When Lotus Stone graduated from the College of Physicians and Surgeons, he was for weeks undecided where he would begin the practice of his profession. He certainly did not intend to settle in Grandville. From the very first he had, however, turned his eyes southward. Why he preferred the South has been previously mentioned. Weighing the advantages of two places, toward which his mind had inclined, he wrote to his old school fellow at Minton for an opinion upon the relative advantages of the places selected. In this letter to Clement, he stated at large, his view of the probabilities and drawbacks that might attend the beginning of his professional life in either place. To this friendly renewal of the confidence which had been somewhat shattered in the months that had elapsed since their conclave experience, Clement made an immediate reply. He did not, however, favor either of the places, between which Lotus was inclined to make choice, but recommended instead the flourishing city of Granville. He pointed out the advantages of the new industrial life the place had taken on, and demonstrated the fine opening for surgical practice that would be sure to come to him through the daily accidents occurring about a plant of this description.
Clement was too well acquainted with the unreasonable pride of his friend, however, to give the reason uppermost in his mind. Dr. Lotus Stone went South, confident that he was leaving Regenia Underwood and his heart under the waving elms of Mt. Clare. What his feelings were the night he found the angelic apparition pursuing her deeds of mercy among the shacks on the outskirts of Grandville is left for the reader to conjecture.
As they drove along through night, beneath the moon-lit, southern sky, a sense of serene contentment which had never before experienced stole into the heart of the young doctor.
"What an unexpected delight," he said. "I cannot realize that it is not an evanescent dream. Miss Underwood at Grandville! The though is too preposterous to be true."
"And yet you are here. an you not reconcile yourself to my presence as well as account for your own?" she replied lightly.
"I cannot say I can. My intention from the first was to come to the South. If you remember, your ideas were decidedly against it."
"'Circumstances alter cases,' says a wise old saw, and I am as enthusiastically in favor of the South as the place for work and race development to-night as I was opposed to it when we discussed the subject last," she said.
"Where are Mrs. Underwood and Mrs. Levitt? How I have lived over the few bright days spent in Mt. Clare. That conclave, to me, I have often thought since, was the one glimpse of paradise given a man at rare intervals on this earth of sad regrets and bitter disappointments," he said, lost in the afterthought which his mention of Mrs. Underwood and Mrs. Levitt's names recalled.
"The first is dead," replied Regenia with as much calmness as she could command. "Mrs. Levitt, poor, poor dear, no one knows what has become of her."
"I did not know that," he said apologetically. "Pardon me, if, in my ignorance, I have given you pain."
"Apologies are unnecessary," she said. "Ask me what you will. It seems ages since I heard from kindly lips the mention of those two names. Your reference to them is rather in the nature of a blessing than otherwise. Grandmother died the night Lucile and Mr. St. John were married," she hastened to say. "I was not at home and know but little of the cause of her sudden demise. Mrs. Levitt left home to go to church a few Sunday nights following and has never been heard of since. Dr. Leighton advertised and employed detectives to search for her, but the only evidence of her existence ever disclosed was her shawl, left near the ferry landing, at the foot of Scranton street.
"And left alone," he repeated slowly, "your property in the hands of Dr. Leighton, you came South seeking bread? Oh, the burning shame of it, that Dr. Leighton could permit anything so revolting!"
"No, you do the doctor an unintentional injustice. He possesses the property and offered to take care of me, but I refused to accept his offer and came forth into the world of my own volition to support myself."
"Brave little girl," said the doctor, attempting to take her hand. Regenia drew back. He instantly saw his mistake and hurriedly asked, "Does St. John know of all this?" He asked this in a half resentful mood, not knowing whether to spend his chagrin on the inoffensive head of his old friend or apologize for the thoughtless familiarity his sympathy had betrayed him into.
"Oh, yes, I told Lucile and Mr. St. John everything. Mr. St. John is my best friend. Through his kindness I came south."
For the first time it occurred to Lotus why Clement had sent him to Grandville, and if he had ever felt angry with his big-hearted friend, the remembrance of the service he had done him in directing his footsteps to Grandville made ample amends.
"Have you heard from Mr. St. John lately?" she asked archly.
Lotus was on his guard in a moment. He divined that she was trying to ascertain whether the knowledge that she was in Grandville had not figured largely in sending him there.
"Clement and I have not corresponded regularly since I left Washington. I am ashamed to confess the fault lay at my door, however. I am a poor letter writer."
"So I have observed," she said reproachfully. She would have given a great deal to take those four words back. "What must he think of me?" she thought.
"He thinks you an angel," is what he would have answered if he could have listened to the murmuring of your mental graphophone.
He said: "And are you a better correspondent? It seems to me that you some times fail in that respect as well as myself."
"Promptness in letter writing is my one virtue. I never received a letter that I did not answer."
"Did you never receive a letter from me?" he asked excitedly.
"Never," she replied.
"Then we have an enemy, that will not scruple at anything to—to make us unfriendly. I wrote to you from Washington as soon as I reached that city. I also wrote you twice from New York. I concluded that you did not care to pursue my acquaintance further."
Regenia listened to what he was saying as if stupefied. The old question recurred, "Who is my enemy?" The old answer was on her lips—the accusation which she had mentally made a thousand times, but ties of consanguinity restrained her.
They were nearing the house. As the buggy turned the corner into Fourth street, Dr. Leighton, leaning against a tree on the sidewalk, beheld a sight which made his heart stand still. Dr. Lotus Stone and Regenia drove up to Mrs. Landers'. The doctor alighted and assisted Regenia to the curb, stood there until the door opened, then entering his buggy, drove rapidly past Dr. Leighton a second time, in the direction of the Steel Plant. Dr. Leighton watched the buggy until it was lost in the darkness, then uttering a terrible oath, crossed the street and entered a near-by saloon.
As Regenia bade Dr. Stone good-night, she invited him politely to come and see her some time.
The words sang in his ears as he drove along in the moonlight. "Come and see me some time," he said over and over, now in a whisper, now half audibly. "Come and see me some time," as he would not, he thought. Come and see you, I would if every window pane in that old brick house was darkened with a siege gun. Faster and faster he drove until the red light of the furnace was only a reflection in the distance. The unspoken yearning of his heart filled him with a wild desire to drive on and on until day should come and with it one more sight of the woman he loved. How he loved her he had not realized until chance again brought them face to face. He thought of Clement, and, reining his horse, turned toward Grandville and drove back home to write to Clement, beg his forgiveness for the negligence of the past, and tell, above all things, about Regenia.
The next day seemed so long Dr. Stone could not endure the wait until evening, but drove out to see the sick child he had visited the night before. He excused himself to the mother by saying that he was called out there anyway, and to save two trips came to her in the afternoon. He said the same thing to Regenia. He was called to see a patient and dropped up to look in on her olive branches incidentally. He remained, however, until school closed and drove Regenia home.
Dr. Stone had not been in Regenia's company a second time until he saw what Dr. Leighton had discovered, the Regenia of Mt. Clare and the "Elms" was not the self-possessed young lady whose shadow he was preparing himself to follow about the city of Grandville. If he booked upon the former friendship between himself and Regenia, he was soon may aware of his mistake. Throwing the past to the winds, he commenced anew to study the object of his intended conquest. Madly in love, from the very first, the doctor was unable to hide the face from the sharp eyes of Regenia. She received his visits however on the same footing which any other young man of the city came. With native cleverness, she succeeded in hiding her own feelings from the blind eyes of the enamored doctor. He knew he loved her to distraction and only wanted an opportunity to declare his love. This opportunity Regenia always managed to elude. On the brink of a declaration, she would suddenly leave the room, if out driving she would naively call his attention to some sight or scene that tended to drift the conversation in an opposite direction. In this way matters stood at the close of her school. Schools closed the last of May. It was indeed a trying time to Regenia; days of exacting labor and sleepless nights of nervous headache. She had more than once declared to Dr. Stone that she did not believe she could hold out if school closed the last of June, as it does for the most part throughout the North. The children were as excited and anxious about the last day as their teacher. To them it was a day fraught with momentous import. At last the day came and with it such a crowd of proud mothers and doting indulgent fathers as the building could not have contained if it had been twice or three times its present size. Both the teacher and school had in some way gained a notoriety beyond the confines of the Steel Plant and the city on whose outskirts it stood. Many persons from the city and even trustees of country schools from the neighboring districts, had made it a point to ride or drive in to the city to be present at the closing exercises of Regenia's school. Dr. Lotus Stone, of course, was present; also Dr. Frank Leighton. These two gentlemen, together with a number of the clergymen, of large and small fry, were there to give dignity to the occasion. Chief among the latter class was the Rev. Ananias Foggs, his vest buttoned to the throat and wearing a new white cravat probably not more than five or six months old. Those who could not pack in the house, hung in the windows, and made life in that room anything but pleasant. The examination, as it was called, but to the initiated it was only a rehearsal, was pronounced to be a tremendous success. The work was indeed commendable to the intelligence and painstaking labor of the teacher. Near the door on a table were displayed specimens of the pupils' writing. These specimens, together with the copy-books, were put into the hands of a committee to decide which was the best and awarded the prize to the successful competitor. Dr. Stone, Dr. Leighton, and one of the ministers were chosen by Regenia to perform this important function. While the committee was making its decision, the time of all times to the Afro-American, was spent in telling the children how they (the speakers) would have improved this chance if it had only been offered them, a statement, however, which must be swallowed with due caution, judging from the way some of them have improved their time. The committee finally reported and Dr. Leighton was asked to present the prize. This he did in such a pleasing way that not only Regenia and her visitors were delighted, but Dr. Stone was obliged to relent some of the hard things he had been thinking of his professional brother. The trustees held a meeting at the close of the exercises, elected Regenia to take charge of the school during the year next ensuing and also made arrangements for an assistant. Regenia was highly pleased with the complimentary things which both Dr. Stone and her cousin poured out without restraint.
She drove home with Dr. Stone. The next day Regenia was to leave Grandville for the North. Dr. Stone sought in vain that evening to draw her aside and declare his love, but she adroitly avoided every intrusion of sentiment.
When the doctor left that evening he held out his hand to say good-bye.
"Not good-bye but adieu. Will you not see me at the station?"
"No," he said. "I will send the buggy around. I am engaged at the very hour your train leaves," he replied, holding her hand.
"Then I shall not see you again?" she said, evincing no little disappointment.
"Not until you return." His grasp tightened. He thought he felt a return of the pressure.
"Will you not let me say just one word?" he pleaded. "Will you not at least hear my confession? Do you not love me, just a little?"
Her head lowered, and turning she said, "Now good-bye, and oh, I shall thank you and think of you ever so much when I get away from here."
The next day the doctor's buggy drove Regenia to the station, but Dr. Stone had to forego a pleasure that was hard to bear, but what could he not bear when the happiness of the women he loved was at stake.
Chapter 19 -- Chapter 21