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* * * * *




GEORGE W. CABLE'S WRITINGS


BONAVENTURE. A Prose Pastoral of Arcadian Louisiana. 12mo, $1.25.
DR. SEVIER. 12mo, $1.25.
THE GRANDISSIMES. A Story of Creole Life. 12mo, $1.25.
OLD CREOLE DAYS. 12mo, $1.25.
STRANGE TRUE STORIES OF LOUISIANA. Illustrated. 12mo, $2.00.
*** _New Uniform Edition of the above five volumes, cloth, in a box,
$6.00._

* * *

JOHN MARCH, SOUTHERNER, 12mo, $1.50.
OLD CREOLE DAYS. Cameo Edition with Etching, $1.25.
OLD CREOLE DAYS. 2 vols. 16mo, paper, each 30 cts.
MADAME DELPHINE. 75 cts.
THE CREOLES OF LOUISIANA. Illus. Small 4to, $2.50.
THE SILENT SOUTH. 12mo, $1.00.




DR. SEVIER


BY
GEORGE W. CABLE

AUTHOR OF "OLD CREOLE DAYS," "THE GRANDISSIMES,"
"MADAME DELPHINE," ETC.


NEW YORK
CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS
1897




Copyright, 1883 and 1884
BY GEORGE W. CABLE

_All rights reserved_


TROW'S
PRINTING AND BOOKBINDING COMPANY,
NEW YORK.




TO MY FRIEND
MARION A. BAKER




CONTENTS.


Chapter Page
I. - The Doctor 5
II. - A Young Stranger 10
III. - His Wife 17
IV. - Convalescence and Acquaintance 22
V. - Hard Questions 29
VI. - Nesting 34
VII. - Disappearance 45
VIII. - A Question of Book-keeping 52
IX. - When the Wind Blows 61
X. - Gentles and Commons 66
XI. - A Pantomime 73
XII. - "She's all the World" 81
XIII. - The Bough Breaks 87
XIV. - Hard Speeches and High Temper 94
XV. - The Cradle Falls 99
XVI. - Many Waters 107
XVII. - Raphael Ristofalo 118
XVIII. - How He Did It 127
XIX. - Another Patient 134
XX. - Alice 138
XXI. - The Sun at Midnight 142
XXII. - Borrower Turned Lender 160
XXIII. - Wear and Tear 169
XXIV. - Brought to Bay 177
XXV. - The Doctor Dines Out 184
XXVI. - The Trough of the Sea 194
XXVII. - Out of the Frying-Pan 207
XXVIII. - "Oh, where is my Love?" 215
XXIX. - Release. - Narcisse 224
XXX. - Lighting Ship 233
XXXI. - At Last 243
XXXII. - A Rising Star 248
XXXIII. - Bees, Wasps, and Butterflies 258
XXXIV. - Toward the Zenith 262
XXXV. - To Sigh, yet Feel no Pain 268
XXXVI. - What Name? 275
XXXVII. - Pestilence 280
XXXVIII. - "I must be Cruel only to be Kind" 286
XXXIX. - "Pettent Prate" 294
XL. - Sweet Bells Jangled 300
XLI. - Mirage 310
XLII. - Ristofalo and the Rector 317
XLIII. - Shall she Come or Stay? 324
XLIV. - What would you Do? 329
XLV. - Narcisse with News 335
XLVI. - A Prison Memento 340
XLVII. - Now I Lay Me - 345
XLVIII. - Rise up, my Love, my Fair One! 351
XLIX. - A Bundle of Hopes 357
L. - Fall In! 366
LI. - Blue Bonnets over the Border 372
LII. - A Pass through the Lines 378
LIII. - Try Again 384
LIV. - "Who Goes There?" 394
LV. - Dixie 412
LVI. - Fire and Sword 425
LVII. - Almost in Sight 435
LVIII. - A Golden Sunset 445
LIX. - Afterglow 454
LX. - "Yet shall he live" 465
LXI. - Peace 470




DR. SEVIER.


CHAPTER I.

THE DOCTOR.


The main road to wealth in New Orleans has long been Carondelet
street. There you see the most alert faces; noses - it seems to
one - with more and sharper edge, and eyes smaller and brighter
and with less distance between them than one notices in other
streets. It is there that the stock and bond brokers hurry to and
fro and run together promiscuously - the cunning and the simple,
the headlong and the wary - at the four clanging strokes of the
Stock Exchange gong. There rises the tall façade of the Cotton
Exchange. Looking in from the sidewalk as you pass, you see its
main hall, thronged but decorous, the quiet engine-room of the
surrounding city's most far-reaching occupation, and at the hall's
farther end you descry the "Future Room," and hear the unearthly
ramping and bellowing of the bulls and bears. Up and down the
street, on either hand, are the ship-brokers and insurers, and in
the upper stories foreign consuls among a multitude of lawyers and
notaries.

In 1856 this street was just assuming its present character. The cotton
merchants were making it their favorite place of commercial domicile.
The open thoroughfare served in lieu of the present exchanges; men made
fortunes standing on the curb-stone, and during bank hours the sidewalks
were perpetually crowded with cotton factors, buyers, brokers, weighers,
reweighers, classers, pickers, pressers, and samplers, and the air was
laden with cotton quotations and prognostications.

Number 3-1/2, second floor, front, was the office of Dr. Sevier. This
office was convenient to everything. Immediately under its windows lay
the sidewalks where congregated the men who, of all in New Orleans,
could best afford to pay for being sick, and least desired to die. Canal
street, the city's leading artery, was just below, at the near left-hand
corner. Beyond it lay the older town, not yet impoverished in those
days, - the French quarter. A single square and a half off at the right,
and in plain view from the front windows, shone the dazzling white walls
of the St. Charles Hotel, where the nabobs of the river plantations
came and dwelt with their fair-handed wives in seasons of peculiar
anticipation, when it is well to be near the highest medical skill. In
the opposite direction a three minutes' quick drive around the upper
corner and down Common street carried the Doctor to his ward in the
great Charity Hospital, and to the school of medicine, where he filled
the chair set apart to the holy ailments of maternity. Thus, as it were,
he laid his left hand on the rich and his right on the poor; and he was
not left-handed.

Not that his usual attitude was one of benediction. He stood straight up
in his austere pure-mindedness, tall, slender, pale, sharp of voice,
keen of glance, stern in judgment, aggressive in debate, and fixedly
untender everywhere, except - but always except - in the sick chamber.
His inner heart was all of flesh; but his demands for the rectitude of
mankind pointed out like the muzzles of cannon through the embrasures of
his virtues. To demolish evil! - that seemed the finest of aims; and even
as a physician, that was, most likely, his motive until later years and
a better self-knowledge had taught him that to do good was still finer
and better. He waged war - against malady. To fight; to stifle; to cut
down; to uproot; to overwhelm; - these were his springs of action. That
their results were good proved that his sentiment of benevolence was
strong and high; but it was well-nigh shut out of sight by that
impatience of evil which is very fine and knightly in youngest manhood,
but which we like to see give way to kindlier moods as the earlier heat
of the blood begins to pass.

He changed in later years; this was in 1856. To "resist not evil" seemed
to him then only a rather feeble sort of knavery. To face it in its
nakedness, and to inveigh against it in high places and low, seemed the
consummation of all manliness; and manliness was the key-note of his
creed. There was no other necessity in this life.

"But a man must live," said one of his kindred, to whom, truth to tell,
he had refused assistance.

"No, sir; that is just what he can't do. A man must die! So, while he
lives, let him be a man!"

How inharmonious a setting, then, for Dr. Sevier, was 3-1/2 Carondelet
street! As he drove, each morning, down to that point, he had to pass
through long, irregular files of fellow-beings thronging either
sidewalk, - a sadly unchivalric grouping of men whose daily and yearly
life was subordinated only and entirely to the getting of wealth, and
whose every eager motion was a repetition of the sinister old maxim that
"Time is money."

"It's a great deal more, sir; it's life!" the Doctor always retorted.

Among these groups, moreover, were many who were all too well famed
for illegitimate fortune. Many occupations connected with the handling
of cotton yielded big harvests in perquisites. At every jog of the
Doctor's horse, men came to view whose riches were the outcome of
semi-respectable larceny. It was a day of reckless operation; much of
the commerce that came to New Orleans was simply, as one might say,
beached in Carondelet street. The sight used to keep the long, thin,
keen-eyed doctor in perpetual indignation.

"Look at the wreckers!" he would say.

It was breakfast at eight, indignation at nine, dyspepsia at ten.

So his setting was not merely inharmonious; it was damaging. He grew
sore on the whole matter of money-getting.

"Yes, I have money. But I don't go after it. It comes to me, because I
seek and render service for the service's sake. It will come to anybody
else the same way; and why should it come any other way?"

He not only had a low regard for the motives of most seekers of wealth;
he went further, and fell into much disbelief of poor men's needs. For
instance, he looked upon a man's inability to find employment, or upon
a poor fellow's run of bad luck, as upon the placarded woes of a
hurdy-gurdy beggar.

"If he wants work he will find it. As for begging, it ought to be easier
for any true man to starve than to beg."

The sentiment was ungentle, but it came from the bottom of his belief
concerning himself, and a longing for moral greatness in all men.

"However," he would add, thrusting his hand into his pocket and bringing
out his purse, "I'll help any man to make himself useful. And the
sick - well, the sick, as a matter of course. Only I must know what I'm
doing."

Have some of us known Want? To have known her - though to love her
was impossible - is "a liberal education." The Doctor was learned;
but this acquaintanceship, this education, he had never got. Hence his
untenderness. Shall we condemn the fault? Yes. And the man? We have not
the face. To be _just_, which he never knowingly failed to be, and at
the same time to feel tenderly for the unworthy, to deal kindly with the
erring, - it is a double grace that hangs not always in easy reach even
of the tallest. The Doctor attained to it - but in later years; meantime,
this story - which, I believe, had he ever been poor would never have
been written.




CHAPTER II.

A YOUNG STRANGER.


In 1856 New Orleans was in the midst of the darkest ten years of her
history. Yet she was full of new-comers from all parts of the commercial
world, - strangers seeking livelihood. The ravages of cholera and
yellow-fever, far from keeping them away, seemed actually to draw them.
In the three years 1853, '54, and '55, the cemeteries had received over
thirty-five thousand dead; yet here, in 1856, besides shiploads of
European immigrants, came hundreds of unacclimated youths, from all
parts of the United States, to fill the wide gaps which they imagined
had been made in the ranks of the great exporting city's clerking force.

Upon these pilgrims Dr. Sevier cast an eye full of interest, and often
of compassion hidden under outward impatience. "Who wants to see," he
would demand, "men - _and women_ - increasing the risks of this uncertain
life?" But he was also full of respect for them. There was a certain
nobility rightly attributable to emigration itself in the abstract.
It was the cutting loose from friends and aid, - those sweet-named
temptations, - and the going forth into self-appointed exile and into
dangers known and unknown, trusting to the help of one's own right hand
to exchange honest toil for honest bread and raiment. His eyes kindled
to see the goodly, broad, red-cheeked fellows. Sometimes, though, he
saw women, and sometimes tender women, by their side; and that sight
touched the pathetic chord of his heart with a rude twangle that vexed
him.

It was on a certain bright, cool morning early in October that, as he
drove down Carondelet street toward his office, and one of those little
white omnibuses of the old Apollo-street line, crowding in before his
carriage, had compelled his driver to draw close in by the curb-stone
and slacken speed to a walk, his attention chanced to fall upon a young
man of attractive appearance, glancing stranger-wise and eagerly at
signs and entrances while he moved down the street. Twice, in the moment
of the Doctor's enforced delay, he noticed the young stranger make
inquiry of the street's more accustomed frequenters, and that in each
case he was directed farther on. But, the way opened, the Doctor's horse
switched his tail and was off, the stranger was left behind, and the
next moment the Doctor stepped across the sidewalk and went up the
stairs of Number 3-1/2 to his office. Something told him - we are apt to
fall into thought on a stair-way - that the stranger was looking for a
physician.

He had barely disposed of the three or four waiting messengers that
arose from their chairs against the corridor wall, and was still reading
the anxious lines left in various handwritings on his slate, when the
young man entered. He was of fair height, slenderly built, with soft
auburn hair, a little untrimmed, neat dress, and a diffident, yet
expectant and courageous, face.

"Dr. Sevier?"

"Yes, sir."

"Doctor, my wife is very ill; can I get you to come at once and see
her?"

"Who is her physician?"

"I have not called any; but we must have one now."

"I don't know about going at once. This is my hour for being in the
office. How far is it, and what's the trouble?"

"We are only three squares away, just here in Custom-house street."
The speaker began to add a faltering enumeration of some very grave
symptoms. The Doctor noticed that he was slightly deaf; he uttered his
words as though he did not hear them.

"Yes," interrupted Dr. Sevier, speaking half to himself as he turned
around to a standing case of cruel-looking silver-plated things on
shelves; "that's a small part of the penalty women pay for the doubtful
honor of being our mothers. I'll go. What is your number? But you had
better drive back with me if you can." He drew back from the glass case,
shut the door, and took his hat.

"Narcisse!"

On the side of the office nearest the corridor a door let into a
hall-room that afforded merely good space for the furniture needed by a
single accountant. The Doctor had other interests besides those of his
profession, and, taking them altogether, found it necessary, or at least
convenient, to employ continuously the services of a person to keep his
accounts and collect his bills. Through the open door the book-keeper
could be seen sitting on a high stool at a still higher desk, - a young
man of handsome profile and well-knit form. At the call of his name he
unwound his legs from the rounds of the stool and leaped into the
Doctor's presence with a superlatively high-bred bow.

"I shall be back in fifteen minutes," said the Doctor. "Come,
Mr. - - ," and went out with the stranger.

Narcisse had intended to speak. He stood a moment, then lifted the
last half inch of a cigarette to his lips, took a long, meditative
inhalation, turned half round on his heel, dashed the remnant with
fierce emphasis into a spittoon, ejected two long streams of smoke from
his nostrils, and extending his fist toward the door by which the Doctor
had gone out, said: -

"All right, ole hoss!" No, not that way. It is hard to give his
pronunciation by letter. In the word "right" he substituted an a for the
r, sounding it almost in the same instant with the i, yet distinct from
it: "All a-ight, ole hoss!"

Then he walked slowly back to his desk, with that feeling of relief
which some men find in the renewal of a promissory note, twined his legs
again among those of the stool, and, adding not a word, resumed his pen.

The Doctor's carriage was hurrying across Canal street.

"Dr. Sevier," said the physician's companion, "I don't know what your
charges are" -

"The highest," said the Doctor, whose dyspepsia was gnawing him just
then with fine energy. The curt reply struck fire upon the young man.

"I don't propose to drive a bargain, Dr. Sevier!" He flushed angrily
after he had spoken, breathed with compressed lips, and winked savagely,
with the sort of indignation that school-boys show to a harsh master.

The physician answered with better self-control.

"What do you propose?"

"I was going to propose - being a stranger to you, sir - to pay in
advance." The announcement was made with a tremulous, but triumphant,
_hauteur_, as though it must cover the physician with mortification. The
speaker stretched out a rather long leg, and, drawing a pocket-book,
produced a twenty-dollar piece.

The Doctor looked full in his face with impatient surprise, then turned
his eyes away again as if he restrained himself, and said, in a subdued
tone: -

"I would rather you had haggled about the price."

"I don't hear" - said the other, turning his ear.

The Doctor waved his hand: -

"Put that up, if you please."

The young stranger was disconcerted. He remained silent for a moment,
wearing a look of impatient embarrassment. He still extended the piece,
turning it over and over with his thumb-nail as it lay on his fingers.

"You don't know me, Doctor," he said. He got another cruel answer.

"We're getting acquainted," replied the physician.

The victim of the sarcasm bit his lip, and protested, by an unconscious,
sidewise jerk of the chin: -

"I wish you'd" - and he turned the coin again.

The physician dropped an eagle's stare on the gold.

"I don't practise medicine on those principles."

"But, Doctor," insisted the other, appeasingly, "you can make an
exception if you will. Reasons are better than rules, my old professor
used to say. I am here without friends, or letters, or credentials of
any sort; this is the only recommendation I can offer."

"Don't recommend you at all; anybody can do that."

The stranger breathed a sigh of overtasked patience, smiled with a
baffled air, seemed once or twice about to speak, but doubtful what to
say, and let his hand sink.

"Well, Doctor," - he rested his elbow on his knee, gave the piece one
more turn over, and tried to draw the physician's eye by a look of
boyish pleasantness, - "I'll not ask you to take pay in advance, but I
will ask you to take care of this money for me. Suppose I should lose
it, or have it stolen from me, or - Doctor, it would be a real comfort to
me if you would."

"I can't help that. I shall treat your wife, and then send in my bill."
The Doctor folded arms and appeared to give attention to his driver.
But at the same time he asked: -

"Not subject to epilepsy, eh?"

"No, sir!" The indignant shortness of the retort drew no sign of
attention from the Doctor; he was silently asking himself what this
nonsense meant. Was it drink, or gambling, or a confidence game? Or
was it only vanity, or a mistake of inexperience? He turned his head
unexpectedly, and gave the stranger's facial lines a quick, thorough
examination. It startled them from a look of troubled meditation. The
physician as quickly turned away again.

"Doctor," began the other, but added no more.

The physician was silent. He turned the matter over once more in his
mind. The proposal was absurdly unbusiness-like. That his part in it
might look ungenerous was nothing; so his actions were right, he rather
liked them to bear a hideous aspect: that was his war-paint. There was
that in the stranger's attitude that agreed fairly with his own theories
of living. A fear of debt, for instance, if that was genuine it was
good; and, beyond and better than that, a fear of money. He began to be
more favorably impressed.

"Give it to me," he said, frowning; "mark you, this is your way," - he
dropped the gold into his vest-pocket, - "it isn't mine."

The young man laughed with visible relief, and rubbed his knee with his
somewhat too delicate hand. The Doctor examined him again with a milder
glance.

"I suppose you think you've got the principles of life all right, don't
you?"

"Yes, I do," replied the other, taking his turn at folding arms.

"H-m-m! I dare say you do. What you lack is the practice." The Doctor
sealed his utterance with a nod.

The young man showed amusement; more, it may be, than he felt, and
presently pointed out his lodging-place.

"Here, on this side; Number 40;" and they alighted.




CHAPTER III.

HIS WIFE.


In former times the presence in New Orleans, during the cooler half of
the year, of large numbers of mercantile men from all parts of the
world, who did not accept the fever-plagued city as their permanent
residence, made much business for the renters of furnished apartments.
At the same time there was a class of persons whose residence was
permanent, and to whom this letting of rooms fell by an easy and natural
gravitation; and the most respectable and comfortable rented rooms of
which the city could boast were those _chambres garnies_ in Custom-house
and Bienville streets, kept by worthy free or freed mulatto or quadroon
women.

In 1856 the gala days of this half-caste people were quite over.
Difference was made between virtue and vice, and the famous quadroon
balls were shunned by those who aspired to respectability, whether their
whiteness was nature or only toilet powder. Generations of domestic
service under ladies of Gallic blood had brought many of them to a
supreme pitch of excellence as housekeepers. In many cases money had
been inherited; in other cases it had been saved up. That Latin feminine
ability to hold an awkward position with impregnable serenity, and, like
the yellow Mississippi, to give back no reflection from the overhanging
sky, emphasized this superior fitness. That bright, womanly business
ability that comes of the same blood added again to their excellence.
Not to be home itself, nothing could be more like it than were the
apartments let by Madame Cécile, or Madame Sophie, or Madame Athalie,
or Madame Polyxène, or whatever the name might be.

It was in one of these houses, that presented its dull brick front
directly upon the sidewalk of Custom-house street, with the unfailing
little square sign of _Chambres à louer_ (Rooms to let), dangling by a
string from the overhanging balcony and twirling in the breeze, that
the sick wife lay. A waiting slave-girl opened the door as the two men
approached it, and both of them went directly upstairs and into a large,
airy room. On a high, finely carved, and heavily hung mahogany bed,
to which the remaining furniture corresponded in ancient style and
massiveness, was stretched the form of a pale, sweet-faced little woman.

The proprietress of the house was sitting beside the bed, - a quadroon of
good, kind face, forty-five years old or so, tall and broad. She rose
and responded to the Doctor's silent bow with that pretty dignity of
greeting which goes with all French blood, and remained standing. The
invalid stirred.

The physician came forward to the bedside. The patient could not have
been much over nineteen years of age. Her face was very pleasing; a
trifle slender in outline; the brows somewhat square, not wide; the
mouth small. She would not have been called beautiful, even in health,
by those who lay stress on correctness of outlines. But she had one
thing that to some is better. Whether it was in the dark blue eyes that
were lifted to the Doctor's with a look which changed rapidly from



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