"What nonsense it is," said Dr. Neverasole, laughing heartily.
"What absurd nonsense," replied Professor Poggers laughing more heartily.
They were seated in the little office, just off Dr. Neverasole's study, where the Doctor kept the accounts of the establishment. It was quite late in the evening; but Prof. Poggers had come for his quarter's salary, and so they were in the office, and the Professor had stopped for a little talk. There was a huge ledger, lying open, before Dr. Neverasole, in which were all the accounts of the institution, with a page for each one of the many scholars and teachers. The ink, in the early pages, had quite lost its color, and as the Doctor turned over the leaves, in a careless way, as he talked to Prof. Poggers, his eye fell upon name after name, of youths, who had been in the school many year before. To some people, this would have been a melancholy work. Names would have brought up many an old association; one was dead, another was married; one had been successful, another had met with great misfortunes; but, whatever their destinies, in some sort, at least, he had had a hand in making or marring them. Still, it was only a financial record. It was not even a book of discipline, and though the faded ink, and the carefully written names, might possibly have brought other thoughts to the excellent Dr. Neverasole, they only suggested financial considerations. This one had gone away, and left his bill unpaid. He seemed to Dr. Neverasole, to have begun life wrong. This one had not only paid all accounts, but had actually presented the Doctor with fifty dollars, in token of gratitude, for the educational advantages of the Dorchester Academy. Was it a wonder that his life glowed in the Doctor's thoughts, with a golden glory? So, as he turned over the ledger, it did not disturb his conversation with Prof. Poggers, nor the hearty laugh at the absurd nonsense of which he was speaking.
"I can hear Stebbins telling the story," exclaimed the worthy Doctor. "So the old lady thought that prayer and some religious mummeries, would bring out the innocence of her grandson."
"Yes," said Prof. Poggers; "and I must say, the sooner this nonsense about prayer is put an end to, the better. Now, I attend the Episcopal Church, in Dorchester, occasionally, in vacation, and when it was so dry, early in May, the minister was praying for rain. Now, we know that all this is regulated by law, and the idea of the Almighty interfering with His own laws, to gratify the Episcopalians of Dorchester, is a little too nonsensical. 'More and more,' " said Prof. Poggers, quoting from an essay he had delivered only a week since, before the Hubville Lyceum, "is the belief in spiritual existences dying out of the world of thought and action. It is a superstitious remnant of the dark ages. The belief in angels, in sacramental rites, in a mysterious religion, in a priesthood, in answer to prayer, in what people call special providences, in miracles, and so on, may still be cherished, for a while, but on the growing light and knowledge of the 19th century, it is passing away, Nerves, and disordered stomachs, and ignorance of scientific laws, will account for the belief in most of those things, and, for the rest, the tendency of human nature to credulity, is a sufficient explanation. "
"Certainly! certainly!" said Dr. Neverasole, a little hurriedly, for he was afraid that the Professor would quote the whole lecture, which he had already heard, and this fragment of which, he distinctly recalled.
"By the way, Poggers, I must go to Dorchester, in the morning, to make arrangements for the Exhibition, which comes next week. Dunster has promised to deliver the address, and Gov. Guller will, I am sure, be present. Durkey will make a capital speech, and so will Bolmer. What with the death of Hubbers, and this late affair, we have had so many annoyances, this term, that I shall be glad to conclude with some eclat."
"Good night," said the Professor. He went out into the darkness. The stars, moving on in mysterious distances, looked down upon him; the solemn night environed him; the mist from the far off river floated around him with ghostly wings; the beasts of the forest, seeking their meat, the birds crouching upon their nests, the flowers drinking the dew of night, the thousand voices of men, the sighs of the dying, the weeping of mourners, the sorrows of the penitent, the agony of the despairing, the hopes and the ears of humanity, were reaching forth to the Father of all things, and asking for His loving care; but the good Professor did not heed or hear them. He thought of the applause that had greeted the lecture, and of a glass of ale and a sandwich, he knew Mrs. Poggers had all ready for him. He was a dapper little man, and thought he was a philosopher, poor soul.
"The next morning, the Doctor stepped into the last car, in the train to Dorchester. He knew the brakeman and the conductor, and, with the consciousness of a pass and a general acquaintance with the directors, smiled serenely, as he seated himself in the center of the car alongside of some one, who was busily engaged in reading the Dorchester Daily Lyar. As the train started, the gentleman looked up.
"Dr. Neverasole!" he exclaimed.
The Doctor could not exactly recall the face, and yet it was very familiar.
"Have you forgotten Andrew Griffin?" said the gentleman.
How odd things are, thought the Doctor, as he shook hands quite warmly; for it happened to be the very man who, as a boy, on leaving the Academy, had presented him with fifty dollars.
"I was reading your name in my ledger only last night," said the Doctor.
"It was a long time ago," said Mr. Griffin, "fifteen years, I think."
"At least, that," replied the Doctor. "I have seen you, several times, since then; but you have altered."
The Doctor could not help noticing strong lines of care on a face not yet middle aged, and a restless glance of the eye, and a nervous movement of the hand.
"Are you going to Dorchester?" he added.
"Further than that," replied Mr. Griffin, "I sail, to-morrow, for Europe."
"Dear, me," said the Doctor, who was much impressed, when any of his old pupils went to Europe. "How you have succeeded in life. I congratulate you. Only fifteen years since you left us, and I am told that your speculations have been so successful, that you have amassed a large fortune."
Mr. Griffin gave a sudden start. "Speculations," he answered, "speculations."
He looked at the seat behind, which was empty, and at the seat before, where there was no one but a little girl.
"Dr. Neverasole, he added, "you are my old teacher. I -irn a ruined man."
"Indeed, indeed," said the Doctor, "I am very sorry to hear it, but you are in the prime of life--strong and vigorous; begin again. Why," said the Doctor, cheerily, "half the men I know, have lost two or three fortunes, and not given up."
The man did not answer. He fidgeted uneasily on his seat. He put his mouth near the Doctor's ear; he then drew away again, and bit his lips till the blood came. - His manner was so odd, that the Doctor began to fear he was crazy, and was thinking how he should get away as easily as possible, when, as if impelled by an impulse he could not resist, the man hissed in his ear.
"I am a defaulter."
"A defaulter!" said the Doctor.
"Hush!" said the man. "What possesses me to tell you, I do not know; but I am dying with the secret. I am a defaulter to the tune of one hundred thousand dollars, and I leave for Europe this afternoon."
Dr. Neverasole had read of defaulters, over and over again, in the newspapers. He had known at least two, but had never met them after they had defaulted, except Ex-Governor Sharp, who had somehow imposed on the world, and cried it out.
What should he say to this man, an old pupil, too. "Your wife and children, my friend--think of the disgrace and sorrow," he whispered.
"They will join me, by the next steamer," he answered.
"But suppose you are caught, as you are quite likely to be?" replied the Doctor.
"No; I have managed it so that it will be a month, at least, before it is discovered, and then I shall be where they are not likely to find me," he answered.
"But the money, and the consciousness of guilt, and the uneasiness, and the always expecting to be found out. You will not have a happy moment. It seems to me, I would rather starve."
"Yes," replied Mr. Griffin, "but it was not a question of starving. I had speculated with the company's money, and lost. I speculated again, to pay back what I had lost and I lost more. I speculated a third time, and lost more still. It was not a question between honest poverty and robbery, but between exposure and disgrace without a hundred thousand dollars, and exposure and disgrace, with a hundred thousand dollars. I chose the latter, as any wise man would have done."
He looked triumphantly at Dr. Neverasole, and fairly laughed, as if he were reasoning on some ordinary subject. Dr. Neverasole was greatly disturbed. He had half a mind to rise up in the car and say, "this man is a defaulter," but then he thought what a row it would make; and, besides, if the man denied it, what proof was there?
So he sat uneasily; somehow, something he had heard and once believed, came over his mind, and, hardly able to help himself, he whispered to the man. "But death, and the world to come--what of them?" The man gave him a friendly punch in the side. "Death is going to come, of course," he answered; "but it will be none the more hard to meet, because one has a hundred thousand dollars to smooth the pillow; and as for the world to come, ever since I joined t'ie Universalists, I have not bothered myself about that. "Come, he said," as the car stopped just then, "let us have a drink."
"No, I thank you," said the Doctor, and as soon as the man left, he changed his seat to one nearer the end of the car.
The car started a little sooner than he anticipated. He saw several persons run, to jump on the platform, and last of all, Mr. Griffin, wiping his lips with a pocket handkerchief. In a moment more, there was a-jolt of the car. It seemed to have passed over something. There was a sudden whistle; the brakes were put on; a man gave a shout; two or three rushed to the end of the ear; he looked out of the window; what was that which lay, a shapeless mass, a few rods distant?
"A man killed?" they whispered.
Dr. Neverasole hurried out of the car; they were lifting him up; it was Mr. Griffin.
"Is he dead?" asked the Doctor.
There was a man bending over him, and he turned away with a ghastly face. Dr. Neverasole looked into the face. The eyes opened, the lips moved, The Doctor put his ear down to his face.
"Death and the world to come," was all he heard.
They bore him away; but before he got into the station he was dead.
It was, of course, a terrible shock to the Doctor, jut after staying long enough to tell all he knew, as to the residence of the unhappy man, and instructing them to telegraph to his friends, the Doctor went out to the train again intending to stop on his return, and do anything more which might be necessary. He felt quite shattered and unstrung by such a shocking incident. The cars, as they rattled on seemed to say, "Death and the world to cornel" And then again, "A defaulter! a defaulter!" After this accident, the people in the cars became very intimate; everybody spoke to everybody else. The ladies talked to the gentleman, and one very fat lady fainted away, quite unexpectedly. When she revived, they all grew quite sociable, and told about all the horrible accidents they had each met with. ' A young man came and sat down by Dr. Neverasole. He was very thin and pale, and seemed as though he were in a decline. The jolting disturbed him, and his hand shook. His eyes were red and blood-shot, and he looked like one who had wasted away his strength by dissipation. "Really," thought Dr. Neverasole, "it is very unpleasant. Every forlorn creature comes and sits by me. It is too bad, I will go and sit in the smoking car," and he rose to leave. The man laid his hand on his arm, as he did so, and said in a hollow voice, interrupted by a hacking cough:
"You have forgotten me, Dr. Neverasole; but it is only-three years since I left the Academy."
"You don't say so?" said the Doctor, "what is your name? I do not know you at all."
"Don't you remember Fred Turpins?" said the youth, and, as he spoke, a flush mounted to his forehead.
"Fred Turpins," said the Doctor, slowly; "is that you? I would not have believed it. How you have altered. What is the matter? Are you ill?"
"No," said Fred. "I have been a little ailing of late; but nothing much. They have kept me in, for a month, and I am going out to Dorchester, for a little--" he hesitated for the word, as a remembrance of the Dorchester Academy came over him--"amusement."
"I am afraid," said the Doctor, hastily, almost before he thought, "you have had too much of that, already, judging from your looks."
"I know it," said the youth, coughing again; "I have been a bad boy, Doctor. I have drank and gambled, and done worse, and this is what I have come to."
"And you are going into Dorchester for what you call amusement, are you?" asked the Doctor.
"Yes; I know it is folly and worse; but I can not help it."
Poor Dr. Neverasole, here it was again. A defaulter a moment ago, and now this poor boy. What a nuisance it was! Why couldn't he travel into Dorchester, and do his business, and not be bothered in this way? And' then such dreadful things, too, reaching so far away. A defaulter going to judgment; and a wasted life, so near its ending. He would have liked to get rid of the young man, could he have done so, politely. And yet he remembered him well; the first boy in the school; the favorite pupil of Professor Poggers; with such a fair face, with the blood mantling in his cheek, and sparkling, blue eyes.
In spite of himself, the Doctor could not help feeling sorry to see him thus. So he spoke.
"If you know it to be folly, why do you do it? Go home by the next tram, and keep out of temptation. Don't you know," he added earnestly, "that your health will not stand it? You are broken down now, and a little more will send you to your grave."
"That's what they all tell me," answered the youth "but a short life and a merry one; that's my motto."
"What a fool you are," answered the Doctor angrily. "Do you call it merriment to go round like a ghost, and to dance a jig at a funeral?"
The youth was startled by the Doctor's angry tone, and he answered seriously,
"I cannot help it," and seeing the Doctor was about to interrupt him, he went on, hastily, "I inherited a passion for drink, and some other taints of blood, from my father. He died before I ever knew him, in some horrible way, and left me this curse as a legacy." And the boy ground his teeth together. "Men's passions are strong enough, anyway, and I have inherited miseries, besides. Is it my fault, if I go on to my death, even while I hate every step of the way?"
"You were a good boy, and a bright one," said the Doctor, "and were well taught. Sound education is more than a balance for such difficulties as these you mention."
"You did not know me, Dr. Neverasole. What did you see in me, a boy, fond of play, learning his lessons easily, bright and quick enough? You praised me, and gave me the first prize, and I graduated the head of the school. What did you know about the struggle that was going on, even then, in my soul? The devil was fighting me then, as hard as he could, and he gained the victory at the Dorchester Academy. What were mathematics, and science, and hygiene, against my passions? Yes, and though I know I shall die for it, against the fever heat of my desires, all human knowledge of consequences, and effects, and results, are just like so many feathers blown by the winds. Passion! Dr. Neverasole. Passion! It rules the world, and I am its slave. I am going to-day, I won't tell you where; I am going, knowing that it is one step nearer to my death;" he coughed as he said it. "I go against my will; a slave if you please; but go, I must." He poured it all out in a torrent of words.
"Do you mean to say," said Dr. Neverasole, slowly and solemnly, "do you dare to say, that even now, you can not stop?"
"I mean to say that I have tried and failed, and tried and failed; that I have made resolutions, and broken them again; that I have no power of will left; that I am as utter a slave as any negro in the South, and a hundred fold more so; and that no human power, no reasoning, no knowledge of consequences, no certainty of poverty and death, are anything, against this wild tumult of my excited passions."
"You need not talk to me," he went on, as he saw the Doctor was about to speak. "What do you know about it? You are fifty or sixty years old. Your passions are either satisfied or subdued. You live easy, and have plenty to eat, and a wife and family. Everybody respects you, and you are all right. If you could only live a thousand years, it would be all the same; but me--" he was interrupted by a fit of coughing.
Just then the cars stopped, and the Doctor gave the young man his arm to help him out.
"Come with me," he said, "I am going to see the Rev. Mr. Dunster, He is a great preacher; he can help you, I am sure. There must be, somewhere, some help for you."
"Dunster!" said the youth, with a laugh, it was unpleasant to hear, "you mean the popular preacher? I have heard him many a time, at the Church of Oliver Cromwell. He can't do anything for me."
"But come, anyhow," said the Doctor. "Well, as I have nothing else to do, till three, I will." That outlying district of the Kingdom of Heaven to which the Rev. Mr. Dunster belonged, had comfortably rewarded the faithful servant. Large and stately, though not too elegant, was the pastoral residence a graceful flock had provided for him. The salary, which the devoted people, year by year, increased, not only paid all the numerous expenses of the large household, but laid up treasures on earth, as a slight return for the heavenly treasures Mr. Dunster bountifully dispensed. The Church of Oliver Cromwell could afford to be generous. The well sold pews, groaned beneath the weight of the souls, who, Sabbath after Sabbath, thronged the comfortable building to hear Mr. Dunster. Men worth their millions, and whose names in the Dorchester Exchange could command untold sums listened to the admirable addresses he made to the throne of grace, and were edified by discourses, which only differed from the editorials in the newspapers, by being a great deal more clever, and in flavoring the interests of daily life with Gospel essences. Tall, strong, powerfully built, of strong animal instincts; thick lipped, heavy boned; of deep and powerful voice, with graceful gestures; with keen appreciation of men and things; not so much well educated, as capable of using everything he knew, and a good deal he only knew of, to the very best advantage; echoing the tone of the times, while he seemed to be teaching; the mouthpiece of his congregation, rather than their instructor; free from bigotry, unsectarian, admiring what was good in many systems, the Gospel which he preached was willingly accepted and paid for handsomely, because it was an able, eloquent and graceful expression of the tone and temper, the wishes, thoughts and feelings--nay, sometimes the varying beliefs and notions of the congregation he represented.
Once or twice Mr. Dunster had made a mistake. He had propounded an unpopular truth; he had mistaken an eddy in the river for the current of the stream. He had gone a little in advance, or fallen behind the average views of the day. When he had done so--which, to do this really great man justice, was not often, then he always achieved his greatest victories. How dexterously he gave up, how ingenuously he acknowledged his mistake, how beautifully he retreated, how cleverly he extricated himself. Like a great general, he always succeeded in turning such retreats into a victory. Not, perhaps, that Mr. Dunster did all this consciously. There was no hypocrisy about him. He was the preacher the times had made, and as the times changed he changed, too. To be sure, he had his difficulties. Now and then he stood by the side of those moral abysses, which his Gospel knew least how to fathom. For sorrow and affliction, and the ordinary distresses of life, he had certain conventional solaces. A species of animal sympathy, of which he was by no means deficient, was of some assistance also; but when even Protestants were driven to confession, and upon his comfortable, easy life was poured the revelation of agonies which human means could not relieve, he was like one astonished, and knew not what to do. But on the particular Monday, when Dr. Neverasole and Fred Turpins were walking towards the parsonage, Mr. Dunster was in the best of spirits. The preceding Sabbath had been an eminently successful one. A rapt audience had listened to one of his most powerful efforts. The distinguished poet Mr. Gushington, had been present, and had been so overcome by Mr. Dunster's eloquence, that he had publicly expressed his approval, and to crown it all, the Monday morning's Daily Lyar had devoted an editorial to the preaching of the great divine.
He sat in his pleasant study. The slippers he wore had been embroidered by devout and loving fingers. The dressing-gown reminded him of a happy pastoral experience; the easy chair was covered by the zeal of an enthusiastic convert. A paper knife, made of wood from the Mount of Olives, had been brought for his benefit, all the way from Jerusalem, by a deacon who had traveled. A beautifully bound set of books, and a handsome baquet, had that very morning refreshed him. His wife ^ and daughter, fresh and wholesome, had just gone out the door, and he watched their well dressed and well gloved forms step into the comfortable carriage, for a morning's shopping. He was not tired with his effort of the day before; he did not feel in the least Mondayish. He was fresh, vigorous, and prosperous, as one whom the Lord had blessed. A good breakfast, which a good digestion pleasantly assimilated, the pleasing recollection of a good cigar, a letter to write, and a day before him, not too busily occupied, filled him with a satisfaction, which is ordinarily ascribed to a quiet conscience.
When Dr. Neverasole came in, he was welcomed in that hearty way which had greatly helped his popularity, and the moments thought he bestowed on his companion, was only that he was, probably, one of the many youths whom his great powers attracted to sit uneasily in his presence, and drink in the wisdom which fell from his lips.
"Certainly," he said, "I will attend your exhibition with great pleasure. The Dorchester Polytechnic Academy has my warmest sympathy, and I will make a few remarks as you desire. Nothing can be more interesting, than youth full of hope, starting forth upon the race of life."
After talking about the weather and a great many other subjects, until Mr. Dunster grew impatient, and wondered when they would go, Dr. Neverasole, at last, said, "He wished that Mr. Dunster would say a word to his young friend, who was going down in the world; in short, had been dissipated, and said he did not want to be, but could not help it."
Even as he spoke, Dr. Neverasole was quite indignant with himself. What had got into him, that he should actually be bothering himself with this young fellow's soul? It was no affair of his, and it was no use, anyhow. Down in his heart, he did not much believe, himself, in Mr. Dunster's spiritual powers; but this poor Fred Turpins, a bright, beautiful lad, three years ago, and now such a wreck, moved him in spite of himself. Besides, somehow, things seemed to have changed since morning. Either there was a change, external to himself, or else there was some change within, that made everything seem different. In the intervals of his conversation, he kept asking himself what was the matter. He said to himself, "I am nervous; that man's death, this morning, and then meeting with young Turpins, has quite upset me. A good cup of tea, when I get home, will make it all right."
Me refreshed himself, inwardly, with a vision of his easy chair, dressing-gown and slippers, and Mrs. Neverasole bringing in a dish of fried oysters; but, somehow, it did not comfort him as it ought. Something was accusing him to himself, and he felt as if he were on his defense. "It is not my fault," he thought. "I did my duty by him; I taught him and gave him a good education; it is his own look-out. No doubt he had inherited tendencies; his father was an old rascal," and yet, each time he fixed his eyes on the boy, all these things vanished away, and he had a sense of guilt, as if he had committed a murder. So, it was with earnestness, that he waited for Mr. Dunster's reply, it consisted of some common-places about "avoiding temptation," "trying to do better," "turning over a new leaf," "never too late to improve," "the greater happiness of leading a new life," things all true enough, but utterly without help in them, as cologne water in a case of small-pox. The youth rose up from his seat, when Mr. Dunster had finished, and, with an expression of ill-concealed impatience, said, "I have heard it all before, a hundred times. It doesn't amount to anything. If I could proclaim myself the guilty thing that I am, before every one; if I could kneel, in sack cloth and ashes, at the door of some church; if I could cry unclean! unclean! as they say the lepers used to do, when any one came near; if I could be judged here on earth, as my mother used to say I would be judged at the last; if I could be whipped and scourged as I deserve; if then, I could be made over again, by a miraculous power, utterly out of myself, having nothing to do with my thoughts or anything that I am; if there were some power from heaven that could incorporate me into some one who is as pure as I am foul, and possess me with a might from above, I might be saved; but there is no such religion on earth," He did not wait for a reply, but went quickly out of the house.
"Quite crazy, with liquor," said Mr. Dunster, in a pleasant way. to Dr. Neverasole, as he rose to follow the youth.
Dr. Neverasole shook his head and went out of the door. He looked up and down the street, but Fred was nowhere to be seen, and, with a sigh of relief at having got rid of him, he hurried on to make his visit on Governor Culler.
Dr. Neverasole was decidedly shaky, that afternoon. He noticed that his hand trembled, so he stepped into a druggist's and took a small dose of whiskfy, of which a little revived him. As he came out of the store, a man rushed by him, on the street, hurrying, as if on some urgent errand, and the Doctor found himself wondering whether somebody had committed suicide, and was half inclined to run after the man, and ask what was the matter.
The Court House bell, ringing for a fire, sent his heart into his mouth, and he turned into another street, to avoid a funeral, he saw slowly coming towards him. There was a sense of loneliness even in the crowded thoroughfare into which he turned. The afternoon shadows seemed to have fallen upon everyone. Each face, to his eye, had an expression of anxiety, as if some terrible spiritual reality were present to them, which they could neither speak of nor avoid.
He found himself, presently, standing in front of St. George's Church, and, through the iron railing, reading the names and ages upon the old tomb-stones. He was speculating upon the life of Miss Almira Joggins, who lived to the age of ninety-five, when his attention was attracted by the sound of many feet. He had not noticed that the Church door was open, and before he was aware of it, the funeral procession he had avoided awhile before, was upon him. Just then, the great bell of St. George's tolled forth sorrowfully. He stood a little to one side, to let the procession go by, and was wondering who was dead. It seemed a long procession, with many carriages, and the coffin, which he could see through the glass windows of the hearse, was magnificent with rosewood and plate. He had moved from the sidewalk to avoid the procession and was standing in the midst ot a crowd of small boys who were watching it pass. He felt it was an undignified position to be in, but he could not cross the street, because of the hearse and carriages, and he did not like to join the procession.
He found himself possessed with the old thought, that it might be his own funeral, and that he was witnessing it. It would not have surprised him had he recognized Mrs. Neverasole and Hetty, in the two closely veiled women, who alighted from the first carriage. The fact that the pall-bearers were, all of them, men well known in Dorchester, and whom he personally was acquainted with, added to the illusion, and as the words, "I am the Resurrection and the Life," fell on his ears, from the clergyman, standing in the arched doorway, he felt compelled to go in.
He was about taking a seat in the lower part of the church, when a man he knew very well, beckoned him up farther, and whispered to him, as he followed him into one of the top-most pews: "You ought to be up near the mourners; he thought a great deal of you."
It was, of course, perfectly preposterous, and he almost smiled at himself, although it was a funeral, at the sense of relief he felt on hearing these words, and the thought that it could not be, after all, his own funeral. But whose was it? And then his mind wandered to the thought that presented itself unbidden, and could not be gotten rid of. Had the poor soul gone to Heaven?
"Awfully sudden, was it not," said his friend.
"What did he die of?" asked the Doctor.
"They call it brain fever, I believe; but, of course, we all know it was delirium tremens," replied his friend. "The poor Governor," he added, "was a little too fond of drink."
Dr. Neverasole started, as if he had been struck. "Governor!" he said. "Is this Governor Culler's funeral?"
"Why, what do you mean!" replied his friend, in a low whisper.
"I did not know it," answered the Doctor. "I came in town, to-day, to see him, and am here by accident. I must go; it is too much for me."
Indeed, Dr. Neverasole looked so pale that, as he rose to leave the church, his friend went out with him, and offered to get him a carriage. Dr. Neverasole hastily refused, and hurried away as fast as he could, thinking he would get back to the station, and rest there until the train started for Dorchester. He almost tottered, several . times, and was obliged to lean against a lamp post for a rest. A policeman, walking along on the other side of the street, eyed him curiously, and winked at another policeman, whom he met.
Dr. Neverasole's thought went wandering back to the night before, and his conversation with Professor Poggers, and he found himself wishing he could pray for him. Just then, a well-known voice greeted him, and Prof. Poggers accompanied by Whiffles, Fred Stebbms, Durkey, Snippets and several other of the boys, stood before him.
"We expected to meet you at the Court House," said the Professor.
The Doctor fairly cried out with amazement. "What are you here for, Professor--and the boys--and what Court Room? What do you mean?"
"Did you not get the telegram, then? Why, just after you left, we got news that the examination of Robert Graham was to take place to-day, and that it was to be in Dorchester. So I telegraphed to you, and came in with the boys, thinking their testimony might be needed," said the Professor.
"No, indeed," answered the Doctor. "Is the examination over?"
"Yes," replied the Professor, cheerfully, "and they committed him for trial."
Somehow, in the Doctor's new state of mind, he felt shocked at the Professor's cheerfulness. The excellent Mr. Poggers actually seemed to him, to be hard-hearted, so he added, "What have they done with the poor boy; where is he?
"They took him to the Government Street Jail, as there was no one to go bail for him."
"Nobody to go bail for him," cried the Doctor, "where was his uncle?"
"His uncle seemed angry about the whole matter," replied the Professor, "said the Grandmother was a fool, and the boy another, and that he washed his hands of the whole business. The truth is, I think he wanted to give the boy a lesson, and will bail him out to-morrow. A night in the jail won't hurt the young scoundrel."
The boys had gathered around the Professor and the Doctor. They were struck by the Doctor's unusual expression and appearance.
The Doctor pressed his hand upon his forehead. "Is it too late for me to bail him out; we might take him out to the Academy for to-night, and send him home to-morrow?" he asked.
"Do bail him out," said Ned Stebbins. "The jail is a horrid looking place, and they put a man in, to-day, who had committed a murder. I know he was innocent." He said it so earnestly, that Durkey, whose face was very pale, pinched his arm so fiercely that he almost cried out with pain.
So they all hurried together to the Court House, Dr. Neverasole leading the way, the boys following, and Professor Poggers, in a state of amazement, bringing up the rear.
Meanwhile, all day long, Mrs. Graham, carefully watched by Mrs. Dorothy and the Widow Jones, had been lying in what the physicians said, was a dying condition. The shock of the sheriff's coming, and the necessary parting from Robert, had brought on a terrible attack, which had left her so weak that there seemed no possibility of her reviving again. The visitors had all left, before they had been aware of the sheriff's visit, or Mrs. Graham had been informed of it. Indeed, the first news of Robert's examination, was conveyed to the Bishop, by the evening paper, some hours later than the time of which we are writing. But all day long, with her hands clasped, Mrs. Graham's lips were moving in prayer, her eyes, whenever they opened, were lifted to Heaven, and the ceaseless intercession was going up to God for the poor boy. It was all that she could do, and it was mightier than all things else.