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בס"ד

Poetry and Fiction by Rebekah Hyneman (1816-1875)

 

The Doctor

A romance novel (1860)

by: Rebekah Hyneman (1816-1875)
 

Chapter 9

How did it in reality fare with our Doctor? Was his heart as he boasted it was, a nether millstone? Had he no eyes to see, no perception to appreciate the beauty and loveliness of the forlorn little governess? The human heart is a mystery, and often puzzles its owner, and even deceives him when he thinks he knows it best. And after a long and terribly hard battle with that perverse heart of his, Doctor Watson began to be afraid that his commiseration for her was beginning to take a warmer tone. He found himself thinking all sorts of nonsense, sometimes, when he should have had his grave head filled with the dull wisdom of the book he fancied he was reading, and several times caught himself looking in the glass to give his cravat a more elaborate bow, or adjust his stiff, black hair, before going to play his game of draughts or chess with Squire Singleton.

And it so chanced, that as he was one evening passing through the garden, he found Charity, as if purposely sent to him, sitting in one of the fantastic arbors which adorned Maplesden, looking as if she had been indulging in a good fit of crying. She started from her seat as he came up, smoking as usual, and began to arrange a refractory spray of clematis, keeping her back very ungraciously towards him, hoping that he would pass on.

"Let me help you," he said, and suiting the action to the word, he brought the branch to its proper place. In her heart, she did not thank him for his interference, for she wanted to be alone, but she did so with her lips, coldly enough too, for that matter, and taking up her sun-bonnet from the bench, was passing out.

"No letters yet?" he demanded in his abrupt way. The tears would have come had she answered, so she shook her head, and put on the deep-faced bonnet to conceal her features.

"Why, what a baby you are to fret so for a trifle," he said.

"A trifle!" she began, but she broke down at that, and flinging herself back on the seat, she turned baby indeed, for she cried with her whole heart.

The Doctor shifted his cigar and grew uneasy.

"Look here, Charity," he said at length, still keeping his place by the door. She continued to sob without looking up.

"See what I have brought for you, and then tell me if you are not a little goose to go on so."" She raised her head quickly, and almost snatched the letter he held, smiling through her tears as she thanked him, and looking very pretty, too.

He smoked on in silence as she read it, but did not, as she thought he would, leave the spot.

"Well, confess now that you have acted like a baby," he said, as she folded it, after reading it twice over.

"I have acted very foolishly, and you," she stopped, for as she raised her eyes to repeat her thanks, they met his, and there was a strange expression in his that startled her.

"Well, go on, what of me?" he asked, knocking the ashes from his cigar.

"You are very kind," she replied, in a constrained tone, "and I thank you very much."

"Is that all?" he again asked. She looked up as before, with a sort of wondering look. He puzzled her.

"It is all I have to give," she replied. "I owe you so much already I am afraid I shall be bankrupt soon, even in thanks."

"People," he had nearly said women, but he checked himself, "People can always coin words, even if the heart has nothing to do with them, but I am going to be a hard creditor, Charity. I am going to demand compound interest for all I have done."

The look of wonder deepened on her face. He threw away his cigar, and seated himself, not near her, but at the further end of the bench.

"Look at me, Charity, and tell me, in plain English, did you ever see an uglier fellow than I am?" he said, as he turned his dark face towards her. She was silent.

"Now that is not right," he said. "I ask a plain question, that demands a plain answer. Silence goes for nothing with me. You must speak."

"If I were to tell you that I think you handsome, you would set it down as an untruth," she returned, after a slight pause. "And if I were to tell you that I pay no regard to beauty, you would also stamp that avowal as a falsehood. But I trust you will believe me when I say that mere externals have never swayed me in my friendship, and if I have thought of you it was as the generous friend, the only one I have met in my trials. Neither your contempt for my sex nor your want of—of—"

"Out with it, want of beauty," he interrupted.

"No," she replied, with something like a smile, "it was want of courtesy I was about to say—could ever make me think of you with any other feelings than those of gratitude."

"Hang gratitude," he growled, "it is a cant word, and I hate it. Have you nothing better to give? I see I must explain, for you will never come to the right conclusion, for all your boasted woman’s wit. Do you believe God ever sent a misanthrope into the world? There are no Timons now, I fancy; man cannot exist without companionship, however much he may affect to despise his kind and sneer at the world. But some times, as in my case, there comes a stab from one you have loved and trusted, which, like the wound inflicted by a poisoned weapon, turns your blood to fire, your heart to ice; and for a time the whole world wears the garb of hypocrisy and treachery, and you hate it with your whole soul. But by and by the fire dies out, the ice is thawed; you feel that you yet belong to earth; that you have human sympathies, and crave human love, and hunger for human companionship; but the strong net work of pride and coldness which you have placed between yourself and the world cannot be broken without the cooperation of another." He rose and stood before her. "Charity, will you help me break this barrier? Will you humanize me, by becoming my wife?"

The young girl started to her feet, with a look of blank amazement. "Doctor Watson," she exclaimed, excitedly. "I thank you for this confidence, this offer, but—"

"That will do, Miss Lloyd," he interrupted, in a harsh tone. "When a woman thanks a man for an offer of this kind, he may know what is coming. I have made a fool of myself to no purpose, but I trust your good sense will not suffer you to make capital out of my folly." He turned to leave the arbor, but she timidly laid her hand on his arm.

"Stay, listen to me," she said, but as before, he interrupted her.

"I have stayed too long already: it is time you were indoors, the dews are falling heavily. Good night. We part friends, do we not, Charity?" He held out his hand to her. "Tomorrow you must think of this as a dream. Good night. Go in."

"If you would only stop and hear me," she exclaimed, but he was already far down the walk, grating the gravel with his firm, heavy tread, and presently she heard the garden gate shut with a violence that told her his parting salutation had been forced, and that the affair had ended forever between them. Next Chapter