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“Did you see him when he was dying?” she asked, in a low and awe-struck voice.
“Yes; and my mother laid his hand upon my head, and asked him to bless me. "But he could not, Helen, for his spirit had fled even then; and my mother," but here his voice broke down entirely, and laying his head on Helen's shoulder he sobbed aloud.
They were seated on a garden-bench, and both for a time forgot that they were cold and shivering; but at length Edward roused himself, and checking his sobs said, with an effort at cheerfulness:
“How weak and foolish you must think me, Helen! but it is past now; and so 'good-bye' philosophy and poetry, and all the beautiful things I used to dream of. It is all chemistry and anatomy for me now.”
“And cataplasms and cod-liver oil,” added Helen, with a shrug of her young shoulders, and a show-off of her medical lore; but, nevertheless, the lad rose in her estimation from that hour.
Though the Doctor made little or no opposition to the change of professions desired by his nephew, there was still much to be done, and many difficulties to be surmounted, by the latter before his wishes could be carried into effect. In default of the assistance (often expensive enough) which is usually administered by a functionary called a "crammer," Edward was fain to have recourse to his own powers of mind; and thus by persevering efforts at self-instruction, and supported by a hope which never deserted him, he went steadily forward to the goal of his wishes. Helen, though still little more than a child in years, was ever at hand to comfort him when in difficulty, and to cheer him on
his tedious way; and when the time came for the momentous trial which was to decide his fate, no loving sister could have more anxiously waited the event, or rejoiced more gladly in his success.
Three years had been passed in toil and study before Edward Burrowes received the reward he merited
namely, an appointment of assistant-surgeon in a distinguished infantry corps. During those years he had been often separated, and that for months together, from the girl-friend whose affection was so dear to him; but whether engaged in the arduous duty of a "hospital walker," or when sojourning in distant cities, with no dear sister to whisper words of encouragement in his ear, the belief that she thought sometimes of the absent one was the brightest ray that gleamed across the young surgeon's path.
“Unfit for conflict, round beset with woes,
And man, whom least she fears, her worst of foes."
“If on your fame, our sex a blot has thrown,
'Twill ever stick, through malice of your own."
DR. LANGTON's house stood on the outskirts of the town; and though its front windows looked into what might be called a street, those at the back had pleasant view over lawn and garden, where quiet reigned, and where, for aught that gave token of the proximity of a city, that "shady calm retreat” might have been many a mile away from the haunts of vice and the excitements of dissipation. On the lawn stood large trees, with spreading branches sweeping the soft turf; a scent of sweet and old-fashioned flowers filled the air; and, shaded by a canopy of aromatic leaves, a young girl might have been seen one summer afternoon seated beneath the aged walnut-tree, whose rugged limbs bore promise of goodly fruit.
Of all the children whose merry voices had once disturbed the dearly-loved quiet of the poor useless mother, that girl alone remained to grace the home they had abandoned. Death had not visited them, but they had dispersed, and gone their several ways in search of fortune. Millicent, guided by a keen matrimonial instinct, had accepted the offer of a rich acquaintance, whom she had accompanied to India in a sort of composite capacity, the duties of which were
not clearly defined, and its pleasures extremely doubtful. Sarah, to the great relief of the rest of the family, had at last obtained the object of her desires, and appropriated to herself the use and service of a young attorney, “Brice” by name, who was henceforth to enjoy the privilege of supplying her wants by the hard taxing of his miniature brain, and the indefatigable working of his stumpy fingers.
Of the sons, Robert, the eldest, appeared to have abjured the abode of his youth entirely. He had changed positions with his cousin, and now sat upon the office-stool vacated hy that more promising member of the family: looking down from his "pride of place" on the profession of his father, and concealing the mortifying fact of the surgery and physic-bottles from the brother clerks whose pedigrees could bear investigation better than his own. Selfish, coarse-minded, and heartless -- spoilt by indulgence (for, though the least worthy, the Doctor had ever loved the boy above the rest)
a career of extravagance and vicious indulgence had been entered upon by Robert Langton, which threatened to end fatally.
His demands for money were incessant, and his debts accumulated daily; while his father, alarmed by the accounts which occasionally reached him, began to feel the qualms of self-reproach which arise when the bitter fruits of experience have yet to be digested. Once, and once only (for the errand did not prove pleasant enough to be repeated), did the Doctor undertake a journey to the metropolis, there to make personal inquiry into the goings-out and comings-in of his hopeful offspring It was
a sacrifice that he made to duty and to
parental affection a sacrifice of time, that was money, and of habits which were daily becoming less mutable; but he found a sorry sight to reward him for the effort he had made. Hollow-eyed, cadaverous, and utterly disreputable (as in his father's eyes was the appearance of the dissipated Robert), the latter could not conceal from his parent his disgust to the inroad among his fashionable acquaintances of the elderly "Snob,” whose dress and demeanour and (worst crime of all) whose professional "white tie" proclaimed the country apothecary at a glance.
There was clearly nothing to be done with Robert, whose callous nature rendered him alike impervious to the soft touch of affection and to the harder smitings of parental rebuke; and so, with a heavy heart, the Doctor returned from his short and fruitless expedition. There was but one of his family to welcome him: for Mrs. Langton, whether stultified by the heterogeneous mixture of her self-inflicted remedies, or wearied by the “rack of her too easy chair," was in her half-paralysed nonentity scarcely to be counted as an existent being.
But Helen met the wearied man on his return, Helen, who would so gladly have shared his anxieties and soothed him with a daughter's love.
“Father,” she said (and throwing her arms round his neck, she kissed him fondly) “Father," I am glad to see you at home again so glad! but do
you bring good news? Is Robert sorry? Was he glad you came to see him?” And thus she poured forth her rapid questions; while the Doctor, cross, tired, and disappointed, divested himself of the travelling outer garments which covered his neat professional costume