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Full Online Book HomeLong Stories"doc." Gordon - Chapter 14
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"doc." Gordon - Chapter 14 Post by :Justrimit Category :Long Stories Author :Mary E Wilkins Freeman Date :May 2012 Read :2084

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"doc." Gordon - Chapter 14

CHAPTER XIV

The confidence which Gordon had reposed in James seemed for a time to
have given him a measure of relief. While he never for an instant
appeared like his old self, while the games of euchre at Georgie K.'s
were not resumed, nor the boyish enjoyment of things, which James now
recognized to have been simply feverish attempts to live through the
horrible ordeal of his life and keep his sanity, while he had now
settled down into a state of austere gloom, yet he begun again to attend
to his practice and to take interest in it. Clemency remained away for a
week. Then Gordon brought her home. She was at the dinner-table that
night when James returned rather late from a call on a far-off patient.
She simply said, "Good evening! Doctor Elliot," as if he had been the
merest acquaintance, and went on to serve his soup. James gave her a
bewildered, half-grieved, half-angered look, which she seemed not to
notice. Immediately after dinner she went to her own room. James,
smoking with Gordon in the office, heard her go upstairs. Gordon nodded
at James through the cloud of smoke.

"She has taken a notion, my son," he said. "She told me on the way home
that she wished to break the engagement with you. She would give no
reason. She wished me to tell you. I don't take her seriously. She cares
as much for you as ever. Girls are queer cattle. She has some utterly
unimaginable idea in her head, which will run itself out. If I were you
I would pay no attention to it. Simply take her at her word, and let her
alone for a little while, and she herself will urge you for a
reconciliation. I know the child. She simply cannot remain at odds for
any length of time with any one whom she loves, and she does love you;
but she is freakish, and at times inclined to strain at her bit. Perhaps
Annie Lipton has been putting ideas into her head against marriage in
general. She may have frightened her, and they may have sworn celibacy
together in the watches of the night. Girls hatch more mischief when
they ought to be asleep. They are queer cattle."

"The trouble began before Clemency went away," James said soberly. He
was quite pale.

"Trouble? What trouble?"

"I don't know. All I know is, that the very day when Clemency went away
she seemed changed to me. You remember how she called out good-by, and I
did not go out to help her off as I should naturally have done."

"Yes, I do remember that, and I did wonder at your not going."

"I did not go because I was quite sure that she did not wish it. She had
been very curt with me, and had shown me unmistakably that my attentions
were not welcome."

"And you don't know why? There had been no quarrel?"

"Not the slightest. I have not the faintest idea what the trouble is or
was, and why she wishes to break the engagement. All I know is that as
suddenly as a weather vane turns from west to north, she turned, and
seemed to have no more use for me."

"Queer," Gordon said reflectively. He eyed James keenly. "You absolutely
know of no reason?"

"I absolutely know of none. Clemency is the very first girl about whom I
have ever thought in this way. There is nothing in my whole life, past
or present, which I could not spread before her like an open book, so
far as any fear lest it should turn her against me."

"I questioned her," Gordon said, "and she absolutely refused to give me
any reason for breaking her engagement. She simply repeated over and
over, 'I have changed my mind, Uncle Tom.' I asked her if she had seen
anybody else."

James flushed hotly. "What did she say to that?"

"She said, 'Whom could I have seen, Uncle Tom? You yourself know how
many men I have seen here, and you know I never see men at Annie's.'
There is no one else. You may be sure of that, and also sure that she
still cares for you. I know that from her whole manner. She has simply
taken one of those unaccountable freaks which the best of girls will
take. Just let her alone, and the whole will right itself. She may have
got a sudden scare at the idea of marriage itself, for all I know. I
still cling to the idea that Annie Lipton has been putting ideas into
her head, in spite of what you say of her coldness before she went
there. She may have started herself in the path, but Annie helped her
further on."

"Of course I must leave here," James said gloomily.

Gordon started. "Leave here?"

"Yes, of course. Clemency will naturally not wish to have me a member of
the household in the existing state of things."

"Clemency will wish it. Of course you are going to stay, Elliot."

"I don't feel as if I could, Doctor Gordon."

"Nonsense!"

"It will naturally not be very pleasant for me," James said, coloring.

"Why not?" asked Gordon irritably. "You are not a love-sick girl."

"No, I am not," James returned with spirit. "I know I am jilted, but I
mean to take, and I think I am taking it, like a man. If Clemency does
not want me, I am sure I do not want her to have me. And I can stand
seeing her daily under the altered condition of things. I am no
milk-sop. Generally speaking, living under a roof when you are an object
of aversion to a member of the household, is not exactly pleasant."

"You are not an object of aversion."

"I might as well be."

Gordon looked at the young man pitifully. "For God's sake, then don't
leave _me_, Elliot," he said.

James stared at him. There was so much emotion in his face.

"What do you think my life would be without you?" said Gordon. "Aside
from your assistance, which I cannot do without, you are my only solace,
especially since Clemency is in this mood. Stay for my sake, if it is
unpleasant, Elliot."

"Well, I will stay, if you feel so about it, doctor," James replied.

"Clemency is treating you shamefully," Gordon said.

"A girl has a right to her own mind in such a matter, if she has in
anything."

"The worst of it is, it is not her mind. I tell you I know that."

"I am not so sure."

"Wait and see! You underestimate yourself, boy."

James laughed sadly. Then there was a knock on the office door and
Georgie K. appeared. He looked shyly at Gordon. He had a bottle under
his arm. "I have brought over a little apple-jack; thought it might do
you good," he stammered, his great face suffused like a girl's.

Gordon looked affectionately at him. "Thank you, Georgie K.," he said.
"Sit down and we will have a game. I'll get the hot water and glasses.
Emma is out."

"I'll get them," James said eagerly. He went out to the kitchen, but
Emma was not out. She was sitting sewing in a gingham apron.

"What do you want?" she demanded severely.

James explained meekly.

"Well, go back to the office, and I'll fetch the things," Emma said in a
hostile tone. James obeyed. Presently Emma appeared bearing a tray with
the hot water and two glasses, Gordon did not notice the omission of a
third glass, until she had gone out. "Why, she only brought two
glasses," he said.

James felt absurdly unequal to facing Emma again. "I don't think I'll
take anything to-night," he said.

"Nonsense!" returned Gordon. He went to the door and shouted for Emma
with no response. "She can't have gone upstairs so quickly," he said.
But when after another shout he got no response, he went himself into
the dining-room, and got a tumbler from the sideboard. "She must have
gone upstairs at once," he remarked when he returned. "The kitchen is
dark."

Georgie K. did not remain very late. He seemed nervously solicitous
with regard to Doctor Gordon. When he left he shook hands with him, and
bade him take good care of himself.

"I love that man," Gordon said, when the door had closed behind him.

When James entered his room that night he found fresh proof of Emma's
inexplicable hostility. The room was in total darkness. He lit matches
and searched for lamp or candles, to find none. He fumbled his way out
into the kitchen, and got a little lamp, which gave but a dim light, and
read, as was his habit, after he had gone to bed, with exceeding
difficulty. He also was subjected to a most absurd annoyance from the
presence of some gritty particles in the bed. After he extinguished his
lamp he could not go to sleep because of them, and lit his lamp again,
and tore the sheet off and shook it. The gritty particles seemed to him
to be crumbs of very hard and dry bread. He made the bed up again after
his clumsy masculine fashion. James had not much manual dexterity, and
rested very uncomfortably, from a pronounced inclination of the
coverings to slide off his feet, and over one side of the bed.

The next morning Emma did not bring hot water for his shaving. She
usually set a pitcher outside his door, but this morning there was none.
He was obliged to go out to the kitchen and prefer a request for some.
"I have jest filled up the coffee-pot and the tea-kettle, and I guess
the water ain't very hot," Emma said in a malicious tone, as she filled
a pitcher for him.

The water was not very hot. James had a severe experience shaving, and
his annoyances were not over then. There was no napkin beside his plate
at breakfast. He did not like to apply to Clemency, whose cold good
morning had served to establish a higher barrier between them, and who
sat behind the coffee urn with a forlorn but none the less severe look.
He also did not like to apply to Gordon for fear of offending her. It
was about as bad to ask Emma, but he finally did, in a low tone.

Emma apparently did not hear. He was forced to repeat his request for a
napkin loudly. Gordon looked up. "Emma, why do you not set the table
properly?" he asked, in a severe tone.

Emma tossed her head and muttered. She brought a napkin, and laid it
beside James's plate with an impetus as if it had been a lump of lead.
Presently James discovered that he had only one spoon, but he made that
do duty for his cereal and coffee, and said nothing. He was aware of
Emma's eyes of covert, malicious enjoyment upon him, as he
surreptitiously licked off the oatmeal, and put the spoon in his coffee.
He began to wonder what he could do, if this state of things was to
continue. It all seemed so absurd, the grievances were so exceedingly
petty. He could not imagine what had so turned Emma against him. He was
even more at a loss where she was concerned than in Clemency's case. A
girl engaged might find some foolish reason, which seemed enormous to
her, to turn the cold shoulder to him, but it was inconceivable that
Emma should. He had always treated her politely, even with a certain
deference, knowing, as he did, that she was an old and faithful servant,
and as the daughter of a farmer being, in her own estimation at least,
of a highly superior station to that of servants in general. He could
not imagine why Emma was subjecting him to these ridiculous
persecutions, before which he was almost helpless. She had heretofore
treated him loftily, as was her wont with everybody, except Gordon and
Clemency, but certainly she had neglected none of her duties with
regard to him. Miserable as James was concerning Clemency, he could not
but feel that if he were to be subjected to these incomprehensible
annoyances from Emma, life in the house would be almost impossible. He
could bear sorrow like a man, but to bear pinpricks beside was almost
too much to ask. That noon, when he returned from his rounds, he
realized that there was to be no cessation. Clemency was not at the
lunch-table. Gordon said she had a headache and was lying down. Emma in
passing James his cup of tea, contrived to spill it over him. He was not
scalded, but his shirt-front and collar were stained, thereby
necessitating a change, and he was in a hurry to be gone directly after
lunch.

Gordon roused himself, however. "Be more careful another time, Emma," he
said sharply.

Emma tossed her head. "Doctor Elliot moved jest as I was coming with the
cup," she said in a thin, waspish voice.

"He did no such thing," Gordon said harshly, "and if he had, it was your
business to be careful. Get Doctor Elliot another cup of tea."

Emma obeyed with a jerk. She set the cup and saucer down beside James's
plate as hard as she dared, and James at the first sip found that the
tea was salted. However, he said nothing. Gordon after his outburst had
resumed his former state of apathy, and was eating and drinking like a
machine, whose works were rusty and almost run down. He could not
trouble him with such an absurdity. Then, too, he was too vexed to
please the girl so much. He forced himself to drink the tea without a
grimace, knowing that Emma's eyes were upon him. But the climax was
almost reached. That night when on his return he wished to change his
collar before dinner, he found every one with the buttonholes torn. It
was skilfully done, so skilfully that no one could have declared
positively that it had not been done accidentally in the laundry. James
would not appear at the dinner-table in a soiled collar, and was forced
to hurry out to the village store and purchase new ones. These, with the
exception of the one he put on, he locked in his trunk. He was late for
dinner, and the soup was quite cold. When Doctor Gordon complained
irritably, Emma replied with one of her characteristic tosses of the
head that she couldn't help it, Doctor Elliot was late. James said
nothing. He swallowed his luke-warm soup in silence. He began to wonder
what he could do. He did not wish to complain to Doctor Gordon,
especially as the result might be the dismissal of Emma, and he felt
that he could say nothing to Clemency about it. Clemency appeared at the
dinner-table, but she looked pale and forlorn, and said good evening to
James without lifting her eyes. When her uncle asked if her head was
better, she said, "Yes, thank you," in a spiritless tone. She ate almost
nothing. After dinner, James had a call to make, and, on his return,
entered by the office door. He found Gordon fast asleep in his chair,
with the dog at his feet. The dog started up at sight of James, but he
motioned him down, and went softly out into the hall. There was a light
there, but none in the parlor. James heard distinctly a little sob from
the parlor. He hesitated a moment, then he entered the room. It was
suffused with moonlight. All the pale objects stood out like ghosts.
Clemency by the window, in a little white wool house-gown, looked,
ghostly.

James went straight across to her, pulled up a chair beside her, seated
himself, and pulled one of her little hands away from her face almost
roughly, and held it firmly in spite of her weak attempt to remove it.
"Now, Clemency," he said in a determined voice, "this has gone quite far
enough. You told your uncle that you wished to break your engagement to
me. I have no wish to coerce you. If you really do not want to marry me,
why, I must make the best of it, but I have a right to know the reason
why, and I will know it."

Clemency was silent, except for her sobs.

"Tell me," said James.

"Don't," whispered Clemency.

"Tell me."

Then Clemency let her other hand, which contained a moist little ball of
handkerchief, fall. She turned full upon him her tearful, swollen face.
"If you want to know what you know already," said she, in a hard voice,
"here it is. She wasn't my mother, but I loved her like one, and you
killed her."

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CHAPTER XIIIAbout two weeks after the death of Doctor Gordon's wife James went tothe post office before beginning his round of calls. Lately nearly allthe practice had devolved upon him. Gordon seemed sunken in a gloomyapathy, from which he could rouse himself only for the most urgentnecessities. Once aroused he was fully himself, but for the most part hesat in his office smoking or seemingly half-asleep. Once in a while avery sick patient acted upon him as a momentary stimulus, but Alton wasunusually healthy just then. After an open and, for the most part,snowless winter, which had occasioned much sickness, the
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