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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesFound Yet Lost - Chapter XI. MR. KEMBLE'S APPEAL
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Found Yet Lost - Chapter XI. MR. KEMBLE'S APPEAL Post by :snowleprd56 Category :Long Stories Author :Edward Payson Roe Date :April 2012 Read :2512

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Found Yet Lost - Chapter XI. MR. KEMBLE'S APPEAL

CHAPTER XI. MR. KEMBLE'S APPEAL

It often happens that the wife's disposition is an antidote to her husband: and this was fortunately true of Mrs. Jackson. She was neither curious nor gossiping, and with a quick instinct that privacy was desired by Martine, gave at an early hour her orders to close the house for the night. The few loungers, knowing that she was autocratic, slouched off to other resorts. The man and maids of all work were kept out of the way, while she and her husband waited on their unexpected guests. After Mr. Kemble's departure, the errand-boy was roused from his doze behind the stove and seat for Dr. Barnes; then Jackson wrote another note at Martine's dictation:

"MR. WILLIAM NICHOL:

"DEAR SIR--A relative of yours is sick at my house. He came on the evening train. You and your wife had better come at once in the carriage."

Martine retired to the room in which he had seen Mr. Kemble, that he might compose himself before meeting the physician. The sound of Helen's voice, the mere proximity of the girl who at this hour was to have been his wife had not "old chaos" come again for him, were by no means "straws" in their final and crushing weight. Motionless, yet with mind verging on distraction, he sat in the cold, dimly lighted room until aroused by the voice of Dr. Barnes.

"Why, Hobart!" cried his old friend, starting at the bloodshot eyes and pallid face of the young man, "what is the matter? You need me, sure enough, but why on earth are you shivering in this cold room at the hotel?"

Martine again said to Jackson: "Don't leave him," and closed the door. Then, to the physician: "Dr. Barnes, I am ill and worn-out. I know it only too well. You must listen carefully while I in brief tell you why you were sent for; then you and others must take charge and act as you think best. I'm going home. I must have rest and a respite. I must be by myself;" and he rapidly began to sketch his experiences in Washington.

"Hold!" said the sensible old doctor, who indulged in only a few strong exclamations of surprise, which did not interrupt the speaker, "hold! You say you left the ward to think it over, after being convinced that you had discovered Nichol. Did you think it over quietly?"

"Quietly!" repeated Martine, with intense bitterness. "Would a man, not a mummy, think over such a thing quietly? Judge me as you please, but I was tempted as I believe never man was before. I fought the Devil till morning."

"I thought as much," said the doctor, grasping Martine's hand, then slipping a finger on his pulse. "You fought on foot too, didn't you?"

"Yes, I walked the streets as if demented."

"Of course. That in part accounts for your exhaustion. Have you slept much since?"

"Oh, Doctor, let me get through and go home!"

"No, Hobart, you can't get through with me till I am with you. My dear fellow, do you think that I don't understand and sympathize with you? There's no reason why you should virtually risk your life for Captain Nichol again. Take this dose of quinine at once, and then proceed. I can catch on rapidly. First answer, how much have you slept since?"

"The idea of sleep! You can remedy this, Doctor, after my part in this affair is over. I must finish now. Helen may return, and I cannot meet her, nor am I equal to seeing Mr. and Mrs. Nichol. My head feels queer, but I'll get through somehow, if the strain is not kept up too long;" and he finished in outline his story. In conclusion he said, "You will understand that you are now to have charge of Nichol. He is prepared by his experience to obey you, for he has always been in hospitals, where the surgeon's will is law. Except with physicians, he has a sort of rough waywardness, learned from the soldiers."

"Yes, I understand sufficiently now to manage. You put him in my charge, then go home, and I'll visit you as soon as I can."

"One word more, Doctor. As far as you think best, enjoin reticence on Jackson. If the sight of Helen restores Nichol, as I believe it will, little need ever be said about his present condition. Jackson would not dare to disobey a physician's injunction."

"Don't you dare disobey them, either. I'll manage him too. Come."

Nichol had slept a good deal during the latter part of his journey, and now was inclined to wakefulness--a tendency much increased by his habit of waiting on hospital patients at night. In the eager and curious Jackson he had a companion to his mind, who stimulated in him a certain child-like vanity.

"Hello, Ma'tine," he said, "ye're gittin' tired o' me, I reckon, ye're off so much. I don't keer. This yere Jackson's a lively cuss, en I 'low we'll chin till mawnin'."

"Yes, Nichol, Mr. Jackson is a good friend of yours; and here is another man who is more than a friend. You remember what the surgeon at the hospital said to you?"

"I reckon," replied Nichol, anxiously. "Hain't I minded yer tetotally?"

"Yes, you have done very well indeed--remarkably well, since you knew I was not a doctor. Now this man is a doctor--the doctor I was to bring you to. You won't have to mind me any more, but you must mind this man, Dr. Barnes, in all respects, just as you did the doctors in the hospitals. As long as you obey him carefully he will be very good to you."

"Oh, I'll mind, Doctor," said Nichol, rising and assuming the respectful attitude of a hospital nurse. "We uns wuz soon larned that't wuzn't healthy to go agin the doctor. When I wuz Yankee Blank, 'fo' I got ter be cap'n, I forgot ter give a Johnny a doze o' med'cine, en I'm doggoned ef the doctor didn't mek me tek it myse'f. Gee wiz! sech a time ez I had! Hain't give the doctors no trouble sence."

"All right, Captain Nichol," said Dr. Barnes, quietly, "I understand my duties, and I see that you understand yours. As you say, doctors must be obeyed, and I already see that you won't make me or yourself any trouble. Good-night, Hobart, I'm in charge now."

"Good-night, Doctor. Mr. Jackson, I'm sure you will carry out Dr. Barnes' wishes implicitly."

"Yer'd better, Jackson," said Nichol, giving him a wink. "A doctor kin give yer high ole jinks ef ye're not keerful."

Martine now obeyed the instinct often so powerful in the human breast as well as in dumb animals, and sought the covert, the refuge of his home, caring little whether he was to live or die. When he saw the lighted windows of Mr. Kemble's residence, he moaned as if in physical pain. A sudden and immeasurable longing to see, to speak with Helen once before she was again irrevocably committed to Nichol, possessed him. He even went to her gate to carry out his impulse, then curbed himself and returned resolutely to his dwelling. As soon as his step was on the porch, the door opened and Mr. Kemble gave him the warm grasp of friendship. Without a word, the two men entered the sitting-room, sat down by the ruddy fire, and looked at each other, Martine with intense, questioning anxiety in his haggard face. The banker nodded gravely as he said, "Yes, she knows."

"It's as I said it would be?" Martine added huskily, after a moment or two.

"Well, my friend, she said you would understand her better than any one else. She wrote you this note."

Martine's hands so trembled that he could scarcely break the seal. He sat looking at the tear-blurred words some little time, and grew evidently calmer, then faltered, "Yes, it's well to remember God at such a time. He has laid heavy burdens upon me. He is responsible for them, not I. If I break, He also will be responsible."

"Hobart," said Mr. Kemble, earnestly, "you must not break under this, for our sake as well as your own. I have the presentiment that we shall all need you yet, my poor girl perhaps most of all. She doesn't, she can't realize it. Now, the dead is alive again. Old girlish impulses and feelings are asserting themselves. As is natural, she is deeply excited; but this tidal wave of feeling will pass, and then she will have to face both the past and future. I know her well enough to be sure she could never be happy if this thing wrecked you. And then, Hobart," and the old man sank his voice to a whisper, "suppose--suppose Nichol continues the same."

"He cannot," cried Martine, almost desperately. "Oh, Mr. Kemble, don't suggest any hope for me. My heart tells me there is none, that there should not be any. No, she loved him as I have loved her from childhood. She is right. I do understand her so well that I know what the future will be."

"Well," said Mr. Kemble, firmly, as he rose, "she shall never marry him as he is, with my consent. I don't feel your confidence about Helen's power to restore him. I tell you, Hobart, I'm in sore straits. Helen is the apple of my eye. She is the treasure of our old age. God knows I remember what you have done for her and for us in the past; and I feel that we shall need you in the future. You've become like a son to mother and me, and you must stand by us still. Our need will keep you up and rally you better than all Dr. Barnes' medicine. I know you well enough to know that. But take the medicine all the same; and above all things, don't give way to anything like recklessness and despair. As you say, God has imposed the burden. Let him give you the strength to bear it, and other people's burdens too, as you have in the past. I must go now. Don't fail me."

Wise old Mr. Kemble had indeed proved the better physician. His misgivings, fears, and needs, combined with his honest affection, had checked the cold, bitter flood of despair which had been overwhelming Martine. The morbid impression that he would be only another complication, and of necessity an embarrassment to Helen and her family, was in a measure removed. Mere words of general condolence would not have helped him; an appeal like that to the exhausted soldier, and the thought that the battle for him was not yet over, stirred the deep springs of his nature and slowly kindled the purpose to rally and be ready. He rose, ate a little of the food, drank the wine, then looked around the beautiful apartment prepared for her who was to have been his wife, "I have grown weak and reckless," he said. "I ought to have known her well enough--I do know her so well--as to be sure that I would cloud her happiness if this thing destroyed me."

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