as
possible like the garden she had left behind her, that she was writing a
record which any eye but her own would note.
"I believe I'll go in and see this old French woman," he thought: "it is
such a strange thing that she should have just the same flowers Hetty
had. I don't believe she's an adventuress, after all."
Dr. Eben had his hand on the latch of the gate. At that instant, the
cottage door opened, and "Tantibba," in her white cap and gray gown, and
with her scarlet basket on her arm, appeared on the threshold. Dr. Eben
lifted his hat courteously, and advanced.
"I was just about to take the liberty of knocking at your door, madame,"
he said, "to ask if you would give me a few of your lavender blossoms."
As he began to speak, "Tantibba's" basket fell from her hand. As he
advanced towards her, her eyes grew large with terror, and all color
left her cheeks.
"Why do I terrify her so?" thought Dr. Eben, quickening his steps, and
hastening to reassure her, by saying still more gently:
"Pray forgive me for intruding. I"--the words died on his lips: he stood
like one stricken by paralysis; his hands falling helplessly by his
side, and his eyes fixed in almost ghastly dread on this gray-haired
woman, from whose white lips came, in Hetty's voice, the cry:
"Eben! oh! Eben!"
Hetty was the first to recover herself. Seeing with terror how rigid and
pale her husband's face had become; how motionless, like one turned to
stone, he stood--she hastened down the steps, and, taking him by the
hand, said, in a trembling whisper:
"Oh, come into the house, Eben."
Mechanically he followed her; she still leading him by the hand, like
a child. Like a child, or rather like a blind man, he sat down in the
chair which she placed for him. His eyes did not move from her face; but
they looked almost like sightless eyes. Hetty stood before him, with her
hands clasped tight. Neither spoke. At last Dr. Eben said feebly:
"Are you Hetty?"
"Yes, Eben," answered Hetty, with a tearless sob. He did not speak
again: still with a strange unseeing look, his eyes roved over her
face, her figure. Then he reached out one hand and touched her gown;
curiously, he lifted the soft gray serge, and fingered it; then he said
"Are you Hetty?"
"Oh, Eben! dear Eben! indeed I am," broke forth Hetty. "Do forgive me.
"Forgive you?" repeated Dr. Eben, helplessly. "What for?"
"Oh, my God! he thinks we are both dead: what shall I do to rouse him?"
thought Hetty, all the nurse in her coming to the rescue of the woman
"For going away and leaving you, Eben," she said in a clear resolute
voice. "I wasn't drowned. I came away."
Dr. Eben smiled; a smile which terrified Hetty more than his look or
voice or words had done.
"Eben! Eben!" she cried, putting both her hands on his shoulders, and
bringing her face close to his. "Don't look like that. I tell you I
wasn't drowned. I am alive: feel me! feel me! I am Hetty;" and she knelt
before him, and laid her arms across his knees. The touch, the grasp,
the warmth of her strong flesh, penetrated his inmost consciousness, and
brought back the tottering senses. His eyes lost their terrifying and
ghastly expression, and took on one searching and half-stern. "You were
not drowned!" he said. "You have not been dead all these years! You went
away! You are not Hetty!" and he pushed her arms rudely from his knees.
Then, in the next second, he had clasped her fiercely in his arms,
"You are Hetty! I feel you! I know you! Oh Hetty, Hetty, wife, what does
this all mean? Who took you away from me?" And tears, blessed saving
tears, filled Dr. Eben's eyes.
Now began the retribution of Hetty's mistake. In this moment, with her
husband's arms around her, his eyes fixed on hers, the whole cloud of
misapprehension under which she had acted was revealed to her as by a
beam of divine light from heaven. Smitten to the heart by a sudden
and overwhelming remorse, Hetty was speechless. She could only look
pleadingly into his face, and murmur:
"Oh, Eben! Eben!"
He repeated his questions, growing calmer with each word, and with each
moment's increasing realization of Hetty's presence.
"Who took you away?"
"Nobody," answered Hetty. "I came alone."
"Did you not love me, Hetty?" said Dr. Eben in sad tones, struck by a
new fear. This question unsealed Hetty's lips.
"Love you!" she exclaimed in a piercing voice. "Love you! oh, Eben!" and
then she poured out, without reserves or disguises, the whole story
of her convictions, her decision, and her flight. Her husband did not
interrupt her by word or gesture. As she proceeded with her narrative,
he slowly withdrew his eyes from her face, and fixed them on the floor.
It was harder for her to speak when he thus looked away from her.
Timidly she said:
"Do not turn your eyes away from me, Eben. It makes me afraid. I cannot
tell you the rest, if you look so."
With an evident effort, he raised his eyes again, and again met her
earnest gaze. But it was only for a few seconds. Again his eyes drooped,
evaded hers, and rested on the floor. Again Hetty paused; and said still
"Please look at me, Eben. Indeed I can't talk to you if you do not."
Like one stung suddenly by some insupportable pain, he wrenched her
hands from his knees, sprang to his feet, and walked swiftly back and
forth. She remained kneeling by the chair, looking up at him with a most
piteous face. "Hetty," he exclaimed, "you must be patient with me. Try
and imagine what it is to have believed for ten years that you were
dead; to have mourned you as dead; to have spent ten whole years of
weary, comfortless days; and then to find suddenly that you have been
all this time living,--voluntarily hiding yourself from me; needlessly
torturing me! Why, Hetty! Hetty! you must have been mad. You must be mad
now, I think, to kneel there and tell me all these details so calmly,
and in such a matter-of-fact way. Do you realize what a monstrous thing
you have been doing?" And Dr. Eben's eyes blazed with a passionate
indignation, as he stopped short in his excited walk and looked down
upon Hetty. Then, in the next second, touched by the look on her
uplifted face, so noble, so pure, so benevolent, he forgot all his
resentment, all his perplexity, all his pain; and, stooping over her,
he lifted her from her knees, and, folding her close to his bosom,
"Oh, my Hetty, my own; forgive me. I am the one that is mad. How can I
think of any thing except the joy of having found you again? No wonder I
thought at first we were both dead. Oh, my precious wife, is it
really you? Are you sure we are alive?" And he kissed her again and
again,--hair, brow, eyes, lips,--with a solemn rapture.
A great silence fell upon them: there seemed no more to say. Suddenly,
Dr. Eben exclaimed:
"Rachel said she did not believe you were dead."
At mention of Rachel's name, a spasm crossed Hetty's face. In the
excitement of her mingled terror and joy, she had not yet thought of
"Where is Rachel?" she gasped, her very heart standing still as she
asked the question.
"At home," answered the doctor; and his countenance clouded at the
memory of his last interview with her. Hetty's fears misinterpreted the
reply and the sudden cloud on his face.
"Is she--did you--where is her home?" she stammered.
A great light broke in on Dr. Eben's mind.
"Good God!" he cried. "Hetty, it is not possible that you thought I
"No," said Hetty. "I only thought you could love her, if it were right;
and if I were dead it would be."
A look of horror deepened on the doctor's face. The idea thus suggested
to his mind was terrible.
"And supposing I had loved her, thinking you were dead, what then? Do
you know what you would have done?" he said sternly.
"I think you would have been very happy," replied Hetty, simply. "I have
always thought of you as being probably very happy."
Dr. Eben groaned aloud.
"Oh, Hetty! Hetty! How could God have let you think such thoughts?
Hetty!" he exclaimed suddenly, with the manner of one who has taken a
new resolve: "Hetty, listen. We must not talk about this terrible past.
It is impossible for me to be just to you. If any other woman had done
what you have done, I should say she must be mad, or else wicked."
"I think I was mad," interrupted Hetty. "It seems so to me now. But,
indeed, Eben, oh, indeed, I thought at the time it was right."
"I know you did, my darling," replied the doctor. "I believe it fully;
but for all that I cannot be just to you, when I think of it. We must
put it away from us for ever. We are old now, and have perhaps only a
few years to live together."
Here Hetty interrupted him with a sudden cry of dismay:
"Oh! oh! I forgot every thing but you. I ought to have been at Dr.
Macgowan's an hour ago. Indeed, Eben, I must go this minute. Do not try
to hinder me. There is a patient there who is so ill. I fear he will not
live through the day. Oh, how selfish of me to have forgotten him for a
single moment! But how can I leave you! How can I leave you!"
As she spoke, she moved hastily about the room, making her preparations
to go. Her husband did not attempt to delay her. A strange feeling was
creeping over him, that, by Hetty's removal of herself from him, by her
new life, her new name, new duties, she had really ceased to be his. He
felt weak and helpless: the shock had been too great, and he was not
strong. When Hetty was ready, he said:
"Shall I walk with you, Hetty?"
She hesitated. She feared to be seen talking in an excited way with this
stranger: she dreaded to lose her husband out of her sight.
"Oh, Eben!" she exclaimed, "I do not know what to do. I cannot bear to
let you go from me for a moment. How shall I get through this day! I
will not go to Dr. Macgowan's any more. I will get Sister Catharine from
the convent to come and take my place at once. Yes, come with me. We
will walk together, but we must not talk, Eben."
"No," said her husband.
He understood and shared her feeling. In silence they took their way
through the outskirts of the town. Constantly they stole furtive looks
at each other; Hetty noting with sorrow the lines which grief and
ill-health had made in the doctor's face; he thinking to himself:
"Surely it is a miracle that age and white hair should make a woman more
But it was not the age, the white hair: it was the transfiguration of
years of self-sacrifice and ministering to others.
"Hetty," said Dr. Eben, as they drew near Dr. Macgowan's gate, "what
is this name by which the village people call you? I heard it on
everybody's lips, but I could not make it out."
Hetty colored. "It is French for Aunt Hibba," she replied. "They speak
it as if it were one word, 'Tantibba.'"
"But there was more to it," said her husband. "'Bo Tantibba,' they
"Oh, that means merely 'Good Aunt Hibba,'" she said confusedly. "You see
some of them think I have been good to them; that's all: but usually
they call me only 'Tantibba.'"
"Why did you call yourself 'Hibba'?" he said.
"I don't know," replied Hetty. "It came into my head."
"Don't they know your last name?" asked her husband, earnestly.
"Oh!" said Hetty, "I changed that too."
Dr. Eben stopped short: his face grew stern.
"Hetty," he said, "do you mean to tell me that you have put my very name
away from you all these years?"
Tears came to Hetty's eyes.
"Why, Eben," she replied, "what else could I do? It would have been
absurd to keep my name. Any day it might have been recognized. Don't you
"Yes, I see," answered Dr. Eben, bitterly. "You are no longer mine, even
Hetty's tears fell. She was dumb before all resentful words, all
passionate outbreaks, from her husband now. All she could say was:
"Oh, Eben! Eben!" Sometimes she added piteously: "I never meant to do
wrong; at least, no wrong to you. I thought if there were wrong, it
would be only to myself, and on my own head." When they parted, Dr. Eben
"At what hour are you free, Hetty?"
"At six," she replied. "Will you wait for me at the house? Do not come
"Very well," he answered; and, making a formal salutation as to a
stranger, he turned away.
With a heavy heart, in midst of all her joy, Hetty went about her
duties: vague fears oppressed her. What would Eben do now? What had he
meant when he said: "You are no longer mine, even in name"?
Now that Hetty perceived that she had been wrong in leaving him; that,
instead of providing, as she had hoped she should, for his greater
happiness, she had only plunged him into inconsolable grief,--her one
desire was to atone for it; to return to him; to be to him, if possible,
more than she had ever been. But great timidity and apprehension filled
her breast. He seemed to be angry with her. Would he forgive her? Would
he take her home? Had she forfeited her right to go home? Hour after
hour, as the weary day went on, she tortured herself with these
thoughts. Wistfully her patients watched her face. It was impossible for
her to conceal her preoccupation and anxiety. At last the slow sun sank
behind the fir-trees, and brought her hour of release. Seeking Dr.
Macgowan, she told him that she would send Sister Catharine on the next
day "to take my place for the present, perhaps altogether," said Hetty.
"Good heavens! Mrs. Smailli!" exclaimed the doctor. "What is the matter?
Are you ill? You shall have a rest; but we can't give you up."
"No, I am not ill," replied Hetty, "but circumstances have occurred
which make it impossible for me to say what my plans will be now."
"What is it? Bless my soul, what shall we do?" said Dr. Macgowan,
looking very much vexed. "Really, Mrs. Smailli, you can't give up your
post in this way."
The doctor forgot himself in his dismay.
"I would not leave it, if there were no one to fill it," replied Hetty,
gently; "but Sister Catharine is a better nurse than I am. She will
more than fill my place."
"Pshaw! Mrs. Smailli," ejaculated the doctor. "She can't hold a candle
to you. Is it any thing about the salary which is taking you away? I
will raise it: you shall fix your own price."
Flushing red with shame, Hetty said hotly:
"I have never worked for the money, Dr. Macgowan; only for enough for my
living. Money has nothing to do with it. Good-morning."
"That's just what comes of depending on women," growled Dr. Macgowan.
"They're all alike; no stability to 'em! What under heaven can it be?
She's surely too old to have got any idea of marrying into her head.
I'll go and see Father Antoine, and see if he can't influence her."
But when Dr. Macgowan, a few days later, reached Father Antoine's
cottage, he was met by news which slew on the instant all his hopes of
ever seeing Mrs. Hibba Smailli in his House again as a nurse. Hetty and
her husband had spent the previous evening with Father Antoine, and had
laid their case fully before him. Hetty had given him permission to tell
all the facts to Dr. Macgowan, under the strictest pledges of secrecy.
"'Pon my word! 'pon my word!" said the doctor, "the most extraordinary
thing I ever heard of! Who'd have thought that calm, clearheaded woman
would ever have committed such a folly? It's a case of monomania; a real
monomania, Father Antoine; never can be sure of such a brain's that;
may take another, any day; clear case of monomania; most uncomfortable!
uncomfortable! so embarrassing! don't you know? eh? What's going to be
done now? How does the man take it? Is he a gentleman? Hang me, if I
wouldn't let a woman stay where she was, that had served me such a
Father Antoine laughed a low pleasant laugh.
"And that would be by how much you had loved her, is it not?" he said.
"He is a physician also, the good Aunt's husband, and he understands. He
will take her with him; and, if he did not, she would die; for, now that
it is plain to her, how grievously she hath caused him to sorrow, her
love is like a fever till she can make amends for all."
"Amends!" growled Dr. Macgowan, "that's just like a woman too. Amends!
I'd like to know what amends there can be for such a scandal, such a
disgrace: 'pon my word she must have been mad; that's the only way of
accounting for it."
"It is not that there will be scandal," replied Father Antoine. "I am
to marry them in the chapel, and there is no one in all the wide world,
except to you and to me, that it will be known that they have been
husband and wife before."
"Eh! What! Married again!" exclaimed Dr. Macgowan. "Well, that's like a
woman too. Why, what damned nonsense! If she was ever his wife, she's
his wife now, isn't she? I shouldn't think you'd lend yourself, Father
Antoine, to any such transaction as that."
"Gently, gently!" replied Father Antoine: "rail not so at womankind. It
is she who wishes to go with him at once; and who says as thou, that she
is still his wife: but it is he who will not. He says that she hath for
ten years borne a name other than his; that in her own country she hath
been ten years mourned for as dead; that he hath by process of law, on
account of her death, inherited and sold all the estate that she did
"Rich, was she rich!" interrupted Dr. Macgowan. "Well, 'pon my word,
it's the most extraordinary thing I ever did hear of: never could have
happened in England, sir, never!"
"I know not if it were a large estate," continued Father Antoine, "it
would be no difference: if it had been millions she would have left it
and come away. She was full of renunciation. Ah! but she must be beloved
of the Virgin."
"So you are really going to marry them over again, are you?" broke
in the impatient doctor. "I have said that I would," replied Father
Antoine, "and it is great joy to me: neither should it seem strange to
you. Your church doth not recognize the sacrament of baptism, when
it has been performed by unconsecrated hands of dissenters: you do
rebaptize all converts from those sects. So our church does not
recognize the sacrament of marriage, when performed by any one outside
of its own priesthood. I shall with true gladness of heart administer
the holy sacrament of marriage to these two so strangely separated, and
so strangely brought together. They have borne ten years of penance for
whatever of sin had gone before: the church will bless them now."
"Hem," said Dr. Macgowan, gruffly, unable to controvert the logic of
Father Antoine's position in regard to the sacraments; "that is all
right from your point of view: but what do they make of it; I don't
suppose they admit that their first marriage was invalid, do they?"
Dr. Macgowan was in the worst of humors. He was about to lose a nurse
who had been to him for ten years, like his right hand; and he was
utterly discomfited and confused in all his confirmed impressions of her
character, by these startling revelations of her history. He would not
have been a Briton if these untoward combinations of events had not made
"Nay, nay!" said Father Antoine, placably. "Not so. It is only the
husband; and he has but one thing to say: that she who was his wife died
to him, to her country, to her friends, to the law. There is even in her
village a beautiful and high monument of marble which sets forth all the
recountal of her death. She would go back to that country with him, and
confess to every man the thing she had done. She prayed him that he
would take her. But he will not. He says it would be shame; and the name
of his wife that died shall never be shamed. It is a narrow strait for a
man who loves a woman. I cannot say that it is clear to me what my own
will would be in such a case. I am much moved by each when I hear them
talk of it. Ah, but she has the grand honesty! Thou shouldst have heard
her cry out when he said that to confess all would be a shame.
"'Nay, nay!' cried she, 'to conceal is a shame.' "'Ay!' replied her
husband, 'but thou hast thought it no shame to conceal thyself for these
ten years, and to lie about thy name.' He speaketh with a great anger
to her at times, spite of his love. "'Ah,' she answered him, in a voice
which nigh set me to weeping: 'Ah, my husband, I did think it shame: but
I bore it, for sake of my love to thee; and now that I know I was wrong,
all the more do I long to confess all, both that and this, and to stand
forgiven or unforgiven, as I may, clear in the eyes of all who ever knew
"But he will not, and I have counselled her to pray him no more. For he
has already endured heavy things at her hands; and, if this one thing
be to her a grievous burden, all the more doth it show her love, if she
accept it and bear it to the end."
"Well, well," said Dr. Macgowan, somewhat wearied with Father Antoine's
sentiments and emotions, "I have lost the best nurse I ever had, or
shall have. I'll say that much for her; but I can't help feeling that
there was something wrong in her brain somewhere, which might have
cropped out again any day. Most extraordinary! most extraordinary!" And
Dr. Macgowan walked away with a certain lofty, indifferent air, which
English people so well understand, of washing one's hands of matters
There had, indeed, been a sore struggle between Hetty and her husband on
this matter of their being remarried by Father Antoine. When Dr. Eben
first said to her: "And now, what are we to do, Hetty?" she looked at
him in an agony of terror and gasped:
"Why, Eben, there is only one thing for us to do; don't we belong to
each other? don't you love me? don't you mean to take me home with you?"
"Would you go home with me, Hetty?" he asked emphatically; "go back to
Welbury? let every man, woman, and child in the county, nay, in the
State, know that all my grief for you had been worse than needless,
that I had been a deserted husband for ten years, and that you had been
living under an assumed name all that time? Would you do this?"
Hetty's face paled. "What else is there to do?" she said.
"Could you bear to have your name, your father's name, my name, all
dragged into notoriety, all tarnished by being linked with this
monstrous tale of a woman who fled--for no reason whatever--from her
home, friends, husband, and hid herself, and was found only by an
"Oh, Eben! spare me," moaned Hetty.
"I can't spare you now, Hetty," he answered. "You must look the thing in
the face. I have been looking it in the face ever since the first hour
in which I found you. What are we to do?"
"I will stay on here if you think it best," said Hetty. "If you will be
happier so. Nobody need ever know that I am alive."
Doctor Eben threw his arms around her. "Leave you here! Why, Hetty, will
you never understand that I love you?" he exclaimed; "love you, love
you, would no more leave you than I would kill myself?"
"But what is there, then, that we can do?" asked Hetty.
"Be married again here, as if we had never been married! You under your
new name," replied Doctor Eben rapidly.
Hetty's face expressed absolute horror. "We--you and I--married again!
Why Eben, it would be a mockery," she exclaimed.
"Not so much a mockery," her husband retorted, "as every thing that I
have done, and every thing that you have done for ten whole years."
"Oh, Eben! I don't think it would be right," cried Hetty. "It would be a
"A lie!" ejaculated her husband, scornfully. Poor Hetty! The bitter
harvest of her wrong deed was garnered for her, poured upon her head at
every turn, by the pitilessness of events. Inexorable seasons, surer
than any other seedtime and harvest, are those uncalendared seasons in
which souls sow and reap with meek patience.
"I know I have lived, acted, told a lie, Eben. Don't taunt me with it.
How can you, if you really believe all I have told you of the reasons
which led me to it?"
"My Hetty," said Dr. Eben, "I don't taunt you with it. I do believe all
you have told me. I do know that you did it for love of me, monstrous
though it sounds to say so. But when you refuse now to do the only thing
which seems to me possible to be done to repair the mistake, and say
your reason for not doing it is that it would be a lie, how can I help
pointing back to the long ten years' lie you have lived, acted, told?
If your love for me bore you up through that lie, it can bear you up
"Shall we never go home, Eben?" asked Hetty sadly. "To Welbury? to New
England? never!" replied her husband with a terrible emphasis. "Never
will I take you there to draw down upon our heads all the intolerable
shame, and gossiping talk which would follow. I tell you, Hetty, you are
dead! I am shielding your name, the name of my dead wife! You don't seem
to comprehend in the least that you have been dead for ten years. You
talk as if it would be nothing more to explain your reappearance than if
you had been away somewhere for a visit longer than you intended."
The longer they discussed the subject, the more vehement Dr. Eben grew,
and the feebler grew Hetty's opposition. She could not gainsay his
arguments. She had nothing to oppose to them, except her wifely instinct
that the old bond and ceremony were by implication desecrated in
assuming a second: "But what right have I to fall back on that old
bond," thought poor Hetty, wringing her hands as the burden of her long,
sad ten years' mistake weighed upon her.
Not until Hetty had yielded this point was there any real joy between
her and her husband. As soon as it was yielded, his happiness began to
grow and increase, like a plant in spring-time.
"Now you are mine again! Now we will be happy! Life and the world are
before us!" he exclaimed.
"But where shall we live, Eben?" asked the practical Hetty.
"Live! live!" he cried, like a boy; "live anywhere, so that we live
"There is always plenty to do, everywhere," said Hetty, reflectively:
"we should not have to be idle."
Dr. Eben looked at her with mingled admiration and anger.
"Hetty!" he exclaimed, "I wish you'd leave off 'doing,' for a while. All
our misery came of that. At any rate, don't ever try to 'do' any thing
for me again as long as you live! I'll look out for my own happiness,
the rest of the time, if you please."
His healing had begun when he could make an affectionate jest, like
this; but healing would come far slower to Hetty than to him. Complete
healing could perhaps never come. Remorse could never wholly be banished
from her heart.
When it had once been settled that the marriage should take place,
there seemed no reason for deferring it; no reason, except that Father
Antoine's carnations were for some cause or other, not yet in full
bloom, and both he and Marie were much discontented at their tardiness.
However, the weather grew suddenly hot, with sharp showers in the
afternoons, and both the carnations and the Ayrshire roses flowered out
by scores every morning, until even Marie was satisfied there would be
enough. There was no tint of Ayrshire rose which could not be found in
Father Antoine's garden,--white, pink, deep red, purple: the bushes grew
like trees, and made almost a thicket, along the western boundary of the
garden. Early on the morning of Hetty's wedding, Marie carried heaped
basketfuls of these roses, into the chapel, and covered the altar with
them. Pierre Michaud, now a fine stalwart fellow of twenty-one, just
married to that little sister of Jean Cochot, about whom he had once
told so big a lie, had begged for the privilege of adorning the rest of
the chapel. For two days, he and Jean, his brother-in-law, had worked in
the forests, cutting down young trees of fir, balsam, and dogwood. The
balsams were full of small cones of a brilliant purple color; and the
dogwoods were waving with showy white flowers. Pierre set each tree in
a box of moist earth, so that it looked as thriving and fresh as it had
done in the forest; first, a fir, and then a dogwood, all the way from
the door to the altar, reached the gay and fragrant wall. Great masses
of Linnea vines, in full bloom, hung on the walls, and big vases of
Father Antoine's carnations stood in the niches, with the wax saints.
The delicate odor of the roses, the Linnea blossoms, and carnations,
blended with the spicy scent of the firs, and made a fragrance as strong
as if it had been distilled from centuries of summer. The villagers had
been told by Father Antoine, that this stranger who was to marry their
good "Tantibba," was one who had known and loved her for twenty years,
and who had been seeking her vainly all these years that she had lived
in St. Mary's. The tale struck a warm chord in the breasts of the
affectionate and enthusiastic people. The whole village was in great
joy, both for love of "Tantibba," and for the love of romance, so
natural to the French heart. Every one who had a flower in blossom
picked it, or brought the plant to place in the chapel. Every man,
woman, and child in the town, dressed as for a _fete_, was in the
chapel, and praying for "Tantibba," long before the hour for the
ceremony. When Eben and Hetty entered the door, the fragrance, the
waving flowers, the murmuring crowd, unnerved Hetty. She had not been
prepared for this.
"Oh, Eben!" she whispered, and, halting for a moment, clung tighter to
his arm. He turned a look of affectionate pride upon her, and, pressing
her hand, led her on. Father Antoine's face glowed with loving
satisfaction as he pronounced the words so solemn to him, so significant
to them. As for Marie, she could hardly keep quiet on her knees: her
silver necklace fairly rattled on her shoulders with her excitement.
"Ah, but she looks like an angel! may the saints keep her," she
muttered; "but what will comfort M'sieur Antoine for the loss of her,
when she is gone?"
After the ceremony was over, all the people walked with the bride and
bridegroom to the inn, where the diligence was waiting in which they
were to begin their journey; the same old vehicle in which Hetty had
come ten years before alone to St. Mary's, and Doctor Eben had come a
few weeks ago alone to St. Mary's, "not knowing the things which should
befall him there."
It was an incongruous old vehicle for a wedding journey; and the flowers
at the ancient horses' heads, and the knots of green at the cracked
windows, would have made one laugh who had no interest in the meaning
of the decorations. But it was the only four-wheeled vehicle in
St. Mary's, and to these simple villagers' way of thinking, there was
nothing unbecoming in Tantibba's going away in it with her husband.
"Farewell to thee! Farewell to thee! The saints keep thee, Bo Tantibba
and thy husband! and thy husband!" rose from scores of voices as the
diligence moved slowly away.
Dr. Macgowan, who had somewhat reluctantly persuaded himself to be
present at the wedding, and had walked stiffly in the merry procession
from the chapel to the inn, stood on the inn steps, and raised his hat
in a dignified manner for a second. Father Antoine stood bareheaded by
his side, waving a large white handkerchief, and trying to think only of
Hetty's happiness, not at all of his own and the village's loss. As the
shouts of the people continued to ring on the air, Dr. Macgowan turned
slowly to Father Antoine.
"Most extraordinary scene!" he said, "'pon my word, most extraordinary
scene; never could happen in England, sir, never."
"Which is perfectly true; worse luck for England," Father Antoine might
have replied; but did not. A few of the younger men and maidens ran for
a short distance by the side of the diligence, and threw flowers into
"Thou wilt return! thou wilt return!" they cried. "Say thou wilt
"Yes, God willing, I will return," answered Hetty, bending to the right
and to the left, taking loving farewell looks of them all. "We will
surely return." And as the last face disappeared from sight, and the
last merry voice died away, she turned to her husband, and, laying her
hand in his, said, "Why not, Eben? Will not that be our best home,
our best happiness, to come back and live and die among these simple