The Dynamiter

Page 19

Look upon him: it is Doctor Grierson. Be not, oh my daughter, be not ungrateful to that friend!'

She sate upon the chair, and took in her hands the globes that terminated the arms.

'Am I right?' she asked, and looked upon the doctor with such a radiancy of face that I trembled for her reason. Once more the doctor bowed, but this time leaning hard against the wall. He must have touched a spring. The least shock agitated my mother where she sat; the least passing jar appeared to cross her features; and she sank back in the chair like one resigned to weariness. I was at her knees that moment; but her hands fell loosely in my grasp; her face, still beatified with the same touching smile, sank forward on her bosom: her spirit had for ever fled.

I do not know how long may have elapsed before, raising for a moment my tearful face, I met the doctor's eyes. They rested upon mine with such a depth of scrutiny, pity, and interest, that even from the freshness of my sorrow, I was startled into attention.

'Enough,' he said, 'to lamentation. Your mother went to death as to a bridal, dying where her husband died. It is time, Asenath, to think of the survivors. Follow me to the next room.'

I followed him, like a person in a dream; he made me sit by the fire, he gave me wine to drink; and then, pacing the stone floor, he thus began to address me -

'You are now, my child, alone in the world, and under the immediate watch of Brigham Young. It would be your lot, in ordinary circumstances, to become the fiftieth bride of some ignoble elder, or by particular fortune, as fortune is counted in this land, to find favour in the eyes of the President himself. Such a fate for a girl like you were worse than death; better to die as your mother died than to sink daily deeper in the mire of this pit of woman's degradation. But is escape conceivable? Your father tried; and you beheld yourself with what security his jailers acted, and how a dumb drawing on a rock was counted a sufficient sentry over the avenues of freedom. Where your father failed, will you be wiser or more fortunate? or are you, too, helpless in the toils?'

I had followed his words with changing emotion, but now I believed I understood.

'I see,' I cried; 'you judge me rightly. I must follow where my parents led; and oh! I am not only willing, I am eager!'

'No,' replied the doctor, 'not death for you. The flawed vessel we may break, but not the perfect. No, your mother cherished a different hope, and so do I. I see,' he cried, 'the girl develop to the completed woman, the plan reach fulfilment, the promise--ay, outdone! I could not bear to arrest so lively, so comely a process. It was your mother's thought,' he added, with a change of tone, 'that I should marry you myself.' I fear I must have shown a perfect horror of aversion from this fate, for he made haste to quiet me. 'Reassure yourself, Asenath,' he resumed. 'Old as I am, I have not forgotten the tumultuous fancies of youth. I have passed my days, indeed, in laboratories; but in all my vigils I have not forgotten the tune of a young pulse. Age asks with timidity to be spared intolerable pain; youth, taking fortune by the beard, demands joy like a right. These things I have not forgotten; none, rather, has more keenly felt, none more jealously considered them; I have but postponed them to their day. See, then: you stand without support; the only friend left to you, this old investigator, old in cunning, young in sympathy. Answer me but one question: Are you free from the entanglement of what the world calls love? Do you still command your heart and purposes? or are you fallen in some bond-slavery of the eye and ear?'

I answered him in broken words; my heart, I think I must have told him, lay with my dead parents.

'It is enough,' he said. 'It has been my fate to be called on often, too often, for those services of which we spoke to-night; none in Utah could carry them so well to a conclusion; hence there has fallen into my hands a certain share of influence which I now lay at your service, partly for the sake of my dead friends, your parents; partly for the interest I bear you in your own right.

Robert Louis Stevenson
Classic Literature Library

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