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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Mystery Of Metropolisville - Chapter 34. Mr. Lurton's Courtship
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The Mystery Of Metropolisville - Chapter 34. Mr. Lurton's Courtship Post by :Des_Walsh Category :Long Stories Author :Edward Eggleston Date :May 2012 Read :2350

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The Mystery Of Metropolisville - Chapter 34. Mr. Lurton's Courtship

CHAPTER XXXIV. MR. LURTON'S COURTSHIP

After the death of Mrs. Plausaby, Isa had broken at once with her uncle-in-law, treating him with a wholesome contempt whenever she found opportunity. She had made many apologies for Plausaby's previous offenses--this was too much even for her ingenious charity. For want of a better boarding-place, she had taken up her abode at Mrs. Ferret's, and had opened a little summer-school in the village schoolhouse. She began immediately to devise means for securing Charlton's release. Her first step was to write to Lurton, but she had hardly mailed the letter, when she received Albert's, announcing that Lurton was coming to see her; and almost immediately that gentleman himself appeared again in Metropolisville. He spent the evening in devising with Isa proper means of laying the evidences of Charlton's innocence before the President in a way calculated to secure his pardon. Lurton knew two Representatives and one Senator, and he had hope of being able to interest them in the case. He would go to Washington himself. Isa thought his offer very generous, and found in her heart a great admiration for him. Lurton, on his part, regarded Isabel with more and more wonder and affection. He told her at last, in a sweet and sincere humility, the burden of his heart. He confessed his love with a frankness that was very winning, and with a gentle deference that revealed him to her the man he was--affectionate, sincere, and unselfish.

If Isabel had been impulsive, she would have accepted at once, under the influence of his presence. But she had a wise, practical way of taking time to think. She endeavored to eliminate entirely the element of feeling, and see the offer in the light in which it would show itself after present circumstances had passed. For if Lurton had been a crafty man, he could not have offered himself at a moment more opportune. Isa was now homeless, and without a future. If you ask me why, then, she did not accept Lurton without hesitation, I answer that I can no more explain this than I can explain all the other paradoxes of love that I see every day. Was it that he was too perfect? Is it easier for a woman to love a man than a model? People are not apt to be enamored of monotony, even of a monotony of goodness. Was it, then, that Isa would have liked a man whose soul had been a battle-field, rather than one in whom goodness and faith had had an easy time? Did she feel more sympathy for one who had fought and overcome, like Charlton, than for one who had never known a great struggle? Perhaps I have not touched at all upon the real reason for Isa's hesitation. But she certainly did hesitate. She found it quite impossible to analyze her own feelings in the matter. The more she thought about it, the more hopeless her confusion became.

It is one of the unhappy results produced by some works of religious biography, that people who copy methods, are prone to copy those not adapted to their own peculiarities. Isabel, in her extremity of indecision, remembered that some saint of the latter part of the last century, whose biography she had read in a Sunday-school library-book, was wont, when undecided in weighty matters, to write down all the reasons, _pro and _con_, and cipher out a conclusion by striking a logical balance. It naturally occurred to Isa that what so good and wise a person had found beneficial, might also prove an assistance to her. So she wrote down the following:

"REASONS IN FAVOR.

"1. Mr. Lurton is one of the most excellent men in the world. I have a very great respect and a sincere regard for him. If he were my husband, I do not think I should ever find anything to prevent me loving him.

"2. The life of a minister's wife would open to me opportunities to do good. I could at least encourage and sustain him.

"3. It seems to be providential that the offer should come at this time, when I am free from all obligations that would interfere with it, and when I seem to have no other prospect.

"REASONS AGAINST.

"1."--

But here she stopped. There was nothing to be said against Mr. Lurton, or against her accepting the offered happiness. She would then lead the quiet, peaceful life of a village-minister's wife who does her duty to her husband and her neighbors. Her generous nature found pleasure in the thought of all the employments that would fill her heart and hands. How much better it would be to have a home, and to have others to work for, than to lead the life of a stranger in other people's houses! And then she blushed, and was happy at the thought that there would be children's voices in the house--little stockings in the basket on a Saturday night--there would be the tender cares of the mother. How much better was such a life than a lonely one!

It was not until some hours of such thinking--of more castle-building than the sober-spirited girl had done in her whole life before--that she became painfully conscious that in all this dreaming of her future as the friend of the parishioners and the house-mother, Lurton himself was a figure in the background of her thoughts. He did not excite any enthusiasm in her heart. She took up her paper; she read over again the reasons why she ought to love Lurton. But though reason may chain Love and forbid his going wrong, all the logic in the world can not make him go where he will not. She had always acted as a most rational creature. Now, for the first time, she could not make her heart go where she would. Love in such cases seems held back by intuition, by a logic so high and fine that its terms can not be stated. Love has a balance-sheet in which all is invisible except the totals. I have noticed that practical and matter-of-fact women are most of all likely to be exacting and ideal in love affairs. Or, is it that this high and ideal way of looking at such affairs is only another manifestation of practical wisdom?

Certain it is, that though Isa found it impossible to set down a single reason for not loving so good a man with the utmost fervor, she found it equally impossible to love him with any fervor at all.

Then she fell to pitying Lurton. She could make him happy and help him to be useful, and she thought she ought to do it. But could she love Lurton better than she could have loved any other man? Now, I know that most marriages are not contracted on this basis. It is not given to every one to receive this saying. I am quite aware that preaching on this subject would be vain. Comparatively few people can live in this atmosphere. But _noblesse oblige_--_noblesse does more than _oblige_--and Isa Marlay, against all her habits of acting on practical expediency, could not bring herself to marry the excellent Lurton without a consciousness of _moral descending_, while she could not give herself a single satisfactory reason for feeling so.

It went hard with Lurton. He had been so sure of divine approval and guidance that he had not counted failure possible. But at such times the man of trustful and serene habit has a great advantage. He took the great disappointment as a needed spiritual discipline; he shouldered this load as he had carried all smaller burdens, and went on his way without a murmur.

Having resigned his Stillwater pastorate from a conviction that his ministry among red-shirted lumbermen was not a great success, he armed himself with letters from the warden of the prison and the other ministers who had served as chaplains, and, above all, with Mrs. Plausaby's written confession, and set out for Washington. He easily secured money to defray the expense of the journey from Plausaby, who held some funds belonging to his wife's estate, and who yielded to a very gentle pressure from Lurton, knowing how entirely he was in Lurton's power.

It is proper to say here that Albert's scrupulous conscience was never troubled about the settlement of his mother's estate. Plausaby had an old will, which bequeathed all to him _in fee simple_. He presented it for probate, and would have succeeded, doubtless, in saving something by acute juggling with his creditors, but that he heard ominous whispers of the real solution of the mystery--where they came from he could not tell. Thinking that Isa was planning his arrest, he suddenly left the country. He turned up afterwards as president of a Nevada silver-mine company, which did a large business in stocks but a small one in dividends; and I have a vague impression that he had something to do with the building of the Union Pacific Railroad. His creditors made short work of the property left by Mrs. Plausaby.

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