Dr. Richards had never enjoyed a reputation for being very devotional, and the interval between his entrance and the commencement of the service was passed by him in a rather scornful survey of the time-worn house. With a sneer in his heart, he mentally compared the old-fashioned pulpit, with its steep flight of steps and faded trimmings, with the lofty cathedral he had been in the habit of attending in Paris, and a feeling of disgust and contempt was creeping over him, when a soft rustling of silk, and a consciousness of a delicate perfume, which he at once recognized as aristocratic, warned him that somebody was coming; somebody entirely different from the score of females who had distributed themselves within range of his vision, their countrified bonnets, as he termed them, trimmed outside and in without the least regard to taste, or combination of color. But the little lady, moving so quietly up the aisle—she was different. She was worthy of respect, and the Paris beau felt an inclination to rise at once and acknowledge her superior presence.
Wholly unconscious of the interest she was exciting, the lady deposited her muff upon the cushions, and then kneeling reverently upon the well-worn stool, covered her face with the hands which had so won the doctor’s admiration. What a little creature she was, scarcely larger than a child twelve summers old, and how gloriously beautiful were the curls of indescribable hue, falling in such profusion from beneath the jaunty hat. All this Dr. Richards noted, marveling that she knelt so long, and wondering what she could be saying.
Alice’s devotion ended at last, and the view so coveted was obtained; for in adjusting her dress Alice turned toward him, or rather toward his mother, and the doctor drew a sudden breath as he met the brilliant flashing of those laughing sunny blue eyes, and caught the radiant expression of that face, slightly dimpled with a smile. Beautiful, wondrously beautiful was Alice Johnson, and yet the features were not wholly regular, for the piquant nose had a slight turn up, and the forehead was not very high; but for all this, the glossy hair, the dancing blue eyes, the apple-blossom complexion, and the rosebud mouth made ample amends; and Dr. Richards saw no fault in that witching face, flashing its blue eyes for an instant upon him, and then modestly turning to the service just commencing. So absorbed was Dr. Richards as not to notice that the strain of music filling the old church did not come from the screeching melodeon he had so anathematized, but from an organ as mellow and sweet in its tone as any he had heard across the sea. He did not notice anything; and when his sister, surprised at his sitting posture, whispered to him of her surprise, he started quickly, and next time the congregation arose he was the first upon his feet, mingling his voice with that of Alice Johnson and even excelling her in the loudness of his reading!
As if divining his wishes in the matter, his mother turned to the eagerly expectant doctor, whom she introduced as “My son, Dr. Richards.”