At the drawing-room window of
the villa there appeared a polite
little man, with bright intelligent
eyes, and cheerful sociable manners.
Neatly dressed in professional
black, he stood, self-proclaimed,
a prosperous country doctor--successful
and popular in a wide circle
of patients and friends. As Mrs.
Crayford approached him, he stepped
out briskly to meet her on the
lawn, with both hands extended
in courteous and cordial
"My dear madam, accept my heartfelt
congratulations!" cried the doctor. "I
have seen the good news in the
paper; and I could hardly feel
more rejoiced than I do now if
I had the honor of knowing Lieutenant
Crayford personally. We mean
to celebrate the occasion at
home. I said to my wife before
I came out, 'A bottle of the
old Madeira at dinner to-day,
mind!--to drink the lieutenant's
health; God bless him!' And how
is our interesting patient? The
news is not altogether what we
could wish, so far as she is
concerned. I felt a little anxious,
to tell you the truth, about
the effect of it; and I have
paid my visit to-day before my
usual time. Not that I take a
gloomy view of the news myself.
No! There is clearly a doubt
about the correctness of the
information, so far as Mr. Aldersley
is concerned--and that is a point,
a great point in Mr. Aldersley's
favor. I give him the benefit
of the doubt, as the lawyers
say. Does Miss Burnham give him
the benefit of the doubt too?
I hardly dare hope it, I confess."
"Miss Burnham has grieved and
alarmed me," Mrs. Crayford answered. "I
was just thinking of sending
for you when we met here."
With those introductory words,
she told the doctor exactly what
had happened; repeating not only
the conversation of that morning
between Clara and herself, but
also the words which had fallen
from Clara, in the trance of
the past night.
The doctor listened attentively.
Little by little, its easy smiling
composure vanished from his face,
as Mrs. Crayford went on, and
left him completely transformed
into a grave and thoughtful man.
"Let us go and look at her," he
He seated himself
by Clara's side, and carefully
face, with his hand on her pulse.
There was no sympathy here between
the dreamy mystical temperament
of the patient and the downright
practical character of the doctor.
Clara secretly disliked her medical
attendant. She submitted impatiently
to the close investigation of
which he made her the object.
He questioned her--and she answered
irritably. Advancing a step further
(the doctor was not easily discouraged)
he adverted to the news of the
Expedition, and took up the tone
of remonstrance which had been
already adopted by Mrs. Crayford.
Clara declined to discuss the
question. She rose with formal
politeness, and requested permission
to return to the house. The doctor
attempted no further resistance. "By
all means, Miss Burnham," he
first cast a look at Mrs. Crayford
which said plainly, "Stay here
with me." Clara bowed her acknowledgments
in co ld silence, and left them
together. The doctor's bright
eyes followed the girl's wasted,
yet still graceful figure as
it slowly receded from view,
with an expression of grave anxiety
which Mrs. Crayford noticed with
grave misgiving on her side.
He said nothing, until Clara
had disappeared under the veranda
which ran round the garden-side
of the house.
"I think you told me," he began, "that
Miss Burnham has neither father
nor mother living?"
Burnham is an orphan."
"Has she any
"No. You may
speak to me as her guardian
and her friend.
Are you alarmed about her?"
"I am seriously
alarmed. It is only two days
since I called
here last, and I see a marked
change in her for the worse--physically
and morally, a change for the
worse. Don't needlessly alarm
yourself! The case is not, I
trust, entirely beyond the reach
of remedy. The great hope for
us is the hope that Mr. Aldersley
may still be living. In that
event, I should feel no misgivings
about the future. Her marriage
would make a healthy and a happy
woman of her. But as things are,
I own I dread that settled conviction
in her mind that Mr. Aldersley
is dead, and that her own death
is soon to follow. In her present
state of health this idea (haunting
her as it certainly will night
and day) will have its influence
on her body as well as on her
mind. Unless we can check the
mischief, her last reserves of
strength will give way. If you
wish for other advice, by all
means send for it. You have my
"I am quite satisfied with
your opinion," Mrs. Crayford
replied. "For God's sake, tell
me, what can we do?"
"We can try a complete change," said
the doctor. "We can remove her
at once from this place."
"She will refuse to leave it," Mrs.
Crayford rejoined. "I have more
than once proposed a change to
her--and she always says No."
The doctor paused for a moment,
like a man collecting his thoughts.
"I heard something on my way
here," he proceeded, "which suggests
to my mind a method of meeting
the difficulty that you have
just mentioned. Unless I am entirely
mistaken, Miss Burnham will not
say No to the change that I have
in view for her."
"What is it?" asked
Mrs. Crayford, eagerly.
"Pardon me if I ask you a question,
on my part, before I reply," said
the doctor. "Are you fortunate
enough to possess any interest
at the Admiralty?"
My father is in the Secretary's
office; and two
of the Lords of the Admiralty
are friends of his."
Now I can speak out plainly
with little fear
of disappointing you. After what
I have said, you will agree with
me, that the only change in Miss
Burnham's life which will be
of any use to her is a change
that will alter the present tone
of her mind on the subject of
Mr. Aldersley. Place her in a
position to discover--not by
reference to her own distempered
fancies and visions, but by reference
to actual evidence and actual
fact--whether Mr. Aldersley is,
or is not, a living man; and
there will be an end of the hysterical
delusions which now threaten
to fatally undermine her health.
Even taking matters at their
worst--even assuming that Mr.
Aldersley has died in the Arctic
seas--it will be less injurious
to her to discover this positively,
than to leave her mind to feed
on its own morbid superstitions
and speculations, for weeks and
weeks together, while the next
news from the Expedition is on
its way to England. In one word,
I want you to be in a position,
before the week is out, to put
Miss Burnham's present conviction
to a practical test. Suppose
you could say to her, 'We differ,
my dear, about Mr. Francis Aldersley.
You declare, without the shadow
of a reason for it, that he is
certainly dead, and, worse still,
that he has died by the act of
one of his brother officers.
I assert, on the authority of
the newspaper, that nothing of
the sort has happened, and that
the chances are all in favor
of his being still a living man.
What do you say to crossing the
Atlantic, and deciding which
of us is right--you or I?' Do
you think Miss Burnham will say
No to that, Mrs. Crayford? If
I know anything of human nature,
she will seize the opportunity
as a means of converting you
to a belief in the Second Sight."
doctor! do you mean to tell
me that we are to
go to sea and meet the Arctic
Expedition on its way home?"
guessed, Mrs. Crayford! That
is exactly what I mean."
"But how is
it to be done?"
"I will tell
you immediately. I mentioned--didn't
I had heard something on my road
to this house."
"Well, I met
an old friend at my own gate,
who walked with
me a part of the way here. Last
night my friend dined with the
admiral at Portsmouth. Among
the guests there was a member
of the Ministry who had brought
the news about the Expedition
with him from London. This gentleman
told the company there was very
little doubt that the Admiralty
would immediately send out a
steam-vessel, to meet the rescued
men on the shores of America,
and bring them home. Wait a little,
Mrs. Crayford! Nobody knows,
as yet, under what rules and
regulations the vessel will sail.
Under somewhat similar circumstances,
privileged people have been received
as passengers, or rather as guests,
in her majesty's ships--and what
has been conceded on former occasions
may, by bare possibility, be
conceded now. I can say no more.
If you are not afraid of the
voyage for yourself, I am not
afraid of it (nay, I am all in
favor of it on medical grounds)
for my patient. What do you say?
Will you write to your father,
and ask him to try what his interest
will do with his friends at the
Mrs. Crayford rose excitedly
to her feet.
"Write!" she exclaimed. "I
will do better than write. The
journey to London is no great
matter--and my housekeeper here
is to be trusted to take care
of Clara in my absence. I will
see my father to-night! He shall
make good use of his interest
at the Admiralty--you may rely
on that. Oh, my dear doctor,
what a prospect it is! My husband!
Clara! What a discovery you have
made--what a treasure you are!
How can I thank you?"
my dear madam. Don't make too
success. We may consider Miss
Burnham's objections as disposed
of beforehand. But suppose the
Lords of the Admiralty say No?"
"In that case,
I shall be in London, doctor;
and I shall go
to them myself. Lords are only
men; and men are not in the habit
of saying No to me."
So they parted.
In a week from that day, her
majesty's ship _Amazon_ sailed
for North America. Certain privileged
persons, specially interested
in the Arctic voyagers, were
permitted to occupy the empty
state-rooms on board. On the
list of these favored guests
of the ship were the names of
two ladies--Mrs. Crayford and