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  • 1881
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advice, your–sympathy, your–You won’t trouble me, indeed you won’t. Perhaps you have mistaken your–feeling about me. It’s such a very little time since we met,” she pleaded.

“That makes no difference,–the time. And I’m not mistaken.”

“Well, stay at least till Mrs. Maynard is well, and we can all go away together. Promise me that!” She instinctively put out her hand toward him in entreaty. He took it, and pressing it to his lips covered it with kisses.

“Oh!” she grieved in reproachful surprise.

“There!” he cried. “You see that I must go!”

“Yes,” she sighed in assent, “you must go.”

They did not look at each other again, but remained in a lamentable silence while the boat pushed swiftly before the freshening breeze; and when they reached the place where the dory lay, he dropped the sail and threw out the anchor without a word.

He was haggard to the glance she stole at him, when they had taken their places in the dory, and he confronted her, pulling hard at the oars. He did not lift his eyes to hers, but from time to time he looked over his shoulder at the boat’s prow, and he rowed from one point to another for a good landing. A dreamy pity for him filled her; through the memories of her own suffering, she divined the soreness of his heart.

She started from her reverie as the bottom of the dory struck the sand. The shoal water stretched twenty feet beyond. He pulled in the oars and rose desperately. “It’s of no use: I shall have to carry you ashore.”

She sat staring up into his face, and longing to ask him something, to accuse him of having done this purposely. But she had erred in so many doubts, her suspicions of him had all recoiled so pitilessly upon her, that she had no longer the courage to question or reproach him. “Oh, no, thank you,” she said weakly. “I won’t trouble you. I–I will wait till the tide is out.”

“The tide’s out now,” he answered with coldness, “and you can’t wade.”

She rose desperately. “Why, of course!” she cried in self-contempt, glancing at the water, into which he promptly stepped to his boot-tops. “A woman must n’t get her feet wet.”

VIII.

Grace went to her own room to lay aside her shawl and hat, before going to Mrs. Maynard, and found her mother sewing there.

“Why, who is with Mrs. Maynard?” she asked.

“Miss Gleason is reading to her,” said Mrs. Breen. “If she had any sort of active treatment, she could get well at once. I couldn’t take the responsibility of doing anything for her, and it was such a worry to stay and see everything going wrong, that when Miss Gleason came in I was glad to get away. Miss Gleason seems to believe in your Dr. Mulbridge.”

“My Dr. Mulbridge!” echoed Grace.

“She talked of him as if he were yours. I don’t know what you’ve been saying to her about him; but you had better be careful. The woman is a fool.” She now looked up at her daughter for the first time. “Why, what is the matter with you what kept you so long? You look perfectly wild.”

“I feel wild,” said Grace calmly. “The wind went down.”

“Was that all? I don’t see why that should make you feel wild,” said her mother, dropping her spectacles to her sewing again.

“It was n’t all,” answered the girl, sinking provisionally upon the side of a chair, with her shawl still on her arm, and her hat in her hand. “Mother, have you noticed anything peculiar about Mr. Libby?”

“He’s the only person who seems to be of the slightest use about here; I’ve noticed that,” said Mrs. Breen. “He’s always going and coming for you and Mrs. Maynard. Where is that worthless husband of hers? Has n’t he had time to come from Cheyenne yet?”

“He’s on the way. He was out at his ranch when Mr. Libby telegraphed first, and had to be sent for. We found a despatch from him at Leyden, saying he had started,” Grace explained.

“What business had he to be so far away at all?” demanded her mother. It was plain that Mrs. Breen was in her most censorious temper, which had probably acquired a sharper edge towards Maynard from her reconciliation with his wife.

Grace seized her chance to meet the worst. “Do you think that I have done anything to encourage Mr. Libby?” she asked, looking bravely at her mother.

“Encourage him to do what?” asked Mrs. Breen, without lifting her eyes from her work.

“Encouraged him to–think I cared for him; to–to be in love with me.”

Mrs. Breen lifted her head now, and pushed her spectacles up on her forehead, while she regarded her daughter in silence. “Has he been making love to you?”

“Yes.”

Her mother pushed her spectacles down again; and, turning the seam which she had been sewing, flattened it with her thumb-nail. She made this action expressive of having foreseen such a result, and of having struggled against it, neglected and alone. “Very well, then. I hope you accepted him?” she asked quietly.

“Mother!”

“Why not? You must like him,” she continued in the same tone. “You have been with him every moment the last week that you have n’t been with Mrs. Maynard. At least I’ve seen nothing of you, except when you came to tell me you were going to walk or to drive with him. You seem to have asked him to take you most of the time.”

“How can you say such a thing, mother?” cried the girl.

“Did n’t you ask him to let you go with him this afternoon? You told me you did.”

“Yes, I did. I did it for a purpose.”

“Ah! for a purpose,” said Mrs. Breen, taking a survey of the new seam, which she pulled from her knee, where one end of it was pinned, towards her chin. She left the word to her daughter, who was obliged to take it.

“I asked him to let me go with him because Louise had tortured me about making her go out in his boat, till I could n’t bear it any longer. It seemed to me that if I took the same risk myself, it would be something; and I hoped there would be a storm.”

“I should think you had taken leave of your senses,” Mrs. Breen observed, with her spectacles intent upon her seam. “Did you think it would be any consolation to him if you were drowned, or to her? And if,” she added, her conscience rising equal to the vicarious demand upon it, “you hoped there would be danger, had you any right to expose him to it? Even if you chose to risk your own life, you had no right to risk his.” She lifted her spectacles again, and turned their austere glitter upon her daughter.

“Yes, it all seems very silly now,” said the girl, with a hopeless sigh.

“Silly!” cried her mother. “I’m glad you can call it silly.”

“And it seemed worse still when he told me that he had never believed it was going to storm that day, when he took Louise out. His man said it was, and he repeated it because he saw I did n’t want her to go.”

“Perhaps,” suggested Mrs. Breen, “if he was willing to deceive her then, he is willing to deceive you now.”

“He didn’t deceive her. He said what he had heard. And he said it because he–I wished it.”

“I call it deceiving. Truth is truth. That is what I was taught; and that’s what I supposed I had taught you.”

“I would trust Mr. Libby in anything,” returned the daughter. “He is perfectly frank about himself. He confessed that he had done it to please me. He said that nothing else could excuse it.”

“Oh, then you have accepted him!”

“No, mother, I haven’t. I have refused him, and he is going away as soon as Mr. Maynard comes.” She sat looking at the window, and the tears stole into her eyes, and blurred the sea and sky together where she saw their meeting at the horizon line.

“Well,” said her mother, “their that is the end of it, I presume.”

“Yes, that’s the end,” said Grace. “But–I felt sorry for him, mother. Once,” she went on, “I thought I had everything clear before me; but now I seem only to have made confusion of my life. Yes,” she added drearily, “it was foolish and wicked, and it was perfectly useless, too. I can’t escape from the consequences of what I did. It makes no difference what he believed or any one believed. I drove them on to risk their lives because I thought myself so much better than they; because I was self- righteous and suspicious and stubborn. Well, I must bear the penalty: and oh, if I could only bear it alone!” With a long sigh she took back the burden which she had been struggling to cast off, and from which for a time she had actually seemed to escape. She put away her hat and shawl, and stood before the glass, smoothing her hair. “When will it ever end?” she moaned to the reflection there, rather than to her mother, who did not interrupt this spiritual ordeal. In another age, such a New England girl would have tortured herself with inquisition as to some neglected duty to God;–in ours, when religion is so largely humanified, this Puritan soul could only wreak itself in a sense of irreparable wrong to her fellow-creature.

When she went out she met Miss Gleason half-way down the corridor to Mrs. Maynard’s door. The latter had a book in her hand, and came forward whispering. “She’s asleep,” she said very sibilantly. “I have read her to sleep, and she’s sleeping beautifully. Have you ever read it?” she asked, with hoarse breaks from her undertone, as she held up one of those cheap library-editions of a novel toward Grace.

“Jane Eyre? Why, of course. Long ago.”

“So have I,” said Miss Gleason. “But I sent and got it again, to refresh my impressions of Rochester. We all think Dr. Mulbridge is just like him. Rochester is my ideal character,–a perfect conception of a man: so abrupt, so rough, so savage. Oh, I like those men! Don’t you?” she fluted. “Mrs. Maynard sees the resemblance, as well as the rest of us. But I know! You don’t approve of them. I suppose they can’t be defended on some grounds; but I can see how, even in such a case as this, the perfect mastery of the man-physician constitutes the highest usefulness of the woman-physician. The advancement of women must be as women. ‘Male and female created he them,’ and it is only in remembering this that we are helping Gawd, whether as an anthropomorphic conception or a universally pervading instinct of love, don’t you think?”

With her novel clapped against her breast, she leaned winningly over toward Grace, and fixed her with her wide eyes, which had rings of white round the pupils.

“Do tell me!” she ran on without waiting an answer. “Didn’t you go with Mr. Libby because you hoped it might storm, and wished to take the same risk as Mrs. Maynard? I told Mrs. Alger you did!”

Grace flushed guiltily, and Miss Gleason cowered a little, perhaps interpreting the color as resentment. “I should consider that a very silly motive,” she said, helplessly ashamed that she was leaving the weight of the blow upon Miss Gleason’s shoulders instead of her own.

“Of course,” said Miss Gleason enthusiastically, “you can’t confess it. But I know you are capable of such a thing–of anything heroic! Do forgive me,” she said, seizing Grace’s hand. She held it a moment, gazing with a devouring fondness into her face, which she stooped a little sidewise to peer up into. Then she quickly dropped her hand, and, whirling away, glided slimly out of the corridor.

Grace softly opened Mrs. Maynard’s door, and the sick woman opened her eyes. “I was n’t asleep,” she said hoarsely, “but I had to pretend to be, or that woman would have killed me.”

Grace went to her and felt her hands and her flushed forehead.

“I am worse this evening,” said Mrs. Maynard.

“Oh, no,” sighed the girl, dropping into a chair at the bedside, with her eyes fixed in a sort of fascination on the lurid face of the sick woman.

“After getting me here,” continued Mrs. Maynard, in the same low, hoarse murmur, “you might at least stay with me a little. What kept you so long?”

“The wind fell. We were becalmed.”

“We were not becalmed the day I went out with Mr. Libby. But perhaps nobody forced you to go.”

Having launched this dart, she closed her eyes again with something more like content than she had yet shown: it had an aim of which she could always be sure.

“We have heard from Mr. Maynard,” said Grace humbly. “There was a despatch waiting for Mr. Libby at Leyden. He is on his way.”

Mrs. Maynard betrayed no immediate effect of this other than to say, “He had better hurry,” and did not open her eyes.

Grace went about the room with a leaden weight in every fibre, putting the place in order, and Mrs. Maynard did not speak again till she had finished. Then she said, “I want you to tell me just how bad Dr. Mulbridge thinks I am.”

“He has never expressed any anxiety,” Grace began, with her inaptness at evasion.

“Of course he has n’t,” murmured the sick woman. “He isn’t a fool! What does he say?”

This passed the sufferance even of remorse. “He says you mustn’t talk,” the girl flashed out. “And if you insist upon doing so, I will leave you, and send some one else to take care of you.”

“Very well, then. I know what that means. When a doctor tells you not to talk, it’s because he knows he can’t do you any good. As soon as George Maynard gets here I will have some one that can cure me, or I will know the reason why.” The conception of her husband as a champion seemed to commend him to her in novel degree. She shed some tears, and after a little reflection she asked, “How soon will he be here?”

“I don’t know,” said Grace. “He seems to have started yesterday morning.”

“He can be here by day after to-morrow,” Mrs. Maynard computed. “There will be some one to look after poor little Bella then,” she added, as if, during her sickness, Bella must have been wholly neglected. “Don’t let the child be all dirt when her father comes.”

“Mother will look after Bella,” Grace replied, too meek again to resent the implication. After a pause, “Oh, Louise,” she added beseechingly, “I’ve suffered so much from my own wrong-headedness and obstinacy that I couldn’t bear to see you taking the same risk, and I’m so glad that you are going to meet your husband in the right spirit.”

“What right spirit?” croaked Mrs. Maynard.

“The wish to please him, to”–

“I don’t choose to have him say that his child disgraces him,” replied Mrs. Maynard, in the low, husky, monotonous murmur in which she was obliged to utter everything.

“But, dear Louise!” cried the other, “you choose something else too, don’t you? You wish to meet him as if no unkindness had parted you, and as if you were to be always together after this? I hope you do! Then I should feel that all this suffering and, trouble was a mercy.”

“Other people’s misery is always a mercy to them,” hoarsely suggested Mrs. Maynard.

“Yes, I know that,” Grace submitted, with meek conviction. “But, Louise,” she pleaded, “you will make up with your husband, won’t you? Whatever he has done, that will surely be best. I know that you love him, and that he must love you, yet. It’s the only way. If you were finally separated from him, and you and he could be happy apart, what would become of that poor child? Who will take a father’s place with her? That’s the worst about it. Oh, Louise, I feel so badly for you– for what you have lost, and may lose. Marriage must change people so that unless they live to each other, their lives will be maimed and useless. It ought to be so much easier to forgive any wrong your husband does you than to punish it; for that perpetuates the wrong, and forgiveness ends it, and it’s the only thing that can end a wrong. I am sure that your husband will be ready to do or say anything you wish; but if he shouldn’t, Louise, you will receive him forgivingly, and make the first advance? It’s a woman’s right to make the advances in forgiving.”

Mrs. Maynard lay with her hands stretched at her side under the covering, and only her face visible above it. She now turned her head a little, so as to pierce the earnest speaker with a gleam from her dull eye. “Have you accepted Walter Libby?” she asked.

“Louise!” cried Grace, with a blush that burned like fire.

“That’s the way I used to talk when I was first engaged. Wait till you’re married a while. I want Bella to have on her pique, and her pink sash,–not the cherry one. I should think you would have studied to be a minister instead of a doctor. But you need n’t preach to me; I shall know how to behave to George Maynard when he comes,–if he ever does come. And now I should think you had made me talk enough!”

“Yes, Yes,” said Grace, recalled to her more immediate duty in alarm.

All her helpfulness was soon to be needed. The disease, which had lingered more than usual in the early stages, suddenly approached a crisis. That night Mrs. Maynard grew so much worse that Grace sent Libby at daybreak for Dr. Mulbridge; and the young man, after leading out his own mare to see if her lameness had abated, ruefully put her back in the stable, and set off to Corbitant with the splay-foot at a rate of speed unparalleled, probably, in the animal’s recollection of a long and useful life. In the two anxious days that followed, Libby and Grace were associated in the freedom of a common interest outside of themselves; she went to him for help and suggestion, and he gave them, as if nothing had passed to restrict or embarrass their relations. There was that, in fact, in the awe of the time and an involuntary disoccupation of hers that threw them together even more constantly than before. Dr. Mulbridge remained with his patient well into the forenoon; in the afternoon he came again, and that night he did not go away. He superseded Grace as a nurse no less completely than he had displaced her as a physician. He let her relieve him when he flung himself down for a few minutes’ sleep, or when he went out for the huge meals which he devoured, preferring the unwholesome things with a depravity shocking to the tender physical consciences of the ladies who looked on; but when he returned to his charge, he showed himself jealous of all that Grace had done involving the exercise of more than a servile discretion. When she asked him once if there were nothing else that she could do, he said, “fires, keep those women and children quiet,” in a tone that classed her with both. She longed to ask him what he thought of Mrs. May nard’s condition; but she had not the courage to invoke the intelligence that ignored her so completely, and she struggled in silence with such disheartening auguries as her theoretical science enabled her to make.

The next day was a Sunday, and the Sabbath hush which always hung over Jocelyn’s was intensified to the sense of those who ached between hope and fear for the life that seemed to waver and flicker in that still air. Dr. Mulbridge watched beside his patient, noting every change with a wary intelligence which no fact escaped and no anxiety clouded; alert, gentle, prompt; suffering no question, and absolutely silent as to all impressions. He allowed Grace to remain with him when she liked, and let her do his bidding in minor matters; but when from time to time she escaped from the intolerable tension in which his reticence and her own fear held her, he did not seem to see whether she went or came. Toward nightfall she met him coming out of Mrs. Maynard’s room, as she drew near in the narrow corridor.

“Where is your friend–the young man–the one who smokes?” he asked, as if nothing unusual had occupied him. “I want him to give me a cigar.”

“Dr. Mulbridge,” she said, “I will not bear this any longer. I must know the worst–you have no right to treat me in this way. Tell me now–tell me instantly: will she live?”

He looked at her with an imaginable apprehension of hysterics, but as she continued firm, and placed herself resolutely in his way, he relaxed his scrutiny, and said, with a smile, “Oh, I think so. What made you think she would n’t?”

She drew herself aside, and made way far him.

“Go!” she cried. She would have said more, but her indignation choked her.

He did not pass at once, and he did not seem troubled at her anger. “Dr. Breen,” he said, “I saw a good deal of pneumonia in the army, and I don’t remember a single case that was saved by the anxiety of the surgeon.”

He went now, as people do when they fancy themselves to have made a good point; and she heard him asking Barlow for Libby, outside, and then walking over the gravel toward the stable. At that moment she doubted and hated him so much that she world have been glad to keep Libby from talking or even smoking with him. But she relented a little toward him afterwards, when he returned and resumed the charge of his patient with the gentle, vigilant cheerfulness which she had admired in him from the first, omitting no care and betraying none. He appeared to take it for granted that Grace saw an improvement, but he recognized it by nothing explicit till he rose and said, “I think I will leave Mrs. Maynard with you to-night, Dr. Breen.”

The sick woman’s eyes turned to him imploringly from her pillow, and Grace spoke the terror of both when she faltered in return, “Are you–you are not going home?”

“I shall sleep in the house.”

“Oh, thank you!” she cried fervently.

“And you can call me if you wish. But there won’t be any occasion. Mrs. Maynard is very much better. “He waited to give, in a sort of absent- minded way, certain directions. Then he went out, and Grace sank back into the chair from which she had started at his rising, and wept long and silently with a hidden face. When she took away her hands and dried her tears, she saw Mrs. Maynard beckoning to her. She went to the bedside.

“What is it, dear?” she asked tenderly.

“Stoop down,” whispered the other; and as Grace bowed her ear Mrs. Maynard touched her cheek with her dry lips. In this kiss doubtless she forgave the wrong which she had hoarded in her heart, and there perverted into a deadly injury. But they both knew upon what terms the pardon was accorded, and that if Mrs. Maynard had died, she would have died holding Grace answerable for her undoing.

IX.

In the morning Dr. Mulbridge drove back to Corbitant, and in the evening Libby came over from New Leyden with Maynard, in a hired wagon. He was a day later than his wife had computed, but as she appeared to have reflected, she had left the intervening Sunday out of her calculation; this was one of the few things she taxed herself to say. For the rest, she seemed to be hoarding her strength against his coming.

Grace met him at a little distance from the house, whither she had walked with Bella, for a breath of the fresh air after her long day in the sick- room, and did not find him the boisterous and jovial Hoosier she had imagined him. It was, in fact, hardly the moment for the expression of Western humor. He arrived a sleep-broken, travel-creased figure, with more than the Western man’s usual indifference to dress; with sad, dull eyes, and an untrimmed beard that hung in points and tags, and thinly hid the corners of a large mouth. He took her hand laxly in his, and bowing over her from his lank height listened to her report of his wife’s state, while he held his little girl on his left arm, and the child fondly pressed her cheek against his bearded face, to which he had quietly lifted her as soon as he alighted from Libby’s buggy.

Libby introduced Grace as Dr. Breen, and drove on, and Maynard gave her the title whenever he addressed her, with a perfect effect of single- mindedness in his gravity, as if it were an every-day thing with him to meet young ladies who were physicians. He had a certain neighborly manner of having known her a long time, and of being on good terms with her; and somewhere there resided in his loosely knit organism a powerful energy. She had almost to run in keeping at his side, as he walked on to the house, carrying his little girl on his arm, and glancing about him; and she was not sure at last that she had succeeded in making him understand how serious the case had been.

“I don’t know whether I ought to let you go in,” she said, “without preparing her.”

“She’s been expecting me, has n’t she?” he asked.

“Yes, but”–

“And she’s awake?”

“Then I’ll just go in and prepare her myself. I’m a pretty good hand at preparing people to meet me. You’ve a beautiful location here, Dr. Breen; and your town has a chance to grow. I like to see a town have some chance,” he added, with a sadness past tears in his melancholy eyes. “Bella can show me the way to the room, I reckon,” he said, setting the little one down on the piazza, and following her indoors; and when Grace ventured, later, to knock at the door, Maynard’s voice bade her come in.

He sat beside his wife’s pillow, with her hand in his left; on his right arm perched the little girl, and rested her head on his shoulder. They did not seem to have been talking, and they did not move when Grace entered the room. But, apparently, Mrs. Maynard had known how to behave to George Maynard, and peace was visibly between them.

“Now, you tell me about the medicines, Dr. Breen, and then you go and get some rest,” said Maynard in his mild, soothing voice. “I used to understand Mrs. Maynard’s ways pretty well, and I can take care of her. Libby told me all about you and your doings, and I know you must feel as pale as you look.”

“But you can’t have had any sleep on the way,” Grace began.

“Sleep?” Maynard repeated, looking wanly at her. “I never sleep. I’d as soon think of digesting.”

After she had given him the needed instructions he rose from the rocking- chair in-which he had been softly swinging to and fro, and followed her out into the corridor, caressing with his large hand the child that lay on his shoulder. “Of course,” she said, “Mrs. Maynard is still very sick, and needs the greatest care and attention.”

“Yes, I understand that. But I reckon it will come out all right in the end,” he said, with the optimistic fatalism which is the real religion of our orientalizing West. “Good-night, doctor.”

She went away, feeling suddenly alone in this exclusion from the cares that had absorbed her. There was no one on the piazza, which the moonlight printed with the shadows of the posts and the fanciful jigsaw work of the arches between them. She heard a step on the sandy walk round the corner, and waited wistfully.

It was Barlow who came in sight, as she knew at once, but she asked, “Mr. Barlow?”

“Yes’m,” said Barlow. “What can I do for you?”

“Nothing. I thought it might be Mr. Libby at first. Do you know where he is?”

“Well, I know where he ain’t,” said Barlow; and having ineffectually waited to be questioned further, he added, “He ain’t here, for one place. He’s gone back to Leyden. He had to take that horse back.”

“Oh!” she said.

“N’ I guess he’s goin’ to stay.”

“To stay? Where?”

“Well, there you’ve got me again. All I know is I’ve got to drive that mare of his’n over to-morrow, if I can git off, and next day if I can’t. Did n’t you know he was goin’?” asked Barlow, willing to recompense himself for the information he had given.

“Well!” he added sympathetically, at a little hesitation of hers:

Then she said, “I knew he must go. Good-night, Mr. Barlow,” and went indoors. She remembered that he had said he would go as soon as Maynard came, and that she had consented that this would be best. But his going now seemed abrupt, though she approved it. She thought that she had something more to say to him, which might console him or reconcile him; she could not think what this was, but it left an indefinite longing, an unsatisfied purpose in her heart; and there was somewhere a tremulous sense of support withdrawn. Perhaps this was a mechanical effect of the cessation of her anxiety for Mrs. Maynard, which had been a support as well as a burden. The house was strangely quiet, as if some great noise had just been hushed, and it seemed empty. She felt timid in her room, but she dreaded the next day more than the dark. Her life was changed, and the future, which she had once planned so clearly, and had felt so strong to encounter, had fallen to a ruin, in which she vainly endeavored to find some clew or motive of the past. She felt remanded to the conditions of the girlhood that she fancied she had altogether outlived; she turned her face upon her pillow in a grief of bewildered aspiration and broken pride, and shed tears scarcely predicable of a doctor of medicine.

But there is no lapse or aberration of character which can be half so surprising to others as it is to one’s self. She had resented Libby’s treating her upon a theory, but she treated herself upon a theory, and we all treat ourselves upon a theory. We proceed each of us upon the theory that he is very brave, or generous, or gentle, or liberal, or truthful, or loyal, or just. We may have the defects of our virtues, but nothing is more certain than that we have our virtues, till there comes a fatal juncture, not at all like the juncture in which we had often imagined ourselves triumphing against temptation. It passes, and the hero finds, to his dismay and horror, that he has run away; the generous man has been niggard; the gentleman has behaved like a ruffian, and the liberal like a bigot; the champion of truth has foolishly and vainly lied; the steadfast friend has betrayed his neighbor, the just person has oppressed him. This is the fruitful moment, apparently so sterile, in which character may spring and flower anew; but the mood of abject humility in which the theorist of his own character is plunged and struggles for his lost self- respect is full of deceit for others. It cannot last: it may end in disowning and retrieving the error, or it may end in justifying it, and building it into the reconstructed character, as something upon the whole unexpectedly fine; but it must end, for after all it is only a mood. In such a mood, in the anguish of her disappointment at herself, a woman clings to whatever support offers, and it is at his own risk that the man who chances to be this support accepts the weight with which she casts herself upon him as the measure of her dependence, though he may make himself necessary to her, if he has the grace or strength to do it.

Without being able to understand fully the causes of the dejection in which this girl seemed to appeal to him, Mulbridge might well have believed himself the man to turn it in his favor. If he did not sympathize with her distress, or even clearly divine it, still his bold generalizations, he found, always had their effect with women, whose natures are often to themselves such unknown territory that a man who assumes to know them has gone far to master them. He saw that a rude moral force alone seemed to have a charm with his lady patients,–women who had been bred to ease and wealth, and who had cultivated, if not very disciplined, minds. Their intellectual dissipation had apparently made them a different race from the simpler-hearted womenkind of his neighbors, apt to judge men in a sharp ignorance of what is fascinating in heroes; and it would not be strange if he included Grace in the sort of contemptuous amusement with which he regarded these-flatteringly dependent and submissive invalids. He at least did not conceive of her as she conceived of herself; but this may be impossible to any man with regard to any woman.

With his experience of other women’s explicit and even eager obedience, the resistance which he had at first encountered in Grace gave zest to her final submission. Since he had demolished the position she had attempted to hold against him, he liked her for having imagined she could hold it; and she had continued to pique and interest him. He relished all her scruples and misgivings, and the remorse she had tried to confide to him; and if his enjoyment of these foibles of hers took too little account of her pain, it was never his characteristic to be tender of people in good health. He was, indeed, as alien to her Puritan spirit as if he had been born in Naples instead of Corbitant. He came of one of those families which one finds in nearly every New England community, as thoroughly New England in race as the rest, but flourishing in a hardy scepticism and contempt of the general sense. Whatever relation such people held to the old Puritan commonwealth when Puritanism was absolute, they must later have taken an active part in its disintegration, and were probably always a destructive force at its heart.

Mulbridge’s grandfather was one of the last captains who sailed a slaver from Corbitant. When this commerce became precarious, he retired from the seas, took a young wife in second marriage, and passed his declining days in robust inebriety. He lived to cast a dying vote for General Jackson, and his son, the first Dr. Mulbridge, survived to illustrate the magnanimity of his fellow-townsmen during the first year of the civil war, as a tolerated Copperhead. Then he died, and his son, who was in the West, looking up a location for practice, was known to have gone out as surgeon with one of the regiments there. It was not supposed that he went from patriotism; but when he came back, a year before the end of the struggle, and settled in his native place, his service in the army was accepted among his old neighbors as evidence of a better disposition of some sort than had hitherto been attributable to any of his name.

In fact, the lazy, good-natured boy, whom they chiefly remembered before his college days, had always been well enough liked among those who had since grown to be first mates and ship captains in the little port where he was born and grew up. They had now all retired from the sea, and, having survived its manifold perils, were patiently waiting to be drowned in sail-boats on the bay. They were of the second generation of ships’ captains still living in Corbitant; but they would be the last. The commerce of the little port had changed into the whaling trade in their time; this had ceased in turn, and the wharves had rotted away. Dr. Mulbridge found little practice among them; while attending their appointed fate, they were so thoroughly salted against decay as to preserve even their families. But he gradually gathered into his hands, from the clairvoyant and the Indian doctor, the business which they had shared between them since his father’s death. There was here and there a tragical case of consumption among the farming families along the coast, and now and then a frightful accident among the fishermen; the spring and autumn brought their typhoid; the city people who came down to the neighboring hotels were mostly sick, or fell sick; and with the small property his father had left, he and his mother contrived to live.

They dwelt very harmoniously together; for his mother, who had passed more than a quarter of a century in strong resistance to her husband’s will, had succumbed, as not uncommonly happens with such women, to the authority of her son, whom she had no particular pleasure or advantage in thwarting. In the phrase and belief of his neighbors, he took after her, rather than his father; but there was something ironical and baffling in him, which the local experts could not trace to either the Mulbridges or the Gardiners. They had a quiet, indifferent faith in his ability to make himself a position and name anywhere; but they were not surprised that he had come back to live in Corbitant, which was so manifestly the best place in the world, and which, if somewhat lacking in opportunity, was ample in the leisure they believed more congenial to him than success. Some of his lady patients at the hotels, who felt at times that they could not live without him, would have carried him back to the city with them by a gentle violence; but there was nothing in anything he said or did that betrayed ambition on his part. He liked to hear them talk, especially of their ideas of progress, as they called them, at which, with the ready adaptability of their sex, they joined him in laughing when they found that he could not take them seriously. The social, the emotional expression of the new scientific civilization struck him as droll, particularly in respect to the emancipation of women; and he sometimes gave these ladies the impression that he did not value woman’s intellect at its true worth. He was far from light treatment of them, he was considerate of the distances that should be guarded; but he conveyed the sense of his scepticism as to their fitness for some things to which the boldest of them aspired.

His mother would have been willing to have him go to the city if he wished, but she was too ignorant of the world outside of Corbitant to guess at his possibilities in it, and such people as she had seen from it had not pleased her with it. Those summer-boarding lady patients who came to see him were sometimes suffered to wait with her till he came in, and they used to tell her how happy she must be to keep such a son with her, and twittered their patronage of her and her nice old-fashioned parlor, and their praises of his skill in such wise against her echoless silence that she conceived a strong repugnance for all their tribe, in which she naturally included Grace when she appeared. She had decided the girl to be particularly forth-putting, from something prompt and self-reliant in her manner that day; and she viewed with tacit disgust her son’s toleration of a handsome young woman who had taken up a man’s profession. They were not people who gossiped together, or confided in each other, and she would have known nothing and asked nothing from him about her, further than she had seen for herself. But Barlow had folks, as he called them, at Corbitant; and without her own connivance she had heard from them of all that was passing at Jocelyn’s.

It was her fashion to approach any subject upon which she wished her son to talk as if they had already talked of it, and he accepted this convention with a perfect understanding that she thus expressed at once her deference to him and her resolution to speak whether he liked it or not. She had not asked him about Mrs. Maynard’s sickness, or shown any interest in it; but after she learned from the Barlows that she was no longer in danger, she said to her son one morning, before he drove away upon his daily visit, “Is her husband going to stay with her, or is he going back?”

“I don’t know, really,” he answered, glancing at her where she sat erect across the table from him, with her hand on the lid of the coffee-pot, and her eyes downcast; it was the face of silent determination not to be put off, which he knew. “I don’t suppose you care, mother,” he added pleasantly.

“She’s nothing to me,” she assented. “What’s that friend of hers going to do?”

“Which friend?”

“You know. The one that came after you.”

“Oh! Dr. Breen. Yes. What did you think of her?”

“I don’t see why you call her doctor.”

“Oh, I do it out of politeness. Besides, she is one sort of doctor. Little pills,” he added, with an enjoyment of his mother’s grimness on this point.

“I should like to see a daughter of mine pretending to be a doctor,” said Mrs. Mulbridge.

“Then you would n’t like Dr. Breen for a daughter,” returned her son, in the same tone as before.

“She wouldn’t like me for a mother,” Mrs. Mulbridge retorted.

Her son laughed, and helped himself to more baked beans and a fresh slice of rye-and-Indian. He had the homely tastes and the strong digestion of the people from whom he sprung; and be handed his cup to be filled with his mother’s strong coffee in easy defiance of consequences. As he took it back from her he said, “I should like to see you and Mrs. Breen together. You would make a strong team.” He buttered his bread, with another laugh in appreciation of his conceit. “If you happened to pull the same way. If you did n’t, something would break. Mrs. Breen is a lady of powerful convictions. She thinks you ought to be good, and you ought to be very sorry for it, but not so sorry as you ought to be for being happy. I don’t think she has given her daughter any reason to complain on the last score.” He broke into his laugh again, and watched his mother’s frown with interest. “I suspect that she does n’t like me very well. You could meet on common ground there: you don’t like her daughter.”

“They must be a pair of them,” said Mrs. Mulbridge immovably. “Did her mother like her studying for a doctor?”

“Yes, I understand so. Her mother is progressive she believes in the advancement of women; she thinks the men would oppress them if they got a chance.”

“If one half the bold things that are running about the country had masters it would be the best thing,” said Mrs. Mulbridge, opening the lid of the coffee-pot, and clapping it to with force, after a glance inside.

“That’s where Mrs. Green wouldn’t agree with you. Perhaps because it would make the bold things happy to have masters, though she does n’t say so. Probably she wants the women to have women doctors so they won’t be so well, and can have more time to think whether they have been good or not. You ought to hear some of the ladies over there talk, mother.”

“I have heard enough of their talk.”

“Well, you ought to hear Miss Gleason. There are very few things that Miss Gleason does n’t think can be done with cut flowers, from a wedding to a funeral.”

Mrs. Mulbridge perceived that her son was speaking figuratively of Miss Gleason’s sentimentality, but she was not very patient with the sketch he, enjoyed giving of her. “Is she a friend of that Breen girl’s?” she interrupted to ask.

“She’s an humble friend, an admirer, a worshipper. The Breen girl is her ideal woman. She thinks the Breen girl is so superior to any man living that she would like to make a match for her.” His mother glanced sharply at him, but he went on in the tone of easy generalization, and with a certain pleasure in the projection of these strange figures against her distorting imagination: “You see, mother, that the most advanced thinkers among those ladies are not so very different, after all, from you old- fashioned people. When they try to think of the greatest good fortune that can befall an ideal woman, it is to have her married. The only trouble is to find a man good enough; and if they can’t find one, they’re apt to invent one. They have strong imaginations.”

“I should think they would make you sick, amongst them,” said his mother. “Are you going to have anything more to eat?” she asked, with a housekeeper’s latent impatience to get her table cleared away.

“Yes,” said Dr. Mulbridge; “I have n’t finished yet. And I’m in no hurry this morning. Sit still, mother; I want you to hear something more about my lady friends at Jocelyn’s. Dr. Breen’s mother and Miss Gleason don’t feel alike about her. Her mother thinks she was weak in giving up Mrs. Maynard’s case to me; but Miss Gleason told me about their discussion, and she thinks it is the great heroic act of Dr. Breen’s life.”

“It showed some sense, at least,” Mrs. Mulbridge replied. She had tacitly offered to release her son from telling her anything when she had made her motion to rise; if he chose to go on now, it was his own affair. She handed him the plate of biscuit, and he took one.

“It showed inspiration, Miss Gleason says. The tears came into her eyes; I understood her to say it was godlike. ‘And only to think, doctor,'” he continued, with a clumsy, but unmistakable suggestion of Miss Gleason’s perfervid manner, “‘that such a girl should be dragged down by her own mother to the level of petty, every-day cares and duties, and should be blamed for the most beautiful act of self-sacrifice! Is n’t it too bad?'”

“Rufus, Rufus!” cried his mother, “I can’t stun’ it! Stop!”

“Oh, Dr. Breen is n’t so bad–not half so divine as Miss Gleason thinks her. And Mrs. Maynard does n’t consider her surrendering the case an act of self-sacrifice at all.”

“I should hope not!” said Mrs. Mulbridge. “I guess she would n’t have been alive to tell the tale, if it had n’t been for you.”

“Oh, you can’t be sure of that. You must n’t believe too much in doctors, mother. Mrs. Maynard is pretty tough. And she’s had wonderfully good nursing. You’ve only heard the Barlow side of the matter,” said her sun, betraying now for the first time that he had been aware of any knowledge of it on her part. That was their way: though they seldom told each other anything, and went on as if they knew nothing of each other’s affairs, yet when they recognized this knowledge it was without surprise on either side. “I could tell you a different story. She’s a very fine girl, mother; cool and careful under instruction, and perfectly tractable and intelligent. She’s as different from those other women you’ve seen as you are. You would like her!” He had suddenly grown earnest, and crushing the crust of a biscuit in the strong left hand which he rested on the table, he gazed keenly at her undemonstrative face. “She’s no baby, either. She’s got a will and a temper of her own. She’s the only one of them I ever saw that was worth her salt.”

“I thought you did n’t like self-willed women,” said his mother impassively.

“She knows when to give up,” he answered, with unrelaxed scrutiny.

His mother did not lift her eyes, yet. “How long shall you have to visit over there?”

“I’ve made my last professional visit.”

“Where are you going this morning?”

“To Jocelyn’s.”

Mrs. Mulbridge now looked up, and met her son’s eye. “What makes you think she’ll have you?”

He did not shrink at her coming straight to the point the moment the way was clear. He had intended it, and he liked it. But he frowned a little as he said, “Because I want her to have me, for one thing.” His jaw closed heavily, but his face lost a certain brutal look almost as quickly as it had assumed it. “I guess,” he said, with a smile, “that it’s the only reason I’ve got.”

“You no need to say that,” said his mother, resenting the implication that any woman would not have him.

“Oh, I’m not pretty to look at, mother, and I’m not particularly young; and for a while I thought there might be some one, else.”

“Who?”

“The young fellow that came with her, that day.”

“That whipper-snapper?”

Dr. Mulbridge assented by his silence. “But I guess I was mistaken. I guess he’s tried and missed it. The field is ‘clear, for all I can see. And she’s made a failure in one way, and then you know a woman is in the humor to try it in another. She wants a good excuse for giving up. That’s what I think.”

“Well,” said his mother, “I presume you know what you’re about, Rufus!”

She took up the coffee-pot on the lid of which she had been keeping her hand, and went into the kitchen with it. She removed the dishes, and left him sitting before the empty table-cloth. When she came for that, he took hold of her hand, and looked up into her face, over which a scarcely discernible tremor passed. “Well, mother?”

“It’s what I always knew I had got to come to, first or last. And I suppose I ought to feel glad enough I did n’t have to come to it at first.”

“No!” said her son. “I’m not a stripling any longer.” He laughed, keeping his mother’s hand.

She freed it and taking up the table-cloth folded it lengthwise and then across, and laid it neatly away in the cupboard. “I sha’n’t interfere with you, nor any woman that you bring here to be your wife. I’ve had my day, and I’m not one of the old fools that think they’re going to have and to hold forever. You’ve always been a good boy to me, and I guess you hain’t ever had to complain’ of your mother stan’in’ in your way. I sha’n’t now. But I did think”

She stopped and shut her lips firmly. “Speak up, mother!” he cried.

“I guess I better not,” she answered, setting her chair back against the wall.

“I know what you mean. You mean about my laughing at women that try to take men’s places in the world. Well, I did laugh at them. They’re ridiculous. I don’t want to marry this girl because she’s a doctor. That was the principal drawback, in my mind. But it does n’t make any difference, and wouldn’t now, if she was a dozen doctors.”

His mother let down the leaves of the table, and pushed it against the wall, and he rose from the chair in which he was left sitting in the middle of the room. “I presume,” she said, with her back toward him, as she straightened the table accurately against the mopboard, “that you can let me have the little house at Grant’s Corner.”

“Why, mother!” he cried. “You don’t suppose I should ever let you be turned out of house and home? You can stay here as long as you live. But it has n’t come to that, yet. I don’t know that she cares anything about me. But there are chances, and there are signs. The chances are that she won’t have the courage to take up her plan of life again, and that she’ll consider any other that’s pressed home upon her. And I take it for a good sign that she’s sent that fellow adrift. If her mind had n’t been set on some one else, she’d have taken him, in this broken-up state of hers. Besides, she has formed the habit of doing what I say, and there’s a great deal in mere continuity of habit. It will be easier for her to say yes than to say no; it would be very hard for her to say no.”

While he eagerly pressed these arguments his mother listened stonily, without apparent interest or sympathy. But at the end she asked, “How are you going to support a wife? Your practice here won’t do it. Has she got anything?”

“She has property, I believe,” replied her son. “She seems to have been brought up in that way.”

“She won’t want to come and live here, then. She’ll have notions of her own. If she’s like the rest of them, she’ll never have you.”

“If she were like the rest of them, I’d never have her. But she is n’t. As far as I’m concerned, it’s nothing against her that she’s studied medicine. She did n’t do it from vanity, or ambition, or any abnormal love of it. She did it, so far so I can find out, because she wished to do good that way. She’s been a little notional, she’s had her head addled by women’s talk, and she’s in a queer freak; but it’s only a girl’s freak after all: you can’t say anything worse of her. She’s a splendid woman, and her property’s neither here nor there. I could support her.”

“I presume,” replied his mother, “that she’s been used to ways that ain’t like our ways. I’ve always stuck up for you, Rufus, stiff enough, I guess; but I ain’t agoin’ to deny that you’re country born and bred. I can see that, and she can see it, too. It makes a great difference with girls. I don’t know as she’d call you what they call a gentleman.”

Dr. Mulbridge flushed angrily. Every American, of whatever standing or breeding, thinks of himself as a gentleman, and nothing can gall him more than the insinuation that he is less. “What do you mean, mother?”

“You hain’t ever been in such ladies’ society as hers in the same way. I know that they all think the world of you, and flatter you up, and they’re as biddable as you please when you’re doctorin’ ’em; but I guess it would be different if you was to set up for one of their own kind amongst ’em.”

“There is n’t one of them,” he retorted, “that I don’t believe I could have for the turn of my hand, especially if it was doubled into a fist. They like force.”

“Oh, you’ve only seen the sick married ones. I guess you’ll find a well girl is another thing.”

“They’re all alike. And I think I should be something of a relief if I was n’t like what she’s been used to hearing called a gentleman; she’d prefer me on that account. But if you come to blood, I guess the Mulbridges and Gardiner, can hold up their heads with the best, anywhere.”

“Yes, like the Camfers and Rafllins.” These were people of ancestral consequence and local history, who had gone up to Boston from Corbitant, and had succeeded severally as green-grocers and retail dry-goods men, with the naturally attendant social distinction.

“Pshaw!” cried her son. “If she cares for me at all, she won’t care for the cut of my clothes, or my table manners.”

“Yes, that’s so. ‘T ain’t on my account that I want you should make sure she doos care.”

He looked hard at her immovable face, with its fallen eyes, and then went out of the room. He never quarrelled with his mother, because his anger, like her own, was dumb, and silenced him as it mounted. Her misgivings had stung him deeply, and at the bottom of his indolence and indifference was a fiery pride, not easily kindled, but unquenchable. He flung the harness upon his old unkempt horse, and tackled him to the mud-encrusted buggy, for whose shabbiness he had never cared before. He was tempted to go back into the house, and change his uncouth Canada homespun coat for the broadcloth frock which he wore when he went to Boston; but he scornfully resisted it, and drove off in his accustomed figure.

His mother’s last words repeated themselves to him, and in that dialogue, in which he continued to dramatize their different feelings, he kept replying, “Well, the way to find out whether she cares is to ask her.”

X.

During her convalescence Mrs. Maynard had the time and inclination to give Grace some good advice. She said that she had thought a great deal about it throughout her sickness, and she had come to the conclusion that Grace was throwing away her life.

“You’re not fit to be a doctor, Grace,” she said. “You’re too nervous, and you’re too conscientious. It is n’t merely your want of experience. No matter how much experience you had, if you saw a case going wrong in your hands, you’d want to call in some one else to set it right. Do you suppose Dr. Mulbridge would have given me up to another doctor because he was afraid he couldn’t cure me? No, indeed! He’d have let me die first, and I should n’t have blamed him. Of course I know what pressure I brought to bear upon you, but you had no business to mind me. You oughtn’t to have minded my talk any more than the buzzing of a mosquito, and no real doctor would. If he wants to be a success, he must be hard- hearted; as hard-hearted as”–she paused for a comparison, and failing any other added–“as all possessed.” To the like large-minded and impartial effect, she, ran on at great length. “No, Grace,” she concluded, “what you want to do is to get married. You would be a good wife, and you would be a good mother. The only trouble is that I don’t know any man worthy of you, or half worthy. No, I don’t!”

Now that her recovery was assured, Mrs. Maynard was very forgiving and sweet and kind with every one. The ladies who came in to talk with her said that she was a changed creature; she gave them all the best advice, and she had absolutely no shame whatever for the inconsistency involved by her reconciliation with her husband. She rather flaunted the happiness of her reunion in the face of the public, and she vouchsafed an explanation to no one. There had never been anything definite in her charges against him, even to Grace, and her tacit withdrawal of them succeeded perfectly well. The ladies, after some cynical tittering, forgot them, and rejoiced in the spectacle of conjugal harmony afforded them: women are generous creatures, and there is hardly any offence which they are not willing another woman should forgive her husband, when once they have said that they do not see how she could ever forgive him.

Mrs. Maynard’s silence seemed insufficient to none but Mrs. Breen and her own husband. The former vigorously denounced its want of logic to Grace as all but criminal, though she had no objection to Mr. Maynard. He, in fact, treated her with a filial respect which went far to efface her preconceptions; and he did what he could to retrieve himself from the disgrace of a separation in Grace’s eyes. Perhaps he thought that the late situation was known to her alone, when he casually suggested, one day, that Mrs. Maynard was peculiar.

“Yes,” said Grace mercifully; “but she has been out of health so long. That makes a great difference. She’s going to be better now.”

“Oh, it’s going to come out all right in the end,” he said, with his unbuoyant hopefulness,” and I reckon I’ve got to help it along. Why, I suppose every man’s a trial at times, doctor?”

“I dare say. I know that every woman is,” said the girl.

“Is that so? Well, may be you’re partly right. But you don’t suppose but what a man generally begins it, do you? There was Adam, you know. He did n’t pull the apple; but he fell off into that sleep, and woke up with one of his ribs dislocated, and that’s what really commenced the trouble. If it had n’t been for Adam, there would n’t have been any woman, you know; and you could n’t blame her for what happened after she got going? “There vas no gleam of insinuation in his melancholy eye, and Grace listened without quite knowing what to make of it all. “And then I suppose he was n’t punctual at meals, and stood round talking politics at night, when he ought to have been at home with his family?”

“Who?” asked Grace.

“Adam,” replied Mr. Maynard lifelessly. “Well, they got along pretty well outside,” he continued. “Some of the children didn’t turn out just what you might have expected; but raising children is mighty uncertain business. Yes, they got along.” He ended his parable with a sort of weary sigh, as if oppressed by experience. Grace looked at his slovenly figure, his smoky complexion, and the shaggy outline made by his untrimmed hair and beard, and she wondered how Louise could marry him; but she liked him, and she was willing to accept for all reason the cause of unhappiness at which he further hinted. “You see, doctor, an incompatibility is a pretty hard thing to manage. You can’t forgive it like a real grievance. You have to try other things, and find out that there are worse things, and then you come back to it and stand it. We’re talking Wyoming and cattle range, now, and Mrs. Maynard is all for the new deal; it’s going to make us healthy, wealthy, and wise. Well, I suppose the air will be good for her, out there. You doctors are sending lots of your patients our way, now.” The gravity with which he always assumed that Grace was a physician in full and regular practice would have had its edge of satire, coming from another; but from him, if it was ironical, it was also caressing, and she did not resent it. “I’ve had some talk with your colleague, here, Dr. Mulbridge, and he seems to think it will be the best thing for her. I suppose you agree with him?”

“Oh, yes,” said Grace, “his opinion would be of great value. It wouldn’t be at all essential that I should agree with him:’

“Well, I don’t know about that,” said Maynard. “I reckon he thinks a good deal of your agreeing with him. I’ve been talking with him about settling out our way. We’ve got a magnificent country, and there’s bound to be plenty of sickness there, sooner or later. Why, doctor, it would be a good opening for you! It ‘s just the place for you. You ‘re off here in a corner, in New England, and you have n’t got any sort of scope; but at Cheyenne you’d have the whole field to yourself; there is n’t another lady doctor in Cheyenne. Now, you come out with us. Bring your mother with you, and grow up with the country. Your mother would like it. There’s enough moral obliquity in Cheyenne to keep her conscience in a state of healthful activity all the time. Yes, you’d get along out there.”

Grace laughed, and shook her head. It was part of the joke which life seemed to be with Mr. Maynard that the inhabitants of New England were all eager to escape from their native section, and that they ought to be pitied and abetted in this desire. As soon as his wife’s convalescence released him from constant attendance upon her, he began an inspection of the region from the compassionate point of view; the small, frugal husbandry appealed to his commiseration, and he professed to have found the use of canvas caps upon the haycocks intolerably pathetic. “Why, I’m told,” he said, “that they have to blanket the apple-trees while the fruit is setting; and they kill off our Colorado bugs by turning them loose, one at a time, on the potato-patches: the bug starves to death in forty-eight hours. But you’ve got plenty of schoolhouses, doctor; it does beat all, about the schoolhouses. And it’s an awful pity that there are no children to go to school in them. Why, of course the people go West as fast as they can, but they ought to be helped; the Government ought to do something. They’re good people; make first-rate citizens when you get them waked up, out there. But they ought all to be got away, and let somebody run New England’ as a summer resort. It’s pretty, and it’s cool and pleasant, and the fishing is excellent; milk, eggs, and all kinds of berries and historical associations on the premises; and it could be made very attractive three months of the year; but my goodness! you oughtn’t to ask anybody to live here. You come out with us, doctor, and see that country, and you’ll know what I mean.”

His boasts were always uttered with a wan, lack-lustre irony, as if he were burlesquing the conventional Western brag and enjoying the mystifications of his listener, whose feeble sense of humor often failed to seize his intention, and to whom any depreciation of New England was naturally unintelligible. She had not come to her final liking for him without a season of serious misgiving, but after that she rested in peace upon what every one knowing him felt to be his essential neighborliness. Her wonder had then come to be how he could marry Louise, when they sat together on the seaward piazza, and he poured out his easy talk, unwearied and unwearying, while, with one long, lank leg crossed upon the other, he swung his unblacked, thin-soled boot to and fro.

“Well, he was this kind of a fellow: When we were in Switzerland, he was always climbing some mountain or other. They could n’t have hired me to climb one of their mountains if they’d given me all their scenery, and thrown their goitres in. I used to tell him that the side of a house was good enough for me. But nothing but the tallest mountains would do him; and one day when he was up there on the comb of the roof somewhere, tied with a rope round his waist to the guide and a Frenchman, the guide’s foot slipped, and he commenced going down. The Frenchman was just going to cut the rope and let the guide play it alone; but he knocked the knife out of his hand with his long-handled axe, and when the jerk came he was on the other side of the comb, where he could brace himself, and brought them both up standing. Well, he’s got muscles like bunches of steel wire. Did n’t he ever tell you about it?”

“No,” said Grace sadly.

“Well, somebody ought to expose Libby. I don’t suppose I should ever have known about it myself, if I hadn’t happened to see the guide’s friends and relations crying over him next day as if he was the guide’s funeral. Hello! There’s the doctor.” He unlimbered his lank legs, and rose with an effect of opening his person like a pocket-knife. “As I understand it, this is an unprofessional visit, and the doctor is here among us as a guest. I don’t know exactly what to do under the circumstances, whether we ought to talk about Mrs. Maynard’s health or the opera; but I reckon if we show our good intentions it will come out all right in the end.”

He went forward to meet the doctor, who came up to shake hands with Grace, and then followed him in-doors to see Mrs. Maynard. Grace remained in her place, and she was still sitting there when Dr. Mulbridge returned without him. He came directly to her, and said, “I want to speak with you, Miss Breen. Can I see you alone?”

“Is–is Mrs. Maynard worse?” she asked, rising in a little trepidation.

“No; it has nothing to do with her. She’s practically well now; I can remand the case to you. I wish to see you–about yourself.” She hesitated at this peculiar summons, but some pressure was upon her to obey Dr. Mulbridge, as there was upon most people where he wished to obey him. “I want to talk with you,” he added, “about what you are going to do,–about your future. Will you come?”

“Oh, yes,” she answered; and she suffered him to lead the way down from the piazza, and out upon one of the sandy avenues toward the woods, in which it presently lost itself. “But there will be very little to talk about,” she continued, as they moved away, “if you confine yourself to my future. I have none.”

“I don’t see how you’ve got rid of it,” he rejoined. “You’ve got a future as much as you have a past, and there’s this advantage,–that you can do something with your future.”

“Do you think so?” she asked, with a little bitterness. “That has n’t been my experience.”

“It’s been mine,” he said, “and you can make it yours. Come, I want to talk with you about your future, because I have been thinking very seriously about my own. I want to ask your advice and to give you mine. I’ll commence by asking yours. What do you think of me as a physician? I know you are able to judge.”

She was flattered, in spite of herself. There were long arrears of cool indifference to her own claims in that direction, which she might very well have resented; but she did not. There was that flattery in his question which the junior in any vocation feels in the appeal of his senior; and there was the flattery which any woman feels in a man’s recourse to her judgment. Still, she contrived to parry it with a little thrust. “I don’t suppose the opinion of a mere homoeopathist can be of any value to a regular practitioner.”

He laughed. “You have been a regular practitioner yourself for the last three weeks. What do you think of my management of the case?”

“I have never abandoned my principles,” she began.

“Oh, I know all about that? What do you think of me as a doctor?” he persisted.

“Of course I admire you. Why do you ask me that?”

“Because I wished to know. And because I wished to ask you something else. You have been brought up in a city, and I have always lived here in the country, except the two years I was out with the army. Do you think I should succeed if I pulled up here, and settled in Boston?”

“I have not lived in Boston,” she answered. “My opinion wouldn’t be worth much on that point.”

“Yes, it would. You know city people, and what they are. I have seen a good deal of them in my practice at the hotels about here, and some of the ladies–when they happened to feel more comfortable–have advised me to come to Boston.” His derision seemed to throw contempt on all her sex; but he turned to her, and asked again earnestly, “What do you think? Some of the profession know me there. When I left the school, some of the faculty urged me to try my chance in the city.”

She waited a moment before she answered. “You know that I must respect your skill, and I believe that you could succeed anywhere. I judge your fitness by my own deficiency. The first time I saw you with Mrs. Maynard, I saw that you had everything that I hadn’t. I saw that I was a failure, and why, and that it would be foolish for me to keep up the struggle.”

“Do you mean that you have given it up?” he demanded, with a triumph in which there was no sympathy.

“It has given me up. I never liked it,–I told you that before,–and I never took it up from any ambitious motive. It seemed a shame for me to be of no use in the world; and I hoped that I might do something in a way that seemed natural for women. And I don’t give up because I’m unfit as a woman. I might be a man, and still be impulsive and timid and nervous, and everything that I thought I was not.”

“Yes, you might be all that, and be a man; but you’d be an exceptional man, and I don’t think you’re an exceptional woman. If you’ve failed, it is n’t your temperament that’s to blame.”

“I think it is. The wrong is somewhere in me individually. I know it is.”

Dr. Mulbridge, walking beside her, with his hands clasped behind him, threw up his head and laughed. “Well, have it your own way, Miss Breen. Only I don’t agree with you. Why should you wish to spare your sex at your own expense? But that’s the way with some ladies, I’ve noticed. They approve of what women attempt because women attempt it, and they believe the attempt reflects honor on them. It’s tremendous to think what men could accomplish for their sex, if they only hung together as women do. But they can’t. They haven’t the generosity.”

“I think you don’t understand me,” said Grace, with a severity that amused him. “I wished to regard myself, in taking up this profession, entirely as I believed a man would have regarded himself.”

“And were you able to do it?”

“No,” she unintentionally replied to this unexpected question.

“Haw, haw, haw!” laughed Dr. Mulbridge at her helpless candor. “And are you sure that you give it up as a man would?”

“I don’t know how you mean,” she said, vexed and bewildered.

“Do you do it fairly and squarely because you believe that you’re a failure, or because you partly feel that you have n’t been fairly dealt with?”

“I believe that if Mrs. Maynard had had the same confidence in me that she would have had in any man I should not have failed. But every woman physician has a double disadvantage that I hadn’t the strength to overcome,–her own inexperience and the distrust of other women.”

“Well, whose fault is that?”

“Not the men’s. It is the men alone who give women any chance. They are kind and generous and liberal-minded. I have no blame for them, and I have no patience with women who want to treat them as the enemies of women’s advancement. Women can’t move a step forwards without their sufferance and help. Dr. Mulbridge,” she cried, “I wish to apologize for the hasty and silly words I used to you the day I came to ask you to consult with me. I ought to have been grateful to you for consenting at first, and when you took back your consent I ought to have considered your position. You were entirely right. We had no common ground to meet on, and I behaved like a petulant, foolish, vulgar girl!”

“No, no,” he protested, laughing in recollection of the scene. “You were all right, and I was in a fix; and if your own fears had n’t come to the rescue, I don’t know how I should have got out of it. It would have been disgraceful, wouldn’t it, to refuse a lady’s. request. You don’t know how near I was to giving way. I can tell you, now that it’s all over. I had never seen a lady of our profession before,” he added hastily, “and my curiosity was up. I always had my doubts about the thoroughness of women’s study, and I should have liked to see where your training failed. I must say I found it very good,–I’ve told you that. You wouldn’t fail individually: you would fail because you are a woman.”

“I don’t believe that,” said Grace.

“Well, then, because your patients are women. It’s all one. What will you do?”

“I shall not do anything. I shall give it all up.”

“But what shall you do then?”

“I–don’t know.”

“What are you going to be? A fashionable woman? Or are you going to Europe, and settle down there with the other American failures? I’ve heard about them,–in Rome and Florence and Paris. Are you going to throw away the study you’ve put into this profession? You took it up because you wanted to do good. Don’t you want to do good any more? Has the human race turned out unworthy?”

She cowered at this arraignment, in which she could not separate the mocking from the justice. “What do you advise me to do? Do you think I could ever succeed?”

“You could never succeed alone.”

“Yes, I know that; I felt that from the first. But I have planned to unite with a woman physician older than myself.”

“And double your deficiency. Sit down here,” he said; “I wish to talk business.” They had entered the border of the woods encompassing Jocelyn’s, and he painted to a stump, beside which lay the fallen tree. She obeyed mechanically, and he remained standing near her, with one foot lifted to the log; he leaned forward over her, and seemed to seize a physical advantage in the posture. “From your own point of view, you would have no right to give up your undertaking if there was a chance of success in it. You would have no more right to give up than a woman who had gone out as a missionary.”

“I don’t pretend to compare myself with such a woman; but I should have no more right to give up,” she answered, helpless against the logic of her fate, which he had somehow divined.

“Well, then, listen to me. I can give you this chance. Are you satisfied that with my advice you could have succeeded in Mrs. Maynard’s case?”

“Yes, I think so. But what”–

“I think so, too. Don’t rise!”

His will overcame the impulse that had betrayed itself, and she sank back to her seat. “I offer you my advice from this time forward; I offer you my help.”

“That is very good of you,” she murmured; “and I appreciate your generosity more than I can say. I know the prejudice you must have had to overcome in regard to women physicians before you could bring yourself to do this; and I know how you must have despised me for failing in my attempt, and giving myself up to my feeble temperament. But”–

“Oh, we won’t speak of all that,” he interrupted. “Of course I felt the prejudice against women entering the profession which we all feel; it was ridiculous and disgusting to me till I saw you. I won’t urge you from any personal motive to accept my offer. But I know that if you do you can realize all your hopes of usefulness; and I ask you to consider that certainly. But you know the only way it could be done.”

She looked him in the eyes, with dismay in her growing intelligence.

“What–what do you mean?”

“I mean that I ask you to let me help you carry out your plan of life, and to save all you have done, and all you have hoped, from waste–as your husband. Think”–

She struggled to her feet as if he were opposing a palpable resistance, so strongly she felt the pressure of his will. “It can’t be, Dr. Mulbridge. Oh, it can’t, indeed! Let us go back; I wish to go back!”

But he had planted himself in her way, and blocked her advance, unless she chose to make it a flight.

“I expected this,” he said, with a smile, as if her wild trepidation interested him as an anticipated symptom. “The whole idea is new and startling to you. But I know you won’t dismiss it abruptly, and I won’t be discouraged.”

“Yes, yes, you must! I will not think of it! I can’t! I do dismiss it at once. Let me go!”

“Then you really choose to be like the rest,–a thing of hysterical impulses, without conscience or reason! I supposed the weakest woman would be equal to an offer of marriage. And you had dreamt of being a physician and useful!”

“I tell you,” she cried, half quelled by his derision, “that I have found out that I am not fit for it,–that I am a failure and a disgrace; and you had no right to expect me to be anything else.”

“You are no failure, and I had a right to expect anything of you after the endurance and the discretion you have shown in the last three weeks. Without your help I should have failed myself. You owe it to other women to go on.”

“They must take care of themselves,” she said. “If my weakness throws shame on them, they must bear it. I thank you for what you say. I believe you mean it. But if I was of any use to you I did n’t know it.”

“It was probably inspiration, then,” he interrupted coolly. “Come, this isn’t a thing to be frightened at. You’re not obliged to do what I say. But I think you ought to hear me out. I haven’t spoken without serious thought, and I didn’t suppose you would reject me without a reason.”

“Reason?” she repeated. “There is no reason in it.”

“There ought to be. There is, on my side. I have all kinds of reasons for asking you to be my wife: I believe that I can make you happy in the fulfilment of your plans; I admire you and respect you more than any other woman I ever saw; and I love you.”

“I don’t love you, and that is reason enough.”

“Yes, between boys and girls. But between men and women it isn’t enough. Do you dislike me?”

“No.”

“Am I repulsive in any way?”

“No, no!”

“I know that I am not very young and that I am not very good-looking.”

“It is n’t that at all.”

“Of course I know that such things weigh with women, and that personal traits and habits are important in an affair like this. I am slovenly and indifferent about my dress; but it’s only because I have lived where every sort of spirit and ambition was useless. I don’t know about city ways, but I could pick up all of them that were worth while. I spoke of going to Boston; but I would go anywhere else with you, east or west, that you chose, and I know that I should succeed. I haven’t done what I might have done with myself, because I’ve never had an object in life. I’ve always lived in the one little place, and I’ve never been out of it except when I was in the army. I’ve always liked my profession; but nothing has seemed worth while. You were a revelation to me; you have put ambition and hope into me. I never saw any woman before that I would have turned my hand to have. They always seemed to me fit to be the companions of fools, or the playthings of men. But of all the simpletons, the women who were trying to do something for woman, as they called it, trying to exemplify and illustrate a cause, were the silliest that I came across. I never happened to have met a woman doctor before you came to me; but I had imagined them, and I could n’t believe in you when I saw you. You were not supersensitive, you were not presumptuous, and you gave up, not because you distrusted yourself, but because your patient distrusted you. That was right: I should have done the same thing myself. Under my direction, you have shown yourself faithful, docile, patient, intelligent beyond anything I have seen. I have watched you, and I know; and I know what your peculiar trials have been from that woman. You have taught me a lesson,–I ‘m not ashamed to say it; and you’ve given me a motive. I was wrong to ask you to marry me so that you might carry out your plans: that was no way to appeal to you. What I meant was that I might make your plans my own, and that we might carry them out together. I don’t care for making money; I have always been poor, and I had always expected to be so; and I am not afraid of hard work. There is n’t any self-sacrifice you’ve dreamed of that I wouldn’t gladly and proudly share with you. You can’t do anything by yourself, but we could do anything together. If you have any scruple about giving up your theory of medicine, you needn’t do it; and the State Medical Association may go to the devil. I’ve said my say. What do you say?”

She looked all round, as if seeking escape from a mesh suddenly flung about her, and then she looked imploringly up at him. “I have nothing to say,” she whispered huskily. “I can’t answer you.”

” Well, that’s all I ask,” he said, moving a few steps, away, and suffering her to rise. “Don’t answer me now. Take time,–all the time you want, all the time there is.”

“No,” she said, rising, and gathering some strength from the sense of being on foot again. “I don’t mean that. I mean that I don’t–I can’t consent.”

“You don’t believe in me? You don’t think I would do it?”

“I don’t believe in myself. I have no right to doubt you. I know that I ought to honor you for what you propose.”

“I don’t think it calls for any great honor. Of course I shouldn’t propose it to every lady physician.” He smiled with entire serenity and self-possession. “Tell me one thing: was there ever a time when you would have consented?” She did not answer. “Then you will consent yet?”

“No. Don’t deceive yourself. I shall never consent.”

“I’ll leave that to the logic of your own conscience. You will do what seems your duty.”

“You must n’t trust to my conscience. I fling it away! I won’t have anything to do with it. I’ve been tortured enough by it. There is no sense or justice in it!”

He laughed easily at her vehemence. “I ‘ll trust your conscience. But I won’t stay to worry you now. I’m coming again day after to-morrow, and I’m not afraid of what you will say then.”

He turned and left her, tearing his way through the sweet-fern and low blackberry vines, with long strides, a shape of uncouth force. After he was out of sight, she followed, scared and trembling at herself, as if she had blasphemed.

XI.

Grace burst into the room where her mother sat; and flung her hat aside with a desperate gesture. “Now, mother, you have got to listen to me. Dr. Mulbridge has asked me to marry him!”

Mrs. Green put up her spectacles on her forehead, and stared at her daughter, while some strong expressions, out of the plebeian or rustic past which lies only a generation or two behind most of us, rose to her lips. I will not repeat them here; she had long denied them to herself as an immoral self-indulgence, and it must be owned that such things have a fearful effect, coming from old ladies. “What has got into all the men? What in nature does he want you to marry him for?”

“Oh, for the best reasons in the world,” exclaimed the daughter. “For reasons that will make you admire and respect him,” she added ironically. “For great, and unselfish, and magnanimous reasons!”

“I should want to believe they were the real ones, first,” interrupted Mrs. Breen.

“He wants to marry me because he knows that I can’t fulfil my plans of life alone, and because we could fulfil them together. We shall not only be husband and wife, but we shall be physicians in partnership. I may continue a homoeopath, he says, and the State Medical Association may go to the devil.” She used his language, that would have been shocking to her ordinary moods, without blenching, and in their common agitation her mother accepted it as fit and becoming. “He counts upon my accepting him because I must see it as my duty, and my conscience won’t let me reject the only opportunity I shall have of doing some good and being of some use in the world. What do you think I ought to do, mother?”

“There’s reason in what he says. It is an opportunity. You could be of use, in that way, and perhaps it’s the only way. Yes,” she continued, fascinated by the logic of the position, and its capabilities for vicarious self-sacrifice. “I don’t see how you can get out of it: You have spent years and years of study, and a great deal of money, to educate yourself for a profession that you’re too weak to practise alone. “You can’t say that I ever advised your doing it. It was your own idea, and I did n’t oppose it. But when you’ve gone so far, you’ve formed an obligation to go on. It’s your duty not to give up, if you know of any means to continue. That’s your duty, as plain as can be. To say nothing of the wicked waste of your giving up now, you’re bound to consider the effect it would have upon other women who are trying to do something for themselves. The only thing,” she added, with some misgiving, “is whether you believe he was in earnest and would keep his word to you.”

“I think he was secretly laughing at me, and that he would expect to laugh me out of his promise.”

“Well, then, you ought to take time to reflect, and you ought to be sure that you’re right about him.”

“Is that what you really think, mother?”

“I am always governed by reason, Grace, and by right; and I have brought you up on that plan. If you have ever departed from it, it has not been with my consent, nor for want of my warning. I have simply laid the matter before you.”

“Then you wish me to marry him?”

This was perhaps a point that had not occurred to Mrs. Breen in her recognition of the strength of Dr. Mulbridge’s position. It was one thing to trace the path of duty; another to support the aspirant in treading it. “You ought to take time to reflect,” Mrs. Green repeated, with evasion that she never used in behalf of others.

“Well, mother,” answered Grace,” I didn’t take time to reflect, and I should n’t care whether I was right about him or not. I refused him because I did n’t love him. If I had loved him that would have been the only reason I needed to marry him. But all the duty in the world wouldn’t be enough without it. Duty? I am sick of duty! Let the other women who are trying to do something for themselves, take care of themselves as men would. I don’t owe them more than a man would owe other men, and I won’t be hoodwinked into thinking I do. As for the waste, the past is gone, at any rate; and the waste that I lament is the years I spent in working myself up to an undertaking that I was never fit for. I won’t continue that waste, and I won’t keep up the delusion that because I was very unhappy I was useful, and that it was doing good to be miserable. I like pleasure and I like dress; I like pretty things. There is no harm in them. Why should n’t I have them?”

“There is harm in them for you,”–her mother began.

“Because I have tried to make my life a horror? There is no other reason, and that is no reason. When we go into Boston this winter I shall go to the theatre. I shall go to the opera, and I hope there will be a ballet. And next summer, I am going to Europe; I am going to Italy.” She whirled away toward the door as if she were setting out.

“I should think you had taken leave of your conscience!” cried her mother.

“I hope I have, mother. I am going to consult my reason after this.”

“Your reason!”

“Well, then, my inclination. I have had enough of conscience,–of my own, and of yours, too. That is what I told him, and that is what I mean. There is such a thing as having too much conscience, and of getting stupefied by it, so that you can’t really see what’s right. But I don’t care. I believe I should like to do wrong for a while, and I will do wrong if it’s doing right to marry him.”

She had her hand on the door-knob, and now she opened the door, and closed it after her with something very like a bang.

She naturally could not keep within doors in this explosive state, and she went downstairs, and out upon the piazza. Mr. Maynard was there, smoking, with his boots on top of the veranda-rail, and his person thrown back in his chair at the angle requisite to accomplish this elevation of the feet. He took them down, as he saw her approach, and rose, with the respect in which he never failed for women, and threw his cigar away.

“Mr. Maynard,” she asked abruptly, “do you know where Mr. Libby is?”

“No, I don’t, doctor, I’m sorry to say. If I did, I would send and borrow some more cigars of him. I think that the brand our landlord keeps must have been invented by Mr. Track, the great anti-tobacco reformer.”

“Is he coming back? Is n’t he coming back?” she demanded breathlessly.

“Why, yes, I reckon he must be coming back. Libby generally sees his friends through. And he’ll have some curiosity to know how Mrs. Maynard and I have come out of it all.” He looked at her with something latent in his eye; but what his eye expressed was merely a sympathetic regret that he could not be more satisfactory.

“Perhaps,” she suggested, “Mr. Barlow might know something.”

“Well, now,” said Maynard, “perhaps he might, that very thing. I’ll go round and ask him.” He went to the stable, and she waited for his return. “Barlow says,” he reported, “that he guesses he’s somewhere about Leyden. At any rate, his mare,’s there yet, in the stable where Barlow left her. He saw her there, yesterday.”

“Thanks. That’s all I wished to know,” said Grace. “I wished to write to him,” she added boldly.

She shut herself in her room and spent the rest of the forenoon in writing a letter, which when first finished was very long, but in its ultimate phase was so short as to occupy but a small space on a square correspondence-card. Having got it written on the card, she was dissatisfied with it in that shape, and copied it upon a sheet of note- paper. Then she sealed and addressed it, and put it into her pocket; after dinner she went down to the beach, and walked a long way upon the sands. She thought at first that she would ask Barlow to get it to him, somehow; and then she determined to find out from Barlow the address of the people who had Mr. Libby’s horse, and send it to them for him by the driver of the barge. She would approach the driver with a nonchalant, imperious air, and ask him to please have that delivered to Mr. Libby immediately; and in case he learned from the stable-people that he was not in Leyden, to bring the letter back to her. She saw how the driver would take it, and then she figured Libby opening and reading it. She sometimes figured him one way, and sometimes another. Sometimes he rapidly scanned the lines, and then instantly ordered his horse, and feverishly hastened the men; again he deliberately read it, and then tore it into stall pieces, with a laugh, and flung them away. This conception of his behavior made her heart almost stop beating; but there was a luxury in it, too, and she recurred to it quite as often as to the other, which led her to a dramatization of their meeting, with all their parley minutely realized, and every most intimate look and thought imagined. There is of course no means of proving that this sort of mental exercise was in any degree an exercise of the reason, or that Dr. Breen did not behave unprofessionally in giving herself up to it. She could only have claimed in self-defence that she was no longer aiming at a professional behavior; that she was in fact abandoning herself to a recovered sense of girlhood and all its sweetest irresponsibilities. Those who would excuse so weak and capricious a character may urge, if they like, that she was behaving as wisely as a young physician of the other sex would have done in the circumstances.

She concluded to remain on the beach, where only the children were playing in the sand, and where she could easily escape any other companionship that threatened. After she had walked long enough to spend the first passion of her reverie, she sat down under the cliff, and presently grew conscious of his boat swinging at anchor in its wonted place, and wondered that she had not thought he must come back for that. Then she had a mind to tear up her letter as superfluous; but she did not. She rose from her place under the cliff, and went to look for the dory. She found it drawn up on the sand in a little cove. It was the same place, and the water was so shoal for twenty feet out that no one could have rowed the dory to land; it must be dragged up. She laughed and blushed, and then boldly amused herself by looking for footprints; but the tide must have washed them out long ago; there were only the light, small footprints of the children who had been playing about the dory. She brushed away some sand they had scattered over the seat, and got into the boat and sat down there. It was a good seat, and commanded a view of the sail-boat in the foreground of the otherwise empty ocean; she took out her letter, and let it lie in the open hands which she let lie in her lap.

She was not impatient to have the time pass; it went only too soon. Though she indulged that luxury of terror in imagining her letter torn up and scornfully thrown away, she really rested quite safe as to the event; but she liked this fond delay, and the soft blue afternoon might have lasted forever to her entire content.

A little whiff of breeze stole up, and suddenly caught the letter from her open hands, and whisked it out over the sand. With a cry she fled after it, and when she had recaptured it, she thought to look at her watch. It was almost time for the barge, and now she made such needless haste, in order not to give herself chance for misgiving or retreat, that she arrived too soon at the point where she meant to intercept the driver on his way to the house; for in her present mutiny she had resolved to gratify a little natural liking for manoeuvre, long starved by the rigid discipline to which she had subjected herself. She had always been awkward at it, but she liked it; and now it pleased her to think that she should give her letter secretly to the driver, and on her way to meet him she forgot that she had meant to ask Barlow for part of the address. She did not remember this till it was too late to go back to the hotel, and she suddenly resolved not to consult Barlow, but to let the driver go about from one place to another with the letter till he found the right one. She kept walking on out into the forest through which the road wound, and she had got a mile away before she saw the weary bowing of the horses’ heads as they tugged the barge through the sand at a walk. She stopped involuntarily, with some impulses to flight; and as the vehicle drew nearer, she saw the driver turned round upon his seat, and talking to a passenger behind. She had never counted upon his having a passenger, and the fact undid all.

She remained helpless in the middle of the road; the horses came to a stand-still a few paces from her, and the driver ceased from the high key of conversation, and turned to see what was the matter.

“My grief!” he shouted. “If it had n’t been for them horses o’ mine, I sh’d ‘a’ run right over ye.”

“I wished to speak with you,” she began. “I wished to send”–

She stopped, and the passenger leaned forward to learn what was going on. “Miss Breen!” he exclaimed, and leaped out of the back of the barge and ran to her.

“You–you got my letter!” she gasped.

“No! What letter? Is there anything the matter?”

She did not answer. She had become conscious of the letter, which she had never ceased to hold in the hand that she had kept in her pocket for that purpose. She crushed it into a small wad.

Libby turned his head, and said to the driver of the barge, “Go ahead.”

“Will you take my arm?” he added to her. “It’s heavy walking in this sand.”

“No, thank you,” she murmured, recoiling. “I’m not tired.”

“Are you well? Have you been quite well?”

“Oh, yes, perfectly. I did n’t know you were coming back.”

“Yes. I had to come back. I’m going to Europe next week, and I had to come to look after my boat, here; and I wanted to say good-by to Maynard. I was just going to speak to Maynard, and then sail my boat over to Leyden.”

“It will be very pleasant,” she said, without looking at him. “It’s moonlight now.”

“Oh, I sha’n’t have any use for the moon. I shall get over before nightfall, if this breeze holds.”

She tried to think of something else, and to get away from this talk of a sail to Leyden, but she fatally answered, “I saw your boat this afternoon. I had n’t noticed before that it was still here.”

He hesitated a moment, and then asked, “Did you happen to notice the dory?”

“Yes, it was drawn up on the sand.”

“I suppose it’s all right–if it’s in the same place.”

“It seemed to be,” she answered faintly.

“I’m going to give the boat to Johnson.”

She did not say anything, for she could think of nothing to say, but that she had looked for seals on the reef, but had not seen any, and this would have been too shamelessly leading. That left the word to him, and he asked timidly,–

“I hope my coming don’t seem intrusive, Miss Breen?”

She did not heed this, but “You are going to be gone a great while?” she asked, in turn.

“I don’t know,” he replied, in an uncertain tone, as if troubled to make out whether she was vexed with him or not. “I thought,” he added, “I would go up the Nile this time. I’ve never been up the Nile, you know.”

“No, I didn’t know that. Well,” she added to herself, “I wish you had not come back! You had better not have come back. If you had n’t come, you would have got my letter. And now it can never be done! No, I can’t go through it all again, and no one has the right to ask it. We have missed the only chance,” she cried to herself, in such keen reproach of him that she thought she must have spoken aloud.

“Is Mrs. Maynard all right again?” he asked.

“Yes, she is very much better,” she answered, confusedly, as if he had heard her reproach and had ignored it.

“I hope you’re not so tired as you were.”

“No, I ‘m not tired now.”

“I thought you looked a little pale,” he said sympathetically, and now she saw that he was so. It irritated her that she should be so far from him, in all helpfulness, and she could scarcely keep down the wish that ached in her heart.

We are never nearer doing the thing we long to do than when we have proclaimed to ourselves that it must not and cannot be.

“Why are you so pale?” she demanded, almost angrily.

“I? I didn’t know that I was,” he answered. “I supposed I was pretty well. I dare say I ought to be ashamed of showing it in that way. But if you ask me, well, I will tell you; I don’t find it any easier than I did at first.”

“You are to blame, then!” she cried. “If I were a man, I should not let such a thing wear upon me for a moment”

“Oh, I dare say I shall live through it,” he answered, with the national whimsicality that comes to our aid in most emergencies.

A little pang went through her heart, but she retorted, “I would n’t go to Europe to escape it, nor up the Nile. I would stay and fight it where I was.” “Stay?” He seemed to have caught hopefully at the word.

“I thought you were stronger. If you give up in this way how can you expect me”–She stopped; she hardly knew what she had intended to say; she feared that he knew.

But he only said: “I’m sorry. I didn’t intend to trouble you with the sight of me. I had a plan for getting over the cliff without letting you know, and having Maynard come down to me there.”

“And did you really mean,” she cried piteously, “to go away without trying to see me again?”

“Yes,” he owned simply. “I thought I might catch a glimpse of you, but I did n’t expect to speak to you.”

“Did you hate me so badly as that? What had I done to you?”

“Done?” He gave a sorrowful laugh; and added, with an absent air, “Yes, it’s really like doing something to me! And sometimes it seems as if you had done it purposely.”

“You know I did n’t! Now, then,” she cried, “you have insulted me, and you never did that before. You were very good and noble and generous, and would n’t let me blame myself for anything. I wanted always to remember that of you; for I did n’t believe that any man could be so magnanimous. But it seems that you don’t care to have me respect you!”

“Respect?” he repeated, in the same vague way. “No, I should n’t care about that unless it was included in the other. But you know whether I have accused you of anything, or whether I have insulted you. I won’t excuse myself. I think that ought to be insulting to your common sense.”

“Then why should you have wished to avoid seeing me to-day? Was it to spare yourself?” she demanded, quite incoherently now. “Or did you think I should not be equal to the meeting?”

“I don’t know what to say to you,” answered the young man. “I think I must be crazy.” He halted, and looked at her in complete bewilderment. “I don’t understand you at all.”

“I wished to see you very much. I wanted your advice, as–as–a friend.” He shook his head. “Yes! you shall be my friend, in this at least. I can claim it–demand it. You had no right to–to–make me–trust you so much, and–and then–desert me.”

“Oh, very well,” he answered. “If any advice of mine–But I couldn’t go through that sacrilegious farce of being near you and not”–She waited breathlessly, a condensed eternity, for him to go on; but he stopped at that word, and added: “How can I advise you?”

The disappointment was so cruel that the tears came into her eyes and ran down her face, which she averted from him. When she could control herself she said, “I have an opportunity of going on in my profession now, in a way that makes me sure of success.”

“I am very glad on your account. You must be glad to realize”

“No, no!” she retorted wildly. “I am not glad!”

“I thought you”–

“But there are conditions! He says he will go with me anywhere, and we can practise our profession together, and I can carry out all my plans. But first–first–he wants me to–marry him!”

“Who?”

“Don’t you know? Dr. Mulbridge!”

“That–I beg your pardon. I’ve no right to call him names.” The young fellow halted, and looked at her downcast face. “Well, do you want me to tell you to take him? That is too much. I did n’t know you were cruel.”

“You make me cruel! You leave me to be cruel!”

“I leave you to be cruel?”

“Oh, don’t play upon my words, if you won’t ask me what I answered!”

“How can I ask that? I have no right to know.”

“But you shall know!” she cried. “I told him that I had no plans. I have given them all up because–because I’m too weak for them, and because I abhor him, and because–But it was n’t enough. He would not take what I said for answer, and he is coming again for an answer.”

“Coming again?”

“Yes. He is a man who believes that women may change, for reason or no reason; and”–