Beulah (Chapter 7, page 1 of 4)


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Chapter 7

Through quiet, woody dells roamed Beulah's spirit, and, hand in
hand, she and Lilly trod flowery paths and rested beside clear,
laughing brooks. Life, with its grim realities, seemed but a flying
mist. The orphan hovered on the confines of eternity's ocean, and
its silent waves almost laved the feet of the weary child. The room
was darkened, and the summer wind stole through the blinds
stealthily, as if awed by the solitude of the sick-chamber. Dr.
Hartwell sat by the low French bedstead, holding one emaciated hand
in his, counting the pulse which bounded so fiercely in the blue
veins. A fold of white linen containing crushed ice lay on her
forehead, and the hollow cheeks and thin lips were flushed to
vermilion hue. It was not scarlet, but brain fever, and this was the
fifth day that the sleeper had lain in a heavy stupor.

Dr. Hartwell put back the hand he held, and, stooping over, looked long and
anxiously at the flushed face. The breathing was deep and labored,
and, turning away, he slowly and noiselessly walked up and down the
floor. To have looked at him then, in his purple silk robe de
chambre, one would have scarcely believed that thirty years had
passed over his head. He was tall and broad-chested, his head
massive and well formed, his face a curious study. The brow was
expansive and almost transparent in its purity, the dark, hazel eyes
were singularly brilliant, while the contour of lips and chin was
partially concealed by a heavy mustache and board.

The first glance at his face impressed strangers by its extreme pallor, but in a
second look they were fascinated by the misty splendor of the eyes.
In truth, those were strange eyes of Guy Hartwell's. At times,
searching and glittering like polished steel; occasionally lighting
up with a dazzling radiance, and then as suddenly growing gentle,
hazy, yet luminous; resembling the clouded aspect of a star seen
through a thin veil of mist. His brown, curling hair was thrown back
from the face, and exposed the outline of the ample forehead.
Perhaps utilitarians would have carped at the feminine delicacy of
the hands, and certainly the fingers were slender and marvelously
white. On one hand he wore an antique ring, composed of a cameo
snake-head set round with diamonds. A proud, gifted, and miserable
man was Guy Hartwell, and his characteristic expression of stern
sadness might easily have been mistaken by casual observers for
bitter misanthropy.

I have said he was about thirty, and though the handsome face was
repellently cold and grave, it was difficult to believe that that
smooth, fair brow had been for so many years uplifted for the
handwriting of time. He looked just what he was, a baffling,
fascinating mystery. You felt that his countenance was a volume of
hieroglyphics which, could you decipher, would unfold the history of
a checkered and painful career. Yet the calm, frigid smile which sat
on his lip, and looked out defiantly from his deep-set eyes, seemed
to dare you to an investigation. Mere physical beauty cannot impart
the indescribable charm which his countenance possessed. Regularity
of features is a valuable auxiliary, but we look on sculptured
marble, perfect in its chiseled proportions, and feel that, after
all, the potent spell is in the raying out of the soul, that
imprisoned radiance which, in some instances, makes man indeed but
"little lower than the angels." He paused in his echoless tread, and
sat down once more beside his protegee. She had not changed her
position, and the long lashes lay heavily on the crimson cheeks. The
parched lips were parted, and, as he watched her, she murmured
aloud: "It is so sweet, Lilly; we will stay here always." A shadowy smile
crossed her face, and then a great agony seemed to possess her, for
she moaned long and bitterly. He tried to arouse her, and, for the
first time since the night she entered his house, she opened her
eyes and gazed vacantly at him.

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