Beulah (Chapter 6, page 2 of 5)


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Chapter 6

Her arm sank to her side, and once more the blazing eyes were
fastened on the young sleeper; while Mrs. Grayson, cowering like a
frightened child, left the room. Beulah fell on her knees, and,
crossing her arms on the table, bowed her head; now and then broken,
wailing tones passed the white lips. Dr. Hartwell stood in a recess
of the window, with folded arms and tightly compressed mouth,
watching the young mourner. Once he moved toward her, then drew
back, and a derisive smile distorted his features, as though he
scorned himself for the momentary weakness. He turned suddenly away,
and reached the door, but paused to look back. The old straw bonnet,
with its faded pink ribbon, had fallen off, and heavy folds of black
hair veiled the bowed face. He noted the slight, quivering form, and
the thin hands, and a look of remorseful agony swept over his
countenance. A deadly pallor settled on cheek and brow, as, with an
expression of iron resolve, he retraced his steps, and, putting his
hand on the orphan's shoulder, said gently: "Beulah, this is no place for you. Come with me, child."

She shrank from his touch, and put up one hand, waving him off.

"Your sister died with the scarlet fever, and Claudia is now very
ill with it. If you stay here you will certainly take it yourself."

"I hope I shall take it."

He laid his fingers on the pale, high brow, and, softly drawing back
the thick hair, said earnestly: "Beulah, come home with me. Be my
child; my daughter."

Again her hand was raised to put him aside.

"No. You too would hate me for my ugliness. Let me hide it in the
grave with Lilly. They cannot separate us there." He lifted her
head; and, looking down into the haggard face, answered kindly: "I promise you I will not think you ugly. I will make you happy.
Come to me, child." She shook her head with a moan. Passing his arm
around her, he raised her from the carpet, and leaned her head
against him.

"Poor little sufferer! they have made you drink, prematurely,
earth's bitter draughts. They have disenchanted your childhood of
its fairy-like future. Beulah, you are ill now. Do not struggle so.
You must come with me, my child." He took her in his strong arms,
and bore her out of the house of death. His buggy stood at the door,
and, seating himself in it, he directed the boy who accompanied him
to "drive home." Beulah offered no resistance; she hid her face in
her hands, and sat quite still, scarcely conscious of what passed.
She knew that a firm arm held her securely, and, save her
wretchedness, knew nothing else. Soon she was lifted out of the
buggy, carried up a flight of steps, and then a flood of light
flashed through the fingers upon her closed eyelids. Dr. Hartwell
placed his change on a sofa, and rank the bell. The summons was
promptly answered by a negro woman of middle age. She stood at the
door awaiting the order, but his eyes were bent on the floor, and
his brows knitted.

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