With his hand resting on his wife’s head, Dr. Asbury listened attentively. At the conclusion of the chapter, she turned to the dissertation on “personal identity,” so nearly related to it, and read it slowly and impressively.
“It is remarkably clear and convincing,” said the doctor, when she ceased.
“Yes; his argument that death, instead of being an abnormal event, is as much a law of our nature as birth (because necessary to future development), and that, as at maturity, we have perfections of which we never dreamed in infancy, so death may put us in possession of new powers, by releasing us from the chrysalis state, is one which has peculiar significance to my mind. Had Cornelia Graham studied it, she would never have been tortured by the thought of that annihilation which she fancied awaited her. From childhood this question of ‘personal identity’ has puzzled me; but, it seems to me, this brief treatise of Butler is quite satisfactory. It should be a text-book in all educational institutions; should be scattered far and wide through the land.”
Here the solemn tones of the church bells told that the hour of evening service drew near. The doctor started, and said abruptly:
“Bless me! Alice, are we to have no tea to-night?”
“Yes; the tea bell rang some minutes ago; but Beulah had not quite finished her chapter, and I would not interrupt.”
As they walked on to the dining room he said:
“You two are going to church, I suppose?”
“No; I shall remain with you,” answered his wife gently.
“You need not, my dear. I will go with you, if you prefer it.” Beulah did not look up, but she knew that true-hearted wife was unspeakably happy; and understood why, during tea, she was so quiet, so unwontedly silent.
“I wish Hartwell would come home and attend to his business,” muttered Dr. Asbury, some weeks later; and, as he spoke, he threw his feet impatiently over the fender of the grate, looking discontented enough.
“He will come, sir; he will come,” answered Beulah, who sat near him.
“How do you know that so well, child? Why do you suppose he will come?” asked the doctor, knitting his bushy gray eyebrows.
“Perhaps, because I wish it so very much; and hope and faith are nearly allied, you know; and perhaps more than this—because I have prayed so long for his return.”
She sat with her hands folded, looking quietly into the glowing grate. The old man watched her a moment, as the firelight glared over her grave, composed face, and tears came suddenly into his eyes.