The doctor's conversation was marked by a curious frankness, and an equally curious reserve. He made no scruple whatever of opening to the light of day shadowy recesses of motive and aim that most men would studiously close, nor of putting himself at odds with the world on various points of social or moral ethics, nor of boldly questioning and criticising much that mankind consents to hold in reverence. Yet, at the end of an hour's conversation, though he had talked readily and fluently on many subjects, and said something true, or profound, or brilliant, or suggestive, about each, his interested, amused, startled, and bewildered hearer could find almost no residuum of his real opinions about any of them. It was impossible to decide where he had been in jest, and where in earnest; through his most serious argument had run a vein of mockery, from under his profoundest thought had peeped forth a hidden sarcasm. His creed, social, moral, and political, continually slipped through the seeker's fingers in subtle, witty, or scornful negations and controversions.
"Very true; les beaux esprits se rencontrent," returned the old man, slowly and cautiously backing his crazy vehicle around. And with another "Good day," and a parting gesture, he quickly disappeared among the fast-falling shadows..
If he still cherished any belief in the feasibility of removing her, it vanished with the first sight of her face. He wondered what could have led Astra to think her better. Even to his inexperienced eyes, the struggling breath, the beaded forehead, the ashy pallor, indicated but too plainly that the thread of her life was wellnigh spun..
"And his room is on the south-east corner, you say?"
Bruno smiled. "Yes, massa, I 'spec so, tho' she do look mighty pale and peaked, dese yere last weeks. But dey mostly look so, at sich times, I s'pose. She'll be better when de weddin's ober, an' all de fuss and flurry."
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"Forty and two years," said he, musingly, "since Eleanor went! Yet I can see her now, with her bright face and her arch ways! She was the sunshine of the old Hall; it has never been the same place since she left it. And she would hardly know it, if she were to come back now! But times change; and we are fools if we do not change with them. Well, my boy! I'm glad to see you, and that is not what I would say to many,鈥擨'm not much in the way of having visitors. But Eleanor's son is heartily welcome to the old place.".
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