“Dr. Douglass,” said Sadie, speaking with grave dignity, “I would rather not hear you speak of that old gentleman in such a manner. He may be a fanatic and a ranter, but I believe he means it, and I can’t help respecting him more than any cold-blooded moralist that I ever met. Besides, I can not forget that my honored father was among the despised class of whom you speak so scornfully.”
“My dear friend,” and Dr. Douglass’ tone was as gentle as her mother’s could have been, “forgive me if I have pained you; it was not intentional. I do not know what I have been saying—some unkind things perhaps, and that is always ungentlemanly; but I have been greatly disturbed this evening, and that must be my apology. Pardon me for detaining you so long in the evening air. May I advise you, professionally, to go in immediately?”
“May I advise you unselfishly to get into a better humor with the world in general, and Dr. Van Anden in particular, before you undertake to talk with a lady again?” Sadie answered in her usual tones of raillery; all her dignity had departed. “Meantime, if you would like to have unmolested possession of this piazza to assist you in tramping off your evil spirit, you shall be indulged. I’m going to the west side. The evening air and I are excellent friends.” And with a mocking laugh and bow Sadie departed.
“I wonder,” she soliloquized, returning to gravity the moment she was alone, “I wonder what that man has been saying to him now? How unhappy these two gentlemen make themselves. It would be a consolation to know right from wrong. I just wish I believed in everybody as I used to. The idea of this gray-headed minister being a hypocrite! that’s absurd. But then the idea of Dr. Van Anden being what he is! Well, it’s a queer world. I believe I’ll go to bed.”
Be it understood that Dr. Douglass was very much astonished, and not a little disgusted with himself. As he marched defiantly up and down the long piazza he tried to analyze his state of mind. He had always supposed himself to be a man possessed of keen powers of discernment, and yet withal exercising considerable charity toward his erring fellow-men, willing to overlook faults and mistakes, priding himself not a little on the kind and gentlemanly way in which he could meet ruffled human nature of any sort. In fact, he dwelt on a sort of pedestal, from the hight of which he looked calmly and excusingly down on weaker mortals. This, until to-night: now he realized, in a confused, blundering sort of way, that his pedestal had crumbled, or that he had tumbled from its hight, or at least that something new and strange had happened. For instance, what had become of his powers of discernment? Here was this miserable doctor, who had been one of the thorns of his life, whom he had looked down upon as a canting hypocrite. Was he, after all, mistaken? The explanation of to-night looked like it; he had been deceived in that matter which had years ago come between them; he could see it very plainly now. In spite of himself, the doctor’s earnest, manly apology would come back and repeat itself to his brain, and demand admiration.