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Oh, my luve's like a red, red rose,
That's newly sprung in June;
That's sweetly played in tune.
So deep in luve am I;
THERE are moments in every life when the soul hovers on some dark brink. It may be the brink of atheism, of despair, of crime, or superstition. Outside influences go far toward impelling life's voyager on his course. If the current takes a sudden turn, it bears him in a different direction from which he had intended. The human mind is inexplicable. It is not a machine that can be taken apart and analyzed. It is not material that can be grasped and comprehended. It is that mysterious knowing, feeling and willing, independent of circumstances; that immortal, indestructible portion of man called soul.
It is governed by no known
laws, and at times seems to assume all the caprices of chance.
Charles Stevens was a youth of good strong, common sense; yet he could but feel strangely impressed by the words and the awful look of Mr. Parris. The man was surely more than mortal. His voice, hollow and sepulchral, seemed to issue from the tomb. His thin, cadaverous face was sufficient in itself to inspire wonder. blazing eyes had within them all the fires of lunacy, fanaticism and cunning. Mr. Parris was nothing more than an unscrupulous bigot. He was ambitious, as is proven by his machinations in getting himself declared the pastor of Salem. greedy, as is shown by his taking the parsonage and lands as well as demanding an increase in his stipend. He was revengeful, as is shown by the way in which he persecuted those who opposed him. He was unscrupulous in his methods, as is proven in the means he employed. He was filled with prejudice, as is shown in his assailing Cora Waters, because her father was an actor; yet Mr. Parris believed himself a righteous and holy man, walking in the path of the just.
Charles Stevens failed to tell his mother of the strange interview with the pastor, somehow he could not. He unaccountably shuddered when he thought of it, and, despite the fact that he had
little superstition in his composition, he felt at times a strange instinctive dread at the awful warning of the pastor.
Since the evening on which the name of Adelpha Leisler had been mentioned, Cora Waters had been strangely shy and reticent, so that Charles Stevens could not tell her of the interview with Mr. Parris, even if he would. Cora was a remarkable girl. She united in the highest perfection the rarest of earthly gifts—genius and beauty. No one possesses superior intellectual qualities without knowing it. The alliteration of modesty and merit is pretty enough; but where merit is great, the veil of that modesty never disguises its extent from its possessor. It is the proud consciousness of rare qualities, not to be revealed to the every-day world, that gives to genius that shy, reserved and troubled air, which puzzles and flatters you, when you encounter it. Cora realized her beauty and genius; but, with that charming versatility, that of right belongs to woman, she had the faculty of bending and modelling her graceful intellect to all whom she met.
Her rare genius, however, could not brook the cold reproofs of the bigoted Parris. The flower which might have ornamented his chapel and filled the little church with sweetest perfume was withered by the chilling frosts of bigotry and prejudice.
A player could yield no perfume for Christ, and the sweet, musical voice was stilled, and the heart so full of love, emotion and religion was chilled and driven into exile; but she lived and hoped in her own little world. The sunlight of love was on her heart, until the name of Adelpha Leisler shut out that sunlight and left all in darkness and despair.
Though Cora was excommunicated for being the child of a player, she never let go her hold on Christ. Her father, strolling actor as he was, had taught her to look to God for everything, and in her hour of trial, she knelt in the seclusion of her own room and prayed that this cup might pass from her lips, if it be the Lord's will; but if not, she asked God to give her strength to bear her suffering and trials. She freely forgave Mr. Parris, for she believed his persecution of herself and others was through mistaken zeal.
With Charles Stevens, she was more shy than she used to be. She kept aloof from him for two or three days, until her conduct became noticeable, and Charles one day sought her in the garden for an explanation.
'Have I offended you, Cora ?” he asked.
She turned her frightened eyes to his for a moment and answered:
“Then why do you avoid me? I have scarcely seen you for three days.”
She was overwhelmed with hope and confusion for some moments; then, with a faltering voice, she asked:
“Did you wish to see me?”
“I did, Cora. I would not give offence to you for the world, and I feared I had in some way wounded your feelings."
“Charles, was not Mr. Parris here the other morning?”
“You went away with him; I saw you through my window."
“Don't ask me about that man. He is one whom I would to God I had never known.”
“Don't speak so of him, Charles.”
“For all that, he is cruel and bloodthirsty. I know it. I feel it."
Cora shuddered and made a feeble effort to defend the pastor who had persecuted her; but Charles, who had the retaliating spirit of humanity in his soul, declared he was a pious fraud and a disgrace to his cloth.