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    Chapter 18

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    Chapter 18
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    Bressant was lying comfortably upon his bed with his eyes closed; no one
    would have imagined there had been any outburst or convulsion of passion
    in his mental or emotional organism. He breathed easily; there was a
    pale tint of red in his cheeks, above his close, brown beard; his
    forehead was slightly moist, and his pulse, on which the surgeon laid
    his finger with professional instinct, beat quietly and regularly. In
    entering upon the world of love, all marks of wounds received upon the
    journey seemed to have passed away.

    He opened his eyes at the professor's touch, and fixed them upon the old
    gentleman in such a serene stare of untroubled complacency as one
    sometimes receives from a baby nine months old.

    "Well, sir"--the professor, from some subtle delicacy of feeling
    respecting the prospective change in their relationship, adopted this
    form of address in preference to that more paternal one he had been in
    the habit of using since Bressant's accident--"well, sir, how do you
    find yourself now?"

    "Much better; I shall soon be well now. I feel differently from ever
    before--very light and full here," said the young man, indicating the
    region of his heart.

    "I've seen Sophie," observed Professor Valeyon, after a somewhat long
    silence, which Bressant, who had calmly closed his eyes again, showed no
    intention of breaking.

    "Sophie and I love each other," responded he, meditatively, and rather
    to himself than to the father. The latter could not but feel some
    surprise at the untroubled confidence the young man's manner displayed.
    Before he could put his thought into fitting words, the other spoke

    "I've been thinking, I should like to marry her."

    "You'd like to marry her?" repeated the old gentleman, with a mixture of
    sternness and astonishment, his forehead reddening. "What else do you
    suppose I expected, sir?"

    Bressant turned over on his side, and regarded him with some curiosity.

    "Do all people who love each other, or because they love each other,
    marry?" demanded he.

    For a moment, the professor seemed to suspect some latent satire in this
    question; but the young man's face convinced him to the contrary.

    "In many marriages, there's little love--true love--on either side;
    that's certain," said he, passing his hand down his face, and looking
    grave. "But marriage was ordained for none but lovers."

    "The reason I want to be married to Sophie is because I love her so much
    I couldn't live without her," resumed Bressant, as if stating some
    unusual circumstance.

    "Humph!" ejaculated the professor, partly amused and partly puzzled.

    Bressant rubbed his forehead, and fingered his beard awhile, and then

    "We've been reading poetry lately, and romances, and such things. I used
    to think they were nonsense--good for nothing; because they came out so
    beautifully, and represented love to be so great an element in the
    world. But now I see they were not good enough; they are much below the
    truth; I mean to write poetry and romances myself!"

    This tickled Professor Valeyon so much, that he burst out in a most
    genuine laugh. The intellectual animal of two or three months before
    seemed to have laid aside all claims to what his brain had won for him,
    and to be beginning existence over again with a new object and new
    materials. And had Bressant indeed been a child, the succession of his
    ideas and impulses could hardly have been more primitive and natural.

    "What's to become of our Hebrew and history, if you turn poet?" inquired
    the old gentleman, still chuckling.

    Bressant turned his head away and closed his eyes wearily. "I don't want
    any thing more to do with that," said he. "Love is study enough, and
    work enough, for a lifetime. Mathematics, and logic, and philosophy--all
    those things have nothing to do with love, and couldn't help me in it.
    It's outside of every thing else: it has laws of its own: I'm just
    beginning to learn them."

    "A professional lover! well, as long as you recognize the sufficiency of
    one object in your studies, you might do worse, that's certain. But you
    can't make a living out of it, my boy."

    "I don't need money, I have enough; if I hadn't, money-making is for
    men without hearts; but mine is bigger than my head; I must give myself
    up to it."

    "That won't do," returned the professor, shaking his head. "Lovers must
    earn their bread-and-butter as well as people with brains. Besides,"
    here his face and tone became serious, "there's one thing we've both
    forgotten. This matter of your false name--you can't be married as
    Bressant, you know: and if the tenure of your property depends, as you
    said, on preserving the _incognito_, I have reason to believe that you
    stand an excellent chance of losing every cent of it, the moment the
    minister has pronounced your real name."

    "No matter!" said the young man, with an impatient movement, as if to
    dismiss an unprofitable subject. "I shall have Sophie; my father's will
    can't deprive me of her. I don't want to be famous, nor to have a great
    reputation--except with her."

    The old man was touched at this devotion, unreasonable and impracticable
    though it was. He laid his hand kindly on the invalid's big shoulder.

    "I don't say but that a wife's a good exchange for the world, my boy;
    I'm glad you should feel it, too. But when you marry her, you promise to
    support her, as long as you have strength and health to do it. It's a
    natural and necessary consequence of your love for her"--and here the
    professor paused a moment to marvel at the position in which he found
    himself--stating the first axioms of life to such a man as this pupil of
    his; "and you should be unwilling to take her, as I certainly should be
    to give her, on any other terms. If your hands are empty, you must at
    any rate be able to show that they won't always continue so."

    "Well, but I don't want to think about that just now; I can be a farmer,
    or a clerk; I can make a living with my body, if I can't with my mind;
    and I can write to Mrs. Vanderplanck, some time, and find out just how
    things are."

    "Very well--very well! or perhaps I'd better write to her
    myself--well--and as long as you are on your back, there'll be no use in
    troubling you with business--that's certain! And perhaps things may turn
    out better than they look, in the end."

    As Professor Valeyon pronounced this latter sentence, he smiled to
    himself pleasantly and mysteriously. He seemed to fancy he had stronger
    grounds for believing in a happy issue, than, for some reason, he was at
    liberty to disclose. And the smile lingered about the corners of his
    mouth and eyes, as if the issue in question were to be of that
    peculiarly harmonious kind usually supposed to be reserved for the
    themes of poems, or the conclusions of novels.

    "I never was interested to hear of the every-day lives of men who have
    loved, and wanted to make their way in the world; for I never expected I
    should be such a man. Now, I'm sorry; it would have been useful to me,
    wouldn't it?"

    "Perhaps it might," responded the old gentleman, musing at the change in
    the attitude of the young man's mind--once so self-sufficient and
    assertive, now so dependent and inexperienced. "Very few lives are bare
    and empty enough not to teach one something worth knowing. I know the
    events of one man's life," he added, after a few moments of thoughtful
    consideration; "perhaps it might lead to some good, if I were to tell
    them to yon."

    "Did he marry a woman he loved?" demanded Bressant.

    "You can judge better of that when you hear what happened before his
    marriage," returned the professor, apparently a little put out by the
    abruptness of the question. "He made several mistakes in life; most of
    them because he didn't pay respect enough to circumstances; thought that
    to adhere to fixed principles was the whole duty of a man: nothing to be
    allowed to the accidents of life, or to the various and unaccountable
    natures of men, their uncertainty, fallibility, and so on. One of the
    first resolutions he made--and he's never broken it, for when he grew
    wise enough to do so, the opportunity had gone by forever--was never to
    leave his native country. He wanted to prove to himself, and to
    everybody else whom it might concern, that a man of fair abilities might
    become learned and wise, without ever helping himself to the good things
    that lay beyond the shadow of his native flag. 'The majority of people
    have to live where they are born,' was his argument; 'I'll be their
    representative.' Well, that would seem all well enough; but it stood in
    his way twice--each time lost him an opportunity that has never come
    again--the opportunity to be distinguished, and perhaps great; and the
    opportunity to have a happy home, and a luxurious one. It was better for
    him, no doubt, that his life was a hard and disappointed one, instead
    of--as it might have been; he's had blessings enough, that's certain;
    but he has much to regret, too; the more, because the ill effects of a
    man's folly and willfulness fall upon his friends quite as often, and
    sometimes more heavily, than upon himself.

    "He was a poor man in college, and an orphan. The property of his family
    had been lost in the War of 1812; from then till he was twenty-one, he
    had followed a dozen trades, and saved a couple of hundred dollars; and
    he'd picked up book-learning enough to enter the sophomore class. The
    first thing he did was to make a friend; he loved him with his whole
    heart; thought nothing was too good for him, and so on. He and his
    friend led the class for three years; and up to the time of the last
    examination, he was first and his friend second. In the examination they
    sat side by side; one question the friend couldn't answer; the other
    wrote it out for him; after the examination the two papers were found to
    be alike in the answer to that question, and the friend was summoned
    before the faculty, and asked if he had copied it. He denied it--said it
    had been copied from him; so he took the first rank in graduating, and
    the other was dropped several places."

    "What became of their friendship after that?" inquired Bressant.

    "He I'm telling you of never knew any thing of what his friend had done
    till long afterward. Well, the faculty and some of the wealthy patrons
    of the university determined to send the first scholar abroad, to finish
    his education: he accepted the offer eagerly, and sailed for Europe,
    without bidding his friend good-by. Afterward, the faculty made the same
    offer to him, on the consideration that he had stood so well, during his
    course, until the examination. But he declined it: it was contrary to
    his principle of never leaving his country."

    "What sort of a man was the friend?" asked Bressant, who was paying
    close attention, with his hand at his ear.

    "Clever, with a winning manner, and fine-looking; had a pleasant, easy
    voice; never lost his temper that I know of." The professor paused,
    perhaps to arrange his ideas, ere he went on. "The man I'm telling you
    of left the college-yard with as much of the world before him as lies
    between the fifteenth and twenty-fifth parallels of latitude, and the
    Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. He'd made up his mind to be a physician;
    and in a year he was qualified to enter the hospital; worked there four
    years, and, by the time he was twenty-nine, he had an office of his own
    and a good practice.

    "At last, he fell in love with a beautiful woman; she was the daughter
    of one of his patients--a Southerner with a little Spanish blood in him.
    The young doctor had--under Providence--saved the man's life; and, since
    he himself came of a good family--none better--and had a respectable
    income, there wasn't much difficulty in arranging the match. The only
    condition was, that the father should never be out of reach of his
    daughter, as long as he lived."

    "Was this Southerner rich?"

    "Very rich; and a dowry would go with the daughter enough to make them
    more than independent for the rest of their lives. Well, just about that
    time, the friend who had gone to Europe came back. He'd done well
    abroad, and-was qualified for a high position at home. He was engaged to
    marry a stylish, aristocratic girl, who was not, however, wealthy. But
    he seemed very glad to see the doctor, and the doctor certainly was to
    see him, and invited him to stay at his house a while, and he introduced
    him into the house of his intended wife."

    Here the professor broke off from his story, and, getting up from his
    chair, he passed two or three times up and down the room; stopping at
    the window to pull a leaf from the extended branch of a cherry-tree
    growing outside, and again, by the empty fireplace, to roll the leaf up
    between his finger and thumb, and throw it upon the hearth. When he
    returned to the bedside, he dropped himself into his chair with the
    slow, inelastic heaviness of age.

    "The fellow played him a scurvy trick," resumed he, presently. "Exactly
    what he said or did will never be known, but it was all he safely could
    to put his friend in a bad light. It was because he wanted the young
    lady for himself; he was ambitious, and needed her money to help him on.
    What he said made a good deal of impression on the father; but the
    daughter wouldn't believe it then--at any rate, she loved the doctor
    still, and would, as long as she knew he loved her."

    "Why didn't the other manage to make her think he didn't?"

    "Well, sir, he did manage it," returned the professor, compressing his
    white-bearded lips, and lowering his eyebrows. "He told the father some
    story of having met relations of his in Spain; told him the climate
    would cure him of all his ailments, without need of a physician, and
    persuaded him to make the journey at last. The doctor heard of it first
    by a note written by his intended father-in-law. It contained no
    request nor encouragement to accompany them--of course, the daughter was
    to go too; her father wouldn't separate from her. But the doctor's
    friend had not trusted only to that: he knew that the other's resolution
    never to leave his country was not likely to be broken, so he was quite

    "And the doctor knew nothing of how his friend was cheating him?"

    "No, not then. Far from it; he showed him the letter, and asked him for
    advice. He never dreamed of doubting his constancy, either to himself or
    to the girl he was engaged to marry. His friend counseled him to write a
    letter to her he meant to make his wife, explaining his position, and
    asking her not to leave him. He would carry it to her, and advocate it
    himself, he said, and do all in his power to influence the father. The
    young doctor didn't altogether relish this course, nevertheless he
    trusted in his friend, wrote the letter, and gave it into his hands.

    "He never saw his friend after that day. The next morning came an answer
    from the young lady--a cruel and cold rejection of him--repudiation of
    his love, and a doubt of his honor. It bewildered him, and, for a time,
    crushed him. Long afterward, he found out that she had never seen the
    letter he wrote, but a very different one, of his friend's concoction.

    "Very soon afterward, they were gone--all three! and, before a year was
    passed, he heard that his friend and the daughter were married, and the
    father died of a fever contracted in Spain.

    "He tried to go on as usual for several months, but it was no use. At
    last, he left his practice, and all his connections, and wandered over
    the United States--through towns and wildernesses. He rode across the
    plains on a mustang; clambered through the gorges of the Rocky
    Mountains; saw the tide come in through the Golden Gate at San
    Francisco. He pushed north as far as Canada, and thence came down the
    Mississippi to New Orleans. From there he crossed to the Pacific coast
    again, and lived to find himself a second time in San Francisco. He
    didn't stay there long, but struck overland, slanting southward, and, in
    four or five months, appeared at Charleston, South Carolina. So he
    worked up the Atlantic coast to New York. By the time he got there, he
    was older and wiser, and strengthened, body and mind, by a rough
    experience. He resolved to travel no more; but, as yet, it was not in
    his power to feel happy.

    "Much had happened in his absence. His friend, after living three or
    four years with his wife in Europe, was separated from her--not,
    however, by a regular divorce--and she had disappeared, and had not
    since been heard of. It was reported that she was dead. She had left
    with her husband a son, two or three years old, at that time a sickly
    little fellow, scarcely expected to live. It was supposed that the
    mother had discovered that it was her money, and not herself, that her
    husband cared for, and, perhaps, too, may have imagined him to be still
    thinking of his first love, who, indeed, was said to have in some way
    fomented the quarrel between them, though how, or to what end, was never
    known. She, by-the-way, after an absence of some years from New York,
    suddenly reappeared there, and married a wealthy old Knickerbocker, who
    died not long afterward, and left her his property. She became eminent
    in society, and was intimate with all the most distinguished people. Her
    former lover returned from Europe, with his little son, and, I believe,
    settled somewhere in the neighborhood of New York. They met, and, I
    understand, came to be on very friendly terms with one another, but the
    conditions of their lives would have prevented the possibility of
    marriage, even had they desired it.

    "Well, it was before the old Knickerbocker's death that he I am telling
    you of first arrived in the city. He gave up medicine, and devoted
    himself to other studies; and, in the course of a few years, he found
    himself occupying the chairs of History and of Science at the University
    of New York. He also paid some attention to politics, and became, for a
    while, a person of really considerable renown and distinction. He was
    respected by the most influential persons in the city. Among the rest,
    he became acquainted with the widow--as she was by this time--of the
    Knickerbocker--and she showed him every kindness and attention. But he
    did her the injustice of not believing her kindness genuine; he imagined
    that she cared for nothing but fashion and display, and was polite to
    him only because she thought he would add a little to her drawing-rooms.
    At length, a sudden weariness of his mode of life coming over him, he
    resigned his public positions, and his professorships, and took lodgings
    in the family of a poor clergyman in Boston. While there, he took up the
    study of divinity, and, before long, was fully qualified for ordination.
    But, at this time, he fell, all at once, dangerously ill, and lay at
    death's door.

    "He owed his life to the care that the daughter of the clergyman took of
    him. She was a sweet, gentle girl, a good deal younger than he; but she
    grew to love him--perhaps because she had saved him from death. When he
    recovered, they were married, and found a great deal of happiness; there
    was no more passionate love, for him, of course; but he could feel
    gratitude, and tenderness, and a steady and deep affection. They had two
    children, and when they were five or six years old, the parents moved to
    the country, and took a house in an out-of-the-way village."

    "Is that all?" demanded Bressant, eying the professor's face with great

    "There's not much more. One of the first persons the minister--such he
    was now--met, on his entrance into the village, was the woman he had
    loved first--the wife of his false friend--she whom he had long believed
    dead. She had settled, several years before, in this place, whither he
    had unawares followed her. In an interview--the first for nearly half a
    lifetime--all the old errors and falsehoods were cleared up. She told
    him how her husband's heartlessness and insolent indifference had made
    her leave him; and how, for the sake of her son, and partly also out of
    pride, she had made no attempt to repossess herself of the fortune with
    which she had endowed her husband at their marriage. The hardest of all
    had been to leave her son, whom she loved with her whole heart; but he
    was sickly, and she dared not expose him to the chances of privation and
    hardship, such as she expected to endure. With some three thousand
    dollars in her pocket, she had come to America, and since then had
    never heard a word of those she had left, nor had they of her.

    "About three years after his arrival, the minister's wife died. He took
    his two children, and went with them to New York, where they staid
    nearly a year; and the widow of the old Knickerbocker found them out,
    and was as cordial as ever. But finally the minister decided to return
    to his country dwelling, and there he still remains."

    As Professor Valeyon concluded, he looked toward his auditor, having
    been conscious, especially during the latter part of the narrative, of
    the peculiar magnetic sensation which the steady glance of the young
    man's eyes produced.

    But at the same moment, Bressant turned his head away, and closed his
    eyes, as if wearied by the strain which had been imposed upon his
    attention. The old gentleman presently arose, and, after a moment's
    hesitation, he apparently decided not to disturb or rouse his patient
    any further. He could wait until another time for whatever discussion
    yet remained. So he betook himself quietly to the door.

    He had nearly closed it when, thinking he heard a sudden call or
    exclamation from within, he hastily reopened it, and looked into the
    room. But the invalid showed no signs of having spoken. His position was
    slightly changed, indeed, but his eyes were still closed, and his face
    turned somewhat away from the door.

    "I must have been mistaken," said Professor Valeyon, as he shut himself
    into the study. He walked to the table, and, resting one hand upon it,
    stood for several moments with his head bent forward, thinking. As he
    raised it, a sigh escaped him; nor was his countenance so serene as it
    had been half an hour before.
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