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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesDr. Sevier - Chapter 48. Rise Up, My Love, My Fair One
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Dr. Sevier - Chapter 48. Rise Up, My Love, My Fair One Post by :jonbd Category :Long Stories Author :George Washington Cable Date :May 2012 Read :2871

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Dr. Sevier - Chapter 48. Rise Up, My Love, My Fair One


The summer at length was past, and the burning heat was over and gone. The days were refreshed with the balm of a waning October. There had been no fever. True, the nights were still aglare with torches, and the street echoes kept awake by trumpet notes and huzzas, by the tramp of feet and the delicate hint of the bell-ringing; and men on the stump and off it; in the "wigwams;" along the sidewalks, as they came forth, wiping their mouths, from the free-lunch counters, and on the curb-stones and "flags" of Carondelet street, were saying things to make a patriot's heart ache. But contrariwise, in that same Carondelet street, and hence in all the streets of the big, scattered town, the most prosperous commercial year--they measure from September to September--that had ever risen upon New Orleans had closed its distended record, and no one knew or dreamed that, for nearly a quarter of a century to come, the proud city would never see the equal of that golden year just gone. And so, away yonder among the great lakes on the northern border of the anxious but hopeful country, Mary was calling, calling, like an unseen bird piping across the fields for its mate, to know if she and the one little nestling might not come to hers.

And at length, after two or three unexpected contingencies had caused delays of one week after another, all in a silent tremor of joy, John wrote the word--"Come!"

He was on his way to put it into the post-office, in Royal street. At the newspaper offices, in Camp street, he had to go out into the middle of the way to get around the crowd that surrounded the bulletin-boards, and that scuffled for copies of the latest issue. The day of days was passing; the returns of election were coming in. In front of the "Picayune" office he ran square against a small man, who had just pulled himself and the most of his clothing out of the press with the last news crumpled in the hand that he still held above his head.

"Hello, Richling, this is pretty exciting, isn't it?" It was the little clergyman. "Come on, I'll go your way; let's get out of this."

He took Richling's arm, and they went on down the street, the rector reading aloud as they walked, and shopkeepers and salesmen at their doors catching what they could of his words as the two passed.

"It's dreadful! dreadful!" said the little man, thrusting the paper into his pocket in a wad.

"Hi! Mistoo Itchlin," quoth Narcisse, passing them like an arrow, on his way to the paper offices.

"He's happy," said Richling.

"Well, then, he's the only happy man I know of in New Orleans to-day," said the little rector, jerking his head and drawing a sigh through his teeth.

"No," said Richling, "I'm another. You see this letter." He showed it with the direction turned down. "I'm going now to mail it. When my wife gets it she starts."

The preacher glanced quickly into his face. Richling met his gaze with eyes that danced with suppressed joy. The two friends attracted no attention from those whom they passed or who passed them; the newsboys were scampering here and there, everybody buying from them, and the walls of Common street ringing with their shouted proffers of the "full account" of the election.

"Richling, don't do it."

"Why not?" Richling showed only amusement.

"For several reasons," replied the other. "In the first place, look at your business!"

"Never so good as to-day."

"True. And it entirely absorbs you. What time would you have at your fireside, or even at your family table? None. It's--well you know what it is--it's a bakery, you know. You couldn't expect to lodge _your wife and little girl in a bakery in Benjamin street; you know you couldn't. Now, _you_--you don't mind it--or, I mean, you can stand it. Those things never need damage a gentleman. But with your wife it would be different. You smile, but--why, you know she couldn't go there. And if you put her anywhere where a lady ought to be, in New Orleans, she would be--well, don't you see she would be about as far away as if she were in Milwaukee? Richling, I don't know how it looks to you for me to be so meddlesome, and I believe you think I'm making a very poor argument; but you see this is only one point and the smallest. Now"--

Richling raised his thin hand, and said pleasantly:--

"It's no use. You can't understand; it wouldn't be possible to explain; for you simply don't know Mary."

"But there are some things I do know. Just think; she's with her mother where she is. Imagine her falling ill here,--as you've told me she used to do,--and you with that bakery on your hands."

Richling looked grave.

"Oh no," continued the little man. "You've been so brave and patient, you and your wife, both,--do be so a little bit longer! Live close; save your money; go on rising in value in your business; and after a little you'll rise clear out of the sphere you're now in. You'll command your own time; you'll build your own little home; and life and happiness and usefulness will be fairly and broadly open before you." Richling gave heed with a troubled face, and let his companion draw him into the shadow of that "St. Charles" from the foot of whose stair-way he had once been dragged away as a vagrant.

"See, Richling! Every few weeks you may read in some paper of how a man on some ferry-boat jumps for the wharf before the boat has touched it, falls into the water, and-- Make sure! Be brave a little longer--only a little longer! Wait till you're sure!"

"I'm sure enough!"

"Oh, no, you're not! Wait till this political broil is over. They say Lincoln is elected. If so, the South is not going to submit to it. Nobody can tell what the consequences are to be. Suppose we should have war? I don't think we shall, but suppose we should? There would be a general upheaval, commercial stagnation, industrial collapse, shrinkage everywhere! Wait till it's over. It may not be two weeks hence; it can hardly be more than ninety days at the outside. If it should the North would be ruined, and you may be sure they are not going to allow _that_. Then, when all starts fair again, bring your wife and baby. I'll tell you what to do, Richling!"

"Will you?" responded the listener, with an amiable laugh that the little man tried to echo.

"Yes. Ask Dr. Sevier! He's right here in the next street. He was on your side last time; maybe he'll be so now."

"Done!" said Richling. They went. The rector said he would do an errand in Canal street, while Richling should go up and see the physician.

Dr. Sevier was in.

"Why, Richling!" He rose to receive him. "How are you?" He cast his eye over his visitor with professional scrutiny. "What brings _you here?"

"To tell you that I've written for Mary," said Richling, sinking wearily into a chair.

"Have you mailed the letter?"

"I'm taking it to the post-office now."

The Doctor threw one leg energetically over the other, and picked up the same paper-knife that he had handled when, two years and a half before, he had sat thus, talking to Mary and John on the eve of their separation.

"Richling, I'll tell you. I've been thinking about this thing for some time, and I've decided to make you a proposal. I look at you and at Mary and at the times--the condition of the country--the probable future--everything. I know you, physically and mentally, better than anybody else does. I can say the same of Mary. So, of course, I don't make this proposal impulsively, and I don't want it rejected.

"Richling, I'll lend you two thousand to twenty-five hundred dollars, payable at your convenience, if you will just go to your room, pack up, go home, and take from six to twelve months' holiday with your wife and child."

The listener opened his mouth in blank astonishment.

"Why, Doctor, you're jesting! You can't suppose"--

"I don't suppose anything. I simply want you to do it."

"Well, I simply can't!"

"Did you ever regret taking my advice, Richling?"

"No, never. But this--why, it's utterly impossible! Me leave the results of four years' struggle to go holidaying? I can't understand you, Doctor."

"'Twould take weeks to explain."

"It's idle to think of it," said Richling, half to himself.

"Go home and think of it twenty-four hours," said the Doctor.

"It is useless, Doctor."

"Very good, then; send for Mary. Mail your letter."

"You don't mean it!" said Richling.

"Yes, I do. Send for Mary; and tell her I advised it." He turned quickly away to his desk, for Richling's eyes had filled with tears; but turned again and rose as Richling rose. They joined hands.

"Yes, Richling, send for her. It's the right thing to do--if you will not do the other. You know I want you to be happy."

"Doctor, one word. In your opinion is there going to be war?"

"I don't know. But if there is it's time for husband and wife and child to draw close together. Good-day."

And so the letter went.

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