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Poetry and Fiction by Rebekah Hyneman (1816-1875)


The Doctor

A romance novel (1860)

by: Rebekah Hyneman (1816-1875)

Chapter 10

"Fine doin’s over there at Singleton’s," said his glum housekeeper as he sat at breakfast a few days after his interview with Charity. "Guess you’ll wish you’d a’never meddled with that tribe."

"What are you driving at?" inquired her master, raising his eyes from his book—for our doctor always read at breakfast.

"Drivin’ at? I ain’t drivin’ at nothin’. I am on’y tellin’ you what everybody says."

"What does everybody say?" queried the doctor pretending to be hunting for something in his book, but flushing up a little.

"There’s a child come there, a little thing looks like a doll, with blue eyes and yellow hair, and wax skin, four or five year old, too. And that Lloyd gal is got to take it, and Miss Singleton she won’t have it in the house, and the gal won’t give it up, says it’s her dead sister’s child, but nobody won’t believe that, and so there it is."

"It is her sister’s child," said the doctor, emphatically.

"So she says," returned the woman, "but guess they don’t believe it. They say down at the store, it’s the image of the school marm, all ‘cept the blue eyes."

"Be quiet, will you?" shouted the doctor, dashing his book on the table.

"Hoity toity!" exclaimed the old woman, "guess I may use my tongue as well as other folks. It does look like her, I’ve seen ‘em together."

"You once had some sense, I wish you would show it now," said her master, angrily, as he left the room.

"Believe in my soul he’s crazy," muttered the old woman, as he brushed past her. "Ef I thought he was going to make a fool of himself at this time o’day, I’d leave him, sure. Flarin’ up like a madman, about that poor miserable thing, that haint got a decent rag to her back! It’s all along o’ them softs, I said so, they’ve jist gone and done it; I knowed they would. He ain’t broke the shell of an egg this blessed mornin’, and I b’iled ‘em with the watch in my hand, jist three minutes to the very tick!"

# # #

The old woman’s statement was only too true. The husband who had so insulted and outraged the feelings of the vindictive Faith, had soon followed her to the spirit world; and his family, unwilling to have one of the ill fated and dishonored Flemings among them, had with little ceremony transferred the unfortunate orphan to the care of its aunt.

The doctor had not seen her since that eventful night, and he feared to compromise her by visiting her in the humble home she had taken upon being dismissed from Maplesden, but he felt greatly interested in her, and anxious to know how she intended procuring a living for herself and her young charge.

"Dear goodness only knows," said Mrs. Singleton, to whom he had carelessly put the question. "I am sure I hope she will conduct herself properly now. It is a dreadful thing to have it said that such a person has lived beneath your roof, and been treated almost like an equal. I feel very sensitive on the subject I assure you, doctor. I know you acted from the best motives, but it is actually dreadful to think of having a girl like that placed in close companionship with a young girl like Myra. I shudder when I think of it."

"Are you insane enough to believe the wretched stuff that has been repeated at her expense?" exclaimed the incensed doctor. "My word for it, madame, your roof never sheltered a purer heart than hers."

"Oh! Fie, doctor, facts are stubborn things," rejoined the lady.

"Not half so stubborn as a conceited fool," growled the doctor, sotto voce, as he left her. "They would let her starve, these same paragons of Christian meekness, and humility, and purity. Aye, or plunge into the deepest vice, before they would raise a finger in her behalf. I thought I was cured of my misanthropic notions, but by Jove I find enough to keep ‘em alive in me. That woman will subscribe largely towards converting the heathen, and devote time and labor to clothe the South Sea Islanders, and beg from friend or foe to support foreign missions, and yet, wife and mother though she is, can thrust out upon the cold world’s cruel charity, a young, defenseless being, for an imaginary sin. It is enough to make a man despise himself for belonging to the same family."

It was all up-hill work to poor Charity for a while, and doubly hard to her, because she and her sister had hoped that they might by their united efforts free a brother from what they deemed a false imprisonment. It was for that they had toiled and suffered so much.

There are few towns or villages without their rival families, and Westford, humble as it was, was no exception. The Holdens and the Singletons had fought their way to public favor, at each other’s expense; and years seemed to add to the rancor of their adherents. To the Holdenites it was a perfect godsend to have one upon whom the Singletonians frowned, and they petted Charity and her protegee accordingly. It is true their acts were not commensurate with their professions, but she did not want, and before winter set in she had quite a nice school, and plenty of needlework to keep her busy. And with little Lottie’s prattle, and Hope’s letters to cheer her up, she felt much better satisfied in her humble home than she had ever done in the splendid mansion of the Singletons.

But before the winter had fairly set in, she lost several of her scholars by fever, and the thought of the risk run by her little pet, made her nervous. She called on the doctor one evening before dark, on her way to the post office.

"I wish you would look in at my place, doctor, I am afraid Lottie is not so well as she might be. She seems flushed and feverish, and was quite restless last night," she said, as she stood in the doorway, a little timid at being there at all.

"Stop as you return," he replied, "and I will give you some medicine for her; but don’t fidget about it, it is nothing but a cold, I dare say."

"Very likely, but I shall feel better satisfied if you will step over tomorrow and look at her."

She stopped for the medicine on her way back, and was charmed to find that the fever had seemed to abate very rapidly after the while had taken a portion of it. She fell into a sweet sleep while Charity sat and sewed by the dim candle, and at nine o’clock, according to her invariable custom, she laid aside her work, and prepared for bed. The child stirred, and she went to the bedside to give it a drink, but she started back as her hand touched the tiny one outside the cover. It was burning with the fever, which had returned with redoubled violence. There was nothing to be done then, but to resume the dress she had partly laid aside, and sit down to watch through the night; for she had no one in whose care she could leave the child, or send for the doctor. She gave it the medicine from time to time, and moistened the parched lips, and thought morning would never come.

With the first gray light she opened the door, and was rejoiced to see a laboring man on his way to work. She called to him, and begged he would stop for the doctor, the child was worse.

How long it seemed before he came; and when he did, there was little comfort in his looks.

The little patient tossed and tumbled, and muttered its childlike complaint, and snatched eagerly at the cup when it came near its lips, but it did not recognize the agonized face that bent above it, nor hear the low, touching voice that tried to soothe it. Charity gave way to no unseemly burst of grief. She tended it with untiring care, and passed night after night beside its bed, in tearless suspense, singing snatches of its favorite little ballads, in her clear low voice, or walking up and down the dreary room, hour after hour, carrying it in her arms, never complaining, never murmuring, but patient and hopeful to the last.

It was not long a burden to any one. The doctor saw how it would end, but Charity was so full of hope; noticed so many favorable changes from one day to the next, saw so many signs of improvement, that he could not quench her hope, but let her go on dreaming, building, as we all do at times, upon sand.

Hardly a week had passed since it was first taken ill, and already she saw its eyes become clearer, and fancied its skin less hot and dry. She was telling the doctor this, as she sat with it on her lap; how it had recognized her when she spoke, and asked for a drink, and smiled up in her face as its eyes closed again.

"And I feel confident, doctor, that when she wakes her fever will have left her."

He did not reply, but took the child from her arms and laid it on the bed.

"You need rest yourself," he said, taking her hand and leading her from the bed. "Go, I will stay here for a while."

"If she should wake and not see me, she would get frightened, doctor," she replied. "I will not leave her."

"Charity, you are no child," he said, trying to be as gruff as ever. "You have looked on death before now. Your Lottie will never wake again in this world." Next Chapter