A Modern Wizardскачать книгу бесплатно
"No! Your explanation of how you charm fish removes it from the region of the mysterious, and I have no doubt that what Mesmer observed, could be as satisfactorily explained if we only knew how."
So the subject was dropped, and both retired to their staterooms, as the hour was late. Dr. Medjora, when alone, occupied himself with the serious problem before him. He had undertaken a charge, – the education of a youth endowed with unusual intelligence. To teach him all that he wished him to know, it became an essential part of his plan that Leon should be hypnotized. How should he accomplish it?
Leon slept soundly, or if he dreamed at all, it was of the name which he would make for himself.
Early on the following morning the steamboat landed her passengers, and Leon set foot upon the shores of New York City. He had sat upon the deck for more than an hour, marvelling at the extent of the two cities between which they passed down the East river; he had gazed with wondering eyes upon the great bridge, astonished that the name of the engineer was not known to him; and the thought hurt, for if one might build such a structure and not be more widely known to fame, how was he, a poor country boy, to earn distinction? He had admired the beautiful Battery, the Statue of Liberty, the lovely bay, the tall buildings, and had felt that he was almost approaching Paradise. But at last he was ashore, and in New York, the Mecca of all good citizens of the New World, and he felt correspondingly elated.
Cabs and carriages were offered by shouting hackmen, with stentorian voices, and insinuating manners, but the Doctor pushed through the throng, and crossed the street to where two magnificent black horses, attached to a luxurious carriage, tossed their heads and shook their silver chains. A man in livery opened the door, and Dr. Medjora made a sign to Leon to get in, which he did, for the first time beginning to realize that his newfound friend was a man of wealth.
The drive seemed endless, and if Leon was surprised at the length of the city as he viewed it from the river, he was more amazed now, as the carriage rolled rapidly through continuous rows of houses built up solidly on each side. In reality they drove almost the entire length of the Island, for their destination was that same place where the Doctor had once set fire to his house.
Everything, however, was changed. Where once was an old dwelling on a rugged lot of land, there was now a royal mansion within a spacious park. This was the home of Dr. Emanuel Medjora and his wife. They had no children. But a retinue of servants, and frequent arrivals of company, kept the two from feeling lonely.
The Doctor ushered Leon into a cosy reception-room, made pleasant by sunshine, and the light morning's breeze, and there bade him wait a moment, while he summoned his wife. But Leon was not left to himself long, for within a few moments a door opened and Madame Medjora entered.
She insisted that she should always be called Madame, and therefore in deference to her nationality, as well as to her wishes, I give her that title.
Hearing the carriage, she had hurried to meet her husband, but by accident they had not met, and she was surprised to see the stranger of whom she had heard nothing, and whose arrival was therefore entirely unexpected. Leon arose and bowed to her, in courteous and graceful greeting, but, angered because she had not been advised of his coming, she asked with brusqueness.
"Who are you?"
"I came with Dr. Medjora," replied Leon, somewhat startled by the unfriendliness of her manner.
"But who are you? What is your name?"
Alas! The inconvenience of having no name. In a moment Leon was all embarrassment.
"My name?" He paused and stammered. "My name is – Leon – " Here he stopped, blushed, and looked away.
"Leon! Leon what?" asked Madame Medjora, in tones far from conciliatory. Leon did not reply. She continued, now thoroughly aroused. "You are ashamed of your name, are you? What is your name? I will know it! What is your last name, your full name?"
"Leon Grath is his name!" said a voice behind, and, turning, they both saw Dr. Medjora.
A FACE FROM THE PAST
Madame Medjora turned at the sound of her husband's voice with mingled emotion, – pleasure at seeing him at home again, for she still loved him with the passionate ardor of those earlier days, and anxiety, because her keen ear detected a tone of reproval in his words. Had she been a thoroughly wise woman that note of warning would have served to make her desist, but she was not to be baffled, when once she had determined to learn the meaning of anything that had aroused her curiosity or excited her suspicion. So instead of abandoning the subject, and welcoming her husband with an effusiveness which would have smoothed the wrinkles from his forehead, she turned upon him almost angrily, and said:
"Why do you prompt him? Is he an idiot that he cannot tell his name?"
"Not at all," said the Doctor, hopeful of dispersing the threatened storm, and therefore becoming slightly explanatory and conciliatory. "You have evidently confused Mr. Grath by your manner of questioning him, that is all. He is a country boy, unused to city ways, and you must excuse him if he is not as ready with an answer, as he will be after we make a citizen of him."
"He must be from the country indeed," was the sneering reply. "He must have been raised in a forest, to be so confused because I ask him his name." Then altering her tone, and speaking more rapidly, she continued: "Do not think that your wife is a fool, Dr. Medjora. Even a dog knows his name. There is something about this that you wish to hide from me. But I will not submit to it. You shall not bring any nameless beggars into my house!"
Leon uttered a cry as though wounded, and started to leave the apartment, but the Doctor, livid with anger, detained him by clutching his arm, as he would have passed, and turning upon his wife uttered but one word:
That was all, but his voice implied such a threat, that the woman shrunk back, awed, and frightened, and utterly subdued, she merely murmured:
"Emanuel, forgive me!"
"Go to your room!" ejaculated the Doctor, sternly, and after one appealing glance at him, which he ignored, she swiftly glided through the door, and closed it softly after her. Thus the two men were left to themselves. Leon was the first to speak:
"Dr. Medjora," he began, "I thank you most heartily for what you have intended to do for me, but we have made a mistake. I cannot enter your home now. I can never hope that your wife will forget what has occurred to-day. Therefore were I to remain, my presence must become intolerably obnoxious to her; and her unhappiness would be but a blight upon your own peace."
"Perhaps you are right," said the Doctor quietly, and as though meditating upon the affair. "It is possible that you would not be as happy here as I would wish you to be. But if you go away from me, what will you do?"
"Work!" answered the youth, succinctly.
"Well answered," said the Doctor. "But, my boy, that is more easily decided upon than accomplished. You are a stranger, not only in the city, but to city manners and city methods. You would start out with determination to succeed, and in the first day you would apply at many places. But at them all you would be met with such questions as 'Where did you work last?' 'What experience have you?' 'What references can you offer?' You would answer them all unsatisfactorily, and you would be dismissed with a shrug of the shoulders."
"I have no doubt, Doctor, that it will be hard to obtain a place; but, as ignorant as I am, I have formed an idea upon this subject. I believe that in this country, where surely nine tenths of all men earn a livelihood, the small proportion of idlers have themselves to blame for their condition. Of course there must be a meritorious few who are unfortunate, but I speak of the greater number. Therefore I think that if I seek work, without any scruples as to what work it may be, I shall not starve."
"But are you ready to go right out into the world, single handed? Do you mean that you would begin the battle at once, to-day?"
"You do? Then I have faith in you. I, too, believe that you will succeed. I wish you God speed!"
Leon said "Thank you," and then there was a pause. In a moment, however, Leon started towards the front door, and the Doctor followed him in silence. The youth took down his hat from the jutting spur of a gnarled cedar stump, which, polished and varnished, served as a hat-rack, and a moment later stood upon the stoop extending his hand in farewell.
"Dr. Medjora," said Leon, "you must not think that I am ungrateful, nor that I am too proud to accept your aid. I am only doing what I deem to be my duty after – after what has passed. Good-by."
"Good-by, Leon," said the Doctor, shaking his hand warmly.
Leon started away, and, passing along the path, was nearing the gate that led to the street, when suddenly he paused, turned, and quickly retraced his steps. He found the Doctor standing where he had parted from him. Rushing up the steps, he essayed to speak, but a sob choked his utterance, and it was with difficulty that he said:
"Lossy!" Then he stopped, looking anxiously at the Doctor. It was surely a pretty picture. The lad had not hesitated to cast himself against the rude pricks of Fate, but the recollection of his dog made him tremble.
"Lossy will be brought here this afternoon," said the Doctor. "I have already sent my man down to get him out of his box, and bring him. What do you wish me to do about him?"
"Oh, Doctor," exclaimed the boy, appealingly, "if you would only keep my dog! You were kind enough to buy him for me. But now – now – unless you will keep him awhile – why – why – " Here he broke down utterly and ceased to speak, while a tear-drop in each eye glistened in the sunlight which crossed his handsome features, illuminated by the love that welled up from his heart; love for this dumb beast that had been his friend for so long a time.
"I will keep Lossy for you, Leon," began the Doctor, but he was interrupted by Leon, who grasped his hand impulsively, crying:
"Heaven bless you, Doctor!"
"But, I will keep you, also, my boy," continued the Doctor, tightening his grasp of Leon's hand, so that he could not get away.
"No! No!" cried the lad.
"Yes! Yes!" said the Doctor. "Now come back into the house and let me explain myself." Half forcibly he drew the youth after him, and they returned to the room where they had first been. Then the Doctor resumed:
"Leon, did you suppose that I meant to let you go away? That I would bring you so far and then abandon you to your own resources? Never for one instant did I harbor such a thought. But when you spoke as you did, I determined to try you; to see whether you were speaking in earnest, or for effect. Therefore I seemed to acquiesce. Therefore I let you go without even offering you some money, or telling you to come back to me if in distress. My boy, you stood the trial nobly. I was proud of you as you walked down the path, and I was about to follow you when I saw you pause and turn back. For an instant I feared that you had wavered, but I was more than gratified that it was to plead for the dog, and not for yourself that you returned."
"But Doctor, how can I remain?" asked the lad, helplessly, for already he began to feel the necessity of submitting to the domination of this man, as so many others had experienced.
"How can you remain? Why, simply by doing so. You mean, what will my wife think? She will think just what I wish her to think. It is a habit of hers to do so." Here he laughed significantly. "But you need not fear Madame. You believe that she will resent what she would term an intrusion. But you are mistaken. You will meet her next at dinner, and you will see that she will be quite friendly. In fact, she did not understand matters this morning. She was angry with me because I had not notified her that I would bring home a guest, but when I shall have talked with her that will be all changed."
So the matter was determined, and, as usual, Dr. Medjora's will decided the issue. Meanwhile, Madame had ascended to her room in high dudgeon. Since the day when we last saw her she had altered very little. Her most prominent characteristics had not changed, except as they had become more fully developed. But in many ways this development had been deceptive, for, whereas many who knew her believed that certain unpleasing features had been eliminated from her character, the truth was that she had merely suppressed them, as a matter of policy.
The union of such a woman with a man like Dr. Medjora, was an interesting study in matrimonial psychology. In all marriages one of two results is usually to be anticipated. The stronger individuality will dominate the other and mould it into submission, or the two characters will become amalgamated, each altering the other, until a plane is reached on which there is possible a harmony of desires. In this case neither of these conditions had been fulfilled, although nearly all who were acquainted with the Doctor and his wife supposed that the husband was the ruling spirit. The truth, however, was that while Dr. Medjora controlled his wife in important matters, he had by no means succeeded in merging her character into his own. Where contention arose, she obeyed his commands, but she never submitted her will. She surrendered, like a wise general, to superior force, but she secretly resented her defeat, and sought a way of retreat by which in the end she might compass her own designs.
By these means, she had deceived all of her acquaintances, and she enjoyed the idea that she had also deceived her husband. In this she was mistaken. Dr. Medjora understood thoroughly that his wife only yielded to him under protest, and in many instances he had refrained from making a move, when by doing so he could have thwarted her subsequent efforts to have her own way. Thus he adroitly avoided open warfare, satisfied that in secret strategy he was his wife's equal, if not her superior. In this manner they had lived together for so many years, enjoying their relationship as much as is usual with married folks, and keeping up an outward show that caused all to believe that, with them, matrimony was a great success. And so it was, if one could only overlook the fact that beneath this semblance of happiness there smouldered a fire, which might at any time be aroused by a chance spark, and grow into a blaze which would consume the whole fabric of their existence. The embers of this fire were, jealousy and suspicion on the side of the woman, and secretiveness in the man. Madame Medjora had never forgotten that her inquiry as to whether her husband had had a child by his previous wife had been unanswed; nor had she quite abandoned the hope of satisfying herself upon the subject.
During the later years, she had much regretted to see what she considered one source of power slowly slipping away from her. In the beginning, her husband had not hesitated to call upon her for funds with which to advance his interests, but as the years passed his own resources had increased so rapidly, that he was now entirely independent of her, and, indeed, owing to shrinkages in the values of her property, he was really richer than she. The house in which they lived had been rebuilt by him, and by degrees he had paid off the mortgages out of his earnings, until he owned it freed from debt.
So, as she sat in her room and meditated upon the fact that she had said that Leon should not be admitted to the house, she remembered with a feeling of bitterness that she was the mistress in the house only by right of wifehood, and not because she held any privileges arising from proprietorship.
She had been anticipating pleasure from the reunion with her husband, and now, because of "that country boy," she had received only unkind words from the Doctor. Naturally, she exonerated herself from all fault, and, because of her love, she would not blame her husband. There was no other course but to attribute the whole trouble to Leon. But for him, she argued, all would have been pleasant, therefore he must bear the brunt of her resentment. Already she began to hate him. To hate him as only a tropical temperament can hate. She was in this mood when the Doctor entered. At once she arose to greet him. In an instant she hid within the depths of her bosom all emotions save those of love, and any one, other than the Doctor, would have believed that she harbored no unpleasant recollections or ill feeling because of the recent scene. He was not deceived. He had lived with her for more than fifteen years, and in that time he had appraised her correctly. Now, however, it suited him best to accept her caresses, and to return them with a show of warmth, which made the blood course faster through her veins, the more so because she had expected him to be angry, and because he rarely exhibited much feeling. This wily man well knew the weak spot in this woman's armor, and when he most desired to sway her actions, he first touched her heart.
"Well, cara mia, are you glad to have me with you again?" He folded her close to his breast, and kissed her lips. She nestled within his arms, and returned the salute rapturously. Presently he spoke again. "You were naughty, down stairs, little one?"
There was scarcely a reproach in his voice; he spoke rather as an indulgent parent chides an erring, but beloved child. She looked up into his eyes and merely murmured,
"You will forgive me?"
Some may doubt that the warmer demonstrations of love could survive the destroying influences of a companionship covering so many years, and be still expressed with the fervor of youth. To such I say, what has not come within your own experience is not necessarily false. Love, especially in woman, is a hardy plant and will blossom and flower, long after its earlier excitations have ceased to exist. The beauty of form, and attractiveness of manner, which first arouses the tender passion within our breast, may pass away from the object of our admiration, and yet our love may be deeper, fuller, and wider than at its inception. Yea, it may even retain its fullest demonstrativeness. In many cases it thrives most by harsh treatment, where it might expire by over-tending. Madame Medjora's affection was of this sort. Had her husband yielded to her all that she demanded, she would long ago have been surfeited, and not improbably she would have left him. This, however, he had never done. She had always feared that he did not love her as she yearned to be loved, and therefore she was ever ready with cajolery, flattery, and other means familiar to women, to win from him a fuller responsiveness.
At this moment, intoxicated by his caresses, she spoke from her heart when she asked him to forgive her. The slight reproof of his words, however gently spoken, was the tiny bit of cloud upon her present clear sky of joy. She wished to dissipate it utterly, and then bask in the full sunshine of his love, as dear to her to-day as before her nuptials. But by no means did she regret the act which had called forth his speech, except as it affected her momentary happiness. She was ready to yield outwardly to anything that he might demand of her in such a mood, but, later, she would return to her purpose with zeal. That purpose, in this instance, would be to make Leon as miserable as she could if he remained, but to have him out of the house if possible. The game was now worth watching, for both players were very skilful, and each was intent upon carrying the day eventually. Each was as patient as persistent.
"You ask me to forgive you, Cora," was the Doctor's reply. "Do you admit that you behaved very badly?"
"Now you are going to scold," said his wife, in a demure tone that sounded odd from one of her years. But Madame often assumed the airs of youthfulness, without realizing how poorly they suited her.
"I would never scold you, Cora, if you would only think always before you act. You have been both unwise and unreasonable."
"I would not have been if you had informed me in advance that the boy was coming. But you never tell me anything, Emanuel."
"Perhaps I should have done so in this case. But I only decided yesterday, just before I left the country. A letter would not have reached you, and I would not telegraph, because you are always frightened by a despatch."
"The horrid things! I hate telegrams!"
"Exactly! It was from consideration for you that I did not notify you. As soon as I reached home I came here to find you and explain, but you had run down the other stairway, and so unfortunately you met Leon before I intended you should."
"Leon Grath?" There was an accent upon the last name, and an inflection of the voice very delicately expressed, which intimated that there was a doubt. Madame could not resist speaking thus quickly, hoping that a glance, an expression, however fleeting, might cross the Doctor's face, which would be a clue upon which she might base her future investigation. But she gained nothing by the manoeuvre, and the Doctor continued, as though unsuspicious of her intent.скачать книгу бесплатно