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STORIES AND SKETCHES ***




Produced by Chris Whitehead, Chris Curnow and the Online
Distributed Proofreading Team at http://www.pgdp.net (This
file was produced from images generously made available
by The Internet Archive)









STORIES AND SKETCHES.




STORIES AND SKETCHES

BY

OUR BEST AUTHORS.




[Illustration]




BOSTON:
LEE AND SHEPARD.
1867.




Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1867, by
LEE & SHEPARD,
In the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the District of
Massachusetts.




CONTENTS.


PAGE

THE SKELETON AT THE BANQUET. _Seeley Regester._ 9

LET THOSE LAUGH WHO WIN. _Samuel W. Tuttle._ 37

THE PROPER USE OF GRANDFATHERS. _Fitz Hugh Ludlow._ 61

AT EVE. _Gertrude Brodé._ 77

BROKEN IDOLS. _Richmond Wolcott._ 93

DR. HUGER'S INTENTIONS. _Louise Chandler Moulton._ 105

THE MAN WHOSE LIFE WAS SAVED. * * * * *. 121

THE ROMANCE OF A WESTERN TRIP. _J. L. Lord._ 157

THE TWO GHOSTS OF NEW LONDON TURNPIKE. _Mrs. Galpin._ 185

DOWN BY THE SEA. _Hattie Tyng Griswold._ 229

WHY MRS. RADNOR FAINTED. * * * * *. 249

UNDER A CLOUD. _William Wirt Sikes._ 265

COMING FROM THE FRONT. _Richmond Wolcott._ 281

A NIGHT IN THE SEWERS. _Chas. Dawson Shanly._ 293




THE SKELETON AT THE BANQUET.

[Illustration]


Dr. Graham sat in his office, his book closed on his knee, and his
eyes fixed upon the street. There was nothing of interest to be seen.
A light snow was falling, making the pavement dreary; but it was
Christmas, and his thoughts had gone back to other days, as people's
thoughts will go on anniversary occasions. He was thinking of the
young wife he had buried three years and three months ago; of the
great fireplace in his boyhood's home, and his mother's face lit up
by the glow; of many things past which were pleasant; and reflecting
sadly upon the fact that life grew duller, more commonplace, as one
grew older. Not that he was an elderly man, - he was, in reality,
but twenty-eight; yet, upon that Christmas day, he felt old, very
old; his wife dead, his practice slender, his prospects far from
promising, - even the slow-moving days daily grew heavier, soberer,
more serious. It was a holiday, but he had not even an invitation for
dinner, where the happiness of friends and the free flow of thought
might lend a momentary sparkle to his own stale spirits.

The doctor was not of a melancholy, despondent nature, nor did he rely
for his pleasures upon others. He was a self-made man, and self-reliant
to an unusual degree, as self-made men are apt to be. His tussle with
circumstances had awakened in him a combative and resistant energy,
which had served him well when means were scant and the rewards of
merit few. But there is something in the festal character of Christmas
which, by luring from the shadows of our struggle-life the boy nature
of us, makes homeless men feel solitary; and, from being forlorn,
the mood soon grows to one of painful unrest; all from beholding
happiness from which we are shut out. On this gray afternoon not
the most fascinating speculations of De Boismont and the hospital
lectures, - not the consciousness of the originality and importance of
his own discoveries in the field of Sensation and Nerve Force, - had any
interest for Dr. Graham.

That he had talent and a good address; that he studied and experimented
many hours every day; that he as thoroughly understood his profession
as was consistent with a six years' actual experience as an actual
practitioner; that there was nothing of the quack or pretender in
him; - all this did not prevent his rent from being high, his patients
few, and his means limited. With no influential friends to recommend
and introduce him, he had resolutely rented a room in a genteel
locality up town, had dressed well, and had worn the "air" of a man
of business, ever ready for duty; but success had not attended upon
his efforts, and the future gave no promise of a change. Of this he
was thinking, somewhat bitterly; for what proud soul is not stung with
unmerited neglect? Then a deep sadness stole over him at thoughts
of the loss which had come upon his early manhood, - a loss like
which there is none other so abiding in strong, wise hearts. A cloud
seemed to be sifting down and closing around him, which, with unusual
passivity, he seemed unable or unwilling to shake off. A carriage
obstructed his view, by passing in front of his window. It stopped;
then the footman descended, opened the carriage-door, and turned to
the office-bell. He was followed by his master, who awaited the answer
to the bell, and was ushered into the practitioner's presence by the
single waiting-servant of his modest establishment. The doctor arose
to receive his guest, who was a man still younger than himself, with
something of a foreign air, and dressed with a quiet richness in
keeping with his evident wealth and position.

"Dr. Graham?"

The doctor bowed assent.

"If you are not otherwise engaged, I would like you to go home with me,
to see my sister, who is not well. There is no great haste about the
matter, but if you can go now, I shall be glad to take you with me. It
will save you a walk through the snow."

"He knows," thought the doctor, "that I do not drive a carriage;" and
that a stranger, of such ability to hire the most noted practitioners,
should call upon him, was a source of unexpressed surprise and
suspicion.

"What do you think is the matter with your sister?" he unconcernedly
asked, taking his overcoat from the wardrobe.

"That is for you to decide. It is a case of no ordinary character - one
which will require study." He led the way at once to the door, as if
unwilling to delay, notwithstanding he had at first stated that no
haste was necessary. "Step in, doctor, and I will give you an inkling
of the case during the drive, which will occupy some fifteen or twenty
minutes."

"In the first place," continued the stranger, as they rolled away,
"I will introduce myself to you as St. Victor Marchand, at present
a resident of your city, but recently from the island of Madeira.
My house is upon the Fifth Avenue, not far from Madison Square. My
household consists only of myself and sister, with our servants. I have
the means to remunerate you amply for any demands we may make upon your
time or skill; and I ought to add, one reason for selecting so young
a physician is, that I think you will be the more able and willing to
devote more time to the case than more famous practitioners. However,
you are not unknown to me. I have heard you well-spoken of; and I
remember that, when you were a student in Paris, you were mentioned
with honor by the college, for an able paper read before the open
section upon the very subject to which I now propose to direct your
attention, - mental disease," he added, after a moment's hesitation.

"A case of insanity?" bluntly asked the doctor.

"Heaven forbid! And yet I must not conceal from you that I fear it."

"Give me some of the symptoms. Insanity in strong development, or
aberration of faculties, or hallucination?"

"I cannot reply. It is one and all, it seems to me. The fact is,
doctor, I wish to introduce you to your patient simply as a friend of
mine, so as to give you an opportunity for studying my sister's case,
unembarrassed by any suspicion on her part. To excite her suspicions is
to frustrate all hopes of doing anything for or with her. Can you - will
you - do me the favor to dine with me this evening? It is now only about
an hour to six, and if you have no other engagement, I will do my best
to entertain you, and you can then meet my sister as her brother's
guest. Shall it be so?"

The young man's tones were almost beseeching, and his manner betrayed
the most intense solicitude. Quite ready to accede to the request,
from curiosity as well as from a desire to reässure the young man, Dr.
Graham did not hesitate to say, "Willingly, sir, if it will assist in a
professional knowledge of the object of my call."

The change from the office to the home into which the physician was
introduced was indeed grateful to the doctor's feelings. The light,
warmth, and splendor of the rooms gave to the home an air of tropical
sensuousness; and yet an exquisite taste seemed to preside over
all. Though not unfamiliar with elegance, this home of the brother
and sister wore, to the visitor, an enchanted look, as well from the
foreign character of many of its adornments and the rare richness of
its works of art, as from the gay, friendly, enthusiastic manner of his
entertainer, - a manner never attained by English or Americans. Sending
word to Miss Marchand that there would be a guest to dinner, St. Victor
fell into a sparkling conversation, discoursing most intelligibly
of Paris, Madeira, the East Indies, and South America, taking his
guest from room to room to show this or that curious specimen of the
productions or handicraft of each country. As the articles exhibited
were rare, and many of them of scientific value, and as the young man's
knowledge kept pace with his eloquence of discourse, Dr. Graham was
agreeably absorbed.

An hour passed rapidly. Then the steward announced dinner; but it
was not until they were about seating themselves at table that _the
patient_ made her appearance. It was now twilight out of doors. The
curtains were drawn and the dining-room lit only by wax tapers, under
whose soft radiance bloomed an abundance of flowers, mostly of exotic
beauty and fragrance. It was evident that the young master of the house
brought with him his early tastes.

"We have an extra allowance of light and flowers, and a little feast,
too, I believe; for neither myself nor my English steward here forget
that this is Christmas. Don't you think it a beautiful holiday? My
mother always kept it with plenty of wax candles and flowers."

"It is a sacred day to me," answered the doctor, sadly, thinking of
his lost wife and of the three times they had kept it together, with
feasting and love's delights.

At this moment Miss Marchand floated into the room and to her place
at the head of the table, - a girlish creature, who gave their guest a
smile when the brother said, -

"Dr. Graham is not entirely a stranger, Edith; he was in Paris when we
were there. You were a child, then. I was indeed glad to meet him in
this strange city, and I mean that we shall be friends upon a visiting
footing, if he will permit it."

It was but natural for the physician to fix a piercing look upon the
face of her whom he had been given to understand was to be his patient,
and whose disease was of a character to command his best skill. His
physician's eye detected no outward tokens of ill health, either of
body or of mind. A serene brow, sweet, steady, loving eyes, cheeks rosy
and full with maiden health, a slender though not thin figure, all
were there before him, giving no indication even of the "nervousness"
assumed to be so common with young ladies of this generation. Exquisite
beauty, allied with perfect health, seemed to "blush and bloom" all
over her; and the medical man would have chosen her, with professional
enthusiasm, as his ideal of what a young woman _ought_ to be. Her
pink-silk robe adapted itself to her soft form as naturally as the
petals of a rose to its curving sweetness. Only to look upon her
gladdened the sad heart of Dr. Graham, the wifeless and childless. He
felt younger than he had felt for years, as thirsty grass feels under
the influence of a June sun after a morning of showers. His spirits
rose, and he talked well, even wittily, - betraying not only his varied
learning as a student and his keen powers of observation as a man of
the world, but also the gentleness and grace which, in his more active,
worldly life, were too much put aside. It was a little festival, in
which the dainty dishes, the fruit, and wine played but a subordinate
part.

Nothing could be more apparent than the pride and affection with which
Mr. Marchand regarded his sister. Was there, indeed, a skeleton at this
feast? The doctor shuddered as he asked himself the question. All his
faculties were on the alert to deny and disprove the possibility of
the presence of the hideous visitor. His sympathies were too keenly
enlisted to be willing to acknowledge its existence even in the
background of that day or the days to come to that household. Yet,
ever and anon, in the midst of their joyousness, a strange look would
leap from the quick, dark eyes of St. Victor, as he fixed them upon
his sister's face, and an expression would flit across his own face
inscrutable to the watchful physician. With a slight motion of his hand
or head he would arrest and direct the doctor's attention, who would
then perceive Miss Marchand's luminous glance changing into a look
expressive of anxiety and terror, the glow of her cheeks fading into
a pallor like that of one in a swoon. But, strange! an instant would
change it all. The pallor, lingering but a moment, would melt away as a
mist before the sun, and the roses would come back to the cheeks again
in all their rosiness. The host would divert his companion's startled
attention by gracefully pressing the viands upon his notice, or by some
brilliant sally, so scintillating with wit or droll wisdom, as to have
brought the smile to an anchorite's eyes.

"I pray you watch her! Did you not notice that slight incoherency?" he
remarked, in a whisper, leaning over toward the doctor.

The doctor had noticed nothing but the playful badinage of a happy girl.

"I am afraid her loveliness blinds my judgment. I _must_ see what there
is in all this," he answered to himself, deprecatingly.

They sat long at table. Not that any one ate to excess, though
the pompous English steward served up one delicious dish after
another, including the time-honored Christmas feast requisite, - the
plum-pudding, - which was tasted and approved, not to wound the Briton's
national and professional vanity, but sent off, but slightly shorn of
its proportions, to grace the servants' table.

The guest noticed that St. Victor partook very sparingly of food,
although he fully enjoyed the occasion. Save tasting of the wild game
and its condiment of real Calcutta currie, he ate nothing of the
leading dishes or _entrées_. Neither did he drink much wine, whose
quality was of the rarest, being of his own stock drawn from his
father's rich store in his Madeira cellar. Of the luscious grapes and
oranges which formed a leading feature of the dessert, he partook more
freely, as if they cooled his tongue. That there was fever, and nervous
excitement, in the young man's frame, was evident. Indeed, to the
doctor's observant eye, the brother appeared more delicate, and of a
temperament more highly nervous than his sister.

The frankness, the almost childish confidence and open-heartedness
of the young people formed one of their greatest attractions to the
usually reticent, thoughtful physician. He felt his own impulses
expanding under the warmth of their sunny natures until the very
romance of his boyhood stirred again, and sprouted through the mould
in which it lay dormant. There was nothing in their past history or
present prospects which, seemingly, they cared to conceal, so that he
had become possessed of a pretty fair history of their lives before
the last course came upon the board. Both were born in the island of
Madeira. St. Victor was twenty-four, Edith nineteen, years of age.
Their mother was the daughter of an American merchant, long resident
on the island; their father was a French gentleman of fortune, who
had retired to the island for his health, had loved and won the fair
American girl, and lived with her a life of almost visionary beauty
and happiness. Their father had joined their grandfather in some of
his mercantile ventures; hence those voyages to the Indies, to South
America, to the Mediterranean in which the children were participants.
They also had spent a couple of years in France, cultivating the
acquaintance of their relatives there, and adding some finishing
touches to St. Victor's education, which, having been conducted under
his father's eye by accomplished tutors, was unusually thorough and
varied for one so young. This fact the doctor surmised during the
progress of the banquet, though he did not ascertain the full extent
of the young man's accomplishments until a future day. Nor was Edith's
education overlooked. She was in a remarkable degree fitted to be the
companion and confidante of her brother, - sympathizing in his tastes,
reading his books, enjoying his pastimes, and sharing his ambitions
to their utmost. It was a beautiful blending of natures, - such as the
world too rarely beholds, - such as our received "systems" of education
and association _cannot_ produce.

Their grandfather had been dead for several years; their father
for three, their mother for two. "She faded rapidly after father's
death, - drooped like a frost-blighted flower," said St. Victor. "They
had been too happy in this world to remain long apart in the next."

"You now see, doctor," the narrator of these family reminiscences at
length said, "why Edith and myself are so unlike. My sister is her
mother over again, fair and bright, like your New York ladies, - among
the most beautiful women, in many respects, I have ever seen. I am
dark and thin, - a very Frenchman in tastes, temperament, and habits."

He toyed a few moments with an orange; then, again leaning toward the
physician, he said, in that sharp whisper which once before during the
evening he had made use of, -

"I will tell you all, doctor. My father died insane. We afterwards
learned that it was one of the inheritances of his haughty and wealthy
family. The peace and delight which he had with his wife and children
long delayed the terrible legacy; but it fell due at last. He died a
maniac, - a raving maniac. _She_ does not know it. It killed her mother.
Imagine, doctor, _imagine_, if you can, how I watch over her! how I
pity! how I dread! O God! to think that I must detect those symptoms,
as I have done during the last six months. I have seen the virus in
her eyes to-night. I have not breathed a word to her of my knowledge
and convictions; but I am as certain of it as that she sits there.
Look at her now, doctor, - _now_!" - with a stealthy side-glance at the
beautiful girl who, at the moment, was smiling absently over a flower
which she had taken from its vase, - smiling only as girls can, - as if
it interpreted something deeper than a passing thought.

It is impossible to describe the strain of agony in the young man's
voice; his sudden pallor; the sweat starting from his forehead; or to
describe the piercing power of his eye, as he turned it from the face
of his sister to that of his guest. Accustomed as he was to every form
of suffering, Dr. Graham shrank from the appeal in that searching look,
which mutely asked him if there were any hope.

The clear whisper in which St. Victor had spoken aroused Edith from her
revery; she darted a glance at both parties, so full of suspicion and
dread, so in contrast with her natural sunny expression, that it was as
if her face had suddenly withered, from that of a child, to the thin
features of the careworn woman of fifty. She half rose in her chair,
faltered, sank back, and sat gazing fixedly at the two men; yet silent
as a statue.

St. Victor was the first to recover himself. He burst into a light
laugh, - sweet as a shower of flowers, - and, taking up a slender-necked
decanter of pale wine, passed it to his guest, remarking, -

"We are forgetting that this is Christmas night. Fill your glass,
my friend, with _this_ wine, - the oldest and rarest of our precious
store, - and I will fill mine. Then, we will both drink joyously to the
health of my only darling - my one beloved - my sister."

He said this so prettily, poured out the wine with such arch pleasantry
of gesture, that the color came back to Edith's cheeks; and when the
two men bowed to her, before drinking, she gave them a smile, steeped
in melancholy, but very sweet, and brimming with affection. It thrilled
Dr. Graham's veins more warmly than the priceless wine.

"After our mother's death," continued St. Victor, in his natural
voice, "we found ourselves quite alone. We had formed no great
attachment to our relatives in France; and, as one branch of our
father's business remained still unsettled in this country, we resolved
to come hither. Then, too, we had a longing to behold the land which
was our mother's. When we had arranged and closed up our affairs in
Madeira, we sailed for France, where we spent one winter only. I
thought" - with a tender glance at his sister - "that a sea voyage would
do Edith good. I was not satisfied about her health; so I drew her
away from Paris, and, last spring, we fulfilled our promise to see our
mother's land, and came hither. I am afraid the climate here does not
agree with her. Do you think she looks well?"

The girl moved uneasily, casting a beseeching look at the speaker.

"It is not I who am not strong," she said; "it is you, St. Victor. If
your friend is a doctor, I wish he would give a little examination
into the state of your health. You are thin and nervous; you have no
appetite, - while he can see, at a glance, that nothing in the world
ails _me_."

Again her brother laughed; not gayly as before, but with a peculiar and
subtle significance; while he gave the doctor another swift glance,
saying to him in a low voice, -

"I have heard that persons threatened with certain mental afflictions
never suspect their own danger."

Dr. Graham did not know if the young lady overheard this remark; he
glanced toward her, but her eyes again were upon the flowers, which she
was pulling to pieces. He perceived that her lips trembled; but she
still smiled, scattering the crimson leaves over the white clothes.

At this period of his novel visit, - just then and there, when St.
Victor laughed that subtle laugh and his sister vacantly destroyed the
red flower, - a conviction rushed into the physician's mind, or rather,
we may say, pierced it through like a ray of light in a darkened room.

Instantly all was clear to him. From that moment he was cool and
watchful, but so pained with this sudden knowledge of the true state of
the case that he wished himself well out of that splendid house, back
in his own dreary office. He wished himself away, because he already
loved these young people, and his sympathy with them was too keen to
allow him further to enjoy himself; yet, in all his medical experience,
he had never been so interested with a professional interest. As a
physician, he felt a keen pleasure; as a friend, a keen pain. His
faculties each sprang to its post, awaiting the next development of the
scene.

While Mr. Marchand was giving some order to his steward, the beautiful
girl at his other hand leaned toward him, and also whispered
confidentially in his ear: "Dr. Graham, if you really are my brother's
friend, I pray you watch him closely, and tell me at some future time
if you have any fears - any suspicions of - Oh, I implore you, sir, do
not deceive me!"

Her eyes were filled with tears, her voice choked.

The thing was absurd. Its ludicrous aspect struck the listener,
almost forcing him to laugh; while the tears, at the same time, arose
responsive in his own eyes.

A clock on the mantel chimed nine. The steward placed on the board the
last delicacies of the feast, - Neapolitan creams and orange-water ice.

"Edith chooses luscious things like creams," remarked her brother.
"Which will you have, doctor? As for me, I prefer ices; they cool my
warm blood, which is fierce like tropic air. Ah, this is delicious! I
am feverish, I believe; and the scent of the orange brings back visions
of our dear island home."

He paused, as if his mind were again on the vine-clad hills of the
"blessed isle." Then he spoke, suddenly, -

"Edith, have some of this?"

She smiled, shaking her head.

"But you _must_. I insist. You need it. Don't you agree with me,
doctor, that it is just what she requires?"

He spoke in a rising key, with a rapid accent. Edith reached forth her
hand, and took the little dish of orange ice. It shook like a lily in


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