"And in what way—if the question is admissible—do you find medicine more to your taste than the law?"
"For the best of reasons,—he does not want to receive them. He prefers to be able to say that he hears nothing, and knows nothing. Therefore, you will readily understand that nothing is to be said, or even hinted, to him. He puts the matter in my hands, and you are responsible to me only."
Happily for Bergan, his aunt claimed his attention, before he had time to feel the full dreariness of the change. She was a woman of rare tact, and much kindliness of heart, despite a somewhat stately manner, and a considerable degree of aristocratic chill for people not exactly in her "set." She gave Bergan a warm welcome,—almost a motherly one; there was something about him that brought a softening remembrance of the two sons that slept in the family burial ground, and quietly opened the way for him into her heart. Finding his entertainment left very much in her hands, she cared for it kindly; though not without a secret wonder at the inexplicable indifference of her husband and daughter. But she did her best to make amends for it by her own friendliness, and in part, succeeded."Let me alone for that," responded Rosa, emphatically. And having seen Carice safely down the steps from the upper piazza, and watched her light form till it was lost among the trees, Rosa returned to mount guard over the door of the deserted chamber.
"Are you sure of that?"
For the sweet savor of the roasted meat
At a little distance below the footbridge, the river made another graceful bend, and soon disappeared in the shadow of the pine forest,—behind and above the dark, swaying fringe of which, the posthumous glory of the sun was fading from the western sky. Against this flitting splendor, the turret-like summits of the chimneys of Bergan Hall were distinctly visible. A little saddened by the sight, as forcing back on his mind thoughts and images which he had partially succeeded in flinging off, Bergan turned and walked quickly up the path to the house. Voices met him as he drew near. In one end of the broad piazza, so shut in by interlacing vines as to constitute a kind of leaf-tapestried parlor, two gentlemen were talking."I am afraid that I am wofully obtuse," returned the doctor, with the air of a man who asks for a further explanation.Gray dawn was in the east when, after a long, lingering look at the ancestral portraits, Bergan went out from the old Hall. He could scarcely believe that it was less than a week since he first entered it. He had passed there one of those crises of life which do the work of years. His short occupancy had left its indelible impress upon his character, for good or evil.
"Before we go any farther," said he, "I feel bound in honor to make a confession. If I had supposed that writing your will was going to put me in such an awkward position, I should certainly have desired you to look elsewhere for a lawyer. However, it cannot be helped now. Well, the truth is"—he stopped for a moment, as if to overcome an excessive reluctance,—"the truth is, I have long admired your niece; and now, as my practice is steadily increasing, and I think I could take care of a wife, I had made up my mind to ask permission to pay her my addresses."Doctor Remy said nothing; but he shrugged his shoulders in a manner sufficiently expressive of disapprobation.
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"Excuse me," said he, "if I seem to be looking at you almost constantly; but there is something about you curiously familiar, though it is impossible that we should have met before. I suppose I must have seen somebody that resembled you; but I cannot tell when or where.""I once told you that it was not in my nature to trust," said he. "But I have trusted you, Astra, even to blindness,—else I should not have been indebted to others for the first intimations of things that I ought to have seen for myself. I should have discovered what sort of game you were playing, before the knowledge was forced upon me at the hands of public rumor. I suppose that I ought to take shame to myself for being so easily deceived;—I do,—nevertheless your shame is certainly the greater for having so deceived me."
In those days, there was a pleasant spice of uncertainty about Southern journeyings. Cars, steamboats, and stages ran in happy independence of each other and the time-table. The traveller never knew at what point of juniper swamp, or pine barren, or cotton plantation, he would be set down to while away some hours in botanical or ethnological investigations, if his mind were sufficiently at ease, or in chewing the bitter cud of impatience, if it were not. Defective machinery and lazy officials labored mightily together to miss connections, and wherever human inefficiency came short, down swept a hurricane from the skies, and strewed the roads with prostrate trunks of trees, through which the cumbrous stage coach had literally to hew its path.详情
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