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List Of Contents | Contents of The Golden House, by Charles Dudley Warner
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and the doctor hesitated to make known her errand when she saw how
exhausted he was.

"Did you wish me for anything?" he asked, after the rather forced
greeting.

"If you feel able.  There is a girl at the Woman's Hospital who wants to
see you."

"Who is it?"

"It is the girl you saw on the street the other afternoon; she said she
had spoken to you."

"She promised to come to the mission."

"She couldn't.  I met the poor thing the same afternoon.  She looked so
aimless and forlorn that, though I did not remember her at first, I
thought she might be ill, and spoke to her, and asked her what was the
matter.  At first she said nothing except that she was out of work and
felt miserable; but the next moment she broke down completely, and said
she hadn't a friend in the world."

"Poor thing!" said the priest, with a pang of self-reproach.

"There was nothing to do but to take her to the hospital, and there she
has been."

"Is she very ill?"

"She may live, the house surgeon says.  But she was very weak for such a
trial."

Little more was said as they walked along, and when they reached the
hospital, Father Damon was shown without delay into the ward where the
sick girl lay.  Dr. Leigh turned back from the door, and the nurse took
him to the bedside.  She lay quite still in her cot, wan and feeble, with
every sign of having encountered a supreme peril.

She turned her head on the low pillow as Father Damon spoke, saying he
was very glad he could come to her, and hoped she was feeling better.

"I knew you would come," she said, feebly.  "The nurse says I'm better.
But I wanted to tell you--"And she stopped.

"Yes, I know," he said.  "The Lord is very good.  He will forgive all
your sins now, if you repent and trust Him."

"I hope--"she began.  "I'm so weak.  If I don't live I want him to know."

"Want whom to know?" asked the father, bending over her.

She signed for him to come closer, and then whispered a name.

"Only if I never see him again, if you see him, you will tell him that I
was always true to him.  He said such hard words.  I was always true."

"I promise," said the father, much moved.  "But now, my child, you ought
to think of yourself, of your--"

"He is dead.  Didn't they tell you?  There is nothing any more."

The nurse approached with a warning gesture that the interview was too
prolonged.

Father Damon knelt for a moment by the bedside, uttering a hardly
articulate prayer.  The girl's eyes were closed.  When he rose she opened
them with a look of gratitude, and with the sign of blessing he turned
away.

He intended to hasten from the house.  He wanted to be alone.  His
trouble seemed to him greater than that of the suffering girl.  What had
he done?  What was he in thought better than she?  Was this intruding
human element always to cross the purpose of his spiritual life?

As he was passing through the wide hallway the door of the reception-room
was open, and he saw Dr. Leigh seated at the table, with a piece of work
in her hands.  She looked up, and stopped him with an unspoken inquiry in
her face.  It was only civil to pause a moment and tell her about the
patient, and as he stepped within the room she rose.

"You should rest a moment, Father Damon.  I know what these scenes are."

Yielding weakly, as he knew, he took the offered chair.  But he raised
his hand in refusal of the glass of wine which she had ready for him on
the table, and offered before he could speak.

"But you must," she said, with a smile.  "It is the doctor's
prescription."

She did not look like a doctor.  She had laid aside the dusty walking-
dress, the business-jacket, the ugly little hat of felt, the battered
reticule.  In her simple house costume she was the woman, homelike,
sympathetic, gentle, with the everlasting appeal of the strong feminine
nature.  It was not a temptress who stood before him, but a helpful
woman, in whose kind eyes-how beautiful they were in this moment of
sympathy--there was trust--and rest--and peace.

"So," she said, when he had taken the much-needed draught; "in the
hospital you must obey the rules, one of which is to let no one sink in
exhaustion."

She had taken her seat now, and resumed her work.  Father Damon was
looking at her, seeing the woman, perhaps, as he never had seen her
before, a certain charm in her quiet figure and modest self-possession,
while the thought of her life, of her labors, as he had seen her now for
months and months of entire sacrifice of self, surged through his brain
in a whirl of emotion that seemed sweeping him away.  But when he spoke
it was of the girl, and as if to himself.

"I was sorry to let her go that day.  Friendless, I should have known.
I did know.  I should have felt.  You--"

"No," she said, gently, interrupting him; "that was my business.  You
should not accuse yourself.  It was a physician's business."

"Yes, a physician--the great Physician.  The Master never let the sin
hinder his compassion for the sinner."

To this she could make no reply.  Presently she looked up and said: "But
I am sure your visit was a great comfort to the poor girl!  She was very
eager to see you."

"I do not know."

His air was still abstracted.  He was hardly thinking of the girl, after
all, but of himself, of the woman who sat before him.  It seemed to him
that he would have given the world to escape--to fly from her, to fly
from himself.  Some invisible force held him--a strong, new, and yet not
new, emotion, a power that seemed to clutch his very life.  He could not
think clearly about it.  In all his discipline, in his consecration, in
his vows of separation from the world, there seemed to have been no
shield prepared for this.  The human asserted itself, and came in,
overwhelming his guards and his barriers like a strong flood in the
spring-time of the year, breaking down all artificial contrivances.
"They reckon ill who leave me out," is the everlasting cry of the human
heart, the great passion of life, incarnate in the first man and the
first woman.

With a supreme effort of his iron will--is the Will, after all, stronger
than Love?--Father Damona rose.  He stretched out his hand to say
farewell.  She also stood, and she felt the hand tremble that held hers.

"God bless you!" he said.  "You are so good."

He was going.  He took her other hand, and was looking down upon her
face.  She looked up, and their eyes met.  It was for an instant, a
flash, glance for glance, as swift as the stab of daggers.

All the power of heaven and earth could not recall that glance nor undo
its revelations.  The man and the woman stood face to face revealed.

He bent down towards her face.  Affrighted by his passion, scarcely able
to stand in her sudden emotion, she started back.  The action, the
instant of time, recalled him to himself.  He dropped her hands, and was
gone.  And the woman, her knees refusing any longer to support her, sank
into a chair, helpless, and saw him go, and knew in that moment the
height of a woman's joy, the depth of a woman's despair.

It had come to her!  Steeled by her science, shielded by her
philanthropy, schooled in indifference to love, it had come to her!
And it was hopeless.  Hopeless?  It was absurd.  Her life was determined.
In no event could it be in harmony with his opinions, with his religion,
which was dearer to him than life.  There was a great gulf between them
which she could not pass unless she ceased to be herself.  And he?
A severe priest!  Vowed and consecrated against human passion!  What a
government of the world--if there were any government--that could permit
such a thing!  It was terrible.

And yet she was loved!  That sang in her heart with all the pain, with
all the despair.  And with it all was a great pity for him, alone, gone
into the wilderness, as it would seem to him, to struggle with his fierce
temptation.

It had come on darker as she sat there.  The lamps were lighted, and she
was reminded of some visits she must make.  She went, mechanically,
to her room to prepare for going.  The old jacket, which she took up, did
look rather rusty.  She went to the press--it was not much of a wardrobe
--and put on the one that was reserved for holidays.  And the hat?  Her
friends had often joked her about the hat, but now for the first time she
seemed to see it as it might appear to others.  As she held it in her
hand, and then put it on before the mirror, she smiled a little, faintly,
at its appearance.  And then she laid it aside for her better hat.  She
never had been so long in dressing before.  And in the evening, too, when
it could make no difference!  It might, after all, be a little more
cheerful for her forlorn patients.  Perhaps she was not conscious that
she was making selections, that she was paying a little more attention to
her toilet than usual.  Perhaps it was only the woman who was conscious
that she was loved.

It would be difficult to say what emotion was uppermost in the mind of
Father Damon as he left the house--mortification, contempt of himself,
or horror.  But there was a sense of escape, of physical escape, and the
imperative need of it, that quickened his steps almost into a run.
In the increasing dark, at this hour, in this quarter of the town, there
were comparatively few whose observation of him would recall him to
himself.  He thought only of escape, and of escape from that quarter of
the city that was the witness of his labors and his failure.  For the
moment to get away from this was the one necessity, and without reasoning
in the matter, only feeling, he was hurrying, stumbling in his haste,
northward.  Before he went to the hospital he had been tired, physically
weary.  He was scarcely conscious of it now; indeed, his body, his hated
body, seemed lighter, and the dominant spirit now awakened to contempt of
it had a certain pleasure in testing it, in drawing upon its vitality, to
the point of exhaustion if possible.  It should be seen which was master.
His rapid pace presently brought him into one of the great avenues
leading to Harlem.  That was the direction he wished to go.  That was

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