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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Faith Doctor: A Story Of New York - Chapter 14. Mrs. Frankland And Phillida
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The Faith Doctor: A Story Of New York - Chapter 14. Mrs. Frankland And Phillida Post by :JV619 Category :Long Stories Author :Edward Eggleston Date :May 2012 Read :890

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The Faith Doctor: A Story Of New York - Chapter 14. Mrs. Frankland And Phillida


Mrs. Callender would have told you that mountain air had quite restored her, but enforced rest from scissors and sewing-machine, the two demons that beset the dear industrious, had more to do with it than mountain air. The first of October brought her and Phillida again to their house, where Agatha had preceded them by two days, to help Sarah in putting things to rights for their advent. Millard met the mother and daughter at the station with a carriage and left them at their own door.

"Did Mr. Millard say that he would come again this evening?" Agatha asked of Phillida when she rose from the dinner-table.


"Well, I should think he would. I wouldn't have a young man that would take things so coolly. He's hardly seen you at all since his return, and--that's the expressman with the trunks. I'll go and see about them"; and she bounded away, not "like an antelope," but like a young girl bubbling to the brim with youth and animal spirits.

An hour later, when Phillida and Agatha had just got to a stage in unpacking in which all that one owns is lying in twenty heaps about the room, each several heap seeming larger than the trunk in which it came, there was a ring at the door, and Mr. Millard was announced.

"Oh, dear! I think he might have waited until to-morrow," grumbled Agatha to her mother, after Phillida had gone to the parlor. "He'll stay for hours, I suppose, and I never can get these things put away alone, and we won't get you to bed before midnight. He ought to remember that you're not strong. But it's just like a man in love to come when you're in a mess, and never to go away."

Millard was more thoughtful than another might have been, and in half an hour Phillida returned to the back room, with a softly radiant expression of countenance, bearing a bouquet of flowers which Millard had brought for Mrs. Callender. Phillida at once helped Agatha attack chaos. The floor, the chairs, the table, the bed, and the top of the dressing-case were at length cleared, and preparations were making for getting the tired mother to her rest before ten o'clock.

"Seems to me," said Agatha, "that if I were in Philly's place I'd want something more than a brief call on the first evening, after so long a separation."

"Seems to me," said the mother, mimicking Agatha's tone and turning upon the girl with an amused smile, "if you ever have a lover and are as hard to please with him as you are with Mr. Millard, he might as well give it up before he begins."

In the morning early came Mrs. Frankland. She kissed Phillida on this cheek and on that, embraced her and called her "Dear, dear child," held her off with both hands and looked with admiration at her well-modeled face, freshened with wind and sun. She declared that the mountain air had done Phillida a great deal of good, and inquired how her dear, good mother was.

"Mother is wonderfully better," said Phillida; "I may say, well again."

"What a mercy that is! Now you'll be able to go on with the blessed work you are doing. You have a gift for mission work; that's your vocation. I should make a poor one in your place. It's a talent. As for me, I have a new call."

"A new call--what is that?" said Phillida, rolling up an easy chair for Mrs. Frankland to sit on.

"It's all through you, I suppose. You brought Mrs. Hilbrough to hear me, and Mrs. Hilbrough made me acquainted with Mrs. Van Horne, and she has invited me to give readings in her parlor. I gave the first last Thursday, with great success. The great parlor was full, and many wept like little children."

The words here written are poor beside what Mrs. Frankland said. Her inflection, the outward sweep of her hand when she said "great parlor," brought the rich scene vaguely to Phillida's imagination, and the mellow falling cadence with which she spoke of those who had wept like little children, letting her hands drop limp the while upon her lap, made it all very picturesque and touching. But Phillida twisted the fingers of her left hand with her right, feeling a little wrench in trying to put herself into sympathy with this movement. It was the philanthropic side of religion rather than the propagandist that appealed to her, and she could hardly feel pity for people whose most imaginary wants were supplied.

The quick instinct for detecting and following the sympathy of an audience is half the outfit for an orator; and Mrs. Frankland felt the need of additional statement to carry the matter rightly to Phillida. She was ever feeling about for the electrical button that would reach a hearer's sympathies, and never content until she had touched it.

"I find the burdens of these wealthy women are as great--even greater than those of others. Many of them are tired of the worldliness, and weary of the utter frivolity, of their pursuits." She put a long, rich, vibrant emphasis on the words "utter frivolity." "Don't you think it a good plan to bring them to the rest of the gospel?"

"Certainly," said Phillida, who could not logically gainsay such a statement; but she was convinced rather than touched by any living sympathy with Mrs. Frankland's impulse, and she still twisted the tips of the fingers of her left hand with her right.

"I hope, dear child," Mrs. Frankland went on, in a meditative tone, looking out of the window and steering now upon a home tack--"I hope that I can serve in some way the cause of the poor you have so much at heart. Missions like yours languish for funds. If I could be the means of bringing people of great fortune to consecrate their wealth, it might fill many a thirsty channel of benevolence with refreshing streams." Ah, that one could produce here the tone of her voice as of a brook brimming over barriers, and running melodious to the meadows below!

"That is true," said Phillida, remembering how many betterments might be made in the coffee-room and the reading-room if only one had the money, and remembering how her own beloved Charley had helped the Mission and made the lot of the unhappy Wilhelmina Schulenberg less grievous. "I do think it may prove to be a great work," she added thoughtfully, folding her hands upon her lap in unconscious sign that she had reached a conclusion--a logical equilibrium.

"And I want you to go with me to the readings on Thursday. Mrs. Van Horne knows your aunt, Mrs. Gouverneur, and she will be glad to see you."

Phillida looked down and began to pinch the tips of her fingers again. She shrunk a little from Mrs. Van Horne's set; she thought her dress probably beneath their standard, but with an effort she put away such fears as frivolous, and promised to go.

Thursday afternoon found Phillida sitting by Mrs. Hilbrough in the Van Horne parlor, which was draped with the costly products of distant looms, wrought by the dusky fingers of Orientals inheriting the slowly perfected special skill of generations, and with the fabrics produced by mediaeval workmen whose artistic products had gathered value as all their fellows had perished; for other races and other ages have contributed their toil to the magnificence of a New York palace. The great room was spanned by a ceiling on which the creative imaginations of great artists had lavished rare fancies in gold and ivory, while the costliest, if not the noblest, paintings and sculptures of our modern time were all about a parlor whose very chairs and ottomans had been designed by men of genius.

Once the words of Mrs. Frankland were heard with these surroundings, one felt that it would be wrong to attribute to ambitious motives her desire for such an environment. She might rather be said to have been drawn here by an inspiration for artistic harmony. The resonant periods of Bossuet would hardly have echoed through the modern centuries if he had not had the magnificent court of Louis the Great for a sounding-board. When Mrs. Frankland spoke in the Van Horne parlor her auditors felt that the mellifluous voice and stately sentences could not have had a more appropriate setting, and that the splendid apartment could not have been put to a more fitting use. Even the simple religious songs used at the beginning and close of the meetings were accompanied upon a grand piano of finest tone, whose richly inlaid case represented the expenditure of a moderate fortune. Mrs. Van Horne could command the best amateur musical talent, so that the little emotional Moody-and-Sankeys that Mrs. Frankland selected were so overlaid and glorified in the performance as to be almost transformed into works of art.

Phillida looked upon these evidences of lavish expenditure with less bedazzlement than one might have expected in a person of her age. For she had grown up under shelter from the world. While she remained in the antipodes her contact with life outside her own family had been small. In Brooklyn her mother's ill health had kept her much at home, and the dominant influence of her father had therefore every chance to make itself felt upon her character, and that influence was all in favor of a self-denying philanthropy. To the last her father was altruistic, finding nothing worth living for but the doing for others. Abiding secluded as Phillida had, the father's stamp remained uneffaced. She saw in all this magnificence a wanton waste of resources. She put it side by side with her sense of a thousand needs of others, and she felt for it more condemnation than admiration. Mrs. Frankland's vocation to the rich was justified in her mind; it was, after all, a sort of mission to the heathen.

And who shall say that Mrs. Frankland's missionary impulse was not a true one? Phillida's people were exteriorly more miserable; but who knows whether the woes of a Mulberry street tenement are greater than those of a Fifth Avenue palace? Certainly Mrs. Frankland found wounded hearts enough. The woman with an unfaithful husband, the mother of a reckless son who has been obliged to flee the country, the wife of a runaway cashier, disgraced and dependent upon rich relatives--these and a score besides poured into her ear their sorrows, and were comforted by her sympathy cordially expressed, and by her confidence in a consoling divine love and her visions of a future of everlasting rest. Mrs. Frankland had found her proper field--a true mission field indeed, for in this world-out-of-joint there is little danger of going astray in looking for misery of one sort or another. If the sorrows of the poor are greater, they have, if not consolation, at least a fortunate numbness produced by the never-ending battle for bread; but the canker has time to gnaw the very heart out of the rich woman.

Even on the mind of Phillida, as she now listened to Mrs. Frankland, the accessories made a difference. How many dogmas have lived for centuries, not by their reasonableness but by the impressiveness of trappings! Liturgies chanted under lofty arches, creeds recited by generation following generation, traditions of law, however absurd, uttered by one big-wigged judge following a reverend line of ghostly big-wigs gone before that have said the same foolish things for ages--these all take considerable advantage from the power of accessories to impose upon the human imagination. The divinity that hedges kings is the result of a set of stage-fixings which make the little great, and half the horror inspired by the priest's curse is derived from bell and book and candle. The mystery of print gives weight to small men by the same witchcraft; you would not take the personal advice of so stupid a man as Criticus about the crossing of a _t_, but when he prints a tirade anonymously in the Philadelphia "Tempus" the condemnation becomes serious.

Just in this way the imagination of Phillida was affected by the new surroundings in the midst of which Mrs. Frankland spoke. The old addresses in a Bible-class room with four plastered walls, or a modest parlor, did not seem to have half so much force as these. The weight of a brilliant success was now thrown into the scale, and Mrs. Frankland could speak with an apostolic authority hitherto unknown. The speaker's own imagination felt the influence of her new-found altitude, and she expressed herself with assurance and deliberation, and with more dignity and pathos than ever before.

With all this background, Mrs. Frankland spoke to-day from the twelfth chapter of Romans on personal consecration. But she did not treat the theme as a person of reformatory temperament might have done, by denouncing the frivolity of rich and fashionable lives. It was not in her nature to antagonize an audience. She drew a charming picture of the beauty of a consecrated life, and she embellished it with wonderful instances of devotion, interspersed with touching anecdotes of heroism and self-sacrifice. The impression upon her audience was as remarkable as it was certain to be transient. Women wept at the ravishing vision of a life wholly given to noble ends, and then went their ways to live as before, after the predispositions of their natures, the habits of their lives, and the conventional standards of their class.

But in the heart of Phillida the words of the speaker fell upon fertile soil, and germinated, where there was never a stone or a thorn. The insularity of her life had left her very susceptible to Mrs. Frankland's discourses. Old stagers who have been impressed now by this, now by that, speech, writing, or personal persuasion, have suffered a certain wholesome induration. Phillida was a virginal enthusiast.

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CHAPTER XVIII. FAITH-DOCTOR AND LOVERThe next day, though a great snow-storm had burst upon the city before noon, Phillida made haste after luncheon to work her way first to the Diet Kitchen and then to the Schulenberg tenement. When she got within the shelter of the doorway of the tenement house she was well-nigh exhausted, and it was half a minute before she could begin the arduous climbing of the stairs. "I thought you would not come," said Wilhelmina with something like a cry of joy. "I have found it hard to keep on believing, but still I have believed and

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XIII. MRS. FRANKLANDMrs. Frankland, the Bible reader, was a natural orator--a person with plenty of blood for her brain, ample breathing space in her chest, a rich-toned voice responsive to her feelings, and a mind not exactly intellectual, but felicitous in vocabulation and ingenious in the construction of sentences. Her emotions were mettlesome horses well-bitted--quick and powerful, but firmly held. Though her exegesis was second-hand and commonplace, yet upon the familiar chords of traditional and superficial interpretation of the Bible she knew how to play many emotional variations, and her hearers, who were all women, were caught up into a state