Between three and four the next morning, the robin in the nest above Mary’s room stretched out his left wing, opened one eye, and gave a short and rather drowsy chirp, which broke up his night’s rest and restored him to the full consciousness that he was a bird with wings and feathers—a large apple-tree to live in, and all heaven for an estate—and so, on these fortunate premises, he broke into a gush of singing, clear and loud, which Mary without waking heard in her slumbers.

Scarcely conscious, she lay in that dim clairvoyant state, when the half-sleep of the outward senses permits a delicious dewy clearness of the soul; that perfect ethereal rest and freshness of faculties, comparable only to what we imagine of the spiritual state. Season of celestial enchantment, in which the heavy weight ‘of all this unintelligible world’ drops off, and the soul, divinely charmed, nestles like a wind-tossed bird in the protecting bosom of the One all Perfect, all Beautiful. What visions then come to the inner eye have often no words corresponding in mortal vocabularies. The poet, the artist, and the prophet in such hours become possessed of divine certainties, which all their lives they struggle, with pencil or song, or burning words, to make evident to their fellows. The world around wonders, but they are unsatisfied, because they have seen the glory and know how inadequate the copy. But not merely to selectest spirits come these hours, but to those (humble poets) ungifted with utterance, who are among men as fountains sealed; whose song can be wrought out only by the harmony of deeds; the patient, pathetic melodies of tender endurance, or the heroic chant of undiscouraged labour. The poor slave woman last night parted from her only boy, and weary with the cotton-picking; the captive pining in his cell; the patient wife of the drunkard, saddened by a consciousness of the growing vileness of one once so dear; the delicate spirit doomed to harsh and uncongenial surroundings;—all in such hours feel the soothings of a celestial harmony, the tenderness of more than a mother’s love. It is by such hours as these often, more than by reasonings or disputings, that doubts are resolved in the region of religious faith. The All-Father treats us as the mother does her ‘infant crying in the dark;’ He does not reason with our fears, or demonstrate their fallacy, but draws us silently to His bosom, and we are at peace. Nay, there have been those undoubtedly who have known God falsely with the intellect, yet felt Him truly with the heart; and there may be many, principally among the unlettered little ones of Christ’s flock, who positively know that much that is dogmatically propounded to them of their Redeemer is cold, barren, unsatisfying, and even utterly false, who yet can give no account of their certainties better than that of the inspired fisherman, ‘We know Him, and have seen Him.’

It was in such hours as these that Mary’s deadly fears for the soul of her beloved had passed away, passed out of her, as if some warm healing nature of tenderest vitality had drawn out of her heart all pain and coldness, and warmed it with the breath of an eternal summer. So, while the purple shadows spread their gauzy veils inwove with fire along the sky, and the gloom of the sea broke out here and there into lines of light, and thousands of birds were answering to each other from apple-tree, and meadow-grass, and top of jagged rock, or trooping in bands hither and thither like angels on loving messages, Mary lay there with the flickering light through the leaves fluttering over her face, and the glow of dawn warming the snow-white draperies of the bed, and giving a tender rose hue to the calm cheek. She lay half conscious, smiling the while, as one who sleeps while the heart waketh, and who hears in dreams the voice of the One Eternally Beautiful and Beloved.

Mrs. Scudder entered her room, and thinking that she still slept, stood and looked down upon her. She felt as one does who has parted with some precious possession, a sudden sense of its value coming over her; and she queried in herself whether any living mortal were worthy of so perfect a gift; and nothing but a remembrance of the Doctor’s prostrate humility at all reconciled her to the sacrifice she was making.

‘Mary, dear,’ she said, bending over her with an unusual infusion of emotion in her voice; ‘darling child.’

The arms moved instinctively, even before the eyes unclosed, and drew her mother down to her with a warm clinging embrace.

Love in Puritan families was often like latent caloric,—an all-pervading force that affected no visible thermometer, shown chiefly by a noble, silent confidence, a ready helpfulness, but seldom out-breathed in caresses,—yet natures like Mary’s always craved these outward demonstrations, and sprang towards them as a trailing vine sways to the nearest support. It was delightful for once fully to feel how much her mother loved her, as well as to know it.

‘Dear, precious mother, do you love me so very much?’

‘I live and breathe in you, Mary,’ said Mrs. Scudder, giving vent to herself in one of those trenchant short-hand expressions, wherein positive natures incline to résumé all when they must speak at all.

Mary held her mother silently to her breast, her heart shining through her face with a quiet radiance of love.

‘Do you feel happy this morning?’ said Mrs. Scudder.

‘Very, very, very happy, mother.’

‘I am so glad to hear you say so,’ said Mrs. Scudder, who, to say the truth, had entertained many doubts at her pillow the night before.

Mary began dressing herself in a state of calm exaltation. Every trembling leaf on the tree, every sunbeam was like a loving smile of God, every fluttering breeze like His voice, full of encouragement and hope.

‘Mother, did you tell the Doctor what I said last night?’

‘I did, my darling.’

‘Then, mother, I would like to see him a few moments alone.’

‘Well, Mary, he is in his study at his morning devotions.’

‘That is just the time. I will go to him.’

The Doctor was sitting by the window, and the honest-hearted motherly lilacs, a-bloom for the third time since our story began, were filling the air with their sweetness. Suddenly the door opened, and Mary entered in her simple white short-gown and skirt, her eyes calmly radiant, and her whole manner having something serious and celestial. She came directly towards him, and put out both her little hands with a smile half child-like, half angelic, and the Doctor bowed his head, and covered his face with his hands.

‘Dear friend,’ said Mary, kneeling, and taking his hands, ‘if you want me, I am come. Life is but a moment. There is an eternal blessedness just beyond us, and for the little time between, I will be all I can to you if you will only show me how.’

And the Doctor—— No, young man, the study door closed just then, and no one heard those words from a quaint old oriental book which told that all the poetry of that grand old soul had burst into flower, as the aloe blossoms once in a hundred years. The ripples of that great heart might have fallen unconsciously into phrases from that one love poem of the Bible which these men read so purely and devoutly, and which warmed the icy clearness of their intellects with the myrrh and spices of ardent lands, where earthly and heavenly love meet and blend in one indistinguishable horizon line, like sea and sky.

‘Who is she that looketh forth as the morning, fair as the moon? clear as the sun? My dove, my undefiled, is but one. She is the only one of her mother—thou art all fair, my beloved, there is no spot in thee.’

The Doctor might have said all this, we will not say he did, nor will we say he did not; all we know is, that when the breakfast-table was ready they came out cheerfully together. Madame de Frontignac stood in a fresh white wrapper, with a few buttercups in her hair, waiting for the breakfast. She was startled to see the Doctor entering all radiant, leading in Mary by the hand, and looking as if he thought she were some dream-miracle which might dissolve under his eyes unless he kept fast hold of her. The keen eyes shot their arrowy glance, which went at once to the heart of the matter. Madame de Frontignac knew they were engaged, and regarded Mary with attention.

The calm, sweet, elevated expression of her face struck her; it struck her also that that was not the light of any earthly love, that it had no thrill, no blush, no tremor, but only the calmness of a soul that knows itself no more, and she sighed involuntarily.

She looked at the Doctor, and seemed to study attentively a face which happiness had made this morning as genial and attractive as it was generally strong and fine.

There was little said at the breakfast-table this morning; and yet the loud singing of the birds, the brightness of the sunshine, the life and vigour of all things, seemed to make up for the silence of those who were too well pleased to speak.

Eh bien, ma chère,’ said Madame, after breakfast, drawing Mary into her little room. ‘C’est fini?

‘Yes,’ said Mary, cheerfully.

‘Thou art content,’ said Madame, passing her arm around her; ‘well then, I should be: but, Mary, it is like a marriage with the altar, like taking the veil, is it not?’

‘No,’ said Mary, ‘it is not taking the veil, it is beginning a cheerful, reasonable life with a kind, noble friend who will always love me truly, and whom I hope to make as happy as he deserves.’

‘I think well of him, my little cat,’ said Madame, reflectively; ‘but—,’ she stopped something she was going to say, and kissed Mary’s forehead; after a moment’s pause, she added,

‘One must have love or refuge, Mary; this is thy refuge, child; thou wilt have peace in it;’ she sighed again.

Enfin,’ she said, resuming her gay tone, ‘what shall be la toilette de noce? Thou shalt have Verginie’s pearls, my fair one, and look like a sea-born Venus; tiens! let me try them in thy hair.’

And in a few moments she had Mary’s long hair down, and was chattering like a blackbird, wreathing the pearls in and out, and saying a thousand pretty nothings, weaving grace and poetry into the strait thread of Puritan life.

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